Southdown Green - remembered by John Reeks

Memories of the 1930s

Sketch map of area, based on Mr Reek’s diagram

The numbers refer to those on the plan, with later house-numbering added from Kelly’s directories for 1932 to 1938. A number of shops moved about when the new parade (131-137) was built c.1935. There are few contemporary photos in our archives – so the nearest in date have been chosen.

The Gas Works offices – all that survives from the extensive buildings and gas-holder on the site – LHS 5899

1. Gas works. (Watford & St Albans Gas Company) They had the whole site where the Industrial Units are now.

2. Cottages where the Arnolds lived (Bertram Arnold was foreman at the gas works). Mattie used to race motor cycles on the Isle of Man. We used to hear him testing it around the lanes before he left to race. I think he only raced as an amateur, however we always got excited and ran to look when we heard the roar of his un-silenced machine and saw him roar around the corner at the bottom of Piggottshill Lane leaning right over so he could take the bend at top speed.

3.  Was the Gas showroom. Two further buildings, one being the Retort House were further up the yard.

4.  The Plough and Harrow Public House.

5.  Stables. We some times used to see the horses being brought out while we were waiting for the bus to school. On odd days we would hear the old drain rattle and what we thought was the bus coming around the corner turned out to be an old Steam Engine puffing along quietly – exciting for us children to see – before it turned into the Gas Works Yard.

St John’s School in the 1930s – Rob Flanagan LHS 4465

129 Southdown Road – The Fowler’s family home – later Grafex House, in the 1970s – LHS 6657

6.  St. John’s Church School where on May Day we would have a visit from the Rev. Clare and after dancing around the Maypole would have the day off.

7.  This house was built by Mr Fowler and was the family home.  It had carvings above the front door and his builders yard was behind.

8.  Methodist Church Hall, where we all went to Sunday School.

9.  Allotment land.

8. Methodist hall; 9. allotments; 10.Ackroyds (Bates print shop),11. Marsh & Russell (Oil, DIY); 12.Barclays Bank (Baines electrical) and 13.The Wool Shop (closed); in the 1970s – LHS 6657

10. (131?) Stan Bates print shop. The windows were partly covered where he had 2 hand machines and 1 automatic machine, I worked there after school for a while and before I started my apprenticeship in St. Albans; this was later taken over by Ackroyd`s the Baker.

11. M Anderson ran the Oil Shop (DIY).

12. (133) Mr Baines ran the Radio Shop.

13. (134) Wool shop run by Mrs Deal.

14. The post office, decorated for the coronation in 1953 – LHS 13359

15. Mr Spackman’s pharmacy was in this mock-tudor corner – still a pharmacy – LHS 3839

14. (135) Post Office run by Mr Bates and family, papers, cards etc.

15. (136) Chemist. Run by Mr Spackman.


16 &17 (137) were one shop used as a butchers by Mr Wells (who had two daughters). He later made 17 into a fish shop. He then decided to shut down the fish shop and made 16/17 into two shops, the smaller on the end of the rear entrance to the shops.  You were able to walk through from one shop to the other.  Mr Horace Day who ran a green grocery business from 9 Grove Road then moved in. He ran this business using a horse and cart I was told and the cellar of No.9 for storage.  After taking over the small ex fish shop he must have died because this is when Mr Archer first appeared he was known as Son Archer???

When the new shops were built across the road he moved to where Days Green Grocer may still be!!  Mr Archer had a bad leg and limped but it did not stop him working.  His old shop then became Harpenden Insurance which later moved to Gray’s old shop on the Green.

18.  The Green with air raid shelter; brick built in the early days of the war.


The Rose and Crown – late 1920s or 1930s – LHS 1197

19. St John’s Hall where the school put on plays and used it for spare capacity as needed.

20. The Rose and Crown public house (ed. demolished 2015)

21. (101) Oggelsby’s garage run by the old man (Mr Oggelsby who also owned the blacksmiths and wheelwrights just the other side of the railway bridge).

22. (102/104) Gray’s grocery shop. ( but see 107/8 below: according to Kelly’s Directoy this had been Bert Weston’s grocery, than Yealdon’s)

23. (107-108) Cannot remember who ran this shop or what it sold. (Gray’s  grocery appeared by 1935/6 in Kelly’s directory at 107-108)

(114 was occupied by the Deayton family until it was converted to a shop for Rowe’s bakers by 1938 – see Comment below.)

24. (115) Ward’s the butcher.  Mr Ward lived up a lane at the end of Grove Road and behind the gravel pits (it  might have been where Bonsers Chicken Farm was later).

Methodist church and Southdown Green, looking towards Walkers Road, c.1910 before the shops were opened – Rob Flanagan LHS 11913

25. Methodist Church.

26. (119-120) Mr Gibbons’ shoe shop run by Mr Gibbons and his son.  After the son got married his wife helped in the shop at times.

27. (122) Culver’s sweet shop, later Hogbins.


Mr Ward’s grocer’s shop, 1919 – LHS 10025

Mr Ward and family with 6 Australians who were billeted with them in 1914 – LHS 10074

28. (123) Mr Ward’s house and garden which nearly reached down to the road.

29. (124) Mr Ward’s grocery shop run by himself and Mr Picton

(125) Miss Readhead, draper

30. (126) Thi s was Stanley Bates, stationer and sub-post-office until the new shops were built across the road in the mid 1930s).  Mr Read’s greengrocers shop run by Phil Read and his son – moved across from the 137 – see 16/17.  The grandson Derick helped in the shop later before opening his own shop in the High Street next door to Bunty’s teashop. Ed. This information is not quite correct re the Read’s – see Diana Read’s page 

(extra information gleaned from Kelly’s Directories is given in brackets/italics)


Comments about this page

  • No.26.  My earliest memory of this shop was as a bakers.  I think a branch of Rowes.  A nice lady Mrs Barker ran the shop.

    Ed. According to Kelly’s Directory for 1938 Rowe’s bakers were at no.114 Southdown Road, formerly the home of the Deayton family – see note above.

    By Roger Clark (11/08/2018)

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