Green Lawns, Kinsbourne Green

Garage and Country Club from 1920 to the 1940s

Green Lawns Garage
E Meadows
Green Lawns Dining Room
E Meadows
A traction engine on Kinsbourne Green Common in the late 1960s when there were regular rallys - see Comment below
LHS archives, cat. no, LHS 010,265

Transcript of an anonymous article in our archives, with additional information.

Green Lawns was built for Mr Arthur Beckett in 1920 by his brother and Mr Jesse Catton, who were in partnership developing property at that time.  Arthur Beckett and his wife had lived in America but returned to England at the coming of the First World War by the last liner to get safely through. They had initially lived in London but Norman, their son, had sustained injuries on the rugby field which left him with asthma so it was felt that the fresh air of Kinsbourne Green would be beneficial. At that time Kinsbourne Green was extremely rural. It is understood that the Deeds to Green Lawns ‘contain Russian names (so presumably the land on which it stood was once owned by Luton Hoo’ – Ed).

Green Lawns was a petrol station and restaurant – with tennis courts and a putting green – a country club. In the 1930s directors of the great London stores such as Harrods and Whiteleys; bishops; famous stage names all came to Green Lawns for lunch and tea playing putting and tennis. The Hertfordshire Hunt dinner took place there and the hounds and hunt were frequently seen on the Green. During the week they had a regular clientele of commercial travellers: steak and kidney pie was a favourite.

All the cooking was done by Arthur Beckett’s wife, aided by Joan, Norman’s wife. Everything was cooked on a large black range as there was no gas or electricity and the house was lit by oil lamps. Ready-cooked hams were supplied by Mr Harris and they were one of Mr Ackroyd’s first customers. Everything was delivered by horse and cart – including the milk which came from Faye’s Dairies at Pollards Farm in churns, the milkman earning 6d a week at that time.

When, in the 1930s, the family visited London, they travelled to Luton to catch the train on the Straw Hatter Coaches. These stopped anywhere to pick you up and delivered you safely to your door, charging you 2/6d return, including the travelling rug.

In the late 1930s a pilgrimage from Dover arrived barefoot, in habits, seeking refreshment and set up an altar in the garden.

The war years

Norman Beckett took over the running of the garage in 1940. He drove a lorry in the north during the Second World War and his wife Joan had charge of Green Lawns. The Army was billeted there, bringing with them a machine gun. They gouged a large hole in the holly hedge which separated Green Lawns from the common in order to get the gun into the garden.

Petrol was, of course, scarce at this time but until then Green Lawns had been a very busy place being the last petrol station between Harpenden and Luton. The family were often woken at night by drivers wanting a can of petrol.

In the 1950s Mr and Mrs Reese ran Green Lawns. It was still a country club then and a tennis club regularly used to come from Luton to play their matches on the two, or possibly three, tennis courts – there being few tennis courts available in the area at the time. There was no putting green then.

After that Mr Chesham leased Green Lawns to Mr Prattley in 1960; to Malcolm New in 1977; and to Bowers Motors in 1981. For more informationa on the later developments see Geoff Woodward’s page on Kinsbourne Green and comments added below.

Comments about this page

  • I’m commenting on behalf of my Dad, Colin Beckett, son of Norman and Joan and grandson of Arthur Beckett.  He remembers the Churchill tanks (1940?) being tested in front of Green Lawns on the A6 road as far as Thrales End and back via the lower road. His father Norman, in the home guard, was given charge of the platoon anti-tank rifle which sat in what used to be the dining room of Green Lawns around 1943/44. He remembers the hole in the holly hedge (his mother was livid) but they made this to improve their field of fire through the hedge looking northwards.

    By Rosalind Cooke (nee Beckett) (06/05/2017)
  • I lived in Kinsbourne Green from 1969. I worked as petrol pump assistant at Green Lawns for two years on Saturdays earning 50p an hour. The garage had been owned by the Pratley family who owned a wonderful traction engine which was parked in the side car park. It was very busy and I was supervised by a wonderful old character Bill Phillips. Very happy memories.

    Do you have a picture of the traction engine?  We have added a photo of a traction engine on The Common. Was this the one which was parked at the garage? ed.

    By Philip Jones (05/01/2012)
  • During the 1960s and early 70s, Green Lawns cafe was a regular haunt of road testing journalists working for ‘Commercial Motor’ magazine. During the test of the latest lorry, having undertaken a fuel consumption run on the M1, they would leave the motorway at the Slip End turn-off (latterly designated junction 10) and head south on the A6 into the outskirts of Harpenden. They would park the test vehicle, typically an artic with test weights grossing up to 32 tons, on the piece of waste ground at the A6 end of Thrales End Lane (where a cellphone mast now stands). Then in their accompanying car, head for the Green Lawns cafe for a refreshment break. On some occasions CM’s tester and the vehicle manufacturer’s representative – invariably in attendance – would repair to the Old Bell for lunch. I worked for the rival publication, ‘Motor Transport’. We carried out our truck tests further north, centred on the Motor Industry Research Association’s proving ground near Nuneaton.

    By Alan Bunting (16/12/2010)

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