Memories of Kings Langley
The Police Bungalow
I was born in Tring in 1921, when father Herbert (Bert) was a policeman living in Whitehouse Terrace, Western Road, Tring. The first home I remember was the police bungalow at Kings Langley. It was built about 1922 and the Ward family were the first to occupy it. The previous police cottage was in the High Street, where PC Eames, the policeman before Ward, must have lived. PC Stone and family followed us in 1930.
The bungalow was on Watford Road at what is now the entrance to the Great Park Estate. It was clad with weatherboard with square red tiles, probably asbestos cement. The central front door was recessed. The everyday entrance was at the Watford end, opening into the scullery. This had a sink and gas stove, with larder.
The next room was the bathroom with a cast iron bath with a cold tap only, and a ‘copper’ with a cold tap over it. Hot water, heated by a fire under the copper, was ladled over (‘keeched’ - Bucks & Beds dialect) into the bath with a small hand bowl. The copper was used for washing clothes and I was bathed in it sometimes as a special treat, when the fire had died down. Blue Bag was used to make white ‘whiter than white’ and starch was used to stiffen detachable shirt-collars. The bathroom had a sink that was also used as a wash-basin, using hot water from a kettle.
The next room was the living room, full width of the bungalow with windows back and front, a ‘Kitchener’ stove, an open fire and oven. Kettles were always on the top. Toast was made with a toasting-fork.
The Drawing Room was seldom used. It had a sideboard in which were kept pieces of shrapnel from the Great War. A German forage cap hung on a hook above - field grey with red trimmings. Also various epaulets from German uniforms. A writing desk with police textbooks, one showing hand signals for motorists and for whips for horse-drawn vehicles, turning L or R etc.
There were two bedrooms; one had a fireplace and was large enough for a double and single bed. The other, with no fireplace, had a double bed in which I and my brother, 7 years older, slept.
Although there was a gas stove, there was no gas or electric lighting. Lighting was by paraffin lamps and candles. There was a w.c. within the building but it only had an outside door so you had to go down two steps, then up two steps to enter it, not very convenient on a winter night. Newspaper was used as toilet paper.
There was a full-sized garden in front, divided into two squares by a central path up to the front door. There was a large back garden, 100 yards long with chicken runs. Eggs were hatched under the Kitchener. Grit for the hens was provided by Mr Brigginshaw the road-man, who lived in the row of cottages in Water Lane, now demolished.
A large shed in the garden, built of railway sleepers with a corrugated iron roof, was used for garden tools and as a coal shed. The rest of the garden was cultivated. Father grew vegetables, mother looked after the flower borders.
Mother was a good cook. She attended Berkhamsted Urban evening classes when she was in service in Berkhamsted and had received a cookery book as a prize in the 1909-10 season; a fat book of ‘Mrs Beaton’s Everyday Cookery’.
We bought our bread from Richards, the bakers down by the canal at Water Lane. My mother kept the bread for at least a day and I remember enjoying going to my grandfather at Pitstone where they ate the bread the same day!
On the Watford side of the bungalow was a vacant plot, on which builders moved in to erect what is now No. 10 Watford Road. This was then occupied by Mr & Mrs Norris and their daughter Doreen, who was about my age. Mr Norris was a manager at the Ovaltine.
School, Sunday School and Cubs
At five I started school at the primary school in Alexandra Road. The head was Miss Jarman, sometimes called Jam Jar, but not in her hearing! Empire Day and Remembrance Day were very much in everyone’s minds in the 1920s just after the war. I have a school photograph of me wearing the suit my brother had worn before me - a velvet jacket with large pearl buttons, which had rather gone out of fashion by the time I came to wear it, so I was very glad when I could discard it for a jersey like all the others were wearing.
Then the time came to move up to the ‘big school’ in Church Lane. Mr Clymo was headmaster, a big, likeable man. Hymns were sung to piano accompaniment in morning assembly and I remember him leading us in ‘Stand up, stand up for Jesus’. ‘Let’s stand up straight and sing it as though we mean it’. One teacher was Miss Luck. A friend and I visited Miss Luck in her cottage down in the Russells Nursery area just beyond Hunton Bridge.
At the time I started school I also started Sunday School and I’ve just re-read a book called ‘Peter Lawson, Wolf Cub’, which has a sticker in the front saying ‘All Saints Church, Kings Langley, Sunday School prize-giving, Advent 1927, presented to John Ward; William G. White, Superintendent, John P. Haythornthwaite, vicar.’ The Sunday School took place in church and the various classes sat in pews spread all around.
I remember going to Bricket Wood on a Sunday School outing; a pleasure ground with swings, roundabouts, helter-skelter, etc and refreshment hall where we had tea. Two sideshows I particularly remember: a large circular disc which rotated on the floor, about 20 feet diameter. Having paid your penny, everyone got on the disk and sat down and it would start to rotate. As it got faster those on the outer edge were flung off onto the floor. There was honour in being the last one on. Then there was a straight slide. You climbed to the top of a tower which must have been 70 feet high. I remember looking down, like being on the top of the Ovaltine chimney. Someone plonked me onto a mat, said ‘don’t touch the sides’ and pushed me away. It was absolutely breathtaking. I only went on the thing once. That was enough.
Through Sunday School I became a choir boy. Mr White was the choirmaster and organist. He lived in Church Lane in the last house before Green Lane. He trained other choirs as well and mother sang in one of these, Mothers’ Union or W.I. Father did not sing but recited the odd rhyme. ‘There’s Jury Bob, he got a job, to drive a motor car. Said blow the p’lice, I’ll let them see, I know what motors are. 40 miles an hour he went, quite enjoyed the fun. A brewer’s dray got in his way, and his day’s work was done’
I was about eight when I joined the Cubs. We met at the old Scout Hut, up the Drift. I was intrigued by items on the walls of the hut - a man-trap, native spears and shields - good P.T. equipment. The Cub Master was Bert Dollimore. Mr Green and Mr Marnham were the Scout masters. We went to visit the scouts at camp at Herne Bay, where they had gone on one of Mr Toovey’s lorries. As a cub I never went that far. I remember camping in bell tents in the paddock at the Old Palace Lodge at the top of Langley Hill, which had a World War I field gun on the grass verge in front. There were no cubs in Coddicote, where we moved for my father’s next job, but I was pleased to lose my nickname ‘Copper’.
Published by kind permission of Peter Ward