Boxmoor

During and after the war.

By Kevin Ellis

Growing up in Boxmoor during WW2

I was born in 1937, just 2 years before the outbreak of the second world war and, by the time Germany and Japan had been defeated, I was nearly 8 years old. My birthplace was our family home – 23 Bargrove Avenue in Boxmoor. The Bargrove Housing development was built in the early to mid 1930’s on the site of what had been Bargrove House estate (formerly named Belgrave House in the 19th century). My family’s connection with Bargrove Avenue and the upper part of Green End Road (also part of the Bargrove housing development) was significant as my grandfather bought No. 18 Bargrove Avenue, my parents bought No. 23, and my aunt and uncle – Lena and Bob Cannon - bought ‘Cranmore’ in Green End Road.

WARTIME MEMORIES

I suppose my first recollections of the war were of evacuees. From quite early on in the war there was a steady flow of kids through our house. I have no memory of the evacuees who arrived during the first couple of years of the war, but when the V1 flying bombs started to rain down on London in 1944 we had another intake which included my cousin Joan Carpenter who lived in Cheam, Surrey. My brother Brian was 7 years older than me, and was absolutely mad about aircraft and flying. (He subsequently became a Fleet Air Arm pilot after the war). In the autumn of 1944 we both sat on the roof of the shed at the bottom of our garden and watched a constant procession of aircraft heading east. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was the airlift for the ill-fated ‘Market Garden’ operation which was supposed to secure a Rhine bridge crossing at Arnhem.

 BOXMOOR VILLAGE

The village of Boxmoor during and immediately after the war was much as it is today, except that it was not then surrounded by vast new housing estates. When I was a kid, I could stand at the bottom of our garden and look north in the direction of Bourne End and see nothing but allotments and farmland. Other major differences – the Beechfield estate didn’t exist until after the war, and where River Park Gardens now stand was the site of Fosters Saw Mills. Also, when I was growing up there were very few motor vehicles about, and there has been a massive amount of ‘in-filling’ to provide garages where none previously existed.

THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY

Despite shortages of virtually everything during the war, Boxmoor was able to support a surprising number of retailers, including two butchers (one with its own slaughtering facilities behind the shop), a greengrocers, a dairy, a general store, a chemists, a bank, etc. Most of these have gone, but thank goodness Mansbridge’s bakery still survives. One of the biggest employers in Boxmoor was Fosters Saw Mills where my father worked – initially as a clerk but rising to become Company Secretary in later years.

This page was added on 26/06/2009.

Comments about this page

  • It is quite a long time since I visited this site, so it was good to catch up. Good to see a comment from Nigel Wackett who I remember well from school days.

    I left Herfordshire in the late 70’s and moved to Malvern, Worcestershire where, after various moves, I now live. A recent visit to my old home was a bit sad, as Bargrove Avenue – once a quiet backwater – is now like a parking lot.

    By Kevin Ellis (19/08/2019)
  • I am interested in knowing a bit more about the following:

    The Veegar factory in what is now Glendale, Hammerfield, demolished around 1963. This may have been a shoe factory.

    Cardy House off Gravelhill Terrace Road which I always thought was a Victorian Manson, but may have been built in the 1920s? It was demolished around 1960. This house may have been on the site of an earlier one called Holly Grove.

    Boisden (Boy’s Den) a house adjacent to the 3rd Boxmoor Scout Group HQ in Woodland Avenue (before it was burnt down). Boisden was demolished around 1970.

    Woodland House I think was the nunnery in the 1960s – is this correct?

    Thanks

    By Paul Francis (25/10/2017)
  • Have just found this page whilst looking up about Boxmoor, and there was this article by Kevin Ellis a classroom mate when we were at school in Cowper Road,and again at St.John’s school in St.Johns Road, I was born in Puller Rd. so was very surprised to read about Kevin’s time living in Bargrove Avenue.

    By Nigel Wackett (21/09/2017)
  • I came across this site as I was looking for history on the watercress beds in Hemel. The best friend Noeline Harrison was a relative of mine. I think she would of been my Father’s cousin as my Father’s mother and her brothers ran and worked the watercress beds. The Harrisons. Unfortunately my Father has passed away so I cannot find out any more, but it was great to see her name.

    By Sarah (07/10/2016)
  • Beechfield Estate was begun in 1948 and was developed by Hemel Hempstead Borough Council, not to be confused with Hemel Hempstead Development Corporation which began building the “New Town” in 1949/50. I lived there from 1948 to 1959 and my contemporaries were Maurice Tearle, Michael MacDonald, Robin Cheevers and Ricky Bates. Many happy hours spent playing cricket and football on the moor.

    By John Newberry (14/10/2014)
  • I spent my first few years in Boxmoor.Mum’s family had lived there for years and I am tracing the family tree of Tomlins, Pearces, Pipkins and Batemans. Mum married dad (he was from Watford) at St Marys in St John’s Road in 1939. Dad worked at Southampton during the war on aircraft and they returned to Boxmoor after the war. I was born in Dec 1945 and they were living in Winifred Road. My earliest memory is of walking down the road and going into the chemist shop. It had that wonderful old chemist smell. And there was the big black barn at the top of Anchor Road for cows. Dad got a job with BOAC at Heathrow in 1947 and in 1949 we moved to Cranford. However Dad bought an Austin 7 and we were able to come back to Boxmoor frequently to see Mum’s parents – Dan and Rose Tomlin. They lived at 86 Anchor Lane. It was the last house coming from St Johns Road before it got to Beechcrest. I remember the fields beyond their house being covered in bricks etc and new houses being built. Must have been 1951 -1953 as Dan and Rose moved in ’53. The new Anchor pub was going up about then too – just about opposite 86. I remember the old one half way down Anchor Lane. it was very small. Dad told me years later that there was no bar in the pub. The landlord went down in the cellar every time someone wanted a beer. I am in Australia now but will be paying Boxmoor a visit in May this year.

    By Mary Heath (19/01/2013)
  • lovely to read about your memories, and i to was born in boxmoor , in Kingsland road opposite Fosters Saw Mills and my dad had a lot of dealings with Mr Ward who owned it and was friendly with your father and I can just remeber going in the office and seeing your dad. Happy Days

    By joy (14/06/2012)
  • I’m afraid I haven’t visited this site for quite a long time. Hence, I had not picked up on the very nice comments my notes on Boxmoor had attracted. To Jackie, I certainly do have memories of Old Fishery Lane. When I was at Junior school in Boxmoor one of my contempories was a red-headed girl by the name of Harrison. (I think her christian name was Noeline or something similar). She was a daughter of the Harrisons who grew watercress as a commercial venture on the Bulbourne close to the old bridge. Later, I’d go fishing for gudgeon or roach in the canal with my best mate. To Ian, yes, I am fairly sure the Beechfield Estate was built when I was attending St John’s Junior School. I distinctly recall playing in the huge concrete draining pipes for the estate before they were laid. Unfortunately, I cannot recall what was there before the estate took shape. Kevin Ellis

    By Kevin Ellis (01/11/2011)
  • Interesting memories. Do you recall what year the Beechfield estate was built? It seemingly was not part of the new town but yet it must have been built around the same time. I always wonder what it was like before…

    By Ian Rance (22/06/2011)
  • I really enjoyed reading this. I was brought up in Roughdown Avenue in the early fifties and, of course, recognised the places in the pictures shown.

    By Patricia (11/09/2010)
  • I so enjoyed your early memories of Boxmoor before the invasion of housing estates. I live in Old Fishery Lane and wonder if you have any early memories of this area. Look forward to hearing from you. Jackie.

    By Jackie Kerr (25/10/2009)

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