Pioneering Parents

Moving to WGC in 1922

John and his brothers
Parkway School fire 26th March 1939

John’s parents Wally and Edith came to WGC for work in 1922 living first in Handside Farmhouse. The family lived in Guessens Road then moved to Elm Gardens.

This recording was made in November 2010 as part of the Where Do You Think You Live? project run by Welwyn Garden Heritage Trust.

The audio clip covers John’s parents’ move to the town in 1922.

John went to the nursery school then “the infants and primary school in Applecroft, Handside Lane, next to the Dancing Studio. In about 1935 Parkway School was finished and we were all moved over there. The Headmistress there was Miss Coe who had a rather fearsome reputation but she was highly regarded. As I mentioned there was a fire soon after and we all trooped back to Applecroft and in fact continued there of course. I have very happy memories of school days – we were all well catered for by the local clinic and dental and doctor and health facilities. Dr. Smith one of the first doctors in the town brought me and my twin into being in that Cottage Hospital and many other young children.

All the children used to go to the local cinema on Saturday morning for the cowboy shows  – we would all rattle down the centre of Parkway as we were going. I remember going round the first Memorial to Ebenezer Howard which was, of course, opposite the shops. The top end of Howardsgate – left hand side but since demolished and replaced by the medal sunken in the ground at the top of Howardsgate.

Of course I remember the rail tracks- all round the town bringing building materials – clay I suppose from the clay pits – all through the woods from where the Gosling Stadium is now.  The Welwyn Builders headquarters was in fact in Bridge Road East which is the site of Woodside House.”

“…When we were very young the two of us joined the Cubs – which were meeting in the Lawrence Hall… And of course through the War when we couldn’t get to the coast we joined the Youth Hostel Association whose initial headquarters were up at Mr Catchpole in Meadow Green opposite the Barn Theatre. The organisation was organised from there and we used to cycle three weeks every summer holidays round the country out through mid Wales to north Wales and then down to Devon and Cornwall and in order for these children to raise funds for the three weeks cycling tour, we used to work on Barons Farm at Lockleys stoking up the hay. interestingly enough in Barons Farm which is at the back of Lockleys of course Sherrardswood School there are a large number of walnut trees were planted there by the French prisoners of war after the Napoleonic wars – I don’t think this is generally known.”

This page was added on 07/08/2011.

Add your comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • My father’s parents moved into Guessens Road in 1922, from London. My grandfather commuted to London by rail, taking a train from the platform on the Luton branch line, behind what was the Cherry Tree bowling green and is now Waitrose’s carpark. As the roads were un-surfaced they all were very muddy in winter. This made gumboots essential – they were left on the platform where the porter looked after them until the owner’s return in the evening !
    My dad went to a school in Church Road, next to the Cottage Hospital. The pupils suffered regular severe beatings for minor offences from the Headmaster (a Reverend !) and his son so my grandfather took him out and sent him to Hitchin Boys Grammar School, an excellent school to which he commuted by train.

    The light railway lines which brought building materials for construction were laid down Guessens Road giving my dad and his sisters a great playground despite the somewhat ‘fruity’ comments of the builders telling them to keep clear!
    The first Welwyn Stores were where Roseanne House is now, so was very handy for my Grandmother. Butter was bought by cutting a large slice off an enormous block and sugar was bought in a similar way.

    By Ian Alexander (10/04/2020)