Memories of Hatfield Hyde

dated 4th October 1955

By Susi Smith

Houses within the rows of Sandpit Cottages, Hatfield Hyde
Welwyn Garden City Library

Transcript taken from a letter in the Local Studies Collection at Welwyn Garden City Library

I was born in Lemsford in April 1920, and my parents moved to Hatfield Hyde, opposite the village Hall, in June of that year. So you understand that although I cannot call myself a native of the village, why I see myself as a ‘Hyder’, a ‘Top-Hyder’ to be exact (Woodhall and Hollybush Lanes…. with the Post Office, the Village Hall, the War Memorial and two Churches) as opposed to a ‘Bottom-Hyder’ (Cole Green Lane ….with the shop – Mrs Brown’s, the Public House – The Woodman, and Cochrane’s coal-yard).

I remember, best of all, those days between 1924 and 1929 when the Garden City (Welwyn was another place entirely) spread from being a distant curiosity, wider and wider, to becoming a dominating factor.

From the Twentieth-Mile Bridge, was the daily occurrence of a trainload of London refuse halted a while or slowly moving, to be dumped in the worked out sand and gravel pits to the east and west of the village. Historians fail to mention this important aspect of the village economy. I would say that there were more villagers to be found working in the ‘dumps’ than on the land – it paid better!  At one time my father’s youngest brother worked at one of these dumps:

The tales he told
Of treasure, not mould,
Held us in wondrous awe:
Of wedding cakes
In tiers, not fakes;
And bike spare parts galore!

The dumps affected us all. Time was especially set aside every year – National Rat Week – to kill off the vermin that thrived among the rubbish. In the pursuit, the hunters wore trousers well past being their Sunday-best, and were known as “rattin’ slacks”.

This page was added on 23/06/2009.

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  • You are correct in your reference to the name ‘Dixon’ as possibly being an old Hyder name. Molly Dixon lived in the old cottages in Hollybush Lane. I think her family ran the Post Office in that row. The cottages were located on the west side of Hollybush Lane, just north of Great Ley. They were torn down in the 1950’s, to make way for the newer Council houses that remain today.
    Molly Dixon married a photographer and they lived in a newer house near the war memorial. The house can be referenced in the 1955 Francis Frith photograph of the War Memorial. It is the house directly behind the wooden park bench.
    The Dixons had two sons Michael and Brian, who were cricket crazy. Mr. Dixon was known to have taken many photographs of the neighbourhood and Welwyn Garden City but I have no idea where the collection might be. I think the Dixons moved north in the late ’50’s early ’60’s.

    By Regor Nosam (15/09/2018)
  • I didn’t move to Hatfield Hyde until 1952, when I was 8 years old.Even then there was still something of a village feel to it all. I was a treble in the St Mary Magdalene’s Church Choir under its rather good choir master, Derek Ralph who had, I think, been a male alto in the Westminster Abbey Choir. I think we slightly looked down on the WGC upstarts at St Francis’. There was for my first year or two a “Squire’s Pew” in the church, occupied by the owner of Hyde House, Mrs Gurney. If you started in Cole Green Lane, walked down Marley Road and turned right at the end, walking until you reached the Beehive pub, after that you were in a real country lane; no houses, no hospital. Continuing along Ascots Lane you soon came to a pond, where we used to go tadpole collecting. Also in that area was an army camp on what is now the Mill Green Golf Course and a caravan park. After many years away from the area I went on a nostalgic walk this morning. This included going to see the old Hatfield Hyde Cricket Club’s enclosed ground. Anyone coming to it for the first time would not believe me when I say what a pretty ground it was. The new pavilion is utilitarian, which is a polite word for ugly. The surrounding trees are all gone. I recall a very gifted batsman of that time, Chris Edwards and a good wicket keeper, his brother, John. I recall Braceys, Izzards and Dixons, which may well have been real old Hatfield Hyde family names. A highlight of each season was the Whit Monday match against Tottenham Hotspur. At cricket, not football! Among the signatures in my autograph book were those of Ted Ditchburn (England goalkeeper), Eddie Bailey (England Right Half – ask your dad or grandad what that was) and a certain Alf Ramsey. In one of our moves over the years that autograph book got lost. I note that the stream that used to flow across the King George V Playing Field – or Park, as it is now called – seems to have disappeared, presumably still flowing in underground pipes. So many happy memories .

    By Robert Oakhill (29/05/2013)
  • A very intersting piece. Thanks for writing it. Do any of the more mature Hyders know where Rauter’s Row was? My ancesters lived there in 1891. Thanks

    By Steve (10/07/2011)