North Watford History Group

Chairman’s report for 2012

Presented at the AGM, 9 February 2013

As is usual, this report for the AGM is a chance to reflect upon the year past and to look to the year ahead. At this year’s AGM North Watford History Group reaches a milestone: the concept of a local history group for North Watford has been in existence for five years, with the inaugural meeting having taken place on 23 February 2008.

The creation of North Watford History Group was brought about by a number of people deciding there was a need for local history research in this area, and the first meeting was facilitated by one of the councillors for Callowland ward. As with all new things, there was a settling period to assess what works best for the Group. At its inception, one of the Group’s goals was to provide a walking tour of North Watford highlighting places of interest. To start a new Group with the target of having enough research to conduct this walking tour by September 2008 seemed ambitious. Because of the hard work and enthusiasm of those involved in preparing for this event, it not only took place as planned, but was successful. The number of people who attended the walk demonstrated the level of interest in the local history of this area and this supported the need for the Group to continue.

Over time we have adopted a programme of regular meetings on the second Saturday of alternate months. We have a supportive committee which meets in the months between each meeting. We have received speakers at our meetings on a range of subjects relevant to our area. We have exhibited at the library and the museum, and we have attended community events. We have established an identity as a repository of knowledge about our area.

All of this hasn’t just happened: it is the result of the commitment of our members and the contributions they have made. As an informal organisation, there is no requirement for anybody to perform a particular task, they do so because they care about the local history and want to see the group flourish. Everybody has played their part in the getting North Watford History Group to where it is now, those who simply participate in our meetings and tell others about us play their part along with those who have spent many hours researching or preparing for an event.

The Group is now on a stable footing. This doesn’t mean that we should remain planted where we are; it means that we have the scope to develop, to improve upon what we do and even to try new things. That is why a request for continued ideas, enthusiasm and participation goes with my thanks to everybody for the work to get us where we are now. If the chairman in five years time can give a similar report about the growth of North Watford History Group over its first ten years, we can all deservedly be proud.

Review of activities

At the start of 2012 we were aware that the year would be dominated by two events with international focus. It was fully expected that the Royal Jubilee and the Olympic Games would dominate the summer, bringing with them their own themed events. With this in mind we had set our goals at more a modest level than in previous years.

As it turned out, our fears that the big events of the year would reduce interest in our Group we unfounded, and this was proven by the attendance at the talks held at three of our six meetings. In the February meeting, we welcomed John Hopkins with his talk on churches in Victorian Watford, our June meeting was attended by Martin Brooks presenting the history of Leavesden asylum/hospital. Our final speaker of the year, David Wallis, coincided with the sixtieth anniversary of the Harrow rail crash, and his topic was on that subject.

It wasn’t just the meetings with speakers that drew people. Our April meeting was a chance to review the items collected by the Group. The August "bring and show" meeting was a chance for everybody else to have a go. It was an honor to see the selection of personal and treasured items that were brought along to that meeting and hear the stories that went with them. The number of items brought was far greater than we had anticipated, so we had to run "part 2" in our December meeting.

As in previous years, we have exhibited our work at North Watford Library. For May we had the display giving the history of Shakespeare Industrial Estate, and we were asked to exhibit at and attend the library’s 75th birthday celebrations in December.

Unfortunately, events that we have attended in previous years were not held last year, however there was a new large community event at Knutsford Playing Fields. This Watford 2012 event was organised by Watford Community Housing Trust, and we were invited to set up a stall there.

The September Walking Tour has almost become a regular fixture in our calendar, and for 2012 Steve Harvey conducted a tour of the Sandown Road area. The walking tour remains a perennial favourite with the public and a group of about thirty attended this one.

The committee

During 2011, we had changed the shape of the committee, expanding it to eight people. At the last AGM, the people filling the roles were re-elected and the extended committee was unchanged. We have maintained the cycle of a committee meeting between each of the bi-monthly public meetings, and this seems to work as a means of planning for the Group’s meetings and activities.

During this AGM we will be looking to maintain the committee in this form. The posts of Treasurer, Secretary and Chair will be opened for nominations and election. We again hope to have an additional five people nominated and elected to the committee, to bring the number to eight for 2013.

Auditing of financial records

Our treasurer is required to keep financial records, and she will report on this separately.

Our constitution required that these records be audited by two members of the group. Although invitations were made for members outside of the committee to perform this task, nobody volunteered so the audit was performed by the committee. A similar invitation will be extended towards the end of the year for auditing of the records in time for next year’s AGM.

Meeting fees

The requested donation from each person attending a meeting is £2. Maintaining this level allows the Group to meet the expenses incurred and remain financially stable. There are no plans to to change the requested donation for the year ahead.

The future

2014 sees the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. This is such a significant event that I expect there to be a comprehensive focus during the year from many directions. We have already amassed a volume of work in connection with the war, including Sue Carter’s research into the individuals from the area who went to war. Although hostilities did not commence until July 1914, we should be ready to start preparation of our displays, etc. during the winter and early next year. In the meantime we want to avoid the risk of overshadowing our events for this year; it is certainly sensible to avoid things war-related if possible.

We are looking at following last year’s pattern of having a speaker at a proportion of our meetings. Save for Trevor’s talk on Jack the Ripper following our AGM, we don’t yet have anybody booked. Suggestions for possible speakers and topics will be gratefully accepted by the committee.

We have decided that our collection of artifacts should be made available to the Group for at least one meeting of the year. Part of the value of preserving this collection is to ensure it remains accessible, so a meeting will be dedicated to this. The actual meeting will be decided according to how others are programmed.

We would like to run a walking tour in September, to be part of Heritage Opens Days, as we have done in the past. Currently we are considering following the route of our first walking tour that was conducted by Sean Jinks back in 2008. This is a general tour, focussing open the area surrounding the old station and St Albans Road.

There are a few events that we believe may be held this year, and if they do take place we would like to attend. There has been a suggestion that there may be a Watford 2013, following the success of Watford 2012, however at this stage there is nothing more than speculation. We have also heard that St Mark’s Church is planning an event for the early May bank holiday, and that local residents’ association may also be holding events. At present we have not received any confirmed information regarding any of these events.

Faced with the possibility of events to attend and another invitation to exhibit in North Watford Library, we should expand our portfolio of display material. This is where members of the group can all help with researching and writing about one of the proposed topics, or suggesting an interesting alternative:

  • Churches Edna has coordinated research on churches within our area. Could there be enough material to present as a display already?
  • Pubs Public houses have been part of community life in British society and are generally regarded with affection, however like all businesses they have to adapt and sometimes close. We have a number of current and former pubs in our area, but little research has been done on them as opposed to the brewing history.
  • Printing Watford was noted for its printing, with a number of companies based around the town including in our area. We know that Jill has already started researching this industry.
  • The Co-Operative We have discovered that number of the buildings in St Albans Road are owned by or were built for the Co-Op, and we know that the premises were initially in Leavesden Road. We haven’t yet pursued any research into the history and the effect of this movement in North Watford, which remains relevant today.

Author: Glen; North Watford History Group.

[Added by Glen: 9:15am 28 Feb 2013]

This page was last updated on 28 February 2013.