Light-hearted look at vintage postcards with local links

We’ve celebrated Christmas and New Year resolutions beckon, as do hopes for health and happiness. The reality of January bills is still to be faced. Until then, here’s a light-hearted look at some humourous and emotive vintage postcards received by or sent to Watford, Bushey and Oxhey (formerly New Bushey) residents and visitors.

A comical cartoon of ‘The Last Car from Watford’ depicting crowds jostling to board an already overcrowded vehicle is packed with amusing detail, with a policeman watching the chaotic proceedings. The postcard was sent from Watford by a young David Murdo to his mother in Wooburn Green in August 1918. He wrote: “Just a few lines to say I am enjoying my holidays very much. On Tuesday afternoon I went with Fred in the trap. Mr Jack takes me all over the place.” Lucky young lad.

‘The Collector Calls’, 1925

In 1925 Mrs Gibbon of Snareston House, Bushey Heath, was the recipient of an advertising postcard from Millar’s Laundry on the south-west side of Southsea Avenue, Watford. “A thoroughly dependable laundry service, prompt and punctual in collection and delivery and distinguished for careful workmanship and perfect finish” was the message. On the other side is a William Heath Robinson sketch entitled ‘The Collector Calls’, the first in his series of Laundry Impressions. Millar’s deserved top marks for their marketing efforts in what was a highly competitive business.

Watford Observer:

‘A Little Fresh ‘air from Watford’, 1909

An offbeat card of a man with grass growing from his head and eyebrows that require mowing ‘A Little Fresh ‘air from Watford’ was sent in April 1909 to Miss Strickland at Purbeck, Vale Road, New Bushey with a cryptic message: ‘Mrs. W., No. 10, Mr. Street.’ Even more curious is the fact that 17 years later, Purbeck was proposed as a site for a picture house (cinema) by architect John Green. If it had been built, it would have been a short stroll along London Road towards Bushey Arches to the Swiss-inspired Ye Corner, where another picture house was planned. Its entrance archway, with ornate tile flooring and foyer window for a ticket office, was built near the bottom of Aldenham Road but the picture house was never completed. Post-World War One, it led to watchmaker Mr David Forward’s shop. Around the early 1960s, watchmaker Mr G.E. Edsall of Edsall & Davies took over the business and remained there for two decades.

Watford Observer:

‘Stylish Watford!’, 1911

In July 1911, a cartoon of a fashionable lady titled ‘Stylish Watford!’ by J.W. Davis was sent from E. Freeman in Watford to Florence Churchill. Florence was a 17-year-old domestic servant in the household of Hemel Hempstead-born John Walker, a widowed baker living in Studland, Dorset. It reads: “Dear Florrie, I hope you are in a perfect state of health. This terrible weather. I think I shall come back to Studland.” Some things don’t change!

Watford Observer:

‘A Little Sun and ‘air from Watford’, c1912

The Wildt & Kray postcard of a bonny baby with a notation ‘A little sun and ‘air from Watford’ is unsent and in pristine condition, probably purchased to mark a little boy’s birth. It was published around 1912, when male primogeniture was a given.

Soon after the start of World War One, E. Mack of Hampstead published a series of patriotic postcards depicting soldiers on guard, relating their near misses. But Mack also published comic postcards. Mine has a white border and is titled ‘Watford by Night’. The ‘picture’ is black! I wonder whether the idea was triggered by Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey’s comment as the country was entering World War One: “The lamps are going out all over Europe?” They certainly did on this postcard.

Watford Observer:

Revd Henry Goodwin’s greeting, c1906

With all due respect to nostalgia, I’ll consign seasonal greetings to the writers of two postcards from Watford more than a century ago. One, signed by London-born Revd Henry Goodwin, Chaplain of the Watford Union Workhouse (part of Watford General Hospital in Vicarage Road) is, unsurprisingly, on a postcard of the interior of a flower-filled Watford Union Chapel. The recipient is unknown, but the photographer was Albert Warren who was living at 73 Vicarage Road. Born in 1821, Revd. Goodwin was a Christ Church Oxford graduate and had moved around the country as a Church of England priest. He took up the workhouse chaplaincy in 1880 and lived in Westland Road, Watford, passing away at the age of 87.

Watford Observer:

Mr & Mrs Wright’s verse, c1906

The heartfelt seasonal verse from Mr & Mrs Wright is on a coloured postcard of Grove Mill Lane, Watford, photographed by Mr Harris of 201 St. Albans Road. It would have been written around 1906, at a similar time to Revd Goodwin’s greeting.

And now, something to ponder as we enter another New Year. Remember that our todays and yesterdays will, all too soon, become the ‘good old days’.

Lesley Dunlop is the daughter of the late Ted Parrish, a well-known local historian and documentary filmmaker. He wrote 96 nostalgic articles for the ‘Evening Post-Echo’ in 1982-83 which have since been published in ‘Echoes of Old Watford, Bushey & Oxhey’, available at www.pastdayspublishing.com and Bushey Museum. Lesley is currently working on ‘Two Lives, Two World Wars’, a companion volume that explores her father’s and grandfather’s lives and war experiences, in which Watford, Bushey and Oxhey’s history will take to the stage once again.

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