Welcome to the Elstree & Borehamwood Museum blog.
This blog is about all those happenings inside and outside the Museum that have caught our attention.
From events and exhibitions, to new discoveries in the collections, to news and views.
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Here is Brenda Treacher’s dramatic account of a memorable day in Boreham Wood. Brenda now runs our Friends group. Not a Friend of the Museum? Join here.
April 29th 1971 is a day l will never forget!
“I was 23 years old and working as Chief Cashier at Barclays Bank, Shenley Road, Boreham Wood. It was a job l loved, friendly customers to meet every day, supportive colleagues who often socialised together and a happy working environment, life was good. Then suddenly it all changed on 29th April 1971 the day that the bank was raided.
Every Thursday morning as regular as clockwork Securicor would turn up just before 10am to collect almost £30,000 in cash to take to Elliott's in the Elstree Way for their wages department to make up the wages for the weekly paid workers. When l saw the van pull up outside l walked through to the back of the bank to give the signal for the money to come up from the vaults, as l did so an axe came crashing through the glass pane on the door between the banking hall and the working section, the latch was opened and in came a man with a shotgun who blasted at the Chief Clerks booth and at my till where l had been standing moments ago, shot went flying everywhere.
I looked back into the banking hall and saw Mr Crump, from Elstree Rural District Council, being hit over the head with a cosh by a man with a stocking over his face. I ran like Mary Peters out to the machine room at the back of the bank shouting “Raid! Raid!”, and hid under a desk. Suddenly a large pair of boots were walking towards me, l froze thinking it was one of the robbers, but it turned out to be a Securicor guard taking cover with us. My friend who was much braver than me had a side window open looking outside to see what was happening and relaying this on the phone to the manager who was safe in his office upstairs.
The robbers took the trolley with the money on it, threw the cash into their vehicle and made off towards the Elstree Way. Everyone was very shaken, the Police came and took statements and fingerprints and a few of the younger girls were taken home to recover from the shock. However Elliott's needed their wages, so myself and another colleague went into the vaults and made up another consignment. Two hours later the bank reopened and we were back serving customers. Thursday was always a busy day with local companies collecting wages, and it was also late night opening so it was almost 7pm before we got away that day. Many of us went straight to the Queens Head at Sandridge for a drink and to calm down and take stock of our adventurous day.
There were many differing reports in local and national newspapers, not all were accurate, there were lots of rumours flying about as to who the perpetrators were, but no one was ever prosecuted for the robbery which had left so many of us a little more apprehensive on a Thursday morning at 10am. 29th April is also memorable for me in a happier way as it was my wedding day one year later.”
Reading the newspaper reports the number of robbers varied, the people attacked are different, and the effects of the violent gun shot are downplayed. Fake News 1971 style!
What are the Museum Volunteers getting up to while they can’t greet you at the door, write the new Exhibition, or research in the archives? Here is Matt to tell us what he’s been doing :
"I have signed up to be an NHS volunteer, and as well as doing that, I am completing several Open University Courses in new disciplines (Computer Science and History of Science). I am also brushing up on my languages, making models and going for long walks."
Just in case you may be feeling a bit bored with all this hugging-the-furniture malarkey, we’re beginning a series of Local History stories to help you pass the time. And if you have any short illuminating items to send us, please use our email and pass them on.
A Short History of Woodcock Hill
The earliest records show that the land was owned by St Albans Abbey, given by Offa, King of Mercia in the 8th Century. After the Reformation, the land was passed to Anthony Denney by Henry VIII in 1539.
In 1765, Furzehill Road was built to link Barnet Lane with Shenley Road. At that time, Barnet Lane was a drover’s road. Cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and geese passed along the route. Various ponds on the way provided a good supply of water and became known as Drover’s Ponds. The animals were taken to the market at Barnet, or on to the London markets. Some had already travelled from as far afield as Scotland and Wales using the old drovers roads, and many of these are long-distance footpaths still in use today.
1588 saw the naval victory over the Spanish Armada. To alert London of the Armada’s approach, beacons were lit from South West England across the country. Woodcock Hill was one of the links in the beacon chain being the first high ground visible from Hampstead Heath. After the defeat of the Armada the beacons were lit again to celebrate and to pass on the good news.
In the time of the Napoleonic Wars, a telegraph station was erected near the beacon site on top of Woodcock Hill. This enabled the Admiralty to get messages quickly to Yarmouth in the east of the country from central London. The telegraph on the Hill sent messages from Hampstead Heath in the south, and on to St Albans in the north, via the semaphore on top of their Clock Tower, then onwards to Ivinghoe Beacon. Another link went down to the south coast and Portsmouth.
1861 saw the coming of the railways to Borehamwood. This new mode of transport brought the farm stock more quickly to the capital and its outskirts. More housing was built in Borehamwood and Elstree. In 1862, the first railway tunnel was built at Woodcock Hill with a second tunnel added in 1868. Clay from the tunnels went to make bricks for the ever expanding housing developments. Some of the bricks used are still to be seen in houses in Brownlow and Drayton Roads.
In 1890, an aqueduct was built to carry the brook across the railway through Borehamwood to Radlett and the River Colne.
Local Scouts guarded the beacon at Woodcock Hill in 1935, when it was lit to celebrate the coronation of George V - 1,390 beacons were lit across the country. Land here was part of WW11’s 'Dig for Victory’ campaign. The land was particularly suited to wheat but several allotments were allowed, particularly alongside the railway. In 1944, a doodlebug dropped opposite Milton Drive, and part of the bomb crater is still visible.
During the Centenary Commemorations of the Spanish Armada in 1988, a procession went from the Town up the hill recreating the Armada Beacon ceremony. Local school children dressed in period costume and Town and Borough dignitaries were there to officiate. Again the local 1st Elstree Scouts and Elstree District Venture Scout troop were on hand to help. There have been several beacon lightings in recent years to celebrate national events.
The whole area was given Wildlife Conservation status in 2002. Following a great community campaign, in 2008 the land was ratified by Hertfordshire County Council as Village Green and a Trust was formed. The Hill continues to be a historical site as well as a valuable community asset.
Our Mascot, Captain Ahab, has decided to self-isolate, and the Museum is now closed for the forseable future because of the coronavirus. Please watch this space and our Facebook and Twitter pages for further information.
Look forward to seeing you soon.
The Museum remembers the men of Elstree and Borehamwood in All Saints Church. The panels this year, the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings, show representatives of local men serving in World War II in the air, on sea and land, and dying for their country in widespread locations, including as a prisoner of war in Burma.
The panels contain details researched from materials provided by the British Legion, of the people who served, their families and homes. A Roll of Honour commemorates the men who did not come back home.
Details on all the men who served in the world wars are held in the Museum: their full names, regiments, place of burial (if known) and age.
We finally made it! We are now a fully Accredited Museum. Congratulations to Ruth and Dave for all their hard work over the last two to three years to get us to the peak of Museum good practice. We are now on the same level as the British Museum, just not quite the same size!
"After all these years I am finally putting the finishing touches to my book on the MGM British Studios. Had a meeting today as we progress towards a professional book editor reviewing the contents and then the all important design stage. It will be a 'coffee table' size book with about 70,000 words and 400-plus photos, plans, etc. The idea is to publish next year to mark the 50th anniversary of the closing of MGM. It will not be an academic tome but a fond look back with anecdotes gathered over the past 50 years from the stars and staff who worked there plus facts and figures.
I have tried to mention every film and tv series shot at the studio to the best of my knowledge. The photos cover the start of building in the 30s, the wartime years, the expansion after the war, aerial photos, behind the scenes photos of stars and studio workers, etc, etc. I have avoided dwelling on such productions as 2001 and The Prisoner as there are far better books on these out there than I could ever write.
The vast majority of the photos will not have been published in a book before nor most of the interviews. This is not a money making venture for me as I will donate the profits to Elstree Screen Heritage and the Borehamwood Museum. The clock is ticking on me, as with us all, so I want to complete this rather than the material ending in a skip as an unfinished project. Wish me luck." Paul Welsh.
It has been a good month for the Museum's Outreach programmes. On Wednesday 13th February, our manager David Armitage, spoke to students at Hertsmere Jewish Primary School about changes in Elstree and Borehamwood over the past eighty years.
David's talk was very well received by the enthusiastic and interested class, who challenged us, with some fascinating questions! Thank you to the school! We look forward to returning soon.
The local magazine that raises money for good causes in Borehamwood and Elstree generously presented the Museum with a cheque for £500 this week. Sasha Capocci, on behalf of David Burcombe, is seen here passing on the cheque to Derek Allen, our volunteer and photographer. Many of Derek’s photos of the town over the last fifty years have featured in Tried And Trusted. We will be using the cheque towards updating the lighting in our cabinets to LEDs which is better for the exhibits and better for the environment.
It is that time of the year again, and we are selling our local Christmas Cards in the foyer of 96 Shenley Road. From 11am to 4pm on the next three Saturdays our table will be on full view for you to purchase those last minute cards and presents. Featuring local views from Elstree and Boreham Wood, we have a range of Christmassy scenes, local pubs, and local landmarks. We also have Museum pens, keyrings and tote bags, along with post cards and other items. Look out for our new card of the Elstree Way Hotel in the snow.