Early Days

A Memory of Arlesey

I remember Arlesey with great affection where I lived in Hospital Road from 1941 to 1950. I attended the village school next to the Three Tuns pub, leaving at 14 to become a trainee lab. assistant in the path. lab. of the local Fairfield Hospital and gained the nick name, "professor" from my old school mates. Entertainment was the Cosy cinema, a corrugated iron building at the end of Hospital Road. Across the railway bridge opened out to the common where cows grazed and went down to the river to water and cool down in the summer. It was also a place for ball games and walks over to Henlow, passing a pig farm on the way.
I remember fishing in Arlesey Pits as we called it then. There was an old post office in the High Street where you stepped down from the pavement to enter the dark interior. There was also the baker's where you could watch the dough being kneaded by a fascinating machine through the window.
The cottage where we lived for almost 10 years had, at that time, only gas laid on, no water and no electricity. We used a combination of gas lamps and oil lamps until my father had electricity laid on. Water had to be drawn from a stand pipe in the back yard, one of two that served the whole terrace. All hot water was heated on the gas stove, whether for a cup of tea or a bathe in the galvanised bath in front of the fire. The toilet was across the yard and in winter continually had it's lead pipes burst. The stand pipe also had to be thawed out in very cold weather. Next to the toilet was the wash house where a wood burning boiler was fired up to do the weekly laundry. Hard work for my mother, but for me with no responsibilities, it was among the happiest days of my life. My school chum and constant companion in our spare time was Bill Daniels, his father at one time had the True Britain pub.
Nearby industry was the London Brick Company which had several tall chimneys, none of which were illuminated during the war. One night I remember hearing a plane circling round and suddenly a terrible crash as it struck one of the chimneys.
We learned later that it had been a USAF Flying Fortress trying to land at Henlow. It was completely destroyed by fire which set off ammunition that we could hear from where it crashed in the common. Sadly all 13 crew perished.
I had hoped to see earlier pictures of Arlesey, around 1940. In the early days the local dialect was more distinct, but I'm afraid with travel and television, etc, it can gradually get lost.

A memory shared by Bill Witney , on Mar 16th, 2012.

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