New book reveals amazing vintage photos of Rickmansworth

Church Street, Rickmansworth

Church Street, Rickmansworth This postcard of Church Street, taken in the early part of the 20th century, depicts a tranquil panorama of the area long since gone. The magnificent 17th tower of the parish church, St Mary’s, can be seen in the background overlooking The Feathers public house. Beeson & Sons, the hardware store on the corner of Talbot Street, was not only an ironmongers but sanitary and domestic engineers as well. The baker’s van proclaims the business was established in 1848 and makes Allinsons and Hovis bread, as well as self-raising flour. - Credit: Courtesy of John Cooper

With photographs going back over a century, a new book - Lost Rickmansworth, Croxley Green and Chorleywood by John Cooper -  reveals how Rickmansworth and its surrounding villages once looked and the stories behind the images.

The town of Rickmansworth in the Colne Valley in the south-west of Hertfordshire historically included the villages of Croxley Green and Chorleywood within its parish.

The Village, Croxley Green

The Village, Croxley Green A postcard sent on August 8, 1910 by a resident of Dickinson Square shows All Saints Church in the background with several shops including the premises of Benjamin H. Ward, grocers and post office. One of the advertisements in the window proclaims ‘Best Value for Money’, while another indicates ‘Special Tea at 1/6d. A sign on the wall next door advertises the trade of A.J. Bates, ‘Builder and House Decorator’. - Credit: Courtesy of John Cooper

Through much of its history this was a small settlement with industrial development along the Grand Union Canal. 

The arrival of the railways in the 19th century and especially the extension of the Metropolitan Railway in the 1920s and '30s changed all that - with a massive development of the area, advertised to would-be new residents as Metro-land - an idyllic place to live with an easy commute to London.

Roughwood House, Ricmansworth, destroyed by Suffragettes

Roughwood House burned by suffragettes At around 1pm on Friday April 4, 1913, it was noticed that the fine country mansion called Roughwood House, situated at the bend of the Chalfont Road, Chorleywood, and owned by Messrs Davis of Rickmansworth, was on fire. Word was immediately passed to Rickmansworth fire station and with ‘commendable promptitude’ the hose and engine were hurried to the scene. On arrival, a connection was made at a farm close by where there was known to be plenty of water, but despite the fire brigade’s efforts no water was forthcoming. With a strong wind fanning the flames, it was a full hour before the first jet of water was sprayed on the flames, by which time the house was practically gutted. Suddenly, there was a great flash accompanied by clouds of smoke. Large quantities of petrol had been used to saturate the ground floor. It was suspected, and later confirmed, that members of Emmeline Pankhurst Women’s Social and Political Union were the perpetrators - a follow-up to another disastrous fire that had occurred a few weeks earlier at Croxley Green Station, when a building and platform had been destroyed. Votes for Women cards were left at the scene of the Roughwood fire, ensuring press coverage of the violent protest. - Credit: Three Rivers Museum Trust

A new book, Lost Rickmansworth, Croxley Green and Chorleywood by Watford's John Cooper, presents a photographic portrait of this corner of Hertfordshire over the past century, showing the industry, buildings, street scenes and people that once made up the area.

Royal Masonic School for Girls royal visit 1954

The Royal Masonic School for Girls moved from London to newly-built premises in Rickmansworth after purchasing Park House and estate in 1926, with the school formally opened by Queen Mary in 1934. Continuing the royal connection, Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent, attended the school sports day in June, 1948 where she presented trophies to the winners. Six years later in 1954 she paid another visit to open a domestic science wing. With the royal visit at an end, the whole school turned out to cheer the duchess on her way. - Credit: Courtesy of John Cooper

Those smoky worlds of make-believe, the local cinemas have sadly gone.

As have Walker’s boatbuilding, Moussec’s sparkling wine and the John Dickinson paper mills. 

However, many buildings have survived such as Croxley House, The Cedars and Chorleywood House, though all now used for a different purpose to their original ones.

The Swimming Baths, Rickmansworth opening 1909

The Swimming Baths, Rickmansworth An excellent attendance comprising a number of civic dignitaries and a crowd of excited spectators gathered to hear Lord Ebury officially open the new Rickmansworth open-air swimming baths on June 9, 1909. Although it was a popular venue, it was constantly freezing cold as no heating was ever installed. In later years the Urban District Council took over the running of the pool until a serious leak developed that was unrepairable, resulting in the pool’s closure. The land was subsequently developed for residential purposes in what is now Goral Mead, just off Ebury Road, with the stream called the Town Ditch running alongside. - Credit: Three Rivers Museum Trust

Above are a selection of images of a bygone age. Do you remember when it looked like this? 

Lost Rickmansworth, Croxley Green and Chorleywood by John Cooper and published by Amberly is priced £15.99.