For many years Maidenhead Street in Hertford, together with what is now Railway Street, was known as Back Street (and also at one time as Cordwainers’ Street, due to the number of leather-dressers in the area). Although the street has changed considerably in the last hundred years, a few fine buildings still remain, notably Nos. 5, 7, 9, 9a, and the former Green Dragon Hotel at No. 31, all of which are Grade II listed.
Its present name derives from the 17th-century Maidenhead Inn, which was situated on the site of the old Woolworth’s store (where Pound Stretcher is now). In the early years of the 20th century it was the chief and busiest shopping street in the town, with a couple of inns, a hotel, a cinema, and a wide range of stores and businesses offering products and services of all kinds to the people of Hertford. By referring to the 1911 census, Kelly’s Directory of Hertfordshire (1910 and 1912 editions), and Bennett’s Business Directory (1911-12 edition), it is possible to build up a fascinating picture of who was living and working in Maidenhead Street in and around 1911. The even-numbered properties were located on the north side of the street and the odd-numbered ones on the south side.
Starting at Nos. 1 and 3, on the corner of Maidenhead Street and Market Place, were the imposing premises of Graveson & Co., advertised at the time as ‘drapers, outfitters, dress makers, & boot & shoe warehouse’ and offering ‘costumes, mantles & millinery’. The company supplied ‘Ladies’, Gentlemen’s and Children’s Wear’, providing ‘Reliable goods at cash value’. Tailored suits could be made to order from ’30/- to 63/-‘ and dresses from ’25/6 to 50/-‘.
There had been a store on this site since the end of the 18th century, run by three Quaker families, the Pollards, Robinsons and Gravesons, who dominated the drapery business in Hertford. At the end of the 19th century the original store was demolished and an extended building replaced it, with the business trading as Graveson & Robinson. It was only in 1899 that the brothers William and Alfred Graveson took full control of the business. It remained a successful family concern for another hundred years, becoming a well-known Hertford landmark in the heart of the town, before it finally closed its doors in 2001. The ground floor now houses a shop, Monsoon/Accessorize, and the Tourist Information Centre, while the upper floors have been converted into residential apartments.
At No. 2, near the corner of Maidenhead Street and Bull Plain, were the premises of a long-established company, J. J. Rayment & Son, who were builders, decorators, upholsterers, sanitary engineers and plumbers. The entrance to their office, with their name above the door, can just be seen on the right of the photograph below, which also shows the cinema next door at No. 2a, originally part of the Rayment building (now occupied by F. Hinds, jewellers).
This was Hertford’s first cinema, or ‘Cinematograph Theatre’ (and one of the earliest in the county), and was known as the People’s Electric Theatre. The proprietor was Mr C. E. Sheppard and the projectionist (and electrician) was Mr E. S. Peeke. Opened on 14 November 1910, it seated 160 and had standing room for an additional 100 people. Admission charges were 3d, 9d and 1/-. It had a short life, however, closing only four years later in September 1914, when Mr Sheppard became the proprietor and manager of the larger, rival Premier cinema nearby at No. 1 Market Street, which had opened on Christmas Eve in 1910.
Samuel Hilton & Sons were boot makers and their shop, Hilton’s Boot Stores, was located at No. 4. At No. 5 could be found G. Garrett & Co., watchmakers and jewellers. The head of the household, George Garrett, 42, had been married to Mary Jane, aged 46 and from Pimlico in London, for seven years. They had two children, Ethel Dorothy, 6, and Sidney George, 5.
Listed at both Nos. 4 and 6 was Arnold Thomas, 29, a draper from Lewisham in Kent. He married a Hertford girl, May, 28, in 1905, and they had a daughter, Muriel, in 1907 and a son, Wilfred, two years later. Their premises were large, with 11 rooms, and they had two domestic servants living in – Annie Jordan, 21, originally from Northamptonshire, and a local girl, Edith Chesham, 16. Edith’s older sister, Elizabeth Chesham, 19, was also employed by the Thomas family, as a domestic nurse. The business, described in Bennett’s Business Directory (1911-12) as a ‘Ladies’ Outfitter, General Draper, Milliner, etc.’, employed several members of staff. There were three draper’s assistants – Alice Martin, 20, from Canterbury in Kent, Daisy Clements, 20, from Shepherds Bush in London, and Emily Cooper, 19, from Stevenage. In addition, there was a dressmaker, Helen Spencer, 31, from Hertfordshire, a milliner, Millicent Berry, 22, from Biggleswade in Bedfordshire, and a draper’s clerk, Margaret Watt, 21, from Tottenham in London. Unfortunately, the premises, together with Hilton’s Boot Stores, were burned down in 1917, to be replaced by the building now housing the Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop. More information about this fire can be found here.
Various sources in 1911 refer to the International Tea Stores Limited at No. 7 Maidenhead Street (and also at No. 9 Market Place). The photograph here, which dates from the end of the 19th century, shows a business called simply the International Stores, but presumably, given the advertisements in the window for ‘Ceylindo Tea’, a high-quality blended tea, this is the same company, later renamed. It obviously sold other groceries as well as tea, including butter and cheese.
There appear to be two butchers in close proximity to each other in the street. At No. 9 was Eastmans Limited (‘Families waited upon.’), the manager of which was George Samuel Harrup, 35, from Great Horwood in Buckinghamshire. He lived on the premises with his wife of eight years Ellen Louisa, 31, who was born in Bedford. At No. 10, on the other side of the street, was James Nelson & Sons, Ltd, described as both meat importers and butchers.
One of the street’s two inns, The Old Coffee House Inn, was situated on the corner of Maidenhead Street and Honey Lane, at No. 11. An advertisement of the time promises ‘Good Accommodation for Travellers. Noted House for Wines, Spirits, etc.’.
The inn, which had two storeys and an attic, was built in about 1610 but the original building no longer remains, having been demolished in 1938. A few of the first-floor decorative carved wooden pilasters were preserved, however, and can still be seen in Hertford Museum. The proprietor and publican was Bryson M. Turner, 41, who was originally from the USA but in the 1911 census was listed as being resident in the UK. He lived on the premises with Clara, 36, his wife of eight years, from Clapham in London, who assisted him in the business. The couple had two young sons, Henry, 4, and Arthur, 2, both of whom had been born in Lambeth, London, before the family moved to Hertford. Sadly, a third child had not survived.
Across the street at No. 12 could be found W. E. Howell & Co., Ltd, a drapery store. Next door at No. 14 were the premises of Wigginton & Son, grocers, and opposite at No. 15 was a tobacconist, George Fielding.
The Maidenhead Inn, after which the street was named, was located at No. 16. It was built in the 1600s – the first-known reference dates it to 1621 – and in 1756 was described as the ‘Maids Head’, with beds for 18 men and stabling for 60 horses. The proprietor in 1911 was Francis Joseph Nie, 65, who had been born in Leyton, Essex. There are no details of his family given in the 1911 census but the previous one in 1901 reveals that his wife was called Louisa, then aged 63, and they had a son, William, and a daughter, Florry. The inn was eventually closed in 1933 and demolished to make way for Woolworth’s (now Pound Stretcher).
Listed at both Nos. 17 and 21 was an ironmonger, John Cooper & Sons (also described in the 1910 edition of Kelly’s Directory of Hertfordshire as a ‘china & glass warehouse’).
At No. 18 the 1911 census lists Joseph Seymour, 60, a taxidermist/naturalist, originally from Brixton in London. He lived there with his single daughter, Alice Annie, 30, an assistant in the shop, who had been born in Blaston, Leicestershire. Also living on the premises was Joseph’s son, Harold Victor, 18, born in Hertford and described as a printer’s apprentice. The previous census in 1901 reveals that Joseph’s wife was called Eliza, then aged 54. At that time there were also two other children listed at the address – another daughter, Agnes, 22, a dressmaker’s assistant, and another son, Ernest, 17, a butcher’s assistant.
Also listed at No. 18 at around this time were George Chapman and Samuel Moore, who were both butchers.
At No. 19 William Drury, 30, ran a men’s outfitter business, Drury Brothers, assisted by his wife Fanny, also 30, to whom he had been married for just two years. They had a baby daughter, Dorothy, born that year. As can be seen from the advertisement on the left, which appeared in The Hertfordshire Mercury on 17 April 1915, they stocked the ‘smartest designs’, offering ‘best value’ and a variety of different price points to suit all customers. It is interesting to note the style of shirt illustrated here, which seems to button only to the waist.
The traditional family store remained in Maidenhead Street for many years before it eventually closed in recent times and was replaced by another menswear shop, Cole’s. This has also since closed, in early 2010, and the premises are now occupied by the Costa coffee shop.
At No. 20 could be found Walker & Co.’s grocery stores. At No. 22 Bertie Monk, 30, a Hertford general labourer working for a gravel merchant, was living with his wife Mary, 27, born in Cheshunt. They had been married for just one year and their only child to date had died. Kelly’s Directory of Hertfordshire (1912) lists a cycle maker and agent, Frederick Jarvis, 28, from Dartford in Kent, at this address, but he was living with his family in West Street at the time so it is likely that the Monks were living above the shop. Frederick had been married to Daisy, 26, for four years and they had two daughters, Violet, 4, and Ivy, 2. His mother-in-law, Emily Monk, 66, a widow, also lived with the family.
The attractively named Blue Boot Stores, which were owned by the boot and shoe maker Alfred Grattan, were located at No. 25.
Thomas John Connell, 55, a watchmaker/jeweller and pawnbroker from Poplar in London, ran a business at No. 27, described in Bennett’s Business Directory (1911-12) as ‘The cheapest house in Hertfordshire. Newest London fashions at London prices.’, which must have pleased Hertford residents at the time! He and his wife Clara, 56, from Islington in London, had five daughters (Maud, 29, Hilda, 26, Dorcas, 16, Elsie, 13, and Nora, 9) and two sons (Reginald, 23, and Harold, 21). The family previously (as at 1901) lived on the premises in Maidenhead Street but by 1911 they were living at 51 St Andrew Street in Hertford, along with a 24-year-old servant called Jane Bradley. The two older daughters had left home by then, most likely to marry. Harold, who worked for his father as a pawnbroker’s assistant, remained at No. 27, however, as one of two boarders. The other was Stephen Hagan, 20, from Blackfriars in London, who was employed as a pawnbroker’s warehouse boy. Also listed as living on the premises in 1911 was George Brett, 30, from Trowbridge in Wiltshire, another pawnbroker’s assistant working for Thomas Connell. He had been married to a Hertford girl, Mabel, 24, for two years and they had a young daughter, Dorothy, aged 1 year and 3 months.
On the corner of Maidenhead Street and The Wash at No. 28 (although at the time its address was given as 6 The Wash) was Pratt’s toy warehouse, or ‘fancy repository’. This was owned by Hannah Pratt, 64, a widow from Totternhoe in Bedfordshire, who ran the shop with her niece, Mary Ann Collings, 45, from Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. Between the wars Mrs Pratt had the building rebuilt and called it The Corner House, a name which can still be seen above the door of Kings estate agents today.
There was another butcher, Stallabrass Brothers, at No. 29. Living above the shop was a single lady, Harriett Dennis, 58, whose occupation in the 1911 census was given as ‘house-keeping’. Originally from Shelford in Cambridgeshire, she had been deaf and dumb from birth. She appears to have been the aunt of Oswald Victor Stallabrass, of 22 Trinity Grove, Bengeo, who, according to The London Gazette of 4 May 1915, was in partnership with Frederick William Stallabrass, trading as Stallabrass Brothers, until 29 April 1915.
One of the most notable establishments in the street at the time was the Green Dragon Hotel, a fine building located on the southern corner of Maidenhead Street and The Wash at No. 31, opposite Pratt’s toy warehouse. The original pub on this site was established before 1621, but the building in 1911 was relatively new as it was a replacement for one that had burned down in 1903. The hotel survived for another fifty years before finally closing in 1952/3. The ground floor is now occupied by several retail outlets (Mr H Menswear, the British Heart Foundation shop and Ladbrokes) and the upper floors have been converted into residential apartments.
The hotel proprietor was Herbert Walter Fortescue, 43, originally from Norwood in London, and he lived there with his wife of 18 years, Miriam, 38, also from London, who assisted him in the business. They had three sons – Edgar James, 17, an apprentice to motor engineers, Harry Cecil, 11, and Charles Edward, 5. Also resident on the premises were a widow, Elizabeth McLaren, 40, who assisted in the hotel, and her daughter, Florrie, 11. Two other hotel employees lived in: Edith Sarah Bailey, 21, was a domestic servant, and George Ernest Wilkinson, 42, was a hotel porter. There was also a boarder, Gordon Stirling Peeke, 21, who was a cinematographer operator from Catford in Kent – perhaps he worked at the People’s Electric Theatre further up the street, or at the Premier cinema nearby?
The Green Dragon Hotel had 25 rooms and was described in Kelly’s Directory of Hertfordshire (1912) as having ‘first class accommodation for cyclists & motorists’. It also advertised ‘catering done; billiards, stabling, garage, motor pit, etc.’. The stables, garage and bonded vaults were built c. 1903-4 on the south side of the former Green Dragon yard behind the hotel. This building, owned by McMullens brewery, remains and their vaults are still there, having been used for various purposes over the years. A reminder of the various facilities offered by the hotel can be seen in The Wash to this day (see the photograph on the right).
The hotel was obviously a popular meeting place for local groups and societies, according to the business directories of the time. The Hertford & District Grocers’ Association (secretary: C. Small) held meetings on the second Tuesday of each month at the Green Dragon, as did the Hertford & Ware District Bakers’ Association (secretary: F. Looker). On the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month the adult members of the Ancient Order of Foresters, Court ‘Hertford’ No. 6715, held their meetings at the hotel (secretary: Thomas Woodland, of Eleanor Road, Bengeo), and the members of Oddfellows Manchester Unity (Loyal Good Intent Lodge) met there every alternate Monday (secretary: Henry J. Gutteridge).
Finally, at No. 33 Bert Webb is listed as a tailor and outfitter in 1910, but by 1912 another firm of outfitters called Foster Brothers Limited is recorded at the same address.