More thoughts on Bircherley Green Shopping Centre plans

I have already made some initial comments on the planing application recently submitted for the redevelopment of Bircherley Green Shopping Centre (see right).

It is not going to win any awards but it does attempt to remove one eyesore from the centre of Hertford without putting another in its place. The Planning Statement comments: In summary, the wider area is of a generally mixed character with no particular prevailing building style or dominant materials. Whilst there are historic buildings throughout the Town Centre there are also a significant number of more recent buildings and developments.

The majority of Hertford’s buildings are listed in the Department of National Heritage List of Buildings of Special or Architectural Interest. Most are Grade II, a few such as Hertford Castle are Grade I but there is no place at all for Bircherley Green which was built in 1981.

The plans show the new Bircherley Green as three distinct blocks with retail premises supporting up to 70 apartments and Centurion House now a Premier Inn Hotel. The cleaner version from the Public Realm Statement is shown below.

Bircherley Green Shopping Centre

The big break from the past is that these plans allow for free and unfettered pedestrian access through the new centre. Before the shopping centre was built the area was home to the bus station, a town centre car park and a few remaining dwellings on the banks of the River Lea.

The main spine is to be The Mall which runs from Railway Street down to the river edge. This is also accessed by a path from the bus station and a much improved river walk which allows people to walk between the bus shelter and Bull Plain.

This is of course a double edged sword. Whilst it fulfils much of the town vision statements even harking back to the Riverside Yards Project of 1998 it also adds to the potential for all sorts of odd behaviour.

At present Bircherley Green Shopping Centre is gated and the gates closed in line with Waitrose opening hours. The Mall would not exist nor would the walk from the bus station. The river edge is no more than a service road and because of the restrictions on use provided by the gates in Railway Street and Bircherley Street is rarely used as a major thoroughfare.

This new free access will enable the proposed wining and dining area along the river to flourish. It will also mean that people will be walking through and around the centre all hours of day and night. The residents of the new builds will be parking their cars in the car park or searching for space elsewhere as will the hotel guests if the car park is full.

As we know Hertford has a bustling, energetic and thriving night time economy. But it brings with it loud and oft times aggressive and drunken noise and behaviour. The centre will now provide all manner of short cuts across town and an oasis of rest with benches along The Mall and on the riverside. The restaurants will no doubt try and push their closing times to a later hour and the lights along the Mall and the river might not always be switched off when they are supposed to.

None of this may happen. Nights may pass without disturbance from carousing drunks or noise from the night time economy. You cannot oppose something that has not happened but I do hope that in their consideration East Herts Council may have some regard for those residents who live close to this ‘jewel in the crown’.

Bircherley Green planning application

Finally after many months of bated breath a planning application has been made for the redevelopment of Bircherley Green Shopping Centre. Both are long overdue.

If you cannot wait any longer this is the link to the the appropriate page: https://www.publicaccess.eastherts.gov.uk and enter 3/17/0392/FUL into the search box. There are pages and pages supporting the application but the Planning Statement, Public Realm Statement and Heritage Statement are the best places to start.

My first impression is that the new design is at best utilitarian (something that is useful or functional) rather than ‘a jewel in the crown’ as some have recently tried to market it. It will make no difference what I think as the plans have been well battered having been tossed between Wrenbridge and East Herts Council for some time so I expect that it is something upon which they are all agreed and can be approved.

The Planning Statement says: 163. The starkly visible, hard and uninviting ‘back of house’ landscape along the north is replaced with a new, high quality, pedestrianised public realm, active frontages and a distinctive ‘feature’ pavilion. Rather than turning its back on the river frontage, as the existing centre, the proposed development marks the new key nodal point and celebrates the new riverfront square. This aspect of the proposed development constitutes a considerable enhancement and it is exactly the kind of exciting, vibrant redevelopment referred to as desirable in the draft Hertford Conservation Area Appraisal.

This is quite true. This is the ‘back of house’ now.

Waitrose from the river
Waitrose from the river

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is how it was presented to residents in 2016.

Waitrose from river as proposed 2016
Waitrose from river as proposed 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

As presented in the Planning Statement 2017

Waitrose from river 2017
Waitrose from river 2017

 

 

 

 

The Statement goes on to say: 162. The proposed development is a non-traditional form of development which does not attempt to mould modern building types into traditional forms. Instead the development takes the form of modern buildings. However, the rhythm picks up on the traditional street grain and the use of compatible materials subtly references to the traditional materials in Hertford, combined with modern materials—something which can be seen in many modern buildings in the conservation area.

However recent developments along the river have maintained a uniform style, although modern they pick up on the traditional features of sloping roofs found in historic buildings such as the Seed Warehouse, the new Hertford Library and Lombard House (the Hertford Club – out of shot below).

dophin yard
Dophin yard

 

 

 

 

 

 

A feature that the old Waitrose building carried forward. It may be ugly but it did at least try to blend in with the existing riverfront scene.

Any comments on these plans may be made on-line using the link above or in writing no later than 30 March 2017.

So at last things have started to move in Hertford. Things that have been mentioned in previous posts (see right) are mentioned again here with no comment from me whatsoever.

Following the publication and acceptance of the Vision and Design Strategy as developed in consultation with Tibbalds and others one or two of their proposals were taken up by the three Councils. On 7 September 2016 the Hertfordshire Mercury reported that:

Improvements in Hertford town centre to the tune of £1million look set to be on the way after councillors agreed to fund half the project.

East Herts District Council’s executive committee agreed to put £500,000 towards key improvements
to The Wash, Maidenhead Street and Bull Plain. Hertford Town Council is looking to contribute £300,000 to the project, while Hertfordshire County Council has also given its backing.

Resurfacing roads and improving pedestrian access are among the key proposals, which the authorities believe will better public space and traffic flow.

The district and town council will now seek further funding for the project.

Then on 1 February 2017 they also reported that:
A £225,000 government grant will help build new health centres and regenerate town centres,
according to County Hall.

The money will be given to Hertfordshire County Council by central government under the One Public Estate model.

The council did not reveal which projects would benefit from the funding.

In the Planning Statement it mentions that negotiations are still on-going with the North and East Herts Trust for a NHS walk-in or GP surgery to be sited in the new development. If talks are successful then space could be made available in the office space now vacant within Centurion House.

On Friday 24 September some residents of Folly Island (most probably those most affected) received notice from East Herts Council under the Town and Country Planning Act of the application for the development of Bircherley Green Shopping Centre.

On Saturday 25 September my good wife and I took a stroll through our home town and from Folly Bridge, through Bull Plain, Maidenhead Street, Mill Bridge and to Old Cross the pavements and roads were covered in lines and squiggles of every colour in the style of a modern Jackson Pollock.

At first these seemed quite confounding but we decided that these were markings by Highways for the improvements to the public realm as mentioned above. So, there is a fairy godmother after all!

Hidden Hertford – an audio visual guide

html video by EasyHtml5Video.com v3.9.1

This is the first three chapters of the official Hidden Hertford audio/visual tour. It is a unique opportunity to enjoy a virtual walk around the county town with a professional commentary on the history, heritage and points of nterest.

The mp4 video file was originally intended for us on iPods and can be viewed now on a variety of devices including a PC running Windows 10.

As this was photographed in 2008 some of the shops that are mentioned have changed ownership or trade. The Library has moved from Old Cross to Dolphin Yard, although the building remains and is used by a design agency. Some landmarks like Sovereign House have recently been demolished. The tour takes about one and a half hours on foot but as the introduction states, there are plenty of opportunities to stop for refreshment

Download the full tour here – £2.99 from Paypal. The file is 164mb and runs for approx 22mins. After purchase Paypal will re-direct you to a new page from where you can download the file.




The MP3 audio version is available for download for £0.99 through Paypal. The file is 19mb. After purchase Paypal will re-direct you to a new page from where you can download the file.




Hidden Hertford logoIn 2007 Visit Britain contacted my colleague Carole Skidmore who was at that time working at East Herts Council and asked if Hertford would like to be part of the Hidden Britain project.

We raised over £32,000 from Visit Britain, Action for Market Towns, The National Lottery Awards for All and Hertford Town Council. Our local MP Mark Prisk also wrote a letter of support to assist in the grant process.

By early 2008 Hidden Hertford was ready to go. The funds were used for several projects including river trips, community festivals, educational days on the Farmers Market, equipment for Hertford Museum and the software, hardware and professional expertise to place a guided tour on to a digital platform.

This is only available as an mp4. I am only offering one format but there is software available if you need to convert the file. Once payment has been made you will be redirected to a new page from where you can download either file.

If you would like a French, German or Polish version please contact me as below.

Here is a quick photo montage of Hertford; much, much more appears in the video with historical background and the odd interesting story to accompany it. Clicking on one image will begin the slideshow.

This is a quick photo montage of Hertford; much, much more appears in the video with historical background and the odd interesting story to accompany it. Clicking on one image will begin the slideshow.

You can contact John Barber here: moc.r1524516663ebrab1524516663nhoj@1524516663tcatn1524516663oc1524516663

 

 

Hertford 1861 by George Bradshaw

Bradshaw’s 1861 Railway Handbook of Great Britain and Ireland describes his journeys through the length and breadth of Great Britain and the towns and cities he visits.

This is what he had to say about Hertford:

‘HERTFORD, capital of Hertfordshire, close to an old ford on the river Lea, where Ermine Street crossed it. Population 6,605. It is a small, irregularly built country town, with some trade in grain and malt, and remains of a royal castle or palace, which having been modernised, is now turned into a school. A tower or two of the original structure may be noticed. Here John of Gaunt had the custody of two captive monarchs. One was his father’s (Edward III.) prisoner, the king of France, taken at the battle of Poictiers, in 1356; and the other was David of Scotland, who was captured in 1346, at the battle of Nevill’s Cross, by Queen Philippa, while her husband was in France. Afterwards it became the seat of several queens-consort, one of whom was Henry VI’s wife, Queen Margaret; and the retreat of Elizabeth, when a plague drove the court and judges out of London. A branch of Christ’s hospital, or the blue-coat school, consisting of 500 or 600 of the younger children, is stationed here in a large quadrangular pile. The sessions house and Town Hall are united in one building. The County Gaol is a fine large edifice. There is an old cross-shaped church, with a low spire, a fine corn market and prison, but nothing else remarkable.’

I wonder what Bradshaw would make of it today. ‘Nothing else remarkable’!!

Three hotels and more guest houses; pubs, bars and restaurants to suit all tastes and pockets, two rail stations, a bus station and a church of every denomination. No McDonalds but still a Saturday market but no annual fairs – you can’t be perfect.

He also notes the following:

A telegraph station.
HOTEL. —Salisbury Arms Hotel.
MARKET DAY. — Saturday.
FAIRS.- May 12th, July 5th, and November 8th.
BANKERS. -— London and County Bank; Unity Bank, Head Offices, London.

The London and County Bank became National Westminster Bank – now part of RBS –  I presume he is referring to the Unity Joint Stock Mutual Banking Association was also a constituent of the Royal Bank of Scotland but ceased trading in 1862.

In Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys he travels these islands with a well-thumbed copy of George Bradshaw’s Victorian Railway Guidebook.

There is a biography of  George Bradshaw (1801- 1853) here, originally written for Lancashire Magazine. A much expanded and complete article appeared in Railway Magazine in 2001 on the anniversary of his birth.

Copies of the original Bradshaw railway guides and train timetables are quite rare and expensive. Facsimiles and reprinted version can however be purchased through Amazon using the link above.

You can contact John Barber here: moc.r1524516663ebrab1524516663nhoj@1524516663tcatn1524516663oc1524516663

Hertford – a short guide

Hertfprd Castle Gatehouse
Hertford Castle Gatehouse

Hertford is the county town of Hertfordshire; about twenty miles north of London up the A10 from Tottenham, or take the A1/M1 turn off at Hatfield for the A414.

It has two railway stations, Hertford North and Hertford East with regular services into London Kings Cross and London Liverpool Street respectively.

Hertford Castle

At the centre of town is Hertford Castle; it was known to the Vikings and on the site of the original earthworks a castle was built around 912 AD.

From then onwards it was always a favourite of royalty. It was briefly lost to the French in 1216 but Henry V conferred it to his wife. Henry V111 was apparently none too taken with it but lived here for a time with Katherine of Aragon.

His daughter Elizabeth 1 loved the place and moved Parliament here during the Great Plague of London. Castle Street leads you out of the grounds and into Parliament Square.

Very little remains of the castle now apart from the Gatehouse and the castle grounds which can be enjoyed by visitors. The rooms of the Castle are now occupied by the Town Council although on open days throughout the year the Robing rooms are opened to the public, as part of a guided tour.

Just outside the entrance to the castle buildings is a weatherbeaten stone which commemorates the first General Synod of the British churches in 673AD. It was at this meeting that the rules for determining Easter were set.

If you have ever wondered why Easter always falls on a different date this is the reason: Easter was to be held on the first Sunday following the first full moon after March 21.

Leisure spots in Hertford

Hertford town centre is well populated with bars, pubs, restaurants, bistros and eateries. So whatever your particular favourite in eating and drinking you’ll find it here.

Many of Hertford’s pubs are old coaching inns. The Salisbury Arms Hotel has been on the site in Fore Street for five centuries although the Dimsdale Arms,a few doors away, is now the Pizza Express and was once the site of the Monday market that used to stretch from its back doors over to the other side of what is now the main road through Hertford, Gascoyne Way.

Hertford is a brewery town. McMullens are one of the last large scale independent brewers left in the country. They have brewed on the site at Old Cross since 1890. The smell of hops often drifts over the town.

The River Lea

Hertford’s prosperity was due to its pre-eminence in the brewing industry and supplied barley and malt to London’s major brewers from the early sixteenth century.

The River Lea runs through the town and with the building of the canals became the main trade route to the capital. The Lea splits into two in Hertford and the wider, faster running water that flows past Folly Island at the Barge pub, is actually the Lea Navigation following the Navigation Acts of 1832.

The original Lea runs on the northern side, thus forming Folly island and is little more than a stream in some places until it reconnects with the Navigation past Hertford lock.

Folly Island is a Local Conservation Area. There is only one road for motor access and parking is almost impossible, even for residents. It can be accessed on foot more easily and a good stopping point is the Old Barge, built in the 1880’s with the cottage style workmen’s houses on the island itself.

You can walk along the Lea riverbank up to Hertford basin where the houseboats are moored and across the footbridge to Hertford East station.

Most people just stop for a light meal and a pint at the Barge and watch the houseboats and small craft come up the river and turn round a few more yards upriver where you can just discern the old mill buildings that once were more prevalent in town.

Hertford as well as being the county town also has a market. This happens on Saturdays and supplemented by a Farmers Market on the second Saturday of the month.

Hertford is a commuter town with most residents working in London but on weekends Hertford is a bustling, busy, thriving place to be and there are plenty of pubs where you can take the weight off your feet and enjoy a pint of local ale.

Hidden Hertford

In 2004 Hertford became the centre of media attention with the publication of an article in the Hertfordshire Mercury claiming that underneath the streets of the county town were a labyrinth of secret tunnels still used by descendants of the Knights Templar.

Hidden Hertford logo
Hidden Hertford logo

I have now made the official Hidden Hertford Audio Visual Tour available again for download. You can view the full 20 minute video as an mp4 file for just £2.99 (or listen just to the audio version for £0.99). Many of the places mentioned above are featured but some shops and landmarks have now closed or disappeared such as Sovereign House.

 

You can contact John Barber here: moc.r1524516663ebrab1524516663nhoj@1524516663tcatn1524516663oc1524516663

Folly Island, Hertford

The view from Folly Bridge -Folly Island on Folly on the Folly Day August 8th 2010
The view from Folly Bridge – Folly on the Folly Day August 8th 2010

Modern day Folly Island

Folly Island is situated in the centre of Hertford where the River Lee (or Lea) splits into two. Hertford is the county town of Hertfordshire. It has a bus station, two train stations and easy access to most major road networks to London and airports.

There are 122 houses on Folly Island. They are two or three bedroom, mid-terrace cottage style homes built in the last years of the nineteenth century by the Andrews and Thornton families.

There is also a pub – The Old Barge, a freehouse which can be found in Camra’s Good Beer Guide 2018 and serves a wide range of real ales, ciders, export lagers and food until late seven days a week.

Folly Island is a true island between the two streams of the River Lea and there is only one access for vehicles over Folly Bridge. The absence of through traffic, the closeness of the town centre and the open spaces of Hartham Common nearby adds to the attraction of the Island as a place to live.

Folly Island is designated a Local Conservation Area and cherry trees planted along Thornton Street recreate an original feature from the end of the last century.

Trees in bloom in Thornton Street

This photo (above 17 March 2017 ) shows how attractive parts of Folly Island look in early spring when the first blossoms burst into life.

History of Folly Island

The history of Folly Island begins in the days of William the Conqueror when a mill was built on the site of a priory close to modern day Priory Street. In 1636 the mill was relocated down stream to where the Dicker Mill Industrial Estate is today as other mills closer to the centre of town took more water for their own workings.

A 1700 map of Hertford shows Folly island as an open space between the two branches of the River Lea and split into three separate parcels of land; Old Hall Mead (Old Hall Street is named after this), Little Hartham and Priory Orchard, now cultivated as allotments.

The earliest recorded use of the ‘the Folly’ (the street called The Folly runs from Folly Bridge to the crossroads with Thornton Street) was in 1732 when Little Hartham was conveyed by Thomas Ashby to John Nicholson. It was referred to as ‘Ashby’s Folly’; that small piece of land was later to be the site for a militia hospital and a dumping ground for the waste from Hertford goal.

The transfer of the lease to Nicholson signalled a dramatic increase in the development of commercial interests on the adjoining stretch of the island. Late nineteenth century maps show an abundance of maltings, timber mills and warehousing operations.

The River Lea was the dominant inland route for the transport of malt and barley, tapping into some of the richest barley country in Hertfordshire, most especially around Ware, Hoddesdon and Stanstead Abbotts. Hertford’s great rival Ware prospered to become the centre of England’s malting industry.

Centre of the malting industry

The Navigation Act of 1738 was of such importance to the prosperity of Hertford that the corporation paid ten shillings for the bells to be rung. It enabled the then mill stream to be widened and navigation improved to allow barges right into the centre of Hertford and alongside the mills rather than along the course of the old river.

Although it was essential for the malt to be transported down to London the River Lea also opened up opportunities for barge owners to return from London with coal, dung to fertilise the market gardens along what is now the A10 corridor; and animal feed for the continuing reliance on horse drawn transport.

Eastwards from Folly BridgeFor many years the only access to Folly island was over a footbridge at Bull Plain. Mill owners successfully applied for the widening of the bridge to allow carts but the high sides still made getting goods off the island easier by barge than by road.

The narrowness of the bridge was as much the reason for the decline in the Folly as a trading centre as the coming of the railways. Movement by barge was still far cheaper but the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 had reduced the price of corn and encouraged large landowners to sell off land to commuters that sought the green fields of Hertfordshire.

 

Now Folly Island is a modern residential area. Residents and visitors still stand on Folly Bridge to capture the iconic view. Such as this taken one late misty, cold autumn evening.

 

© John Barber. First published in Hertfordshire Countryside, August 2000.

Contact John Barber here: moc.r1524516663ebrab1524516663nhoj@1524516663tcatn1524516663oc1524516663

A short history of brewing in Hertford

Traditional maltsters
Traditional maltsters

What made Hertford so famous for brewing?

Hertford’s wealth was founded on the brewing industry. The main crop was barley which thrived in the light well drained soil that surrounded Hertford. It produced the short, plump, thin-skinned variety that every maltster desired. Hertford’s pre-eminence was born out of a simple geographic alliance.

Barley was brought in from the fields to the maltings where it was soaked in water to convert the starch into sugar and then heated to arrest germination before the addition of yeast to produce alcohol. The temperature is controlled to give either a pale malt or roasted to produce the dark malts for stout and porter – particular favourites of Londoners.

Londoner’s had always drunk beer; it was healthier than untreated water from the Thames. This demand was met by the brewers who had traditionally sourced malt, the raw material for beer, from three main areas; Surrey, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

The second natural advantage of Hertford’s ascendancy was the river Lea. It flows straight from the centre of the town until running in to the Thames directly into the heart of London. Here the great brewing names such as Whitbread, Perkins and Coombe built riverside warehouses to accept the continuous barges of malt.

Almost as soon as the Navigation Acts were passed in the middle of the eighteenth century allowing for the improvement of barge transport into Hertford, events were occurring elsewhere that were to threaten Hertford’s pre-eminence as a malting and brewing centre.

The decline of Hertford as a centre for brewing

East Anglia was establishing itself as a major source of barley and barges using the sea route from Norfolk to London’s Bear Quay were accounting for a higher proportion of London’s malt imports. The big brewers were establishing their own maltings and factoring houses not just in Hertford but in the newer territories and their dependence on local supplies was diminishing.

Local malting was dealt a mortal blow by the new industrial age – and in particular, the coming of the railways. The railway opened up the Midlands and its fields of barley. Burton soon became the new centre of the malting industry and as overseas exploration cast light on dark corners of the globe, it was Burton ales such as the eponymous IPA (India Pale Ale) that was shipped to the colonies.

Ironically beer in bottles such as IPA lasted the journey better; a discovery said to have been made in Hertfordshire by a parson from Much Hadham, Alexander Nowell. On one of his frequent fishing days he accidentally left a bottle of home brewed beer on the riverbank.

It was his custom to put a stopper in the bottle to prevent the contents being spilled and on his return a few days later he found that the beer in the stoppered bottle had improved greatly – and thereby, so tradition has it, invented bottled beer.

 

The Quaker Henry Stout and malting

The dark brown beer called porter was said to have been invented by a Londoner. If this is so then it is safe to assume that the malt used to produce porter was developed in Hertfordshire, for this area was famous for its brown malts.

The invention of stout was first mentioned in 1677 and accredited to Henry Stout. This is now doubted as Henry Stout was actually a maltster and stout is a reference to any dark, strong ale. He owned property in and around Hertford and also ran the White Lion in Fore Street.

Quakers of which Henry Stout was one, became involved in the brewing industry as this was one of the few professions that were still open to them following the restoration of Charles II.  Quakers were penalised for not taking oaths in courts of law or standing for political positions. Henry Stout was penalised in 1662 and 1664 for non-attendance at church, similarly William Fairman. He was sentenced in 1677 to be deported to Barbados. It is thought that he served his sentence in this country as in 1687 he provided liquor to the assizes to accompany the judge’s meal of ‘boyle beef, porch, rost beef and cheese’.

Modern day Hertford

Henry Stout’s White Lion has disappeared but Fore Street was a popular venue for anyone with a thirst. Numbers 41 – 49 now all retail units, was a brewery and number 42, the Turk’s Head Coffee House had a brewery in the yard and was situated in what is now known as Brewhouse Lane; numbers 72 – 74 was known as the Falcon between 1727 and 1731 and now houses a firm of solicitors. The Red Lion had a brewery behind the bar as long ago as 1621. In 1731 it was called the Half Moon and early in the 1800’s became the Dimsdale Arms. It is now the Pizza Express.

Why not sample some of Hertford’s historic brewing heritage with a visit to one of its pubs found in Camra’s Good Beer Guide 2018. For those wishing for a wider knowledge of Hertford’s historic pub scene you can do no better than Les Middlewood’s ‘One for the Road – a History of Hertford Pubs’. This was a limited edition print but copies are still available from Hertford Museum, priced £11.00.

Modern street names such as Barley Croft, Brewhouse Lane and The Maltings remain as a reminder of Hertford’s strong association with brewing.

All evidence of a once thriving industry has all but vanished but on days when the wind is in the right direction the smell of hops still drifts over Hertford from McMullens brewery, the last remaining independent brewer in the town.

© John Barber. First published Hertfordshire Countryside, April 2001

Contact John Barber: moc.r1524516663ebrab1524516663nhoj@1524516663tcatn1524516663oc 1524516663

Hertford Library

Hertford Library
Hertford Library

As you can see this is quite an old building built in 1888 from red brick below traditional timber and plaster framing. Some of the panels have carvings and plaster pargetting.

On the left of the building is a small water fountain constructed from stones rescued from the old Saxon church that stood close to this spot. There is also a memorial on the wall to those who fell in various wars.

In its way it is quite an attractive building. But its end is nigh. As part of the Riverside Yards Development Plan the library will be moved to Dolphin Yard. This is a new development on the banks of the River Lea and hopefully due to be completed by the end of 2011.

During my time as Town Centre Manager I was often asked what was to become of this old building. It is a Grade 2 listed structure so thankfully it can’t be pulled down. But it has one huge disadvantage. It is has about six different levels accessed by an ornate stone staircase or series of more modern steps. No one really knows what will happen to it but whoever does take it over has to face the problems of access for those with disabilities.

Update: November 2016. The building now houses a design agency who have made no alterations to the interior or exterior construction apart from a polite sign requesting library users not to post books through their letterbox.

The new Library is open but the front door is accessed down Dolphin Yard in Maidenhead Street and not on the river frontage as i remember it was originally planned. As at December 2016 many of the sections still do not have category signage on the book cases or any Dewey reference number.

King George V Telephone kiosk

K6 Jubilee Telephone Kiosk next to the Library building
K6 Jubilee Telephone Kiosk next to the Library building

On the right of the building you can see an old fashioned red telephone kiosk.

This too has a Grade 2 listing. It is a K6 Jubilee pattern designed in 1935 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott during the reign Of King George V.

Similarly I have no idea what will happen to this once the library moves.

There can’t be many of these type of telephone boxes left in the UK as we all have mobile phones.

I hope this one stays if only to explain to our children and grandchildren how we made a call in the old days. You put your pennies in the slot, dialled a number and if the person at the other end answered you pressed ‘Button A’. If the line was engaged or they didn’t answer you pressed ‘Button B’ and got your money back.

The end for the telephone kiosk?

Sadly the demise of these type of phone boxes always seen in British films up to the 1970’s was hastened by the increase in vandalism – not to mention mobile phones.

Some enterprising communities have made some use of their own boxes. A village in Gloucestershire has turned theirs into a lending library; and now in London they have been sprayed green and are somewhere to charge your mobile.

An American entrepreneur bought a large volume to convert to shower cubicles in swimming pools.

Few of us in the UK can not have heard of the swingeing cuts in public services. One such cut has been made to the opening hours of our own library. I thought what a good idea to convert the telephone box into a part time library which can be open during the hours that the main one is closed. I pondered this for a while until I realised that it would take a kiosk with an interior the size of Dr Who’s Tardis to accommodate the number of books we would all want to read.

Today (14 December 2016) there is an interesting article on BBC News Business Page about the large interest in collecting red telephone boxes, thus preserving a unique feature of British commercial life.

You can contact John Barber here: moc.r1524516663ebrab1524516663nhoj@1524516663tcatn1524516663oc1524516663

John Barber, Author

While you’re here why not take at look at ‘Coasters by John Barber’ – sets of drinking coasters featuring original designs unique to this site.

A little bit about John Barber.

This feature published by the Hertfordshire Mercury on December 7 2007 gives you a brief flavour of the man behind the site but for a more detailed background, read my biography.

Getting to know you

Name John Barber
Age Just collected my bus pass
Where are you from Folly Island, Hertford
Job Hertford Town Centre Manager
Hobbies Writing.

Favourites
Film

Goodbye Mr Chips
Terminator One

Book
Three men in a boat by Jerome K Jerome
Life and Times of Tristram Shandy by Lawrence Sterne

TV Programme
Spooks

Song
Bat out of Hell

Food
Any curry, stronger the better

Claim to fame

Bob Monhouse
Postcard from Bib Monkhouse

Bob Monkhouse rang me from his holiday home in Barbados to offer me his memories of Leslie Welch, the Memory Man who was a famous variety act in the 1950/60’s. He talked for about half an hour and I always thought that a wonderful and kind gesture from such a celebrated stand-up comedian and TV host to a little known writer (and who remains so to this day!).

What famous person would you like to be stuck on a desert island with
Becky Mantin
Backy Mantin, the ITV weather girl. This kind of interview was a regular feature in the Mercury who asked various politicians and traders their likes and views. When asked who they would like to be stuck on a desert island with most replied with: William Shakespeare, the Pope, George Bernard Shaw, Henry the Eighth and various reality TV stars such as Bear Grylls. I took the view that if I had to be marooned on a desert island then I would prefer my companion to be an attractive female. At the time of this interview I always knew that it was going to rain because Becky would do the whole of the weather forecast with a smile. So much better than discussing the end of the world with Wittgenstein.

Views on Hertford
What does it need
A cinema
What would you change I like it as it is
Favourite pub/restaurant Old Barge, White Horse, Salisbury Arms
Favourite place The Old Barge pub on Folly Island
Where do you like to shop Waitrose
Best thing about Hertford The traders and the people.

When Zach my grandson passed away in 2015 there was little left in Hertford for me. I originally placed the following on his own page but they belong here.

I had hoped that the Hertford Town Centre Urban Design Strategy would breathe some life into the town. All it produced was another list of everything that has been discussed, argued over and beaten into pulp by every possible combination of town centre committees and seminars. If I have copies of all these then someone else must have too at Council level and saved us all £100,000 to hire a team of consultants to regurgitate it.

As we near the end of 2015 the position regarding Waitrose in town is as unclear as when negotiations started in 2013.

The ex-Mayor Colin Harris once told me that I had been punching above my weight for far too long. Trying to form an opposition to the established pattern of things in this town has become more like punching my fist into thin air.

However I can look back over the past fifteen years and know that some good things were achieved; not always by myself but with the help of so many good friends and colleagues. In some chronological order:

Chairman of the Folly Island Residents Association
5 Fun Days
1 Hertford Music Festival
1 Continental Market
Hertford Town Watch
Hertford Pubwatch incl Behave or be Banned
Farmers Market
New Christmas Lights and much needed infrastructure
Christmas Fayres
Taxi Marshals
Hidden Hertford
Training Courses
New businesses in town
Business database
Editor of Ward Times

I have missed a few but it is exhausting just listing that lot and remembering the time and effort spent by all those who were also responsible.

Thank you for those 15 years.

You can contact John Barber here: moc.r1524516663ebrab1524516663nhoj@1524516663tcatn1524516663oc1524516663