We loved our new town home

Queen's Square in Adeyfield, newly completed.
Queen's Square in Adeyfield, newly completed.
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This week, Muriel O’Donovan remembers her life in Hemel Hempstead through the decades

We were married in 1949, and after our return from Ireland, my husband and I lived with my parents in Berkhamsted, where he worked in the offices of a local builder.

Following many applications for housing and being turned down, we were allocated our first home at 12 Rant Meadow, Bennetts End, by the Commission for the New Towns.

I believe Bennetts End was the second phase of the planned housing, Adeyfield being the first.

I used to push our new baby down Longlands to the shops in Adeyfield Square, as the Bennetts End shopping centre had yet to be built.

Facing the Square is the block of flats displaying the Royal Coat of Arms, signifying the laying of the foundation stone of the first homes to be built in the New Town.

I think this was laid by Princess Elizabeth, now Her Majesty the Queen. These apartments until just recently were showing signs of their age, but now seem to be undergoing an overhaul.

We had been allowed to select our house from a plan, and chose the corner three-bedroomed house adjoining Robins Road, where there was a small thicket on the corner.

After a few years, our son, dressed in his cowboy outfit complete with stetson and gun holster, used to play cowboys and Indians with the other children.

We came from Berkhamsted with our few pieces of furniture, the bed bought for us by my dad.

We were moved by Dell & Sons, who are still respected furniture removers in the area, and were charged the princely sum of £7/10 (£7.50).

Our garden was large by modern standards, had a surrounding wall, and a good-sized brick-built shed.

At Christmas time when a turkey – which had been raised by my mother-in-law in Ireland for the members of the family living in England – arrived, wrapped in strong brown paper and string, it was hung on a hook in the shed, awaiting plucking and drawing.

On Christmas Eve my husband, sitting on a kitchen chair inside the open door, plucked away with feathers flying everywhere, and then brought it into the kitchen to be stuffed and roasted the following day.

There were few garages in the area, as not many of us owned cars at that time.

My husband dug, and laid out the garden, sowing grass seed and marking out flower beds.

In the front garden I planted white alysum, blue lobelia and red salvia, just as my dad had planted in our garden when I was a child.

An Express Dairy van used to come to the estate on certain days of the week, and I bought groceries, including our butter ration, as rationing for certain items was still in operation at that time – 1951and 1952.

The house had a kitchen/diner overlooking the back garden.

We painted the stone floor brick red, and I had a wash/boiler and an Acme wringer with rubber rollers.

The washing was wrung out into a galvanised bath before hanging out on the line or on a horse.

The front living room fire had a back boiler, which heated the water.

The brass companion set, holding small shovel, brush, tongs and poker, stood beside it, and the brass-topped fireguard was invariably draped with airing nappies.

We had to protect the coke hod as our son, when crawling around, was partial to a piece of coke to bite on!

The floor and hallway were tiled with the ubiquitous dark brown Marley tiles with red and yellow squiggles.

We covered the stairs and upstairs with painted lino, until we could afford inlaid linoleum and stair carpet.

Compared to my new house on a private estate, the rooms were quite spacious; the third bedroom – the so-called ‘box room’ was as large as one of my present bedrooms.

It had a window looking out onto the road, and in the morning when he woke, our son used to stand up in his cot and wave to folk setting off for work.

As we were on the corner, the wind whistled around the house at times.

The windows were metal framed and not double-glazed, so there was a certain amount of condensation.

These days we are so used to central heating,

I now realise that the house must have been cold at times with only the back boiler to heat the whole house, apart from a paraffin heater which was very unsafe by modern standards but which provided additional heating.

We were young, it was our first home, and we loved it.

> Article courtesy of Muriel O’Donovan, from the Dacorum U3A Life Story Group led by the late Alan Naylor