Bedford Road, St Albans, 19th century

August 2002

Howard Jones of St Albans. writes:  I bought a house in this old terraced street last year. The house was built in 1881, and is in a terrace of three. The whole street is terraced, but they are all different. I wonder why?

I keep finding what looks like fossils and teeth under my floorboards. A neighbour said there used to be an abattoir nearby, a pottery too, but I can find no info anywhere. Can you help?.

In the early 19th century Victoria Street (then called Sweetbriar Lane) ran through fields but in 1868 the Midland Railway station opened and there was a housing boom to accommodate people who wanted to live in St Albans and commute to London. Many of the adjacent fields were purchased as building land and roads laid out. One of the speculators was George Farr Arnold, a builder and brickmaker,  who later concentrated on making bricks at his brick works on Bernards Heath. The following advert came from the Herts Advertiser of 19th April 1873


Eligible freehold building ground for sale, Tithe free and land tax redeemed, at 1 per Foot frontage to the Bedford-road, and Bedford-street, Alma-road, St Albans, near to the Midland Station.

For particulars apply to Geo. F Arnold, brick and lime manufacturer, St Albans.

April 17th, 1873

Some builders would have built what we now refer to as an estate of similar houses - for instance the development of houses erected by C. Miskin in Sandridge Road (see NOAKS, Sandridge Road, St Albans, 20th century). However the pensions market was not as well developed then, and it was common for well-to-do middle class families to invest in property to rent to provide a steady guaranteed income for the future. While I have no direct evidence in this case I suspect that some of the streets of terraced houses which seem to have been developed in many different phases started this way.

You will find that there is a very complete collection of street directories for St Albans on the open shelves in the Central Library, in The Maltings, St Albans, and you should be able to follow the occupancy of the house for perhaps 60-70 years from these. You will also be able to find out more about neighbouring properties. However you should realise that in the 1880's the directory did not always list the poorer households - so there may be a blank early on.

People have always eaten meat, and from earliest times middens containing, among other things, bones of domestic animals, have been associated with human habitation sites. I don't know when street refuse collections started in St Albans (they were definitely in place by the start of the 20th century) but finding bones associated with older houses is no great deal. Sometimes larger quantities turn up - and I have been told that quite a lot were found in a garden not far from the Cricketer's, at the top of St Peter's Street, St Albans. The houses had been built on part of the garden of a house, Calverton, built and owned by my grandfather, H. F. Reynolds - and he was a vet. The bones were almost certainly from dogs and other animals that had been put to sleep in his surgery! Obviously if you find anything unusual the City Museum should be able to help identify it.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.