A Different World

Ashwell before 1939

by Albert Sheldrick

Courtney Publications

Undated [1991]

Hardback, 160 pages, many illustrations, no index

ISBN   0 904378 37 3

A beautifully produced book, with lots of photographs, and many references to names and places - but unfortunately no index so that is is hard to find whether your relatives are mentioned,


M. V. Crump's the butchers shop in 1930.

Left to right: George Arthur, Mark Crump, Gordon White.

From the Dust Jacket

Albert Sheldrick, Bricklayer, Builder's Foreman, Schoolboy co-founder of Ashwell Museum and later its Curator, has written this wonderful book about Ashwell in Hertfordshire - described by a former President of the Royal Academy, the late Sir Albert Richardson, as the most beautiful village in England With its 176ft high church spire dominating the village landscape, its unique Springs, remarkable Museum and its many ancient buildings, Ashwell is a magnet for visitors from far and wide, and is the much loved home for some 1700 inhabitants.

The authors main theme is Ashwell village Life and its people during the 1920s and 30s, the village in which he grew up.

He introduces us to the twentieth century with strands from the past which vitally influenced Ashwel l- the tragedies and the triumphs - the origins of its name, the building of its majestic church (interrupted by the Black Death), the coming of the railway and the Great Fire of 1850, the Coproliters, the Nonconformists, the parsons, poets and personalities, ghosts and soldiers -local history with a difference, full of humour and humanity

He writes of Ashwell's schools, churches, pubs, farms and its characters in a marvellously entertaining way.

The book contains a rich and unique collection of over 170 photographs from the past - both from the museum and from family albums to include a great array: Ashwell's first car, last windmill, the Brewery's fleet of lorries, the sights which are seen no more, the streets and shops as they appeared 80 or 90 years ago -all these and a host of others make this a superb and fascinating book.

It has an interest and appeal which goes far beyond its borders, as it shows us a way of life which has changed so much since 1939 and which rightly can be described as a different world.

At the end of the book, we have provided an Ordnance Survey map of 1924 which shows many of the features, including the schools, shops, churches, pubs, farms and streets described and illustrated in the book.

Boys at The Merchant Taylors School in 1908

While these children are not named many of the later group photographs contain many names.

IV Acknowledgements
v Preface by Robert Christy
VI Introduction by the Author
1 The Origins of Ashwell's Name
3 The Pestilence
3 The Guild of St John the Baptist
5 Nonconformists
8 Doves and Gunpowder
9 Railroad Navvies and the Great Fire of 1850
11 The Coproliters
13 Foreign Fields
14 Ashwell Show at Elbrook
17 Ashwell Ghosts
18 Poor Boy Made Good
21 Boer War Heroes
23 War: its Memories and Memorial
25 The Brewery Outing
26 Philosopher's Gate
28 A School 'For Ever'
35 Many-talented Head
36 Ashwell Water for Ashwell People
38 Ashwell Poets
49 Shops and plenty of them
52 Window to Watch
62 More Ashwell Entrepreneurs
72 Enterprising Interlopers
73 Larks, Gourmets and declining customs
75 Men of the Roads
81 Of Church, Chapel and Sunday Newspapers
88 Ye Olde Tin Can ...
90 The Lord Kitchener
91 Schools and School Teachers
103 A Kaleidoscope of Characters
116 Farms and Fields
129 Fruits of the Land
132 Ashwell Pubs and their Landlords
138 Sickness, Self Help and Societies
140 King Dick, Builder
144 Ashwell Museum: Origins and Achievements
147 Postscript
151 List of Subscribers

1924 Ordnance Survey Map of Ashwell

The top picture shows Westrope's shop

The middle pictures show the blacksmith's shop, Searle's shop, and Christys grocer s and drapers shop.

The bottom picture shows a Royal mail van and Searle's shop in 1939.

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Page updated March 2011