On 18th October, 1922, Watford became a Borough and received its charter of incorporation. To celebrate this event the Watford Observer published a "Charter" Souvenir booklet which included details of the Incorporation Campaign and the text of the charter. It also included portrait photographs of the Mayor and his wife and all the ex-chairmen of the Watford Urban District Council between 1895 and 1922. In addition it included the following article describing the development of the Borough.
WATFORD'S RISE AND PROGRESS.
A BACKWARD GLANCE
It would take far more space than is at our disposal to attempt to deal adequately with what may be termed the modern history of Watford, If we take the period from 1838, the year which saw the opening of the Watford Station on the London and Birmingham Railway (now the London and North-Western) nothing can give a clearer idea of the various stages of the development of the town than the population statistics.
The principal factors in the growth of Watford have been its proximity to London, its railway facilities, and the breaking-up of the Cassiobury estate. Within the memory of many now living the town consisted almost entirely of one street -- High-street. If told fully, the story of how the little country town grew, by stages, into the present thriving business community might be made quite fascinating, but here it is necessary to give only a few of the leading features, setting them out in something like chronological order.
First as to the railway. The Watford station was originally near the bridge on St. Albansroad; it was, by the way, from this station that Queen Victoria, accompanied by Prince Albert, made her first railway journey, in 1843, The branch line to St. Albans was opened in 1858, and that to Rickmansworth in 1862. Four years later Willesden Junction was opened, giving through trains direct from Watford to the City, and making easily accessible the northern parts of London,
At the southern end of Market-place, stood the old Market House, which was destroyed by fire in 1853. The building was principally of wood, and was 100 feet long and 24 feet wide. With the Market House disappeared the stocks, which, however, had been for some time disused. In 1855 a Corn Exchange (now the Essex Rooms) was erected. The sale of old town estates began, and Clarendon-road, leading from the railway station to High-street, was made. The first portion of Nascot estate was put up for auction in 1865, and free passes for a term of years were offered by the London and North-Western Railway Company to persons building residences of the annual renta1 of £50. Queen-street was being built in 1871, and the Estcourt and Waterfield Estate followed. A noteworthy advance was the outcome of the purchase by the late Mr. F. Fisher of the Rose and Crown Meadow, and the acquisition by Messrs. Andrews of the Vicarage Meadow.
Commencing in 1897, Messrs. Ashby and Brightman made a series of purchases from the late Earl of Essex, which resulted in Watford making even more rapid strides than previously. Where was formerly agricultural land, soon stood streets of shops, villas, and cottages. Messrs. Ashby and Brightman developed Callow Land Farm estate, Harwoods Farm estate, Cassiobridge Farm estate, and also secured a large part of the Park itself. They made over seven miles of new roads and fifteen miles of paved footpaths. Quite recently another local syndicate have bought the remainder of the Cassiobury Estate, including the Mansion.
The municipal services of the town have kept pace with the times. The Public Library was opened in 1S74, and embraces a school of science and art and several evening classes. The building was enlarged in 1888, and further accommodation was provided in 1900, 1906, and 1908. A site for a new Public Library in King-street has been given to the town, and it is intended to use the present buildings for educational purposes only.
The present Council Offices are at what used to be known as Upton House, but despite the addition of new wings, the accommodation is inadequate, and the Council have purchased "The Elms," at the junction of Hempstead-road and Rickmansworth-road, for a future Town Hall. The Fire Station was built in 1900, and is now admirably equipped. The town's water supply \was inaugurated in 1854, and has always been a municipal undertaking. In 1916 a new pumping station at Watford Fields superseded the old works, and a new reservoir of two million gallons capacity has been constructed at Merry-hill, Bushey. The Council were granted an Electric Lighting Order in 1897 for the supply of e1cctrical energy, and two years later works were erected and cables laid. Last year a profit of over £10,000 was made by the undertaking, and a reserve fund of £7,000 has been established. The drainage of the town, which is on the "Separate'" system, was commenced in 1884. The two farms have a total area of 231 acres. A refuse destructor was erected in 1904. The Council have provided 226 acres of permanent allotments. They own over 100 acres of Cassiobury Park, Cassiobridge Common, and recreation grounds at North Watford and Waterfields. The public cemetery, 14 acres in extent, was formed in 1858.
Sixty years ago the only schools in Watford were the National Schools, one or two private schools, and the old Fullers Free School in the Churchyard. To-day, in the various elementary schools, over 6,000 children are educated. The Watford Endowed School building for boys and girls (now the Central School) was opened in 1884. In 1903 the name of this school was changed to the Watford Grammar School, and new buildings were erected. The Girls' School was provided in Watford Crescent in 1907, and the boys vacated the Derby-road buildings in 1912 for their new school, which stands in 12 acres of Cassioburv Park, and accommodates over 600. Fuller's School, by the way, had an history which went back to the early days of the 18th Century.
Church extension began in Watford in the "fifties." St. Andrew's parish was formed in 1858, and the Church built; Oxhey Church was opened in 1880, St. John's in 1893, Christ Church in 1905, St. Michael's in 1905 (temporary) and 1913 (permanent). The present Beechen Grove Baptist Church dates from 1878. the Queen'sroad Wesleyan Church from 1881, the Roman Catholic Church, Market-street, from 1890, and the Congregational Church, Clarendon-road, from 1904. All have a history going back much farther than these dates. The Presbyterians have had a temporary Church in Clarendon-road for over 20 years, and other Nonconformist bodies have been settled in the town for long periods.
The Watford District Hospital was built in 1885, being then called the Watford Cottage Hospital. It has been twice enlarged, first on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, in 1897, and on the Coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. Over £30,000 has been subscribed towards the cost of a new Watford and District Peace Memorial Hospital, the erection of which, on a site adjoining "The Elms," will shortly be commenced.
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