Fogotten sounds of Old Roe Green

By Mary Padget

First published in Hertfordshire Countryside March 1993

Cycling to school along the once-narrow, hedge-lined old Roe Green Lane before the war. This road is now re-named College Lane

The ear has a good memory.

The first time we walked along Roe Green Lane in 1937 in search of a house to buy my eyes could not find what my ears could hear.
The drone of a single aeroplane a Gypsy Moth biplane, high in the clouds. That sound had been a very rare thrill indeed where I had lived up north, but here we had De Havillands less than half a mile away.

We found the right house, and when my parents came to visit they’d even leave their meal on the table and run outside when they heard the sound of a plane and scan the sky to find it.
The house we bought was right near to Hazelgrove, and from the open window one quiet evening wasn’t it? always quiet in Roe Green in 1937 I heard my very first nightingale. I longed to see it.
“Why not try” we said, “If we hear it again?” The next night we did just that. We crossed the field (now full of Hatfield Polytechnic) and tiptoed through the grove till the trilling sound led us to a coppiced hornbeam. Such an ordinary bird to produce such exquisite song! We could see its open beak and the vibration of its throat. Only a few more evenings like that and then we listened from the window in vain and we haven’t heard a nightingale since.

Houses and College have eaten into our Hazelgrove. But we did still have the owls from there to hoot from high in the beech trees so many of which sadly were cut down when building began.

A rarer and more disturbing sound was the raucous alarm noise from an ambulance in those days. When we heard it from the house it seemed to summon us to run to see what had happened usually on the Comet bridge. The up and down wail of the modern ambulance is, unfortunately, not rare enough to have that effect on us. “We just sigh and say “Someone’s in trouble somewhere”. Hope it isn’t serious”.

Bells were much more common. I think most of Roe Green people rode bicycles and as our lane then had twists and turns and no footpath for walkers, a bicycle bell on the handle bars was a necessity. A new bicycle bell was often a birthday present received with delight.

The Wall’s “Stop me and Buy one” ice cream tricycle had a very tempting call of its own. So did the big bell on top of Roe Green’s “Tin” Chapel on Sundays. And the bell that hung over the door of Lil’s lock-up sweet shop had a delightful ting-a-ling that added to the pleasure of buying sweets over the counter.

The Hatfield to St. Albans train (long since axed) stopped at Nast Hyde Halt and we could hear the clicketty clack on the rails from our garden. When Farmer Hill had a delivery of sheep from Scotland they were brought via Hatfield Station to Nast Hyde to be shepherded by Arthur Bray up Watery Lane and behind our houses to the field. The baa-baabaaing as they bunched past our back gates brought us running up the garden with our children to watch. It pleased us more then than do the slamming doors of students’ cars now, parking nose to tail outside our front garden hedges.

One of the first things we did on moving to Roe Green was to buy a dozen laying hens and a cockerel. So, like many of our neighbours, we had our farmyard noises at the end of our garden, with early morning cock-crow and the intermittent clucking of hens announcing “I’ve laid an egg for your tea.” Right opposite we had Mr Priors horse “Golden Boy” neighing in his stable on the allottments (now gone wild) and Rube Skeggs’ pigs squealing in the pig stys.

Of course our tranquility was soon disturbed by the dreaded sound of warning sirens, which we are pleased to forget, and the constant sound of increasing traffic, the head piercing noise of motor bikes – the portable transistor radios, the pneumatic drills on constant road work which are not exactly harmonious or heart warming.

How can we, now the longest living residents, not sigh deep sighs for the long-past sounds of Old Roe Green?



This page was added on 12/11/2010.

Comments about this page

  • Hatfield and Its People series Bk. 2. The Story of Roe Green and South Hatfield, may have the information you want.
    To buy a copy click here to visit the publications page of the Hatfield Local History Society website.
    or you may be able to borrow a copy from Hatfield Library.

    By C E Martindale (13/09/2020)
  • do you know when the dairy cottages down college lane that are now council bungalows can you tell me the year they were built

    By derek (10/09/2020)
  • Hollis was the old dairy up near St Albans Road East.

    By Kevin rowark (09/09/2016)
  • The Denmarks were my grandparents and my mother told me about Norman staying on the farm and how he use to clown about and he use to sing to her and he told her that one day he would be famous.

    By Lorna Sanders (21/04/2016)
  • Spoken to my uncle, Tony Denmark about Norman Wisdom. Norman stayed at the farm known as ‘Hollis’ with Ann and George Denmark who were Tony’s Aunt and Uncle, my maternal grandfather’s brother.

    My paternal grandfather, Robert Paxton, worked there too, as stockman and I have a photo of my father, Norman, as a boy, with a large pig!    Linda Rose née Paxton 

    By Linda Rose née Paxton (07/03/2016)
  • Found out about this site from my uncle and just read about the Denmarks. My maternal grandmother was Ivy May Denmark née Nottage and grandfather was Walter. They lived in a cottage on Roe Green lane, I believe. My mother was Bessie Rose Paxton née Denmark and I remember being shown this tiny cottage where 9 children had been brought up.  Gran and Granddad moved to Crawford road then Lockley Crescent and finally had a prefab on the Birchwood estate near the toy making factory (Lone Star?).       

    There are so many things I remember, it’s hard to know where to stop. So many stories, so many photos and names to share.

    By Linda Rose née Paxton (30/01/2016)
  • My nan Doris Hardy (nee Denmark) used to tell us stories of the fun they had on the farm when Norman Wisdom stayed. Many laughs about doing his walk and falling over . She and my aunty Joyce Nethercott (nee Denmark), lived on a farm in Roe Green maybe whites? My aunt was known as the duchess of Roe Green.

    By Leysa Hardy (01/06/2014)
  • I, too went to Countess Anne school from 1959 – 1961. I remember Mr Padget, Mr Langley and Miss Phelps. I remember a dinner lady called Mrs Dunham and the toilets in the playground! I had moved from London and got quite bullied there by a group of girls who found my accent very strange and ‘posh’ – very mixed years for me!

    By Susan Wood, nee Lawrence (13/08/2013)
  • wow mention of the old sweet shop I used to spend my two bob there with my great grandmother Hipgrave thanks for the memories was a lovely time to be a child.

    By kevin rowark (24/06/2013)
  • My grandmother Nellie Hipgrave told me stories about Norman attending st Audreys school with her and inviting him back for tea jam sandwich with sugar.

    By kevin Rowark (24/06/2013)
  • I have just started to read “My turn” an autobiography of Norman Wisdom, (RIP). He mentions that his father placed him with a family in Roe Green and their name was Denmark.

    By Bernard Searle (02/03/2013)
  • I remember all the teachers mentioned by Joy Butler. I was at Countess Anne’s from 1954/5-7 when I left for the fairly new WGC High School (now Frederick Osborne). I used to sit next to David Gildea, we were in Tom Padget’s class together. I have corresponded with David (now in Canada) fairly recently. As well as walks in Hatfield Park, I went twice to Cuffley Camp, probably 1956 & 7. While Tom was a fairly strict teacher, I always enjoyed his lessons and I found him a very fair teacher. I remember walking down to Batterdale for our lunches every day as there was nowhere suitable in the Church Street school. Many, many happy days.

    By David Dickenson (21/09/2012)
  • Does anyone remember Mrs.Phelps, Mr.Langley,and Headmaster Mr.Tom Paget? they were teachers at Countess Anne School when it was in Church street old Hatfield and the lovely nature walks they used to take us on in Hatfield park. Very happy days.

    By Joy Butler (27/03/2012)
  • Yes, Mary Padget was the wife of Tom Padget. Mary, who lived to be well into her 90’s, sadly died two or three years ago. She spent her last days she at St Audreys Nursing Home which use to be the blind school mentioned in the first comment.

    By Christine Martindale (04/02/2012)
  • I too wondered the same thing, I used to go to the same school for a time in the late 50’5, then my father died and as I recall the Padget’s looked after me off and on whilst his affairs were wound up, god, what memories this has brought back, I would love to hear from someone who might remember me.

    By David R Gildea (25/01/2012)
  • Reading the name of the writer I wonder if she could be a relative of Tom Padget, my old headmaster from Countess Anne in Church Street. I used to live next door at St Auderys blind home where my mother & father worked.

    By gordon bubb (19/12/2011)

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