Area Guide: Propeller damage and locked-in landlords - Park Street has some war stories to tell...
- Credit: Archant
Park Street is a small area of Hertfordshire, in the parish of St Stephen on Watling Street. It runs alongside the River Ver in the City and District of St Albans. It is a larger local government ward (the largest settlement within it is How Wood, which includes part of Bricket Wood).
The area falls within the Metropolitan Green Belt. Resident employment is mainly in nearby cities however one of the largest pub groups in the UK has operated from the area.
Park Street is approximately 2½ miles by road from St Albans via Watling Street (the old Roman road from London to Chester and Holyhead) and then a post-Roman offshoot, St Stephen’s Hill, into the Medieval city centre.
Park Street is of late and initially disparate Medieval origin. After the Norman Conquest, the area was known as ‘Parke Street’, and formed part of the land grant given to St Albans monastery in 793 AD. The street’s mill - ‘Le Parkmulle’ (Park Street Mill) was first referred to in the 12th Century. The mill, which was converted into offices in the 1980s, was once used for grinding flour, and also supplied the Abbey with eels reared and trapped in the surrounding ponds. It ceased grinding flour in 1920, and was then used as a glue factory, and also a scrap metal store. The mill still forms a very prominent feature in the centre of Park Street, and provides a pleasant backdrop to the war memorial garden to the north of the village.
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Most significantly to this area would have been the passing trade for villagers to sell their ale and produce along Watling Street and easy access to the markets in the nearby pre-Roman settlement.
The late 19th Century saw the establishment of watercress beds in Park Street, alongside the River Ver. In 1885, part of the area used as a village green was leased out by the Council for watercress beds, at a time when Hertfordshire was the national centre for the cress industry.
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There used to be a Sub Post-Office and more shops in Park Street, however both How Wood and St Albans provide the array of amenities that a dweller of Park Street might now need - both areas being incredibly close to the region.
The area has a BP petrol station which also contains a Marks & Spencer food store and in Park Street Lane is Park Street Guns (rifles!)
As of this year, a small shopping parade can be found within a short walk at How Wood, comprising of a supermarket, hairdresser, butcher, baker, estate agent, newsagent, pharmacy and florist.
There is a Village Hall which opened in 1936 and serves as the polling station of the area. Park Street Baptist Church is on Penn Road.
Penultimate train station of the Abbey
Park Street railway station is the first station after St Albans Abbey on the St Albans Branch Line. The train service on this line is known locally as the ‘Abbey Flyer’. The railway was built in 1858 as a branch line from the London & Birmingham Railway, and Park Street station has been on its current site since 1890. Before being moved to its current position on Watling Street, it was situated just near Hyde Lane.
There was another railway line, built in 1866, which linked the London and North Western Railway branch line to St Albans, to the newly constructed Midland Railway’s main line. It was a goods line in brief use, closed by 1910, called the Park Street Branch. The railway bridge near Sycamore Drive was demolished around 1948 after being damaged by a giant propellor being delivered to the Handley Page aircraft works, whose runway was in use until the mid-1960s for the maintenance and testing of the V bomber fleet.
Park Street has two primary schools, Park Street Church of England School and How Wood Primary School. The nearest secondary school is the Marlborough Science Academy.
By the 14th Century Park Street was home to one of the largest and richest manors in the area, supplying large quantities of corn to the Abbey; and are still many buildings in the area of architectural/historic interest.
The oldest buildings surviving appear to be numbers 61-63 (originally a single early 15th Century late Medieval hall house) and number 68 (a 16th Century timber framed building with the remains of a jettied front). The rest of the area’s architectural heritage traces back to the brick-built early Victorian era - though Toll Cottage on Bury Dell is dated as a 17th Century property.
Today it boasts several side-streets from its main thoroughfare, such as Oliver Close, Sycamore Drive and The Beeches. You’ll find homes currently for sale, such as the £1,600,000, 6 bedroom home on Park Street Lane, newly designed and built by the current owners in 2012 (marketed by Lumley Estates); then there’s the £975,000 5 bed house on Watling Street, arranged over 3 floors, with a stylish vaulted ceiling kitchen/diner.
Fairhaven Flats were built in the 1960s; before which a notably early house stood on the site, called Fairhaven.
William H Brown are currently marketing a home on Park Street Lane with superior specifications (under floor heating, a bespoke oak front door and sun tunnels from the roof to the first floor) This brand new home is surprisingly priced at £805,000.
Also from this agent is the £1,500,000 4 bedroom detached bungalow for sale on Penn Road described as “superb, interesting and quirky; not to be missed - a total one off!”
There are just two pubs in the village: The Falcon and The Overdraught. There were previously seven other pubs in the area until the early 1970s. The Lamb was situated opposite the entrance to the Handley Page aircraft factory. Once the factory closed the last landlord couldn’t make a living and, so the story goes, he and his wife closed the pub, locked themselves in and drank the place dry before being ordered out by the brewery.
The Falcon is reputed to be on the site of a “Pilgrim’s Rest”, which was a series of places to house the pilgrims to St Alban’s shrine in the 1600s.
The Sizzle House and The Oriental serve as the take-aways of the area.
Parks and sport
Park Street is home to a recreation ground and sports fields, Park Street Football Club and the cricket ground/pavilion; and the Mayflower Road Park.
A further park along Burydell/Bury Dell Lane was replaced by the vegetable allotments that sit there now.