Book tells story of St Albans’ own EastEnders

IMAGINE St Albans without road surfaces and without street lighting – that is what it was like when Mike Neighbour grew up on the Beaumont estate.

And since retiring from his job as a teacher in Hertfordshire primary and secondary schools, he decided to write a book about the developing communities in the east of the city.

St Albans’ Own East End, Volume 1: Outsiders will be published next year. It tells the triumphs, failures, hopes and local gossip of the residents and entrepreneurs of the area from the late 19th Century until the 1960s.

The arrival of the Midland railway line led to commuter housing being built in the area around The Crown pub.

Then the death of landowner Thomas Kinder in 1881 and the need for school expansion in 1896 kick-started development in Camp and Fleetville.

Divided by the (now disused) railway line, Fleetville and Camp’s characteristics were completely different. Camp developed as a mainly residential neighbourhood while Fleetville became busy and boasted a ‘mile of shops’ along Hatfield Road backed by factories and workshops.

Though the north, south and west of the city were growing slowly, industry and housing in the east end expanded rapidly, eating up fields at the edge of the city.

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Using the Herts Advertiser, founded in 1855, Mr Neighbour was able to chart the developing industrial and residential communities in the area.

He explained that the newspaper uniquely recorded the growing communities in the east of the city and reflected in its style the needs of its subscribers.

In the early days businessmen, politicians and traders made up the majority of the readership.

But later the range of articles became more inclusive as the readership expanded and more people had access to the paper.

Mr Neighbour said: “Many people having connections with the eastern districts of the city have been keeping a careful eye on my research during the past few years – I think they are relieved to be able to finally order a book.”

The book’s title came from an uncomplimentary St Albans councillor’s comment in the early years of the Fleetville developments.

But Mr Neighbour believes the quote endearingly captures the success of the eastern districts.

The second volume will be published in March 2013. Mr Neighbour explained that the sheer volume of information determined the book be published in two volumes.

And he is still researching the history of the area, calling for help gathering information on his website at

There is a subscribers’ edition of St Albans’ Own East End, Volume 1: Outsiders which will be launched on March 23, 2012. Leaflets about it are currently available from St Albans libraries, museums and Tourist Information Centre.