Boyhood Memories of Loudwater

I moved to Loudwater in May 1940 at the age of four with my parents and finally left in 1957 to emigrate to Canada having finished my schooling. My father died in 1961 so my mother sold the house and also emigrated to Canada to live with her twin brother. I wonder if there are many others from that era who still live in the community of Loudwater?

We lived in Cherry Tree Cottage on Chess Hill until 1944, moved temporarily to Rookery Wood House on Loudwater Lane, then into a house in Rickmansworth before moving finally into Endways on Chess Close in 1946 which my parents later bought. Up until then they had just rented the properties. Chess Hill and Chess Close were not paved in those days. I recall Endways had been built in the 1930s for just 1200 pounds! I think values have increased somewhat since then!

Every November 5 we set up a huge pile of wood, mainly scavenged downed limbs, to burn in the centre of the turn at the end of Chess Close and my mother offered baked stuffed potatoes to everyone present. Local neighbours and their children attended to enjoy these and the many fireworks we set off.

Farmer Irons of Loudwater Farm delivered milk to the community with his horse and cart. On one occasion his horse bolted and he lost his load of milk on Chess Hill. Endways was on the edge of his fields and with another friend we used to roam all over the farm enjoying boyhood pleasures, sometimes to the chagrin or perhaps anger of Farmer Irons. Once a year a threshing machine would come by to thresh his wheat, and in the earlier days it would be driven by a big pulley from a steam engine tractor which also hauled the thresher between farms. I used to help kill the mice who tumbled out of the stack as the wheat was threshed.

I have memories of some elements of World War II which impacted the area, such as the searchlight operation at the end of Chess Lane which sought out aircraft during the Battle of Britain. Then experiencing the frequent air raid warnings which meant many a night spent under the dining room table before we had an Anderson shelter built in the back garden. As a boy I found it a thrill to be sleeping in a bunk with the smell of hemp from the crude mattresses.

I remember attending a fire drill where we were told how to put out a fire using a pump attached to a bucket full of water. Unfortunately the instructor was unable to set fire to a piece of damp newspaper with his match to demonstrate the success of the pump.

Later in the war we often stayed out in the evening listening to the V1 missiles, or Doodle-Bugs as we called them, and hoping the sound of their engine did not stop until they were well past us. As far as I recall no Doodle-bugs fell on the community, but a later V2 missile I think did hit one house in Loudwater Estates.

My parents never learned to drive, so my father who worked in London, daily hired a taxi from Jones who used to operate out of the building now labelled Mini-Cabs next to Ricky station. The rest of the family used to avail themselves of the local small bus service which ran down Loudwater Lane to finish at the station in Rickmansworth.

The alternate was to walk to the top of Loudwater Lane and catch the double-decker bus on Chorleywood Road. I remember lugging a violin-cello up there to catch the bus to Watford Grammar School more than once. Needless to say I stopped learning how to play the instrument before very long.

Routinely I would make this walk and then one day a chauffeur driven Rolls-Royce stopped to offer me a ride. The owner, who lived in Glen Chess, had recognized the school uniform I was wearing. I accepted and this became the frequent practice sometimes twice a week. I felt very important arriving on the front drive of the school in a chauffeur driven Rolls-Royce.

Before then I used to attend a preparatory school in Northwood or Northwood Hills, I do not remember which, but no matter, either way it meant I caught a train from Rickmansworth station. In those days the line was only electrified from Rickmansworth into Baker Street, so trains originating further out were hauled by steam engine which was then unhitched and a diesel-electric one substituted. I used to watch this change operation with great interest every time. One day the steam engine driver invited me into the cab and took the engine to the other side of the tracks ready to haul the next train from London. To add to my excitement the fireman wiped his shovel, cracked an egg into it and cooked it in the firebox before eating it. I was most impressed.

Rickmansworth had two cinemas, both on the High Street, one was the Odeon near Church Street where I used to attend Saturday morning films for children.

I look back on my time in Loudwater with much fondness and over the last 15 years have gone down memory lane more than once by walking from Ricky station up Chorleywood Road, down Loudwater Lane, along Chess Lane and the public footpaths back into Rickmansworth. The last time being in May 2017.

– Philip “Tony” Oldfield