St Albans' Own East End

Butterwick Wood

 

Hatfield Road has become much busier in the past fifty years, a result of the industrial zone at Butterwick Wood.  But the road itself is no wider, and no changes have been made to accommodate the new junctions.


Butterwick Farm at the time of the tithe survey (1840) was owned by Robert W Gaussen, who was born in Hatfield.  The farm had a long history associated with Beaumonts Manor and documentary sources can be found as early as the 14th century.  On the 1840 survey there is not much sign of ancient woodland, but the Ordnance Survey 1924 map certainly does show a large proportion of the land between the railway and Hatfield Road covered by trees.


Hatfield Road

Horseshoes (Smallford)

Oaklands

Springfield Station (Smallford from 1879)

Butterwick Farm homestead







Footpath next to Ryecroft Court which originally connected Hatfield Road with Butterwick farmstead; after 1865 there was an official crossing over the railway. This section became the direct access road to the cold store, but trees have now reduced it to footpath width once more.


In the mid 1860s the Hatfield to St Albans branch railway bisected the farm land, but otherwise agricultural life continued as usual until the 1930s. with Sleapshyde and Butterwick being run as a joint enterprise until the end of WW2.  During the war the farm house was used for some form of war work, of which the rest of us had little knowledge.  Peace saw the effective end of farming here as the land south of the railway, which was sitting above a rich seam of gravel, was acquired by St Albans Sand and Gravel.  Although excavation has long since finished, no firm decisions have been made about its future.


Meanwhile, north of the railway, the first building to be erected, in 1940, was a cold store for meat, one of a number to replace the central London stores as a precautionary measure against bombing.  It had its own siding from the railway and road access via the road now probably named Alban Park.  The store was later joined by the British Banana Company warehouse.


St Albans Council developed its post-war planning policy by encouraging some of the older and noisier firms to move away from the centre.  Industrial estates were reserved at Porters Wood, Ashley Road and Butterwick Wood.  The council was anxious to preserve the tree cover for at least one hundred metres back from the road.  But there was also a conflicting policy of reserving a wide strip of land for development of a service road, similar to that at Ellenbrook and Cranbrook Drive.  No doubt it would also be useful for dualling the road at some point in the future.





The 1924 OS map still shows plenty of woodland east from Colney Heath Lane.  A number of homes have been built, and on the spare plots were built Cranbrook Drive, Charlotte Close and Ryecroft Court.  The now partly diverted footpath  to the farm crosses to the west of Butterwick Wood.

The destruction of Butterwick homestead after WW2, in preparation for gravel extraction.

The cold meat store at the end of its life.

From the Brian Anderson collection.

From the Brian Anderson collection.

The estate road which has, for so long, displayed no name.  Replacing the former meat store access road, the newer road now leads to Alban Park?

The third firm to occupy Butterwick Wood was Tractor Shafts, later renamed Smallford Planters.  It has now been replaced by Glyn Hopkin Fiat car franchise.

The waste firm of E Pearce, now Pearce Recycling, was another early arrival at the southern end of Acrewood Way.

A broad swathe of woodland was left aside Hatfield Road, all that is left of Butterwick Wood.

In the early 1960s entrepeneur Ronnie Lyon developed many serviced industrial estates, including the one at Butterwick Wood.

New at the railway end are serviced office units, such as The Courtyard.

Churches have also begun to occupy spare office or manufacturing buildings.  This is the Forest Church, which began life in Watford.

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From mixed farm to industrial estates

Section of the tithe survey map of 1840

Maps courtesy Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies


The first post-war company to move to land further east was a well-established London Colney timber merchant called James Halsey.  That firm was located just west of Lyon Way.  In the mid 1950s Alfred Hobbs (as in Hobbs Garage at Fleetville) began a company called Tractor Shafts, later renamed Smallford Planters.  He purchased a plot of land next to Ballito Sports Ground.  The latter is still a wedge of open space between the Glinwell Nurseries and the Glyn Hopkin Fiat premises.  The stream known as Boggy Mead Spring flows through it.


In the early 1960s Hatfield Transport, Lacre Ltd and Pearce Recycling all moved to sites in Acrewood Way, and the Franki Pile ground moving vehicles depot where is now the Homebase (soon to become Bunnings) building. 


Then Robbie Lyon arrived on the scene.  He specialised in serviced sites that small companies could just move into.  He purchased a large plot next to Tractor Shafts. acquiring the James Halsey yard in the process.  Typical of the early firms that moved to Lyon Way were motor engineering and plastic moulding trades.  There were also firms moving from mixed land use parts of the city, such as Belpar Rubber from Albion Road.


While firms such as de la Rue (banknotes) and wholesales grocery warehouses are no longer here, two churches have opened premises, and key sites on the frontage are occupied by car franchises; Glyn Hopkin for example.  Retail stores such as Dunelm and Homebase arrived.  Small serviced offices, such as The Courtyard, have made an appearance at the Alban Way end.


Some companies stay for a few years, expand their operations and then move on.  Others are more long-term.  In the early years, of course, there were many unused plots.  Today a new operation can only move in if another has already moved out.






Many car showrooms occupy sites, and they have grown in size.

Arrivals not anticipated when the estate was new are retail sites, such as Wickes, Homebase and Dunelm.

St Albans' Own East End