St Albans' Own East End

Day Nursery


The Fleetville Recreation Ground (the Rec) had been in existence since 1913, a gift to the people of Fleetville by silk mill owner Charles Woollam.

In 1938. as war approached for the second time, open trenches (shelter trenches) were dug by the City Council at the Burnham Road end and close to Royal Road.  In 1939 the trenches were deepened, brick-lined, and when the County Council added their underground shelters for the school, the whole was capped for protection, access being gained down ramps from Royal Road.

By 1942 the Ballito Hosiery Mills (on the site of Morrison's) was humming with women making shell cases.  The government was encouraging as many women as possible into war work, and to assist, it contracted factories to build sectional buildings for a number of purposes, including day nurseries for the young children of the women employees.

Thus a nursery building arrived and was perched on the concrete platform which was also the roof of the shelters.  It was basic, and was heated by coal stoves at each end.  Next to each of the classrooms was a surface air-raid shelter – it would have taken too long for the toddlers to be taken to the underground tunnel  shelters. 

The nursery continued for some time after the end of the war although the number of registered children reduced considerably.  Nevertheless, with re-organisation a nursery class was maintained in the building, together with classes from an over-crowded Fleetville School.  A new nursery was opened in Woodstock Road South, and by the mid 1970s the building was empty and was offered for community use.

Through the diligent work of volunteers, some inventive fund-raising and contributions from residents, the Fleetville Community Centre was opened in 1982.

2015 was the Community Centre's 33rd birthday, and the 73rd birthday of the arrival of the day nursery building; not a bad innings for a temporary building.

Fleetville rec being used for a community event in 2012.

Underground tunnel shelters similar to those at Fleetville.

Original ramp to the shelters now used for parking.

The garden at the rear of the building.

The surface air-raid shelters are today store rooms.

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A temporary building still in full use

Conversion work in the Community Centre c1980.

Courtesy Fleetville Community Centre Collection

Outdoor play at a similar day nursery in the 1950s

Courtesy Harpenden History Society

Courtesy Manchester Libraries

One of two surface shelters for the nursery children; organising them for the underground shelters would have taken far too long.

St Albans' Own East End