Abbots Langley Local History Society

Winter Programme 2020-2021

Online Talks


*** 1-Jul-2021: This page will shortly be updated with the talks for the new 2021-2022 season. ***

We have arranged a series of Online Zoom Meetings to replace our traditional Monday evening talks at the Manor House Sports and Social Club.

Meetings open at 7.45pm ready for the talk to start at 8pm.
*AGM meeting opens at 7.15pm and starts at 7.30pm

Talks are free but you need to register in advance for each talk.

Click on a talk title (or the + sign) for more details of the talk.


Monday 28 September 2020

It was the first week of October 1918. The Great War was drawing to a victorious end for the Allies, yet the town of Watford was seeing its first case of a mysterious new illness. Over the next few weeks there would be many more cases in the town of the disease which swiftly became known as Spanish flu, claiming 228,000 lives in the United Kingdom and 50 million lives worldwide.

This presentation gives a case study of Spanish flu in Watford, in 1918 an industrial town of 45,000 residents: when it arrived, how many people were affected, what measures were undertaken in a world before antibiotics and a National Health Service, and what the aftermath was. The presentation also attempts to draw parallels with our own current experience: what are the differences and what are the similarities.

Helen George
Monday 26 October 2020

Jan Taylor has lived in the Abbots Langley area since 1981. She started attending St Lawrence Church at that time and has since become very involved with all that goes on there.

St Lawrence Church is a beautiful ancient church, and, since Saxon times has been the focal point of Abbots Langley village life. It has a rich history, much of which can be found by looking at the many monuments inside the church, and the gravestones in the large church yard.

Jan’s talk covers the development of the church building from its Saxon heritage to the modern day; the fire of 1969 and how this affected the layout of the interior; some of the monuments and the two medieval wall paintings; the bells; and some of the people who have attended the church over hundreds of years.

Jan Taylor
Monday 30 November 2020

Leavesden Country Park is an area rich in heritage and steeped in a fascinating history. Located in Abbots Langley, this green space has been home to the Asylum for Idiots and Imbeciles, Leavesden Aerodrome and the Warner Bros. Film Studios. Now, it’s a much loved local park and tourist destination – scooping the 2019 Small Visitor Attraction award, in the Hertfordshire Tourism Awards.

Made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, one of the prominent features is the Heritage Sculpture Trail, which will be the focus for this talk. Elaine will explain how the trail came to be in the park, from the early days of funding bids and concepts, through to installation and it now being a well-visited attraction and talking point.

Learn more about the Minds, Machines and Movies theme, how the trail is being enjoyed and promoted, and also what is planned for the future!

Elaine Johnson (Arts Development Officer, Three Rivers District Council)

Elaine Johnson
Monday 14 December 2020 Members' Christmas Meeting    
Monday 25 January 2021

Fabian has been a boater for around forty years, and taking increasing interest in the heritage of the canal system and its historic boats for thirty. Moving to Hertfordshire in 1999 gave him the chance to combine that interest with the local history of the west side of the county, but it was only retirement that allowed him to study both formally at the University of Hertfordshire as an MA by Research, which he finished in 2016.

His dissertation has now become the book Passing Through, published a year ago, which looks at the economic and social effects of the Grand Junction Canal in its first fifty years to 1841. In it, Fabian starts by setting the national scene for the coming of the canal, and then looks at what sort of place west Hertfordshire was in the early 1790s. He goes on to discuss how it changed under the influence of the canal, and what had happened in the decades before the railway started to exert economic pressure on the canal from about 1840.

His talk will take us through how all this happened and suggest some reasons for the outcome.

Fabian Hiscock
Monday 22 February 2021

Just a year ago the Society received a fascinating lecture by Karen Rothery on the building of the Watford Union workhouse and the introduction of the New Poor Law of 1834. As a consequence of the changes she described, all the smaller workhouses in villages around Watford were closed. The talk by Richard Simons this year will focus on the Abbots Langley workhouse: the context in which it was established, some details of its operation and layout, its closure, local personalities involved in overseeing poor relief, and what became of the premises thereafter.

Richard was born in Abbots Langley, brought up in Abbots Road and Greenways, and has lived in the High Street opposite St Lawrence Church since 1974. His grandfather’s father's grandfather, Robert Simons, acquired the property in 1815 and five generations of the family ran the Simons Butchers shop next door. Richard was encouraged to take a different path: he graduated in Civil Engineering, working in the design office at Norwest Holst in Watford before starting an academic career at UCL where he specialised in fluid mechanics. He retired as UCL Professor of Coastal Engineering last summer.

Richard Simons
Monday 29 March 2021

This talk looks at Aviation activity across Hertfordshire, taking in major aircraft manufacturing, and civil and military airfields in times of war and peace. Interesting then and now images show how Leavesden, Radlett and Hatfield aerodromes have changed over time. For each of the Royal Flying Corps, RAF and USAF airfields brief histories are included.

Chris grew up in Frogmore near St Albans, spending many happy hours in the garden pressed up against the back fence overlooking Radlett Aerodrome. The southern end of the runway was about 150yds from the fence. He had Victor bombers at the bottom of the garden! Chris still lives in the same house today, 50 years since the airfield closed.

With Handley Page's demise Chris never worked in the Aviation industry; instead he spent nearly 40 years working at the Building Research Establishment at Garston. As might be expected Chris is an aviation enthusiast. He spent 16 years as a volunteer at the Mosquito Aircraft Museum in the 1970s and '80s. In 1979 he joined the newly formed Handley Page Association and is now the current Chairman.

Chris Scivyer
Monday 26 April 2021

Murray Jacobs, a Cambridge Green Badge Guide running “”, will introduce you to the “Must-See Street in Cambridge”, including stories of a rather eventful visit by a monarch, student antics that hit the front pages, and intriguing details of King’s College Chapel, to name just a few. Whether you know Cambridge well, or have never visited, this talk will whet your appetite for a return or first visit.

Murray Jacobs
Monday 24 May 2021*

For most of his life, Trevor associated Tiffany with ornamental glass lampshades, but that all changed with a phone call on 23 January 2017. He was introduced to the world of Tiffany stained glass windows and two years of research culminated in a talk and an article about Elvira Henderson’s memorial window in Morenish entitled “Fake or Fortune?”. But expert opinion was divided and the question remained unanswered.

Trevor continued his research and was introduced to other Tiffany windows with surprising backgrounds including drug addiction, bigamy, and a fling with Edward VII. During the November lockdown he embarked upon a study of 1,743 photos of Tiffany windows and was startled to discover that one of them held the key to solving the mystery of the Morenish window. During January, more evidence was uncovered, but the the truth about Elvira’s window is stranger than fiction and it has left experts dumbfounded.

Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. For the first time, in front of a live audience, Trevor will reveal the truth about Elvira Henderson’s memorial window at Morenish.

Trevor Baker


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