What do you think of when you think of Watford? If you answered Watford FC, Elton John, Graham Taylor, Luther Blissett or John Barnes, you score ‘fair’.
If your thoughts turned to George Michael, Gerri Halliwell or Vinnie Jones, sorry, you get a ‘poor’ and shown the door.
If you want top marks, and the chance to wow your fellow pub quiz team members, then read on to learn 36 things you didn’t know about Watford’s hidden cultural history.
There are popes, royalty, iconic 70s rock bands, obscure TV references and a whole load more. Get ready to see your hometown in a whole new light. (And there is one about Elton John in there as well; we couldn’t resist.)
1. Maureen Lipman started her acting career at the Watford Palace. It was 1967, as a matter of fact.
2. Despite working with the likes of music heavyweights Emeli Sande, Cheryl Cole, Lily Allen and Sam Smith, Naughty Boy still lives in West Watford with his parents. His first recording studio was in their garden shed.
3. Characters Will McKenzie and Simon Cooper better known as half of the Inbetweeners, live in Edinburgh Drive, Abbots Langley.
4. EastEnders’ Carter family may have just moved to Walford, but they used to live in Watford.
5. Watford has strong links to the Fender Telecaster Bass. Barry Midford Millership requested the unique commission from EME in Queen’s Road, and the rest, as they say, is history.
6. School scenes from movie The History Boys were filmed in Watford Grammar School for Boys and Watford Grammar School for Girls.
Watford Grammar School for Boys
7. Comedian Robin Ince was born in Chenies village.
8. Watford was recently referenced in television sitcom Benidorm – When Donald and Jacqueline Stewart revealed to the Dyke family, who hail from St Albans, that they are part of the Watford Swingers’ Association.
9. Scenes from television show The Demon Headmaster were filmed in Rickmansworth and Sarratt.
10. Peep Show’s Super Hans aka Matt King was born in Watford.
11. Nick Leeson, who brought down Barings Bank, was a former pupil of Parmiter’s School.
12. Simon Le Bon, lead singer of Duran Duran, was born in Watford.
13. Mary Portas used to live in Bushey.
14. Former children’s laureate Michael Rosen attended Watford Grammar School for Boys in the 1960s.
15. Watford has made huge contributions to the printing industry. Rotary photogravure was a technique which was first used in Watford to reproduce very fine, high quality fine art prints and then it went on to be used to produce colour magazines. All the ladies’ colour magazines, like Woman’s Weekly and Woman’s Own, were all printed in Watford, as well as most of the colour supplements for the Sunday newspapers.
16. Watford played host to Herts Pride’s first county-wide event in August last year.
17. Melanie C aka Sporty Spice lived in Watford for a spell. Before fame beckoned that is.
18. Sue Cleaver, better known to Corrie fans as the put-upon Eileen Grimshaw, was born in Watford.
19. Comedian Eddy Brimson is a life long Watford FC fan. As is Elton John.
20. Paul Carrack of Squeeze and Mike & The Mechanics fame lives in Chorleywood
21. The grand staircase of Cassiobury House was removed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, when the house demolished in 1927.
22. The town hall’s interior staircase that sweeps up to the main council chamber is listed in its own right, as a prime example of Art Deco construction.
23. In the video for Elton John’s Step into Christmas, he holds up his Watford AFC supporter’s club membership card.
24. Grade II protected Jackson’s Jewellers in The Parade is said to have its own ghost – a man in Elizabethan dress who passes through walls.
25. The One Bell pub, adjacent to St Mary’s Church, holds the oldest existing licence dating back to 1750.
26. Bushey church St James has been home to weddings, christenings and funerals for a number of EastEnders’ characters.
27. Kings Langley was the home of the makers of Ovaltine and the listed factory facade is now all that is left and still stands alongside the railway line among a new housing development. The Ovaltine factory itself has recently been converted into a series of flats and duplexes.
28. In the 1960s, RAF Bovingdon was used in the production of four World War II films, The War Lover (1962); 633 Squadron (1964) The Battle of Britain (1968) and Mosquito Squadron (1969).
It was also used to film parts of the flying car scenes in the James Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun starring Roger Moore. On television it served as the location for at least one black and white episode of The Avengers The Hour That Never Was, starring Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg featuring Gerald Harper and Roy Kinnear, as well as the 1980 Blake's 7 episode The Harvest of Kairos as the surface of the planet Kairos.
More recently Fury, starring Brad Pitt, is currently being filmed at Bovingdon Airfield.
29. The Who performed regularly in Watford and Carpenders Park in 1964, specifically The Trade Union Hall and The Mine.
30. Kings Langley was once the location of Kings Langley Palace, a royal palace of the Plantagenet kings of England. Now Rudolf Steiner School is set on the site of the palace.
31. The 12th century parish church of All Saints' houses the tomb of Edmund of Langley (1341–1402), the first Duke of York.
32. Pope Adrian IV, the only Englishman ever to have become Pope, was born as Nicholas Breakspear in Abbots Langley around the year 1100. Therefore, Abbots Langley village includes a number of roads named after its famous son (Adrian, Breakspear, Pope), and at one time included activities of the Brakspear brewery.
33. Watford is referenced in the following songs: The Prisoner by The Clash, Albion by Babyshambles, Lesson One by Just Jack, Watford John by Badfinger and I Love London by Crystal Fighters.
34. Kings Langley has been temporarily changed to Kings Landing to celebrate the latest DVD release of Game of Thrones.
35. Cartoonist Dum Doodles, who has been responsible for creating artwork for musicians including Stooshe and Chris Brown, is a former pupil of Rudolf Steiner.
Cartoonist Dum Doodles
36. Elton John performed his first gig at The Namaste Lounge Pub, Northwood Hills.