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33 things you may not know about Watford...
Updated 1:02pm Friday 14th March 2014 in News
...unless you own Watford in the 20th Century Volume 3, in which case you’ll know these and thousands more facts about the history of Watford and the rest of south west Hertfordshire.
1. In 1969 the Watford Observer was the first weekly newspaper to publish a colour picture of the Earth as seen by the Moon
2. In 1961 A runaway bullock was shot dead in Market Street, Watford, in front of shoppers and children in an act described as “barbarous and shocking”.
3. Jamaican beauty Carole Joan Crawford, Miss World in 1964, talked her away out of students’ Rag Day kidnap plot at the Jersey Shop in Watford.
5. Local resident Arthur Gore, the 8th Earl of Arran, sponsored the 1967 private members’ bill in the House of Lords that decriminalised homosexuality between consenting adults.
6. Subsidence caused a sinkhole to appear in the middle of Kingfield Road, Oxhey, in February 1963.
7. Comedian Jimmy Tarbuck and his wife Pauline celebrated the birth of new-born baby Cheryl at Stanborough maternity home in Garston in 1968.
8. Riot strength police helped disperse a record crowd of 34,099 following Watford FC’s FA Cup defeat to Manchester United in February 1969. At the interval, fencing behind the Vicarage Road goal gave way and seven people had to be carried away on stretchers.
9. In 1965 there were plans to turn The Grove into a corrective training centre for boys but this was vetoed by Watford Rural District Council
10. On one day in the winter of 1968-1969, the sulphur dioxide levels in Watford High Street were double the safe limit, although this was revealed five years later.
11. Cliff Holton and Dennis Uphill scored a remarkable 92 league goals between them when Watford FC finished fourth in the Third Division in 1960.
12. Pivotal figure in the Profumo-Keeler scandal Dr Stephen Ward was arrested at Lady Capell’s Cottage, off the Hempstead Road, on Saturday afternoon in 1963.
13. One of the most influential opera singers of the 20th Century, Maria Callas, recorded at Watford Town Hall in 1960 because of its acclaimed acoustics.
14. The gala opening of 14 shops in Penn Place, Rickmansworth, in 1964 was broadcast to the States on the anniversary of William Penn’s birthday. Penn, who was owner and governor of Pennsylvania in the 1680s, once lived in Rickmansworth.
15. Little Richard made his rock comeback in Watford, rocking it up and taking off his shirt, while the headlining Everly Brothers watched from the wings of the Gaumont in 1963.
16. In 1964 Watford Council envisaged a flyover at the Town Hall roundabout but later ditched the idea and went for an underpass for reasons of economics, not aesthetics.
17. In 1972 a £120,000 space-age petrol station opened at Cassio Garage, Watford, where nozzles dropped from the roof, without the need for pump islands, however the concept flopped.
18. In the early 1960s a pub crawl the length of Watford High Street would have taken in 20 pubs – down from 35 at the turn of the century.
19. Rickmansworth Aquadrome closed to swimmers in 1970 because of “the great scabby itch”, and closed again the following year as more bugs were found. It was never to be fully available to swimmers again.
20. Bushey councillor Geoffrey Wyatt vowed to resign if a “no smoking” rule was introduced at committee meetings in 1971.
21. Prince Charles opened Watford YMCA in February 1978.
22. Watersmeet was so called after a competition run jointly by the Watford Observer and local council.
23. Dutch elm disease led to the landscape being transformed in the early 1970s with hundreds of trees being cut down – 1,300 in Watford were set for the axe in 1973.
24. The Oliver public house by The Pond in Watford, used up its week’s supply of 136 gallons of lager in 36 hours during the long, hot summer of 1976.
25. A snowplough and tractor were used to clear the pitch to enable Watford FC’s match with Carlisle to go ahead on December 29, 1962. Watford won 5-1 but it was just shy of two months before Vicarage Road hosted another game such was the severity of the winter of 1962-63.
26. Nicky Stevens, part of Brotherhood of Man, who sang the record-breaking Eurovision Song Content winner, Save Your Kisses for Me, lived in Hyde Road, Watfor. She married guitarist-composer Alan Johnson at Watford Register Office in the early 1970s.
27. Britain’s oldest woman, Agnes Helyar, died in Abbots Langley in 1976, aged 109, having lived through six monarchs, the Relief of Mafeking and the opening of the Suez Canal.
28. With football hooliganism rampant in 1979, the success of Watford FC in making Vicarage Road a “Hooligan free zone” was referred to in Parliament.
29. The town’s first quads were both to the Masseys of Balmoral Road, Watford, in 1974.
30. Watford Council veto plans for an indoor arena behind Vicarage Road stadium, saying the Farm Terrace Allotments are “sacrosanct”.
31. Muhammad Ali visited the Ovaltine factory in Kings Langley in October 1971 as part of a promotional tour for the company.
32. Kings Langley Players were pushing the boundaries in 1970 when Liz Heath, playing the part of a nymphomaniac maid, stripped “completely nude” in a production of The Italian Girl.
33. There were picket lines outside The Empire cinema in 1974 by those worried showings of The Exorcist would “affect young people in Watford susceptible to demon power”.
Watford in the 20th Century Volume 3, researched and written by our former Assistant Editor Oliver Phillips, is still available to buy at select outlets throughout south west Hertfordshire and online.
For details see here http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/nostalgia/watford_20th_century_vol3/
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