Perusing old photographic postcards really does take you back in time to the so-called ‘good old days’. But turn the cards over and prepare to be amused, informed and surprised at the early 20th century messages intended only for the eyes of the addressees. Little did the writers realise that their comments would be of such curiosity value in the 21st century. As to be expected, the weather was by far the most popular topic, but here are a number of messages from my Bushey postcard collection that I’d like to share.

In November 1902 (postcard at top of page), writer ‘A’ was impressed with a view of The Avenue, a then-unmade road, and the newly-built Royal Masonic School for Boys which opened in early 1903. Fast forward to a similar view in 1920 and Eva E. Davies wrote on her postcard: ‘This is a lovely place but a bit noisy at night. Joanie likes it but at night is a bit restless.’ Could the noises have drifted across the road from jovial schoolboy boarders?

Watford Observer:

The Avenue, Bushey, 1920

In 1904 two Chester Vaughan Series postcards of Bushey High Street featuring The Bell public house were sent to recipients in London and Kent. On one ‘J.P.’ wrote in 1904: ‘Don’t you think this is rather nice?’ and on the other in the same year ‘L.H. noted: ‘I thought you would like a postcard of our pretty village, just 15 miles from London. Such a quiet rural spot. There is plenty of ‘green’ here.’

Watford Observer:

Bushey High Street and The Bell, 1904

A postcard of Glencoe Road, Bushey written by Will in 1907 advises his intention of visiting the recipient, Mrs. Wanstall of Herne Hill in London, the following evening. He continues: ‘Kiss the baby for me. It will save me the trouble when I get there (don’t tell Alf though, he is bigger than I am)’.

Watford Observer: Glencoe Road, Bushey, 1907

A 1908 colour postcard of the photogenic Old Forge, published by Bushey stationers Middleton & Sons, conveys the efficiency of early 20th century postal services. Addressed to Mr. Atkins, the well-known chimney sweep of Queens Road, Watford, the writer asks: ‘Will you please come tomorrow morning at 11 o’clock (Friday) to No. 2 Carlton Cottages, Herkomer Road, Bushey.’ We know that postmen made multiple daily collections and deliveries in those days but what struck me is that the card was posted at 8pm the previous night, just a few hours before Mr. Atkins was expected to sweep the chimney!

Watford Observer:

Old Forge, Bushey, 1908

The Three Crowns Hotel in Bushey Heath gave Mr. Atkins a little more notice to clean their kitchen chimney. The request was posted on Wednesday 19th February 1908, asking him to call ‘as early as possible on Friday morning’. For good measure, The Three Crowns was depicted on the postcard.

Watford Observer:

The Three Crowns Hotel, Bushey Heath, 1908

Yet another postcard addressed to Mr. Atkins in 1908 was written by James Thomas Wilden of Roseneath (later changed to Zoe), Rudolph Road, Old Bushey, a local photographer who utilised the wet plate process. His message was: ‘Will you please leave me one bushel of soot some time as soon as possible’; a bit of a contradiction. The postcard was a view of Merry Hill Road and The Stag public house. Mr. Atkins, chimney sweep, was a busy man.

Watford Observer:

Merry Hill Road and The Stag, 1908

The message on a 1907 William Coles’ postcard of Bushey High Street addressed to a lady in Walsall is intriguing. Written from 7 Glencoe Road entirely in Pitman’s shorthand, Maggie indicates her intention of seeing some ladies swimming in the river [possibly the Five Arches]. She apologises ‘for not saying goodbye to all but I think you will understand. I am enjoying myself immensely and am beginning to feel better already. There are some lovely walks about here.’ What the reason was for Maggie’s hasty departure from the Walsall area, we’ll never know. The fact that the message was in shorthand and meant to be undecipherable adds to the mystery!

Watford Observer:

Peter Pan House at Hartsbourne Manor, Bushey, 1914

A sepia postcard by Woolfenden of Bushey Heath depicts a ‘Peter Pan House’ at Hartsbourne Manor. The message from Percy in Bushey Heath to Flo in July 1914 reads: ‘Thanks for cigs that you sent me. This is at an actress’s place. It is very nice. I have to go down there every morning.’ At that time, the manor house was the home of stage actress Gertrude Elliott, her actor husband Johnston Forbes-Robertson and their young daughters. At the beginning of her own renowned stage career, daughter Jean Forbes-Robertson first played the title role of Peter Pan at Christmas 1927. She continued to impress seasonal audiences annually in the role in London and the provinces through the 1930s whilst her stage roles in Shakespeare plays at the Old Vic, the lead role in Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and plays by J.B. Priestley took audiences by storm. The Peter Pan House at Hartsbourne Manor must surely have been an early inspiration to her. The house and grounds are now a golf and country club.

Lesley is the daughter of the late Ted Parrish, a well-known local historian and documentary filmmaker. He wrote 96 nostalgic articles for the ‘Evening Post-Echo’ in 1982-83 which have since been published in ‘Echoes of Old Watford, Bushey & Oxhey’, available at and Bushey Museum. Lesley is currently working on ‘Two Lives, Two World Wars’, a companion volume that explores her father’s and grandfather’s lives and war experiences, in which Watford, Bushey and Oxhey’s history will take to the stage once again.