Following the publication of her first article two weeks ago, Lesley Dunlop continues her recollections of shopping in Oxhey Village.

Back in the 1950s, shopping in Oxhey Village on a Saturday morning was a lengthy but convivial business. Queues may have been par for the course, but people were patient and took the opportunity to pass a friendly time of day with others, come rain or shine, whether they knew them or not.

Turning from Pinner Road into Villiers Road on the east side, The Royal Oak Public House at 142 (not to be confused with The Royal Oak, Watford Heath) with its wide frontage was run by publican Mrs Margaret Palmer. Its sign showing Bonnie Prince Charlie in an oak tree always fascinated me as a small child. Eventually I discovered why the future King Charles II was hiding! It is now a private residence. Directly across Villiers Road was a long garden, since developed.

Watford Observer:

The old Royal Oak, sketch by Ted Parrish, 1980

R.W. Crawley at 110 Villiers Road on the Upper Paddock Road corner, now a private residence, was a popular hardware shop. It was filled to the brim with everything related to house and garden maintenance: tools, nuts and bolts, buckets, taps, plumbing and electrical supplies, brooms, paint and brushes, glue, wallpaper paste and so much more. It wasn't large but its stock was extensive and its staff were friendly, knowledgeable and efficient. I don't recall my father ever walking out of Crawley's without his itemised lists being fully met. Thick, heavy books of wallpaper could be borrowed for a week and taken home to view in the car if you had one, though not many did. Once the decision was made and the wallpaper ordered, the rolls were ready for picking up at Crawley's a week or so later. Eastman's, the butcher was at 110a; in later years it became a laundrette.

Watford Observer:

End of the line for R.W. Crawley’s hardware shop, 1984

Crossing Upper Paddock Road, The Villiers Arms Public House was named like the road after the family who became Earls of Clarendon and Dukes of Buckingham. At the turn of the 20th century, it was a picking-up point for local children who were transported by horse and open carriage on group days out. In the 1950s, Henry Moss was publican.

Watford Observer:

Villiers Road by the Pinner Road junction prior to development, 1984

Further down Villiers Road on the same side, past the Victorian terraced houses, was the baker, Conroy Kenton, at 90. A few years later it was to become a grocery and confectionery shop run by Miss A.M. Horwood, sister of Bunny Hensby OVEG's founder. Next door was Roy Linsley's Oxhey Fisheries. In all my years living in Oxhey, I didn't once enter his shop as my mother wouldn't condone buying fish and chips when it was easily cooked at home. I think we missed out, as everyone said that his newspaper-wrapped fish and chips were the best they'd ever tasted!

Watford Observer:

Miss A.M. Horwood and her grocery and confectionery shop, 90 Villiers Road, June 7, 1980

Continuing on, The Prince of Wales Public House at 76/78, with Frederick Myall as publican, served only cider and beer. It closed in 1955 and both properties are also private residences. A few paces down, at the junction with Lower Paddock Road, is The Rifle Volunteer, one of the earliest beer houses in New Bushey, as Oxhey was originally known and named after the late 18th century volunteer forces which were replaced more than half a century later by the Territorial Army. James Webb was publican in the 1950s.

Read more: Memories of how shopping used to be in the 'good old days'

Crossing over Lower Paddock Road and passing William Andrews' house at 34 was chemist George Dyson at 32 (later B.J. Bond). I recall the strong medicinal odours and two large glass jars, one filled with blue and the other with green liquid on a high shelf behind his counter, well out of children's reach. In the late 1950s, Mr. Dyson began to stock a few second-hand cine cameras, in line with his hobby. My father bought his first cine camera there, a wind-up model, and struck a friendship with George Dyson, who was also then responsible for the Post Office at 30 (in later years run by Alan and Dorothy Plant).

Watford Observer:

B.J. Bond, chemist (formerly George Dyson’s), Post Office to left, late 1970s

Oxhey was well supplied with shops that satisfied many local people's grocery, household and garden needs and there were public houses aplenty. It was a sociable village and an intended quick dash to Villiers Road usually resulted in unexpected meetings and chats, during which local news travelled fast, well before social media impacted on personal interaction. The numbers of shops and public houses have substantially diminished over the decades, but they have been neatly renovated and many are now in private hands. The village has retained its character and charm and, with the Oxhey Village Environment Group at the helm, together with 'Our Oxhey', an impressive online community website, its history is brought to light, embraced and well nurtured.

To be continued...

Lesley Dunlop 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.