The picture at the top of this page could almost be a scene from a Dickensian novel, but it was captured less than 100 years ago and vividly illustrates the conditions some people were living in Watford at that time.

The Watford Observer has again teamed up with Watford Museum and is delighted to showcase some pictures from its archive – this week we recall Ballards Buildings.

The museum's volunteer archivist Christine Orchard said: "Ballards Buildings was a long narrow court of cottages that ran off New Street. Previously known as Dyson’s Yard, it was acquired around the 1840s by William James Ballard.

Watford Observer:

Ballards Buidlings off New Street

"It had been believed that William Ballard was both a farmer and railway contractor, and that the houses were built for railway navvies. However, the railway contractor was Stephen Ballard of Messrs. Brassey and Ballard, who were involved with the construction of the London to Bedford railway in the 1860s. The court of building had been in existence long before this time.

"Later all the courts and yards off Watford High Street were given a number. Ballards Buildings became Court 8.

Watford Observer:

A map showing the location of Court 8

"Up until its demolition in 1926, it was an area of notoriously overcrowded slums and eventually it was realised that new homes had to be built for the families."

Watford Museum is open Thursday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. No booking is necessary but Covid prevention measures are still in place to keep visitors safe.