My connection with the Oxhey Village Environment Group (OVEG) began on Boxing Day 1977 with an unexpected visit by founder member and chairman Bunny (Emily) Hensby when the group was in its infancy. Membership had been growing since its inception in 1974 as the Old Oxhey Environment Group; OVEG from 1975. She was seeking a volunteer to edit a members’ newsletter and arrange illustrated talks every few weeks from September to May on historical, creative and industrial topics for evening meetings at the Galahad Room, Bushey & Oxhey Methodist Church. By the time Bunny left, she had gently but very determinedly convinced me that taking on the tasks would be in her and my best interests. As a consequence, I spent 13 years on the committee.

I began compiling OVEG newsletters and searching out interesting speakers. One in particular remains in my mind. Cormac Rigby, a respected and well-known BBC Radio 3 announcer with a voice like sheer velvet, who had had an early calling for the priesthood. But after funds for his doctorate ran out, he had applied for a job at the BBC. Cormac took the packed OVEG audience through his fascinating radio experiences, his voice alone mesmerising everyone. He worked at the BBC for 14 years before becoming a priest at the age of 46. Cormac was the son of my primary school teacher at Holy Rood, Mrs Grace Rigby of Croxley Green.

OVEG made strong progress over the next decade in terms of visibility, effectiveness and membership numbers and all the while members’ interests in local history grew. In early 1988, I suggested holding an Oxhey Exhibition to focus on Oxhey’s history and local memorabilia. Villagers would be asked via the newsletter, posters, press and by word of mouth if OVEG could use their local historic objects for public viewing. The response was astonishing. Offers of contributions flooded in and on the evening of October 31, 1988, 250 villagers crowded into the Galahad Room for a feast of historical ephemera, including paintings, engravings, china, books and photographs.

Watford Observer:

The Oxhey Exhibition programme cover by Ian Mackay

In addition to members’ contributions, Watford Town Hall loaned the mayoral robes and Oxhey Infants’ School provided its poignant Victorian school register that revealed absences due to outbreaks of scarlet fever, diptheria and other contagions. The school children’s latest work on ‘Our Village’ demonstrated the results of their studies into Oxhey’s past. Watford Reference Library and Watford Museum displayed local publications; Bob Blackwell from the Colne Valley Water Co. supplied early local maps of sink holes and areas of subsidence; and Ivor and Richard Greville of Greville Studios showed prints of early local photographs. Fire officer Roger Culverhouse contributed local fire station memorabilia including leather fire buckets and bottles from Benskins and Sedgwicks Breweries.

Watford Observer:

John Ausden and Lesley with the Rose & Crown emblem. John's son Steve has since donated it to the Rose & Crown, Chorleywood

John Ausden of Geo. Ausden Ltd was helped by his son Steve to transport a Rose & Crown emblem weighing a hundredweight, one of two that once graced the façade of the public house on the corner of High Street and Market Street, Watford. He also brought the early Kings Head sign that once hung outside 86 High Street and portrayed King Henry VIII on one side and an unidentified king on the other; possibly Henry VI, whose army were quartered overnight in Watford in the mid-15th century.

Watford Observer:

Bushey & Oxhey Methodist Church, 1980

Bushey & Oxhey Methodist Church showed a hand-written log of the gifts sent from the ladies of the church to local servicemen and women posted overseas during World War Two. I caught sight of my father’s name and the items sent to him in India and Burma. OVEG’s own history and environmental achievements were covered in documents and photographs.

To add to the interest, a panel of five local doyens discussed a selection of the objects. They were: Tony Rawlins, chairman of the Watford & South West Herts Archaeological Society; Geoffrey Greenstreet, OVEG treasurer/village liaison officer and former mayor of Watford; Barbara King, employed for 30 years at Watford Town Hall and daughter of Frederick King, whose nursery business began in 1912 at Park House, Upper Paddock Road; Ian Mackay, chartered civil engineer, with an active interest in archaeology and the environment and OVEG’s poster illustrator; and my father, local historian and environmental film maker, Ted Parrish. Each discussed an item of interest from those on show and spoke of their own local memories. My father described the ordeals of his early school swimming lessons at Bushey ‘Rec’.

Watford Observer:

The Oxhey Exhibition panel: Tony Rawlins, Geoff Greenstreet, Ted Parrish, Barbara King and Ian Mackay

Significantly, a number of Oxhey School children came to the exhibition. Contributors appreciated the interest in their memorabilia and the elderly were happy to share their personal reminiscences. A perfect nostalgic blend! That evening, membership secretary Marion Cannard signed up 32 new members, making a grand total of 320.

Since those days, OVEG has gone from strength to strength and is a pillar of respect for those fortunate enough to live in Oxhey Village.

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.