The Watford Observer is delighted to team up with Three Rivers Museum for a series that will remind readers of some of the people who, often now forgotten, made an impact on how their neighbours lived and worked. The next in the series is a surveyor and public health leader who left an enduring legacy from his very full life.

Museum chairman Fabian Hiscock said: "Albert Freeman was one of the most influential people shaping our surroundings a century ago. He came, aged 25, to Rickmansworth as surveyor to the Highways Board in 1895, and when the UDC was set up in 1898 he became both highways surveyor and sanitary inspector until he retired in 1935. He married Jessie in 1898, and they lived in Nightingale Road.

"His work was extremely broad: inspecting canal boats, widening local roads including Church Street and at Money Hill, numbering houses, checking building applications for compliance with the Byelaws – during the climax of Metro-Land development – making sure water was supplied to houses and gas to street lights, clearing ditches, and tracking cases of infectious disease such as diphtheria.

Watford Observer:

Laying sewers in Station Road looking towards High Street

"His main focus early on was the sewage main, and the ‘farm’ at Mill End. Before 1901 there were only cesspools, and a thousand earth closets to be emptied weekly. The upheaval can be imagined from the photos, and part of Freeman’s work then became ensuring that both new and existing houses were connected - it took years, although night-soil collections were discontinued in late 1905. The council having bought the gas works in 1903, he became manager of it in 1906, and was heavily involved in the provision of council houses from 1920.

"Albert Freeman was also an ardent supporter of public open spaces. Twenty acres of Rickmansworth Park, Scotsbridge playing fields, Ebury and Croxley Recreation Grounds, Croxley Woods and the Bury meadows were among the spaces secured and laid out, along with the golf course at Batchworth.

Watford Observer:

Laying sewer pipes by Ibbotson's shop in Station Road

"His personal interests were just as broad. He was on the committees of the Choral Society and the library, played hockey and bowls, was a Vice President of the Horticultural Society, a founder member of the swimming club and secretary of the local Missions to Seamen. Even in retirement he acted as a town planning advisor, and was a county councillor from 1940 to 1946.

"Albert Freeman died in 1950 at the age of 80. He has left an enduring legacy which includes our public open spaces and a working sewage system, as well as the basis of the planning system which shaped the area between the wars. His was truly a lifetime’s achievement."

Three Rivers Museum has now re-opened following a significant refurbishment – details are on their website