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 plumber and businessman who is fondly remembered.

Drawing on research undertaken by John Pearson, museum chairman Fabian Hiscock said: "Stephen Beeson was born in 1845, the son of a baker at Chenies. Trained as a plumber, he had a number of related skills including ‘bell hanger’, but when he set up his business in 1870 it was a hardware store. First in the High Street and then, from 1887, in Church Street, on the corner of Talbot Road in which he and his family lived. It grew to become a large homeware and hardware store, engineering business and builders.

Watford Observer:

Stephen and Mary Beeson in about 1900    

"Like most of his contemporaries, Stephen played his full part in the life of the town. He was a churchwarden of St Mary’s, an overseer of the poor in the Union Workhouse in Watford (he also held for a while the contract for the burials there), an early active member of the town’s Voluntary Fire Brigade (to be followed by at least one of his sons), and a ‘foundation manager’ of the Boy’s National School.

Watford Observer:

Beesons shop in 1895 on the corner of Church Street and Talbot Road

"The developing firm passed to the management of his sons, but not before the extended shop was offering in 1894 ‘furniture, bedsteads and bedding’ – ‘Beesons Yard’ in Bury Lane dates from about this time. As engineers they also supplied mechanisms to the makers of the first revolving doors and for an undulating floor ‘amusement ride’ - the breadth of the business was considerable, including the supply of sanitary ware (just as the new sewage system came to most of the houses of the area) and ironware fittings to the boatbuilders Walker Brothers.

Watford Observer:

A Beeson’s advertisement of about 1890, probably from the Watford Observer

"Stephen Beeson, who died in 1914, is a fine example of the local tradesman who established a simple business and then expanded it to become a significant supplier to a wide area. The family (Stephen’s wife Mary played an important role in the firm) also shows how closely business people worked at that time: two of their daughters married brothers of Harry Walker, although not those involved in ‘Walker’s of Ricky’.

Watford Observer:

Inside the shop in the 1960s. Mr Archie Strickland, the manager. Picture: Three Rivers Museum Collection 

"The firm declined in the 1960s and closed in 1970, but not before many local people had worked, and indeed been trained, there. Stephen Beeson’s name is well and fondly remembered."

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