In the next part of a series looking at the history of the built environment of Rickmansworth and its surrounding areas, Three Rivers Museum Trust chairman Fabian Hiscock remembers Penn Place.

We’ve looked quite a lot at what was happening to the historic middle of Rickmansworth, with its inns, pubs and shops, in the 1960s, It probably wouldn’t be done like that now, but times were different then. Let’s have a look at what was being put in place after all the demolition.

The new shopping precinct Penn Place was opened in the new Northway in 1964. It would perhaps not be described as an architectural gem, but by no means everyone was unhappy about it: one resident has observed that it was “a pretty hip place then compared to the boring old High Street”, much of which was then being demolished.

Watford Observer: Penn Place shopping precinct c1969Penn Place shopping precinct c1969

As the photos show, Tesco had moved there from the High Street, and there was a pub, ‘The Keystone’ – originally it was to have been the William Penn, but (as the Watford Observer reported at the time) the councillors felt that it was a bit of insult to a teetotal Quaker, so it was named after The Keystone State that he had founded – it wasn’t a music venue, really, but it did have a small stage, we hear.

Watford Observer: Cleaning By Kay dry cleaners, Penn Place, 1990Cleaning By Kay dry cleaners, Penn Place, 1990

And there was more: among others a Chinese restaurant (the Yang Tse Kiang), a dry cleaner (Kay’s), a framing business (Croxley Galleries, still going in the High Street), and a record shop, Strawberry Fields, which Tony Blackburn opened in 1968 with coverage in the Observer. There was an open-air market in the precinct, and in June 1984 a Morris dancing competition. “Hip” indeed!

Watford Observer: Morris Dancers in Penn Place, June 1984Morris Dancers in Penn Place, June 1984

But this new development didn’t last too long. Tesco moved out to their current site, formerly Walkers yard, in July 1992, and although the process took a while the whole site had been earmarked to make way for the apartment blocks with which we’re familiar nowadays.

Watford Observer: The market in Penn Place on October 19, 1991The market in Penn Place on October 19, 1991

Many readers will remember Penn Place, its shops and The Keystone pub, and the museum would love to hear those recollections – e-mail

Watford Observer: The last day of trading at Tesco, Penn Place, on Saturday, July 11, 1992The last day of trading at Tesco, Penn Place, on Saturday, July 11, 1992