On the evening of November 6, 1990, the Oxhey Village Environment Group (OVEG) held the Oxhey Exhibition of Creative Arts. It followed the successful Oxhey Exhibition of 1988, about which I’ve written, but by this time OVEG had amassed 500 members and the aim was to put Oxhey on the map in terms of creative arts and crafts.

Near the celebrated art enclave of Bushey, the arts and crafts handiwork of 26 local people filled tables around the perimeter of Bushey & Oxhey Methodist Church.

There was a wealth of artistic talent on display; some well-known, some less so. Amongst those who lent local arts and crafts memorabilia were Bushey Museum Trust, led by Grant Longman and Bryen Wood; Oxhey Infants’ School; Watford Museum; the Colne Valley Water Co.; and John Ausden of Geo. Ausden Ltd.

Watford Observer: Oxhey Exhibition of Creative Arts programme cover featuring Mary Bromet's Peace Memorial, designed by Ian MackayOxhey Exhibition of Creative Arts programme cover featuring Mary Bromet's Peace Memorial, designed by Ian Mackay

As acting chairman, my father welcomed everyone into the packed church and introduced the evening’s programme, after which Grant Longman gave a talk and slide show on Oxhey’s past artists, including Mary Bromet, who sculpted Watford’s Peace Memorial which originally stood in front of the Peace Memorial Hospital but was re-sited by Watford Central Library. Grant also discussed artists James Penrose; H.B. Withers; Janet Archer; and Beatrice Parsons. At 8.15pm, the exhibit viewing began.

The exhibitors embraced all age groups. Peter Whitworth from Oxhey was a neighbour of my parents in Wilcot Avenue. He began to paint after retiring from local government in 1974. His paintings are held by private collectors in Europe, North America and New Zealand, and in Bushey Museum & Art Gallery. Leslie Smith of Watford Heath also began painting after a career in the civil service, initially in oils and later in watercolour. He branched into etching with zinc plates and acid, before taking up cushion embroidery. The cushion he displayed bore a design of the Five Arches.

Watford Observer: Bushey & Oxhey Methodist Church from King Edward Road, July 1980Bushey & Oxhey Methodist Church from King Edward Road, July 1980

Other exhibitors included: Robert Galbraith, an art teacher and member of Watford & Bushey Art Society who specialised in landscapes and still life. His work had been accepted by the Royal Academy and published in national magazines. Nan Knowles, a former wardrobe mistress in the West End whose porcelain and enamels had been exhibited at London’s Guildhall, displayed her ceramics. Cherry Lyon exhibited on her own behalf with her painting of Watford High Street, as well as work of her late husband, Ian. Former chairman of Watford & Bushey Art Society, Ian’s commercial art work started with posters and murals, later progressing to theatre scenery and work for the Coal Board, Agricultural Board and ICI. His paintings included Oxhey allotments with Park House, and Oxhey golf course.

At the time of the exhibition, Dora Duncan had lived in Oxhey for over 45 years. She frequently painted flowers and landscapes in oils and watercolours at Marguerite Frobisher’s studios in Bushey. Maureen Ann Miles from Oxhey had studied at Watford Art College, then in Queens Road. In 1990, she was exhibiting at the Lucy Kemp Welch Gallery in Bushey, Watford Museum and Watford Library. Margaret Spark came to Oxhey in 1963 and her interest in art began after her husband gifted her oil paints. Her first teacher was the respected Watford-born artist Robert Hill who lived in Lower High Street and passed away in 1990. Margaret was another regular artist at the Marguerite Frobisher Studio in Bushey and her painting of that studio is at Bushey Museum & Art Gallery.

Watford Observer: Oxhey Fete at St Matthew's Church, July 14-15, 1909Oxhey Fete at St Matthew's Church, July 14-15, 1909

John Ausden filled a table with his Goss crested china, locally-made ‘stone’ hot water bottles and books. He also displayed local boxing match posters bearing the names of Jock Taylor, Reg Spring, Billy Cunningham and Dennis Ford, and a local restaurant price list from War Weapons Week in 1941. Egg and chips were on the menu, as well as skate, rock salmon, plaice and rock eels.

Amongst other memorabilia on display was a photograph of New Bushey Cricket Club in 1900 with a list of matches played, a local 18th century sampler, hand-painted tiles and vintage postcards. Bushey Museum’s Bryen Wood, then an avid collector of Bushey and Oxhey postcards, brought a selection from his collection and Grant Longman exhibited his local interest books. I contributed a number of items, including a postcard of Oxhey Fete at St Matthew’s Church, July 14-15, 1909. A banner reads ‘East Heal [and] the Three Boundaries’, which relates to the ancient boundaries of Oxangehaege (Oxhey) from the Oxhey Charter of 1007 AD.

But the viewing didn’t stop at the displays. At 8.30pm and 9.15pm there were showings of ‘Oxhey Village’ in the Choir Vestry. My father’s 8mm 25-minute sound film focused on Oxhey in the mid-1970s, with its full complement of shops and OVEG’s first Summer Fayre. The vestry was packed at both sessions.

OVEG’s first exhibition in 1988 had proved that nostalgia was alive and kicking, giving pleasure to those with long memories and an understanding of how things used to be to those new to the area or too young to remember. This second exhibition showcased past and present Oxhey villagers’ impressive arts and crafts skills, the interest in which was reflected by the large and appreciative turnout.

OVEG members who contributed to the success of the evening were Geoff Greenstreet, former Mayor and OVEG Village Liaison Officer; Ian Mackay, who illustrated the group’s posters and programmes; Frank Marshall, for his signwriting skills; and Joan Gunton who prepared the programme.

  • 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 www.pastdayspublishing.com 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.