Between January 1982 and November 1983, my father, Ted Parrish, wrote weekly nostalgic local history articles for the Watford edition of the Evening Post-Echo. The newspaper’s Editor introduced him to readers as follows: ‘Ted Parrish has been part of Watford life for more than 60 years. His love for the town and his unrivalled recollections of the ‘good old days’ make him the perfect man to write a column looking back over the years. That is why I have asked him to produce a series on life in the area as it used to be.’ And so ‘Ted Parrish Remembers’ became a regular feature.

My father received a number of readers’ letters; those whose early memories of the town were rekindled by his articles. I have their interesting letters and thought it worth mentioning a selection.

Watford Observer: 'Ted Parrish Remembers' introduction, January 1982, Evening Post-Echo'Ted Parrish Remembers' introduction, January 1982, Evening Post-Echo

Rosamond Stanton (neé Day) of 26 Third Avenue, Garston wrote: ‘I always read with great interest your page in the Evening Post-Echo. I come from an old Watford family, having been born at Wells Yard, which is now called Wellstones, I often heard my elder sisters talking about the old days at Wells Yard, also Ballards Buildings [off New Street]. I understand my grandmother, Granny Day, lived at Ballards Buildings and had a lodging house. She used to hold prayer meetings in her front room with friends from the Parish Church. The house was later turned into a barber’s shop.’

Watford Observer: Ballards Buildings was through the archway on the extreme right, early 1900sBallards Buildings was through the archway on the extreme right, early 1900s

Henry Williams (not the Watford historian) from 1 Bournehall Avenue, Bushey was ‘both surprised and delighted to see the picture of the original Dumbleton’s butcher’s shop at 231 Lower High Street, which was the correct address until the time of the remaking of Watford and subsequent demolition of the very handsome Victorian houses, including the home of Mary Ann Sedgwick, widow of the founder of the brewery business, later to become Benskins. I am delighted that you singled out Dumbleton’s for comment. May I say how much we enjoy your page. Long may you continue to make our memories more vivid’.

Watford Observer: Dumbleton's butcher's shop, 231 Lower High Street, 1965. Image: Denise ManglesDumbleton's butcher's shop, 231 Lower High Street, 1965. Image: Denise Mangles

Henry Williams and his father bought the business from George Dumbleton just before World War Two and carried on daily deliveries with four ponies and carts. Their customers included well-known families such as the Dunhills in Stanmore Common, the Blackwell farming family in Oxhey and Peter Cadbury. Dumbleton’s was also sole purveyor of poultry and meat to the Officers’ Mess at Bentley Priory Fighter Command.

Nigel Chiltern-Hunt of Hemel Hempstead wrote: ‘I have read with great interest your article on James Cawdell. He was my grandfather. Much of the information in your article was unknown to us. Unfortunately, it often transpires that within families such details disappear unless written down to be handed on to future generations.’

Vic Allen of Verdure Close, Watford wrote to the newspaper: ‘In my opinion, ‘Ted Parrish Remembers’ is one of the best series the Evening Post-Echo has ever published. The style of writing and research or terrific memory – I’ve no way of knowing which – makes me wait for the next article with keen anticipation. His story-telling gives us a clear insight into the past and lifts the veil on the history of old Watford in a fascinating way to a comparative newcomer to the area like me. Mr Parrish, in the very best old-fashioned way, I raise my glass to you and say thank you for these nostalgic flights.’

Watford Observer: Local coal carters, 1910Local coal carters, 1910

After L. Warren of Milton Keynes attended one of my father’s film shows on Old Watford, he was prompted to write. ‘I lived with my family in Lower Paddock Road, my parents having moved there in 1913 from Peterborough. I saw many changes over the years. I used to attend London Road School and took the route every day past Haydon Road and the sweet shop [run by Annie Toombs and her sister; friends of my grandmother]. Before the houses were built in Wilcot Avenue, there were fields that led onto Watford Heath. The hedges used to be full of dog roses and we took picnics over there. If we were lucky, we saw the odd grass snake in the hedgerow. My uncle had a farm in Oxhey Lane and I walked there many times with my mother; our return journey was made in my uncle’s pony and trap. A highlight of my visit was to collect the eggs, which were laid in various corners of buildings! The big attraction at Bushey Station for children used to be the dray horses that were kept in Wilson’s coal yard next to the lines. They were beautiful creatures and everyone stopped to watch as they left the yard and started the rather slippery journey over the cobbles; they carried very heavy loads of coal at that time.’

In those pre-internet days, Mrs. I White of 33 High Street, Kings Langley and Mr Lawrence Watson of Princes Avenue, Watford were amongst a number of people who suggested ‘a more permanent record in book form’ for my father’s articles. In 1995, at my bidding, he wrote a preface for an intended book but, with three children to bring up and a part-time job, I was not able to carry out my promise until a decade and a half after he passed away. The complete collection of articles was eventually published in Echoes of Old Watford, Oxhey & Bushey, launched at Watford Museum, and which is still selling.

My father’s articles in the Evening Post-Echo would have continued but, on September 26, 1983, he was advised by the Editor that unless a buyer was forthcoming, the newspaper would cease publication by November 16. It proved the end of the newspaper, but my father continued writing and filming. I attempt to follow in his nostalgic footsteps.

  • 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.