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Short accounts by Tring residents of aspects of their lives and of past events,
collected and preserved by local historian Jill Fowler.



THE WAR AND TRING, by John Bowman

MEMORIES OF A 6 - 7 YEAR OLD EVACUEE, by Marlene McAndrew, née Tallman





THE ROSE & CROWN INN, TRING, by Wendy Austin



THE POLISH CAMP AT MARSWORTH — 1948-1958, by Sandra Costello

ANOTHER 100th ANNIVERSARY (NOT WW1), by John Savage




THE TRING AND AYLESBURY TRAMWAY that might have been, by Ian Petticrew


The War and Tring
by John Bowman, March 2005


“Make very field give a greater yield.”
Bucks Herald, 5th April 1940.

Tring is a small market town nestling on the scarp face of the Chiltern Hills facing North to the Vale of Aylesbury.  During WWII it was a self-contained community of some five thousand people.  There were many shops, which covered most of the needs of everyone.  The local industries mainly catered for agriculture.  Much of the land surrounding Tring and the Vale was owned by the Rothschild banking family.  Their estates were extremely well run, and were modern in their outlook.  There was little unemployment and the Rothschild family assisted the local council to provide decent housing.  In the late nineteen-thirties, after the death of Lord [Walter] Rothschild, the estate around Tring was sold off to the tenant farmers and others.  This made little difference to the way of life in the area.

When the Second World War started in September 1939, nothing changed much from normal life for a few months; it was a gradual process.  The local Territorial Army of the Second Battalion of the Hertfordshire Regiment was mobilised.  As time went on, men volunteered or were called to join the Armed Services.  This caused some shortage of labour in local industries which were changing to war orientated operations.

As most of the men were now serving elsewhere, women were working on the buses as conductors at the London Transport Bus Garage in Western Road.  The Silk Mill in Brook Street became an engineering works with its own foundry.  Parts for aircraft engines, airframes, tanks and many other items were manufactured and finished for assembly elsewhere.  The Post Office, which was a Government Department, started to employ women as counter clerks and sorters.  The delivery of letters and parcels was still left to men.  In agriculture, all land which was unproductive was requisitioned by the Government and used on a national basis for the production of crops which were suited to the soil locally.

The Ministry of Agriculture formed its own army.  This was called “The Women’s Land Army”.  Women were trained as tractor drivers, operators of machinery used in farming, and in all aspects of animal husbandry.  Most were billeted in large houses such as rectories though some were housed in army huts built for the purpose.  As you can appreciate, this was a very efficient use of labour, as seasonal tasks, such as the harvest and haymaking could be tackled on a collective basis.

Many other large organisations moved from London to the Tring area.  The Rothschild Bank moved into the Mansion.  The Exchange Telegraph Company occupied the Mill buildings at Hastoe Farm.  This was an important communications organisation, which served commercial needs worldwide.  At Newground, on the way to Berkhamsted, you will see some large warehouse buildings beside the Grand Union Canal in Beggars Lane.  These were built to store emergency stocks of food for distribution.  These stores were called “Buffer Depots” and were built for the Ministry of Food at strategic places all over the country.

The way people shopped was very different from the way we do today.  It was common to shop once a week, and when Ration Books were issued, one registered with a particular grocer.  In those days, sugar, tea, butter, lard, bacon, cooked meats and lots of other products were not pre-packed as they are today but were cut, weighed and packed to order.  When one walked into a grocers shop, the aroma of coffee mixed with that of dried fruits, butter, cheese and spices, was absolutely delicious and pleasurable.  The grocer - in our case - visited our home at West Leith on Tuesdays.  He took our order and told mother of any special offers he had to hand.  He returned on Thursdays with our order.  On the following Tuesday, if mother was not satisfied with, say, the bacon, too fat, or whatever, he was told in no uncertain terms.  Everything was put right on Thursday.

When the war started, there were nine butcher’s shops trading in Tring with the butchers attending the local cattle market to purchase their meat on the hoof.  At least five butchers processed their own meat.  As mentioned, when war started a Government Department was formed called “The Ministry of Food”.  The production, control, and distribution of meat were taken from the butchers and they received their supplies from central depots.  The local slaughterhouse belonging to the Tring Co-operative Society was chosen and licensed for the Tring area.  The manager and buyer was Mr Gilbert Rance who lived in King Street.  The local markets continued to operate but were also controlled by the Ministry of Food.  The same Ministry also promoted the production of vegetables at home.  Help and advice was given to householders and societies to obtain good seed and to rotate crops for maximum effect.

If your garden was big enough, you were encouraged to keep a pig or chickens for eggs or meat.  These animals were fed a mixture of kitchen waste and meal, unlike today.  An egg cost as much as a two pound loaf of bread.  However, my mother kept chickens so we faired very well.

There were many bakers’ shops in Tring who baked daily.  Many bakers called on houses in the surrounding area daily.  I can remember four different bakers calling at our house, all on different days.  So you can see our lives were well organised.

As our armed forces grew in size, accommodation became a problem and small units began to move into the surrounding area, one of the first units to arrive was No. 1 Tractor Battery, Royal Artillery, who occupied the Stables at Pendley Manor.  Nissen huts were built in the wooded area alongside Station Road.  The stables - where the Court Theatre is now - became the workshop area.  This unit was part of Anti-aircraft Command.  They serviced and repaired the anti-aircraft guns which surrounded London.

A Royal Navy Depot was established in buildings at the rear of 51 High Street, now Metcalfe’s.  This land based ‘ship’ was named H.M.S. Aeolus, Aeolus being the Roman mythological ‘God of the Winds’.  The purpose of this depot was the supply of kites and balloons to the Royal Navy, for meteorological and shipboard anti-aircraft defence.

In the stable block at the Mansion a variety of army units were housed.  A field company of the Royal Engineers was one of the first.  I worked at a garage at the end of Western Road called Wright & Wright (engineers and coach builders) so I saw most of the soldiers’ vehicles.  They came and asked me to inflate their tyres with our airline.  At the beginning of the war a variety of vehicles such as motor coaches, London taxi cabs, were modified into pick-up trucks.  These vehicles were requisitioned from civilian use due to the shortage of army vehicles.

Early in the war a large airfield was built on flat farmland the perimeter bordering Long Marston, Cheddington and Marsworth.  Although the main camp buildings were at Lower End Marsworth the airfield was named Cheddington.  This was because the nearest railway station was Cheddington.  The Royal Air force operated from the airfield.  When the U.S. entered the war in 1941 the U.S. Army Air Force also operated from there.

Aerial photograph of RAF Cheddington looking north, 3rd March 1944.
The bomb dump is at the top, the control tower and technical site are at the bottom.

When war started the Home Office organised Civil Defence so that the population of Great Britain could help themselves in the expected aerial bombardment.  The Auxiliary Fire Service was formed to supplement local Fire Brigades who in their own turn became the National Fire Service.  The Red Cross and Saint John’s Ambulance Brigade staffed first aid posts and emergency hospitals.  In Tring we had a military hospital at Drayton Manor and a maternity hospital at Home Farm in Park Road.

The town was split into sections.  Each section had an air-raid warden.  He was responsible for making sure that no house showed any light during the “Black-out”.  If a bomb dropped in his section he would evaluate the situation and call forward rescue or fire support if needed.  The rescue section was housed at Honours Yard in Akeman Street, this being a builder’s yard.  The section comprised men working there.  In 1940 volunteers were required to form a civilian/military formation called the Home Guard.  The volunteers were lightly armed and knew their own area so would have been invaluable if the Germans had invaded us.  Youth organisations, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides supported the civil authorities.

Army Cadets attended training with the army and Home Guard and sat examinations for certificates which, when they joined the army, entitled them to trained soldier’s pay.  The same applied to Air Cadets and Naval Cadets.

During the early part of the war, London and the larger cities were subjected to very heavy bombing.  Heavy damage to buildings and communications occurred and volunteers were brought in from other areas to assist.  Our own Civil Defence organisations relieved the exhausted firemen and rescue teams in London; some even went as far as Portsmouth to help out.  When the heavy raids on London occurred we could see the red glow away to the East with the flashes of anti-aircraft guns firing at the enemy aircraft.

Quite a lot of bombs fell in the Tring area.  Fortunately not much damage was done.  There was some damage to a house on the corner of Albert Street and Langdon Street.  The third of a stick of four exploded in front of our house in Duckmore Lane.  It dropped behind four haystacks but shrapnel made some holes in our roof and some window glass was broken.  In Long Marston, a bomb destroyed the school and a public house.  There were no children in school at the time, but one person [Ed. - a teacher] was killed.

Air-raid shelters were built along Tring Road and Station Road in Long Marston because of the close proximity to the airfield.

The schools in Tring and surrounding villages accepted evacuated children who were billeted with families around.  This caused overcrowding in the classrooms so some classes from the junior and senior schools in the High Street moved over the road to the High Street Free Church opposite.  The Akeman Street Baptist Chapel also housed classes.  The infant school in King Street used the Temperance Hall in Christchurch‘ Road.  So you see, even the children were involved in the War effort.

The Regal in Western Road, 10th December 1943
Sunday’s programme includes Ronald Regan

February 1942 was a time of sadness and dismay to many families in Tring.  It was announced that Singapore/Malaya and Hong Kong had fallen to the Japanese Forces.  Many of local soldiers were serving in an East Anglian Division, which went into captivity at Singapore.  The Japanese Army moved the prisoners to Siam (now Thailand) where they were put to work building a railway through the jungles towards Burma.  They laboured under dreadful conditions, with little food and medical care available.  They were brutally treated by their guards and many died from sickness, malnutrition and brutality.  Although the majority of soldiers involved were British, Australian, American and Dutch soldiers were also imprisoned and suffered much the same.  Six men from Tring died between 1942 and 1945.  Many more survived and returned after the war, most never really recovered from the privations received in the camps.

It is said that during March 1942 extra allocation of rations were made available in Tring as a bolster to moral.  During the war years, thirty-four men gave their lives for our freedom.  Their names can be seen on the upper facets of our war memorial and also in the ‘Book of Remembrance’ displayed in the Parish Church.

I cannot comment on the celebrations when the war came to an end.  I was serving in the Royal Engineers in Belgium; we were repairing Belgian Railway engines in Mechelin, a city between Antwerp and Brussels.

In conclusion we must not forget that it was not all work and effort.  Entertainment was well catered for.  There were two cinemas in Tring, “The Regal” in Western Road and the “Gaiety” in Akeman Street.  Programmes were changed twice weekly with a special programme on Sunday.  The children were not forgotten, they had a special Saturday morning session.  There was usually a dance held in the Victoria Hall each Saturday, or one could travel to Aylesbury or Berkhamsted to dance.  The forces stationed hereabouts could go to the Y.M.C.A. in Tabernacle Yard, Akeman Street, where they could get refreshment and write home.  They could even get their socks darned by the volunteer ladies who tended to mother them.

I hope this has gone some way in painting a picture of life in Tring during World War II.


by Marlene McAndrew, née Tallman, Novem,ber 2006.

I remember finding myself in a largish room in a vicarage in Northchurch where a lot of women and children were sitting on settees, chairs and chaise-longue types of furniture amid a certain amount of quiet confusion.  Eventually my mother and I, and several others, were sent to a large house in a hamlet called St. Margaret’s.  The house had been a youth hostel so the bedrooms were dormitories and the kitchen was equipped for large-scale catering.  School was reached via a long lane, frequently blocked by herds of cattle which our town-bred mothers found quite intimidating.  The school consisted of one room and all I can remember doing was making patterns with zeros and crosses on squared paper.  Gradually all the women left St. Margaret’s finding the isolation depressing and rather frightening, especially as the house was the last in the row and there was an army base nearby.  My mother feared she would be left there alone with me so she too asked to be transferred.  The letter informing my father of the move was delayed and he came down one cold and wet weekend, only to find the house locked and empty.  As he had nowhere to stay and no means of getting back to London that night he had to break in.

As a temporary measure we were next billeted in Tring with a family called Birch; their daughter Marion was about my age and prevented me from picking dandelions, alerting me to the fact that they were likely to make you wet the bed.  We were subsequently transferred to Miswell Cottage, Miswell Lane, whose occupants were Mrs. Mary Kemp and her husband Bert, who was in the Home Guard, her father “Gramps” and their son Roy, roughly my age.  Mrs. Kemp was a warm-hearted and cheerful woman who seemed to enjoy having another young woman’s company.  Her husband was in the Home Guard; he was more reserved, possibly shy.  He used to go out early in the morning and bring back mushrooms for us to have with the most delicious pink, curly bacon.  It was the first time our family had ever eaten either bacon or mushrooms.  Roy had red-gold hair and freckles and a large, wonderful farmyard set with which we often used to play.  One day ‘gramps’ died, and my mother was asked if she would like to see him laid out; she didn’t really but couldn’t refuse.

Most of the London children seemed to be allocated to a school in a kind of sports pavilion, but I was allocated to Gravelly School in King Street, which was a very happy time for me.  The head teacher, Miss Hollywood, was a pretty Irish woman, who seemed to love children and to fill the school with her warmth.  She was accompanied everywhere by a younger curate who obviously adored her.  The school comprised three rooms and I was in Miss Dyker’s class; the other teacher was called Miss Dell and I think she came from London.

We lived in a flat in London and I had never had a garden.  I remember going out early in the morning and standing on the slightly raised area nearer the house in a state which I can only describe as ecstatic.  The grass, the trees, the birds, thrilled me in a way I can recall to this day, and I used to sing “The sun is shining clear and bright, come out into the morning light....”.  I don’t know where I learnt that song but it seemed appropriate.  There was a pear tree in the garden with one huge William pear.  Miss Lizzie promised it to me if I was a good girl.  I watched it grow with eagerness longing for the day when it would be mine.  Alas!  Before it had been picked some wasps had eaten a large piece out of it.  As a compensation, maybe, we often came back to the house to find a saucer of sugared raspberries waiting for us on the kitchen table.

My father was living alone among all the bombs and destruction, working on the prototype Mosquito plane.  Cabinet makers were a “reserved occupation” and were allotted this special duty because of their skill in very fine woodwork.  The weekends which my father spent with us must have been a welcome break from the blitz and the make-do meals. However, although the Finchers liked my father, they eventually informed us that they were unaccustomed to having a man in the house and they would prefer him not to come down anymore.  So we went back to the blitz.

The de Havilland DH-98 Mosquito, the “wooden wonder”.
Wood workers (right) planing the top boom on a Mosquito before machining.

On Friday nights when my father came to Tring we used to wait for him opposite the Rose and Crown, where there was a bench.  One day the coach arrived and we saw him in a window seat, fast asleep.  We waved and yelled, but couldn’t rouse him, so the bus took him on to Aylesbury.  On a Sunday morning he would often take me for a walk towards Berkhamsted, and we would pick up conkers and look at the watercress beds, all novelties for a London child, or we would visit the museum.  Occasionally we would go to a pub with a garden where my parents would have a shandy and me a lemonade.  This was another thing we never did in London.  Life for our mothers must have been very boring.  Away from their own homes, with nothing to occupy them, no husbands, no friends or families to visit, only one cinema, what could they do with their time in a small town?

The one place we could all go to was the Victoria Hall, where two rooms were allocated as a kind of social centre for the Londoners.  One room was used as a canteen and the other as a lounge, where we gossiped, held concerts, played cards and occasionally had someone to give us a talk.  I especially remember a member of the Rothschild family, a lady whose French accent was so impenetrable that nobody could understand what she was saying.  In the evenings our two rooms were the only areas in the building illuminated and l found the dark passages and the stairs leading up to other black regions, very creepy.

Sometimes in good weather we went to a recreation ground in Miswell Lane, where there were swings and two horses, which the bolder children rode.  There was also the weekly cattle market which provided some entertainment, especially one day when a bull got out and everyone scattered.  There was children’s Saturday morning cinema at the Regal.  I went once but hated it; it was like Bedlam.  For our weekly bath we went into Berkhamsted or Aylesbury on the bus.  Berkhamsted seemed to us a dreary place, very poor-looking and drab.  We preferred Aylesbury, which felt like a real town, with a bit of bustle.  There was a time when we went to Aylesbury every week, to visit my father in hospital.  He came down one weekend with his hand tied up.  He had injured it at work and some splinters had got in and it had become “poisoned”.  The pain was so bad that he ended up in the Royal Bucks Hospital where he spent several weeks.  He was told that if he had left it any longer he would probably have lost his arm from septicaemia.  He was probably run down and needed the rest anyway.  Children were not allowed into adult wards in those days so while my mother visited dad I used to sit on the grass outside where I made friends with another little girl who taught me how to make daisy chains.  My father was an easy-going, friendly man, who always got on with people.  However, in the hospital his fellow patients on both sides were Buck’s countrymen and they found each others’ accents mutually incomprehensible.

At one stage my parents considered storing our furniture to save on rent and avoid possible destruction by bombs, so my mother answered an advertisement for a store-room in Tring.  We went to a grand house, through kitchens full of uniformed maids and briefly saw an old woman, apparently the house-owner.  The store-room turned out to be a damp, dirty outhouse.  My mother was furious and deeply hurt that anyone should suggest our beautiful furniture could be stored in such conditions and at such a price! It seemed apparent to her that this woman did not expect working-class people to have decent homes and possessions.  The whole idea was dropped.  My memories of Tring are happy ones.  For the adults, far from home, worried about the future, lonely, it must have been a less pleasant time.  Some of the younger women used to go to dances at Halton Camp and a certain amount of flirtation and affairs went on.  They were condemned then, but war turns all normality on its head.  Some married couples were separated for years; people need company, laughter, affection.  With retrospect and as an adult, I feel sympathy for them all, including the Tring householders who shared their homes with strangers.

I would like to add that most accounts of evacuees give the impression that we were impoverished, ignorant little waifs who encountered comfort and culture for the first time when we were evacuated. In my experience this was not the case.  We had the benefit of LCC schools, which offered us a much better, progressive education than we found in the village schools.  The families who were evacuated with us to Tring were from the skilled working-class who had modest but nice homes and who were often shocked at the conditions in which some country people lived.  We were sometimes offered digs, which were more primitive than anything we had ever seen in London.  I imagine some of them were farm labourers in tied cottages and with very low wages.  Some of the husbands were worried that our mothers would give their wives “ideas” about a better life-style!


November 2007.


Bucks herald, April 1909

At the end of the nineteenth century, William Bethell moved from Aston Clinton to Long Marston and set up a blacksmith’s shop opposite the present Village Hall.  This is still called Ford Cottage [should be Old Forge Cottage].  His wife made sweets to supplement their income.

The business thrived as, of course, the blacksmith in a rural community was then of prime importance, so they moved to larger premises on the village crossroads.  There they had stables, a hay loft, a blacksmith’s shop with two hearths and a cycle shop.  When the motor car came on the scene, William adapted to the times, and petrol was delivered from Aylesbury once a week.  This was sold in two-gallon cans, and was delivered by horse and cart from the Shell depot at Norfolk Terrace.

In those days bicycles could only be purchased in flat packs - what’s new!  Stove enamelling facilities were also set up in the cycle shop, and the equivalent of a taxi service was begun, using a horse-drawn governess cart.

Joe and Bill, his two sons, later worked in the business.  A regular customer was the Veterinary Surgeon to the London, Midland & Scottish Railway.  In those days most railway stations delivered goods to their final destination by horse and cart.  Horses were also used to shunt railway trucks.  When the animals were injured, they were taken to Cheddington Station, and the Vet would bring them back to health on his land at nearby Puttenham.

A railway company horse shunting.

Most of these horses were large Shires. On their way from Cheddington to Puttenham, their first stop was at the blacksmith’s shop to have their heavy shoes removed. (I have one of these, which measures 7% inches in diameter, on our garden gate.) A bar was welded across the front of the shoe to grip the sleepers, and rubber pads were fixed to the back to stop the horses slipping on the cobbles. On one occasion, the horses were taken to a nearby field, and Joe was sent by pony and cart with his tools to remove the shoes. When he jumped down to undo the gate, the Shire horses plus pony and cart immediately galloped out down Potash Lane. Joe was concerned how he was going to explain this to his farther, but a few minutes later the horses returned to the field of their own accord, and stood quietly until Joe could remove their shoes. Jack Winfield, who lived in Cheddington Lane, told me, getting up at 6am one morning he heard an enormous clattering of hooves coming up the Lane. He looked out of the window and saw just one man leading eleven gentle giant Shire horses back to Cheddington Station.

ln the mid-1920’s, William Bethell realised that the motor car was in its infancy, and would be ‘the thing’ in years to come, so petrol pumps were installed (BP and Shell), and a car was bought for taxi work. This was a Hotchkiss (made in France), and in due course, it was replaced by a Morris Isis, said to have belonged to the Rothschild family at Tring.

At the beginning of World War II in 1940 Cheddington Airfield was built, the firm of Wimpey being the main contractor. They came to Bethell’s garage for most of their petrol, and often used up nearly all the garages supply in one day, and this at a time when petrol was rationed and supplied through coupons. Joe’s wife, Maud, used to cycle from the garage to Marston Gate Railway station, put her bike in the guards van, and catch the single-track train to Aylesbury. There, she gave the coupons in at the petrol depot, and only then would they come out to re-fill the tanks.

As farmers acquired tractors, traditional blacksmith [farrier’s] work declined, but this was largely oflset by the increase in pony-riding. Bill continued in the blacksmith shop, whilst brother Joe drove the taxi, sold petrol, charged batteries, and repaired bicycles and punctures. Bill retired around 1970, because then there was less business, as customers wanted a travelling blacksmith to go to them.

The business ticked over, with Joe living on the premises. When he finally retired he lived with his daughter, and the premises were sold to Market Garage, Tring. The various buildings were demolished and a modem Ford franchise garage built (totally out of keeping with the village scene). Unfortunately, this coincided with a renewal of petrol rationing in the mid-1970s. The garage was then divided between a re-finishing/spray/vehicle body repair area, and a showroom selling up-market motorcycles, all trading under the name Morphy Motors. They held the agency for Triumph, Gilera and another, but this was not a success, and the buildings were demolished and replaced by houses.

I have an interesting recollection of the Great Train Robbery of 1963 because police arrived to search all premises within a 15-rnile radius of Bridego Bridge. When they examined the hay loft (beneath which two cars were stored), they called the Army Bomb Disposal Squad to remove incendiary devices left by the Home Guard during World War II. These were so crude that boxes of matches were found beside them. The thinking behind this was that the Home Guard would somehow stop enemy tanks advancing down Cheddington Lane. (Yes, Dad’s Army was exactly as you’ve seen it on television.)

I’m asked from time to time where the Go-Kart track was in Long Marston. It was on the Cheddington side of the Cricket Club (about one field back) and remained until July 1960. This was made by linking the concrete areas where bombs had been stored for use by aircraft flying from the World War II Cheddington Airfield. (This is now an Industrial Estate on the opposite side of the road.) How do I know all this? Because Joe Bethell had two daughters - Mary and Jose, and I’ve been lucky enough to have been married to Jose for 45 years.


by Shelley Savage, November 2009

The part of Tring known as Dundale is on the northern edge of the town, bounded by Dundale Road and the B488, the Icknield Way.  John Oliver, a map-maker, drew one of the earliest maps of Hertfordshire and that c.1695 shows the hamlet of Tring, very simply, with a church and three roads.  North of the village is the word “DUNSDELL”.  A map of 1725 by John Warburton shows “DUN DELL”.

In their book “The Landscape of Place Names”, Margaret Gelling and Ann Cole write: “DUN is a hill or upland expanse, or, an uninhabited hill adjacent to a settlement.  DAEL means ‘pit’ or ‘hollow’ and its related word DELL is found referring to very small ‘valleys’, and for natural or artificial hollows.”

Miswell Farm, about 2 kilometres to the east, was once a moated property with a spring that fed the ‘moat’, now a substantial lake.  This and ‘Dundell’ are on the spring line.  Both were exploited in 19th Century by a man who was important in our local history, William Kay, who, in 1824, built a silk mill in Brook Street.  Although the town was already supplied with water this enterprise needed a great deal more. To augment his supplies he drew water from the lake at Miswell and had a tunnel dug from below its surface leading to the hollow at Dundale.  The work was carried out manually by men with pickaxes.  One may assume that he made a substantial bund to dam the water at Dundale.  Then another deep tunnel was dug from the Dundale lake through to the silk mill.  The two lakes, at Miswell and Dundale, were called ‘balancing ponds’, so that the water in both should be maintained at the same level, and this is what happens today.  Since the developments at Dundale in 2001, British Waterways has the responsibility for maintaining the water supply because it feeds the summit of the Grand Union Canal along its connection with the Wendover Arm.

Dundale Lake today

The Rothschilds and Dundale Wood

William Kay’s Estate in Tring was extensive, covering about 3000 acres.  Among its properties was Tring Park, which was let to the Rothschild family in the 1830s and sold to Nathan Rothschild in 1872.  The latter became closely involved with the life of the town and when the Silk Mill closed in 1898, he purchased it from Kay,the lake at Dundale being part of the property.

The site was soon developed as a ‘pleasure garden’.  Dundale Lodge, completed in 1891 (now demolished), was on the northern edge of the land.  It was designed by Tring architect William Huckvale in the traditional local Rothschild style.  This house was designed to allow entertainment for boating and fishing parties on the lake, and a little later a boathouse was built on its edge.  The site was planted with trees along the border of the property and around the lake, many of which remain in place.  An orchard of mixed fruit trees was established, as well as lawns and shrubbery.  The lake was stocked with brown trout, and there were game birds.  Subsequently an avenue was built to connect the pleasure garden with the Tring Park Mansion.

Dundale Lodge

Some details of the pleasure garden are furnished in the auctioneer’s prospectus when it was put up for sale in 1938.  The “picturesque property known as Dundale” comprised a Chalet Style House of brick, half-timbered and rough cast with tiled roof, the accommodation being: a large Garden Room with a cloakroom, a WC and a separate entrance, plus a Sitting Room, a Living Room , a Scullery, fuel barns, washhouse and WC and a Veranda along the whole length of the Garden Front.  The Grounds included “Lawns, Shrubberies Ornamental Water, Valuable Orchard and extensive kitchen Gardens and the area of the whole is about 11.259 acres.”

The schedule for Dundale Cottage and Land was £1,500.00.  The slightly curious, separated ‘large Garden Room’ may be explained by the local rumours of important figures (perhaps from the London aristocracy and royalty who frequented Tring Park at that time) using it for clandestine meetings, where they were provisioned from Tring Park house.

It has been noted that Nathaniel Rothschild (Natty) assembled a fine worldwide collection of conifers at Tring, some planted at Dundale.

The Second World War

The Home Guard was active in Tring in the early years of the war.  Noting that the Icknield Way was a major route, a number of young men constructed large, circular concrete road blocks with iron pipes through the centre.  These were positioned within the wood, adjacent to their defence post, behind the chestnut paling boundary.  The plan was that if the enemy approached in light tanks, the Home Guard would roll the blocks along the ground into the middle of the road, and attack the enemy.

In about 1950 the land was bought by Joseph Eggleton, a local man who loved nature and the song of birds.  He called it his wildlife garden.  He left the area as it was for his own private enjoyment, and that is how an area that had been carefully managed with tree plantings, ornamental shrubs and a garden, left unmanaged for decades, became a secondary wood.

The 21st Century

The site was identified and adopted as a Wildlife Site in Dacorum’s Local Plan, a local designation which triggers protection policies, and a Tree Preservation Order covers the whole site.

In 2001, it was bought by a development company which carried out an ecological survey, and plans were put forward for development of a relatively small section of the land, with the remainder being given to the local authority as a wildlife site.  This was accepted, with restoration of the lake and some basic management of the wood, plus an endowment for its continued care.  The eastern section is fenced off from the public.

Current woodland management means that trees which are culled, or die, are lefl in situ to decay and provide a rich habitat.  Among the wildlife were signs of muntjac deer, and an abundance of grey squirrels.  It may be possible that the Edible Dormouse (the common name for the Glis Glis) was responsible for damage to the swamp cypresses.  A number of badger setts were noted, and bats were known to use the site for foraging.  The ivy clinging abundantly to the trees provides an especially good micro-climate for bats.  Twenty-seven species of birds were recorded during the breeding bird surveys, with over 50 species recorded at the site over a period.  A good number of common frog, common toad and smooth newt were found.

Considerable work has been carried out on the site during and since the development.  There is a path around the lake and public access to the area is from Nathaniel Walk and the Icknield Way.  The lake still has large fish in it, sometimes visible.  The trees especially worth noting are the fine Swamp Cypresses alongside the lake, and the tall Black Pines which can be seen from Tring Park House.


a talk by Dave Hammond reported by Ann Reid, May 2011.


Mr Hammond is a qualified medicinal herbalist.  He had a business for some years but when that finished he didn’t want to retire.  To become a herbalist he had to study at university for four years and then do 500 hours of clinical practice.  He holds clinics in local towns and teaches herbal medicine.  The first picture we saw was taken in the garden of the Jeffrey Museum in London.  It has four herb gardens covering four centuries-16th to 19th.

The Victorian age was one of great change.  At the start of Queen Victoria’s reign 80% of the people lived in villages and men worked on the land.  At the end of the 19th centaury 80% of the people lived in cities.  Life expectancy in the cities was 22 years mainly because two thirds of children died before the age of five.  Alcohol and opium, both of which were easily available, contributed to ill health.  Sherlock Holmes was described as using opium and Charles Dickens said opium gave him “Six delicious hours of oblivion”.

Operations were very basic and the mortality rate was high.  The surgeons had no knowledge of germs, they only washed their hands after performing an operation.  The breakthrough came when Louis Pasteur discovered bacteria in milk and Joseph Lister experimented with anti-sceptics.  Neither were accepted for many years so people were still dying unnecessarily.  Later Marie Curie discovered radium which led to radiotherapy and William Rontgen’s work on the cathode ray tube led to X-rays now widely used in medicine.

Mr Hammond went on to tell us more about herbal medicine used in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  We saw photographs of some of the common herbs.  One, instantly recognisable was the Foxglove, producing digitalis for heart problems.  This is not now widely used, Lily of the Valley being used instead as its easier to define the correct dose.  Other herbs included coltsfoot and liquorice, described as anti-inflammatories and used for calming coughs.  Mint and chamomile also featured in herbal medicine, as did dandelion, plantains and nettles; both stinging and white.

We saw a slide of a Victorian Home Herbal Medicine Book.  Most families had one and recipes included how to make soothing drops from Valerian and the use of Hawthorn flowers and berries in the treatment of minor heart ailments.  The recipes were still used well into the 20th century but things changed with the dawn of the NHS when medicines were free and easily available.  At this time herbalists were treated with some scepticism but now they are more accepted and there are about 1,000 registered in the country.  They all have to have the same rigorous training as Mr Hammond had and are now recognised as medical professionals.  They work in conjunction with doctors.

Our speaker then explained how ointments and creams were made using natural ingredients.  He described a potion using marigold petals mixed with olive oil and beeswax to treat eczema and insect stings.  Using a cafetiere the mixture could be compressed with the plunger and left for a month or so until ready to use.  Rosemary can also be used in this way and is good for rheumatism.  He then demonstrated the technique with an electric hotplate on which he heated olive-oil and beeswax into a paste.  While it was still hot he poured some cold water onto the mixture.  It crackled and bubbled and then, to our surprise and slight amusement, the fire alarm went off in the hall.  Luckily the talk was almost at an end for no-one knew how to turn off the very sophisticated alarm.  We thanked Mr Hammond for a very interesting and well informed talk but we left the hall with a very noisy alarm still ringing in our ears.  It was later turned off by the caretaker!


by John Savage, July 2011
(Read this article with an O.S. Map by your side)

Everybody with an interest in the history of Tring will be aware of its location on the ancient routes of Akeman Street and Icknield Way, the former generally known as Roman and the latter of earlier origins.  A recent discovery of a splendid book, “Roman Roads in the South East Midlands” which details research undertaken in the late 1950s by a group of academics calling themselves The Viatores throws much more light on the subject.  The following is taken from that publication, which is available in the Buckinghamshire County Record Office.

Akeman Street originated as a Belgic route and was adopted as an early road in the Roman system, linking Verulamium with Alchester and Cirencester.  Akeman Street is a generic name for a Roman road meaning “the road to Bath” and comes from the Saxon Acemannesceatre.

Akeman Street actually diverges from the Watling Street near Edgware, with a link from Verulamium joining it at Nash Mills, from whence the route of the Roman road follows the course of the Gade and Bulbourne valleys to Bourne End, but not on the course of the present road until just west of Bourne End church.  From here the routes coincide, through Berkhamsted and Northchurch as far as the junction with Hamberlins Lane at Dudswell.  Here the modern road meanders through Cow Roast, but the Roman road took a direct line, including part of Bottom House Lane, rejoining the modern road just to the northwest of New Ground, at a triangle of waste ground.  Examination of the current Ordnance Survey Explorer Map easily identifies the route, and The Viatores found aggers (embankments) and flint metalling on this section which should still be traceable.  From here, the modern and Roman roads again coincide, with a marked turn of direction at the Pendley lodge, where the Ridgeway Path crosses.  At London Road Lodge in Tring the Roman road continues straight across Tring Park to pick up the line of Park Street and Park Road.  A grassy agger, 45 ft wide and 1 ft high can be seen on the section through the park and a trial hole dug here in 1960 revealed that the metalling consisted of flint and gravel, bound with lime mortar.  This section ceased to be a public road in 1711 when through traffic was diverted via London Road and the High Street.  Ironically, Tring’s present Akeman Street is not on the line of the Roman road, being at right angles to it.  The middle section of the modern Park Road meanders slightly to the north, but the Roman road followed a straight line; The Viatores found evidence of the Roman road on the original course here and it would be interesting to see whether that evidence is still discernable.  Re-joining the modem main road at the Park Road/Western Road junction, the route then makes a 23.5 degrees turn to the northwest at Tring Cemetery setting a straight course all the way to Fleet Marston, to the west of Aylesbury.

Map showing the course of the Akeman Street through Tring (source “Roman Roads in the South East Midlands”)
The junction with the Romanised Icknield Way is at the Western Road/Park Road junction

Lesser known is the Romanised Icknield Way which, in the Tring area at least, does not coincide at all with the modern route.  From the west it coincided with Akeman Street from Aston Clinton to Tring and branched from that route at the Western Road/Park Road junction, coinciding with Western Road as far as its junction with Miswell Lane.  From here it is thought that the Roman road took a straight line to the north of the present Western Road/High Street, picking up the line of Mortimer Hill, which at the time of The Viatores’ survey was a 9 ft wide holloway.  A footpath marked the line across to Grove Road, now all lost to modern development, although interestingly a short length of the public footpath remains linking Sulgrave Crescent with Grove Road, a Roman survivor!  East of Grove Road the line is marked by a hedgerow to the north of Marshcroft Lane, gradually diverging from it.  Here was found occasional signs of the agger and some indications of flint metalling.


The Romanised Icknield Way crossing Grove Road (source “Roman Roads in the South East Midlands”)
The road shown in yellow is Marshcroft Lane

Passing near Folly Farm (where a Roman cemetery was found when the railway was built) the line is then lost through the old cement quarry until it picks up the line of the public footpath running along the eastern edge of the quarry to join the present route of the Ridgeway Path until it meets the Aldbury-Ivinghoe Road.  Here the modern Ridgeway does a dog-leg before heading on to Incombe Hole, but the Roman road continued straight ahead, as indeed did the footpath until diverted further north.  The modern and original routes converge onto a fine terraceway around Incombe Hole.  At the top of the hill the Roman Road does a ninety degree right turn and heads off through the former RAF station at Edlesborough and thence along the line of a lost footpath via Willow Farm and Vallence End Farm to pick up a track along the foot of Dunstable Downs.

Space does not permit the inclusion of all the details of the evidence used to support these findings.  Although some will have been lost to subsequent development, much should remain to be seen for those who wish to investigate, using the original publication (which includes beautifully prepared strip maps of the routes) as a guide.

Footnote: although the research of The Viatores was evidence based, with conjectured lines filling the gaps between hard evidence on or under the ground, some of their findings have subsequently been challenged.  In the case of the two routes relating to Tring the line of Akeman Street seems pretty certain, particularly on the Nash Mills to Fleet Marston section, with just the route through the centre of Aylesbury perhaps less so.  The Romanised Icknield Way could be more open to challenge and it would be interesting if anybody would like to expound further on this.

Ed - see also Roads and those in Tring


The Rose & Crown Inn, Tring
by Wendy Austin, January 2012

Although the Rose & Crown was sniffily described in 1953 by Nikolaus Pevsner, the famous architectural historian, as “architecturally deplorable” it is now considered a much-loved landmark of the town of Tring, and we await with apprehension to hear of the plans for its possible redevelopment.  What we see now is an Edwardian creation designed by Lord Rothschild’s architect, William Huckvale, but this has not always been so.

The first mention of the Rose & Crown, which was owned by the Manor of Tring, is said to be in 1620 when it was in the hands of Thomas Robinson, but it is probably older than that.  The original building was largely Tudor in origin and the overall design followed the general pattern of a complex of buildings ranging round a sizable yard.  Later on, in the early 18th century, a new frontage was erected and old photographs show three stories, a tiled roof, five dormer windows and an archway entrance to the yard at the rear, the whole standing flush to the pavement with its adjacent shops.

The Rose & Crown Inn (immediate right) in the late Victorian era.

A large area of ground behind the hotel accommodated a bowling green as well as providing a venue for fairs and circuses.  An inn of this type was considered a prestigious building and the central focus of the town.  During the next two centuries both members of the Vestry and Excise Office made consistent use of the facilities on offer, and an entry in the Vestry Minutes of 17 January 1711 records “William Gore Esq. [owner of Tring Park] proposes that this Vestry be adjourned to the Rose & Crown to consider and order all other parish affairs that shall be thought needed”.  In the 17th century the establishment was owned by a well-known Tring family named Axtell who started to issue their own trade tokens.  [These tokens came into use because ‘the man in the street’ had a problem - there was no official small change for use in the market place, and innkeepers in particular were at a disadvantage and many began to issue their own coins.]  Those from the Rose & Crown were stamped with “William Axtell. His Half Penny” and the obverse side “1668 of Tring” and the sign of the crowned Rose.  Beer and porter were brewed on the premises from the 17th century to about 1865, when the beer coolers were removed to 15 Akeman Street.  On William Axtell’s death an inventory of his possessions disclose that he was a comparatively wealthy man, the inn fully furnished on three floors; fully stocked cellars and brewhouses; a woodhouse; a chaise barn and harness room; and outbuildings for horses and cattle.

The 18th century saw the Golden Age of coaching and, Tring being on a busy route to London, meant the fortunes of the Rose & Crown increased accordingly.  The Despatch, Sovereign, and King William from Aylesbury, Leamington, and Kidderminster called daily, and the inn’s own coach The Good Intent ran to London three times a week.  Such was the increase in traffic that two other inns close by, the Plough and the Bell, provided extra stabling. The advent of the railways must have affected trade but, ever enterprising, the landlord in 1852 opened ‘the booking office of the London & North Western Railway’, and a horse-drawn omnibus [see pictured below] carried passengers the one-and-a-half miles to and from Tring Station.

The new Rose & Crown Inn by Tring architect William Huckvale.
The horse bus in the foreground ran a service to and from Tring Station, 1½ miles distant.

In the Victorian age more prosperity came to Tring, and in 1904 the townsfolk made an approach to Lord Rothschild, the Lord of the Manor, with the suggestion that he should enhance the town with a first-class hotel which they considered would benefit all.  He readily agreed, his action being reminiscent of the medieval habit by which a landed lord erected additional accommodation to house the influx of travellers whom by custom were his guests; the new hotel had the added benefit of providing bedrooms for his personal overflow of guests from Tring Park.  When building work was complete the finished hotel, with an imposing mock-Tudor facade well set back from the road, was promptly handed over to the Hertfordshire Public House Trust, an organisation promoted by the Home Secretary, Lord Grey, to provide hotels with added sporting facilities.  And so the hotel has remained until the present day when the need for such hotels in the centre of country towns has almost disappeared, motorists preferring out-of-town travel lodges with parking facilities and standard accommodation.  At the moment, we can only ‘Watch This Space’.

THE LATEST PLANS . . . . are indeed to abandon the hotel and convert the building into apartments with, perhaps, retail outlets and restaurants on the ground floor (Gazette 23 Nov 2011)


by Time Amsden, January 2012.


Tring Memorial Garden

The history of Tring is closely bound up with that of the manorial estate of Tring Park, the origins of which pre-date the Norman invasion of 1066.  Much of the land around the centre of the town belonged to it and some indeed still does.  For the last three centuries it has centred on the Mansion.

Well into the 19th century the hamlet of Lower Dunsley could be found at the eastern end of the town, on the edge of Tring Park and close to the Mansion.  Its only street was effectively a southerly continuation of Brook Street.  In 1872 the Tring Park Estate was bought by the Rothschild family.  Nathaniel, first Lord Rothschild, did not wish to have a village in such proximity and in 1885 he had most of it demolished and its residents rehoused.

Liddington’s Manor Brewery and adjacent houses at the foot of the High Street remained until 1896 when they too were demolished and a wall was built to enclose the land.  Further up the slope stood the Green Man Inn, which lasted until the death of the landlord, John Woodman, in 1903.  It was then demolished and the wall was continued so that the whole area was taken into the Mansion grounds to create a water garden.  A lake was formed as a lily pond and trees including the huge Wellingtonia were planted.

The third Lord Rothschild put much of the Estate up for sale in 1938 although the Mansion and the park were retained.  During the Second World War the Mansion was used as offices of the family banking business and subsequently became a school.  The water garden evidently became derelict during these years.

After the war, many people in Tring including Councillor Robert Grace were keen to create something permanent to act as a memorial to those who had lost their lives and a thanksgiving for those who had survived the conflict. In 1947 a questionnaire showed that a Garden of Remembrance was the most popular suggestion and a committee was formed to raise funds.  It was agreed that the Mansion’s water garden was the ideal place for such a purpose and by 1950 the land had been transferred into the ownership of Tring Urban District Council.  The ground was cleared, the lake bed resurfaced and simple planting carried out.  An opening was made in the wall at the point where it met the 1711 wall across the Mansion vista.  Gates were made by Bushell Brothers’ boatyard at New Mill and the archway reading “Memorial Garden” was made by Hampshire and Oakley of Chapel Street.  The Garden was unveiled in June 1953 to coincide with the Queen’s coronation and dedicated by the vicar of Tring, the Reverend Lowdell.

In 1973 Tring Urban District was merged into the newly formed Dacorum District and most of its properties, including the Memorial Garden, were transferred to the new council. Simultaneously, Tring Town Council was formed with specific responsibilities such as allotments and other matters unique to the parish.

By the mid-1980s the Garden again presented a forlorn appearance.  People were reluctant to go there because the planting had become dense and gloomy.  A scheme for the improvement of Tring High Street, drawn up by Derek Rogers Associates and promoted by Tring Town Council in 1987, recommended that trees should be thinned and the entrance reconsidered.  Dacorum Borough Council agreed to undertake this work and many trees, especially yews, were removed.  A length of wall was taken down, a new planting bed was created alongside the High Street and the gateway repositioned, with new gates made to replicate the old ones.  The work was carried out in 1989-90 with the restored Memorial Garden unveiled by the Mayor of Dacorum in June 1990.

The same report observed that the self-seeded trees behind the adjoining vista wall were overgrown and detracted from the setting of the Mansion. The Arts Educational School removed the trees, bringing the house back into view.  The fourth Lord Rothschild presented Tring Town Council with a strip of land in front of the wall and this was then paved and bollarded, greatly enhancing the appearance of this part of the town.

In 2001 the lake had to be drained and the fish evacuated when it was found necessary to repair a crack in the concrete base. Members of the Tring branch of the Royal British Legion attended a reopening ceremony, and presented plaques listing the names of those men from the town killed in World War II. These are mounted on the brick gate-pillars at the entrance to the garden. Further work was carried out to the lake in 2011, giving it a more natural appearance and installing a fountain.

Tim Amsden,
with acknowledgments to Wendy Austin and Mike Bass

Dacorum Borough Council is hoping to achieve Green Flag status for the Gardens, which will be officially ‘re-opened’ sometime in March.  The overall plan is to create more flower beds, enhance the area with new trees, and remove some of the overgrown bushes and trees.  The Green Flag Award® scheme is the benchmark national standard for parks and green spaces in the UK.  It was first launched in 1996 to recognise and reward the best green spaces in the country.


by John Savage, March 2012.

Today Tring station enjoys a more frequent train service (4 per hour off-peak, and even 2 per hour for most of Sundays) than at any time during its 174 year history, so it is interesting to compare this with the service provided by the London & North Western Railway in 1895, as seen in Bradshaw’s Guide.

There were then 12 trains a day to Euston on weekdays (with 14 from Euston of which one required a change at Watford) and 5 (3 from Euston) on Sundays.  Additionally there was a late night facility from London on Tuesdays when the midnight train to Glasgow stopped at Tring, to set down only, on informing the guard at Willesden.  Fascinatingly, this train made a different request stop each night; Leighton (as the station was then called, being renamed Leighton Buzzard on 1 July 1911) on Mondays, Tring on Tuesdays, Boxmoor on Wednesdays, Berkhamsted on Thursdays, Bletchley on Fridays and Kings Langley and Wolverton on Saturdays.

Another interesting addition to the service was the 5.00pm Euston to Wolverhampton train, scheduled to run non-stop from Watford Junction to Leighton, but which would stop at Tring to set down First Class passengers only on notification to the guard at Willesden!

Business travel was quite well provided for with trains to London at 7.36am, 8.43am, 8.57am and 9.30am with a similar provision in the evening.  At other times the frequency was sparse with gaps of over two hours between trains.  Considering the relatively few trains, rather bizarrely two of the trains to London ran within 5 minutes of each other (at 6.58pm and 7.03pm).

Compared to today where trains generally take 35 or 42 minutes (with the fastest at 30 minutes) between Tring and Euston, the times in 1895 were considerably slower.  Most trains took about an hour and a quarter, with the slowest all-stations taking almost one and a half hours.  However, some of the trains at business times were quicker, making the journey in just under an hour.

The trains serving Tring went to and from quite a diverse set of places.  On weekdays the trains to London originated from Bletchley (x4) and one each from Liverpool, Stafford, Nuneaton, Rugby, Northampton, Leighton, Cheddington and Tring.  From London the Tring trains went to Bletchley (x7), Tring (x2), Cheddington (from Watford), Leighton, Northampton (x2) and Wolverhampton.  On Sundays the trains to London originated from Bletchley (x2), Wolverhampton (x2) and Birmingham.  From London the meagre three trains went to Rugby (x2) and Leighton.  I should mention that this information is as best I can deduce because in those days generally the timetable confusingly did not differentiate between through and connecting services.

We will now look at the stations between Tring and Euston in 1895 and how they have changed since:
BERKHAMSTED (no change)
BOXMOOR (variously and erratically later Boxmoor & Hemel Hempstead, Boxmoor for Hemel Hempstead, Hemel Hempstead & Boxmoor and Hempstead; settling on Hemel Hempstead 1963/4)
KINGS LANGLEY (the intermediate Apsley was a late addition, opened by the LMS on 26 September 1938)
BUSHEY (renamed Bushey & Oxhey 1 Dec. 1912 and back to Bushey 6 May 1974)
PINNER (renamed Pinner & Hatch End on 1 February 1897, Hatch End for Pinner on 1 February 1920 and Hatch End on 11 June 1956.  Now only served by Euston- Watford local trains).  The remains of the old main line platform are still visible from the train.
HARROW (renamed Harrow & Wealdstone 1 May 1897)
SUDBURY & WEMBLEY (renamed Wembley for Sudbury 1 November 1910 and Wembley Central 5 July 1948)
WILLESDEN JUNCTION (main line platforms closed 3 December 1962)
QUEENS PARK (no change)
KILBURN & MAIDA VALE (Closed 1 January 1917, reopened on same site as Kilburn High Road 1 August 1923.  Now only served by Euston- Watford local trains)
LOUDOUN ROAD (Closed 1 January 1917). Later South Hampstead opened at same location; remains of old station on main line still visible from the train.
CHALK FARM (Closed 10 May 1915).

All of the then intermediate stations were served by some trains to/from Tring, indeed some stopped at all of them!  Willesden Junction was then an important interchange with the radial North London Line to Broad Street (for the City), Kensington, Clapham Junction and through trains to the District Railway; almost all trains, including long distance expresses, called there.

Fares in 1895 were: Tring-Euston (single) 5 shillings First Class and 3s 4d Second Class.  Third Class (known as “Parliamentary” or “Gov” in the timetable because regulated by statute to 1d per mile) was 2s 7
½d, exactly based on the 31½ miles (rounded down to the nearest half mile) distance.  In the reverse of today, in the early days of railways far more First Class tickets were issued than any others, with Third Class trailing very much behind.  No doubt the poor and working classes neither had the need nor means to travel.

In this time before bus services the railway would also have been the means of travel from Tring to Aylesbury, by changing at Cheddington (originally Aylesbury Junction) onto the branch line (the world’s first branch line, incidentally) from there.  Indeed in earlier days there is evidence of through trains from Tring to Aylesbury.  The intermediate station on the branch line at Marston Gate (on the Long Marston-Wingrave road) was usually shown as a “signal” stop, i.e. by informing the guard if you wished to get off or signalling the train to stop if you wished to board.

Finally, a lovely snippet from the timetable.  The “Irish Boat Express”, 9.30am Euston to Holyhead which ran non-stop from Watford Junction to Northampton, conveyed a slip-coach, when required, for Leighton during the Hunting Season.  (A slip-coach was a carriage attached to the end of a train, cast loose as the train approached the due station, and brought to a halt by a guard with a hand brake).  To cater for such hunting parties to return from Leighton the afternoon “Birmingham Express” would “stop by signal at Leighton to take up Hunting Parties during the Season.”


by Sandra Costello, July2013.

Polish servicemen and World War II

The heroic part played by Polish airmen, soldiers and sailors on the side of the Allies during World War II is well known.  However from the early days of the War, Western Poland was occupied by Germany and Eastern Poland by Russia.  When peace returned to Europe in 1945 all Poland was behind the Iron Curtain.

With the war over, most Polish servicemen did not want to return to what they regarded as occupied Poland.  One of the options offered to them was assistance to start a new life with their families in Britain.  Many took advantage of this and as a result some 30,000 Polish people came to live in Britain, where some 40 hostels were made available to house them in camps left empty by the running down of British forces.  Life was very difficult for them: many had been forced for years to live in communal conditions, and among them were many children who had never experienced normal life.  Those who came to Britain had to try to assume again the responsibilities of independent people, but in a strange land and with a different language.

The Polish Hostel at Marsworth

Some 900 Polish people, including whole families, came to Marsworth in 1948, and were first accommodated in huts on the perimeter of Cheddington Airfield at the end of Church Farm Lane.  After about five years the camp was relocated to a bigger and better site once used by the RAF, then by the US Air Force, off Long Marston Road.  Food was cooked in central kitchens and eaten in communal dining halls for the first two or three years, until cooking stoves could be installed in the accommodation occupied by each family.  The huts did not have running water, and internal partitions were few.

Affect on Marsworth

To begin with the village of Marsworth, with a population of only 316, objected to this huge influx.  However according to a report in the Bucks Advertiser of 1949, “Already the people of Marsworth village have accepted them as ordinary families” and the Polish people “now live happily in Marsworth”.

With the number of Poles exceeding the population of Marsworth by nearly three times, the small local school did not have room for the extra children.  A school was therefore set up at the hostel where virtually everyone, irrespective of age, attended classes to learn English.  One of the huts was converted to a chapel and many community activities were carried on, including football, volleyball, a youth club, women’s circle, and a Polish ex-servicemen’s association.

The people of Marsworth were able to mix with the Polish community by attending the dances, cinema and other entertainments held at the hostel.  This was a great help as the Poles were keen to learn how British people lived.

The end of the camp

In the 1950s those at the hostel were eager for homes of their own and a more normal life as part of the British community.  In their preparations for moving out of the hostel they learned a lot from local people who helped them to gain confidence and make contacts.  Those who were able to work found jobs and this was made easier when some employers provided transport in a variety of vehicles from and to the Hostel.  Contacts at work speeded up the learning of English as well as improving knowledge of life outside the Hostel.

The numbers living at the camp reduced steadily as families found work and homes elsewhere, with the largest numbers leaving in the first couple of years.  In 1957 the Marsworth school roll included the names of 25 Polish children, indicating that the school at the hostel had closed.  By the late 1950s numbers had dwindled sufficiently for the few remaining to be accommodated elsewhere, and the camp to be closed.  The field that housed it has since been returned to agriculture and all that remains is some concrete.  The only real legacy of the Polish presence in Marsworth is some 15 graves in the churchyard of All Saints Church.  Those buried in the churchyard were mostly drowned — they swam in the reservoirs, which were not allowed, but they could not read the warning notices.  Whenever there was a Polish funeral, all the Poles from the camp turned out and the procession would stretch all the way from the Camp to the Church.

For the Polish people, Marsworth was a pleasant village where they were able to find security and become independent persons again, and that gave assistance when it was needed after the horrors of war.

Polish return

In September 2008, Stanislaw Jakubas, now an Assistant Professor at Krakow Academy of Fine Arts, paid a return visit to Marsworth.  He was born in 1948 at Bedford Hospital; his parents were then living at the first of the two Polish camps — ‘Site Twelve’, situated opposite Church Farm House.  He recollected the various ‘barracks’, but his memory was sketchy as he was very young.  He also remembered attending kindergarten at a building in Church Farm Lane opposite the airfield (now long since returned to pasture).  He especially remembered playing with another young boy, Ross Miller of Church Farm.

After about five years the Polish people were relocated to a bigger and better camp situated near Bluebells, on a field bordered by a concrete road leading towards Wilstone.  He recollected the layout of this camp, with its coal store at the entrance, the various barrack buildings, the laundry and chapel.  He attended Marsworth School, and also remembered a large building then situated opposite Lower End garage where concerts, etc. had been held on a stage.

In 1956 Stanislaw went with his family to live in Canada.  He didn’t want to lose touch with his friend Ross, so he sent him a letter in a bottle which he threw overboard.  The bottle was picked up 10 months later on the Irish coast.  Apparently this story made the BBC News and was reported widely in the local press.

‘Site 12’ was down a long lane close to the airfield and near a yellowish brick farmhouse with several barns.  The main site was close to a canal.  If you go to HP23 4NF on Google Earth you should be able to see the latter site from the air.  There is nothing there now as all the buildings have been cleared for farming.


by John Savage

1st March marked the 100th anniversary of Tring’s first motor bus service on which date in 1914 the London & North Western Railway took over the station route.

The station bus service, the earliest in Tring, started when the station opened in 1837.  It was to be over 80 years before any other buses served the town.  The horse buses were operated by local people and by 1899 we know that the service was terminating in the back streets at the “King’s Arms” probably where the horses were kept.  Change came in 1903 when the Tring Omnibus Company was formed to take over the service; all the directors and shareholders were local people.  A new omnibus was purchased for £99.15s and £300 compensation paid to the previous operator, C & J M Buckle.  Lord Rothschild soon joined the board, suggesting that his financial support was already necessary.  By 1906 the company was in financial difficulties, and in 1907 resolved to go into voluntary liquidation.

An unlikely rescuer came in the form of the Home Counties Public Trust House (a forerunner of Trust House and Trust House Forte) who owned “The Rose & Crown” and who took over the service, terminating at the “Britannia” PH.  In 1911 they proposed extending the service to the Cemetery Gates in Aylesbury Road, but it is not clear whether this actually happened; certainly in 1913 it was curtailed at the “Rose & Crown” from the “Britannia”.

In 1914 the HCPHT gave notice that they were discontinuing the service as they too had been unable to make it pay.  Tring Urban District Council requested that the London & North Western Railway take on the service, which they duly did.  The new motor bus service terminated at the Cemetery Gates and provided a “frequent” service between 8.00am and 9.30pm.  With the grouping of the railways in 1923 the service passed to the London Midland & Scottish Railway which, in 1928, extended some journeys (on Fridays and Saturdays) to Aldbury.  By 1929 the service had again been curtailed at the “Britannia”.  Books of 24 or 50 tickets could be bought from the station at a discount, and there were also monthly season tickets.

With the imminent creation of the London Passenger Transport Board the LMS sold out its local bus services to London General Country Services in April 1933.  LGCS changed the terminus to Beaconsfield Road and gave it the route number 317.  In July 1933 it thus passed to the LPTB (London Transport) who soon renumbered it (by January 1934) to the familiar 387.  Later in 1934 they gave the Tring Station to Aldbury section (still Fridays and Saturdays only) a separate number, 387A, although this silliness ceased in 1935 with all the service again becoming 387.

The more recent history is another story; other than to say that, apart from an interregnum from 1985 to 2002 when the route was numbered 27, it has stayed as the 387 to this day.


by Ian Petticrew, July 2016.

The development of gas lighting in the 19th century had a dramatic impact on people’s domestic and working lives.  Gas provided a far more efficient and economic form of lighting than the candles and oil lamps that preceded it.

In 1812, the London and Westminster Gas Light & Coke Company became the first public gas manufacturing utility and it proceeded to spread gas lighting through London’s poorly lit streets, an innovation that soon became popular elsewhere.  The first town in our area to acquire a gasworks was Aylesbury.  In 1834 the Aylesbury Gas Company began operations on a site located at Hale Leys.  Gas became available at Hemel Hempstead in 1835 when a gasworks was opened in Bury Road.  In 1849, the Great Berkhamsted Gas Light & Coke Co. was set up to provide street lighting; and then . . . .


A public meeting will be held on Thursday evening next, March 14th 1850, at the Commercial Hall at 7 o’clock to take into consideration the report of Mr. Atkins on the practicability of introducing Gas into the Town.

The advertised meeting was well attended and ended with the unanimous decision being taken “That in the opinion of this meeting it is desirable that gas should be introduced into the Town of Tring”.  A committee was formed comprising William Brown, Frederick Butcher, H. S. Rowbotham, Henry Faithfull and Alexander Parkes to “ascertain the practicability of establishing a Gas Company in this Town.”  It was decided that the prospective company would require capital of £2,000, to be raised in £10 shares, and that each director would need to hold at least five shares to qualify.

At this stage a site for the Gasworks had yet to be found, so the directors took Atkins on a conducted tour of the Town during which a former gravel pit on Brook Street was identified as a suitable location.  The gravel pit was the property of David Evans, owner of the Silk Mill, who agreed to sell part of it to the Company for £60.

Construction went ahead and gas was first released into the mains in September 1850 . . .

On Wednesday last, the town of Tring was all in a bustle, in consequence of that being the night which was fixed upon by Mr. T. Atkins, of Oxford, the contractor, to light the gas for the first time.  Great preparations were made to celebrate the event, and an immense concourse of people was present.  The men who had been employed at the works were sumptuously regaled with a supper, at the Green Man Inn.

In gasworks of the time coal provided the raw material.  Wagonloads were delivered by rail to Tring Station and carted to the gasworks by local hauliers.  Gas was then extracted by baking the coal in enclosed ovens called ‘retorts’ in which the coal was starved of oxygen to prevent it burning.  This process produced a crude gas that contained unwanted substances, such as sulphur, that had to be removed by purification before the gas could be released into the mains.  Other by-products were useful and could be sold, including coke and coal tar - when motor vehicles arrived and measures had to be taken to seal road surfaces to prevent dust and mud being thrown up by this new faster-moving traffic, coal tar mixed with granite chippings became a popular road-surfacing material.

For over a century coal gas was manufactured at the Brook Street gasworks on the site now being developed as a block of luxury flats (old gasworks sites are generally heavily contaminated - decontamination of the Tring site cost £400,000 before building could begin).  Many local businessmen served as the Company’s directors until, in 1930, the Company was sold to outside interests.  In 1948 the Tring Gas Company (as it had become) was nationalised and incorporated into the Southern Gas Board. Then, in April 1957 the following notice appeared in The Bucks Herald . . . .

Tring gas now comes from Oxford. For 105 years the 5,000 people of Tring have had a gasworks, but Southern Gas now pipe from Oxford.

By then coal gas had a limited life.  In 1967 the first natural gas arrived from the North Sea and over the next 10 years British Gas carried out a massive programme to convert gas appliances to burn this new type of fuel.  Tring converted to natural gas in January 1969.  For some years a large gasholder marked the site of the Tring gasworks, but now all that remains is the former gasworks manager’s house (by local architect William Huckvale).



by Wendy Austin, September 2016.

Originally most men of influence in the City of London lived near their workplace, but as they grew wealthier, they started to consider more congenial surroundings for their families.  The age of commuting was born, mainly with a north-westerly trend, as the lack of river bridges delayed development southwards.  In spite of the discomforts of coach travel at that time, these men of substance began to buy country estates when a deer park was a highly desirable status symbol.  In 1702, Henry Guy’s property, the Tring Park estate, became available and was purchased by Sir William Gore.

Both figuratively and literally Sir William was very much a bigwig in the City, for in 1692 he had been knighted at The Guildhall by William III.  In the same year that saw the arrival in Tring of Sir William and his lady, he achieved the supreme appointment of Lord Mayor of London and, to mark this event, the traditional splendid procession and pageant had progressed through the streets of the City.  The gilded coach was proceeded by elaborate horse-drawn floats carrying figures from mythology depicting finance and enterprise.  Among his business concerns Sir William numbered a place on the committee of the East India Company, and was a founder member of the Bank of England, his only setback being a failed attempt to be elected as Tory candidate for the City of London.

Daniel Defoe, passing through Tring on his travels, reported “at Tring is a most delicious house, built å la moderne ” which referred to the mansion purchased by Sir William.  It had been erected in the 1680s to a plain but pleasing design, said to be that of Sir Christopher Wren.  Surrounded by a small deer park, it had gardens described as “of unusual form and beauty”.  Sir William’s healthy income soon allowed him to buy another 300 acres to add to his estate.  He and Lady Gore, together with their eight surviving children, presumably settled in happily and started to enjoy the wide vistas of parkland, with a backdrop of the beautiful beech woods along the Chiltern escarpment.

As we all know, even when one finds the ideal property, there is always a snag — at the Tring Park mansion the problem was traffic.  The main road through the town at that time followed a route to the south of the house, passing in front of the windows of the chief reception rooms.  The elegant walnut furniture and Delft china probably rattled as coaches and wagons rumbled by and, an even worse horror, the general populace could catch a glimpse of the family dining.  This state of affairs was swiftly rectified when Sir William’s son inherited the estate, and petitioned to move and sink the level of the road to the other side of the house.  As this then became the route of Tring High Street, today’s traffic congestion in the town can be blamed firmly on William Gore junior.

He had not waited too long to gain his inheritance, for by 1707 both parents were dead.  Ever a dutiful son, he erected in Tring Church an enormous memorial.  Their life-sized marble effigies are attired in the height of early-18th century finery, Sir William wearing an immense and elaborate periwig.  Accompanied by a graceful gesture of his hand, he is discoursing to his wife, who stares stonily ahead into space.  Having now heard her husband’s stories for almost 300 years, she is probably entitled to look a trifle bored (below).

The Gore memorial, Tring Parish Church

In due course, Tring was also chosen for his retirement home by an eminent banker.  In 1931 Sir Gordon Nairne did not expect to own anything so grand as a mansion in a park, for his origins were modest, and his success in life had been built upon his own ability, application, and integrity.  He was a son of Scotland, born in Castle Douglas and, after working in Glasgow, he entered the Bank of England in 1880, and served there for fifty years until his retirement.  His talent for financial management was recognised at the comparatively early age of 41 when he was appointed Chief Cashier.  Perhaps Gordon then allowed his grave features a twitch of a smile of pride on the first occasion that he saw bank notes bearing his own signature.  The novelty must have worn off, for he held the post for sixteen years, and part of this time covered the critical period of the Great War.  This was especially difficult for banking as the Treasury issued currency notes through the Bank of England in almost unlimited amounts, with inevitable inflationary effects.  The Bank was in safe hands however, and Gordon Nairne received his deserved reward.  In 1917 he was created a baronet, and the following year appointed to the newly-created post of Comptroller.  A Directorship followed in 1925, Sir Gordon being the first member of staff to achieve this position.  His wise guidance was appreciated elsewhere too, as he was honoured by other countries, including France, Belgium and Japan.

When he left the Bank in 1931 he and Lady Nairne sought a pleasant home in the country.  Their choice fell on The Furlong, a large house of unremarkable design in Park Road, built in the late Victorian period by a wealthy vicar of Tring.  The couple entered into the life of the town, dutifully undertaking the worthy sort of community activities that were expected from people in their position.  Sir Gordon remained a busy man, serving as a Governor of the BBC, and as one of His Majesty’s Lieutenants for the City of London; he also found time for his favourite pastime of horse-riding.  After a happy retirement he died in 1945 aged 84, and was buried in his family’s grave at Putney Vale cemetery.  Later, The Furlong became an annexe of a convent school, and was then demolished in the 1980s to be rebuilt as retirement apartments.

For the time being, Tring’s ‘moneymen’ have departed.  It remains to be seen whether the twenty-first century will see yet another eminent man of finance wishing to spend his annual bonus on an expensive property and put down roots in our town.


by Wendy Austin, July 2018.

Forget the dominating and magnificent edifice on the south side of Kensington Gore in London, as many and varied were the structures erected to the memory of Albert, the Prince Consort.  Some people may not know that one such existed in Tring; unsurprisingly, it can be found in Albert Street.

Its origins are obscure, but by the 1880s local newspaper accounts show the hall served a useful purpose as a venue for various events and meetings.  For example, the Mothers’ Union gathered in the hall; the Church Lads’ Brigade used it for band practice; William Brown, the land agent and auctioneer, held sales there; technical classes were run by Dr Spurway, who lectured on sanitation, nursing, and first-aid, all of which were described as “useful to the wives and daughters of working men”.

It also served as a useful space in which to hold bazaars and rummage sales.  At that time, the latter were obviously a novelty, as one account shows it was necessary to explain to readers exactly what a ‘rummage sale’ was.  The account reads:

“ .... .. on Saturday 25th ult, the Albert Hall presented a remarkable scene.  At the invitation of the Vicar, the parishioners had ‘rummaged out’ the contents of their attics, storerooms, closets and dark corners and had collected what had been cast aside as worn-out and useless, to be sent to the Hall, to be sold for the benefit of the fund from which the little expenses of the Parish Charities are defrayed.  On the previous day, the donkey cart of Cogger, the sexton, perambulated the town going from house to house collecting the things that had been turned out for the sale . . . . . . . .”


The Albert Hall also became the central point for the serving of what were known as ‘Penny Dinners’.  Organised by Tring District Visiting, a national C. of E. charity organisation, cardboard tickets (later metal discs) were distributed to the more deserving children of the town by their school teachers, these tokens to be exchanged for a nourishing meal.  The food and money was donated by well-off citizens of the town, the subscription list being headed, of course, by Lord Rothschild.  According to the late Ron Kitchener, the meals were plain but sustaining, e.g. pea soup, Irish stew and rice or jam pudding, he goes on to quote that in the first year of the scheme, 1,307 tokens were issued.

By the end of the century many other general gathering places had sprung up in Tring, and possibly the hall became under-used, as the premises were then shared with Henry Stevens, a town councillor who owned a shoe shop at No.15 High Street.  He set up a small factory in the Albert Hall which he called ‘The Shoe Mart’ and advertised his wares for sale in The Tring Gazette; examples of his boots and shoes were also exhibited with great pride at Tring Agricultural Show and other such events.  This operation was closed down and sold in 1899.

The former Salvation Army hall in Albert Street, February 2014

A year later the premises became a meeting place for members of Tring Salvation Army who, up until then, had worshipped in what was described as “a draughty uncomfortable little carpenter’s shop”; the Albert Hall then became known as The Barracks.  What happened over the next 20 years is unclear, as an advertisement of 1924 states that the premises were owned by Messrs. Rodwell & Sons who offered it for auction citing that it was ‘a good site for a small factory or similar’, but even so it failed to attract a purchaser.  But a little later the premises were acquired by the Salvation Army, and approval for erection of a new building, at an estimated cost of £1,550, on the site of the Albert Hall was granted in July 1926, with demolition a few months later.  The following year The War Cry was able to report on the opening ceremony of the new Citadel:

“ .... .. for some years the comrades of Tring have laboured under the disadvantage of having no permanent building in which to hold their meetings.  This came to an end last Saturday when, amid scenes of enthusiasm mingled with praise and gratitude to God, they entered their new Citadel .........”

There was good reason for ‘enthusiasm’ as the Tring branch of the Salvation Army had waited 38 years before attaining its own meeting place.  Major modernisation of the premises were carried out in 2001, but the history of the Salvation Army in the town came to an end in 2014 when the building then became an arts and education centre.  It now serves as Tring’s Yoga Studio.


that might have been,
by Ian Petticrew, September 2018.

The street tramway arrived in Britain in 1860 when American entrepreneur George Train opened a short line at Birkenhead.  It was not long before most of Britain’s cities and towns of any size had trams.

Motive power was at first provided by horses, but in an age of steam attempts were soon made to use it to replace animals.  The small steam ‘tram engines’ that resulted were expensive to run and maintain, so when more compact and efficient electric traction became feasible in the 1890s it quickly replaced steam.

However, one steam tramway survived longer than others.  The 2
½-mile Wolverton and Stony Stratford Tramway opened in 1887 to bring workers from outlying districts into the London & North Western Railway’s large carriage works at Wolverton.  It ran until 1926 earning the dual distinctions of having the largest trailer cars in Britain (seating 100 passengers) and being our last steam-worked street tramway.

The Wolverton steam tramway

In 1887, reports appeared in the local press of a plan to build a tramway linking Tring Station, via the town, with Aylesbury — whether the system was to be steam or horse powered is not mentioned, but taking account of the length of the line and its gradients, steam seems likely.  At the same time a grander scheme was announced for a steam tramway linking Hemel Hempstead, Boxmoor, Chesham, Berkhamstead and Northchurch.  Descriptions of the route and its gradients held in the Hertfordshire Archives show that detailed surveying was carried out before the scheme was announced.  The line was to commence opposite the goods entrance to Tring Station, cross the Grand Junction Canal over the existing bridge and proceed up Station Road (gradient 1:65) to Tring Lodge, after which it would descend (1:20) to Brook Street.  The line would climb steeply at Frogmore Street (1:18) followed by a gradual ascent to the summit of Tring Hill (1:48) before descending (l :20) to the Vale of Aylesbury, after which the route to the Aylesbury terminus was comparatively level (1:100).

Press reports do not mention the extent to which the scheme was supported by the townsfolk, but there were some objectors:

THE TRAMWAY SCHEME. — A Tring correspondent writes: We understand that Lord Rothschild, Mr. Williams, and other owners of property in the narrow part of the High-street have objected on public grounds to the laying of the Tramway there. Even with the present traffic the street is narrow and insufficient, and accidents, especially on market days, are not infrequent. The promoters will, it is thought, abandon the scheme, without incurring the expense which opposition at a later stage of the order would entail upon them.

Bucks Herald, 17th November 1887.

When the Tring Local Board met to discuss the scheme, their main concern was that part of the High Street was too narrow to meet statutory requirements:

LOCAL BOARD.— The Clerk read several sections of the Tramways’ Act, 1870, which referred to the position of the Board with regard to the persons interested in that portion of the High-street which was too narrow to allow the required width on each side of the rails.— Mr. Elliman thought they should not forget that the tramways would give facilities for getting about, and that they were generally advantageous to a town. It might be the wish of the townspeople to have the tramway.— After some discussion, the Clerk was directed to issue a circular, drawing the attention of the inhabitants to section 9 of the Act of 1870, which provides for the case in which the street is too narrow to admit a width of “9 feet 6 inches between the outside of the footpath on either side of the roadway and the nearest rail of the tramway.”

Bucks Herald, 3rd December 1887.

The Tring and Aylesbury Tramway scheme was finally laid to rest when its promoters met Lord Rothschild, whose main objection to the tramway was that it would not be a financial success.  How this would affect anyone other than the scheme’s promoters and shareholders is unclear, for they would probably have been required to arrange a bond to cover the cost of road clearance should the scheme fail.  The following newspaper report also refers to other objections, which presumably included the narrowness of the High Street, while local folklore has it that his Lordship objected to trams passing his residence:

THE PROPOSED TRAMWAYS SCHEME.— It is stated that Mr. Wilkinson, the promoter of these schemes, accompanied by the solicitor and the engineer, had an interview with Lord Rothschild, Messrs. Leopold and Alfred de Rothschild being also present, at New Court, St. Swithin’s-lane, on , Wednesday, as to the proposed line from Tring to Aylesbury, and that his Lordship having intimated that the line would not receive his support because, among other objections to the scheme, he considered it was a line which would not be a financial success, it was decided to abandon the project.  But as his Lordship at the same time intimated that he felt certain that the line from Chesham to Hempstead would be supplying a long-felt want to the district, and also prove a certain commercial success, it has been decided to press forward the project with the upmost vigour.

Bucks Herald, 24th December 1887.

What is surprising is that the tramway promoters appear not to have foreseen such predictable obstacles before incurring surveying, planning and legal expenses.  To modern eyes it might also seem extraordinary that his Lordship’s word should carry such weight in the matter, but this was an age in which the peerage was considerably more influential than today, as is evidenced by the London & Birmingham Railway’s application to Parliament in 1832, which was thrown out — at great cost to the Company — by Lord Brownlow of Ashridge and a coterie of peers who had no more justification than they happened not to like railways.

As for the Hemel steam tramway scheme, it too sank without trace.  Newspaper reports suggest that although it met with public approval, there were also influential objectors among who was Sir Astley Paston-Cooper, a landowner in the Hemel area (whose ancestor’s objections had helped cause the route of London & Birmingham Railway to be changed).  Cooper, it appears, “thought the tramway horrid.  People in London liked to come into the country to enjoy the peace and quiet there, but would they come if a beastly tramway were introduced?”  The Hemel scheme did obtain its Act of Parliament, but despite overcoming that legal obstacle to its construction it was abandoned, probably owing to lack of finance.



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