Sleepy village of Watford is rich in history - Memory Lane picture special

Watford could be considered a typical sleepy village with many living in the Daventry District only passing through it on their way to Long Buckby or West Haddon.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 7:33 am
Watford 1906 showing the Henley Arms Pub on the left and The Barley Mow Pub on the right.

Those from outside the area might possibly recognise its name due to being close to the Watford Gap services on the M1 motorway, but often as not they confuse it with the large town of Watford nearer to London.

Fewer still will know of its once resident; Thomas Rogers, one of the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed on the Mayflower ship in 1620 to help colonise what is today the USA, and then jump ahead a few hundred years and Watford is closely linked to the formation of the UK’s first Police Force as well as not one, but two Prime Ministers.

Local amateur historian Dan White, who runs Facebook's Watford Village History page, said: "In 1824 Harriett Eleonora Peel, the sister of Sir Robert Peel, married Lord Henley of Watford. Her brother was Prime Minister from 1824-1835 and again between 1841-1846.

Watford, Church Street in 1910: Mr Newton, Lord Henley's Estate Carpenter stood outside of his house.

"Sir Robert was also responsible for the introduction of the first properly organised police force, thus giving rise to policemen being known as 'Bobbies'. Further again and into the 20th century, its Prime Minister Anthony Eden who became the local attraction on his regular visits to his relatives at the stately manor of Watford Court."

"The name ‘Watford’, or ‘Waet-Ford’ to use its original title, comes from the Anglo-Saxon era.

“Its direct translation means ‘full of water’ and the village has numerous natural springs to explain the use of this terminology. In the 5th century it seems to have been a hot-bed for fighting, with both the Vikings and Saxons regularly competing over its ownership.”

The church of St Peter & St Paul at Watford hosts a wealth of information on Watford’s past. Even the ornate stained glass windows hold secrets to the once grandeur of the Henley and Eden family – who even today own much of the surrounding countryside.

Lord Henley and his family pictured as his stately home of Watford Court in 1932.

“One of the oddest things we’ve discovered comes from the days of ‘Knights of the Realm’. When Sir Eustace de Watford - once Lord and Master of the area died, not only was he entombed within the village church itself but he insisted he was buried whilst seated on his horse and in his full Knights regalia.”

The church is open for visitors on Wednesdays and Sundays and is well-worth a visit, but the more regular history of the area can be found by visiting www.watfordvillage.weebly.com

Join Watford Village History page on Facebook for more pictures and information.

Have you got any old photographs or memorabilia you'd like to share of Daventry or the surrounding villages? I'd love to hear from you. Email [email protected]

Watford Farmer Jack Facer with some of his cattle in 1956.
The original Watford Gap (Blue Boar) Services on the A5 road about 1950.
May Day celebrations in 1918 with the children of the village lining-up for the annual parade.
Watford Post Office in 1911 (on left) with Mr Abbey the Postmaster stood outside.
Station Road, Watford in 1956.
St Peter & St Paul's Church, Watford in 1922.
Boaters on Nelson at Watford Locks.
Watford's Home Guard in 1942 The Home Guard had their HQ in the Coach House at Watford Court - Home of Lord Henley.
The Main Road through Watford in 1906.
VE Day 1945 - Main Street, Watford.
Watford's School children with their teachers in 1952.