Hertfordshire Genealogy

Answers to Questions


BRADLEY, 173-175 High Street, Watford, 1870s

[Locating Photographs of your Ancestor's Home]

August, 2012




Bryan Bradley (brybrad @t  aol.com.) of Boughton, Norfolk, writes: My GG Grandfather Edmund Bradley (b. 1803, Middlesex) was a musical instrument and cabinet maker living at 173 High St. Watford and his son Charles Percy Bradley (b. 1840 Hereford) was a Draper at 175 High St. in 1871. Unfortunately the buildings have been demolished and I cannot find any photos of that part of the High St. Can you help?

Watford High Street is very long and the first stage in searching for a photograph is to pin down its location with respect to adjacent properties which might be easier to identify. We are lucky as Nunn's The Book of Watford (2nd edition only) has a picture of all the modern frontages along the High Street, with the original numbering, and using Google maps it is possible to mark the location when the properties were.

The map shows the location of the former properties on the East side of the junction of the High Street and the modern ring road round the centre.

It also shows that the properties were not far from the Watford High Street railway station and the railway crossed under the High Street between 179 and 181. The fact that there is no number jump across the railway line suggests that the buildings were numbered after the railway line was built.

The railway line provides a key reference point for the research.


So now to collect information to identify the individual buildings from  written records. In 1871 the census shows that the occupants were:

173   Edmund Bradley   Piano Forte Tuner
175   Charles P Bradley   Draper employing 2 men
177   William Foxwell   Master Butcher employing 1 boy
179   Robert W Hawyes   Clothier's assistant
181   Thomas Chapman   Retired Farmer

In the Post Office Directory for Hertfordshire for 1878 Charles Percy Bradley is listed as a linen draper and an agent for all best sewing machines at 175 High Street, Watford, with another shop in the High Street, Rickmansworth

By 1881 the situation had changed, Frederic Septimus Bradley being Edmund's son and Charles' brother:

173   Francis Septimus Bradley   Tourist's Clerk
175   George Longley   Draper employing 2 men
177   Fred Oatley   Tailor & Outfitter
181   Thomas Chapman   Retired Farmer

This shows that the business run by Charles in now being run by George Longley, and Fred Oatley is running a tailor and outfitters shop in 177 & 179. The 1882 Kelly's Directory shows the business at 179/181 under the name Oatley & Heath, and later years (census & trade directories) show that 173 and 175 were residential (and not mentioned in the directories) while Oatley & Heath expanded to include No 181 by 1890. However in about 1911 number 181 was demolished as the railway line was broadened to twin track.

 Searching for published photographs has been frustrating (and it has not been possible to check every collection) but I include two which hint at what may be there.


The High Street decorated for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887 from Judith Knight's Watford. The shop on the left is Oatley & Heath (177 & 179) while beyond is the railway bridge and 181 - still a private house. in 1887

At the extreme left of the picture the letter "TORE" can be seen - presumably a "xxxx STORE" sign on number 175.

An enlarged detail of a 1956 air photograph from Watford Past. The long building in the middle is 177-179 High Street so the roofs and yard immediately beyond must be 173 and 175.


I am afraid I haven't found a clear photograph of the properties but the Watford Central Library has a more comprehensive collection of published works than I have - and also many unpublished pictures - possibly including some taken at the time the properties were being demolished. They may well have other documents - for instance there was presumably a detailed survey of the area made in connection with the plan to build the ring road - especially as this was the main area where the construction of the ring road involved the destruction of older properties - as most of Watford away from the line of the High Street only appeared after the railway arrived in 1837, so was less than 150 years old.

Another possibility could be any Railway books which deal with the Watford High Street station (not to be confused with the main line Watford Junction). There could be a picture of the entrance to the station, looking north along the High Street and showing both sides of the road.

On getting the above information Bryan added: Interestingly the reason for Charles Percy Bradley moving from 175 was probably due to his involvement in the Watford riot of 1879 (Watford Observer), when he was blamed for the death of one of his young employees who drown herself and 2000 towns people turned out to riot. His father also died that year which explain the 1881 census changes.

The story was one which gained widespread coverage, such as this example from The Graphic and details of the coverage is given in Serious Riots in Watford.


The young woman who died was Jane Elizabeth Newman, and a few reports mention that she was Mrs Emma Bradley's niece. The story provides a




If you can add to the information given above tell me.

August 2012   Page created