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Watford in 1880

 From Young Crawley's Guide to Hertfordshire

Contiguous to Bushey, with which it is connected by a bridge over the Colne, is the ancient and well-built Town of WATFORD, about three miles from Rickmansworth, and eighteen from Hertford. Being on the road from London to Aylesbury, from Uxbridge to St. Alban's, the Grand Junction Canal, the River Colne, and the London and North-Western Railway, it possesses great facilities for trade, consequently, has wonderfully increased within the last few years and now holds the first place among the towns of the county in population.

The Railway Station, in High Street, is a first-class one; and from here diverge two branch lines, one to Rickmansworth, the other to St. Alban's. Beyond the Station is a long tunnel, and there is a viaduct over the river Colne. In the neighbourhood are two large Hotels, one of which ("The Clarendon") is a noble-looking building, and stated to have cost 7000; it affords first-class accommodation and good stabling, and communicates directly with the station. Close by is the LONDON ORPHAN ASYLUM, which a few years since was removed from Clapton; it was originally founded in 1813, by Dr. Andrew Reid, and comprises seven large detached buildings, constructed, in the Early Gothic style, of red and white brick, with stone facings, and a number of turrets, pinnacles, etc., which have an imposing and pleasing appearance. In front of the Asylum is an elegant Chapel, built at the sole expense of Mrs. Godding, formerly an orphan in the Establishment. The first stone of the Asylum was laid in July, 1869, by the Prince of Wales; and the new buildings were formally opened on July 20, 1871, by the Prince and Princess of Teck. The area covered by them, including the play-ground, is sixteen acres, but there are also twenty-four acres of arable land attached. Six of the buildings are appropriated to boys, and one to girls. They will accommodate 600 orphans, and 100 officers and servants; 100 orphans being admitted every year. The children are maintained and educated from seven to fifteen years of age; the Institution is supported by voluntary contributions.

Watford is situated on the right bank of the River Colne; it originally formed a portion of the large domains which Offa bestowed upon the Abbey of St. Alban's. At the Dissolution, it was vested in the Crown, where it remained until King James I. granted the Manor of Watford and all its appurtenances to certain persons in trust for Lord Ellesmere, the then Lord Chancellor of England, "in consideration of the great services he had rendered the Crown;" from his descendants it passed into the possession of the Capels, now Earls of Essex. The name of the Town is thought to have been derived from the Roman Wading Street, and the ford over the river; Chauncy says it was derived from Wet-ford, at the south end of the Town.

The old Parish Church, dedicated to St. Mary, is a spacious and imposing structure, in the centre of the town. It was in 1871 thoroughly restored, in excellent taste; and consists of a nave, chancel, side aisles, and two chapels, one of which is dedicated to St. Catherine, the other is a mortuary chapel for the Essex family. There is a large square embattled tower at the west end, with a spire, altogether about 100 feet high, containing a fine ring of bells. In the interior, the nave is divided from the side aisles by six handsomely pointed arches on each side, resting on octagonal columns, above which are windows. The roof is of wood, supported on half figures with shields. There is a large window of stained glass at the west end, and a fine one, somewhat older, at the east end, under which has been placed an elegant reredos of Caen stone, admirably sculptured with a representation of the crucifixion in the centre, and figures of the Apostles in the niches round. There are some fine carved-oak stalls and seats in the chancel, and in lieu of the old cumbrous pews, the Church has been throughout fitted up with oak open seats. The old font has been removed, and a very handsome new one has replaced it, by public subscription; it is of elegant form, supported by pillars. A very fine organ is placed on the south side of the chancel, partly occupying a small ancient chapel; the floor of the chancel, has been re-paved with Minton tiles, at the cost of the Earl of Essex. There is an ancient piscina in the south aisle, and a portion of one in the north aisle. The south aisle, the south transept, St. Catherine's chapel, and the porches, have been almost entirely rebuilt; two new piers have been placed to support the south arcade, and new windows substituted throughout, with the exception of those at the east and west ends, and one of the memorial ones in the south aisle.

This Church is deservedly celebrated for the number and splendour of its monuments, especially those in the mortuary chapel of the Morrison and Essex families, in which is a grand old tomb to the memory of Sir Charles Morrison, Knight of Cashiobury, who died in March, 1599, aged 51. It has a canopy and pillars of various coloured marbles under which is the effigy of Sir Charles in white marble, beautifully sculptured. He has a Vandyke beard, and a large ruff round his neck; and is represented in a reclining position in armour, with a helmet placed behind his legs; at each end of the tomb is a figure kneeling, which represent his son and daughter. There is the family coat of arms, fully emblazoned; and a very long Latin inscription, describing his numerous virtues, also saying that he was the founder of this chapel.

On the opposite side is another magnificent monument to Sir Charles Morrison, Bart. (son of the above), who died in August, 1628, aged 41, and to his wife also. It is in its general form, similar to the one just described, but somewhat more elaborate. The figures of the baronet and his lady are both exquisitely sculptured. He is represented in armour, reclining on his right side, resting on his elbow, and his hand placed on a scroll. The lady reclines on a double cushion, and has a very handsome dress of the period, beautifully carved in all its details; the folds of her drapery are most gracefully arranged. On a lower stage are the figures of a youth and a boy kneeling, and on the opposite side a young lady kneeling, with flowing drapery. The inscriptions on the tomb are in Latin, and very lengthy indeed. These two monuments are remarkable as works of art, and were executed by Nicholas Stone, a celebrated sculptor of his day. It is stated in Horace Walpole's Anecdotes, that the former of these tombs cost 260, "besides four pieces given me for drink," as stated in the sculptor's pocket book; and the latter one, 400, a large sum in those days, but one utterly inadequate for such works in the present.

In the middle of the chapel are two large table monuments; the one to the east is to the memory of Bridget, Dowager Countess of Bedford, who died in 1600, aged 75; she had three husbands, the first of whom was Sir Richard Morrison. Her figure is in alabaster, well sculptured, in a reclining position, on the top of the tomb; she is elaborately dressed with a close cap and coronet on her head, and a large cloak. there is a square projection on the tomb, and a half-sized figure in armour on each side is kneeling on a cushion. A very long inscription records her virtues and her marriages. Clutterbuck says that she founded this chapel in 1595.

The other large central monument on the west side, is to the Lady Dame Elizabeth Russell, the wife of William Lord Russell, and "daughter and sole heir of Henrie Longe, of Shingay, in the countie of Cambridge." She died in June, 1611, aged 43; her dress has formerly been painted, and at her feet is a coronet and a lion. There are two very long inscriptions upon the tomb, in the usual laudatory style. Two monumental tablets against the south wall, record the memory of the Hon. Jolm Forbes, son of the Earl of Granard, who died in March, 1796, aged 82, and his wife, Mary Forbes, daughter of William, third Earl of Essex. On the floor of the chapel are three brass figures, inlaid in a large stone, inscribed to Henry Dickson, George Miller, and Anthony Cooper, late servants of Sir Charles Morrison, and afterwards in the service of Dorothy Lady Morrison, and Sir Charles Morrison, their son, 40 years, "in memory of them, the sayd Dorothie Lady Morrison hath youchsafed this stone and inscription." Amongst other memorials to the Capel family in the chapel, is a mural monument to the memory of George fifth Earl of Essex, who died April 23rd, 1839, in his 81st year; it has a coronet and scroll, and coat of arms beautifully sculptured. Another tablet is to Harriet, the daughter of George, fifth Earl of Essex, who died May 14th, 1837, aged 29. There is on this tablet a long verse. Another records the memory of Caroline Janetta, the wife of Arthur the sixth Earl of Essex, and daughter of the third Duke of St. Alban's; she died in 1862. There is also a handsome brass tablet on the wall to Randolph, the second son of Arthur sixth Earl of Essex, who served in the naval brigade at Inkerman and Sebastopol, and died at Rio Janiero, in 1857, aged 25, "much lamented, soon after he had reached that place." Some marble steps, inlaid with jasper, with the words, "Holy, holy, holy," have been placed in the Sacrarium of this Church, and were uncovered April 31st, 1877. They bear the following inscription on a brass plate:-

"To the glory of God, and to the memory of the Rt. Hon. LOUISA CAROLINA ELIZABETH COUNTESS OF ESSEX, these steps have been placed by the Vicar, Churchwardens, and Parishioners of \Vatford, in remembrance of her loving care for the adornment of God's House, and tender regard for the welfare of all around her. A.D. 1877."

In the chancel are two brasses of a priest and a woman, and several inscriptions to the Baldwyns, Ewers of the Lea, and other families of former days.

In the south aisle is a memorial window to the memory of Henry Blenkinsop, who died November 2nd, 1865, erected by his mother; and in the north aisle is a very handsome window to the memory of Lieut.-Col. Chester, Capt. J. Fagan, and Capt. Billiard, of the Bengal Native Infantry, who were killed in the Indian Mutiny. This window was erected out of respect to their memory by their brother officers in the Indian army.

In what is called the Chorister's Vestry, formerly a chapel, is a handsome white marble tablet to the memory of R. Clutterbuck, Esq., the author of a History of Hertfordshire; he died May 25th, 1831, in the 59th year of his age. This monument was erected by his widow. In a vault beneath are also interred many of the Clutterbuck family. There are tablets in the south aisle to the memory of Sir William Buck, Bart., who died' in 1717, aged 62; his daughter Frances, who died, aged 31, in 1713, and his son Sir Charles Buck, who died in June, 1729, aged 37. On the south wall of the nave is a tablet of white marble to the memory of Jane Bell, wife of John Bell, Esq., who died in her 53rd year; it is remarkable for a long epitaph, from the pen of Dr. Johnson, in his usual elegant but peculiar style. The chapel on the south side contained, according to Chauncy, inscriptions to former inhabitants of the Grove Park. A slab in the middle of the nave is inscribed as "the entrance to the Clarendon vault," but the late Earl and Countess of Clarendon were interred in a vault in the cemetery.

The living of Watford is a Vicarage, of the annual value of 750, with a residence; it is in the patronage of the Earl of Essex. The Register dates from 1582. The total cost of the restoration of the Church is estimated at about 8,000.

Watford possesses another Church, dedicated to St. Andrew; it is a handsome structure of flint and stone, erected in 1857, in the Early English style, near to the Railway Station. It was thoroughly restored in 1865, and enlarged by the addition of .a new south aisle, which affords further accommodation for 200 adults, and 50 school children. The living is a perpetual Curacy of the annual value of 450, with a residence, in the gift of the trustees.

There are Chapels for the Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyans. A new Wesleyan Chapel was opened in December, 1869, which is a fine Gothic structure, erected at a cost of 1,800. Near St. Andrew's Church, are the Almshouses of the Salters' Company, which will accommodate twelve women and six men; they were erected in 1864, and the area of the grounds is 5 acres. Near the Churchyard is an excellent Free School for 40 boys and 20 girls, who are educated and clothed; it was established by Mrs. Elizabeth Fuller, in 1704. Considerable additions have been made to the funds at various times. Mr. John Dyson, one of the trustees, left a legacy of 1,000 for its benefit; and the annual income is now about 230. The government is vested in nine trustees. Another School, for 11 boys, was founded by Francis Combe, of Hemel Hempstead, in 1641. There is a National School, supported by voluntary subscriptions; and Almshouses for eight poor widows, founded by Francis Earl of Bedford and his wife, in 1530. In 1614, Lady Dorothy Morrison also founded Almshouses for four poor widows; and in 1824, Almshouses were erected in Lotes Lane, in lieu of buildings given by Lady Dorothy, as a free residence for a lecturer and four widows. The present income of the Charity is 55 10s. per annum; the lecturer receives 100 per annum from the rent of a corn mill, given by Lady E. Russell, in 1610.

The Masonic Hall, erected in 1873, on the site of the old Hall which was destroyed by fire, is situated at the back of the Essex Arms Hotel. A large building of handsome elevation in Clarendon Road, was erected in 1870, by the Agricultural Hall Company; the West Herts. Agricultural Society hold annual cattle and poultry shows in it. Watford, a short time since, adopted the Free Public Libraries Act; and in 1873-4 an elegant and commodious building of brick with stone dressings and carvings, was erected, in the Gothic style, at a cost of 2,400. It comprises a public library, three reading rooms, a fine hall for science and art lectures, fifty-one feet long by thirty feet broad, and all the necessary adjuncts. It is a great ornament to the town, as well as a source of intellectual improvement to the inhabitants. In July, 1871, an Orphanage, under the charge of the Clewer Sisterhood, was opened at Watford, in connection with St. Barnabas Orphanage, Pimlico. A Skating Rink was opened here on March 13th, 1876.

Watford is well supplied with Water by a Company. The supply is upon the compensation or high pressure principle. The drainage is now very efficient; and the town is well lighted with Gas, by a public Company. To the south-west of the Town there is a new and extensive Cemetery, which contains many handsome tombs, and in which the late Earl (who died July 2nd, 1870) and the Countess of Clarendon are interred. An admirable Institution has been recently established at Watford, called "The Watford Natural History Society and Hertfordshire Field Club," which holds monthly meetings at the Public Library, where most instructive papers are read, and objects exhibited in connection with the different branches of Natural History, Botany, etc.

Watford is governed by a Local Board of Health, a district having been formed for the purpose in 1850, which comprises certain parts of the Parishes of Watford and Bushey. A new County Court House has been erected in King Street. A Market was granted to Watford as early as the reign of Henry 1.; it is held on Tuesdays, and well attended. The Corn Exchange is a handsome and commodious building, near the Essex Arms. The Magistrates hold their Petty Sessions on Tuesdays. Watford is a Poor Law Union, consisting of six parishes, and has an excellent Union Workhouse. A large Silk Mill and two Paper Mills give employment to several hundreds of the population; there are also two Breweries, and several Malt Kilns. In 1687, a Medicinal Spring was discovered in this vicinity, the water from which, when mixed with nutgalls, produces an intense black. The population of the Parish of Watford in 1871 was 12,071, while in 1851, it was only 6,546, having nearly doubled itself in twenty years; the number of acres is 10,792. There are two annual Fairs at Watford, on Trinity Tuesday and September 9th.

About one and a half miles south-west of Watford, is the Hamlet of OXHEY, where is a small Church, which was formerly the chapel of an old mansion, and contains several ancient monuments of the Altham and Bucknall families. The living is a Donative, in the patronage of W. H. Smith, Esq. M.P.

To the north of Watford, lies the Hamlets of Cashio and Leavesden, which contain a united population of 5,153. Leavesden was formed into a separate Ecclesiastical District in 1853. The Church, dedicated to All Saints, was erected at a cost of about 3,300, the site of which was given by Thomas Clutterbuck, Esq. It is a handsome building of flint, with Bath stone dressings; and consists of a nave, chancel, south aisle, and tower, which has a shingled spire, containing one bell. There are two memorial windows, a beautiful reredos, and some stained-glass windows, which illustrate the Te Deum. The living is a Vicarage, of the yearly value of 120, in the gift of the Vicar of Watford. The :Metropolitan Asylum for pauper imbeciles stands here on elevated ground; the institution owns 75 acres here, of which the buildings cover 18 acres; the cost of the whole was 150,000. At Leavesden Woodside, are the St. Pancras Industrial Schools for the reception of pauper children. The population of Leavesden Hamlet alone, is 3,300.

For an earlier account see Watford in 1807

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