© 2017 The Harpenden Society

Winter 2012 Newsletter

A much more concise constitution, ably drafted and steered through by Vice-chairman Richard Thomas and a new President before Professor Moloney's compelling address on GM crops at The Society's public meeting on 4 October, there was a brief Extraordinary General Meeting at which a new constitution was agreed and a new President was elected. Almost all of The Society's seven Working Groups are beginning to make a mark in their various sectors, with roughly thirty Members providing a second tier of advice and assistance to the Committee. The future beckons....

Our New President

Alison Steer, (below with Chairman Chris Marsden) unanimously acclaimed as The Society's incoming President at the Extraordinary General Meeting on 4 October, accepted the role in these modest and heartening terms:

“Thank you. I am delighted to accept your nomination and become your new President. I hope I will live up to your aspirations. Ian Fulton has been an excellent President and he will certainly be a hard act to follow. My thanks go out to him for all he has done over many years for both The Harpenden Society and for Harpenden as well.

This is an exciting time for The Society, having a new Committee with plenty of vision and a real interest in Harpenden. The new Working Groups will have lots to keep them busy with the airport expansion, the Free School, provision of school places, moving of the Library, let alone the changes in planning recently announced by the Government, to mention a few. Talking of planning, I would love to see some houses and buildings in Harpenden that represent the 21st century. Having been brought up in Cambridge, I know that old and new can sit well together.

Let us all now join together and support our Harpenden Society. It is our watchdog to ensure that Harpenden stays the happy place we call our home town.”

During the Queen's Jubilee and the Discovery Day events on the Common this summer, The Society stand was visited by many local residents who were asked to suggest on what they thought The Harpenden Society should be concentrating. 105 worthy citizens responded. Publicity officer Ron Taylor and Secretary Bob Fletcher (in the foreground below) have painstakingly analysed the replies and here is a brief resume of what was suggested.

22 called for more action on school places, perhaps coloured by the fact that on Discovery Day we shared a stand with Harpenden Parents group.

17 pleaded in familiar terms for easier parking around the town centre.

14 yearned for a more vibrant and independently orientated retail trade.

14 asked for more carefully controlled traffic in the town

12 were insistent on preserving the atmosphere and cleanliness of the locality

10 urged the case for much better provision for youth

There were others with views on conserving the architectural style of the town, keen to see major improvements in the local parks, anxious to see the Red House properly sustained, worried by the thought of Luton airport expansion and eager to see the arts more extensively encouraged. There was a series of useful single suggestions as well.

All this will prove invaluable to The Society as it considers its options. However, even a glance through both this and the last edition of the Harpenden Society News might persuade you that several of these ideas are already fixed in the mind-set of The Society's committee and some of them have been the subject of Society action.

Leisure is often seen negatively as idle non-work. Increasingly it is being accepted as an essential element in the well-rounded life. Cicero, all those years ago, put his Roman finger on it when he wrote 'the thing which is the most outstanding and chiefly to be desired by all healthy and good and well-off persons, is leisure with honour'. The statistics tell us that Harpenden has plenty of healthy and well-off persons; their goodness we shall charitably take for granted. We know, too, from the quickest glance at the several directories and notice boards about the town what a vast range of leisure pursuits is available in this community.

That is not to say that leisure provision could not be improved and the Education and Leisure Working Group of The Harpenden Society has started to look, for instance, at what is on offer locally from the St Albans City and District Council. What most affects Harpenden is a consequence of its neither fish nor fowl place in its local government ambit. Although half the size of St Albans proper, it is big enough to warrant on-line descriptors of the District Council being composed of 'two main urban areas', with a number of satellite villages. These twin urban areas account for close on three-quarters of the population. Until the sweeping and controversial local government reorganisation that took effect in 1974 Harpenden had, as many readers will recall, Urban District Council status.

It follows that the pick of the facilities are, with some justification, in St Albans itself. But Harpenden is a comfortably sized township with a modicum of communal facilities. Perhaps it is logical that they play second fiddle to their St Albans equivalents but second-best should not necessarily mean second- rate.

Consider the instances of the Public Halls and Rothamsted Park. Both come under the aegis of the district council, albeit with the former being leased to a management company. Both have excellent qualities. Both leave something to be desired. Both are not as good as they could be, with the growing feeling that is because they are not central to the district as a whole.

The trouble with the Public Halls is sheer dilapidation. It has the shabby air of a faded 1930s style public building. Both inside and out it needs extensive refurbishment if not replacement – and a six months closure for repairs is indeed promised for next summer. The trouble with Rothamsted Park, for all its glorious setting, is insufficiency of modern play and allied equipment and the lack of refreshment facilities, something that was highlighted in the autumn edition of Harpenden Society News.

In a word, neither is as well-served and cared for as its St Albans equivalent.

The Society has negotiated representation on the two user bodies associated with these amenities, the Public Halls Customer Forum and the Rothamsted Park Customer Forum. Our chosen representative on both is Ron Taylor, the Society's Publicity Officer. His vigorously optimistic and brightly energising approach has been welcomed by these committees, both of them committed to offering the public good value. The Society is also to devote its public meeting of 24 January 2013 to the generic topic of local leisure (see Memos for Members on page 3) including its call for a multi-arts complex.

The mercurial Victorian statesman Benjamin Disraeli claimed that 'increased means and increased leisure are the two civilisers of man.' Harpenden could through public, commercial, personal and charitable intent find increased means to furnish increased leisure opportunities. Certainly there is no earthly reason why our amenities should not be on a par with those of St Albans. Otherwise it leaves us – after we have digested the wisdom of Cicero and the judgement of Disraeli - singing along in more homely fashion with the old-time music hall star, Lily Morris, 'why am I always the bridesmaid and never the blushing bride?

Eric Midwinter

7. Measure for Leisure

Please send comments on any issues raised in this edition to the editor:

Eric Midwinter 37 Bloomfield Rd. Harpenden AL5 4DD (editor@harpendensociety.org)

Society Public Meetings

First of all, here is news of the two public meetings arranged for early in the new year.


The Society's Education and Leisure Working Group has done preliminary work in a number of leisure- associated fields, notably the library, the public halls, Rothamsted Park and with its notion of a PEOPLE'S CENTRE for a broad range of creative arts. Members of the Group will be making brief presentations about these varied yet also unifying activities and are keen to exchange views and ideas about them.


The Society's Health and Social Welfare Working Group has been to the fore in urging the case for breathing new life into the Harpenden Memorial Hospital, popularly known as the Red House, especially with its well-received paper on the subject, 'Red House Revivified'. This meeting will be devoted to bringing Society members and members of the public up to date on this very vital issue, with reports and discussions on the various meetings and surveys that have taken place.

Both meetings are at 8.0 pm, with refreshments available from 7.30 pm, and will be held in Park Hall, Leyton Road.

The date of next years Annual General Meeting and review of The Society's activities over the past year will be 11 April 2013. Make a date in your diary. More information about that in the Spring Edition of the Harpenden Society News

The Red House

The Red House issue – see our note of a public meeting on that topic next February – is certainly one that touches a nerve among the townspeople of Harpenden. The Society has received a most heartening letter from Shirley Cowell, President of the Harpenden Village Womens Institute. Shirley Cowell writes, 'on behalf of the eighty members' to support our actions; at a recent meeting she asked for a show of hands and 'received a hundred percent response from the attending members. We have in the past marched down the High Street supporting the retention of the Red House...and still feel very strongly that it should be used for the health and social welfare of this community.'

The Society is really gratified to receive this eighty- strong endorsement of its policy and promises to sustain its campaign to revitalise this much-loved Harpenden facility.

Sorting out the Sorting Office

Ron Grimshaw, having read the last edition, writes

 '..I was interested to read of the forward planing of The Society but I was surprised not to see any mention of what I consider to be the most important issue that has affected Harpenden in recent times; namely, the closure of the Harpenden Sorting Office and the appalling effect it has had on delivery services in the town'.

A fair point. The Society’s Committee has discussed the topic on a couple of occasions and the intrepid Ron Taylor, our Publicity Officer and Editor of Harpendia, interviewed the Post Office manager. One has to keep reminding oneself that the Royal Mail (the postmen and women) and the Post Office (the retail counters) are two separate businesses. The Royal Mail has departed from Harpenden, but, in the case of undelivered mail, the postal worker is instructed to leave a reference card at your house and you can recover your mail from after 10.0 am the next day at the Post Office counter.

But it may be that Ron Grimshaw is more concerned with the Royal Mail aspect whereby deliveries are arriving very late in the day and the personal link between home and postman or woman appears to have vanished. Do other readers share the anxiety of Ron Grimshaw and your worried editor about this trend? Do let us know.

The Harpenden Society Awards 2012

‘We live in a good place. One very important reason is the quality of the buildings and the social amenities that we enjoy. For many years The Society has tried to encourage good design by recognising good new developments. Now is the time to look out for what is best in the projects completed in 2012. A proposal form is included in this newsletter. Please give it some thought and return to me or complete it on line at our web site.’ Anthony Steele, Chairman, Awards Sub- committee

Number Plate Security

We have been asked to convey to members the message that the Hertfordshire Constabulary is working with two local garages to offer drivers anti- theft number plate screws, supplied and fitted free of charge in ten minutes. Apparently the theft of number plates to use on vehicles for criminal purposes is something of a problem.

Call the garage in advance to book an appointment. Steven Eagell Toyata, at 37/47 Radlett Road, Frogmore, St Albans AL2 2JX Telephone 01727 874747 or at 9 Ascott Road, Croxley Green, Watford WD18 8AD Telephone 01923 693333

The Harpenden in Question being a series of editorial commentaries on important Harpenden issues that should challenge thought and encourage inquiry and action.

Memos for Members

New Horizons

New Viewpoints