Bushey Heath now and then – Photos of my street from 130 years ago

Long-time readers of my blog will know one of the things I like to do is come across old photos of places and do comparisons with how they are today as with this series of3 old posts of old street scenes across the U.K.

Recently as I was looking for something completely difference I actually found some old photos of my street and even my house.  This is where I live today, I moved here 2 or 3 months ago and actually when I was little when to the school building on the right.   I live midway on the row of houses on the left.

It seems the street itself came into proper existence around 1830 though it’s thought my house is possibly a few years older than that and two of the houses are from at least the 1700’s!

Screenshot 2020-05-15 at 12.56.51

Then below we have a photo that I have colourised from a black and white photograph I found on the internet.

Screenshot 2020-05-15 at 12.47.15

You can definitely see the strong similarities, in fact it is easier to see the differences.  Sometimes in the last century or so telephones became popular and for reasons I never could understand, our street still has telegraph poles long after they vanished elsewhere.

The ditch on the side of the pavement has been turned into a pavement.  Look at that mammoth wall on the left.  It belonged to what in 1898 was called The Retreat which then for a few decades until the 1960’s was a nursery school.  When the school opposite my house was expanded, The Retreat was demolished and in its place still stand a block of flats and two 1970’s style houses.    You can see most of the wall has been puled down at the front but the side wall and the tall brick post with stone on top is still there.

Look at the majestic ‘pine’ tree in the distance on the left in 2020 and you can see it there in 1913 albeit it not as tall.

Two figures can be seen crossing the road, is it a parent taking a child to school?  And look at the road itself, mud and gravel and full of ruts.  The street is called The Rutts, could this be its origins?   Nearly all the streets in Britain originate on a physical or geographical figure or some family name; it’s just that we are now so distanced by time and appearance that it seems hard to tell for some places.  It’s a totally unique street name however and whilst many streets were rutted for some reason only one acquired a similar name.

If you think the 1913 photo is amazing then the one below is even better.


Here you can see the same street scene though a short distance further back.  There a few things that make this intriguing to me.  First of all can you see a group on the road in the distance next to the pointy looking building?  It looks like there is some equipment or machinery there and the building they are outside is a Methodist Chapel made out of tin which was built for the expanding population of the village which already had an Anglican church 5 minutes walk away.

This chapel was built in 1883 and there is every chance that some rich individual came out to photograph the commotion when it was bring built.  The thing that makes me think this very possible is that you can see the pine tree on the left in this photo is considerably shorter in height.

So my historians guess is that the second photo is of my house and street around 135 years ago which is pretty amazing to find for somewhere very ordinary and very quiet.

s-l1600-4 This photo is taken at the far end of my street.  I’d hazard a guess this is from the 1920’s but that’s all it is based on the type of materials on the sign post to the left and having a rough idea when the land was developed.  There was a field on the left and smaller plots of a field on the right.  As you can just about see, the field on the left is still there as a car park.  The curvature of the road and having walked this spot since 1982 means I’m pretty sure I have the right place and I think on the old black and white photo you can see where the wooden fence gives way to a taller brick wall which you can see still standing today.

Screenshot 2020-05-15 at 13.34.17

Finally we will skip to the other end of the street.  This old photo is taken just a few minutes walk from that old Victorian pump I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Screenshot 2020-05-15 at 13.48.31

This is the junction of The Rutts with Elstree Road and on the left the turning down Little Bushey Lane.  I find it a bit cluttered, it had much less clutter in terms of barriers and signs when I was little and in fact I’m partially responsible for the traffic lights being here as I had to cross this sometimes busy road on my 1 mile walk to school and there was a campaign to help make it more safe for children and pedestrians.

Screenshot 2020-05-15 at 13.07.38

This is the same photo in times past.  You can see the manhole cover on the right is still there, hidden behind the railings and it all gives an idea of even away from the woods why Bushey Heath got its name.    Can you guess when this photo was taken?  have a think before reading on.

You can get some idea by the clothes that the lady is wearing on the right.  Obviously not early 20th Century but not exactly a 60’s or 80’s skin-bearing lady either.   You can see the cats-eyes in the middle of the road which were invented in 1934 so we know it is later than then.

I would say this photo is taken around 1950 and I think the clue is the markings on the kerbs of the pavement.  Can you see the painted black and white stripes on the bends of the junctions?  During WW2 when no lights were allowed after dark for fear of making it easy for German bombers, bends on roads and junctions like these were painted on the kerbstones to make it easier for drivers to go round at night with no or minimal lighting.

Once the war was won and lighting was allowed again the painted stripes weren’t maintained and now we safeguard from crashes by having messy metal barriers and traffic lights everywhere!!!

Actually just this very moment I have solved my own very minor street question.  In amongst the trees at the junction of The Rutts and Elstree Road, ever since I was a boy and walked that way to school in the 1980’s, I wondered why there was a small concrete platform in the soil.  I knew there had been a well nearby and with it being a junction of 4 roads and near the RAF headquarters, some places would have had a military checkpoint.

However if you look and zoom in at the 19500 photo you can just about see an old telephone box.  I’m sure thats what my 40 year mystery is about, I was only there on Saturday and thought to myself how will I ever find out what this was and now I have 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this special blog post, let me know if you have any comments below! Do you think my deductions are along the right lines? If not tell my history professors 🙂

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
This entry was posted in Heritage, history, Life, London and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Bushey Heath now and then – Photos of my street from 130 years ago

  1. PedroL says:

    I also like to see old photos from the places I know 🙂 have a great day Stephen, stay safe and greetings from Portugal, PedroL

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Veronica Hall says:

    Well done Stephen for being open about your life at the moment I “googled” your name and found your blog .. the history of your road I liked very much. I am retired now but try and keep up with friends and family via whatsapp, facebook and texts. Have you thought about sharing your knowledge with a local “Care home” via “zoom or “meetings technology”? I mention this as I am in contact with my friend Cathy aged 80 but with C19 visits in person not possible. She is in Somerset but with technology – everyone can be linked up?


  3. Naomi Schrecker says:

    Dear Mr Liddell,
    My parents in-law lived in Sunburry, so I was interested to read your posts. I hope that you will be able to continue both your professional work and your local research soon. Your observations must enrich the experiences of your community and also the travellers you guide, as they go exploring. A good guide makes such a difference.

    These are very hard times. With limited access to family, and community music making suspended, I am comforted by the out put of writers, such as yourself.


    • Dear Naomi, thank you so much for your lovely message. Yes that isn’t very far away. I always enjoy showing people the real places and history and not just what tourists normally get. You might like to see my posts on Stanmore which is even closer to your parents in-law former home. There are many on Grim’s Dyke, an Antarctic explorer, Romans and Ancient Britons, a WW2 bunker and the oldest/largest oak tree in London as well as some fascinating old church ruins next to a celebrated grave.


  4. Pingback: I found an old fashioned water well in my street! | Stephen Liddell

  5. Pingback: An account of when my house was almost hit by a Nazi rocket in WW2 | Stephen Liddell

  6. Pingback: Walking in a winter wonderland! | Stephen Liddell

  7. Sue Gornall says:

    Very interesting Stephen. I wouldn’t have known your little area existed if I hadn’t driven over to pick up your book. It’s a really quaint street and the little cottages very much remind me of those in the West Country. Spooky though when you get your descending mist and you got a bit lost!
    I felt like I was in a Stephen King movie.


  8. John says:

    That’s really interesting Stephen. Great detective work! I live just around the corner in the second British Columbia Housing Co cedar house and would be curious to know if you know of any photographs of the these houses between when they were built in 1926 and the 1960s to see how Elstree Road has changed over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

A blog is nothing with out feedback, please give me some!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s