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Remembering Hendon & Aldenham Kennels

6th May, 2014

NAWT supporter Tina Howard (nee Allison) grew up at the Hendon and Aldenham kennels on the site which is now home to the Hertfordshire centre. Her father, Walter Allison, was a kennel manager at the site which was owned by NAWT founder Sidney Hicks and is where the charity began. Here Tina shares some of her stories and photographs of growing up on the site during the 1950s. 

If you have recollections of any our centres that you'd like to share please do contact us. 


'The Allison family moved to the kennels in June 1952 when I was six and my brother Terry was nine. There was a Bungalow with an Annexe attached that was built of an Asbestos material. 

 Jane the German Shepherd outside the Annexe where Tina and her family originally lived 

At first we lived in the Annexe which had two bedrooms, a living room & small kitchen. There was no Gas or Electricity. There was no bathroom, but there was an outside toilet which consisted of a bucket under a proper wooden toilet seat in an old wooden hut at the front of the building. My Dad emptied the bucket every day into the cesspit that was on the premises.

There was another family, Mr & Mrs Elton and their daughter Sheila, living in the larger Bungalow. They moved out about a year later which allowed our family  to move into it.

The Bungalow consisted of an office, Kitchen, Lounge, three bedrooms and an indoor bathroom & toilet, that was pure luxury for us. There was no electricity or gas there either so we used to use what they called Aladdin Oil Lamps which were fuelled with paraffin. There was no hot water and heating was supplied by open fires on which we burnt coke or logs.

In the kitchen there was a big AGA Stove which used solid fuel (similar to the Rayburn Stoves of today) on which my mum did all the cooking. In the winter when it was so cold we used to get frost patterns on the inside of our windows because the bungalow was so damp. We used to air our clothes on the open oven door of the AGA and watch the steam rise out of the clothes because they were so damp. This we did to make sure they were dry enough to wear.   

Our entertainment was a portable radio which ran off a large Ever Ready Battery that fitted inside it. Highlight of our week was on a Monday Night listening to the serial called Journey Into Space with David Kossoff, Andrew Faulds and I think Alfie Bass may have been in it too. If the Battery looked like it wasn’t going to last through the programme, my dad used to take it out  (before the programme started) pop it into the oven of the AGA for about half an hour and that gave it a boost so it lasted for the programme.

When I think back to those days the conditions were pretty harsh for my parents, but they loved the job and gave us a good life. As children we had freedom and used to roam all over the countryside.

The A41 during the 1950s
Despite the site having changed very little in nearly 60 years, the area surrounding the Hendon & Aldenham kennels was far more rural when Tina lived there during the early 1950s. The nearby M1 was not built until 1957 and the site was surrounded by a number of farms 

The first bungalow which was built of asbestos in or around 1927 and was demolished in 1968 after it was condemned by the local council as being unfit for human habitation. It was then that the current bungalow was built. In the meantime my mum & dad lived in a static caravan that was put in the car park for the duration. By that time I had got married and had my own home and my son by then.  The new bungalow was sheer luxury compared to what we had been used to, and from what I can remember it was quite spacious too.

Schools

Both my brother and I, started at Highwood school in 1952. My Mum had to walk us to the school in Bushey Mill Lane, then walk back, do her day’s work at the kennels then walk back to the school to collect us, as my dad didn’t learn to drive until about 1955.

We would walk past the Spiders Web which was a burnt out ruin then. Next Door to it was the Glow Worm Petrol Station. Further up the road on the left was Wally’s Café which was just a small hut in those days. Beside Wally’s Café was the Blue Star Petrol Station, beyond that was Cox’s Factory (Where Costco is now). Opposite Cox’s was the famous Busy Bee Café which was a marvellous transport café which was started by two polish men who used the money from their Army gratuity to start the café. You can see it in the Michael Caine film ‘Alfie’. Then we went along Park Avenue and across the field (We called the path across there  ‘The Snake’ because of the crooked shape) which is now, I believe it is called The Robin Hood Estate, and along to Highwood School.

In 1953 my brother Terry went up to senior school and started at Bushey Manor School then in 1957 he transferred to Bushey Meads School the year it opened. I followed him in 1959. Bushey Meads was so much easier for us to get to because we could go across the fields to Tylers Farm and over the road to the school. It took us about 10 minutes. Such a change from the long walk that we were used to.

At about that time (1955) my sister, Rose & her husband Bill moved into the annexe next door with their two daughters Jennifer & Susan. I welcomed that because I had someone to play with. We had a huge garden at the front (Where the car park is now) and a large garden behind the properties which had lots of fruit trees in it. There were Apple trees, pear trees, cherry trees and we even had a crab apple tree (On the right in the foreground of the picture below). My dad built swings for us and even made us a see-saw out of an old log & a plank. 

 

Hertfordshire centre then and now
Then and now: The Hertfordshire centre today compared to the site in 1954

Beside the big garden at the front was a spinney (small Woods) that went right up to the stream. The stream went the whole length of the property then through a tunnel that went under the A41 by-pass. I think the stream was really the drainage from the fields.

Most of the countryside at that time was owned by Farmer Dalton from Daltons Farm in Hillfield Lane. He also owned Tylers Farm where his son Ian lived with his wife Delia, and next door his daughter Tessa lived with husband Ray Yates & their 2 daughters Rebecca & Tracey. I spent a lot of my time there when I was older, looking after the girls.

It was around 1956 that Mr Hicks, the owner of the kennels had electricity laid on to the two properties. Oh what luxury that was, my mum could have a washing machine so she bought a single tub washing machine and when the washing was done she used an old fashioned mangle to wring it all out on. I think it would be safe to say the mangle was the forerunner to the spin dryer. My sister Rose & her family moved out and into council housing around 1957/58.

The Kennels

Not sure when Mr Sidney Hicks & his wife Lesley first bought the Kennels, but it was known as the Hendon & Aldenham Kennels when I lived there with the telephone number of Bushey Heath 1320. We were considered well off because we had a telephone!

Tina with Julie the goat, 1957

It was a boarding Kennels for about 200 dogs and 100 cats. We took in other animals as well. We had two goats, Jane & Julie who kept the grass down. Julie was the friendliest of the two and they lived out their natural lives with us. We even took in Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and other small animals when necessary.

Looking from the front of the kennels as you went down the drive on the right was the large front garden and the bungalow which had the spinney at the side of it.  On the left at the bottom of the drive was a wooden building that was open at the front and had room for 2 cars inside. At the end of this building there was a closed in Garage. Beside this building were the gates (possibly where the gates are now) which led into the car park. Go through the gates and straight ahead was the Cattery which held approximately 48 cat cages. Beside the cattery there was a path that led the length of the Kennels, so we will take it from the left hand side:- Behind the cattery was what we called ‘The Big Kennel’ which housed around 30 dog cages, each dog cage had it’s own separate run which was accessed by just going into the cage and lifting up the sliding hatch. This particular kennel housed all the larger dogs. My dad looked after this Kennel. Further on behind The Big Kennel was another smaller kennel which held about 12 dogs. The land beyond there was more or less wasteland.

Going back to the main Cattery we now take the right hand side of the centre path:- Here was ‘Kennel Block 1’ which had 24 cages with dog runs and ‘Kennel Block 2’ which was identical, these two kennel blocks faced westwards. Behind Kennel Block 2 was the incinerator where we burnt all the waste. Beyond that was the wasteland. Going further on the right hand side there was another small foot path which ran between kennel Blocks 1 & 2 and the second Cattery, which also faced westwards. This cattery could accommodate around 30 cats and had the stream running behind it. At the end of this wooden building was ‘The Cookhouse’ where all the dog’s food was prepared.  The meat was cooked on and old fashioned boiler that had a fire burning underneath. Even with the fire burning it was a very cold place in the middle of winter.

That is a cattery which had 12 cat cages in it and adjoining it was another Kennel block  which had 12 kennels in it with the dog runs opposite. You went through there where you had the final Kennel Block which had about 12 cages in it. For some reason that was known as ‘The Back Kennel’ and this was situated partly into the spinney. My dad looked after this Kennel as well. My mum looked after Kennel Blocks 1 & 2 and all the catteries. My dad did all the DIY repairs, Bless Him with the best will in the world he was no Tommy Walsh, but he did his best.

Walter and Hilda Allison
Left: Tina's father and kennel manager, Walter Allison
Right: Tina's mother, Hilda Allison, with her cousin Bobby O'Neill during the 1960s

Attached to the asbestos bungalow there were 2 rooms built of wood with electricity supply and a butler sink with running water. These were used as grooming parlours for the dogs. My mum was in charge of all that. She was very good at doing all the different styles involved in dog grooming which was something she loved doing.

The foot print of the Kennels in those days was much smaller than it is now. On one side The Lyden brothers & their families were still living in their respective houses in Burn Close and on the other side of the stream the Farmer still owned the field.

Hertfordshire centre then and now
Left: A rough footprint of the site during the 1950s. The fields to the right of the picture are now part of the centre.
Right: Walter Allison outside the Watford centre during the 1990s

 

Tina Howard today
Tina's love of animals continues today 

It was in the mid 1960’s that Mr Hicks got involved with the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and it was around that time that he changed the name of the Kennels to the BUAV which both he and my parents worked very closely with for many years. In 1970 my parents left the Kennels for health reasons. I know that they missed working with the animals very much and my dad missed the outdoor life. I don’t know what happened after that or what happened to Mr & Mrs Hicks, but I did take my dad back there in 1993 so he could take a look at the place. Sadly, he passed away in 1997 aged 79 years, but I do know that he loved the animals, dogs especially and he loved the place. It is living there for all of my childhood that gave me my great love for the countryside, my love for animals and for walking.'

After Tina's parents left the Hendon and Aldenham kennels, Sidney Hicks founded the NAWT on the site in 1971. You can read more of the Trust's story on our History page 

Hertfordshire