Postscript on recent developments

  • Posted on: 24 September 2009
  • By: David Thrale

The census figures show that the population of Sandridge grew a little after the Napoleonic Wars and being kept down by terrible infant mortality it remained round about 840 until the 1880's. Then development began on Bernard's Heath near St Albans, and by 1901 the population of the parish had almost trebled, the new houses being huddled together in six streets. The owners of the houses on Boundary Road were careful not to live in them. They were expected to make up the road prior to its being taken over by the parish, but this they did not do. They would not answer any letters from the Vestry nor attend any meetings on the subject. The bother went on for many years during which time there were oceans of mud in wet weather, and bad smells in hot weather, due to poor sanitation and overflowing sumps. The new parishioners were poor people with lots of children, many of whom died, including one boy aged five who was drowned in one of the old pits of the brickworks.

A school was provided for these people and later a district nurse, and the two vicars John Griffith and James Cruikshank were diligent to see that their souls were cared for. The first church was affectionately called "The Little Tin Trunk"; this was followed by another temporary building called "The Snail". Various curates served the district till 1895 when the Reverend H. D. Burton took charge. He was a born leader of men and the church grew rapidly, but not without criticism and opposition. There were attacks in the local press and some people went so far as to distribute literature at the church gate denouncing Mr. Burton for his "High Church" views. His work was interrupted by his volunteering for a chaplain's duties in the South African war, for which Bernard's Heath provided fifteen soldiers. He was welcomed back and in 1905 became the first vicar of the newly formed parish of St. Saviour's, carved entirely out of Sandridge, which continued its rural life.

The old village supplied 155 men to the armed forces for the Kaiser's war, twenty-four of whom gave their lives. Between the wars many houses were built and the village was linked with St Albans by a long ribbon development along the line where the Earl of Warwick sited his defences in 1461. Over two hundred parishioners served in the Army, Navy and Air Force, and the Women's units during Hitler's war. Six of them gave their lives two Sailors, one Marine, and three Air Force Officers. The last was Pilot Officer Martin Mohr of Upper Beech Hyde, who was shot down on his first flight over Germany in October 1944.

In 1943 a small temporary church was erected known as St. Mary's Marshalswick, and served the four hundred houses which at that time had been built in Marshalswick. In 1956 the new permanent St Mary's was dedicated, and serves a population in Marshalswick which by 1969 exceeds five thousand, people. There are three factories, a rifle range, and an important radio station on the site of the old windmill, and the majority of the parishioners do not know how to milk a cow. Yet we are still rural, with many acres of farm land north, east and west of the church, untouched by modern development. There are some who hanker after "the good old times", but the question has to be asked for whom were the old times good? A re-reading of our Book 2, Chapter 2, and Book 3, Chapter 1, will give the the clear answer emerges: certainly not for the majority of Sandridge folk.

Historic Sandridge by Edward Giles and Richard William Thrale, with sketches by R. Giles. Published 1952. Reproduced with the kind consent of the late Richard Thrale.