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Abbot John / Railway Pub
(Contributed by Graham Matthews)
Could I please raise a correction, or at least a clarification, regarding the information for the Abbot John/Railway in the ‘pub landlords’ section – which currently shows “A H (Mrs?) Fossett” between 1933 and 1937. The A H stands for Arthur Horace and he was my maternal grandfather. He originated from Whitwell and married Evelyn Emily Bolding (though I think she may possibly have been better known as Daisy), younger daughter of the incumbent licensees in 1921 – and my late mother Beatrice (better known as Trixie) was born at the Railway in 1922. To the best of my knowledge Arthur and Evelyn took the pub over from her parents (so I don’t think there should be a four-year gap between them) and at some stage he also ran a vehicle repair business in some of the outbuildings in the yard behind – this was relatively early in the motor age but he had worked as a chauffeur before WW1 (to Viscount Hampden at The Hoo, Welwyn on the 1911 census) and had served in France, as an ambulance driver, I believe, during the conflict. My grandmother was a pianist* and I recall my mother telling me of her playing the piano and leading ‘sing songs’ in the pub, possibly during WW2, when I believe some American or Canadian troops may have been billeted either at the Railway or elsewhere in the village. This leads me to question the end date of 1937 - I was aware that at some point between the end of the war and my mother’s marriage to John Matthews in June 1950 the Fossetts had given up the pub and moved to Caesar’s Road (which I presume was then a new development) and subsequently to a flat in Offa’s Way, where they remained until their deaths in the mid-1970s.
I recall visiting the Abbot John probably not so long before its closure and noticing an old photograph of the building (possibly taken from the railway bridge?) on the wall, showing a sign advertising “A H Fossett, motor engineer” or something similar – I’ve often wondered what happened to that photograph when the pub closed down and sincerely hope it survived somewhere.
I do not know the background to my great grandparents George and Mary (or possibly May) Bolding taking over the Railway – they had both worked in service (he as a coachman) and I believe they came to Wheathampstead from London (on the 1901 census they were living in Kensington but daughter Evelyn was born in 1891 at Exbury in the New Forest, so they possibly moved around a bit). George was born in Kelshall (near Royston) and Mary appears to have originated from Watlington in Oxfordshire. However, the 1911 census records the family already at the Railway Hotel in Wheathampstead, so the ‘start’ date of 1912 for their stewardship is evidently inaccurate too.
I’ve just noticed that another article on the same page indicates that my grandmother was also evidently chairman of the Caesar’s Road residents’ coronation party in 1953!
Regards Graham Matthews
* as evidenced in the article titled “Darby and Joan Club at Mackerye End” on your website (http://www.wheathampstead.net/history/whstd1953.htm) – indeed,