Before its regeneration as one of Hemel Hempstead New Town’s Neighbourhood Centres in 1966/67, Leverstock Green Village centre was typical of many small villages throughout the country, with a couple of pubs and shops as well as a few dwellings. The commercial centre of the village was in the same place as today, but the buildings dated back to the late 18th and early 19th century. With the exception of the Leather Bottle and one or two dwellings to its right, the whole of the central part of the village was demolished in the late 1960’s and new shops with maisonettes above, and eventually in 1974, the present Village Hall, built in its place. The original Village Shop & Post Office was the main hub of the village after The Leather Bottle, and the White Horse Public House was immediately next door.
The White Horse as a Beerhouse, and later Public House, dated back to the mid 19th century. The licensee at the 1851 census being James Travell. He was also a dealer in pigs. Having a second occupation seemed to be necessary for the licensee at the White Horse, as in 1901 Henry Pedley, the then landlord, gave his occupation as carpenter and joiner.
No mention was made of a Post office in the 1851 survey and the 1840 Tithe survey showed the later Post Office building just a cottage & garden with the outline of what was to become the WH shown as an outbuilding, (barn) In any case The first edition 25inch O.S. plan surveyed in 1877 (see right) showed the Post Office quite clearly, but in a different location in one of the properties behind the Leather Bottle, rather than next to the White Horse as shown above. We know the PO to have been there only 20 years after the introduction of the Penny Black (1840), as in 1860, Kelly’s Directory names John Child as the receiver. Letters arrived from Hemel Hempstead at 8 a.m. and were dispatched at 6.15.p.m. As I understand it you would collect your mail in person from the receiver rather than having it delivered to the door. John Child was also listed as being a wheelwright.
John Child was to hold his postmaster/wheelwright’s position till 1898, in addition to becoming the Parish Clerk. His position was taken by Mrs. Laura Elizabeth Smith the new sub-postmistress and shopkeeper. It was also to be noted that postal orders could be issued at Leverstock Green, but could not be cashed here. By 1901 39 year old William Walter Sears had taken over as sub-Post Master, Grocer, Carpenter and wheelwright, but he was to relinquish this position a few years later in order to become a full time builder. Before doing so however, he had enlarged his premises:
POST OFFICE For the convenience of residents the sub-post office at Leverstock Green will on and after 2nd March 1903 carry out Money Order, Postal Order, Savings Bank, Stock Investment and annuity & life Insurance business. This will be a distinct boon to the residents. Mr Sears has had his premises considerably enlarged to meet the requirement of the extension. [Gazette 27th February 1903]
Further additions to the Post Office services occurred in 1905 following an announcement in The Hemel Hempstead Gazette :
POST OFFICE TELEGRAPH
EXTENSION OF THE PUBLIC
TELEGRAPHS TO LEVERSTOCK GREEN
PURSUANT TO THE PROVISION OF THE TELEGRAPH ACT 1863-1904 NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that His Majesty’s Postmaster General having obtained the consent in that behalf of the bodies having control of the public roads between HEMEL HEMPSTEAD POST OFFICE & LEVERSTOCK GREEN POST OFFICE via Christchurch Road and St. Albans Road intends to place a telegraph over and along the said public roads and for that purpose to erect and maintain posts in and upon the said public roads under the powers confirmed on him by the Telegraph Acts above mentioned.
H. BABINGTON SMITH
Secretary General Post Office 7th March 1905
[Gazette 18th March 1905]
The above service was up and running by the end of June 1905:
TELEGRAPH FACILITIES:- The local post office is now open for the transmission and receipt of telegraphs from 8 to 8 on weekdays and from 8 to 10 am on Sundays. The service should be a distinct boon to the neighbourhood. [Gazette 24th June 1905]
Leverstock Green from the White Horse (L) to the Leather Bottle. Only The Leather Bottle survives.
Kelly’s Directory for 1908 notes a new sub-postmaster and Grocer in the person of James Hallet, Post was now more frequent, arriving at 7.30.a.m. & 6 p.m., and being dispatched at 9 a.m. & 6.30 p.m. Mr Hallet also stocked and sold his own line of local postcards, the photographs often taken by Flatts of Boxmoor and carrying the inscription: published by J. Hallett, The Post Office Leverstock Gree. Mr Hallet was to remain in this position until he moved to Aylesbury in October 1919. The Hallet’s son was killed in action in 1917. At the beginning of the war when the Queen’s Westminster Rifles were stationed in the village, extra staff from the QWR were drafted in to help at the postoffice, as Bernard Joseph Brookes wrote in his war diary, Sept 1914: : “About this time the village Post Office found that they could not cope with the extra work the influx of troops had occasioned, and it fell to the signallers to take over the work connected with telegrams, and tender messages to sweethearts and wives had to be left at the mercy of the Signal Service Section."
There were to be several more sub-postmasters before the development of the new Village Centre in the late 60’s: early 1922 – at least 1929: William Long; Mr & Mrs Roland F Houston 1931- 1945, 1945 for about 20 years: Mr Haynes; 1965 : Frank Brooks
LEFT: 1948 Mr Haynes, Village Postmaster.
BELOW: 1960 Village Stores
Plans for the New Village Centre were published in 1963. The Gazette published the following article in October of that year:
Shopping Centre for Leverstock Green
Leverstock Green's shopping centre is on its way, designed by Fuller, Hall & Foulsham, consultant architects to the New Towns Commission, the centre includes six single shops, one double shop, and two surgeries - for a dentist and doctor.
Plans have been submitted to the Borough Council's Planning and Development Committee, and the Borough Engineer is asking Leverstock Green Village Association and the Martin's Residents' Association for any observations on the scheme.
The shopping "block" will include eight maisonettes and a flat, and garages are planned in association with the shops and flats. There is also a carparking space for shoppers.
The site is between the existing garage and "The Leather Bottle" "The White Horse” will be coming down, and Flowers Breweries are building a new public house on the corner of Green Lane.
A service road will run from Green Lane to the rear of the shopping development. Immediately adjoining the site, a space is zoned for the future neighbourhood hall, and provision is also made in the shopping vicinity for public conveniences."
The cost of the new centre was put at £112,000. Other buildings in the Old Village Centre to be demolished included Post Office Cottages, and Leather Bottle Terrace. The White Horse was rebuilt as promised (though has since been demolished and replaced with The Litten Tree), and the Post Office was incorporated within the Village Pharmacy, only to be moved again a couple of years ago and can now be found within Balfour’s Newsagents.