Interviewee: Diana Devereux aged 61
Interviewer: Liz Bloom
Date: August 20th 2010
I was born Diana Stone but I was adopted by Muriel and Hector Stone. My family,
(I’ve just found out), my actual family, originated in Colney Heath but Muriel and
Hector Stone adopted me when I was very young and they collected me from a nursing
home in Grosnevor Road called Grosnevor Lodge and brought me home to 49a Salisbury
Avenue in…29th of December I was born in 1948. I have an older brother, who was
adopted two years earlier, called Christopher. My father had lived in Fleetville
all his life. He was born in Fleetville. His mother came from the East End, Bow.
Before she met Mr Stone, she came with, sadly, only one of her children by her first
marriage; Alban. Clarence was put into an orphanage in Surrey. So she came to St
Albans and ran a boarding house in College Street and Percy Stone was the lodger.
They married soon after and Percy took an off-
The shop was always open, from the crack of dawn to the evening and my father was always the one who sat at the seat nearest the door to the shop so whenever the shop bell rang, he used to have to get up and go and serve the customer.
My father met my mother at Trinity Congregational Church in Victoria Street and they
married July 25th 1935 and then war was about and dad was in the Signals and he was
based at Elvingdon in Norfolk and he said, after the war, he would not go back into
the shop; he would look for another business to do with stationery or something,
but he didn’t want shop hours. They bought Salisbury Avenue for £900 in those days.
They borrowed a bit from my mother’s father, and I think they paid him back. So
after the war when dad came out, he bought a small business in Albion Road. It was
in the garden of a house in Camp Road and it was a garage and it was a small wholesale
stationery business; it was literally a garage with Dickinson’s, the stationery
people at Hemel Hempstead…Basildon Bond and all that…and he started his business
there and that blossomed and he moved to premises across the road which were…..he
had a builder, local builder called Fountain, who renovated it, and they moved over
there and they went into toys and fireworks and everything. As children we used
to love going down there because it was an Aladdin’s Cave. I can remember the day
when they moved the safe from one side of the road to the other. There was a terrific
camber in the road and they had it on one of those barrows -
Us as a family; dad used to work six/seven days a week. He always carried a big ledger on him with all the accounts on it. He was another naughty man; people paid him in cash and he used to have these two pieces of pigskin leather and he used to have all the money in there, wrapped round with elastic band in his jacket pocket and it bulged like anything and he was a chronic asthmatic so he was a target for everybody.
We had a great childhood and great adoptive parents; I wouldn’t have wished for more.
I had some good friends in Salisbury Avenue too; one -
I didn’t go to Fleetville School; my parents sent me to a private school. First
of all, I went to school with my mum who was a teacher. (Before she married my dad,
she was a teacher at Fleetville School and she used to teach in the hut in the playground.)
But I went to a private school on Hillside Road called Lyndale and before that mum
taught in another private school in Hall Place Gardens called Durnford? House and
it was run by a Mrs Holby and I had to dress up in the uniform which was a burgundy
colour but I can’t remember being educated there…I can’t remember doing any work.
But the girl I’ve just been to see this weekend in Cumbria, she actually went there
to school and she was showing me a report she had from Durnford House and (as a)
Holidays. We always had a fortnight holiday in the summer. We never went away any other time, and we used to go to caravans or….oh, we started HF (Holiday Fellowship) holidays which I’m still doing now, which are walking holidays. They have leaders and they walk you over….. all situated in different places in the country. I wsa never very good at sport. I remember playing hockey in Clarence Park at the private school I was at. The good team went down to Verulamium to play hockey, the bad one was sent to Clarence Park. We didn’t have any sports uniform; we did it in our gym slips and I can remember standing in the middle of the hockey pitch by the goal and…. the ball (never) came down. Monday afternoons and Thursday afternoons were not my favourite days at school.
Shopping in Fleetville when I was a child….I was allowed to go down to Bycullah Terrace to buy things. Once I was sent on an errand to Dixons and mum sent me for a Swiss roll because we used to have a lady called……well, first of all we used to have a lady called Mrs Grey who lived in Arthur Road who came and did some cleaning for us and then we had another lady called Mrs Tilney who lived in Burnham Road and she grew up in Burnham Road but sadly she’s now dead……..and I was sent down to get this bit of swiss roll for her to go with her cup of coffee (because we always stopped for coffee)and we got it home and we opened in up and it was full of ants, so it was sent back. But I remember the shops along Bycullah Terrace; there was Dixon’s, where you went in the top bit in Woodstock Road to the vegetables, and the bottom bit to the groceries. The next shop was Grace’s the sweet shop and Mr Grace always wore an immaculate white jacket when he served you with sweets. Then there was the fishmonger’s; a little tiny man used to appear from behind a partition and he always had a dewdrop on the end of his nose! It was always freezing cold in there; never any heating, it was freezing in there. No wonder he had a dewdrop on the end of his nose. Then there was Spurrier’s? who had these bright pink meringues; I can see them vividly now in the window, and spiced buns with crunchy sugar on top. A loaf of bread was a shilling (12 old pence [5p]). Then I think there were a couple of houses but there was this small shop called Green’s who was a grocer but nobody seemed to go in there much, so how it existed, we don’t know. Then there was the café – the café was always there – and the butchers, but we didn’t go to those butchers; we went to the butchers up past the Rec which is now called the Park. There used to be a butcher’s up there called Johnsons and we always got our meat from there. Then there was the chemist which was an Aladdin’s cave because there were all these things hanging round you and there were steps going down and steps going up and it was a fascinating place to go in. It was just full of…I don’t know…so much going on in there. We used to go in Florence Miles, which was up by Johnsons, and buy ginger beer. There was Samuel’s the shoe shop just the other side and he used to come out from the cellar. In his shop he had the shoes and then he’d mend them down this ramp part which he disappeared in like a magician, you know, like those organs which came out. He sort of came out from underneath. Yes, but you could buy everything in Fleetville. My school uniform you could buy up at Fleetville, it was up by the Liberal Club, and there was Blundells, the shoe shop up there…..Apparently the shoe shop didn’t have a toilet or water or anything, it was just a square room so she had to shut it at dinner time so she could go home and spend a penny!
There was Ben Pelly’s the hardware shop and a china shop; it sold everything but it had this marvellous display cabinet in the front of it…it had the shop windows going round but it had a middle piece where they displayed (things) and us children used to love running round and round and round. And then next door to that was George Haines, the men’s outfitters which moved up to the Quadrant and only shut about 2 or 3 years ago, but it just traded as George Haines; George Haines died years ago but we knew him as a family friend. Dad always went in there for his clothes.
Transport. We used to go up to town on the bus, the 330, the 341 or the 345 which came down Woodstock Road; and if you were very clever, you could stand on the corner of Woodstock Road and Hatfield Road, and whichever bus came first, you either ran across Hatfield Road or ran back up Woodstock Road to jump on the bus. And if you went the other way, like it went to Welwyn Garden City or the 341 went to Hatfield. The 343 even went to Dunstable which was a long way away to our way of thinking.
We always had animals at home. We always had a cat and we had a tortoise and fish and in my teenage years I kept poultry. My brother kept poultry first and then he went off the idea so we had 2 White Sussex (hens) called Matilda and Flow but they weren’t very good egg layers so they were walked off down Salisbury Avenue to somebody else who had poultry….and then I got some Leghorns which were better.
We always went to church on Sundays; we worshipped at Trinity, made lots of friends at Trinity, one being Mike (Neighbour). I was in the Guides and the Brownies there. The Guide hut used to be in Camp Road. Coming from the Crown, you went down the hill a bit and then on your right was an unmade road and up the top there, Trinity had a plot of land where first of all they had tennis courts on it, apparently, and then they built the Guide hut and the Scout hut, and we used to have Guides up there. We used to cycle there. My friend who lived in the Camp, she used to cycle back to Camp and I used to cycle back to Fleetville but then one frightening day, I had somebody follow me which was a bit scary. I thought I could be clever and cut up Harlesden Road and down Burnham Road and lose him and he was at the bottom of Burnham Road and I never ran so fast in my life; really scary. But you went to these things on your own; I went to ballet in the town, I went to music in Marshalswick Lane and you got yourself on your bus and you just got on with it. My mother couldn’t drive. My father had the only car because he needed it for business. We were very lucky; we had a telephone. Not many people in those days had telephones….. 52160; I can remember the number now. We walked to school every day, or cycled when I got older.
I fell off my bike. It was summer and we were racing round Salisbury Avenue on our
bikes in Beaumont Avenue; we did the circuit and I came round the bend too fast and
landed in the gutter. A man was going past on the other side (he was a driving instructor
– I can’t remember his name) but it wasn’t his fault, I just wobbled and went, and
he said to me, “What do you want me to take home first, your bike or you?” I can’t
remember what I answered. Anyway, he bundled me into his car and took me home. I
told him where I lived and when we got home we couldn’t find mum. Mum was meant
to be at home and we couldn’t find her anywhere and we were calling and calling and
calling and all of a sudden she appeared between the bushes because she was talking
to a neighbour. The garden at the back was a funny shape, it was an L shape at the
top bit but we had bushes all round the sides…….. and she appeared and she took me
in. But then they didn’t take me down to hospital immediately; they put me to bed
and tried to get me to walk on this leg and I couldn’t and so dad was busy so he
got one of his employees to take mum and me down to Normandy Road where the hospital
was in those days to like a shack, it was really. We went in there and they x-
I’ve got sad memories of Hill End Hospital. I’m afraid I had an aunt who was in there and that was a bit (of a) scary place. I used to go down with mum and dad on a Sunday afternoon but I always used to sit in the car. Some of the wards were locked and they were long, long corridors. But we did do one thing nice at Hill End Hospital; the ballet I was belonging to in those days, we put on a performance for the patients and I had to have a tutu. I’ve still got the tutu today. I had to go to Hatfield and have the tutu fitted by a lady who lived in Birchwood or somewhere like that. We went over on the bus and it was all this netting and bright pink and there was an Alice band I thought I was the bee’s knees. I was never a ballerina but we did go there and do that for the patients, which was nice.
(After training as a Nursery Nurse) I worked at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in
the Special Care Unit in Welwyn Garden City. I worked there for a year and absolutely
hated it. I was never so frightened in my life. We hadn’t had any training to do
with babies and we were expected to give them injections and stomach wash-
Other than work, I used to (be) a member of International Voluntary Service where
I met my husband and we met in the July and we were married in the March. We got
married at Trinity. Prior to that, I’d just started working at…because I wanted
to get into teaching… I left school before I did my O levels, so I did them in evening
classes and I got a provisional place at Putteridge College but I didn’t get all
my 5 grades so I was out of work for a bit, well only a week and then I got a job
at Fleetville Day Nursery, which was quite an experience. Run by a Mrs Barrett who
was matron and Beryl who was the sister and then there were nursery nurses. There
was a baby room, a toddler room and a big room which was right at the far end. It
was partitioned by a hideous black blind which was rolled down and never rolled up
and it must have been so scary to the children. It was in the Community Centre and
I worked there for 6 months until I got married and then I got a job in Hatfield
in a nursery class in Hatfield. We had the children come at half past seven in the
morning and some didn’t leave until 6 at night. They were referred from Social Services
and in those days, they recommended that mothers go to work and we look after the
children. The week before I got married, I was on ‘earlies’ and I got in with matron
and we had to light the boiler every morning -
We were married in 1973 at Trinity and we had our reception at the Noke Hotel in
Chiswell Green. We had about 50 guests and we had to be out of the Noke by 4 o’clock
in the afternoon because there was another thing going on so it was very well-
Special occasions at school were Sports Day. The head at Fleetville in those days was a lady called Mrs Renshaw? and she was very in to fashion and she wore very expensive lovely clothes and I can see her now on the Sports Day with this lemon dress on and she had some kind of hat on her head and we had to go to the Junior School and use their playing (field) and I can see her marching us over but she was trying to hold on to her hat and be responsible for all these children as well. We had a grand celebration there of 75 years of the school opening and all the staff dressed up in Victorian costume and we all had to make the children white pinneys. They did dancing and had a day where they pretended to be Victorian children. Charlotte went there in ’81 and so I would say that must have been ‘84/’85 – this was the Infants. Well, my mum died in ’81 and Charlotte started in the April of ’81 because in those days you didn’t go to school ‘til you were 5, so she would have had 2 years there so it (the 75th anniversary) must have been ’83, something like that.
We had doctors in Victoria Street; Dr Finlay, who I think is still alive. He used to come down and visit my father. He had a big shooting break car and he had all his children in the back. He had a mattress and all the children would be in the back; he had 4 or 5 children. He was very, very good with my father; he was very attentive to him and then we went to Dr Smith and then they moved up to the Maltings.