The Community Centre opened.

Since then, come rain, come shine, it has served the community, providing a home for Playgroups, Youth Clubs and Rec for the Retired. Too many classes to name and numerous birthday parties.

That’s not bad for a temporary wartime structure not expected to survive for longer than ten years.

We are slowly building up the history of the Community Centre and gathering interesting information about the building, the Rec and the surrounding area.
Scroll down and watch the knowledge base grow……


The Abbey School sells land

Up to this year,  the site on which the Centre now stands was part of a field on the north side of Hatfield Road; one of three – the others being on the south side of the road – which were owned by St Albans School.

Sold in order to help fund the construction of new buildings at the school, which had previously been accommodated in the Lady Chapel, and then the Gateway.



St Albans Grammar School sold a large field to T E Smith for a printing works.


The land…..

The County Council acquired space for a school fronting Tess Road (now Woodstock Road South) and Royal Road.


The School is born…..

The first stage of the school opens.  The demand for houses fell away in competition with new homes being built further west by other developers and no homes materialised on the west side of Royal Road. Only six were built on the east side

A dispute between Mr Thomas E Smith (who had purchased the north field and one south field – now Morrison’s – for a printing factory, and three parallel roads for employee housing) and the developers of Burnham Road, was not resolved and a connection was therefore not made between Royal and Burnham Roads, restricting the former to a cul-de-sac. Later, a house was built across the gap, so preventing a subsequent change of mind.


A generous gesture

A good benefactor to this city chose to purchase what remained of a field previously used as a large builder’s yard and then gave it to St Albans specifically for the recreation of the people of Fleetville. It became known first as Fleetville Pleasure Ground, and then more informally as the Rec.  His name was Charles Woollam and it was in 1913 that the city was expanded to include Fleetville and Oaklands.


Charles Woollam had already donated the Victoria Playing Field to the city and a field in Harpenden Road to St Albans School, with which he had a connection.
Find out more about Woollam family HERE


Trenches dug…..

Open trenches dug on the Rec (and on the section where the Community Centre now stands.)


….. and more

In 1939 more trenches were dug and covered over with a concrete pad to protect the children from the school, and locals caught out in air raids.



In late 1941 the government ‘persuaded’ more women to work in the munitions factories, of which the nearest was the Ballito factory, where Morrison’s is now. So that those with very young children could continue working, wartime nurseries were established. But where to house them?


Building arrives

A sectional building arrived from a factory in the Lea Valley and was perched on top of the concrete pad.  With its coal stoves, hundreds of children received their nursery education; and during air raids were whisked into the brick shelters at each end of the building. The school children, and others, meanwhile were in the underground shelters below.

Here are two quotes from those early days. The first from former nursery nurse Betty, who worked in the Nursery during the Second World War and until 1949:

Betty, Nursery Nurse until 1949.

“I saw the day nursery go up. First they put together the Burnham Road end, and started the nursery straight away. So we were in that end while they were putting up the end nearest Hatfield Road.”


Starting at Nursery…

Antony Dunkley age about 40

“A couple of years before starting infants school, [1946] my mother thought she might re-enter the workforce, and to this end I was taken to the Nursery. In today’s jargon I would probably have been referred to as ‘hyper-active’, but to my mother I was just a busy person who needed very little sleep.

When we were all put down for a nap after lunch, something I did not require, I would keep getting up and running around, and trying to get everyone else up to play. We were all put down in rows of canvas army- type stretcher beds.

I only remained there for three days; they ended up putting me and my little camp bed in the boiler house, so that everyone else could sleep! Finally, I managed to make good my escape, and was recaptured halfway along Fleetville on my way home to Woodland Drive. My mother was subsequently asked to remove me, so I guess I was an early kindergarten ‘drop-out’ !



The county’s use of the nursery building also included housing up to two Fleetville Junior School classes. This space requirement was not diminished by the opening of Fleetville’s overflow school, Oakwood JMI in 1957, and was only deemed surplus to requirements once the junior department of Fleetville JMI School moved into the vacated Sandfield School building on the south side of Hatfield Road.


Working in the Nursery

Diana, a Nursery Nurse in 1972-3 recalled:

“My end was the righthand side [north end]. The large room was divided into two by a black roller blind, which made the areas very dark. I think I had ten children in my charge. The day was very standardised, and split into three shifts: 7.30am to 4pm; 8.30am to 5pm; and 9am to 6pm. Children arrived as early as 7.30am and were given breakfast. Then play. Lunch was cooked on site. Afternoon nap was on camp beds. Then there were table toys, puzzles, beads – nothing messy in the afternoon. Tea was provided at about 4pm.”


Nursery moves out

The nursery continued until 1975, but for much of the time it shared the building with burgeoning classes from the school – classes which at times exceeded 50. Finally, the juniors moved across to the former Sandfield School and the nursery moved to a new building on the site of the old police houses in Woodstock Road South.



….. the building lay empty, and regrettably became much vandalised.

The District Council was anxious to “resolve the matter once and for all”, and finally the County Council, with the agreement of the city, offered the building for community use. Of course, the vandals were ahead of the council on that one!


Important meeting

A meeting was held at the infants’ school in 1979, and as a result several offers were made, but it was the committee formed to oversee a transformation into a community centre for Fleetville which won the day.

Three years of hard work lay ahead, fundraising, un-vandalising the structure and remodelling the internal spaces, all the time ensuring that expenditure did not exceed income from donations, events and grants. The project could not have succeeded without the hundreds – if not thousands – of hours contributed by volunteers in their spare time.


Work, work, work…

Three years of hard work lay ahead, fundraising, un-vandalising the structure and remodelling the internal spaces, all the time ensuring that expenditure did not exceed income from donations, events and grants. The project could not have succeeded without the hundreds – if not thousands – of hours contributed by volunteers in their spare time.


And finally…

The big day arrives, and with due pomp and ceremony, the Fleetville Community Centre is opened.

The first Centre Manager was Jill Morris, here with Ron Wheeldon one of the first FCC Trustees at her retirement.


Tales of a Centre Manager

Cathy Budd was Centre Manager from 2004 to 2012

Cathy at Larks

“I think some thing all the managers of FCC will agree on is that ‘everyday was different ‘ and that there are not many Community Centres that are so well used and with such a variety of activities and users.

Over the years I spent at the centre there are many moments that stand out but one in particular that always comes to mind….

I had to go back in during the evening session to deliver an invoice – I knew we had two art classes taking place in 2 rooms with Accordion Club and Kung Fu in other rooms.

Imagine my surprise when entering the large hall for Art Class number one I was confronted with a naked young man sitting in an arm chair! It turned out the class was a life-drawing class but I hadn’t been informe . We had no problem with that but a discussion ensued about it needed to be managed with signs on the doors and limited access for class members only. I said I would make some signs and inform the other users of the Centre. I headed to the next Art Class, this time to be confronted with a naked lady! I am pleased to say both Accordion Club and Kung Fu were fully dressed.”


Where are we now?

Where are we now in October 2018?

It matters not how many rooms will be created in the proposed new community centre; each will need to be carefully thought through in terms of size, design and facilities.
That is what we are considering at present.  Each space is being prepared to offer a limited range of complementary functions, and designed with those functions in mind.

Capacity (small groups or large groups) is just one factor we are building into our Spaces Brief.  Just as important is the amount of sound produced by each kind of activity, and whether spaces should be arranged to fit in a quiet zone or a noisy one.

We are investigating the flexibility of rooms with square floor areas compared  with long rectangles; and how best we can arrange spaces to make best use  of catering facilities, whether it is an in-room kitchenette, a welcome refreshment bar or a kitchen large enough to service a party, a dinner function or for training courses.

Endless lines are being drawn on outline plans to illustrate how people might flow around and through a building without any part of it becoming over-crowded. 

In a busy centre there will always be a need for a quiet corner for two or three users to meet for a confidential chat, for a hot-desk space, and of course, for administration space to enable the future Centre to function.

Above all, the critical issue of storage areas is raised and discussed frequently.

These current detailed meetings, when complete and finalised, will provide our first real illustration of the cost of the new building.  Look forward to 2019.

Mike Neighbour
Chair New Build Group