History of Park Street
The landscape of Park Street was formed by the last Ice Age. The leading edge of the ice stopped in a ragged line extending as far as Edgware and its retreat left the gravel deposits, the excavation of which has provided employment for residents since Roman times. The land was a dense forest set in a swampy terrain. Early residents lived in clearings near high points or next to rivers. They created trackways, one of which ran from Prae Wood to the River Ver. The line of this track is still evident from Burston Manor through How Wood via Burston Drive and Hyde Lane.
When the Romans built Watling Street they discovered an established Belgic settlement set on a high point above the Ver. This they later developed into a villa that had a grain store, rooms heated by a hypocaust, a bath house and a wharf at the river. They traded by way of the river with the important local town of Verulamium (now St Albans). The villa survived for almost 300 years and was excavated during and immediately after WWII. No trace remains on site but two burials in stone coffins were found and are now on display in Verulamium Museum.
When the Romans left the Saxons, then the Danes and finally the Normans controlled the area that included what by then had become the Hamlet of Parkye. During that time Burston Farm had thrived and was the largest local farm.
The Abbots of the St Albans Monastery owned much of the local land. It was the abbots who took over the mill at Park Street and local people provided much of the labour and services for the farms.
The following years saw many changes of ownership of land but the staple activity remained farming, well into modern times. It was the Victorians who accelerated change in Park Street because they introduced the railway and improved roads. This gave the ordinary citizens the ability to travel cheaply and quickly thus extending their scope for work or trade. The railway enabled a Park Street resident to expand and exploit his business growing watercress. Ownership of estates attracted successful businessmen as residents and the villages of Park Street, Frogmore and Colney Street began to coalesce into one ribbon development.
Burston Farm was sold in 1923 and the land split up for housing and smallholdings. Park Street expanded rapidly, attracting people from the aircraft, railway and printing industries. Over time the smallholdings began to be re-sold and split to provide more dwellings. In 1930 aircraft manufacturer Handley Page moved to Colney Street, expanded into Frogmore and eventually into Park Street.
After WWII improvements in transport and living standards increased the ownership of cars and supermarkets began to appear. This was the death knell of many of the farms and almost all of the smallholdings. With the closure of the aircraft industry, reduction of printing and the electrification of the railways residents changed to a wider range of employment and Park Street became a dormitory village.
By Tony Stevens, Park Street & Frogmore Society