Spotlight on Bushey

(Published with the permission of the Watford Free Observer)

Chance discoveries have established Bushey as having a long history dating from as far back as the Palaeolithic period to the Iron Age.

Roman occupation is also indicated, with many finds including an old Roman road, the main road which runs through Bushey Heath and Bushey, and part of a tessellated pavement near Chiltern Avenue.

A mention in the Domesday Book of 1086, as 'Bissei', has a description of arable farm and pastureland.

At that time the population amounted to less than a hundred, and the first Norman Lord of the manor was Geoffrey de Mandeville, who had a connection with William the Conqueror.

What followed on from him was a succession of lords who seemed to side with the wrong party in the Middle Ages, which often resulted in their demise in battle or execution.

Until the 19th Century, Bushey pretty much remained a quiet agricultural village, the only industry being that which supported farming and the farmers.

However, as time evolved men and women worked in the local breweries of Stanmore and Watford, the silk ills of Watford and Bushey, and by 1835 onwards, the brick and tile making industries and the railway.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth Centuries, Bushey was said to have the best water in the North London outskirts, and some London families sent their children to live with Bushey families to avoid the city epidemics of Cholera and Typhoid.

Dr Thomas Monro, a physician to George III, purchased an estate at Merry hill in 1805. As a noted patron of the arts and an amateur artist, he helped establish many watercolourists, such as Henry Edridge and William Henry Hunt who became frequent visitors to the monro estate.

Together with his sons Alexander, Henry and John they produced many watercolour paintings of Bushey which today serve as a record of Bushey living in the 19th Century.

In 1837, a young Bavarian artist, Hubert Herkomer, visited Bushey, fell in love with the place and established himself as a portrait painter.

In 1883 the Herkomer Art School was founded and for the next 21 years attracted hundreds of art students to Bushey, which had an influence until the 1960's.

After the Second World War, a lot of the land in Bushey was protected by Green Belt legislation, and the rest became golf courses and schools.

Today, the population of Bushey is 24,000.

There are many areas of interest for residents and visitors alike. Many of the old art studios built in the Victorian and Edwardian eras are still standing, and the main part of the village, near the Church of St. James and the village pond, is a conservation area. St. James's church yard is the largest in southern England and contains a variety of flora.

Quaint antique shops, restaurants, public houses and general stores run along the high street, and free parking is available for residents and visitors.

The Bushey museum in Rudolph Road, has a more in depth guide to the history of Bushey, and a wide selection of exhibits of local interest, including the work of the local artists who helped give Bushey its unique art history.