1911 is the most recent census available to us, as the records are retained in secret for 100 years. However, the gap between it and recent times is relatively small, and other data is available to us to summarise changes in employment more recently.
The popularity of the car has enabled anyone living in the hamlets away from Hatfield Road, or in remote dwellings, to reach work in St Albans, Hatfield, or even further afield. Employment on the railway, and in the growing glasshouse industry, replaced farm employment as the economics of agriculture determined more economic and efficient methods – except for a breather during WW2.
From the mid-1920s buses began to ply the Hatfield Road, giving passengers direct access to Watford, Hemel Hempstead, Welwyn Garden City and Bishops Stortford. By rail, the stations at Hatfield and St Albans Midland (City) were within easy reach, encouraging increasing numbers to win jobs in London.
It would be unusual if there were not representative employees in the large local factories of Ballito Hosiery Mills, Nicholson’s and Peake’s (both manufacturers of clothing), aero engineering and the emerging electronics technologies at firms such as Marconi Instruments.
With the growth of Hatfield as a new town in the 1950s, the government encouraged many new businesses to move to the town, and by the mid 1960s Ronnie Lyon’s serviced factory model had brought a variety of firms to the former Butterwick land along Hatfield Road, added to a little later by Acrewood Way, between them bringing a further fifty or so firms within walking distance of Smallford. Several of these were firms moving out from St Albans, among them Belpar Rubber, Pearce Recycling, Giffens Electrical and Stevenson’s School Uniforms.
The railway jobs on the branch line have gone, but early post-war industries in extraction of aggregate (St Albans Sand & Gavel Ltd, now Lafarge), plant hire and scrap metal, and the construction of portable/factory assembled buildings.
Most of these newcomers grew away from the main Hatfield Road, but three which required the presence of passing traffic, just as the blacksmith had done in the 19th century, were the arrival of the petrol station and car repairs, the cafe, and the garden centre, which morphed out of the former plant nursery. And although the cafe is no longer there as a separate entity, its facilities remain within the garden centre and in the Three Horseshoes.
The number of people living in Smallford since the 1920s has increased significantly, with homes at Ellenbrook, Oaklands Lane, Station Road and Wilkins Green Lane, and the job requirements with them. However, today there are undoubtedly as many adults travelling TO the wider Smallford locality for their work as travelling FROM their Smallford homes to work elsewhere.
150 years ago the census returns listed no more than a handful of occupations, most of them general or specific roles on local farms; today it is possible that the majority of adults living in the Smallford civil parish have unique job descriptions.
It should also be mentioned that five farms in the wider Smallford area are no longer active: Butterwick, Oaklands, Popefield, Great Nast Hyde and Harpsfield Hall. Others have altered their working model.
Finally, we should not forget that one category which bridges the enormous span of time is unemployment. It is present now as it ever was. What separates then from now is how society manages and supports those who find themselves locked in this position.
On land formerly worked by the tenant of Butterwick Farm, the industry and warehousing along Hatfield Road has greatly increased job opportunities for Smallford residents. A few of the operations here are now retail too. The image below is of one of the several firms which relocated from St Albans.
Image courtesy of Mike Neighbour.