Haunt of the sixties jet-set—The Bell at Aston Clinton

Good food guide Bell Aston clintonA few days ago we heard on the radio that there was much more violence during the Great Train Robbery of 1963 than has been reflected in the over-romanticised films about it. We also learnt that the notorious Leatherslade Farm, where the robbers held out, is no more.

Luckily, ‘The Bell’ at Aston Clinton, the pub frequented by the prosecution at the trial down the road at Aylesbury, is still around. Here’s what the Good Food Guide for 1961 – 62 had to say about this very popular inn just a year before the robbery took place:

Gerard Harris now has his own company and controls the inn; perhaps his brow will become less furrowed. The Bell is no well known to our members now that it is difficult to find anything new to say about it. Its menu is large, but not gigantic and the cuisine rises to a level of real distinction…creamy pate, 3/-; Arbroath smokies in cream,3/6; coq au vin, 9/6; beef Avignon, 8/6; sweetbreads chasseur,8/6; entrecote marchand de vin, 11/-; blackcurrant sorbet,2/-;crème brule,2/6…The menu is supported by a long and a remarkably chosen wine-list. The strongest section is probably the clarets: at one end is a Haut Medoc at 10/6, at the other ‘28’s and ‘29’s—chateau bottled wines between 32/- and 45/-, which are now not at all easy to get, even from wine merchants. Ordinaires at 9/6. Often crowded, and service sometimes overtaxed ( especially the wine service); but meals are served until quite a late hour. Open all year. Bed and breakfast, 19/6; no full board (App by too many members to list .) Continue reading

The St Petrox lectern mystery

IMG_1760Found in  our boundless archive – this crime photo with a typed note pasted to the back: –

Police Sergeant Barrie Warner with the ornate brass lecturn (sic) which was found dumped in a quiet lane. London Colney* police are anxious to trace the owners of the object which has the inscription ‘presented to the Parish of St. Petrox by William Smith’ – Churchwarden 1884- around the base.” Echo and Post Ltd, Hemel Hempstead.

No date but most of the crime photos in our archive come from the 1970s. Possibly someone of an ecclesiastical bent was able to identify where the item came from. 40  years later using the net one can be pretty certain this is St. Petrox Dartmouth and William Smith was a local solicitor whose family were associated with the church. There is another St. Petrox in Pembrokeshire but Dartmouth is far more likely. How the lectern came to be abandoned in Colney is a mystery, possible the item was regarded as too recognisable or unsaleable in the criminal underworld…

*London Colney is a village near St Albans.  It is by junction 22 of the M25 but probably at the time it had not been completed in this area.

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Pickpockets

Found in the Haining collection - this article from 1936 on pickpockets. The author Louis Mansfield has much advice,most still relevant. The bit about a 'dip's' long, tapering fingers may be fanciful but certainly it is not a profession for one with fat fingers...

PEARSON'S WEEKLY, May 30, 1936

THIS IS DERBY WEEK, SO

WATCH YOUR POCKETS!

Pickpockets will be busy among the crowds. It is their best time of the year. Louis C. S. Mansfield, detective and crime investigator, lets you into secrets of the "dip's" profession – and they have some good ones. You have been warned!

TAKE HIS ADVICE–

  I have worked against pickpockets for years. Here's my advice to you if you want to return home with your notecase.
  Be careful when you see men carrying, and not wearing, their overcoats, or holding newspapers which are open–not folded.
  Grab your wallet quickly if a stranger starts brushing paint or dust off your coat.
  If somebody hits you on the back and says "Sorry," look for a touch in front–because you won't feel it.

Continue reading