Recollections of Little Common, Stanmore
RECOLLECTIONS OF LITTLE COMMON, STANMORE by John Mitchell
I am researching my mother’s family history, the surname being Ransom/Ransome. They lived from 1867 up until the 1950’s at Little Common, Stanmore, Middlesex. My great-grandfather worked as a drayman and later ‘maltster/maltsman’ at the local brewery, Clutterbuck’s on Stanmore Hill, period 1867-1905, he died in 1911 aged 70. My mother’s family lived on Little Common from 1920 onwards, in what was the Royal Oak, a former Clutterbuck’s Alehouse.
I know that Clutterbuck’s was started up by Thomas Clutterbuck in Stanmore about 1760, by 1851 they were the main employer in the area with over fifty workers, my great grandfather, George Ransom went there from a brewery at Watford, Herts to work and lived in a tied cottage close by. The brewery finally closed down about 1923 after selling out to Cannon Brewery, Clerkenwell, London, by that time there were 83 Clutterbuck pubs, etc in the area. In 1881 there were three licensed premises on the Common alone, The Vine, next to the brewery, still open today, and two beer houses, one called the Maytree became a shop, now a cottage, the other beerhouse was later my mother’s parents home.
I was born at Edgware hospital in April 1949, and spent the first fifteen months living at 22 Little Common with my parents and gran, Alice Hardy, before the family moved to Hayes, Middx to live until 1973. I well remember holiday stays at the old beerhouse and common and ponds. The ‘famous’ black lettering ‘CLUTTERBUCK’S FINE ALES, STOUTS & PORTER’ clearly visible through the fading old whitewashed brick frontage, the proof of a former use of the property. The front door lead directly into the room that was set aside in previous times for the consumption of ale. The door at the back of this room had been in two halves, with a serving shelf on the top of the lower half, there were also some old shelves on the walls for placing glasses on etc, and an old cast iron fireplace.
There were two more rooms behind the ‘public’ room, a small dining room with a ‘cupboard’ type door in the corner that was the stairs to the upper floor, and the kitchen at the rear with a red tiled floor and old sink.
Outside the side/back kitchen door was a large pantry, and a w.c and outhouse containing an old clothes washing ‘copper’. I only remember the small present garden, as adjoining flats were built in the 1930s on what was the stable and cellar (where beer barrels would have been stored?), yard, garden and henhouse. The upper bedroom extension was recently found to only have a single-layer brick wall, showing where the stable was previously joined on.
As a lad I remember finding old bits of broken clay pipes in the small garden’s soil, probably from customers of the alehouse. The property was the right-hand end of a terrace row of five dwellings, and L shape, slightly larger than the other four. The outside common road was, and still is, just the local stone gravel surface, never tarmaced. When I was a child Little Common was fairly open, a few trees (oaks etc) gorse bushes and ferns, in recent years more tree planting and general lack of use has caused the openness to dwindle and the trees encroach right up to the roadway almost. There’s also a car outside every house.
In the 1920-30s the locals kept goats and chickens on the small common opposite. There were tall wooden poles there with radio ‘masts’ on top for peoples houses. During the second world war each house had an air raid shelter built on the edge of the common. The local ponds all used to be fished regularly, and ice skating took place when they froze over in the winters.
My mother says she and her brother Douglas, and the Kent boys used to go to the old brewery site (over the road to the main brewery - Pattison’s site), in the 1920s and pick blackberries in the overgrowth of the old stables and ramshackle buildings. There were deep wells there not properly covered over, their parents were always telling them to be careful of those. The Vine was obviously the local pub, and still is. My father was living at Stanmore 1946-50 when he first married, and belonged-to their darts team. He remembers the beer was Bass, and that if they went to play at Watford pubs, they used to moan having to drink Benskins, ‘gnat’s pee’ they called it! Other things he remembered was a local coach driver who used to stop his coach outside the Vine, knock on a side window and leave all his passengers sitting on the bus while he had a pint of Bass leaning on the window sill! The landlord’s name at that time was Dougie Wade. He couldn’t make a go of it though, and left after a few years. It seemed to be doing alright when I visited last year! I asked for a pint of Clutterbuck’s, but was told “we haven’t had a delivery lately”.
George Ransom, my great grandfather born Biscott, Luton 1841, was as most men were then, an agricultural labourer, he moved down to a farm at St.Albans, married a farm servant Mary Green, and they then moved initially to Watford for a year, possibly working in one of the breweries there before settling in Stanmore in 1867. From 1867 George worked at Clutterbuck’s Brewery as ‘Drayman’, then later ‘Maltman’ within the brewery itself. He and Mary lived in the middle of three cottages called ‘Brewery Cottages’.
George and Mary raised a family of ten children in a very small cottage, the last child Alice was my grandmother. George died in August 1911, he is buried with Mary (d.1926), and other Ransoms in the old churchyard at St.John’s, Stanmore. Their cottage was demolished in the 1930s also, other houses were built on that site.
George’s first daughter, Hannah married widower Jim Heading, another brewery worker of Little Common about 1894, their daughter Lilian married Herbert Kent, who had moved up to Stanmore from Petworth, West Sussex. Herbert was a later brewery worker. Lilian and Herbert lived until their nineties, in the 1980s. I don’t know if George’s sons William and James worked at the brewery, the census of 1891 lists their occupations just as ‘labourer’, nothing specific. I know that George junior was a valet in London, and died young of T.B. Frederick and John didn’t work at the brewery. All the daughters were in domestic service prior to marriage, locally or in London etc.
Alice, born 1884 married Charles Hardy of Surrey, a long service Royal Navy sailor in October 1915. They moved back from Chatham to Little Common, the former Royal Oak alehouse about 1918. My uncle Douglas was born there in 1919. I suppose the alehouse had ceased operation by 1916 when Clutterbucks stopped brewing. Charles then worked at local RAF Bentley Priory doing maintenance work, etc, he died before I was born, age 70 in 1946. The property was rented from a Mrs Neate who lived in Hertfordshire, I suppose Clutterbuck’s had disposed of all their tied/rented properties.
Several locals then worked at Pattison’s on the former brewery site. My gran, Alice lived in the old alehouse until about 1962, when she moved into the old people’s flats at the top of the road where five cottages had previously stood. Most of the other Ransoms had moved into Stanmore centre by 1940, or had moved away. Alice died aged 92 in 1976. The last Ransom at Stanmore was Beatrice who died in 1996, bringing to an end 130 years of Ransoms there.
The old Royal Oak, No.22, is now thoroughly modernised. In 1962 it was bought by an art teacher at a Harrow school, he had a studio built on the upper floor, hence the large side window and roof skylights. When he died in 1986 the present owner, a surveyor, did a lot more work on the house, and found a few ‘new’ coins hidden in slots in some timbers, dated 1809, probably to show the date of building. When digging the garden for foundations for a small extension a few years ago a’pit’ full of cobble stones was discovered, this was probably the cellar under the old stable.
The black ‘CLUTTERBUCK’S’ lettering was still visible on the front of the property as late as 1986, it has now been painted over with white gloss weatherproof paint, and so no longer exists. The old front door has been removed and replaced with a window. Inside, walls have been removed, etc, stairs changed so unrecognisable from its previous condition, and an upstairs bathroom added.
Various stories exist about visitors to the common over the years, who would ring the doorbell and ask if they could buy lemonade, etc because of the old black lettering!
I used to enjoy visiting my gran in her old house with the ‘funny’ gas lights, and am pleased I now know its full history. I would be interested in copies of any old Clutterbuck’s posters, adverts or beer labels.