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The Charles Morris Story according to Dudley Wood
Page last updated at 15:15 on Thursday, 27 May 2021
Introduction

Below is the story of Charles Morris as recorded by Dudley Wood, 32-years the Clerk to Colney Heath Parish Clerk until 1990, and transcribed from a copy of Dudley's document in the possession of Peter Reeves of Tyttenhanger Green.

Historical note as reported in the Herts Advertiser 17 July 1991: Tireless former parish clerk Dudley Wood is presumed dead after going missing on a solo mountain climbing expedition while on holiday in the Azores. Mr. Wood, 76, of Sandridge Road, St Albans, who was dubbed "Mr Colney Heath" becoming the district's longest serving parish clerk failed to return from the mountainside on June 26. The authorities on Pico in the Azores began a full search but failed to find any trace of Mr Wood.
 

1st March 1855

You will wonder why this quite remote date could possibly have anything to do with the whole in which we are gathered this afternoon. The answer is that it was on this day that Charles Morris was born in East Lydeard farmhouse, Bishops Lydeard, Somerset, and eventually it was due to the train of events that he set in motion that didn't have a green is fortunate enough to have a well-constructed building, free of debt, and with a substantial maintenance endowment, in which many social and other village activities can be enjoyed.

Charles Morris, trained as an engineer, rose to become the managing director of the engineering firm of Jessop and Company, of Calcutta, India – a position in which he seems to have attracted the highest respect and a formidable reputation.

The rewards of many years of hard work and application enabled him to fulfil an ambition he had nursed since his youth – to become an English landowner and to breed champion red Devon cattle

So, as time went by he purchased his own old farm home at East Lydeard, and also Highfield Hall at Tyttenhanger Green – together with other land in the then civil parish of St. Peter Rural: both in Somerset and Hertfordshire he built up prize red Devon herds, that won all manner of championships, and were said to be unmatched in all England.
 

1914

Charles Morris returned from India to England for the last time, settling down at Highfield Hall, and still keeping an eye on the Jessop company’s affairs from their London office.
 

2nd June 1916

His wife passed away after 30 years of happy marriage , and he lost on the battlefields of France and nephew who had been like a son to him – he himself having no children.

In character he was a man of great benevolence and generosity, particularly to the young. The story goes that he loved all children, and if while walking in the village – perhaps Tyttenhanger Green, and perhaps to London Coney, where he had many interests – he came across a youngster whose teeth needed attention, he would lose no time in sending the child to the dentist to mend matters, at his expense. He was pleased for the local boys to play cricket on his land and would never see their lacked for bats and balls. Many grownups today will remember the wonderful Christmas parties they revelled in as children around the Christmas tree in the Highfield Hall coach house, and the presents given to all by Charles Morris.

He made several gifts of land to the Saint Peter rural parish council for public recreation at London Coney and Tyttenhanger Green, and also for allotments at Tyttenhanger.
 

3rd August 1921

This was the date of the deed of gift from Charles Morris to the St. Peter Rural Parish Council of 1½ acres behind the former Colne View Terrace, now numbers 34/52 Tyttenhanger Green , “for the purposes of allotments for the inhabitants of the said village of Tyttenhanger, and for no other purpose whatsoever.“

This land was divided into 19 plots, and quickly brought into cultivation.
 
28th March 1926

 

Crippled by illness “so badly that he had to give up horse riding, and to be carried to visit the graves of his relatives and friends”, but stout-hearted to the last, Charles Morris, Magistrate, Champion cattle breeder, benefactor to many, and everyone's friend, passed away, leaving behind him many good works and kindly deeds.

A gathering of 170 people attended the funeral service at St. Paul's church St. Albans – including such notabilities as the Dowager Countess of Verulam, The Earl of Verulam, Sir Cecil and Lady Newmann, Sir Alfred Reynolds, Sir George Saltmarsh, Captain Part (High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, Miss M.A. Wix, (Deputy Mayor of St. Albans), Mr W.G. Marshall (Town Clerk of St. Albans). Among the company with a number of people from Tyttenhanger, some of them acting as pallbearers.

With his wife, Edith, he lies buried in St. Albans Cemetery, in an enclosure the few steps from the Chapel of Rest.
 

6th May 1930

 

Out of moneys (sic) left him by (sic), and by the will of Charles Morris, his uncle, captain Roger Ogilvy Sanders voluntarily conveyed to the St. Peter Rural Parish Council the small playground on which the Hall has been built - to be used “for pleasure, recreation or playing grounds”. By this conveyance the Parish Council were allowed to erect “a shelter or pavilion” for the benefit of users of the recreational area, and (as their successors) the Conley Heath Parish Council and Trustees of the Charity of Charles Morris for Allotments at Tyttenhanger Green have regarded the Hall as a liberal interpretation of a building of the specified description.
 

6th May 1935

This playground was opened. A plaque on the original gate bore the words:-

“In memory of Charles Morris and of his wife Edith H Morris,
this recreation ground was purchased out of a bequest left by him
for the benefit of the inhabitants of Tyttenhanger Green.”
 

15 April 1947

By Order of the County Council the Parish of St. Peter Rural was divided into two Parishes – Colney Heath and London Colney, each having a Parish Council of their own. This Order transferred to Colney Heath Parish Council the allotments behind Colne View Terrace, this playground, and the land at the rear. By making Highfield Lane the boundary between the two new Parishes, the Order placed Highfield Hall within the Parish of London Colney – in fact all the property on the west side of that lane is now in London Colney.
 

1948

The 19 allotments continued in use for the next 20 years, although in that. They were never fully occupied: the total annual rental in 1948 was £2.8.10 [approx. £87 in 2021 according to https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency-converter], and in 1960 this was doubled to £4.17.8 [approx. (£174 in 2021]. The full rent due for the 20 years would have been £66.1.0 [approx. £2,000], but because of persistent vacancies only £18.18.01 [approx. £672] was actually collected.
 

1950/55

This period was marked by two important proposals that came to nothing, and one vital event that was to bring the whole within the realms of possibility, although this was not fully realised at the time.

In June 1950 the Parish Council “in response to public demand in the village of Tyttenhanger” considered sketch plans of a brick and asbestos haul, estimated cost £1,500 pounds. A precast concrete hall was finally approved by the St. Albans Rural District Council and the Hertfordshire County Council, in 1951, the estimated cost then being £2,000 pounds. Owing to restrictions on grants the whole of the cost would have had to be found out of the Parish rates, and therefore the Tyttenhanger residents were canvassed as to whether the project should be taken further - 97 saying “yes”, and 13 “no”. It was at this point that a government ban on expenditure on this type of building temporarily brought the matter to a halt.

In March 1954, with the lifting of this embargo, the idea revived when the Parish Meeting resolved “that the Parish Council be asked to consider the question of the provision of a public hall at Tyttenhanger for the residents of the Hillend Ward”. After much discussion, both at meetings of the Parish Council, and of the Parish Meeting, it became clear, at a Parish Meeting on 21st September 1955, that the building would not cost less than £3,000, it was still unlikely to attract grants, and the whole expenditure would have to be rate-bourne (sic). This situation provoked a resolution “that the Parish council be requested to take no further action in this matter until a delegation of Tyttenhanger residents make representations to the parish council for the matter to be reopened” – and the Parish Council acquiesced.

Because of the small amount of use being made of the allotments behind Colne view Terrace, in March 1953 the Parish Clerk (Mr A G Jenkins) was asked to examine ways in which “the Tyttenhanger allotments could be legally put to better use”. This question was also put to the Rural District Council, and in July 1953 the Parish Council resolved to offer the 1½ acres to the R.D.C. for a housing site.

Negotiations were commenced but abandoned in November 1955 when, on the representation of some local residents that, despite the small amount of present use of the allotments, interest in cultivating them might well grow in the future, the Parish Council decided to take no further action.

During negotiations, however, the R.D.C. had to make sure that planning permission for the use of the allotment land for housing could be obtained from the County Council, and so applied for this in May 1955. Because the land was in the Metropolitan Green Belt there was some preliminary argument about the real need for its release. It fell to the present Parish Clerk (Mr. H Dudley Wood) in his capacity as deputy clerk of the R.D.C., to handle the application, and he can well remember advancing the plea to the divisional planning officer that the council's proposal “was no Hitlerian dream of lebensraum”, but just a modest attempt to ease the way for a few more homes for the people of Tyttenhanger.
 
A Golden Moment Arrives On 3rd June 1955 planning permission was in fact granted for four pairs of houses, a block of four flats, with four garages and washdown. This was the turning point in the value of the allotment land – for allotment or agricultural use it might just have commanded three figures, but with planning permission for housing its value at once rose to four figures and was later to increase to five figures. There is no doubt that it was this planning permission which was to influence the whole course of future events, and to lead up to the building of this whole.
 

1955/64

During these years no positive attempt was made to reactivate the whole project, and the allotments remained only partially occupied – indeed, to prevent the spread of weeds from uncultivated plots the parish council for a number of years have to spend more on rotavation than the rents produced.

Early in 1964 the R.D.C., still being in need of housing land at Tyttenhanger, approached the Parish Council again, and for a second time agreed to enter into negotiations for the sale, through the District Valuer. In August 1964 a sale price of £11,000 was agreed by both parties.
 

1965/68

The sale did not, however, proceed at once, partly because there were legal complications as to the authority under which it could go forward. Eventually, (after the parish council had taken Counsel's opinion, that the 1921 deed of gift to the St. Peter Rural Parish Council had created a charitable trust for the Tyttenhanger people ) it transpired that the Parish Council were in fact acting in this matter as Trustees, and that the administration of the proceeds of the sale must therefore be the subject of a special Charity Commission Scheme .

Following public meetings with the Tyttenhanger residents it was again established that a Community Hall was still the most popular suggestion for the application of the sale proceeds

After much time-consuming legal procedure, the Charity Commission on 9th May 1967 made an order permitting the Parish Council, as trustees, to sell the allotment land. The detailed terms of sale had to be approved by a second order, which was made in January 1968.

The lapse of time since the original valuation had led to a re-assessment of the price, which rose from £11,000 to £15,000, and it was on 5th March 1968 that this latter sum was paid to the Trustees.

Here at last was something tangible, the basis on which a new hall scheme could be developed.

With the permission of the Custodian of Charities the £15,000 was for the time being placed on loan with St. Albans R.D.C. Towards the end of 1968 the Tyttenhanger residents were once more canvassed on their feelings as to how this money should be used, and yet again a Community Hall was preferred above anything else.
 
1969/72

Various types of buildings were examined and discussed at local Tyttenhanger meetings, and by the Parish Council: finally, it was decided to adopt the design of Messrs. Meacher, Moyes & Partners, Chartered Architects, of 1 College St, St. Albans – the design you see today.

Detailed planning permission for its erection on this playground was issued on 8th of June 1972, and Building Regulation approval on 19th of June that year . Tenders were sought and opened on 31st of August, the lowest being £13,440 (without furnishings and equipment).

The intention of the Parish Council being not only to provide a Hall, but also to give it a substantial endowment, it was immediately clear that enough money could not be made available to cover everything without contributions from other sources, and at the request of the Charity Commission, the Parish Council therefore decided to seek grants from the County Council (and through them the Department of Education and Science) and the Saint Albans R.D.C.

In their application they were strongly supported and advised by the St. Albans Council of Social Service, and the St. Albans Youth and Community Service. There was initial uncertainty, indeed anxiety, as to whether the Parish Council would qualify for grants, but finally the Authorities accepted that in their capacity as Trustees they could receive such money.

The big problem at the time was the fact that there were already in the “grant-aid pipeline” a backlog of similar applications, and so the Council learned, regretfully, that there was no immediate prospect of financial help until their particular scheme worked its way up to the top. In spite of the onset of more noticeable inflation, however, they decided it was in everyone's interests to hold on. They tried to induce the grant aiding authorities to give a “without prejudice” go-ahead so that building could actually start, but there was unwillingness to give this clearance when enough funds to guarantee the completion of construction could not be clearly seen.
 
1973/74

This was a time for great patience, and in spite of many efforts on the part of the Parish Council to obtain grants, or the expedition of grand promises, the feeling of deep frustration set in, both among the Councillors and the residents.

In the meantime a provisional Management Committee (without anything to manage!) had been set up, and this met periodically to discuss the current situation, and remained poised ready to take over the Hall administration as soon as the legal position allowed them to do so.

A bright spot occurred towards the end of 1973, when £500 was promised by the St. Albans R.D.C.

In April 1974 the County Council called for a re-assessment of the whole project (including expenditure on architects’ fees and fittings and furnishings) and the Parish Council having checked with local contractors, had to set this at a somewhat horrific £31,500.
 
The wonderful breakthrough A few months later the horizon began to lighten, when it became known from the County Council that Tyttenhanger had achieved the second highest priority in the County for grant aid, and there was also just a possibility that the first priority might drop out of the running. For months the Trustees held their breaths, and then on 12 November 1974 came the tremendous news – that the other proposal had now fallen by the wayside, and we were being considered for grant, provided building could be got going in 1974/75.

A great amount of work had to be done in a hurry – the County Council wanted another re-assessment of cost, so tenders were once more sought, the lowest being that of Messrs. Axtell & Harborough of 27a High Street, Redbourn, for £17,560

Together with architects’ fees, and cost of fittings and furnishings, the new figure emerged as £24,000 – a welcome and unexpected reduction on the April 1974 figure.

The Trustees welcomed the likelihood of the contract being carried out by Mrs Axtell & Harborough, some of them having been personally familiar with the high standard of this firm’s workmanship in dwellings erected for the R.D.C. at Redbourn and elsewhere in the Rural District.
 
10th Jan 1975 Great news from the County Council! They had agreed to make a maximum grant of £2,500, and the Department of Education and Science had agreed to double this, and also the £500 grant from the R.D.C. – to make a total maximum grant of £9,000.
 
20th January 1975 Quickly the contract was sealed and signed, and the “turning of the first sod” was undertaken by the Chairman of the Trustees, Councillor A.G. Cutmore, in the presence of Councillor Ward, Mr. Peter Reeves (the Chairman of the provisional Management Committee), Mr Dudley Wood (Parish Clerk) and a small gathering of residents. The day was wet, and so was the sod, but spirits now refused to be dampened – the Hall was on its way, and it could be given a good endowment.
 
April/Sept. 1975 While the building contract, which to begin with had to contend with a good deal of wet winter weather, soon began to proceed apace as the long summer came in, much had to be done on the legal side.

The “Charles Morris Hall Charity” was set up, on trusts declared in a trust deed and lease. This document provides for a 50-year lease of the Hall site, at £5.00 per annum, payable to the Parish Council in their public authority capacity.

The provisional Hall Management Committee has been empowered to carry on until the first permanent Management Committee is fully constituted at a public meeting to be held on 27th October. It will (with power to co-opt) consist of 12 members, two each drawn from the Tyttenhanger Green Parties Committee, the Tyttenhanger Green Mid-Week Club and Conley Heath Parish Council, and six from Tyttenhanger residents over the age of 18.

Arrangements have been in hand with the Charity Commission for some time to set up an endowment fund of £5,000 (to be withdrawn from the £15,000 obtained for the allotments) to provide the Hall with a reasonable maintenance income.

The new Charity has been duly registered with the Charity Commission, and 50% mandatory rate relief claimed from the St. Albans District Council .

On 10th September 1975 “practical completion” of the. Hall was reached, and then passed, subject to any necessary remedial work in the six months maintenance., into the hands of the Trustees.

As you will see, certain fittings and furnishings have yet to be provided, but it is expected these will become available quite soon , and the Hall fitted out completely for regular use. The Trustees and the local Committee felt it best to stage this official opening as soon as possible after the Hall left the hands of the contractors, so as to seize the chance of what they hope is going to be a sunny September day.
 
Honour to Charles Morris

We are indeed delighted to do honour today to the name of Charles Morris, whose generosity so long ago has been the means of creating this fine asset for Tyttenhanger Green.

Colney Heath
 Parish Councillor

A. Angelow

)

Trustees of
Charity of
Charles Morris
for allotments
at Tyttenhanger
Green

ꞋꞋ

Mrs. M. Cooper

)

ꞋꞋ

A.G. Cutmore
 (Chairman)

)

ꞋꞋ

W. Inglis

)

ꞋꞋ

A.J.D. James

)

ꞋꞋ

R.W. Page
 (Vice-Chm.)

)

ꞋꞋ

T. Stutchbery

)

ꞋꞋ

W.J. Ward

)

ꞋꞋ

 

)

 

Clerk to the
 Council and
 Hon. Clerk to
 the Trustees

H. Dudley Wood

)

 

20th September
      1975
HDW

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