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Bushey (population 24,000) is a town in the Hertsmere borough of Hertfordshire in the East of England. Bushey Heath is situated to the south east of Bushey on the boundary with the London Borough of Harrow.
The first written record of Bushey is an account in the Domesday Book, which describes a small agricultural village named 'Bissei' (which later became 'Biss(h)e' and then 'Bisheye' during the twelfth century) . However, chance archaeological findings of Stone Age tools provide evidence that the area was inhabited as far back as the Palaeolithic period. The town also has links to the Roman occupation of Britain, with the main road running through it being Roman; sites of possible Roman villas being unearthed in the area; and a Roman tessellated pavement was discovered near the road 'Chiltern Avenue'.
The origin of the town's name is not fully known. With the original name 'Bissei', an early theory in Reverend J.B. Johnstone's book The Place-Names of England and Wales states that it may have meant 'Byssa's Isle', and that it started life as a lake-village surrounded by marshes, streams and lakes. However, a more modern theory (albeit a less romantic one) is that it is simply derived from the Old English word bysce and Old French boisseie, meaning a 'place covered with wood'. The latter theory could prove more apt, as the town is located on the border of the Chiltern Valleys, which were once covered in dense forests of oak, elm, ash, hazel and juniper.
Bushey Heath's story begins in the Napoleonic War during a large food shortage. To help solve the problem, the government awarded the waste land to the east of Bushey to Bushey landowners to be used as farming; this land was more generally known as Bushey Common. It is doubtful that any of it was actually used to produce food due to the poor, clayey soil conditions, but being 500 feet above the sea and having beautiful and broad views was to give birth to the attractive neighbourhood we know today.
The 19th and 20th Centuries marked the time of most change in Bushey, especially between the years 1860 and 1960. The population rose 28-fold within 200 years, from 856 in 1801, to just under 24,000 today. This expansion was due to many reasons, one of the main ones being due to the boom in industry caused by the railway in the early 20th century. A result of this was that many new jobs were created in and around Watford, and in the early 1920s, Bushey's first council houses were built. More housing was later built for the service families working in defence organisations in Stanmore and Northwood. The expansion eventually died down, due to much of the land in and around Bushey being protected under the green belt after the Second World War.
This same green belt legislation was also partly responsible for the abandonment of the pre-war Edgware to Bushey Heath extension as part of the Northern Heights programme of the Northern Line underground railway. The green belt put great restrictions on new development, and the plan was to use the new railway to stimulate new housing around the new route; without the new housing the route was deemed no longer viable. However, as work was advanced at the onset of war the depot was completed for use as bomber manufacture, and following the Second World War and green belt coming into force it was converted into the Aldenham bus depot (of Cliff Richard's Summer Holiday fame), which it remained until 1985, when it became derelict. It was redeveloped in 1996 and is now the Centennial Park industrial estate. Bushey Heath station would have been located at the intersection of the 'Elstree road' and 'Northwestern Avenue'. Conceptual plans existed in the 1903 Act of Parliament for an Edgware to Watford railway that would have seen the railway extended at a later date though Bushey village and on to Watford market, though even less came of this than the partially completed Edgware to Bushey Heath stretch.
Stories, legends and folklore
The lack of farming in Bushey Heath meant that it was a heavily wooded area up to the 18th century, and this, added to the lack of street lighting and police, meant that Bushey Heath's history is full of tales of thieves, highwaymen, and even murder. According to Grant Longman's Robberies on Bushey Heath, the road from Bushey Heath to Stanmore is said to be where the highwaymen lurked, ready to raid the dozen or so caravans that passed through Bushey Heath daily, carrying money from their trade in London. Before venturing through the pass, parties of travellers and merchants would form at the Boot Inn in Edgware and The Three Crowns in Bushey Heath, so they didn't have to venture through the pass alone. Although one of the highwaymen responsible for the attacks is rumoured to have been the notorious Dick Turpin, evidence suggests that he was instead more active in the region of Essex.
Bushey was an ancient parish. It was subdivided by the Local Government Act 1894 into two: the part which was within the Watford urban district became the 'Bushey Urban' parish, in the Watford Rural District, and the part which was outside became 'Bushey Rural' parish. Subsequently, in 1906, the Bushey Urban parish was renamed Oxhey, and the Bushey Rural parish became the parish of Bushey in the Bushey Urban District.
Being located near several film studios at Elstree and Borehamwood, Bushey and Bushey Heath frequently feature as backdrops for many film and TV shows. Most notable is a bus scene in the Canon and Ball film (you can see 'Balfour News' as they get off the bus- since taken over by 'Co-op'). Several historic buildings in Bushey, notably the old Masonic School for Boys, later the International University, in The Avenue, have been used in films over a long period of time, including Nuns on the Run, Out of Bounds (2004 film) and Harry Potter. and also the comedy series Little Britain. It has also been the set for several television series, including Monty Python's Flying Circus and Little Britain. This site is currently being redeveloped for residential usage, with the 1960s additions to the site being marked for demolition.
Many of The Avengers TV series episodes include location shots around the Bushey area, and the latter half of the Confessions of a Driving Instructor is entirely shot on the roads between Elstree and Bushey, finishing in the car dump at 'Bushey Breakers'.
The university of London, located in the Bushey Area has been used in the filming of BBC's Grange Hill and also for various other programmes, such as family business. Students from local schools including Bushey Hall and Bushey Meads have taken part as extras in productions such as My Dad's the Prime Minister.
Bushey Heath is known to nearby places for its duck pond (Warren Lake) which was restored in 1992 after falling into dereliction.
There are many schools within the area, most notably Queens' School, Bushey Meads School and Bushey Hall School, of which the first two generally do well in comparison with other schools in the area. It is also where the famous Purcell School is based, a school for young musicians well known for turning out many successful musicians. It was formerly the Caledonian School. There is also a private girls school, St. Margaret's Bushey in the area.
A man who definitely deserves a mention in the history of Bushey was Hubert Herkomer, a poor immigrant from Bavaria who arrived in Bushey in 1874, and ended life in 1914 as Sir Hubert von Herkomer RA CVO. Herkomer visited a friend who lived in Bushey in 1873, fell in love with the nearby Bushey Village, then rented a pair of cottages and a studio near Melbourne Road. With his artistic talents, he founded Herkomer's Art School at Bushey in 1883, which, in its 21 year life, attracted some 500 students to the area. He is sometimes referred to as having founded Bushey, giving it an artistic reputation and leaving us with the many paintings by his pupils of past life in the town, a lot of which are on display in the Bushey Museum. During his life Bushey became the world centre for the peculiarly British art of Watercolour. A street, Herkomer Road, is named in his honour.
At around 1888, he built Lululaund, a Bavarian 'castle', which was named after his second wife Lulu Griffiths. Unfortunately, after being married only for a year, she died saving a small child from being run over by a carriage. Lululaund dominated the Bushey skyline until 1939 when it was demolished; although it is said that it was demolished in fear of the running cost, there is speculation as to whether it was destroyed in a fit of anti-German rage at the start of the Second World War. Only the brick arched portal and the ornamental rose garden remains today; a lot of the building was used as hardcore for Bovingdon Airfield, and much of the grand carvings inside the castle were burnt. The inhabitants of Bushey have been bitter about the demolition of the castle ever since; not only is it a beautiful building lost, but it would have stood as a symbol of Bushey's artistic past.
Sir Hubert is mainly remembered as an artist today, but in his time he was a polymath, becoming involved in some of the earliest film productions in Europe and starting a series of races and time trials for automobiles in Germany which eventually became the Formula 1 races which we know today.
On Sir Hurbert's death leadership of his Art School was taken over by Lucy Kemp-Welch, who became famous for her paintings of horses. The last remnant of an artistic connection in the village is in fact a gallery named in her honour close to the village church. It is more usually used as a Village Hall today, but a recent exhibition there (September 2006) by students from the Chelsea College of Art holds promise that it may revive.
More recently, Bushey was the hometown of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley who both attended Bushey Meads school in Bushey. Bushey is also the hometown of poker player John Gale. The Middlesex, Surrey and England cricketer Mark Ramprakash was also born here.
Peter Copley, actor was born in Bushey.
Phil Gillies, onetime Canadian Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister, was born in Bushey. The Jewish British-Canadian Barbara Amiel, wife of newspaper baron Conrad Black (Lord Black of Crossharbour), is a Bushey native and was born in Watford.
Veteran British actor Trevor Howard lived in Bushey, in his later life until the time of his death.
Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran was born in Bushey in 1958.
Bushey has been twinned with German town Landsberg am Lech in Southern Germany (Bavaria) for its historical link. Landsberg is the native home of artist Herkomer detailed above. The towns retain links for mayorial duties and school exchange trips.
- Youngs, Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England: Volume 1