Hemel Hempstead Old Photos & Film

View of Hemel Hempstead on a vintage postcard

Enjoy a glimpse of history through old images of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England, UK.

The historic town of Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, South East England, is just 24 miles (34 kilometres) northwest of London. As a New Town, it has expanded beyond all recognition since 1947.

At the end of World War II, the Labour brought in the New Towns Act 1946. The socialist principle was to move poorer households out of damp, draughty and overcrowded Victorian properties. In addition, two million homes were destroyed by German bombing raids, sixty percent of which were in London. There was a desperate and chronic housing need, and Hemel Hempstead was to provide part of the solution.

Hemel Hempstead’s population grew from 20,000 people in 1947 to 97,500 in 2019. Much of this growth is due to families relocating from London, in search of a better quality of life.

With permission to greatly expand small communities into large New Towns, architects and planners thought about what constituted an ideal environment for people to live in, and what infrastructure would support the businesses and services. Some aspects they got right, building housing estates facing pedestrian walkways and providing larger retail units with decent car parking. 

The ugly, severe office blocks and major presence of concrete were some of the major downsides. However, the town’s civic trust is to be congratulated for saving Hemel Hempstead’s historic homes from the bulldozers far more effectively than many other communities across Britain have done.

Old Picture of Hemel Hempstead

Old Photos of Hemel Hempstead

Hemel Hempstead in the 1940s

Here in this excerpt of ‘Hemel Hempstead On Film’, uploaded to YouTube by britainonfilm, we are reminded that “In the 1940s it was a bustling market town with a population of around 20,000”.

The population estimate in 2019 was 97,500 people.

Hemel Hempstead in the 1940’s” 

Hemel Hempstead’s Snow in 1951

British Pathé captured boys at play in the heavy, settled snow of 1951. 

Boys Build Igloos (1951)

Queen Elizabeth’s Visit in 1952

Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to the Adeyfield Estate in Hemel Hempstead is captured in this British Pathé film. The crowds watch her talking to the Adams family and visiting their home, before she went to lay the foundation stone for St. Barnabas Church. Modern viewers will be struck by the Queen’s dialect at the time.

Royal Occasion (1952)” 

These are additional British Pathé clips recording the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Hemel Hempstead in 1952.

In the background you can hear some very, very boring speeches being delivered.

Selected Originals – Royal Occasion Aka Queen In Hemel Hempstead (1952)

The George Pub in 1958

British Pathé visited The George pub, where the regulars were filmed painting with food and a number of household goods.

Phyllis Hillman, Roy Barnes, Richard Duncan and Jean Tibbles are all shown taking part in the pub.

At the end, toddler Elizabeth Baldwin and baby Lauren Tibbles are shown making a mess with food at a kitchen table.

Painting Without Paints Aka Mustard And Custard Painting (1958)

Hemel Hempstead in 1959

Patrick Bradley uploaded a 1959 colour film to YouTube. It was made to show the New Town’s growth over the past 10 years. Scenes include new housing estates, factories and shopping facilities.

New Town from Old (1959) | Hemel Hempstead Promotional Film | Silent

Planning the New Town

YouTube channel britainonfilm brings us this excerpt from ‘Hemel On Film’.

It’s a reminder that the building plans and expansion of the town was not without its critics and problems.

We are shown the only shop in Bennet’s End being run from the living room of Mr Smith, who had moved to Hemel Hempstead from Finchley.

Hemel Hempstead On Film” 

Marlowes Car Park Opening 1960

The Dacorum Heritage Trust uploaded film showing the opening of the tiered car park for Marlowes.

Opening of Hemel Hempstead Car Park, 1960

New Town 1961

British Pathé made this film to show the bright new world of a New Town. The narrator notes how  “many Londoners who, since 1947, have come here to begin a different life away from the congested capital” as we are shown people walking about in the sunshine next to shops, an artificial lake and a fountain. The banks are shown clustered together, and the new car park at The Marlows is free to use.

Cartoonist Rowland Emett, “renowned inventor of crazy contraptions” who was to become an MBE in 1978, designed the car park’s mural.

Hemel Hempstead (1961)

Silent Scenes of 1961

This silent collection of out takes and cuts from British Pathé shows some old and picturesque images of the area, before moving on to the new parts of town and the market.

Out Takes / Cuts From Cp 351 – Reel 1 Of 2 – Aero Stills And Hemel Hempstead (1961)

Hemel Hempstead in 1962

Patrick Bradley uploaded this 1962 film showing the old town, Adeyfield, the Queen’s Square, Bennetts End, Chaulden, Warner’s End and Gadebridge. You’ll notice that along the back of the new terraces runs the road access to the garages, where the gates are carefully numbered for the “delivery men”. 

New Town from Old (1962) | Hemel Hempstead Promotional Film |

Hemel Hempstead’s 1960s Girl Guides

These British Pathé out takes and cuts were part of the material recorded for “HEMEL HEMPSTEAD” & “GIRL GUIDES”.

Out Takes / Cuts From Cp 734 – Hemel Hampstead & Girl Guides (1968-1969)” 

Hemel Hempstead in 1969

This British Pathé film shows how the new shopping centre in town drained trade away from shops in the old town.

At a time when many communities in the UK were busy knocking down ornate and historic buildings to erect concrete brutalist developments, in Hemel Hempstead the civic trust got to work to preserve and revitalise what was already there.

The narrator tells us “Retaining and preserving the ancient while constructing the modern is a scheme never before attempted in a new town”, before ending with “Urban preservation has a place in the space age.”

Old Town Face Lift Aka Hemel Hempstead New Town (1969)

Worst Pub Landlord in the 1980s

A dedication to the late Barry John Reynolds, known as BJ.

In the 1980s magazine-style breakfast television programme TV AM had a segment called The Worst Landlord In Britain, visiting different pubs around the country. In this episode they visited The George in Nash Mills, capturing jollity amongst the pub’s regulars.

Thankfully, The George’s 1958 activity of painting with food and boot polish wasn’t in evidence on this occasion.


Local History Film

Although the quality of this film isn’t good, Tina Howard’s upload of a film made by the Hemel Hempstead Cine Society in 1984 deserved a mention.

Hemel Hempstead A Walk Into The Past

Sinkhole Evacuation 2014

In February 2014 Channel 4 News visited Oatridge Gardens, Hemel Hempstead, where 17 homes were evacuated. A hole, measuring approximately 35ft wide and 20ft deep, suddenly appeared in the road.

It was later discovered that the houses were built over abandoned mine workings which had supplied local brick and tile manufacturers with chalk until 1898.

Families flee ’30 foot sinkhole’ in Hemel Hempstead

Town Hall Demolition 2018

Ian Smiles recorded Hemel Hempstead Town Hall being demolished in May 2018.

Old photo postcard of the Town Hall in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England

Ian Smiles recorded Hemel Hempstead Town Hall being demolished in May 2018.

An old postcard shows the same building in its glory days of the twentieth century.

Hemel Hempstead Town Hall Demolition May 2018

More about Hertfordshire

Back to Hertfordshire page

Back to Local History Videos home page

About the author