Thursday, June 13, 2024

Memories of the opening of a new shopping precinct

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Penn Place was officially opened in Rickmansworth in October 1964 and is perhaps best remembered for its branch of Tesco and The Keystone pub.

In an article published by this newspaper in April 2023, Three Rivers Museum Trust chairman Fabian Hiscock wrote of the precinct: “It would perhaps not be described as an architectural gem, but by no means everyone was unhappy about it: one resident has observed that it was ‘a pretty hip place then compared to the boring old High Street’, much of which was then being demolished.

Watford Observer: A car parked outside the new Penn Place in August 1964A car parked outside the new Penn Place in August 1964 (Image: Watford Observer)

“Tesco had moved there from the high street, and there was a pub, ‘The Keystone’ – originally it was to have been the William Penn, but (as the Watford Observer reported at the time) the councillors felt that it was a bit of insult to a teetotal Quaker, so it was named after The Keystone State that he had founded – it wasn’t a music venue, really, but it did have a small stage, we hear.

Watford Observer: Some businesses were already trading prior to the official openingSome businesses were already trading prior to the official opening (Image: Watford Observer)

“And there was more: among others a Chinese restaurant (the Yang Tse Kiang), a dry cleaner (Kay’s), a framing business (Croxley Galleries, still going in the high street), and a record shop, Strawberry Fields, which Tony Blackburn opened in 1968 with coverage in the Observer.”

Watford Observer: The October ceremony was filmedThe October ceremony was filmed (Image: Watford Observer)

These pictures from our archive show how the precinct looked at the end of August 1964 before the opening ceremony took place on October 14.

Watford Observer: Trees were planted at the ceremonyTrees were planted at the ceremony (Image: Watford Observer)

Penn Place was to remain open until the 1990s when it was demolished and made way for flats.

Watford Observer: Gathering in The Keystone for a drink to celebrate the openingGathering in The Keystone for a drink to celebrate the opening (Image: Watford Observer)

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