The Story of Our Wooden Sign

Earlier this year Jacqui Banfield-Taylor of The Park Street and Frogmore Society received an email from Ralph Hentall, the artist who created and carved our iconic wooden village sign, who was very pleased to see it still standing. He was rather disappointed that there was no information about the sign on our site, however, which I’m now able to correct!

Having only arrived to Park Street in 2016 myself, I knew absolutely nothing about the beautiful sign, but naturally I’ve admired it ever since seeing it, and have been very curious as to its origins.

The following article originally appeared in The Park Street and Frogmore Society Journal Autumn/Winter 2017. If you’re unfamiliar with their worthy organisation, do take a look at how to join, upcoming events and more here.

Heidi Patterson Howson, 7 August 2020

History of the Park Street Village Sign, by Ian Getley

Back in 1999 as Chairman of the Park Street Residents Association I decided that we should do something in the village as a permanent reminder of the change of the Century. Many suggestions where put forward but the committee decided that a village sign would be ideal, but what could we put on it that would embrace the village at the time and its history?

We came up with the following ideas A train (the Abbey flyer), a plane (Handley Pages), a fisherman (the lakes), the Mill, wildlife, the bridge over the River Ver in Bury Dell Lane and the trees that had been planted in the now disused gravel pits. These covered what we wanted on the sign and included some of our village history up to the present day. These ideas were given to local children who then entered a painting competition and came up with some designs for the village sign which would include all of the above things. The response was great with so many entries it was very difficult to choose the best. Once chosen, we contacted a local artist from St Albans who looked at the winning paintings and formed the ideas together designing the sign as you see it today.

We then had the task of finding someone who could source the Oak timber and carve the sign. A colleague of mine from when I was in the Hertfordshire Fire Brigade used to carve love spoons and much more, although this would be a considerably bigger job, nonetheless I asked him if he would be interested in taking on the challenge.

He agreed it would be a very interesting project and would be happy to be part of creating the history of the village.

Everything was now in place to go ahead with making our village sign. As the Chairman I was given the task of meeting with the wood carver Ralph Hentall who lives in Hatfield. He set about finding suitable Oak for the job, some of which was available from local saw mills on the Hatfield House Estate and some from farther afield.

The carving got under way with Ralph working from his garden workshop. The sign took several weeks to carve followed by the construction of posts and cross members. Some of this work had to be undertaken in the Parish Councils barn as the size and weight of the wood was not able to fit into Ralph`s workshop.

Finally our village sign was ready to be erected. The Parish Council ground staff was asked to assist along with the help of a local haulage contractor with a grab lorry to transport the sign from the barn at the Parish Centre to the site in Park Street where it stands today. The sign was set in steel collars to protect the wood from rotting.

The Lord of the Manor, The Right Honourable Henry Holland-Hibert unveiled the sign for us and in attendance were the children who had won the painting competition along with their parents, Ralph the wood carver, PSRA committee members and myself.

Originally there was a light fitted which lit up the sign as the street lights came on but was at some time disconnected by persons unknown. I would very much like to see these lights reconnected if I am able to find a sponsor who would be willing to provide the funds to carry out the work needed. lf there is anyone interested in this idea please contact me on the number below. [Note: This issue has been raised with the Parish Council -ed, August 2020]