The Knights of South Oxhey
South Oxhey is council estate with an ancient tiny flint chapel right bang in the middle. Sir James Altham is buried underneath. He was knighted by King James I of England. I’m not sure how brave Sir James was but, on the estate, the courage that is represented by knights of the realm lives on.
Last week three boys helped rescued a woman from a burning car.
People caught up in a traffic jam on Prestwick Road were horrified when one of the cars started to catch fire. The Police and Fire Brigade were called but a woman was trapped inside one of the cars.
With no thought to themselves these boys run up to the car, pulled open the door with – to all accounts, “flames all around”, and pulled the woman to safety. The woman owes her life to the lads.
There were over 400 comments on Facebook saying well done to the youths but not one of them came forward. The lads didn’t do it for the fame. They did it because it was the right thing to do. They did so because they have the correct moral compass. Their families are proud of them and the woman was incredibly grateful.
The local paper ignored the rescue and wrote a piece on the woman getting arrested for driving offences. Watford Observer covered the whole incident by saying there had been a road accident and the scene had to be secured by the police and fire crews. That was it. South Oxhey residents knew there would be no recognition of the bravery of the boys.
I offered to write this piece in response to the Watford Observer coverage which I felt was pretty inadequate for a local paper. Looking into it, the media like to pick and choose it’s coverage of South Oxhey. Perhaps they think this is necessary for the locals to believe they will benefit from the area’s new precinct and housing developments.
South Oxhey is being renamed South Oxhey Central and housing is selling for £250,000 a flat. It will boost council assets. Perhaps the newspapers will benefit, but whether it regenerates the little cockney haven without increasing facilities remains to be seen.
This huge social housing estate was the largest in England for decades, situated at the south end of Hertfordshire and inside the M25. I came across South Oxhey when I visited in the1980s. It was full of 1950s and 60s charm. The little shopping precinct had a Woolworths and Wimpy what wasn’t to love?
It was just after WW2 the government purchased the land to rehouse Londoners whilst London was being rebuilt. The estate build was only given permission to go ahead if it couldn’t be seen from -the posh – Pinner Road. The majority of the prefab builds now covered by outer brick shells.
The history of the land the estate is built on is fascinating. There are mentions of England’s first real Queen Boudica riding around the area with her daughters. A roman coin from the very first century found in South Oxhey lies in Watford museum. Last century the area was home to an American Airforce base that helped defend Europe against Fascism.
The local South Oxhey community aim to stay happy whilst the new development is being built. They help old and confused residents find their way around the battered, dusty precinct – they are essentially living in a building site but they stay positive.
South Oxhey locals generally just get on with it. The families on the estate have faith that the council is looking after their interests. They want to believe in good nature of people. They want to believe that the council is doing the right thing.
The local paper, currently the Watford Observer, should cover local news as well as it can. These little stories are important. Surely a community has some rights over how it is covered in the media?
In the meantime I’d like to hear it for the boys! They showed real bravery and courage. The lads who rescued a drunk woman from a burning car deserve to have their story told. Well done lads and thank you.