Theobald Street was, until the twentieth century, the high street of Borehamwood. Shops ran along the street between the Crown pub and Brickfield Cottages but only with the arrival of the film industry did Shenley Road begin to take over this function.
The “street” part of the name is derived from an often-used Hertfordshire term for a hamlet which lies on a long road – other examples are Colney Street and, more locally, Green Street. In modern times the street was named after that of the hamlet – this is the reason it is a ’street’ rather than a ’lane’, despite its rural setting.
Theobald Street was, were created as a result of the Enclosure Act of 1776, whereby Boreham Wood Common was divided up amongst various landowners.
While associated more now with Borehamwood, the hamlet of Theobald Street lay nearer what is now Radlett and indeed was a former alternative name for Radlett. In 1718 the bridge over a stream between Radlett and Colney Street – called High Bridge – was sometimes described as being in the hamlet of Theobald Street. The line of Theobald Street south from Radlett was at first just a footpath.
Before the name settled into the modern form, Theobald Street was also called Tiberstreet, Tibure Street, Theebald Street, and Tyteburst Street. In the Domesday Book it was called Titeberst.
Elstree, the oldest part of the parish, came into the possession of St Albans Abbey in 1188, when it was known as Tidulfes Treow and Borehamwood as Bosci di Borham. Both names have undergone various changes and spellings over the centuries, and many older residents still prefer to spell Boreham Wood as two words.
Older local roads, including Barnet Lane, Furzehill Road, Shenley Road, Allum Lane and the Borehamwood end of Theobald Street, were created as a result of the Enclosure Act of 1776, whereby the 684 acres of Borehamwood Common were divided up amongst various landowners, including the Church, and in return new roads were laid out which were to be sixty feet wide including verges.
By Victorian times this part of the Parish consisted of little more than a hamlet, clustered around Theobald Street, north of the junction with Shenley Road, and surrounded by farms.
A shopping parade on the east of the street was built in 1871, and once known as Robinson’s Folly. Its builder, Robinson – the footbridge over the railway was also named after him – was ridiculed at the time for his ’follies’ but some 150 years later, his shops are still here.
A small school opened at 27a Theobald Street in 1896. Since the introduction of the Education Act in 1870, making it compulsory for children under the age of ten to go to school, another building down the road at number 35 had been used as a temporary infants’ school for the area. Older pupils had to walk to the Elstree National School or Medburn Boys’ School, which was on the route to Radlett.
In 1896, 27a Theobald Street was erected. It is thought to have been constructed using bricks mined from a quarry off Deacons Hill Road, in Elstree. The building was also used by Elstree and Borehamwood Town Council, for meetings in the early 20th century.
The Old Crown – north of the later Crown pub – dates back to at least 1769 although rebuilt in the late 1800s.
A war memorial was placed at the junction of Theobald Street and Shenley Road. It was dedicated on 20 October 1921. Before that, an animal pound with a pond stood close to the site and stray farm animals would be left there for collection by their owners.
Before World War Two, there were Nissen Huts which housed troops from the Royal Ordinance Corps on the site later occupied by the Kinetic Business Centre. The troops did some of their training in the film studios.
The growth of Borehamwood proceeded rapidly in the 1940s and 1950s. It was reported that Elstree Rural District Council built 1500 homes between 1945 and 1956, the London County Council 2700 homes, and 550 private dwellings were constructed. In 1957-8, the War Memorial moved from Theobald Street to the Elstree Way end of Shenley Road. A number of residential properties still remained in Shenley Road and some residents still talk of ‘going down the village’ when referring to this shopping centre. Shenley Road by then had taken over completely from Theobald Street as the centre of the growing town.