The building as it appears today in the guise of the Lord Louis
When the day arrived for the figurehead to be attached to the building it was thought
four men would be needed due to the considerable weight of the figurehead. The four
were Charles Ruff [The Boss], Douglas Maddam, Dennis Parker and Roger Glynn. It soon
became apparent that the wooden figurehead was very heavy indeed and the job was
going to be more difficult than they had thought. After some discussion it was decided
that they had the wrong fixings and longer bolts would definitely be required. As
is often the case in these type of circumstances, Roger Glynn, the youngest member
of the team, was left on the pavement to stand guard over this large unusual object.
The three older and more worldly-
As the young Roger Glynn crouched on the pavement next to the prone wooden figurehead the scene was noticed by a lady in a building on the other side of the road. She was soon to come out onto the High Street and cross the road carrying a glass of water. It soon became clear that she thought the lady who had fainted would benefit from a sip or two of cold water. Once she realised her mistake she made a fairly rapid retreat back across the road.
This amusing little incident has been long remembered by the Ruff family and their workmen. One does wonder what the poor lady thought when she realised she had taken a glass of water out into the High street to revive a wooden figurehead. Ruff and Son did eventually fix the figurehead in place on the wall of the building. It was to enjoy its pride of place position for only a limited time as the antique shop business soon closed down. Today the building has resumed its earlier role of a public house as The Lord Louis.
Stuart Moye June 2014
Based on information supplied by the Ruff family]
All photographs by the author
FROM THE RUFF FAMILY
R.C. Ruff and Son a Much Hadham firm involved in general building and repairs was started in 1946 by Robert C. [Charlie] Ruff. The firm continued in operation until 1996, by which time Charlie’s son Charles [Jnr] and grandson Stephen had both been involved in the business. The firm carried out work mostly across East Hertfordshire including some work in the Stanstead Abbotts. Two jobs in the village during the early 1960s gave rise to some amusing and memorable events.
Miss Mussel and the water tap
Ruff and Sons acquired a contract in the early 1960’s to provide piped water for the first time to the old houses known as nos. 2 & 4 Roydon Road Stanstead Abbotts. They were required to fit just the one cold water tap over a sink inside each of the premises. Miss Mussel however of number 2 Roydon Road was not going to have men coming into her house to put in any new fangled thing like a cold water tap and refused the workers access.
The agent who was acting on behalf of the owner of the properties had to be fetched in order to try to get Miss Mussel to let the workmen in. He resorted in the end to trying to talk to the lady through the broken window that existed above the front door. Charles Ruff Junior has a recollection of the Agent standing on an old stool or chair calling out “Miss Mussel, Miss Mussel we know you are in there. Will you please open the door. The men are here to inspect the water”. Mr Ruff has no idea why the Agent chose to say the men were there to inspect the water, as they clearly were not. The Agents exhortations were to little avail for some time but in the end the elderly lady did open the door a little. However she had no intention of having the work done or letting them in. One of the workmen assailing her front door tried to use his foot in the door to prevent her from closing again. However as the door was constantly banged hard up against his leg, Doug Maddams decided to give in and the door was abruptly closed. The last they saw of Miss Mussel was her heading off down the road shortly after she had advised the workmen that she was going to her solicitors about all of this. In her absence it was decided to place a cold water tap outside, just to the right of her front door.
Whether Miss Mussel ever used this unwanted modern intrusion into her life is not known. It is remembered that the broken window above the front door missing about one third of its glass was shortly afterwards boarded over. The Ruffs wondered if this had been done by the mysterious but never seen nephew that Miss Mussel had threatened them with, when they were trying to gain entry to her house. The boarded window remained as a feature of the house for the remainder of Miss Mussel’s tenancy.
No’s 2 to 6 Roydon Road,
Miss Mussels home. 2 Roydon Road.
The reader might like to reflect on the fact that piped water did not arrive in Stanstead Abbotts until 1938. At which time the cost of having a house connected was considered by many to be too expensive. It is very likely that Miss Mussel along with many others who had never enjoyed water on tap in their homes, felt that she had always managed quite well without. She may well have had no wish to let any strange men into her house either.
The Figurehead and the glass of water
When the Oak public house closed its doors for the last time in the early sixties it was intended that it should become an antique shop. The new business was owned by Mrs E. T. Browning of St Margarets, but managed by a man she employed. The venture was not a particularly success and did not last long before the building became the home of The Old Coach House Restaurant.
Mrs Browning was a lady of some years and somewhat eccentric. She spent much of her time in her bedroom, endlessly chain smoking and surrounded by a considerable number of Pekinese dogs. She was looked after by a Mrs Cook who appeared to combine the duties of housekeeper and cook and much else besides. To support her somewhat reclusive lifestyle Ruff and Son had already fitted an extra bathroom next to Mrs Browning’s bedroom. Despite this apparent isolation Mrs Browning owned and managed properties in Cambridge and London in addition to her local investment interests. In connection with the setting up of the antique shop in the village High street Charles Ruff was summoned by Mrs Browning to her residence at the Manor House in St. Margarets. As usual he was ushered into her bedroom where she explained, surrounded by her dogs, how she wanted a large wooden figurehead fixed to the outside wall of her new shop.