Saving the 70s- Transport

Roundabout Dacorum

We drove round the newly opened ‘Magic Roundabout’ in our Triumph Stag, Reliant Robin and Austin Allegro cars – until the price of petrol quadrupled in 1973. Concorde introduced us to supersonic flight and the new Jumbo Jets meant more of us could fly to exotic destinations. Viking 1 landed on Mars.

“I was part of the team that installed what is called the Magic Roundabout…
it came the day when we were going to put the roundabout in and what
we did before 8am in the morning, we had put dummy roundabouts in which
now there are proper roundabouts at each junction, but we made little islands of tyres… they did quite reasonably, although obviously some people became distressed.  I remember going down in the evening of it being in operation and I saw a driver approach it and then he couldn’t get round it quick enough and he went the conventional way round, he didn’t use it treating the islands as mini roundabouts, he just went round it. We went back home and at the time there was an off-licence just off the dual carriageway, you may remember it, and I went in there and I bought something and as I came out a man was getting out of his car and he said, “When I find the so and so who put that roundabout in”, so I got in my car and drove off… Actually it has proved quite a success and I’m quite pleased about that, it was not that I could take the credit of it, except that I was involved at the birth of what is now known as the Magic Roundabout which has distinguished Hemel
Hempstead and quite honestly throughout the world because I was even asked questions about it in Australia.”

– Les Taber

traffic on the magic roundabout

An aerial shot of the traffic on the first day the Magic Roundabout was installed.

Many remember ‘Operation Toad Lift’. Hundreds of toads converge every year at Bourne End gravel pits to breed, but unfortunately to get there, many have to cross at least one road and are caught and squashed under the tyres of cars. So local people mounted ‘Operation Toad Lift’ to save the creatures from their fate. Norman Gammon of Apsley said, “Purely by chance, I came across their flattened bodies in the road. I counted 157 of them all pointing towards the ponds”. Toads are known as the gardeners’ friends, as they keep pests down without the use of poisonous sprays. The operation saved over 2,000 toads.

toad being held during operation toad lift

Toads rescued during ‘Operation Toad Lift’.

See below the special 1877/1977 centenary name board used on Hemelite Diesel Shunter, which ran on the Nickey Line. The demise of the Nickey Line (The Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead Railway) Opened in 1877 the Nickey Line linked the straw plait trade in Hemel Hempstead with the hatters of Luton. By 1968 commercial traffic had reduced to such an extent that the line was sold to the Hemelite Company. Hemelite used the line to transport power station ash to their premises in Cupid Green for use in the manufacture of building blocks. The line celebrated its centenary in 1977 but sadly closed for good in 1979.

The special 1877/1977 centenary nameboard used on Hemelite Diesel Shunter, which ran on the Nickey Line.

The special 1877/1977 centenary name board used on Hemelite Diesel Shunter, which ran on the Nickey Line.


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The Dacorum Heritage Trust Ltd.

The Museum Store, Clarence Road, Berkhamsted, Herts HP4 3YL

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Registered in England No. 2851313 | Registered Charity No. 1026161 | Accredited Museum No. 1594 | Status: Fully accredited museum.