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Romfords everywhere, from Canada to the Moon

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 October 2020

The Canadian Pacific Railway running through Romford, Ontario. Picture: Google Streetview

The Canadian Pacific Railway running through Romford, Ontario. Picture: Google Streetview

Archant

Professor Ged Martin proclaims himself Tsar of All the Romfords

Essex Avenue in Rumford, Maine, USA. Picture: Google StreetviewEssex Avenue in Rumford, Maine, USA. Picture: Google Streetview

Few Havering people took foreign holidays in 1957. For Mr and Mrs Dawney of Glanville Drive, Hornchurch, their vacation in Canada was “a wonderful trip”.

As their transcontinental train clattered across northern Ontario, they were surprised to pass through “a small station which, believe it or not, was called Romford. It seemed so strange to see a familiar name so many thousands of miles away”.

When the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was built in the 1880s, square-mile blocks of land alongside the route were marked off and named for settlement.

One became the city of Sudbury: legend says the surveyor named it after his wife’s birthplace in Suffolk, England. Since northern Ontario also has a Chelmsford, Romford was probably an exercise in nostalgia too.

Although Romford, Ontario never grew into a town, it’s an important place on Canada’s ocean-to-ocean railway, the junction with the branch line to Toronto, 200 miles to the south.

To control the traffic, Romford Station opened in 1905, employing three men.

Replaced by automation, it closed in 1979: Romford is now described as a ghost town. But you can “visit” on Google Street View, cross the tracks from Regional Road 67 and stroll along Chisholm Street, with its scattered homes and scrubby woodland.

In the early twentieth century, Romford in Saskatchewan, Canada’s booming wheat province, had its own local school and farmers’ organisation. Mysteriously, it disappeared around 1915.

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Was it abandoned, or perhaps renamed?

The USA has its own Romford, in Litchfield County, Connecticut.

Havering’s capital has three English namesakes.

Romford Bridge is a mile west of Verwood in Dorset. Nearby Romford Mill Farm has a lively Facebook page: Ferdy the Bull is the star turn.

There’s another Romford near Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

The narrow Romford Road leads east from Pembury through glorious Wealden countryside, past Romford Farm. It’s only an hour’s drive from Havering – if you don’t mind the M25.

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Bert and Eliza Hazelgrove emigrated from Pembury in 1923 to become pioneer farmers at Northcliffe in the forests of Western Australia.

They named their property Romford Farm after Eliza’s birthplace.

“Australia is a wonderful country,” their eleven-year-old daughter Lillie wrote to the children’s page of a Perth newspaper.

“We have a nice farm and an orchard. We always look out for snakes. My eldest brother killed one last week.”

Romford Farm was merged into other properties in the 1950s, and was forgotten until the Northcliffe Historical Society helped me rediscover the story.

Until the nineteenth century, our Romford was often called Rumford. The name transferred to Rumford, New Hampshire in 1734.

After a massive row with nearby Bow, it was renamed Concord in 1765 to symbolise hopes of harmony. It’s now New Hampshire’s state capital.

There’s another Rumford in nearby Maine, a town of 6,000 people, and fun to roam around on Street View.

Rumford, South Dakota is 3,500 feet above sea level – think of the winter blizzards!

There’s still a ranch there, but a Bluegrass band called Banjo Dan and the Mid-nite Plowboys had a hit song in 1974, “Rumford, South Dakota is no more”.

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Hardly anybody lives at Rumford, Virginia, although you can pick your own blackberries at a local farm. Rumford, Rhode Island is part of the city of East Providence.

Nearer home, Falkirk in Scotland has a quiet suburb called Rumford.

It’s also the name of a Cornish village of haphazard stone houses near Padstow.

There’s even a Rumford on the Moon. The 18th century American inventor Benjamin Thompson so impressed the king of Bavaria that he was awarded an aristocratic title.

Having family connections with New Hampshire, Thompson became Count Rumford. A lunar crater is named in his honour. It’s thought to be a mile and a half deep and around 25 times the area of the borough of Havering.

Unfortunately, it’s on the far side of the Moon, so we can’t see it.


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