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Come to Hertfordshire - Official Guide

Author: anon

First published: 1948* by The Simmath Press Ltd, Dundee

Format: Paperback 9½" by 7½" with 48 pages

* The date of publication is not given anywhere in the guide. Events in 1947 are mentioned in the text, but none later than that. The following passage from the Hemel Hempstead Division article: "... the present Incorporation dates from a new Charter in 1908, so that this is jubilee year for the borough." could imply a date of 1958, but I am guessing 1948 is more likely. I cannot see 1950s cars in any of the photographs. Also, the Hitchin Division article mentions the "present King and Queen".





Welcome to Hertfordshire

Watford Division

South West Herts or Rickmansworth Division
Villages around Watford

Hemel Hempstead Division

St Albans Division
Welwyn Garden City
Village Worthies

Barnet Division
British Hollywood

Hertford Division
Quiet Countryside

Hitchin Division

Stanstead Abbot  
Photo by Studio Lisa


Fold-out Map of Hertfordshire



Welcome to Hertfordshire.

How varied are the interests of Hertfordshire ! Not by any means one of the largest counties, yet it has attraction all its own for the prospective resident or holiday-maker, the antiquarian or the book-lover, the naturalist or the sportsman, the tired townsman seeking rural calm and beauty or the industrialist looking for suitable factory sites. All these and other demands can be met in Hertfordshire, with its population of 400,000, its 20 miles proximity to London, its 37 miles breadth and 21 depth.

Varied and undulating in its scenery, the chalk in its soil has made Hertfordshire wheat famous, and the purity of its air is proverbial, as instanced by the old saying that he who buys a home in Hertfordshire pays two years' purchase for the air.

Castles at Hertford, Berkhamsted and Stortford have witnessed stirring scenes in the country's history, visits of royalty and meetings of Parliament, sittings of law courts, and the first English synod at Hertford in the seventh century. Royal prisoners have been incarcerated within the county; Hatfield was a royal residence; St. Albans Abbey enshrines a wealth of ecclesiastical lore and history; and at nearby Verulamium an early civilisation is being explored. Bustling modernity is represented at Watford with its 70,000 population and manifold industries. County dignity pervades Hertford with its recently completed capacious County Hall and its better known seventeenth century Shire Hall. Letchworth and Welwyn are successful pioneer experiments of Garden Cities; yet several of the delightful smaller towns retain the picturesque and the historic of earlier Hertfordshire. New Towns are projected at Stevenage, Hemel Hempstead, Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield, and development proceeds apace on the Metropolitan border where the London County Council hope to rehouse some of their population from the blitzed areas.

The motorist will find in touring to places of interest in the county that road communications are good. For the rambler there are many pretty, fragrant, shady lanes, far-famed commons, coppices and woods, and several small and winding streams. For the golfer, bowler or angler there are admirable facilities as well as for those who prefer to watch rather than participate in such games as football or cricket.

Modes of transport have changed since John Gilpin made his famous ride from Edmonton to Ware, immortalised by Cowper, a Hertfordshire-born poet, or since Charles Lamb and his sister made "an excursion into Hertfordshire to beat up the quarters of some relation in that fine corn country," but visitors by road or rail or even by air may rely on the same warmth of welcome in "hearty, homely, loving Hertfordshire."

For the sake of classification details of towns and villages are grouped in the Parliamentary Divisions.

The Viaduct Digswell
Photo by Studio Lisa



Watford Division

Watford is the largest of the four Hertfordshire Boroughs, has the greatest density of population, rateable value double that of any other, is well governed and attractive with up-to-date public buildings and shopping centres and amenities, with excellent railway, road and transport services. But while essentially modern, and marked by a phenomenal growth in the last 100 years — from 5,000 to over 70,000 — it would be untrue to suggest that Watford has no history. There was a settlement here in Saxon times, and out of the controversy as to the origin of the town's name comes general agreement that it was the place of a ford of the Colne and the dwelling place of Watta, a Saxon leader. When Offa, King of Mercia, founded St. Albans Monastery in 793, he endowed it with property at Cashio (among other places). In Domesday Book it is recorded that "The Abbot holds Cashio," thus the names of Watford and Cashio are frequently linked in the early story of the district. The fact that the Lord of the Manor was the Abbot of St. Albans accounts for the meagre facts of Watford's early history, save for occasional revolts against the power and oppression of the Abbot, who owned the town mill, forbade any competition, and grew rich out of the revenue from the Watford folk who were forced to have their corn ground at the Abbot's mill and pay his charges. Peasants from Watford took part in the march on St. Albans in 1381, led by John Ball, who lost his head as a result, and the people failed to gain redress.

Henry I is credited with granting the first charter for a weekly market at Watford, this gift to the Abbot of St. Albans being confirmed by Henry II. The market was held in the High Street until September, 1928, when congestion of traffic necessitated its removal, the Corporation establishing a covered market between High Street and Beechen Grove (held Tuesdays and Saturdays), the Cattle Market being transferred to Stone's Abbey behind the new General Post Office. Two fairs were granted to Watford in 1335 by Richard III, which survived until their abolition in 1873. The woollen industry flourished here in the Middle Ages, Watford Parish Church registers containing several entries of "Burial in woollen" to conform with a statute to encourage the trade. In the 18th century the widely scattered parish of Watford extended from Northwood to Leavesden and from Chipperfield to Bushey Mill, and even so numbered only about 4,500 souls.

Daniel Defoe came through Watford in 1778 and wrote of it as "a genteel market town very long, having but one street." Compare this with a resident in the early 19th century, Josiah Conder, theological publisher and hymn writer, who, on leaving in 1839 (he lived at Watford Fields House), wrote to his son of his regret in quitting "most gay, hospitable, social, refined and enlightened Watford." There were coaches twice a day to and from London, and in 1831 postage of a letter there cost 5d. The coming of the railway in 1837 awakened the sleepy little market town into development. The section between Euston and Boxmoor of the London and Birmingham Railway was opposed by property owners, and thus the Junction station was kept as far as possible from the High Street. Extensions of the line to St. Albans and Rickmansworth followed, and in the course of time came the electrification of the line to Euston and Broad Street and the running of the Bakerloo Tube trains through to the junction. The Metropolitan and Great Central line from Baker Street to Aylesbury and beyond made an extension to Croxley Green and Cassiobury Park in 1925, an intention to continue into the town never being fulfilled, although a notice of the site stood on certain premises in High Street for several years.

First served by horse buses, and not many of them, competition between motor bus operators was fast and furious in the 1920's and 1930's, until London Transport Board came into being in 1934. Fifty years ago there was a proposal to lay tram routes in Watford, but the scheme was eventually withdrawn.

The wider life and activity brought by the railway was reflected in the government of the place, which in 1850 was undertaken by a Vestry. In 1880 its population was only about 10,000, but it was approaching 20,000 in 1894 when an Urban District Council was formed. Building sites were developed, new roads and streets laid out, and the rural atmosphere gave place to a pushful, bustling 20th century town "with a future," new industries arriving bringing more trade and people.

Application was made for a Charter of Incorporation in 1922, and there were great rejoicings on that September day when the auspicious document was brought to the borough boundary by the then M.P., Mr Dennis H. Herbert, who represented the Watford district for 25 years, for half that time being Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, and on his retirement was raised to the peerage as Baron Hemingford of Watford. He resided in the town, at Clarendon Lodge, and passed away in November, 1947. The Charter was received by the Earl of Clarendon, who was elected Charter Mayor. On various occasions since the Borough boundaries have been enlarged, and an amalgamation with neighbouring authorities is under consideration, making a large South West Herts Borough — possibly with County Borough status. That is a decision resting with the Boundary Commission. The Borough initiated the electricity undertaking, which, up to nationalisation, offered one of the lowest tariffs in the country, and also controls the water supply, and administers the market and nearly 150 acres of allotments. In housing it has a good record, and it has over 1,100 acres of parks and open spaces, including 190 acres of Cassiobury Park, 260 acres of the West Herts Golf Course adjoining, and 161 acres of Whippendell Woods adjoining the Golf Course, and 150 acres of Oxhey Golf Course acquired in 1947. The last-mentioned site is administered by Watford Corporation, it adjoins the Oxhey estate, which the London County Council is developing, the plan providing for 3,500 houses and a population of 14,000.

The oldest part of Watford clusters around the Parish Church. A few years ago a row of shops was erected shutting off from the High Street a fine view of the ancient building. This century has also seen the replacement of the old vicarage by a modern parsonage house, and the capacious tithe barn was demolished to make way for a modern store. To-day the church stands little altered in exterior appearance from the edifice upon which Watfordians have looked for over six centuries. Built towards the end of the 12th century in the Early English style of architecture, little of that period remains. It was thoroughly restored in the 1870's and further enlarged in 1934, new clergy and choir vestries enabling those at the west end to be thrown into the church, increasing the accommodation of what for long has ranked as one of the largest parish churches in Hertfordshire. Parts of a Norman font found during the reconstruction were carefully pieced together, this oldest piece of architecture in the town now finding a place in St. James's Parish Church, Watford Fields. The present font was new in 1871, replacing one dating from 1701 given to the Church of St. John. The 15th century tower is 100 feet high, with a "Hertfordshire Spike" at summit. In the Essex Chapel until a few years ago were tombs of the Bedford family since removed to the Bedford Mausoleum in the Parish Church of Chenies (Bucks). There are many memorials of the Morrison family in the Essex Chapel, worthy of inspection, and on the south wall of the Church near the entrance is an inscription written by the celebrated Dr Samuel Johnson, to the memory of Jane Bell. A slab near the lectern denotes the burial of Elizabeth White on November 23, 1655, and the registers contain an entry of the birth of an Elizabeth White on November 20, 1665, which some historians have claimed was the grandmother of John and Charles Wesley, but the probability is that she was a great-aunt, as Susanna Wesley's mother was Sarah Annesley (not Elizabeth). The pulpit is carved in the style of Grinling Gibbons. The choir stalls have carving by the Rev. R. Lee James, who with his predecessor, the Rev. the Hon. R. Capel, held the living between them for a century, from Waterloo to the First World War. A brass in the chancel records the visit of King Edward VII in 1909.

Near the south wall is the Fig-Tree Tomb, which used to be one of the sights of Watford. Picture postcards of it were sold and an old woman made a living telling visitors the story. It contains the body of Ben Wangford, a naval officer, who died in the 18th century, and the legend says he disbelieved in the future life, but if a tree burst from his tomb it would disprove his belief. It is a shame to shatter the tradition, but when the tomb was opened it was found that the roots did not reach the coffin. The fig tree owes its origin probably to the habit of a former vicar throwing away the stone from a fig he had plucked from the tree in the vicarage garden as he passed along to the church. More than once this fig tree has been reported dead, but each year it blooms again.

Through the churchyard is the Queen Anne building known as the Free School, which Mrs Elizabeth Fuller provided for the boys and girls of the town. Then left at Church Street, past the St. Mary's Parish Hall, and at the end of the street notice Watford Place, an 18th century building occupied by a firm of solicitors. Returning along Church Street, in a stonemason's yard are remains of the Lecturer's House endowed for the "curate" of the Parish Church, and the eight Essex almshouses, dating from 1580, the oldest dwellings in the town, which were restored a few years ago, having survived a threat of demolition by the Corporation to make room for a car park. At the High Street end of Church Street is a fine piece of 16th century barge boarding with vine leaves carved on it. Passing into the High Street, note the widened part where the market and fairs were formerly held. At the corner of Market Street is the Compasses Inn, and in the wall next to the Head Post Office has been preserved a small wooden window of two cinque-foiled lights (15th century work). Continuing along High Street, just before the Fire Station is Upton House, used as offices, premises acquired by the Urban District Council in 1901 as council chamber and offices.

The Municipal Buildings occupy an imposing site at the junction of Hempstead Road and Rickmansworth Road, where formerly stood The Elms, a private hotel. Before the construction of the modern roundabout at this crossing of four important roads stood a signpost which listed the distances to no less than eighteen places. Cost of erection and furnishing of the Town Hall buildings was £186,000, the opening in January, 1940, being performed by the Earl of Clarendon. There are three floors of offices, air-raid shelters in basement, a handsome Council Chamber, though the public accommodation is limited, a large assembly hall accommodating nearly 2,000 and a smaller hall for 450. Here all the famous London Orchestras perform. During the war when the Royal Albert Hall was out of use the British Legion transferred here their Armistice Memorial Celebration. On the Hempstead Road, just beyond the Town Hall, are the public baths, the first all-electric installation, and on the opposite side of the road is the central public lending and reference library, opened in 1928 by Sir Frederick Kenyon, then Director and Principal Librarian of the British Museum. Over the door of the reading room is an Adams fanlight discovered during the demolition of a nearby building. There is a North Watford Branch Library in St. Albans Road, near the Bypass, opened in 1939.

Returning to the Town Hall, a few steps down Rickmansworth Road lead to the Watford and District Peace Memorial Hospital, opened in 1925 by Princess Mary, Viscountess Lascelles, erected at a cost of £80,000 and since considerably enlarged. A little further along the road is the entrance to the famous Cassiobury Park, once the home of the Kings of Mercia and probably taking its name from the Anglo-Saxon chief, Cassivelaunus, said to have resided here. The House, visited and described by Evelyn, belonged to the Morrisons and was handed down to the Capells (House of Essex). The mansion with its famous paintings and Grinling Gibbons carving was dismantled in 1922, the local authority acquiring the park, down to the Canal, where Grand Union barges pass up and down, and beyond is the West Herts Golf Course (note the lime avenue) and the beautiful Whippendell Woods.

With the exception of the Parish Church of St. Mary's all the churches are less than 100 years old. On Oxhey estate, being developed by the London County Council, the ancient Oxhey Chapel, dating from 1612, is being preserved. The fine Roman Catholic Church of Holy Rood in Market Street was designed by J. F. Bentley, architect of Westminster Cathedral. The oldest Free Church is Beechen Grove Baptist (founded in 1707), the present Romanesque building in Clarendon Road dating from 1879. Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians and other denominations are represented, the Headquarters of the British Union of Adventists being at Stanborough Park, Garston.

Industrially the growth in Watford has been one of the marvels of the last half century. Woollen and silk goods were the earliest manufactures. Brewing has been carried on since 1619. Benskin's Brewery dates from 1750. To-day printing with its allied trades forms the largest single industry. It was in 1824 that John Peacock set up the first printing press in Watford, and in 1803 his son, Samuel, brought out the first issue of the "Watford Observer." To-day his grandson, Mr D. C. Kim Peacock (familiar to radio fans as "Paul Temple") is managing director, the paper having extended its title to "West Herts and Watford Observer." Best known and largest of printing firms in Watford are Sun Printers Ltd. (printers of Hulton's and Weldon's publications) and Odhams Ltd., whose periodicals are also world famous. Two-thirds of the total of our national illustrated Weekly journals as well as a large proportion of monthly illustrated and technical journals are produced in Watford. Secret plans and important documents during the war were printed here, and from D-Day to VE-Day Watford printers gave the German Army its daily paper. Around here is produced paper, boxes and cartons and printing ink. The engineering industry made a similar invaluable contribution to the war effort by De Havilland engines, motor car parts, electrical appliances and a share in the atomic development. Craft for the air-rescue service was manufactured here from timber felled from our beautiful Whippendell Woods. Food and medical products, glass and wire goods, polishes and building materials give employment in light and clean industries. In Watford were manufactured the brushes used on the Vanguard during the Royal visit to South Africa in 1946-7.

Between the Wars this thriving enterprising Borough was putting on population at the rate of 1,000 a year. Its easy access to London, excellent railway and road communications, good employment record, fine shopping facilities, educational opportunities and pleasant residential centres render Watford attractive from several points of view. If because of its trade it has been dubbed the "Croydon of North London," it is within reach of charming country in Herts and Bucks, appealing as a place of residence and should not be missed by any visitor to the county of Hertfordshire.

Peace Memorial Hospital Watford
Photo by Theodore Greville
Parish Church Watford
Photo by Theodore Greville
Town Hall Watford
Photo by Theodore Greville
Watford Bypass  
Photo by Theodore Greville



South West Herts or Rickmansworth Division

This is to include the area which was formerly in the Watford Division before the Municipal Borough was designated for separate Parliamentary representation by the Boundary Commission. This will comprise the Urban Districts of Bushey, Chorleywood and Rickmansworth and the Rural District of Watford.

Rickmansworth is the largest local authority, the second in population of the County's Urban areas, for at 21,000 it equals the Borough of Hemel Hempstead and is 8,000 more than Hertford Borough. The "Richmeresworth" of early days, its “"rich moor meadows" which the name signifies, are watered by the Colne near its junction with the Gade and Chess and the Grand Union Canal flows through the area, indeed it was in a Rickmansworth wharf that the first floating school for the children of the barge workers was built not many years ago. Notable names in long-ago history are linked with this town in which there are many picturesque lanes and corners and old buildings worth exploring. The old part clusters round the Parish Church, with its 13th century embattled western tower, but it has been mainly rebuilt once or twice during the centuries. The vicarage is probably the oldest in the county, dating from 1450. Note the old houses round Church Street, the ford near the Ebury Hall (place of parish meetings), perpetuating the connection with the place of the Lord Ebury family, and see the Bury, now released from its useful wartime service for normal public purposes.

It was a one-time owner of the Bury John Fotherley who at the end of the seventeenth century provided almshouses which until a few years ago stood in the High Street, before the march of time demanded their demolition to make way for multiple shops. The narrow High Street along which Cardinal Wolsey doubtless trod when he was at Moor Park, or William Penn came bringing Guilelma Springett from the marriage scene at King John's Farm at Chorleywood to Basing House, or in more recent years George Eliot passed doing her shopping during the few months she stayed here, this narrow High Street is far too often congested with traffic, particularly as a frequent service of buses use this route, and although a bypass affords relief for some traffic destined for Slough or Reading. Basing House in the High Street, the first home of William Penn after his marriage, was acquired a few years ago by the Urban District Council for Offices. Only the custodians' quarters are remaining from the great Quaker's days. Development of services during wartime involved the erection of huts in the grounds. At the rear are delightful public gardens and a fine bowling green. Mr F. W. Reckitt (of the famous "Blue" firm) erected and endowed a rest home for male artists on Mount Pleasant.

Rickmansworth is on the main Metropolitan and Great Central Railway (Baker Street to Aylesbury), its station being used by hundreds of hikers, particularly on Sundays, exploring the area known as Metroland. There is also a branch line of the L.M.S. (electric) from Watford junction. Opposite the Metropolitan Station on the Chorleywood road is Rickmansworth Park, now the Royal Masonic School for Girls, the foundation stone of which was laid by the Duke of Connaught in 1931, the school being opened by Queen Mary.

At the north end of the High Street is a fine memorial to the men of the district who fell in the 1914-18 War, executed by Sir William Reid Dick. Beyond, on the Uxbridge Road lies the hamlet of Mill End and further along is Maple Cross, the site of the Rickmansworth and Uxbridge Valley Water Company's works and of the huge Colne Valley Sewerage Board's works, which cater for a score of authorities in Herts, Middlesex and Bucks. Just beyond is Denham, with its world-known film studios.

Behind the war memorial is the Aquadrome, famous for boating, swimming and fishing. Batchworth Hill is worth climbing for its view, the road leading on to Northwood on the Middlesex border. Visit the famous Moor Park, immortalised by Dorothy Osborne in her letter to Sir William Temple, and recall his delight being so great that he named his Hampshire estate after it. Henry VIII gave Moor Park to Cardinal Wolsey. The golf course there is the scene of famous contests. The Urban Council having acquired the estate preserved it under the Green Belt Scheme. There is a Municipal Golf Course here. Nearby is Merchant Taylors School removed here in 1933. Sandy Lodge, another famous home of golf, adjoins. The Old Merchant Taylors Sports Ground is at Durrants, an estate on the Croxley Green side. The finest rugger matches in the county are to be seen here during the season.

Croxley Green has seen the greatest development in the area during the last couple of decades. Several new estates have been opened up, bringing a desirable class of resident and quickening the whole communal life of the district, with the natural accompaniment of further bus services, provision of amenities and the erection of places of worship by various denominations. Croxley Green has a station on the Metropolitan Railway on the loop from Watford to Rickmansworth, and is the terminus of a short electric L.M.S. line from Watford Junction through Watford West. Dickinson's paper mills at Croxley have carried the fame of Croxley all over the world, with advertisements of its writing and other papers. Watercress beds at Cassiobridge have acquired national fame. The Rickmansworth area, growing in people and importance, is a well-governed community, and the further electrification of the Metropolitan line on the Buckinghamshire side is bound to popularise it as a tourist centre.


Three miles from Rickmansworth on the edge of Buckinghamshire is Chorleywood, known in the old days as "Charley Wood," famous for its Common where hundreds watch the cricket in summer, and which has a useful golf course, with a big club membership and an artisan section. In the Golf Course Clubhouse the Urban District Council met for some years. Chorleywood is a favourite place of residence. Chorleywood College for girls with little or no sight is delightfully situated at the Cedars on the Common. The area was formed into an Urban District in 1898, and a few years ago successfully evaded being merged in Rickmansworth, but with the boundary review now proceeding Chorleywood may find itself united with a larger area like other small units in the county.

Considerable development has taken place in recent years on the Buckinghamshire side, an estate actually in that county though using public services of Hertfordshire. Among its residents in late years have been Sir George Alexander, the actor; Sir Henry Wood, musical conductor; Dame Madge Kendal, the actress; Dame Jessie Phipps, pioneer social worker in the L.C.C., and the Rev. Dr Charles Brown, veteran Free Church leader, who lived to be 91. The Heronsgate district was the O'Connorville, the Chartist abortive agricultural experiment, of which the public-house, "The Land of Plenty," is an ironical reminder. Another resident who will be remembered in the district was the Lady Ela Russell, a member of the Bedford family, whose residence, Chorleywood House, has been acquired for offices by the Local Authority and it is here that the Council meetings are now held. Two miles beyond is the beautiful village of Chenies, just in Bucks, well worth a visit, with its famous Bedford Chapel, containing the marble tombs of the Earls and Dukes in the Parish Church.


On the other side of Watford is Bushey, known to natives for many years as "the village," but a place of growing importance. Its main road from Watford continues under various names through to Edgware. A former rector, the Rev. G. Montague Hall, in an interesting volume, has written the history of the parish. A church has stood there from the eleventh century, and while St. Albans Abbey had some control it is evident that while the neighbouring parishes of Watford, Aldenham and the Langleys, on being acquired by monasteries, had their revenues appropriated and a vicar substituted for the abbot, Bushey, possibly because it was too poor or too insignificant, remained a rectory from 1160. Before then it seems to have been a chapel under Watford parish. The nave is fourteenth century and the tower is embattled with a west doorway and some original windows remaining.

Tradition says that Silas Titus, the author of the pamphlet, "Killing Noe Murder," who sought to compass the death of Cromwell, was a native of the parish. However that may be, and whatever truth there is in the story that he hid as a fugitive in the rectory, there is no doubt that he was buried in the church vestry.

In the churchyard in the main walk note the tombs of Professor von Herkomer, the painter, and of Barry Pain, the humourist. Herkomer in the 80's and 90's made Bushey known as an artists' colony. His "Life," written by the late Mr J. Saxon Mills of Oxhey, depicts the scenes in that period. What may not be so well known is that when Bushey had a Parish Council Herkomer was at one time Chairman, and would come to the meeting, held on his premises at "Lululaund," in his overalls straight from his studio.

The Royal Masonic School for Boys is at Bushey, 70 acres being purchased at The Avenue and the foundation stone being laid by the Duke of Connaught in May, 1900, the buildings being opened in January, 1903. The Junior School on the Manor Estate, abutting on the main London Road, was opened in January, 1929. It stands in 50 acres of ground of what was formerly a Manor House of Bushey. The Royal Caledonian Schools are on the Aldenham Road, and are supported by generous Scottish individuals and organisations. The buildings suffered considerable damage from fire and enemy bombs during the Second World War. Several famous cricketers have played on the Moat Field, the reputed site of another Manor House, and golf courses are laid out at Bushey Hall and Hartsbourne Manor. Bushey Heath is a select residential area.

Notable names are associated with the cottage hospital known as Bushey and District Hospital — Sir Percy Everett, Deputy Chief Scout, is the active Chairman, the late Sir William Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) was for some years its honorary Secretary, he and Lady Gilbert giving to it devoted service. A present well-known member of its Committee is Sir Harold Bellman.

Recently the area of the Urban District has been extended to embrace property which was formerly in Aldenham. On the Watford Bypass have grown up notable industries. The works and offices of the Colne Valley Water Company, which supplies a great part of Middlesex, are in Bushey, which has, it should be mentioned, several ancient charities. New buildings on the main road indicative of progress are the telephone exchange and the county library.


Watford Rural District has been shorn of part of its area as well as, like other Rural Authorities, its powers. To-day it consists of four parishes of varying size and importance, Abbots Langley, Aldenham, Sarratt and Watford Rural.

At Abbots Langley, easily reached from Watford or St. Albans by bus, the manor in early days, as its name denotes, was held by the Abbot of St. Albans, while its neighbouring parish, Kings Langley, came under the Crown. These two growing places, already linked in a Chamber of Trade, it is surmised may some day be joined in Urban powers, unless previously swallowed in some larger authority. The Norman Church is well worth visiting, with its 13th century tower and skew-arch uniting chancel and nave. In a farm in the hamlet of Bedmond within the Parish was born Nicholas Breakspeare, the only Englishman to become Pope (Adrian IV), a memorial tablet being placed by the Hertfordshire Historical Association in the Church in 1925. Wall paintings of St. Lawrence (patron saint) with his gridiron and St. Thomas a Becket were discovered in 1933. The Booksellers' Provident Institution is in the parish and part of the famous factory and farm of Messrs A. Wander Ltd., manufacturers of Ovaltine. At Nash Mills House lived Sir John Evans, eminent archaeologist, who married a daughter of Mr John Dickinson, founder of the paper mills; his son, Mr Lewis Evans, had a fine collection of sundials and ancient instruments. Langleybury and Hunton Bridge are within Abbots Langley parish.

Aldenham is a large and scattered parish, famed for its public school founded by Richard Platt, and administered by the Brewers Company. Its Church is 13th century and has many ancient brasses, monuments and items of church furniture worthy of inspection. Wall Hall, formerly known as Aldenham Abbey, was the home of the late Mr J. Pierpont Morgan, and is now a Teachers' Emergency Training College. Aldenham House, the home of Lord Aldenham, is now a country club. Elstree Reservoir in this parish is famed for its angling and skating. Letchmore Heath, with its fine Memorial Hall, is picturesque, and Radlet is developing as a residential and shopping centre.

Sarratt is on the Rickmansworth side, with an interesting church dedicated to the Holy Cross, approaching 1,000 years in age, with tower with a saddle-back roof, one of three known churches with its gables facing north and south. The living has been in the Ryley family for a century. Opposite the church are ancient almshouses. The Chess flows through the parish. Sarratt Green, a favourite Common, is a mile from the church.

Watford Rural parish has diminished in size owing to recent boundary extensions of neighbouring parishes, and now consists mainly of Rural Oxhey. Hamper Mill, used successively for silk and paper making, is worth a visit. Development proceeds apace. The L.C.C. have a large building estate in this parish. Oxhey golf course survives. but in changing setting.




Hemel Hempstead Division

This embraces the extreme south-west of the County, which in addition to the Borough giving its title, includes the Urban Districts of Berkhamsted, Tring and Harpenden, and the Rural Districts of Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted and two parishes from St. Albans Rural Area. With changing population the Boundary Commission may impose further limitations on its extent.

Hemel Hempstead, borough and bailiwick, has been the subject of a recent well-written history by Colonel F. S. Brereton, who lives here. First incorporated by Henry VIII in 1539, it received five other charters between 1572 and 1693, but the present Incorporation dates from a new Charter in 1908, so that this is jubilee year for the borough. The granting of fairs for sheep and cattle and for wool indicates the early occupation of the people. In industry Dickinson's paper mills at Apsley dominate the district, but a recent vigorous newcomer is Brock's fireworks factory at Cupid Green, while Kent's brush works are widely known and engineering is carried on on a big scale. Straw-plaiting was for many years the staple industry.

The old town clusters round the Church of St. Mary and the more modern Municipal Buildings. Behind these borough offices is the Church, large and cruciform, dating from 1150, a fine specimen of Norman architecture. Note the western doorway and the Norman chancel roof. A chest of the fourteenth century is in a room over the Vestry, and a stone coffin in the churchyard. Read the memorial to Thomas Deacon, on a slab 6 feet by 2 feet, "who, by his extraordinary spare body in respect of breadth, being long sick of a consumption and of his extraordinary height, being in proportion to the length of the stone, might show the desire he had to heaven." Below the church flows the Gade towards Cadebridge Park, once the home of Sir Astley Paston Cooper, the noted surgeon, who established here one of the earliest Provincial Voluntary Hospitals in 1826. The Town Hall and offices are scarcely a century old. Near the church are remains of a building which from 1320 to the Reformation belonged to Ashridge convent. The arms of Richard Combe, a great benefactor to the town, are over the doorway. An underground passage, said to extend to the church, begins in the gardens. Beyond the Town Hall next the open market place the road runs to the hamlet of Piccotts End.

Marlowes is rapidly becoming the centre of the Borough — it was so before the New Town was promulgated. The present population of 21,000 it is proposed to enlarge to 60,000, bringing in people from Acton and Willesden, with suitable industries and provision for amenities. Lord Reith is the Chairman of the New Town Development Corporation. A new Railway Station is proposed, the present one being two miles from the town on the main Watford-Tring road. To the south lie the areas of Two Waters and Apsley, and to the north Bourne End. The common land known as Boxmoor is administered by the Boxmoor Trust, repeated attempts to develop it for building purposes having been frustrated by well organised public opinion. Roughdown and Shothanger Commons are also under the same Trustees, who own the site of Boxmoor Golf Course. Just beyond Boxmoor Station, on the opposite side of the road, can be identified the rough tomb of Bob Snooks, a noted highwayman buried on the site of his nefarious deeds in 1836. In Box Lane is a 300-year-old Congregational Church, with ancient wall clock and also a table at which Oliver Cromwell is said to have received Communion, though the actual plate was stolen. The West Herts Hospital in Marlowes dates from 1877, and the Hemel Hempstead Grammar School was provided by the County Council in 1931.


With just over 10,000 souls, Berkhamsted can boast a long and proud history. Here lived the kings of Mercia, Berkhamsted Castle was built by Earl Morton, brother of William the Conqueror, and here the Crown of England was offered to that Monarch. It has withstood many a siege. Edward III resided here, and from Berkhamsted the Black Prince set out on his last journey to Westminster. The Office of Works is at present charged with its care and upkeep. During the recent war the equestrian statues from London thoroughfares were brought here for safety. Parliament met at Berkhamsted in 1291 and in 1341 two members were returned. Berkhamsted is a pleasant town, its broad High Street being reminiscent of Marlborough and Beaconsfield.

St. Peter's Church stands on a site dedicated for this purpose from before the Conqueror's advent, with 1,000 seats, it is reputed to be one of the largest parish churches in the county. Dr John Cowper was rector here, and in the old rectory his son, the famous poet, was born in 1731. Southey's words may not be true, that "this little town will be more known in after days as the birthplace of Cowper than for its connection with so many historical personages who figure in the tragedies of old." The old rectory in which he first "saw the light" was demolished within half a century, but many visitors take a look at the memorial window in the Parish Church, seek out the sundial in the present rectory drive, or comment when sighting "Cowper Road." The church has other memorials worthy of inspection to the Smith-Dorriens and the Longmans (of the famous publishing house, who lived at Ashlyns). Berkhamsted School owes its foundation to John Incent, Berkhamsted-born, afterwards Dean of St. Paul's, who obtained a Royal Charter for it in 1541. The buildings in Castle Street should certainly be visited.

Berkhamsted has figured in litigation, not only in regard to its School, which was in the Chancery Court for a century, but also in preserving the rights to Berkhamsted Common, the story of which has been published by the late Mr George H. Whybrow. In the middle years of the 19th century the case of Berkhamsted was one of the famous victories of the Commons and Open Spaces Society — how the tenants led by a Mr Augustus Smith defied the powerful Earl Brownlow, fences being broken down by a gang brought from London for the purpose, the famous judgment of Lord Romilly in 1870 securing the perpetuation of this beautiful Common, of which Linnaneus, when visiting it, and seeing the gorse in full blossom, knelt down and thanked God for showing him so glorious a sight. On this Common the Inns of Court O.T.C. trained in the 1914-18 War, a handsome monument on a high eminence records that over 12,000 trained here and that 2,000 gave their lives. Berkhamsted Golf Club own part of the Common on which the golf course is laid out and another portion is in the care of the National Trust.

The old aspect of the High Street is changing, a fine new Civic Centre has been erected, mansions and houses of historic interest are giving place to modern shops. To quote a few — Egerton House, where Sir James Barrie frequently visited the Davies family, Nugent House, the old workhouse, and Messrs Lane's nursery gardens. A firm which has developed enormously is Messrs Cooper, McDougall and Robertson's, who have fine agricultural research laboratories, and whose sheep dip has carried their name and Berkhamsted's far and wide, and their D.D.T. Powder was the soldier's comfort in the recent war.


The name of Rothschild is everywhere associated with Tring, the most southerly urban area in Herts. Although there is no member of the family residing at Tring Park, whose timbered slopes and lovely scenery must be known to thousands who in times past knew it as the venue of the finest one-day agricultural show in the country — held in August Bank Holiday week, the name of this illustrious family is perpetuated by the Zoological Museum founded by a former Lord Rothschild with its many and rare natural history specimens, and by the engineering firm occupying the old silk mills. In these mills Gerald Massey, the poet, worked as a child; he was born in a cottage by the canal side. The Parish Church is in the perpendicular style. Between this and the Rose and Crown Hotel opposite is the widest thoroughfare, most of the streets being narrow and traffic is likely to be congested. The population of the town is stationary, if not declining, and it is doubtful if Tring will remain much longer a separate unit in local government. The Railway Station is over a mile from the town, but there is a frequent service of buses to Watford or Aylesbury. The Grand Union Canal water pumping station and reservoir at Little Tring is 405 feet above the sea or a tribe higher than the summit of St. Paul's Cathedral.


Harpenden, on the Bedfordshire border (five miles from Luton), is noted for its acres of gorse-covered Common, the crowning glory of a town which retains much of its old-time appearance, coupled with a progressive look with modern shops and residences. It is an increasingly favourite place of residence, set in delightful surroundings and having an enviable health record. Many roads are tree-lined, including the broad High Street. In this area are the Rothamsted Experimental Station, the Government Phytopathological Service (dealing with insect diseases of plants), the principal provincial establishment of the National Children's Home and Orphanage, and several ancient charities. The population of the area is about 13,000. In Harpenden churchyard is the grave of the notorious Esterhazy, the spy in "L'Affaire Dreyfus."

A dozen villages go to complete the Hemel Hempstead Parliamentary Division, around which we will cast a rapid glance. Aldbury is often pictured because of its ancient stocks, its 13th century church with its embattled western tower, and the Bridgewater Monument, 200 feet high, standing in the grounds of Ashridge Park, and erected in 1832 to commemorate Francis, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, on completing the Grand Junction Canal, 1758-9. At Stocks in this village lived Mrs Humphrey Ward, and some of the villagers and local scenes appear in her novels. Bovingdon is a residential parish, noted for the Roman camp remains at Whelpley Hill. Flamstead stands on high ground just off the Watling Street near the Bedfordshire border. Flaunden, formerly in Bucks, and the only Hertfordshire parish in Oxford Diocese (because the living is held jointly with Latimer, Bucks), is a small but pretty parish. Great Gaddesden Church dates from 1260.

Gaddesden Place is the home of the Halsey family. Little Gaddesden has several interesting charities, and contains within its confines part of Ashridge House and Park, now the Bonar Law College, a house with a romantic history and at one time the college of Austin Canons. House and park should both be inspected. Long Marston and Wilstone are small places near the Bucks border. Kings Langley, between Apsley and Watford, has much of interest, including the remains of the Dominican Priory, royal memorials in the Church, and the expansive Common. See the tablet to Peter the Wild Boy in the church at Northchurch. Northchurch Common is well worth a visit, but there is little to comment of Markyate, Potten End, Puttenham or Wigginton. Ruth Usborne of Long Marston provided a sensational trial for a man hanged for murdering a "witch."

Old Raisins Farm Harpenden
Photo by Studio Lisa



St. Albans Division

The ancient City of St. Albans, with its eventful history, gives its name to this Parliamentary Division, which consists in addition of Welwyn Garden City Urban District and St. Albans and Welwyn Rural Districts.

To the fascinating history and many interesting incidents of St. Albans a whole book could easily be devoted. Here it must suffice to indicate some of the outstanding historical events and to suggest buildings and places to be visited. Detailed guide books are available of the Cathedral and of the Verulamium site. Verulam or Verulamium was an ancient and populous city at the time of the Roman invasion, reputed to be the residence of Cassivellaunus (or Cassio), who was driven out by the Romans in B.C. 54. Its importance may be gauged by the Romans creating it a municipium, giving its inhabitants the same rights as citizens born in Rome, and its antiquity is greater than London. While the earlier name may be traced to the River Ver, the present title comes from Alban or Albanus, martyred here during the persecution of the Christians by the Emperor Diocletion. Here he is buried. The citizens after his death gradually embracing the Christian faith, Verulamium was the venue in 429 of a Synod convened for the purpose of checking certain heresies. Part of the site (200 acres) of the Roman city has been acquired by St. Albans Corporation where excavations have revealed the only Roman theatre in Britain and remains of the city walls and gates. In Verulamium Museum are fine mosaic pavements.

St. Alban's Martyrdom is put at about A.D. 303, and at the end of the fifth century the Roman city fell into decay. In 793 Offa, King of Mercia, founded a monastery on the site of the martyrdom in which he deposited the remains of the Saint. The Abbey became a place of pilgrimage and was well endowed. The abbot was mitred about 1161 and sat in Parliament among the peers. Abbots varied in their rule, some being benevolent and others oppressive, and St. Albans was concerned in the peasants' revolt in 1381. Two important battles between the Yorkists and Lancastrians were fought at St. Albans.

Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal and Archbishop of York, was the 38th Abbot, his successor surrendering the abbey to the Crown, and eventually much of the institution was demolished. But the Abbey Church remains one of the County's greatest treasures. It has the longest Gothic Nave in the world and the tallest lancet window in the country, and possesses the rebuilt shrine of St. Amphibalus, to shield whom St. Alban was martyred. See also the modern painting by Mr Frank O. Salisbury in the south transept of the funeral procession of Queen Eleanor in 1290, to whom an Eleanor Cross was erected in St. Albans, since replaced by the Clock Tower (admission to which is 2d).

St. Albans Borough has received at least 17 Charters. All the churches are worthy of a visit. In St. Michael's is the monument to Francis Bacon, whose home was at Gorhambury. Sopwell Convent, traditionally the scene of the wedding of Henry VIII with Anne Boleyn, is in ruins, which may be seen. Here Lady Julia Berners, one of the prioresses, wrote the "Boke of St. Albans" which is in the British Museum. Abbey Gate House, the Bishop's residence, is a Norman Ver, also known as the Round House, and is reputed to be the oldest inhabited house in England. A picturesque thoroughfare is French Row near the Clock Tower, this row of old gabled houses deriving its name from the fact that the army of the Dauphin occupied it in 1216. At the Fleur de Lys Inn King John of France was kept a prisoner after Poitiers.

The Town Hall and Court House is worthy of inspection for its collection of pictures. A bookshop in the Market Place occupies the Moot Hall, one of the oldest buildings in the town, where the City Fathers formerly met. Charles Dickens wrote much of "Bleak House" in St. Albans, taking the title from the house known by this name in Catherine Street. Romeland facing the Abbey was the forum of the citizens, and here George Tankerfield was martyred in 1555. In Holywell Hill are several ancient hostelries. Hosiery and clothing factories give employment to many and there are famous seeds and nursery establishments. In the spacious St. Peter's Street a market is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The City War Memorial at St. Peter's Church end is a graceful Cross in a Garden of Remembrance. With a population of 41,000, St. Albans is the second largest town in the county, modern enterprise and antiquity being harmoniously blended.


From the ancient to the modern we leap with a bound when we come to consider Welwyn Garden City, which was begun in 1920 and created an Urban District in 1927. Four small civil parishes were combined when the new authority was established, to-day the population being 17,000 to 18,000. The original intention was a place for 50,000, and with the New Town envisaged by the Minister of Planning, one wonders what the final form will take. Everything here is modern — residence, shops, factories, layout of roads and parks. Combining town and country, amenities are good for all sports as well as cultural interests. Industries are varied but mainly of the light and clean character. Sherrards Park Wood, with its magnificent specimens of oak and hornbeam, is a pleasant walk from the station. In Welwyn Old Parish Church, Dr Edward Young, author of "Night Thoughts," is buried. Digswell's Norman Church has several royal and other memorials, and Tewin has a legend associated with the tomb of Lady Anne Grimston, not unlike the Resurrection story of the Watford fig tree.


At Ayot St. Lawrence once lived Sir William Parr, brother of Catherine Parr, and in the old Manor House Henry VIII is supposed to have locked up Anne Boleyn while visiting Catherine. Until recently its best known resident was George Bernard Shaw. In the neighbouring parish of Ayot St. Peter is Brocket Hall, once the residence of two Prime Ministers, Lord Melbourne and Lord Palmerston.

At London Colney is Tyttenhanger Park, where the abbots of St. Albans had residence, and Colney Heath contains the De Havilland Flying School. Sandbridge was the home of Mr Apsley Cherry-Garrard, the historian of the Captain Scott expedition to the South Pole. Sarah Jennings, wife of the great Duke of Marlborough, was born in this parish, the Duke's first English title being Baron Churchill of Sandbridge. On the Common is the "Pudding Stone" dividing Wheathampstead from Sandbridge and marking the boundaries between the lands of the rival monasteries of Westminster and St. Albans. John Bostock, of Wheathampstead, was Abbot of St. Albans in the 15th century. He was born at Mackery End, so delightfully described by Charles Lamb in his "Essays of Elia." Devil's Dyke, an ancient British moat fortification, is partly in this parish and partly in Sandbridge. The Brocket tombs in Wheathampstead Church should not be overlooked.

St. Peter's Street St. Albans
Photo by Valentine
St. Albans Abbey and Lake  
Photo by Valentine
Parkway Welwyn Garden City
Photo by Studio Lisa
Old Cottages Tewin
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Ruins of Old Church Ayot St. Lawrence
Photo by Studio Lisa
Photo by Studio Lisa



Barnet Division

Formed in time for operation in the General Election of 1945, the Barnet Parliamentary Division consists of the Urban Districts of Barnet and East Barnet and the Rural Districts of Elstree and Hatfield.

The best known Barnet is that variously styled Chipping Barnet or High Barnet, situated near the celebrated Hadley Woods and perched 430 feet above sea level. The population of the Urban District of 20,000 includes Arkely, Totteridge and Rowley. The wide High Street is dominated by Barnet Church, dedicated to St. John's on a site on which a church has stood since 1250. The town has played its part in national history. Edward IV defeated the Lancastrians here in 1471, and Warwick the Kingmaker was killed. An obelisk on Hadley Green marks the battle site. The famous Barnet fair began as a cattle market granted by Henry II, the fair being for three days early in September, to which horse and cattle dealers come from all parts of the country. All attempts to end this fair have been unsuccessful, and, strange to relate, the pleasure fair accompanying it seems more popular than ever.

But three centuries ago Barnet obtained notoriety as a spa, the Physic Well being a place of resort for the cure of many ills. Though now unused, the old institution is retained within an early Stuart building erected in 1937 by the Local Authority. Barnet has many interesting charities. The Tudor Hall in Wood Street survives as a reminder of the original Queen Elizabeth Grammar School for Boys (founded 1573), now in new premises. Ravenscroft is a name commemorated by memorials in Barnet Church, in certain almshouses and in pleasure gardens. Barnet Vale, South Mimms and Arkely are within Barnet Urban District. The area figures in more than one of Dickens's novels.

East Barnet is a separate Urban District; with a population of 35,000 it is the largest urban area in Hertfordshire. With a station on the L.N.E.R. line, it has witnessed great development in the last 25 years. The Church Farm Boys' Home, an industrial school, occupies 70 acres and can train 90boys. At New Barnet is a striking war memorial "Winged Victory," in Station Road, commemorating the fallen in the 1914-18 War. The Barnets form an important and populous district of the county. Friern Barnet is in Middlesex.


By a change of title a year or two ago confusion was lessened by Elstree being substituted for Barnet as the head of the Rural District. Canon A. R. Eales, for long rector of Elstree, published an interesting account of the parish. The Church of St. Nicholas was founded by monks of St. Albans Abbey in the fourteenth century. Elstree, with adjoining Boreham Wood, has become a centre of the British film industry. The London County Council propose considerable development here. Ridge, a village on the Middlesex boundary, has a small 15th century church. Tyttenhanger Park, erected in 1654, was designed by Inigo Jones — the Countess of Caledon is the present owner. At Totteridge lived Richard Baxter, the Puritan divine, at the end of his days. Shenley is mainly known as the place of the Middlesex Mental Hospital and Colony for the Feeble Minded, covering 1,250 acres of Porters Park estate and completed in 1936. The parish church is dedicated to St. Botolph, and in the churchyard is the tomb of Nicholas Hawksmoor, pupil of Sir Christopher Wren, whom he assisted in building St. Paul's Cathedral.


Hatfield, which gives the name to a Rural District of four parishes, was inevitably marked down for urban powers until the Ministry of Planning decided to make it a "twin" New Town with Welwyn. What is known as New Hatfield has grown with the advent of the De Havilland aircraft works, and has received severe bomb damage in the recent war. Hatfield House, the seat of the Marquess of Salisbury and the ancestral home of the Cecils for centuries, must be seen in any itinerary of Hertfordshire. The present noble mansion, erected early in the seventeenth century, is considered one of the finest specimens extant of Early Jacobean architecture. Set in a magnificent park, elegantly built and appointed, it contains notable paintings and rare historical documents. At the grand entrance, near the railway station, is the statue to the Third Marquess, Robert, three times Prime Minister. For many years the Royal Hertfordshire Agricultural Show was held in Hatfield Park. In the Church of St. Etheldreda are many memorials of the Salisburys and the Brockets. The Third Marquess restored the church at his own cost in 1872. Hatfield is the largest parish in the county.

Cumberland Court Hatfield
Photo by Studio Lisa
Cottages by Stream Hatfield
Photo by Studio Lisa
Brocket Hall Lemsford
Photo by Studio Lisa



Hertford Division

Once giving its name to the Parliamentary constituency for the whole county, Hertford now includes besides the Municipal Borough, five Urban Districts and two Rural Districts (which between them have 23 parishes). Bishops Stortford, Cheshunt, Hoddesdon, Sawbridgeworth and Ware are the towns. The villages, if small, have many historic features.

Hertford, with a population of 13,300, the seat of the county government, with no prospect of being converted into a "New Town," has the charm of an ancient provincial market town, with important and historic buildings and delightful rural surroundings. "The hart standing in a ford" appearing in an early borough seal, suggests the origin of the name. In Hertford Castle Kings have resided, Parliament has met and here the Law Courts were transferred from London in time of plague. Its importance in Saxon times is evidenced by the meeting here of the Ecclesiastical Synod called by Archbishop Theodore in 673.

The Castle, owned by the Marquess of Salisbury, High Steward of the Borough, is used for Municipal purposes; its grounds are open. The Castle is leased to the town at a peppercorn rent of 2/6 a year. A Synod memorial tablet and a "pipple" or boundary stone are on the terrace. Grounds are attractively laid out with flower beds; there is a bowling green and tennis courts and a children's playground corner. The Corporation has been granted an "Honor" or special badge to be borne on ceremonial occasions. A grant by Charles II gives the Mayor the privilege of having a sword as well as a mace carried before him.

Next to the Castle the oldest building is the pretty little church of St. Leonard's, Bengeo. There are old houses in St. Andrew's Street and Fore Street. Lombard House, on the banks of the Lea, at the north end of Bull Plain, dating from 1600, was the residence of Sir Henry Chauncy, a county historian. Hales's Grammar School in All Saints Churchyard is a seventeenth century building, and Bayley Hall, at one time the headmaster's house, is of a later period. Designs by the Adams Brothers in the reign of George III are represented in the Shire Hall, where Assizes and Quarter Sessions are held and also certain Borough meetings. The "Hart" distinguishes the fine War Memorial (1921) at the junction of Fore Street and the Wash. Haileybury College, Christ's Hospital and "Goldings" (Dr Barnardo's Homes) are other buildings which should be seen by the visitor.

Hertford's industries are many and various. Its market denotes its agricultural centre; there are flour mills, leather works, food, confectionery, tooth-brush and glove factories, motor engineering works and breweries. There are many pleasant walks through woods or by streams, notably Hartham Common and the Warren, the latter presented to the town by Mr Philip Longmore, member of a family intimately linked with the borough and county life.

Bishop's Stortford, taking its name from the River Stort, on whose banks it stands, and its prefix from its having been bestowed by William the Norman upon Maurice, Bishop of London, is 14 miles from the county town, and has a population of 11,000. Malt and grain for brewing are brought down the Stort, which is navigable until its junction with the River Lea at Roydon. Industries are the manufacture of matches, building construction machinery, and there are brickworks and lime kilns. Cecil Rhodes, whose father was a vicar here, was born at Nettleswell House, South Road, which is now preserved as a Rhodes Museum. The Church of St. Michael dates from the 15th century, but Hockerill Church is recent, the original church of All Saints being destroyed by fire in 1935. Sir Walter Gilbey was a great benefactor to the district, the Hospital site and Hockerill Park being among his gifts. Waytemore Castle, attributed to the Conqueror, and grounds, are public pleasure gardens and recreation grounds.

Cheshunt is growing in favour as a residential district. With a population of 18,000, and only 14 miles from Liverpool Street, with delightful surroundings and Epping Forest at hand, this is not surprising. The place has links with Oliver Cromwell and his son Richard, and with Cardinal Wolsey through his ownership of Cheshunt Great House. In Theobalds Park stands old Temple Bar, removed from Fleet Street in 1888. Waltham Cross (with the finest of the 20 Eleanor Crosses) is within this Urban District.

At Hoddesdon Izaak Walton fished in the Lea with his friend, Sir Henry Wootton. Rye House, the scene of the plot against Charles II, is a mile away. St. Monica's Priory at Broxbourne is an Elizabethan embattled mansion dating from 1622.

Smallest of the Urban Districts of the County in population, Sawbridgeworth (3,173) is on the River Stort on the Essex border and on the road to Newmarket. Its churches of Great St. Mary, so-called to distinguish it from its neighbour, Little St. Mary at Gilston, are both very ancient and have memorials worthy of inspection. Principal trade is in malt and there are fairs in April and October.

But Ware is the centre of the malting industry in the county, as the drying kilns with their quaint cowls will immediately indicate to the visitor. Hertfordshire soil is specially adaptable for growing malting grain. To this place and industry belonged the late Lord Croft whose name is recalled when such topics as Tariff Reform or Home Guard are mentioned, and in the large church of St. Mary the Virgin, set in the centre of the town, are memorials to the Page-Crofts. Ware stands on the Lea, and here it is said that the Danes in the reign of Alfred brought their vessels. There was a Priory here in Norman days and three centuries later a House of Grey Friars. The Great Bed of Ware long ago left the town (which Shakespeare cites) for a permanent home in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. To Ware cantered John Gilpin in Cowper's lively ballad. Ware Park is the county Sanatorium. The attraction of the navigable Lea, with its boating and angling facilities, constitute Ware a place to be seen by the traveller in Hertfordshire, and recent development has shown it a desirable place of residence.


The delight of this part of Hertfordshire is its countryside, so different from the bustling industry of West Herts. Let us spare a brief glance at some of these villages. Aston Bury is a sixteenth century mansion with twisted chimneys. At Aspenden the great Lord Macaulay was at school. Albury's registers, having been deposited in St. Paul's for safe keeping, perished in the Great Fire of London. The Manor of Anstey was held by Catherine of Aragon and subsequently by Anne Boleyn. Ardeley ("Yardley" until 1,000 years ago) was granted by King Athelstan to the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's. At Ardeley Bury lived Sir Henry Chauncy, historian of Hertfordshire. Braughing, which the Romans called Brooking, was the scene of discoveries of a Roman sarcophagus and Roman coins. Brent Pelham is said to derive its name from a great fire in the reign of Henry I which destroyed village and church.

At Buckland the church dates from 1348. There are remains of a twelfth century castle at Benington. Buntingford is a small town with picturesque flagged and cobbled streets, weekly market and a June fair. Great Hormead and Little Hormead stand on the little River Quin, and lie on the Cambridge Road. These are fruit growing parishes. Robert Hugh Benson wrote some of his novels at Hare Street House. Registers at Hunsdon show that Queen Elizabeth twice stood sponsor in this church — in 1575 and 1574. Here Henry Earl of Surrey, graceful poet, first met Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, the "Geraldine" of his sonnets.

Building used as a church school at Standon was at one time the Court House and formerly the Commandery of the Order of St. John. The site of the hospital is now known as the Friars. The lordship of Standon is the property of the Duke of Wellington. St. Edmund's College (R.C.), a modern public school, is at Old Hall Green. Blakesware and Widford are immortalised by Charles Lamb in his essays — The Blakesmoor is easily identifiable.

The Square Hertford
Photo by Studio Lisa
Windhill Bishop's Stortford
High Street Bishop's Stortford
High Street Ware
Thunbridge Ware
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Hunsdon House Built A.D. 1593
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Hunsden Village and Cross  
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Hitchin Division

In the Northern corner of the county, bordered by Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, is the Hitchin Parliamentary Division, comprised of the Urban Districts of Baldock, Hitchin, Letchworth, Royston and Stevenage, and fifty villages combined in the Rural Districts of Hertford and Hitchin. On the main London-Bedford Road, Hitchin has a long and interesting history. Roman remains found here suggest its antiquity. Its ancient buildings, busy yet pleasant thoroughfares, modern shops, varied industries, and the cultivation of lavender for the lavender water and soap for which Hitchin is famous, render it attractive to the antiquarian and the modern tourist. With a population of 20,000, set in the valley of the small River Hiz, Hitchin is busy on market days, and admirable is its broad Bancroft Street, one of the widest in the county.

The 13th century church of St. Andrew is the largest in the county, contains what is believed to be a genuine Rubens the Adoration of the Magi, a fourteenth century slab of particular interest to Freemasons, a crypt under the chancel said to have been used for Royalist prisoners during the Commonwealth, and a church museum in a chamber above the south porch, reached by a spiral staircase. One of the largest congregations gathered here in recent years was for the memorial service to the late Sir Henry Wood, the musician.

The Baptist Church in Tilehouse Street was founded in 1669, and the Congregationalists in Hitchin date from 1690. Leaving the Parish Church by the south porch, Biggin Lane will lead to the author of Hitchin's famous buildings, The Biggin. Through the diminutive courtyard the visitor enters what was once a convent of the Gilbertine Order — the only English Order. Its foundation was in the reign of Edward III, and after its dissolution by Henry VIII it was at various periods a grammar school and a workhouse until over a century ago it was converted into almshouses for 18 women. Many interesting things can be seen during an inspection. The Priory, a private residence, is on the site of a Carmelite monastery.

What a variety of industries there are in Hitchin — agricultural implement making, glove making, medicines, chemicals, metallic powders, and bacon curing. An enlightened Council has sign-plated the houses of the famous of Hitchin.


Letchworth's population is about equal that of Hitchin's. It has the distinction of being the first Garden City created in this country, dating from 1903 and stands upon 4,500 acres belonging to the first Garden City Limited. Surrounding it is a belt of open country, fulfilling the intention of its creator, Ebenezer Howard, whose memorial is in Howard Park. The small twelfth century church which served the little village from Norman times is still used for worship, but many denominations are now represented.

The town, with its tree-lined and grass-verged roads, was planned to give all houses good gardens. Its notable civic centre is indicative of a well-conceived design, providing for amenities for an eventual population of 50,000 with clearly defined residential, shopping and industrial centres. Letchworth Hall, a charming Jacobean manor house, built by Sir William Lytton in 1625, and bearing the Lytton Arms, is the principal hotel, standing in Letchworth Park with a golf course adjoining. An interesting museum has been established in Letchworth. Industries vary from printing and printing machinery to pyrometer making, corsets to cars and their accessories, parachutes to photographic materials, motor engineering to marking ink, agricultural implements and machinery to knitted wear.

Baldock, with 5,000 to 6,000 population, has a fourteenth century church and many ancient charities. It was the Rev. John Smith, when vicar here, who deciphered Pepys' Diary. Roman relics have been discovered here. Brewing and malting were for long the main industries, but a hosiery factory now claims premier place. An interesting experiment is in being here with aluminium houses said to be capable of rapid assembly.

Stevenage, like Baldock — on the Great North Road — is to rise from its present population of just over 6,000 to a New Town of 60,000. The church of St. Nicholas, in Norman and Gothic styles, is approached through half-a-mile of an avenue alternating lime and chestnut trees, said to have been planted in the eighteenth century. In the opposite direction are six hills or "barrows" reputed to be of Danish origin. The New Town will cover 6,140 acres and is expected to attract such industries as light engineering and school equipment manufacturing.

Royston, an Urban District with a population of about 4,500, is on the Cambridgeshire border, in fact for many years part of the town was in that county. One of the places for the visitor to see is "The Cave," under part of Melbourne Street, hewn out of pure chalk, and discovered accidentally in 1742. It dates from Roman and certainly pre-Christian times. The hooded crow, the "Corvus Cornix" is known as the Royston Crow — it comes to the place at the beginning of winter and leaves in the spring. Incidentally a sub-title of the local newspaper is the "Royston Crow." King ]ames's Stables, formerly a hunting seat of that Monarch, have been converted into cottages. They lie on the outskirts of Royston Heath. Malting and brewing, artificial manure making and steam flour milling are the chief industries, and sugar-beet is grown around here.

Now to review some of the parishes in Hitchin Rural District: At Ashwell was a British camp and in this village rise 32 springs which form the head of the River Cam or Granta. The church is noteworthy for its lofty western tower, which is surmounted by a finely tapering spire, rising to a height of 176 feet. Barley's fourteenth century church had many notable rectors, including William Warham (1495-1503), who became Archbishop of Canterbury. Graveley was mentioned in Domesday and in the church is a list of rectors from 1224. Ivy ruins of an ancient church may be seen at Chivesfield, with remains of a stone coffin on the floor. Hexton Church is dedicated to St. Faith.

"Ravensburgh Castle" is an ancient camp of 14 acres, surrounded by a rampart and ditch. Roman antiquities have been found at Hinxworth, and John Wesley is said to have preached on the site of the present Methodist chapel here. At Ippollitts the church is dedicated to St. Hippolytus. At Maiden Croft, where once stood a nunnery, are remains of a moat in which Henry VIII is said to have been accidentally immersed while hawking. In the parish of Kimpton is the Hoo, the seat of Viscount Hampden, Lord Lieutenant of Herts. Here Dr William Barford was rector for 20 years (1773-93) and a tablet in the church records that he was a "man of consummate learning." Kings Walden has a church of the Transitional period, with registers dating from 1538. At nearby Breachwood Green in the Baptist Chapel is a pulpit bearing the date 1658, from which John Bunyan is said to have preached.

Historic and majestic Knebworth should not be missed, the home of the Lyttons. Best known in history is Bulwer Lytton, but he is not, however, buried in the family mausoleum but in Westminster Abbey. Offley is of interest as the reputed burying place of Offa, King of Mercia, in 796. A Church has stood at Pirton since the eleventh century. Of the original manor house only one gable end remains. Preston, near Hitchin, is said to have the largest well in the county. Temple Dinsley was a preceptory of the Knight Templars in the twelfth century. The building is now occupied as Princess Helena's College for Girls.

At Wainwood a natural hollow is still known as Bunyan's Dell, for here the "immortal tinker" trudged from Bedford to preach. Rushden Church is of interest for a monument to Sir Adolphus Meetkerke (ambassador to Queen Elizabeth in Flanders), which has been removed from St. Botolph, Aldersgate. Sandon's flint church has a pulpit with wood carving worth examination, The Congregational Church here dates from 1662. St. Paul's, Walden, is the seat of the Earl of Strathmore, where our present Queen's grandfather was one time vicar. The grounds of St. Paul's Waldenbury, now belonging to the Queen's brother, the Hon. David Bowes Lyon, have intimate associations with our present King and Queen's courtship. Shephall has a well on the village green 190 feet deep. Weston Church boasts that from its pulpit Dr Jeremy Taylor often preached when rector of Great St. Mary's, Cambridge.

Roman urns (containing ashes) to the number of 20-30 were found at Great Wymondley in 1881, and a Roman villa with tassellated pavement discovered in a field near Purwell Mill. Edward VI, when Prince of Wales, slept at the Manor Farm, and Henry VIII is said to have stayed at the Priory here while visiting Cardinal Wolsey at Delamere House. The curious may like to be reminded that James Lucas, the Hertfordshire hermit, lived hereabouts, and was the original of George Mopes of Charles Dickens' "Tom Tiddler's Ground" story. Wymondley House was the academy for theological students of which Dr Philip Doddridge was the first tutor.

A few villages in Hertfordshire Rural District are worth mentioning. At Bayfordbury (Bayford) is the collection of famous portraits of the Kit-Cat Club painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller. Benington was a place of residence of Kings in the ninth century. Bramfield rectory was the first cure held by Thomas a Becket, his association with the parish being perpetuated by Becket's Pond near the Church. Under one of the 1,000 year old yews in the glebe at Datchworth Edward Young is said to have written his "Night Thoughts." Hertingfordbury was the seat of the Earls of Cowper, with which family the poet, William Cowper, was connected. Sir Frederick Ousley, the celebrated composer, died here in 1889, and is commemorated by a memorial in the church, where there are oak seats executed by Joseph Mayer of Ober Ammergau. In Panshanger Park, seat of Lord Desborough, is what Gilbert White in his "Natural History of Selbourne" described as "probably the finest and most stately oak now growing in the south-east of England."

At Little Amwell, Dr Johnson visited his friend Scott, the Quaker poet. Little Berkhamsted is the birthplace in 1637 of Thomas Ken, hymn writer and later Bishop of Bath and Wells, commemorated by the altar table. Walkern is associated with a famous trial, that of Jane Wenham, of this parish, in what is said to be the last trial for witchcraft in this country. The woman was found guilty and deemed worthy of death but afterwards pardoned.

Grammar School Letchworth
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Council Offices Letchworth
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Arcade Letchworth
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Hitchin Road Letchworth
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High Street Stevenage
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Some advertisements from 1948
Scottie's Tea Garden and Snack Bar Welwyn Garden City
Munt's Cycles Welwyn Garden City
De Havilland Aircraft Builders Hatfield
Kayser Bondor Ladies' Stockings  
Marmet Prams Letchworth