Hertford: A Brief History
The River Lea and it’s crossing at Hertford lie at the heart of the town’s history. Before the Norman Conquest the river formed a natural boundary between the Danelaw to the north and Saxon Wessex to the south. Saxon villages already existed at Bengeo and Hertingfordbury and in 911 and 912 Edward The Elder, son of Alfred The Great, founded two fortified burghs, north and south of the Lee crossing (the ford is beleived to about 50 yards downstream of what is now Mill Bridge). Two small towns developed, with two churches – the saxon St.Mary The Less in Old Cross and St.Nicholas behind what is now Maidenhead Street. There were also two market places – beleived to be in Old Cross and on the site of The Shire Hall.
Following the Norman Conquest, a castle was established at Hertford, together with a priory and a new mill. For the next 300 years the Castle was a Royal residence. With the patronage of kings and queens, together with the town’s agricultural base, Hertford prospered.
In 1628 the castle passed into the ownership of the Earldom of Salisbury and eventually fell into ruin. The only remains of the Castle are the original motte, the flint walls and the gatehouse.
Hertford Priory was dissolved in the 16th century and the church fell into disrepair. The land on which the Priory stood fell into private hands and became a manor farm.
In the late 18th Century the River Lea navigation was cut through the town providing important access to London’s corn markets. Because the town was surrounded by agricultural estates it was unable to expand outwards and so expanded upwards by adding storeys to existing buildings. The outward expansion of the town didn’t come about until the late 19th Century when the railway came to the town.
The Victorian era saw much building in the town as transport links to London improved. Electricity and gas were introduced and industry grew.
Hertford is now a thriving and rapidly expanding town with a rich heritage and bright future ahead.
The Book of Hertford by Cyril Heath
History of Hertford by Dr.F.M.Page
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle