| Hertford Priory
|The Priory Farm Manor House
Hertford Priory was built around 1087 by Ralph de Limesi, a nephew of William The Conqueror. It occupied land between today’s Hertford East railway station and Bircherley Green. The priory church was one of the largest in the country, with a nave of 87 feet. Provision was initially made for six monks at the Priory, although this number increased with time. It is thought that Ralph de Limesi himself entered the community in later life, eventually becoming the prior. Both de Limesi and his wife were buried in the Priory cemetary upon their death.The Priory grew in importance over the following centuries, with the number of monks increasing to twelve. St.Hugh of Lincoln, and Gilbert – Earl Marshall of England – were both buried in the Priory Cemetary.
The Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in the 16th century brought about the closure of the priory, some say on 9th February 1538/9. The then prior was Thomas Hampton. who signed the deed of surrender and shortly afterwards the lands passed into the hands of Sir Anthony Denny, one of The King’s privy councillors. The Priory was dismantled and the church fell into disrepair, eventually being closed as the parish was amalgamated into that of All Saints.
The estate changed hands in 1587, in 1590 and again in 1617 when Richard Willis became the owner. John Harrison of Balls Park, MP for Lancaster, bought the land in 1637 and built the first house and the estate eventually became a manor farm.
In the mid-nineteenth century the land was broken up and sold. A woodyard was constructed, together with Priory Street and St.John’s Road (later St.John’s Street) and attendant housing. In addition, a new Catholic Church and convent were established, a fitting tribute to the land’s heritage. The church remains to this day but the convent has now become flats.
History Of Hertford by Dr.F.M.Page (1959), published by Hertford Town Council and available from Hertford Museum.
A History and Guide of The Catholic Church of The Immaculate Conception and St.Joseph, Hertford (1998) available from Father Gladstone Liddle at Hertford Catholic Church.
The Book Of Hertford by Cyril Heath (1975), published by Baron Birch.
||Meeting of the first Synod of the English Church.
||Defeat of the Danes by Alfred The Great.
||A burgh (fortified places) was founded by Edward The Elder to the north of the River Lea crossing at “Heorutforda” (Ford of the Harts) to defend aganst Danish advances. The site is thought to be in the area of Old Cross.
||A second burgh is established by Edward to the south of the river, making Hertford a double fort. The site later became Hertford Castle.
||The Norman Conquest.
||The Domesday Book records 146 burgesses (head of family), two churches, two markets and three mills at Hertford.
Hertford Priory established by William The Conquerer’s nephew, Ralph de Limesi
||Hertford Castle reconstructed by Henry II.
||Siege and capture of Hertford Castle by the French Dauphin.
||The Sheriff of Hertfordshire is ordered to construct a gaol in the borough.
||William De Valance becomes govenor of Hertford Castle.
||Hertford Castle reverts to The Crown (Edward I) after the death of William De Valances.
||The Freemen of Hertford elect the town’s first MPs – John De Westreete and Simon De Balle.
||Hertford Castle entrusted to Margaret of France, wife of Edward I.
||Hertford Castle becomes a Royal Palace.
||Castle and Borough surveyed by Edward III.
||Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II, dies at Hertford Castle.
||Hertford Castle granted to John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III.
||Joan of Navarre, wife of Henry IV, becomes governor of Hertford Castle.
||Princess Catherine of France, wife of Henry V, becomes governor of Hertford Castle.
||Around this time The Verger’s House was built in St.Andrew Street. It is now better known as St.Nicholas Hall.
||The church of St.Mary The Less in Old Cross is pulled down.
||Dissolution of Hertford Priory.
||Parliament moves to Hertford Castle to escape The Plague.
||Samuel Stone, founder of Hartford, Connecticut, born in Fore Street.
||Richard Hale School founded in All Saints churchyard.
||Detailed survey of the town by John Norden for King James 1st.
||Outbreak of Plague in the town.
||William Cecil, second Earl of Salisbury, is granted freehold of Hertford Castle by The Crown.
||St.John’s Church bulit on the ruins of St.Mary’s in the old Priory grounds.
||The Priory Manor is sold to Sir John Harrison of Ball’s Park.
||Mayor of Hertford, Andrew Palmer, imprisoned by Roundheads for reading royal proclamation.
||Christ’s Hospital School moves to Hertford after the Great Fire of London.
||Quaker Meeting House built in Back Street (now Railway Street).
||Friends Meeting House built in Railway Street.
||The church of St.Nicholas is demolished.
||Water first pumped into town.
||Ware Park Mill built.
||Young’s Brewery opens close to the corner of South Street and Fore Street.
||The River Lee Navigation reaches Hertford, providing an important transport connection to London.
||The Old Sessions Hall is demolished to make way for Shire Hall.
||Shire Hall completed
||The Hertfordshire Mercury first published.
||The School of Industry for Girls opens.
||Clock designed by John Briant installed at Shire Hall.
||The first gas works is constructed in Gas House Lane (now Marshgate Drive) by the International Gas Co.
||Thomas Duncombe becomes MP for Hertford.
||McMullens second brewery opens on what is now the site of The Woolpack P.H.
||Completion of Hertford County Hospital (formerly The Infirmary).
||The Reform Act of 1832 and the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 lead to the reformation of Hertford Corporation.
||The Cowper Testimonial School opens in London Road.
||First railway station opens in Hertford, opposite what is now the Great Eastern Tavern in Railway Street.
||All Saints Infants School built.
||Outbreak of Cholera in the town kills 48.
||New livestock market opened behind the Ram Inn in Fore Street.
||The Hertford Sewerage Diversion Act leads to the establishment of a sewerage purification works on the Kings Meads.
||Holy Trinity Church built in Bengeo.
||Opening of Cowbridge Railway Station on the new branch line from Hertford to Welwyn.
Horns Mill rebuilt and re-equipped
||New Corn Exchange opened.
The Ragged School in Butcherley Green opens.
||Church of the Immaculate Conception and St.Joseph built in St.John’s Street.
Water reservoir established in Port Vale.
||Construction of the United Reform church on Cowbridge.
||Housebuilding starts on Folly Island.
Catholic Church built in St.John’s Street.
||Christ Church built on corner of Port Vale and Balfour Street.
||St.Andrews church in St.Andrews Street rebuilt.
||The Ragged School in Butcherly Green closes.
Work completed on Goldings, a tudor style house eventually to become a Dr.Bernardo’s home.
||Shire Hall altered.
||Work starts on new Public Library in Old Cross.
Hertford East railway station constructed.
||Covered Market built.
||Main Post Office built by H.Norris.
Fire destroys Sele Mill – burns for three days.
Market Street constructed.
||All Saints Church gutted by fire on 21st December.
McMullens build a new brewery in Hartham Lane.
||Major restoration of St.Nicholas Hall in St.Andrews Street.
Mill Bridge freed of toll.
||A new church at All Saints is dedicated by the Bishop of St.Albans.
||Young’s Brewery close to the corner of South Street and Fore Street closes.
||Evelyn Cecil elected M.P.
||The first electric works are built by the North Metropolitan Electric Power and Distribution Co.Ltd.
||Shire Hall altered.
Boys from Christ’s Hospital School move to Horsham.
||The Green Dragon hotel is built on the site of a 16th Century Inn on the corner of Maidenhead Street and The Wash.
||Christ’s Hospital redeveloped for girls. Eight large red brick dormitories and a new chapel built. These were opened on July 23 1906 by The Prince of Wales.
||Completion of The Victoria Tower at All Saints Church.
||The Prince and Princess of Wales, later King George V and Queen Mary, open new girls accomodation at Christ’s Hospital.
Baptist Church built on the corner of Cowbridge and Port Hill.
||Opening of Hertford’s first cinema, the People’s Electric Theatre, on the corner of Maidenhead Street and Bull Plain. The site is now occupied by Hinds the jewellers.
Hertford’s second cinema – The Premier, opens on Christmas Eve in Market Street.
||Hertford Castle leased to Hertford Borough Council.
||The Castle Gates are presented to the town by the Marquis of Salisbury.
||The Castle Cinema opens in The Wash.
||Zeppelin Raid on town on 13th October. Buildings damaged include those at the west end of Bull Plain and North Road.
||Fire destroys important part of Maidenhead Street on 6th May.
Bombs dropped on Queen’s Hill from German Zeppelin.
||Addis takes over the buildings of the Hertford Steam Laundry in Ware Road for the manufacture of toothbrushes.
||First council houses constructed.
War Memorial built in Parliament Square.
||Goldings became the William Baker Technical School, a Dr. Barnardo’s Home
||Hertford County Hospital extended and rebuilt.
||Cowbridge railway station closes.
Hertford North railway station opens.
||Extensive demolision work takes place on Millbridge so that road can be widened and new bridge constructed.
||Record factory opened in Mead Lane.
||The Premier Cinema in Market Street becomes a theatre of varieties.
||Richard Hale School rebuilt on a new site in Peg’s Lane.
||The treatre of varieties in Market Street becomes The Regent Cinema.
||Opening of the County Cinema.
The Maidenhead Inn, which gave its’ name to Maidenhead Street, closes. The premises are now occupied by Woolworth’s.
||New toothbrush factory in Ware Road constructed.
||Record Factory in Mead Lane closes.
||County Hall opens.
||German Land Mine damages houses in Ware Road and Tamworth Road.
||The Regent Cinema closes.
||Extensive damage after a V2 flying bomb lands at Mill Bridge on 2nd July.
||Balls Park becomes a teacher training college.
Modernised Castle Cinema reopens.
||Major expansion at Addis’s toothbrush factory.
||The Cowper School in London Road closes.
||The Castle Cinema closes.
||Releif Road constructed.
||William Baker Technical School at The Goldings Closes.
||Horns Mill, home of Webb & Co in the 1950s, is demolished to make way for homes.
||The Castle Hall opens.
The Covered Market closes.
||Road viaduct carrying the A10 across the Meads is opened.
||The County Cinema closes.
||After 300 years in the town, Christ’s Hospital Girls School leaves Hertford to join the boys school in Horsham, Surrey.
||Christ’s Hospital chapel demolished to make way for Tesco supermarket.
||Addis’s toothbrush factory closes.
||Fountain built in Salisbury Square.
||Major part of Hertford Castle grounds transfered to East Herts District Council as a gift from the owner, Lord Salisbury.
The widest of the town’s old streets, Fore Street was once the main thoroughfare through the town. It was often used for the sale of livestock until a new market was built behind The Ram Inn in Fore Street. The market later moved to Caxton Hill. Parallel to Fore Street ran Back Street, now known as Railway Street.
Created in the 1920’s and named after Parliament Row to the south side (now demolished) which was so named to commemorate the relocation of Parliament to The Castle behind, following the outbreak of The Great Plague in 1563.
Fore Street was used for the sale of livestock until a purpose built market was constructed in 1851. This market had space for 2,500 sheep, 500 pigs and also space for calves. However there was no space for adult cattle. A further market was later built in Caxton Hill, which itself has now disappeared, making way for homes.
The original Corn Exchange was built in the early 1840’s next to the Cross Keys Inn. Prior to this date, trading in corn was done behind the Shire Hall. The New Corn Exchange which replaced it was opened in 1859.
Market Street was cut through between Fore Street and Railway Street in 1890. This meant the demolition of Beard’s men’s outfitters and Savage the cooper and basket maker in Fore Street; and cottages in Railway Street. Later on in the mid-1930s a bus stop was constructed in Market Street, whicg required the removal of the Thistledoo Cafe.
The original Post Office was in Fore Street next to what is now the NatWest Bank. A purpose built Post Office was erected in 1890 by local builder H.Norris. .
Old Cross was originally the town centre of the northern part of the town. Free passage between the two parts of the town didn’t come about until the removal of tolls from Mill Bridge in 1893.
Maidenhead Street is so named after The Maidenhead Inn, which occupied the premises that are now Woolworth’s. In earlier times it has also been known as Cordwainer Street and Glove Street. This has always been one of the principle shopping areas of the town, with shops such as Sweetings Butchers, who traded for over 300 years. The town’s first cinema was also in the street – the People’s Electric Theatre – on the corner of Bull Plain. In 1917 fire destroyed an important part of the street opposite what is now Stead and Simpson’s shoe shop. Click here for picture
Once the eastern end of Back Street until the coming of the railway in the mid-1800s. It was bordered on the north by Butcherly Green, a densely populated area of slums.
Bull Plain takes its’ name from The Bull Inn, which once stood near to what is now the site of Hertford Cameras. It 1915, there was extensive damage here after a Zeppelin raid.
Cowbridge leads from Old Cross towards Port Vale and Port Hill. It is so called because it was the route used by drovers to get cattle in and out of the town.
In 1893 the hall was restored as a parish Hall, with funds raised by a fete in Christs’s Hospital grounds and monies from Hartford, Conneticut in America. It was named after the church in Maidenhaed Street, which fell into disuse, the parish being combined with that of St.Andrews. The church of St.Andrews stands next to St.Nicholas Hall.
Four of the town’s mills were recorded in The Domesday Book of 1087 – Horn’s Mill, Molewood Mill, Sele Mill and the Town Mill.
- Dicker Mill (sometimes known as Priory Mill) moved downstream from its’ position by The Hertford Priory when the River Lee Navigation was extended to Hertford. In latter years it was an oil mill, extracting oils from linseed. It closed in the 1920s.
- Horn’s Mill was at the foot of Bullock’s Lane. The mill ground corn, crushed oil seeds and ground bones for fertiliser. Production ceased in the late nineteenth century and the premises were sold to leather-dresser William Webb. Chamois leather was produced at first but later a glove making business was established. This closed in 1971. The site is now occupied by housing in Tanners Crescent and Glovers Close.
- Molewood Mill was a corn mill until 1888.
- Sele Mill in the North Road was England’s first paper mill. However, for most of it’s time it was a corn mill. It was destroyed by a fire in 1890 that lasted three days. A new mill was built and continued until the late 1980s.
- The Town Mill on the bank on the River Lee by Mill Bridge was solely a corn mill. Run by Ilotts from 1855, the buildings were damaged by a V2 flying bomb in 1944. Production ceased in the 1960s and eventually the buildings were demolished to make way for the Castle Hall.
- Ware Park Mill, built by James Fordham in 1721, was used for griding corn and was powered by the water of the River Rib where it meets The Lee. It eventually fell into the hands of J.W.French & Co.
Butcherley Green was a densely populated area of slums inhabited by some 1300 people, on the site that borders Railway Street and is now the Bircherley Green shopping Centre and bus station. This area was cleared after the first world war and the original bus station built. The residents were moved out to new housing, probably in Camps Road, now part of the Sele Farm Estate. In 1859 the town”s Ragged School was built here, next to the Tallow House, where candles were made. This site is now occupied by modern housing.
- McMullens Brewery started in 1827 in Railway Street and in 1830 moved to premises on what is now the site of the Woolpack Public House. In 1890 the brewery moved to Hartham Lane, taking in the Hope Brewery.
- Nicholl’s Brewery was in West Street and was demolished to make way for housing in 1965.
- The Hope Brewery was in Hartham Lane and was taken over by McMullen’s in 1890.
- Wickham’s Brewery stood in Mill Bridge where The Castle Hall now stands.
- Young’s Brewery occupied a site behind hwta is now The Sportsman Public House. It was opened in 1754 and closed in 1897, when it was absorbed into Christ’s Hospital‘s grounds. The wall with cellar openings can still be seen in South Street.
Close the the original crossing on the River Lea, Millbridge is arguably the cradle of the town.
Hertford Priory was established shortly after the Norman Conquest by Ralph de Limesi, a strong supporter of William I. It was built on the banks of the Lee close to the present Priory Street and was dedicated to St.Mary. The lands owned by the Priory included pastures on the Meads and Dicker Mill. De Limesi eventually became Prior and both he and his wife were buried in the Priory cemetery.
In 1536 the Priory was dissolved and the property passed to Anthony Denny, one of Henry VIII’s Privy Councillors. It later fell into the ownership of Thomas Willis., who in 1629 built St.John’s Church on the site of the ruined St.Mary’s. In 1637 the Priory Manor and it’s grounds were sold to Sir John Harrison of Ball’s Park and later on that century the church was pulled down. The Priory House was built in the late 16th Century. The eastern part was demolished in 1860 and the remainder in 1906.
The Archive Photographs Series – Hertford by Mervyn Miller
Hertford’s Past in Pictures by Len Green
The Book Of Hertford by Cyril Heath
History Of Hertford by Dr.F.M.Page
Buildings Of Hertford, Hertford Civic Society