Discover Hertford Walk

This walk begins at the Museum taking in Shire Hall, the Castle, the Corn Exchange and several churches and ending at the oldest Quaker Meeting Housein the world.

1. Hertford Museum

Number 18 Bull Plain is Hertford Museum.
A 17th century timber framed house, re-fronted in the 18th century.
Behind the 18th Century frontage is a timber framed house built in 1610.The interior was opened out for use as shops before the museum was transferred here in 1913. At the rear is a Jacoban Knot garden created in 1990. The original museum began for moreas a collection formed in 1903 by brothers William and Robert Andrews and was housed in their offices at Fore Street.

2. Lombard House

Now home to the Hertford Club, this 15th Century house once accommodated barrister and historian Sir Henry Chauncy. Chauncy is probably best known for his part in the last witch trial ever to be held in England in 1712.
The building was much altered in the 17th and 18th centuries and was taken over by the Hertford Club in 1897. Exclusively a Gentlemen’s club for the provision of ‘male’ pursuits such as whist for more billiards, women were not ‘allowed’ in until the 1960’s, only then as guests. The first female members were admitted nearly 100 years later in 1972.
During the First World war, a Zeppelin bomb fell in Bull Plain but the building remained unscathed except for a piece of shrapnel that went through the window in the entrance and lodged itself in the far wall where it remains to this day.

3. Little Hartham

Since medieval times, the pasture land to the north-east of the centre of Hertford, Hartham, has had an interesting history.
Old arguments about who qualified for pasture rights re-surfaced at regular intervals, until eventually, one John Finch, mayor of Hertford in 1626-1627, a leading man of his times, presided over the purchase of Hartham (and the Kings Meads) by the Corporation, for moretogether with a considerable amount of other property and rights from King Charles 1st for the sum of £100. For a couple of centuries, the local populace enjoyed the recreational opportunities offered by this fine open space.
In the early 1900’s, the borough planned to carry out improvements to Hartham Common, but these bold plans were finally rejected at a vociferous public meeting which ended in uproar. Grazers and farmers complained that too much of the land was already taken over by gravel pits, sewers, and military activities; indeed in 1902 the Common had been the venue for the homecoming of the local militia returning from the Boer War campaign.  It was all reminiscent of the age old arguments, and it was not until  the 1930s-1940s that the last commoners were fully compensated and the field was raised and levelled off, so that Hartham could be used as the recreation area as we still know it today.

4.  Beadle House

Built between 1702-04 and originally called Dimsdale House after the Dimsdale family and after a long battle and the personal intervention of Harold Macmillan, restored after 1951. Thomas Dimsdale, pioneer of the smallpox vaccination in 1767, thirty years ahead of Jenner. Smallpox was a deadly scourge in Europe at the time and when the news of Dimsdale’s discovery reached Tsarina Catherine the Great for moreof Russia in 1768, she sent for him to inoculate her elder son at St. Petersburg. Dimsdale was appointed court physician and counsellor of state with the rank of Baron of the Russian Empire. The Russian Court wanted him to settle there, but he returned to Hertford to set up a clinic for poor patients and died here in 1800.

5. Shire Hall

Built in 1771 and rebuilt in 1885 now the Magistrates Court, originally open on the ground floor where the market was held. This current building replaced the Sessions House of 1627 whose most famous case was that of Jane Wenham in 1712, the last person to be tried for witchcraft in the country. Jane was condemned but given a repeal by Queen Anne and went on to live the rest of her days anonymously in for moreHertingfordbury. Shire Hall has also housed the Assizes and Quarter Sessions until 1971-records of which are held at Hertfordshire Archives and local Studies up the hill in Pegs Lane.
Nearby the original Sessions House once stood the cage, pillory and whipping post. In the 18th century the fee for a whipping was 5 shillings. Death by burning was usually reserved for treason but ‘Husband Murder’ was taken very seriously and viewed as petty treason and there are records of this form of punishment taking place in Hertford. In March 1664 a Mrs Toefield was recorded as being burned alive in Hertford for the poisoning of her husband. Usually a murderess was automatically regarded as a witch and that carried dire consequences.
Upstairs, the Hall is now mainly used for conferences and is a grand venue with large rooms, polished wood floors and impressive portraits of local nobles hanging on the walls. The Assembly Room, once a beautiful ballroom, is said to have been the setting for Elizabeth Bennet’s first encounter with Mr Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

6. Samuel Stone

Samuel Stone was born on July 18th 1602 in Fore Street on the site of the present day “Baroosh” and was later baptised in All Saints Church. He attended the newly established Hale Free Grammar School in 1617 as one of its first pupils.
At the age of 18, Samuel Stone left to go to Emmanuel College Cambridge to study Theology, where he graduated with both a BA and a MA. At Cambridge, Samuel Stone met Thomas Hooker; they both fell out with the established church and became non-conformists and in 1633 opted to travel to the New World on a ship called The Griffin arriving at New Towne (now Cambridge) Massachusetts, USA in September of that year.
In 1636, Stone and Hooker led their congregation from New Towne and established a new colony at House of Hope – a Dutch fort and trading post – making peace with the local Indians  and renaming the town they called Saukiog as Hartford, after Rev. Stone’s birthplace thus becoming the town’s founding fathers.  Rev. Samuel Stone was twice married and had 4 children. He died in Hartford in 1663.
The statue of Samuel Stone located between Millbridge and Hertford Theatre was erected to celebrate the Millenium by Keith Marshall, the proprietor of the long established furniture business in Fore Street, after visiting Hartford Connecticut. The statue was designed by Henry Tebbutt from Hertfordshire University in 1999.

7. Alfred Wallace

Wallace House. is named after Alfred Russel Wallace OM, FRS (January 1823 – November 1913), British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist, who was born in the Welsh village of Llanbadoc in Monmouthshire, and in 1828 moved to Hertford where his mother had been raised in a middle class, well respected family.
Alfred was educated at Hertford for moreGrammar School (now Richard Hale school) where, somewhat bizarrely, there was no science teaching at all, a rather serious omission for a boy who would go on to discover the theory of evolution by natural selection at the same time as Charles Darwin did.
After his formal education, Wallace embarked on a life of travel and exploration, pursuing his interests in the evolution of the natural world inspired by the chronicles of earlier travelling naturalists including Alexander von Humboldt, William Edwards, and notably Charles Darwin; it was published by The Royal Society , along with Darwin’s own theory, in the same year.
Alfred Russel Wallace’s life and work as one of the greatest tropical naturalists of his time, is commemorated in Hertford by the Blue Plaque on Wallace House in St. Andrew Street.
Although at the time Darwin received by far the greater recognition, he once famously answered a question on the theory of evolution with the accolade “you should ask Wallace”.

8. Beckwiths

A timber framed building built in the 15th century.
For a period of time, number 11 was occupied by Alfred Russell Wallace, the naturalist who developed the Theory of Evolution independently of Darwin.
The most striking house in Hertford serving to leave us with a flavour of times past, is number 43, formerly known as the Verger’s House now an antique shop. It dates from around 1450 and was for moreoriginally three bays: a fourth was added in the 17th century as was the oak door. If only walls could talk-this tour would certainly be spiced up!

9. St Andrews Church

From the 673 General Synod (see entry number 11) Hertford kept largely in step with the established church for many centuries and at one time had five churches and a Priory within its boundaries, of which St. Andrews church was one. The church is of royal foundation, and the patronage of the living has (with a break of around 40 years at the end of the 14th century) always been vested in the crown. The original church was for moreSaxon, but it was almost entirely rebuilt in the latter half of the 15th century. By the mid 1800’s the old church had become ”cold, damp and depressing” and sufficient funds had been raised to rebuild it. The foundation stone of the present church was laid by the Earl Cowper on June 4th 1869, and the church itself was consecrated by the Bishops of Rochester on March 24th 1870. The old tower remained but was not in keeping with the new building, so in 1874 Earl Cowper, supported by a Mr. Robert Smith of Goldings, offered to build a new tower and spire, and this was dedicated on February 22nd 1975. The north doorway of the church incorporates the old church doorway.

10. Hertford Castle

A favourite of Queen Elizabeth the 1st.
So much has been written extensively about Hertford Castle in various other sources, this intends to be a brief overview of its long and chequered history.
The Gatehouse is all that remains of this Royal Palace, the Saxon fortification and Norman walls, constructed by Edward IV between 1463 and 1465.
In the grounds is an 18th century for moreIcehouse, constructed by the Marquis of Downshire between the original castle moats.
One of the unusual features of this building is that it has seen nearly every ruler of England since the days of King Canute in the early 11th century. At this period in time, Hertford had a motte and bailey defensive structure: the large earthen mound of which can still be seen near the castle gates, which would have been topped with a wooden tower. This earth mound is therefore the oldest remaining part of the structure. A moat would have been sunk around the foot of the structure.

11. Hertford Synod

The stone pictured commemorates the General Synod of AD673, when Theodore of Tarsus, then Primate of All England, called together the English bishops at Hertford – as Bede called it. Interestingly, the rules for determining Easter were first agreed at this Synod.
This stone in the grounds of Hertford Castle, of Cornish granite, was unveiled by the 4th Marquis of Salisbury, High Steward of the Borough on 6th for moreOctober 1934. Subsequently, the ecclesiastical memorial, in the form of an Anglo Saxon cross, was dedicated by Dr.Hinsley Archbishop of Westminster on September 2nd 1935, the Sunday after the Feast of Theodore.
In 1973, a pageant based on the history of Christianity up to 673 was staged in the Castle Grounds, and was attended by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Celebrations in the town commemorating the 1300th anniversary, culminating with the final service on September 24th, included an abundance of events the like of which the town had not seen for centuries.

12. War Memorial

This was built at the end of the First World War and stands in its own open space in the middle of Parliament Square. It is one of the finest in the country, surmounted by a hart, and was designed by Sir Aston Webb. The site, now pedestrianised with café seating, was given by the late Sir Edward and Lady Pearson. The memorial itself which was erected in 1921 and restored in 2001, is made of Portland stone from the same for morequarry as the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London.

13. Bayley Hall

This was referred to as a mannor house in 1713 and is said to contain at least one subterranean tunnel.
It is a 17th century building which from 1900 housed the Headmaster and boarders of Hale’s Free Grammar School.
Originally the building was the residence of the Lord of the Manor of the name Bayley and reputedly has underground arched brick for morepassages built before the 1600’s, a fact that could be corroborated by the following story. One Parliamentarian, Arthur Sparke, enticed Parliament into granting him the Manor of Bayley hall and promptly pulled it down between 1650 and 1655 and erected the present house on the foundations.

14. Salisbury Arms Hotel

The Salisbury Arms Inn itself was originally called The Bell until the land was bought by the Marquess of Salisbury in the 1830’s and then it was renamed. The building itself dates from the early 15th century and was built around a courtyard with an open gallery-now covered in. It sports a beautiful example of pargetting, which was restored in the 19th century, as a reminder of Hertford of old. Also at this time an for moreadditional floor was added to the front. Inside there is a grand 17th century sweeping staircase. Cromwell and Fairfax made The Bell their headquarters in November 1647.
In 1832, The Salisbury was the headquarters again, this time for the Tories. Elections were notorious in the town for dining out on bribery and corruption. Gangs of thugs were hired by both parties to beat up supporters of the opposition. Bribery, drunkenness and other dubious practices were so great that the whole event was declared void and Hertford was unrepresented for several years. No change there then.

15. All Saints Church

This is the largest church in Hertfordshire apart from St Albans Cathedral and can seat upt to 1000 people.
The church, originally called All Hallows, dates from the 10th century but was rebuilt in the 1400’s and then destroyed by fire in 1891. The fire was particularly upsetting for the pupils of Bluecoats as they had their own boxed pews in the church, prior to the disaster. But this wasn’t the only misfortune to for moreplague All saints. In 1763 a fireball is recorded as going through the roof and then in 1795 a great storm carried away half of the beautiful avenue of chestnut trees in the churchyard. Fortunately some remain today, planted in the reign of Charles 11 in honour of the Restoration. Further along in the churchyard are the sunken graves of many of the children who perished in the dreadful 1849 cholera outbreak.


One of finest building in Fore Street, once the home of Bates Bros., Grocers and Purveyors of Fine Foods, is now occupied by Lussmans Restaurant and is remarkable for the Egyptian design of the frontage. It was built around 1825, when the Egyptian Revival was fashionable at the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

17. Samuel Stone

A plaque states that Puritan cleric Samuel Stone was born in what is now “Baroosh” and lived there between 1602 and 1620. Stone sailed to the New World of the Americas in 1663 and co-founded Hartford Connecticut.
The name of Hartford was given largely in his honour as teacher of the congregation overseas. Stone’s parish church is generally considered to be St. Andrews, and a statue in his image can be found on The Wash.
The building was originally part of an adjoining inn, The Dimsdale Arms, named after Baron Dimsdale, the majority of which is now Pizza Express at Number 80.

18. The Corn Exchange

Originally corn was obtained from the open ground floor at the back of the Shire Hall. The present Corn exchange was erected in 1859 and its ornamental pillared frontage is of handsome and imposing stature. A gallery at one end was once used for keeping the books of the Public Free Library.
The building stands on the site of the old County Gaol one of the most disease ridden, for moreinsanitary buildings in Hertford. It was recorded, during a period when gaol fever was at its height that: ‘a prisoner brought out as dead, from one of the dungeons, on being washed under the pump, shewed signs of life and soon after recovered.’ Is it no wonder cholera was rife in the town!
The gaol was not the most secure of lock-ups either as discovered in 1741 when three highwaymen, who had been condemned to death at the recent Assizes and due to be hanged the following day, were confined in the condemned cell which is now a vault beneath the Corn Exchange. When the gaoler, who lived opposite in what was an inn called the Half Moon and Stars, took three men and went to check on the villains, he found they had broken free.

19. Bluecoats Avenue

This was founded as Christ’s Hospital in London in 1552 when a plan was: ‘’devised to take out the streets (of London) all the fatherless children that were not able to keep them’’. IN 1653, a headmaster was employed to teach elementary subjects and it was the devastating effects of Plague and the Great Fire that forced the decision to move the school to Hertford and establish it as a boarding school in 1682. for more
A trade directory of 1795 lists the school as having 400 boys, 60 girls, a master, two mistresses, 20 nurses for the boys and a proportionate amount for the girls.
The school got its name from the uniform worn by the boys and was known colloquially as ‘The Blue Coat School’. This style of dress was based on the Young King Edward V1 with the boys wearing long, heavy coats with leather belts. The breeches were adopted in the 18th century and a yellow ‘skirt’ worn until 1860. The girls wore blue dresses with aprons and white coifs (close fitted head coverings) until 1875.

20. Friends Meeting House

Most commonly known as the Friends’ Meeting House, this building dates from 1669 and is reputed to be the oldest Quaker meeting house still in use in the world. Famous Quakers George Fox and William Penn have spoken here. Quakers have always had a strong presence in the town: their faith being introduced by a Yorkshire man, James Nayler who came to Hertford in the early part of the 17th century.

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