An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Hertfordshire. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1910.
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Hertfordshire is one of the smaller counties of England bordering on the Midland plain. Although seldom exceeding a height of 600 feet above sea level, the land on the west and north is high and forms a part of the Chiltern range. The southern and eastern fringe of the county is on London clay, but the rest, except for pockets of clay, is on chalk well covered with soil. The north is undulating down land, and has always been a corn growing district. Here are conspicuous those clumps of trees dotted on the hill tops which are so typical of down land, and here windmills and thatched cottages are found, while in the south there are water mills and tiled cottages. The west formed a part of the Chiltern Forest, and is the land of the beech and the oak, while the middle, south and east were portions of the great Middlesex forests, the characteristic trees in which are the elm, the ash and the oak, and in the central parts the beech. There is historic evidence of various kinds to show that much of this forest land remained uncleared even beyond the 14th century, and in judging the civilisation of the district in various ages this feature must always be borne in mind. Even at the present day 26,568 acres of woodland are registered in the Agricultural Returns for the county. Since the Norman Conquest, on the other hand, the proximity of Hertfordshire to London has added an artificial feature, signally affecting the natural character of its southern portion. This part of the county from early times has had a residential aspect. Country houses, parks and pleasure grounds have been common, and wealth won in London has increased the prosperity of its population.
For convenience, the district now comprised in the county is in the following pages referred to as Hertfordshire, but it must be remembered that the county was probably not formed till the reign of Edgar (957–75) and the first mention of it as a shire is in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 1011.
Ancient and historical Monuments begin with the advent of man. The earliest evidences of the human race, those of the Palæolithic or Early Stone age, consist chiefly of flint implements. Some of them, and many such have been found in Hertfordshire, are beautifully wrought. The commonest forms are flakes employed probably as knives and scrapers, while the more carefully made oval, ovate and pointed implements were used for all purposes and were held in the hand without handle or shaft. Man of this period was a hunter. He lived in caves or the rudest of tree huts beside lakes or rivers for his water supply, and so far as we know he neither reared cattle nor tilled the soil. In Hertfordshire, Palæolithic implements have been found sparsely distributed over the county. The most important discovery of this date was that of a number of implements, mostly of the pointed type, found throughout a deposit of brick earth in the bed of an ancient lake at Hitchin. (fn. 1) A more interesting discovery perhaps was made at Caddington, recently transferred to Bedfordshire. Here Mr. Worthington G. Smith found a factory of Palæolithic implements with stores of worked and unworked flints, broken and unfinished tools and refuse heaps.
Geological and climatic conditions appear to have made a complete gap in the history of this country between the Palæolithic and Neolithic ages. During the great and unknown period which the latter age covered, many improvements in the condition of man must have occurred. Towards the close of it, at all events, he lived in villages of huts or 'hut circles,' and sometimes in dwellings built on piles in lakes and rivers. He reared cattle and made camps for his own and their protection. He tilled the ground, wove the material for his garments, and made pottery. His implements were still of stone, many of them ground and polished, and his tools and weapons (which included the bow) were far more varied than those of his predecessor of the Palæolithic age. He buried his dead in long chambered barrows. So far as the evidence of the remains of this period hitherto discovered in Hertfordshire show, Neolithic man made his dwelling on the high chalk lands in the north and north-west parts of the county. Here the open downs would be more suitable for his agricultural and pastoral habits than the lowlands in the south and south-east which were then probably covered with dense wood. Implements of this period have, however, been found along the valley of the Lea about Hertford and Ware and in the valley of the Colne in the neighbourhood of Rickmansworth, where settlements possibly existed on account of the waterways or the fishing and hunting.
After the Neolithic age came the Bronze age, which is reckoned approximately to have begun in Britain about B.C. 1800. With the use of metal, a much higher civilisation could be obtained, more serviceable tools and weapons could be wrought and more elaborate personal ornaments could be made. Some of the remains of this period reached a standard of artistic merit which it would be difficult to surpass. It may be that the use of bronze in this county was introduced by a new race who overpowered the Neolithic inhabitants. The conditions of life were much the same as in the previous age. The Bronze age people, however, buried their dead in round barrows, instead of the long barrows used in the Neolithic age. The remains of the Bronze age in Hertfordshire, though scantier than those of the Neolithic, occur in the same districts and for the same reason as that already assigned. The most important recorded find is a hoard of about 40 bronze implements discovered at Cumberlow Green in Rushden.
Late Celtic Period.
The date of the first use of iron, 'man's greatest step along the path of progress,' in Britain is uncertain. There was probably a period of some centuries when iron was not unknown, but bronze continued to be the metal principally employed. Its full use did not, perhaps, begin till about B.C.. 500. (fn. 2)
During the later part of this period there was an invasion of Belgic tribes, tall, fair-haired people from north-east Gaul, who overran the south-east of Britain, including what is now Hertfordshire. In the first century B.C.., Cassivellaunus was the prince of the Belgic tribe of the Catuvelauni, miscalled by the MSS. of Ptolemy Catyeuchlani, whose territory extended into the present counties of Hertford, Middlesex, Buckingham and Bedford. Cæsar, in his second invasion (B.C.. 54), directed his march to the chief stronghold of this prince, which he eventually took. It is a reasonable conjecture that this stronghold was Verulam, near St. Albans, and, indeed, it answers well to the description given of it by Cæsar. (fn. 3) The Trinobantes, another Belgic tribe whose chief town was at Camulodunum or Colchester, inhabited the present county of Essex and probably the eastern parts of Hertfordshire.
Besides Verulam, it would seem from the number of ancient British coins and other objects found, that there were 'Late Celtic' settlements in the county at Braughing, Welwyn and Hitchin.
The 'Late Celtic' people developed a native art of high merit. Its chief characteristic was a wonderful mastery of line, and although the modelling of human and animal forms was weak, the boldness of the designs approached the classic. This art was adapted principally for metal work and pottery, and survived and developed through the Roman occupation. Some specimens have been found in Hertfordshire, but considering the prominence of the 'Late Celtic' people in the county, many may yet lie hidden in the ground. Bronze helmets have been found at Verulam and Tring, and other objects at Verulam and Welwyn. Some tapering 'cordoned' urns, probably copied from prototypes in metal and characteristic of this period, have been discovered at Hitchin.
Perhaps it was this people who brought coinage from Gaul into south-east Britain about B.C. 200. The coins were at first rude imitations of the gold stater of Philip II. of Macedon and being uninscribed, there is considerable doubt as to their date. The earliest inscribed coins are those of Tasciovanus, bearing his name and 'Ver.' for Verulam, which were struck at Verulam in gold, silver and bronze from B.C.. 30 to A.D. 5. A considerable number of these and other early British coins have been found in Hertfordshire.
In A.D. 43 began the conquest of the country by the Emperor Claudius under Aulus Plautius. The history of that conquest does not concern us, but we may briefly describe its results on what is now Hertfordshire and the character of the civilisation which, in consequence, overspread the district for 350 years.
The chief Romano-British town in the region was Verulam. This must have become Romanised at a very early date, and consequently during the revolt of the Iceni under their queen, Boadicea, in A.D. 62, received the full fury of the Britons, who probably left it in ruins, like the 'colonia' at Colchester and the trading town at London. Tacitus speaks of Verulam at this date as a 'municipium' or town whose citizens held the Roman political franchise, and enjoyed privileges of self government. If destroyed, it rose from its ashes and, though overshadowed by 'Londinium,' seems to have been always a considerable place. Its buildings, though as yet imperfectly known to us, indicate some wealth and splendour and cover an area nearly two miles in circumference.
Among these buildings may be mentioned the forum, lately excavated in part, which seems to have been like similar buildings elsewhere. This forum may have been laid out before A.D. 62, when the place received municipal rank. From the evidence discovered during its excavation, it was manifestly destroyed by fire at some time, but whether this conflagration occurred in 62, or later, is not known. Certainly it was afterwards repaired (though somewhat roughly) and partially re-built. The Roman theatre, the foundations of which have been found to the west of the building last referred to, is notable as the only Roman theatre which has yet been discovered in Britain. There are also extensive and substantial remains of town walls whose precise age is uncertain. The town can hardly have been walled when the Iceni took it in A.D. 62. It has been pointed out that in the western provinces of the Roman Empire, town walls began generally to be erected or re-erected after about A.D. 250, when barbarian invasions were becoming frequent. The walls of Verulam may well have been erected late in the history of the Empire. They were manned, probably, not by Roman soldiers, but by the citizens of the town. In any case, these walls are among the most noted relics of the Roman age surviving in the south-east of England. They deserve and demand adequate preservation and attention.
These remains are, of course, only fragments of former splendour. Systematic excavation would, beyond all doubt, add vastly to their number and enlarge our whole knowledge of the history of this Romano-British city and, indeed, of Roman Britain generally. At present it can only be said that the town seems to have survived throughout the Roman period. It was still inhabited by Romanised Britons when Germanus came to this island in A.D. 429 to combat the Pelagian heretics, for (so his biographer relates) he saw the shrine or tomb of St. Alban, and that can hardly have been anywhere but at Verulam. It must have been conquered by the English some years later. When Gildas wrote in the sixth century it had long been lost, and its site has remained bare and unoccupied to this day. On the arrival of the English, they built their houses, as was their custom, outside the Roman walls, on the hill at Kingsbury to the northward, and this settlement in time gave place to the present town of St. Albans.
The next most important Romano-British settlement to Verulam in the county was probably Braughing, near the crossing of Ermine Street and the Roman road from Colchester and Bishop's Stortford to Biggleswade. Here are apparently traces of a settlement of uncertain size. Its name is unknown: Bertram, in the forged itinerary of Richard of Cirencester, calls it 'Ad Fines,' but without authority. Some remains of a tesselated pavement in a plantation called Larksfield, and a cemetery in a field called Wickhams to the south of the railway station have been discovered. Coins, including British of Tasciovanus and Cunobeline, and pottery are constantly turned up here, but few records of them seem to have been kept. On the whole the remains seem to be rather numerous for a single country house or farm, though exploration is needed to reveal their exact nature. Roman settlements have also been ascribed to Cheshunt, Baldock, Royston and Bishop's Stortford, but on inadequate evidence.
'Villas,' that is, country houses or farms of Roman date, have been discovered near King's Langley Station in the parish of Abbot's Langley, at Boxmoor House in Bovingdon, at Boxmoor Railway Station in Hemel Hempstead, at Sarratt, at Youngsbury in Standon, at the Rectory, Welwyn, and at Purwell Mill in Great Wymondley, and probably at Wigginton. It is likely, from the quantity of Roman coins, pottery, etc., which have been brought to light in many parts of the county that other Romano-British dwellings lie hidden underground. Pottery kilns have been discovered at Hitchin and at Radlett near Alden ham, the latter being of interest as it revealed the name of a local potter 'Castus,' presumably a Romanised Briton. The Roman rule over Britain ceased about 410, and the province became a prey to the Picts from the North and the Saxons from over the seas.
To sum up, the Roman remains of Hertfordshire present a fair specimen of the more civilised parts of Roman Britain. Of military occupation, there is no trace. Instead, a good-sized country town, a number of country houses and farms around it, and an adequate supply of roads. The town was built in Roman fashion and, although its inhabitants were not Romans but Romanised Britons, contained the public buildings proper to a Roman municipality. The rural dwellings, so far as they have been excavated, show, like the town, Roman patterns, Roman mosaic floors, Roman warming-systems, and so forth, but were doubtless also inhabited by Romanised Britons rather than by actual Romans. They are not very numerous. In a woodland area estates may well have been very large and houses and villages comparatively few. But in some other counties, such as Warwick and Buckingham, which were also woodland districts, the traces of houses in the country are far less. One feature is beyond mistake. The influence of London has not yet begun. The forests which lay round the north of London have not yet been pierced, Verulam is an independent town, not (as to-day) an annexe of the capital, and the country houses and farms around it are rural dwellings and not residences of wealthy Londoners.
In the present state of our knowledge of the subject it is dangerous to give any opinion as to the date of pre-Norman earthworks. It may, however, be remarked that the fine hill fortress called Ravensburgh Castle, near the northern escarpment of the Chilterns, in Hexton parish, is probably the best specimen of a pre-Roman camp in the county. It commands a remarkable view to the north-east over Bedfordshire, and, being protected by deep ravines on three sides, it must have been a formidable entrenchment. Of the earthworks and site of Verulam, the chief town of the Catuvelauni who arrived in Britain late in the Early Iron Age, it may be said that within that area no object of a date before the 'Late Celtic' period has yet been found. The earthworks at the Auberys, in Redbourn parish, resemble those at Verulam on a smaller scale. The camp at Arbury Banks, in Ashwell, has been almost obliterated.
The object and date of the great dykes at Beach Bottom, the Devil's Dyke and the Slad at Sandridge are quite unknown. Grims Ditch or Graemes Dyke, portions of which pass through Tring, Wigginton, Northchurch and Great Berkhampstead, is supposed to be part of a great boundary bank which goes through Buckinghamshire by Lee, Woodlands Park, Great Hampden and Lacey Green on to Bradenham. So many gaps, however, occur in its course that the purpose of it is difficult to understand. The fosse is on the south-east side, so that it was probably made by those holding the land on the north-west. Hence its origin has been attributed to a people retiring before those Belgic invaders who made Verulam their chief town. A vallum at Cheshunt, called the Bank, is said to have formed the boundary between Mercia and Essex.
There are about thirty round barrows scattered over the county, and one long barrow in Therfield parish. Of the former the following have been opened:— Easneye, near Ware, by Sir John Evans, who supposed it to be pre-Roman; Six Hills, in Stevenage, one at Youngsbury in Standon, and another in Knebworth, which are said to be Roman; and Broxbornebury, opened by Sir John Evans, who thought it was Danish.
The Saxons probably made their way into the eastern side of the county in the latter part of the 6th century from the east, by way of the Rivers Lea and Stort and their tributaries. It was, however, a long time before they penetrated into the forest lands of south Hertfordshire. The western side of the county was, probably in the first half of the 6th century, within the territory of the Chilternsætna, (fn. 4) who inhabited the Chiltern country in Bucks, and are mentioned in the Tribal Hidage. At what period this side of the county was subdued by the Saxons is not definitely known, but the country adjoining Watling Street and Akeman Street was too important to be left long in the hands of the Britons. Burials, probably of the first half of the 7th century, at Wheathampstead and Redbourn, parishes bordering on Watling Street, possibly point to a connection with Kent. (fn. 5) That at Wheathampstead brought to light a bronze ewer, which is unique as regards this country, and that at Redbourn is the only Saxon barrow examined in the county, and was supposed to have contained the relics of St. Amphibalus. It is related by the monks of St. Albans that their patron saint in 1178 directed the way to two mounds called the Hills of the Banners, where the people used to meet, and indicated one as the burial-place of St. Amphibalus. Excavations were made by the monks, and the bones of the supposed saint discovered, carried off with reverence and enshrined in the Abbey Church, where the pedestal for his shrine still remains. A minute description is given of the mounds and the position of the bones and other objects, from which it is clear that the Hills of the Banners were two Saxon barrows, and the bones, supposed to belong to the mythical saint, Amphibalus, were those probably of a pagan Saxon. (fn. 6)
The eastern side of the county lay in the kingdom of Essex, and we are told by the Venerable Bede that Sebert, King of the East Saxons, and all his people, were converted to Christianity in 604 by Mellitus, afterwards their bishop. On the death of Sebert, however, in 616, the people reverted to paganism, and did not again become Christians till 649, when Segebert, their King, was baptized, and St. Cead became their bishop. On the western side of the county, which was in the Kingdom of Mercia, Peada, son of Penda, was converted to Christianity about 650, and shortly afterwards Diuma was consecrated the first bishop of the Mercians. The whole of the district now forming the county, so far as it was settled, probably became Christian soon after the middle of the 7th century.
The division between the Mercian diocese of Dorchester, afterwards Lincoln, and the East Saxon diocese of London, was in all probability identical with the boundary between the East Saxon and Mercian kingdoms. The diocesan boundary, as regards Hertfordshire, passed from Royston down Ermine Street to Throcking, then by the Rib to its junction with the Lea, thence approximately to the county boundary at Northaw. This gives the larger portion of the county to the Mercians.
Anglo-Saxon Settlement of the County.
Few existing towns or villages in Hertfordshire can show a continuity of habitation from a time before the coming of the Anglo-Saxons. Professor Skeat points out that all the suffixes to place names in the county (upwards of thirty in number) are of Old English origin, which he states 'at once shows how peculiarly English the inhabitants of this county were in early times before the Conquest.' (fn. 7) He remarks further, ' that in the overwhelming number of instances the place names of Hertfordshire belong to the speech of the Early Mercian Angles.'
Professor Maitland (fn. 8) calls attention to two distinct types of vills or towns, one the nucleated or concentrated village, which owes its origin to Germanic settlers, containing a cluster of houses in the midst of its fields; the other, which may be a survival of Celtic arrangements, or, it may be added, the result of later settlements in a forest district, consisting of small groups of houses or hamlets scattered over a parish. Hertfordshire can show many examples of nucleated villages, particularly on its north-eastern side, where there yet remains so much unenclosed land. The typical Hertfordshire village is formed of a collection of houses (usually including a smithy, a survival of the earlier community) erected round a triangular green, the meeting-place of its inhabitants. Here may often be found a pond, the village well and the pound, and sometimes on the green or close at hand, as at Aldbury, Brent Pelham, Great Amwell, Datchworth and Thorley, the stocks and the whipping-post. The lock-up, as at Shenley and Anstey, where it forms part of the lichgate, still occasionally exists. The village fire-hook, a survival of the time of half-timbered and thatched houses, yet hangs on the church house, now the police-station, at Welwyn.
In many instances the church lies a short distance from the village, and adjoins the court or hall which in almost all Hertfordshire parishes retains the Anglo-Saxon title of ' bury,' as Wallingtonbury, Thundridgebury, etc. This arrangement originated probably at the time when the lord of the settlement built the church on the demesne land which surrounded his dwelling, and the parish priest was dependent upon him. In other cases the church is either in the middle or at one end of the village, an arrangement which occasionally occurs in Hertfordshire at places where in early times there was no resident lord, such as in the lands of the Abbots of St. Albans and Westminster in the west of the county. (fn. 9)
The interesting group of unenclosed parishes, Bygrave, Clothall and Wallington, are excellent examples of mediæval vills, although there is now little or no survival of the village community. They show the enclosed pastures lying immediately round the village, and beyond them the great common arable fields without hedges, but divided by turf balks or unploughed strips of land, covering in the case of Clothall about 600 acres. The original villages, except in the forest districts, in order that they might be surrounded by their territories, are usually to be found a little way off the high roads. As the traffic through the main roads increased, inns and houses sprang up along the road frontage near to the original villages. Some of these roadside settlements, made in the 12th and 13th centuries, and even earlier, have grown into towns which completely overshadow the ancient villages. Instances of this are to be found at Royston (not a parish till 1540), formerly in Therfield parish, Buntingford in Layston, Whitwell in St. Paul's Walden, Street town as distinguished from Church town at Redbourn, and also, among many other places, at Stevenage, Braughing, Graveley, and Watton-at-Stone.
Towns came into existence where opportunities of trade arose such as those which occurred at a crossing of roads, a ford or bridge, a castle, a religious house, or a place of pilgrimage. Trade being the essential qualification for a town, the market place was the most important spot within it. On one side of the market place, which is usually triangular, generally stands the church, and on the others the moot, or town hall, and the houses and shops of the townsmen. The three most important of the early boroughs are Hertford, St. Albans, and Berkhampstead, while Cheshunt, Ashwell, and Stanstead Abbots were becoming considerable market towns at the time of the Domesday Survey. Hertford consisted of two separate towns, both built by Edward the Elder in 913, the one on the north and the other on the south of the Lea. (fn. 10) Each had its market place, that on the north at the Old Cross and that on the south on the site of the present market place. A similar arrangement of towns on the opposite banks of a river existed at York, Nottingham, Stamford, Buckingham, and elsewhere, and in some cases one town was inhabited by a Saxon, and the other by a Danish community. St. Albans, we know from the St. Albans Chronicles, was established by Abbot Wulsin about 950. The original plan can still be traced. Immediately north of the Abbey precinct a large triangular market place was laid out, reaching, at its southern end in the present High Street, from the west side of French Row to the east side of Chequer Street, and northward up St. Peter's Street. The market place was at an early date much built over at first by stalls and then by permanent shops. Around it and along the roads, leading one to the west and another to the south, houses were built with back premises extending to a ditch called Tonmans Dyke, which formed the old borough boundary. The old borough of Berkhampstead apparently stood near the church at Northchurch, and was of importance in the Saxon period, receiving as it did, privileges from Edward the Confessor. The present borough apparently arose under the walls of the Castle in the 11th or 12th century. Here again we have the church at the south end of a triangular market place, which has been encroached upon by a row of shops as at St. Albans. The present market towns of Barnet, Bishop's Stortford, Hemel Hempstead, Hitchin, Hoddesdon, Tring, and Watford have all grown up as such since the Conquest, but similar developments can be traced in most of them.
Foundation of St. Alban's Abbey.
The end of the 8th century marks an important episode in the history of Hertfordshire which has influenced its history ever since. The prosperity of the Mercian Kingdom reached its height in the reign of King Offa II., who, when an old man, desired to found a monastery in atonement for the murder of Ethelbert, King of the East Angles, the suitor for the hand of his daughter, Elfleda. Being uncertain where to fix the site of the proposed religious house, it is related that, while at Bath, an angel visited him in a dream and enjoined him to raise the relics of St. Alban and place them in a more worthy shrine. He therefore started for the Roman city of Verulam with Higbert, Archbishop of Lichfield, and his two suffragans, but on arriving he found that the site of the Christian church there had been forgotten. This difficulty, however, was overcome by the appearance of a ray of light which guided them to the spot. The relics of the saint were found and carried to the little church built by the British converts on the site of the martyrdom, which had been preserved from destruction by the pagan English owing to its smallness. Offa restored this little church and then took a journey to Rome to obtain from Pope Adrian I. privileges for his proposed monastery. On his return, in 793, he founded the monastery, which he and his son Egfrith endowed with great possessions in its vicinity, retaining, however, the site of the city of Verulam and lands on its north side. The abbey was what is known as a double monastery, that is, it included both men and women; but the nuns who lived in the almonry were only allowed into the greater, or probably the outer, church. It was founded under the Benedictine rule, which at that time meant merely that the monks lived a close communal life, sleeping in one dormitory, in distinction to the separate cells and the hereditary character of the Celtic monasteries. Of what the Saxon church and monastery consisted, or what it was like, we do not know. We have mention of a greater church, which may imply the preservation of the little church of the early British converts and of a cloister and almonry. The only remains of the Saxon church now existing are the baluster shafts in the north and south transepts.
The fortified town of Kingsbury, to the west of St. Alban's Abbey, was probably established before the foundation of the abbey, for although its site almost adjoins the abbey precincts, it was not included in the original endowment. It did not finally become the possession of the abbey till the 12th century. Kingsbury was destroyed about 1000, with the exception of a fortified bastion at the south corner, which was not demolished till the reign of Stephen. Although much built over in modern times, the earthworks can still be traced.
The Formation of Parishes.
As has already been suggested, the settlement of Hertfordshire, particularly of the western side, was for the most part late. The formation of parishes began at the end of the 7th or early in the 8th century, was going on during the hundred years preceding the Conquest, and continued till long after that date. About 950, the Abbot of St. Albans built the churches, and probably at the same time created the parishes of St. Peter, St. Michael, and St. Stephen in the district round the abbey. It was soon found that the church of St. Peter was inadequate for the needs of that great parish, and the chapelries of Sandridge, Ridge, and Northaw were probably formed within it in the 12th century. Shortly after the assessment for Pope Nicholas's Taxation (1291) these chapelries had become separate parishes. Berkhampstead St. Peter, Bushey and Flamstead were carved out of Berkhampstead St. Mary or Northchurch, Watford and Redbourn respectively in the 12th century, and Thundridge out of Ware in the 13th century; while, according to Pope Nicholas's Taxation, Pirton was a chapelry in Ickleford, Great Wymondley in Hitchin, and Wigginton in Tring. Ippolitts was apparently formerly in Hitchin parish and Great Amwell included the greater part of Hoddesdon and probably St. Margaret le Thele. Elstree did not become a parish till the 15th century, and until recently Totteridge remained a detached chapelry of Hatfield and Bayford of Essendon.
With the exception of the St. Albans churches above referred to, Bushey and one or two others, we have little documentary information as to the date of the first erection of Hertfordshire churches.
Hertfordshire, north of the Lea, was included in the Danish Territory about 885 (fn. 11), and the Danes harried the country between the Lea and St. Albans in the time of Athelstan (925–941). The Danish invasions, however, left few permanent marks in Hertfordshire beyond the towns at Hertford and the survival, possibly, of place names such as the Hundred of Dacorum, Danesbury, Daneswich, Danes End and Odsey.
Early Ecclesiastical Buildings.
A few years hence it may be possible to show the remains of a Romano-British church brought to light in the impending excavation of Verulam, but at present the oldest fragments of Christian architecture in the county are the turned stone balusters in the transepts of St. Albans Cathedral, which may perhaps be assigned to the end of the 8th century. They are of Barnack stone and are doubtless re-used material from the Roman city close by. This, however, is no argument against the probability of the import of similar oolite freestone into the county in Saxon times; and, indeed, the only two Hertfordshire churches which can show the Saxon "long and short" quoins at their angles—Reed and Westmill—have these quoins of Barnack stone. The most easily obtainable freestone—a clunch of various degrees of softness, of which the Totternhoe stone of Bedfordshire is typical—stands the weather badly, and may be the cause of the disappearance of many other masonry-built Saxon churches. Reed, which preserves the north doorway and all four angles of its Saxon nave, is probably an early 11th-century building, and Westmill is not likely to be of very different date. At Walkern the walls of the nave are probably Saxon, and in the south wall is an early figure, formerly, it would seem, over the Saxon south doorway, which was destroyed by a 12th-century arcade. A cable-moulded impost used up in the arcade is probably also Saxon, and another like it occurs at Little Munden, where Saxon work also exists. At Great Amwell the existence of a double-splayed window in the apsidal sanctuary is hardly sufficient to prove a pre-Conquest date, but evidence of a very uncommon and early type of building is to be found at Northchurch, the mother parish of Great Berkhampstead. The characteristic feature is a square chamber at the west end of the nave, equal in width to it, but with thicker walls; the Saxon church of Daglingworth in Gloucestershire, and the Old Minster, of doubtful but early date, at South Elmham in Suffolk, are other examples. Roman brick quoins and arches occur in a group of early churches, St. Michael's and St. Stephen's at St. Albans, Sandridge, and Great Gaddesden; but none of these, with the possible exception of St. Michael's, are likely to be older than the close of the 11th century at earliest. It must, however, be noted that a good many churches in the county probably preserve in their narrow naves the dimensions of simple aisleless buildings of Saxon date, now superseded by later work.
The Norman Conquest.
The Norman Conquest brought great changes to this county, as it did elsewhere. After the Battle of Hastings, William marched northward and, crossing the Thames at Wallingford, laid waste the country till he came to Berkhampstead. Here, there can be little doubt, he hastily threw up the nucleus of the earthworks which form the castle, and here the Norman Conquest 'received the formal ratification of the conquered.' Edgar Atheling, Aldred Archbishop of York, Earls Edwin and Morcar, with all the chief men of London, came to Berkhampstead to meet the Conqueror, ' and then from necessity submitted when the greatest harm had been done; and it was very imprudent that it was not done earlier as God would not better it for our sins: and they gave hostages, and swore oaths to him; and he promised them that he would be a kind lord to them.' (fn. 12) William then went on to Westminster, where he was crowned ' on Mid-winter day.'
Notwithstanding his promises to be ' a kind lord,' William continued to lay waste the country and dispossess the chief landowners. We learn from the Domesday Book, as Professor Maitland and Mr. J. H. Round have observed, that Hertfordshire before the Conquest had been 'the home of liberty'—a land of sochmen or tenants of a peculiarly free kind, particularly in the north-east of the county. We do not know what had become of these tenants when the Domesday Book was compiled (1086), but Mr. Round suggests that they had probably sunk to the level of villeins.
The Normans had come as conquerors with a determination to enrich themselves at the expense of the conquered. They brought with them new ideas and new methods, and, obtaining wealth by exaction from the English, they expended large sums in building churches and castles. They introduced a new type of military fort or castle, consisting of a mound, or 'motte' as it was termed, raised to a height of from 10 feet to 100 feet, upon which stood a timber tower with access by a steep bridge over a fosse or ditch which surrounded the 'motte.' Attached to the 'motte' was generally one or more baileys or courts, also surrounded by a fosse or ditch. It was not till some fifty years or more later that this type of castle received masonry defences. Two of these castles with which the Conqueror designed to encircle London were situated in Hertfordshire, namely Berkhampstead and Hertford. The earthworks of Berkhampstead, which, it would seem, William had already thrown up, were probably strengthened, and the castle was handed over to Count Robert of Mortain, half-brother of the Conqueror, who here, as Mr. Round thinks, had his personal residence. (fn. 13) The earth and timber defences continued till 1155, when the castle was in the charge of Thomas Becket, then Chancellor and afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. Entries on the Pipe Rolls at this date show that the masonry work, including the circular keep and the existing curtain walls of the bailey, was then built. One of the charges against Becket when he fell into royal disfavour was as to his expenditure on Berkhampstead Castle. The castle was afterwards attached to the Duchy of Cornwall and so became the property of the Princes of Wales. Besides the 12th-century curtain walls the sites of gates and towers can still be identified.
We have little information about the early history of Hertford Castle, but the earthworks are probably of the time of the Conqueror. Large sums of money appear on the Pipe Rolls from 1170 to 1174 for the works of the castle and the king's houses in it, and it may perhaps be inferred that this was the date at which the masonry castle was built. Of the mediæval castle a length of plain flint walling, with part of an octagonal turret and a brick gatehouse of later date, alone remain.
With the exception of the Bishop of London's castle at Waytemore in Bishop's Stortford, the origin of which is unknown, the lesser castles of the county came into existence possibly at the time of the Anarchy in Stephen's reign (1135–54), when many adulterine or unlicensed castles were built. They are all in the northern and eastern side of the county, within the sphere of influence of the unscrupulous Geoffrey de Mandeville, who obtained from Stephen in 1141, and later from Maud, the offices of Justice and Sheriff of Essex and Herts and of London and Middlesex, together with the custody of the Tower of London. Thus, with his stronghold at Walden, now Saffron Walden in Essex, a little over the Hertfordshire border, he had almost supreme power in this compact and all-important corner of England, a supremacy which enabled him to authorise the erection of such castles. These were possibly some of the strong castles around London which, in 1141, the Empress Maud gave him licence to retain. (fn. 14)
These castles seem to have been of the nature of manorial strongholds, their sites having been chosen rather as the chief seats of their owners than for any strategical reasons. The only castle in the district of which Geoffrey de Mandeville had not control was Waytemore or Bishop's Stortford, lying in the direct route of communication from London to Walden. Of this little more than the foundations of the keep now remain. All his endeavours to obtain possession of it through the Empress Maud proved fruitless.
It was, however, during the Barons' War of John's reign that the Hertfordshire castles took a prominent part. Berkhampstead and Hertford were in the King's hands, but the great landowners for the most part sided with the barons. John seized Bishop's Stortford Castle in 1207 on account of the bishop's opposition to the election of Stephen Langton to Canterbury, and may have dismantled it, as the bishop received licence to repair it in 1213. Berkhampstead and Hertford castles were in 1216 besieged by Louis of France and the barons, and both places were considerably damaged by siege engines.
The two most important of the lesser castles were Benington and Anstey. Benington had been the head of a Saxon Lordship which was held before the Conquest by the thegn Æthelmær. William I. granted it to Peter de Valognes, and it became the head of the Valognes barony in Hertfordshire. Roger de Valognes was apparently a partisan of Geoffrey de Mandeville and was present with him at Stephen's celebrated Easter Court in 1136. On the Pipe Roll for 1177 is a charge for 100 picks for throwing down the keep (turrim) of Benington, which points to the keep having been at that time of stone, for, had it been of wood, it would probably have been burnt, and picks would have been unnecessary for its demolition. The stump of a small 12th-century keep still remains.
Anstey Castle is a formidable stronghold. The great mount with its deep ditches still filled with water is perhaps the finest example of a 'motte' in the county. Unfortunately its early history has not been traced. At the time of Domesday, Count Eustace of Boulogne held Anstey in his own hands, and tradition has it that he built the castle. By the end of the 12th century it was held by a family bearing the name of Anstey. In 1218 Nicholas de Anstey was given till mid-Lent to throw down the castle so that nothing should remain of it except that which was built before the Barons' war. (fn. 15) What was destroyed may have been the masonry keep, indication of which apparently came to light during some excavations made in 1903 by Mr. R. T. Andrews and Mr. W. B. Gerish. In 1225 the castle was in the King's hands and the custody of it was given to the Archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 16) Dionisia, daughter and heir of Nicholas de Anstey, married William de Munchensy and their daughter and heir Dionisia married Hugh de Vere.
Walkern Castle was the head of the St. Clare barony in Hertfordshire. Hamo de St. Clare was present with Geoffrey de Mandeville at Stephen's Easter Court in 1136, and it may be to him that the castle is due. It passed with his grand-daughter to the Lanvaleys. There is no masonry now to be seen, and probably none ever existed.
Pirton Castle (' Toot Hill'), which was the head of the Limesi barony in Hertfordshire, and passed by an heiress to the Oddingsells, has a large but not very high ' motte,' and the remains of a puzzling series of banks and ditches which enclose the church. Nothing is known of its history, and there is no evidence that it ever had any masonry defences.
Great Wymondley Castle, which adjoins the church, was probably the head of the Argentine barony in Herts. John de Argentine sided with Stephen, and may have thrown up the castle in the time of the Anarchy. There is no evidence that it ever had masonry walls.
The little castle near Barkway seems to have belonged to the Scales or Eschallers family who had a manor there named after them, and now known as Challers.
The wave of religious enthusiasm, partly aroused by the Crusades, which swept over Europe in the 12th century, has left in most parts of England a record of its existence in the ruins of monastic buildings containing some of the finest architecture of which this country can boast. In Hertfordshire, however, few such marks of its influence exist. The great Benedictine monastery of St. Alban, with its immense possessions in the south and west of the county, the Benedictine monks of Westminster, and the canons of St. Paul, with their possessions in the north and east, excluded all houses of Cistercian monks and other orders of regulars. Cells of St. Alban's Abbey were founded in the 12th century at Sopwell, Hertford, Redbourn, St. Giles in the Wood and Markyate, but no vestiges of them now apparently remain, except the stones of Sopwell embedded in the wall of the Tudor park along the London Road, St. Albans, which show 12th and 15th-century details. Small houses of Benedictine nuns were also founded at Cheshunt, Flamstead and Rowhenny in Great Munden, a cell of Westminster Abbey at Sawbridgeworth, and a little alien priory at Ware. A house of Austin or Black Canons was founded at Royston, a preceptory of the Templars at Temple Dinnesley in Hitchin, and a commandery of Hospitallers at Standon, while lazar houses were established at St. Julians and St. Mary de Pray, both near St. Albans. Of none of these, except Royston Priory, does anything remain, nor is any of the work at Royston—the eastern part of the priory church, now the parish church—of the 12th century.
Few houses of regular monks were founded in England after the 12th century, but a house of Austin Canons was founded in the 13th century at Little Wymondley in this county, some remains of which still exist in the farm house there. Those who, in that century, desired to found religious houses, usually established friaries or hospitals. But the same influence which kept out the Cistercian order limited the introduction of friaries into the county. The Dominicans, Friars Preachers or Black Friars, who arrived in England in 1220 were the earliest to establish themselves in Hertfordshire. They had a house at King's Langley, the ruins of which, dating from the beginning of the 14th century, still survive. They were followed by the Franciscans, or Grey Friars, at Ware, of whose buildings the frater and the great hall remain, much altered, and the Carmelites, or White Friars, at Hitchin, where portions of the cloister exist. Hospitals were also founded in this century at Baldock, Clothall and Royston, and others later at Anstey, Berkhampstead and Hoddesdon, but no remains of their buildings are now in existence.
With the 14th century came the founding of colleges and chantries. Of the former there was a small house at Stanstead le Thele or St. Margarets, built in 1315. Chantries were also established at this period, sometimes at an altar in a parish church, and occasionally at a chapel some distance off. They existed in almost every parish in Hertfordshire, and continued to be founded till the close of the reign of Henry VIII.
Notwithstanding the disturbed condition of England during the reigns of Richard I., John and Henry III. (1189–1272), there was a growing demand for land by a wealthy middle class. Large landowners who had been impoverished by the Barons' Wars gladly met this demand by subinfeudation. New manors were created and knights' fees split up, a system which brought confusion and led to the enactment of the Statute of 'Quia Emptores' in 1290. The tenants of these new holdings, who required security for their possessions in those disturbed times, were the makers of many of the homestead moats, of which there are 139 in the county, mostly on the eastern side. Some of these are possibly earlier than the reign of Richard I., while, on the other hand, many are considerably later, as the practice of constructing moats continued into the 16th century. The moats were always wet, and consequently were usually placed on low ground, but they are occasionally found on high land fed by springs. Their shape was generally four-sided, although they vary considerably in this respect. The earth from the moat was thrown on the inside and spread over the island thus formed, upon which was built the house, with its barns and cattle sheds. Religious houses, as Wymondley Priory, founded at the beginning of the 13th century, and Colney Chapel, in Shenley, founded towards the end of the 12th century, were often surrounded by moats.
The Wars of the Roses.
Three of the principal battles in the Wars of the Roses took place in Hertfordshire. The first was fought at St. Albans on 22nd May, 1455, and ended in a victory for the Yorkists. The alarm for it was rung from the clock tower there, which, with its original bell, still exists. The second, which resulted in favour of Queen Margaret's forces, was also fought at St. Albans on 17th February, 1460, and the third at Barnet on Easter day, 1471. This last battle, in which Warwick the King-maker was killed, replaced Edward IV. on the throne. A monument erected in 1740 is supposed to mark the spot where Warwick died. With the mingling of the red and white roses in the Tudors, Henry VII. was enabled to dismantle Berkhampstead Castle and allow Hertford Castle to fall to decay.
Throughout the 14th century Hertfordshire was convulsed with economic and industrial disturbances. In the early part of the century serious trouble between the Abbot of St. Albans and his tenants aroused a feeling of unrest throughout a great part of the county. In the middle of the century (1349) the Black Death made great ravages on all classes. At St. Alban's Abbey, out of about sixty monks, forty-seven died of it. The plague was followed by the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, and St. Albans was one of its principal centres. Houses and mills were burnt and court rolls and other records destroyed. The doors of the Great Gate of the Abbey at which the populace clamoured, survive, stored away in the abbey church. John Ball, the priest famous for the text of his sermon, 'When Adam delved and Eve span, where was then the gentleman,' William Gryndcobbe, a substantial citizen of St. Albans, and some dozen other leaders, were hanged at St. Albans. The rebellion was quelled but the rebels' cause, the manumission of the villeins, was gained as a natural result of the economic progress of society. The effect of these industrial disturbances was to make agriculture which required labour unprofitable, and hence in the 15th century the landowners began the well-known system of inclosing, for the purpose of converting the arable lands into pasture. Thus, as sheep farms did not require the labour which was necessary for tillage, the lack of labourers in the fourteenth century was converted into the great dearth of employment in the sixteenth.
The conversion of arable land into pasture was severely felt in Hertfordshire. Six hundred acres were inclosed in 1426 to form Moor Park, and in 1428 a large area was taken to form Bushey Hall Park. About 1440 Robert Whittingham built a large house at Pendley, in Tring parish, and inclosed much land for pasture, for which purpose he destroyed ' a great town' where there were ' above thirteen ploughs, besides divers handicrafts-men as tailors, shoemakers and cardmakers, with divers others.' The inclosures diminished the number of small landowners, and consequently lessened the number of cottages in the villages. At the same time they brought into existence the sheep farmer, for whom a better type of house, often situated some way from the village, was required. They also caused accumulation of great wealth in the hands of the graziers, owing to the flourishing condition of the wool trade; the expenditure of this wealth on Hertfordshire churches is apparent in the architecture.
The inclosure riots at Northaw and Cheshunt in Hertfordshire in 1548, according to John Hales, were the beginning of the insurrection which spread over all southern England in the following year.
Post Conquest Ecclesiastical Architecture.
The most important architectural work in the county during the half-century after the Conquest was the rebuilding of St. Alban's Abbey, but there was no doubt as great an activity in this period with regard to the smaller churches here as elsewhere. Most of the simple buildings of the time have been enlarged again and again till hardly a stone of them remains to witness to their existence, but a certain number, beside those already noted, are still recognisable. Aspenden, Ippollitts, Norton, Redbourn and Tewin all contain work of the end of the 11th century or the early years of the 12th, and other early 12th-century work exists at Bengeo and Great Wymondley (the only churches in the county, except Great Amwell, with apsidal chancels), Great Munden, Stanstead, St. Margaret's, Willian, Wormley, Meesden, Pirton, Flamstead, Barley, East Barnet, Walkern and, perhaps, Codicote. Later 12th-century work is to be seen at Ickleford, Little Hormead, Knebworth, Stapleford, Stevenage, Weston, Hemel Hempstead and Sandridge, and to the closing years of that century belong the nave arcades of Abbots Langley, Kimpton and King's Walden, where scalloped capitals and trefoiled foliage occur together, marking the last stage of the transition from the Romanesque style. Hemel Hempstead, a cruciform church of 1140–80, with a central tower and vaulted chancel, is the finest 12th-century parish church in the county, but before their rebuilding there must have been large churches of this period at Hitchin, Stevenage, Flamstead, Anstey and Wheathampstead, amongst other places.
The late 12th-century church of Sarratt has a very unusual and interesting plan, but has been much altered.
The great Abbey Church of St. Alban is the only one of the first rank in the county. Begun in 1077 and consecrated in 1115, it retains the central tower, transepts and nave of the original work in sufficiently perfectly condition to make it possible to judge of its general aspect when it left the builders' hands. The Roman bricks and flints of which it is built make for extreme simplicity of detail, and it was originally plastered and whitewashed within and without, and depended for its ornament chiefly on the painted masonry patterns which still exist on its walls. But in size it far surpassed its prototype at Caen, being one of the largest churches of its time, and before the end of the 12th century had been still further enlarged by Abbot John de Cella.
The doorways, chancel arches, fonts, etc., which are such notable features of 12th-century work in other counties, are but poorly represented in Hertfordshire. There is not one sculptured tympanum in the county, and the west doorway of Hemel Hempstead is the only doorway which is of other than ordinary merit; while the fonts are chiefly represented by the late marble type with plainly arcaded rectangular bowl carried on a central and four smaller shafts, which is common to many parts of England. The font at Anstey, however, is a notable exception, being carved with grotesque figures. A fine piece of wrought ironwork of this date also remains on the north door of Little Hormead, and possibly that on the south door of Codicote is of this period.
Thirteenth-century building is well represented in Hertfordshire churches, not only at St. Alban's Abbey in the beautiful work of Abbots de Cella and Trumpington, dating from the early years of the century, and of their successors, John de Hertford, Roger de Norton, and John de Berkhamstead, from 1257 onwards, but in many of the parish churches. The foliate capitals of the nave arcades of Flamstead, Great Gaddesden, and Offley, carrying on the story of the late 12th-century work already mentioned, are exceedingly beautiful, and features such as the chancel arches of Standon and Eastwick, and the fine arcaded windows of the Priory church at Royston, rise to a high level of excellence. The chancels of a large number of churches were re-built at this time, generally round the lines of older work, so that their width became equal to that of the nave, and this proportion is occasionally observed in churches which were completely built during this period, as at Gilston. Some of the largest churches in the county date from this century, as Great Berkhampstead, and it is clear that important churches such as Ware, Hertingfordbury, Hatfield, Tring, and Watford are but little larger now than they were in the time of Edward I. The addition of Lady chapels on the south side is characteristic of the period, and examples occur at Hatfield (south transept), and St. Michael's and St. Stephen's at St. Albans. Thorley is almost entirely of c. 1220, and the remarkable little church of Flaunden, whose plan is an equal armed cross with an interior length of 36 feet, dates from c. 1230. A number of fine piscinæ of this date exist in the county, and several good fonts, as at Stevenage and Standon, but the most remarkable survivals are the remains of a wooden chancel screen of c. 1270 at Gilston, and some misericords of slightly later date at Anstey.
In the fourteenth century, as in those preceding it, St. Alban's Abbey was the scene of the finest architectural work in the county. The early years of the century saw the completion of the Lady chapel with its vestibule and the new pedestal of St. Alban's shrine, work which, apart from its beauty and richness, has a special architectural interest, since it furnishes the earliest dated example of net tracery in England. The fall of part of the nave in 1323 led to its rebuilding in very beautiful style during the next twenty years, and to the second half of the century belong the rood screen in the nave and the door which once opened to the east walk of the cloister. Elsewhere in the county the best example of the time is the cruciform church of Anstey, which, with the exception of the lower stage of the central tower, was gradually re-built between 1300 and 1350. Brent Pelham is a simple and dignified aisleless church of c. 1350, and a good instance of the breadth of style which village churches of the period often show; the Lady chapel of Abbots Langley, c. 1300, is another case in point. The churches of Baldock, Sawbridgeworth and Stevenage have much work of the first half of the 14th century, and other good specimens are the north chapel of Ayot St. Lawrence (ruined), the south chapel of Great Berkhampstead, the north transept of Wheathampstead, the chancel of Flamstead, and the nave arcades of Puttenham and St. Paul's Walden. Benington has some rich work of c. 1320 in the north arcade of the chancel, and there are many examples of the beautiful window tracery of 1300–1350, as at Standon, St. Albans, St. Paul's Walden and elsewhere. Evidence of exact date, apart from considerations of style, is found at Flamstead, north-east window of north aisle, 1332; North Mimms, North chapel, 1328; Buckland, built 1348, and the chancels of Sandridge and Abbots Langley, 1396–1401. The stone chancel screen of Sandridge, underbuilding the early chancel arch of Roman brick, is particularly interesting, and at North Mimms an abandonment of a projected central tower may be one of those traces of the Black Death which are to be seen here and there in all parts of England. At Great Hormead work seems to have been broken off about the same time. Of the later years of the century, c. 1340–80, the splendid church of Ashwell, on the Cambridgeshire border, is a notable example, but is rather an outlying specimen of East Anglian type than characteristic of the county. Among the fonts of this century may be mentioned the fine one at Ware and those at Little Hormead and Offley.
Very little woodwork of this period remains; the roof of the eastern part of the north aisle of Hitchin belongs to the middle of the fourteenth century, some tracery of c. 1320 is used up in the pulpit of Graveley, and there is a very fine early 14th-century chest in the room over the vestry at Broxbourne. The stalls at Stevenage may also date from the end of this century.
The later phases of Gothic architecture, dating from the 15th and 16th-centuries, are well represented in the county both in masonry and woodwork, a large majority of the church towers belonging to this period. Bishop's Stortford has a fine church begun probably about 1400, and its west tower was being built in 1430–35; the nave arcades of Ware are further examples of good early 15th-century building, and those of St. Peter's, St. Albans, c. 1440, are of very good proportion. At Tring the nave arcades, though the pillars have been renewed, are worthy of note for the grotesque carvings in the spandrels, from which slender shafts rise to the clearstorey. Cheshunt church was re-built between 1418 and 1448, and the church of Newnham was repaired c. 1430, during the first abbacy of John of Wheathampstead, the famous abbot of St. Albans. The tracery of the east window at Newnham is of unusual character for the time, and may owe its design to the magister operum of the Abbey. At St. Albans the most important pieces of 15th-century work are the feretrar's chamber, c. 1400, and the splendid high altar screen, c. 1480. Redbourn has a south chapel of c. 1450, with a cornice of moulded red brick probably of somewhat later date, c. 1480; there is similar work in the old vicarage at Rickmansworth, but it is of very rare occurrence in the district. Broxbourne has a good 15th-century church, and an interesting two-storeyed vestry of 1522. Caldecote has a small village church entirely of the 15th century, with a tower set over the west bay of the nave, and Watton church is another instance of a 15th-century rebuilding. The nave arcades there, as at Barkway, are very well designed. Cottered has very fine and well-proportioned windows of this time, but here, as elsewhere in the county, the loss of the original glass destroys the full effect of the 15th-century tracery. Furneux Pelham has a south chapel of 1518, and Wyddial a north aisle and arcade of red brick of 1532. A large number of fonts of this period remain in the county, one of the finest, perhaps, being that at Hitchin; there is another good example at St. Stephen's, St. Albans, and at the same church there is a fine lectern of early 16th-century date.
There are several late survivals of Gothic work in the county, as Oxhey chapel, 1612, the tower of Rickmansworth, 1630, and the curious red brick church of Buntingford, 1615. Stanstead Abbots has a red brick north chapel of 1577, the Essex chapel at Watford is of 1595, and the Salisbury chapel at Bishop's Hatfield of 1610. The south arcades of the last two chapels, and the arcade between the chancel and south chapel of Aspenden, 1622, are good specimens of Jacobean work, and the south porch of Broxbourne is 17th-century work of simple and dignified character, not unworthy of Inigo Jones himself.
A considerable number of 15th and 16th-century wooden screens still remain in the Hertfordshire churches, the best being perhaps those at Hitchin, but only a few, as at Redbourn and Kimpton, retain the coved canopy below the rood loft, and not a single loft has been preserved. A good deal of plain oak seating of this period remains, and the pulpits at Hitchin and Walkern are of c. 1500. At Digswell there is a little early renaissance woodwork of c. 1540, the only survival in Hertfordshire churches of a peculiarly interesting phase of the history of English architecture, but the number of Elizabethan and Jacobean pulpits is fairly large. In Hunsdon church is a very fine early 17th-century screen, there is another at Wyddial, and the 18th-century chancel screen of St. Paul's Walden has fortunately escaped the modern Gothic 'restorer.'
Many churches retain their 15th-century roofs, though none can be compared with the splendid East Anglian work; but those of Bushey, Puttenham, Braughing, and Hitchin, among others, are worthy of mention.
Spires are not common in the county, the absence of stone spires being explained by the scarcity of good freestone, and with a few exceptions, such as the fine spire at Hemel Hempstead, the wooden spires are small. The commonest form is a short but slender leaded fléche known as the Hertfordshire Spike, which is not a very satisfactory finish to a square tower of masonry. In the north-east of the county a larger variety of this occurs, the fléche springing from an octagonal lantern; the best example is perhaps that on the fine tower of Ashwell church. The central tower of St. Albans Cathedral had at one time a ' spike,' and a very interesting record exists of the erection there early in the 13th century of a tall octagonal wooden spire, which has long since vanished.
The sepulchral monuments of the county are numerous, and in many cases of great interest. There are a considerable number of mediæval effigies, ranging between the 13th and the early part of the 16th centuries, of which three are of alabaster. There are two small figures, probably denoting heart burials, one of c. 1290 at Letchworth, the other of c. 1340 at Therfield, and there was formerly a small wooden effigy at Ayot St. Lawrence. The earliest figures are those of knights at Bishop's Hatfield, Hitchin, Eastwick, and Walkern, the last being a Purbeck marble figure wearing a helm over a coif of mail; all are of the 13th century. There are 14th-century effigies at Albury, Aldenham, Anstey, Benington, Great Berkhampstead (alabaster), Hitchin, Little Munden, and Royston (alabaster), and 15th-century figures remain at Aldbury, Ayot St. Lawrence, Benington, Bovingdon, Flamstead, and Little Munden.
Of the brasses, the earliest are those of John Pecok and his wife, c. 1330, and a cross-brass without inscription, c. 1350, at St. Michael's, St. Albans, the brasses of Richard and Margaret Torrington, 1356, at Great Berkhampstead, with several others in the same church, Robert Albyn at Hemel Hempstead, two symbolic roundels at Albury, of c. 1340, that of Sir Philip Peletoot, 1361, at Watton (much restored), and that of Thomas Horton, priest, of c. 1360, at North Mimms. This, like the splendid brass of Abbot de la Mare at St. Albans, of c. 1370, is Flemish work. The late 15th-century brass of Sir John Say at Broxbourne is notable for retaining much of its coloured inlay, and a little remains on that of Sir Robert Clyfford, 1508, at Aspenden.
A certain number of early tomb slabs have been preserved, the most interesting being one of black marble, richly carved in late 13th-century style, in Brent Pelham church. It is, by tradition, the monument of a mythical 11th-century hero, Piers Shonks. At Sawbridgeworth there is an early 14th-century slab of Purbeck marble, with the incised figure of a woman, and 14th-century slabs, with inscriptions still legible, exist at Tewin, Watton, Sawbridgeworth and elsewhere. In Watton there is also an alabaster slab with incised figures, inlaid with black composition, to John Boteler, 1471, and his two wives, and another alabaster slab, on a tomb of Elizabethan date, to a lady of the Barford family is at North Mimms.
The finest monuments in the county are, of course, the tomb chapels at St Albans, of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and Abbots Ramryge and Wheathampstead (or perhaps Wallingford), but others of note are Edmund de Langley's tomb at Kings Langley (from the destroyed Friars' church), Sir Richard Whittingham's at Aldbury (from Ashridge), the two tombs on the north side of the chancel at Benington, etc., and there are imposing 16th and 17th-century monuments at Hunsdon, Broxbourne, Hertingfordbury, Bishop's Hatfield, etc. The late 15th and 16th-century raised tombs of Purbeck marble, generally with canopies, which seem to have been made in large quantities in London, occur at Aldbury (Sir Ralph Verney, 1546), Aspenden (Sir Robert Clyfford, 1508), and Sawbridgeworth (uninscribed). A few late 17th-century headstones to graves exist in some of the churchyards on the eastern side of the county.
The remains of mediæval stained glass are not important. There are 14th-century fragments at Buckland, Clothall and Offley, while 15th-century glass, more or less perfect, is to be seen at Much Hadham, Little Hadham, Caldecote, St. Peter's at St. Albans, etc., and part of an interesting 15th-century Jesse window at Barkway.
St. Albans Cathedral has a very remarkable series of wall paintings of 13th to 16th-century date, but with this exception there is little work of the kind in the county, the only remains of much interest being at Abbots Langley, Bengeo, Flamstead, Much Hadham, Sarratt and Widford. Paintings of St. Christopher occur at Cottered and Ridge.
The glazed floor tiles, of which a few survive here and there in the county, belong for the most part to a type probably made in London in the 14th and 15th centuries, but in the chancel of Meesden there are some early 14th-century shaped tiles of a far rarer and more interesting kind, of which the best examples are to be seen in Prior Craudene's chapel at Ely.
The Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The dissolution of the monasteries greatly affected Hertfordshire where so much land was held by religious houses. Wolsey began by dissolving the little nunnery of St. Mary de Pray in order to endow his Cardinal's Colleges; then followed the dissolution of the smaller houses in 1536, and on 5th December, 1539, the great abbey of St. Alban was surrendered to the crown. The abbey church, the longest in England, with the exception of Winchester and Glastonbury, was sold to the mayor and corporation of St. Albans in 1553 and was converted into their parish church, the parochial chapel of St. Andrew being pulled down. The maintenance of its great fabric frequently baffled the resources of the townsmen, till its restoration was undertaken by public subscription and otherwise in the 19th century, before the church assumed the dignity of a cathedral in 1877. The dissolution of the colleges and chantries under the Act of 1547 caused further destruction of historical monuments in the county and placed more land in lay hands.
The fall of the religious houses gave an opportunity to a wealthy middle class to acquire estates, build houses, and found families. Hertfordshire had many attractions for this class, notably its nearness to London, the fertility of its soil and the favour shown to it by royalty. Henry VIII. acquired Hatfield House from the Bishop of Ely and resided there on frequent occasions. There also Mary spent some unhappy years after her mother's divorce, as lady-in-waiting to her infant sister. Edward VI. and Elizabeth spent much of their childhood at Hatfield, and Elizabeth must have had both pleasant and painful memories of that historic residence. There it was that under a tree in the park (according to Sir Robert Naunton) Sir William Cecil and others told her of her accession to the crown, whereupon she fell on her knees exclaiming A Domino factum est illud et est mirabile in oculis nostris. Henry VIII. occasionally visited Tyttenhanger, a house of the abbot of St. Albans, and Moor Park, a residence of Wolsey. He repaired Hertford Castle, and there and at Hunsdon House and Ashridge his children frequently stayed.
Schools and Almshouses.
With the dissolution of the religious houses and chantries the care of the aged and education of the young were considerably diminished. Some of the hospitals which escaped suppression survived as almshouses. In Hertfordshire the practice of building almshouses did not come into use till the 17th century. Good examples of these, mostly of red brick, are to be found at St. Peter's, Cheshunt, Hitchin, Buntingford, Baldock and Flamstead.
Hertfordshire can boast of three pre-Reformation schools. At St. Albans a school existed as early as the 9th century, and in the 12th century it is said that there scarcely could be found in England a better school or one fuller of scholars. In the reign of Edward VI. the Lady Chapel of the abbey church was appropriated to the use of the school, and there it continued till 1871, when it was moved to the Great Gate House of the monastery. Berkhampstead School was built by Dr. John Incent, dean of St. Paul's, in 1544. His long red brick school house, with the master's house at one end and the usher's at the other, still remains. There was a school at Stevenage in the 14th century, but the present buildings are of the 16th century and modern.
There are 17th-century school buildings at Buntingford, Cheshunt, Hertford, Stanstead Abbots, and Ware.
Restriction in Building.
The Act of 1589 forbidding the building of cottages without assigning four acres of land to each of them (fn. 17) was evidently passed in the interest of the commoners, but it entailed great hardship upon the agricultural labourer, and every possible attempt was made to evade its provisions. It was not repealed till 1775, (fn. 18) although it does not seem to have been enforced after the early part of the 18th century. During the time it was in existence there was little development in the villages. Cottages were occasionally re-built, but few were erected upon new sites. Under the provisions of the Act justices of the peace were empowered to license the erection of cottages on the waste land for paupers, hence it is that so many cottages at the present day exist on the road-side waste.
The lack of good building stone, which tells against the survival of early ecclesiastical buildings, is even more destructive to secular work. Timber, its substitute, though durable enough, is more easily destroyed than masonry, and though it is possible that in the framework of some Hertfordshire houses portions as ancient as the 13th century may survive, they cannot now be identified, and, apart from the scanty remains of the castles, no secular building now standing in the county shows details of earlier date than the second half of the 14th century.
The Abbey Gatehouse at St. Albans, re-built soon after the great storm of 1363, and the Clock Tower, also at St. Albans, built c. 1410, are the two oldest existing secular buildings to which a definite date can be given. Of actual dwelling houses a considerable number dating from the 15th century are still recognisable, especially in the towns, where more may yet remain to be discovered. At St. Albans, indeed, the destruction of part of the old Fleur-de-Lis Inn some years ago revealed an early 14th-century two-light window of wood, now in the Hertfordshire Museum, but nothing of so early a period appears to exist elsewhere.
The great mediæval houses of the county, such as the Palace at King's Langley and the Earl of Salisbury's house at Bushey, are utterly gone, and those which incorporated or occupied the site of suppressed monastic buildings, such as Ashridge, Markyate, Sopwell, and Beechwood, are now destroyed or re-built. The splendid country house of the Abbots of St. Albans at Tyttenhanger, and Wolsey's house of the 'More' at Rickmansworth, perished in the 17th century; the palace of the bishops of London at Much Hadham was altered and re-cased in the same century, while of Bishop Morton's palace of Hatfield, the western wing remains, and is to-day the finest piece of mediæval brickwork in the county. Another notable survival is the 15th-century hall of the Great House at Cheshunt, now cased in 18th-century brickwork and standing forlorn among acres of market gardens. Hunsdon House, originally built in 1447, is so much altered and repaired that little of its historical interest exists; it is of red brick, with early 16th-century additions, but a good deal of the old work was destroyed in 1804.
Of smaller houses there are, however, a fair number which can show 15th or early 16th-century work, the vast majority being timber built. Two exceptions to this rule are the old rectory at Therfield and Hinxworth Place, both built of wrought stone. Neither is complete; at Hinxworth the much altered hall and part of one wing of an H-shaped house remain, and at Therfield there is only the east wing of what was probably a house of similar plan. Of the two, Therfield Rectory is by far the more important, the work being very good of its kind. On the first floor are a solar and a chapel, and on the ground floor a doorway, now opening westward into an 18th-century building, demonstrates the former existence of a 15th-century building in this position, presumably the hall.
The usual mediæval plan of an open-roofed hall with two-storeyed wings at each end (the H plan) is the type to which the 15th-century country houses chiefly belong, though only two halls of this date, those of the Palace at Hatfield and of the Great House at Cheshunt, remain open to the roof. Part of the hall roof at Cottered Lordship, now a farm-house, still exists, though the hall is divided into two storeys, while at Thorley Hall there is one bay of a fine hall roof of c. 1430, also hidden by an inserted floor.
The majority, however, of the 15th-century houses of the county are found in the towns. There are three or four in Hitchin with halls originally open roofed, while others belong to a different type, having the principal room or hall on the first floor. The Brotherhood House at Hitchin is a good instance of this, and an outlying example is John of Gaddesden's House at Little Gaddesden.
It is very difficult to give a date to the many small timber-built houses and cottages which occur throughout the county, though a considerable number may be of the 15th century. In many parishes houses of this description abut on the churchyard and are probably the old church houses. The fine range of timber-built houses, now used as the village school, on the south side of Standon churchyard, probably dates from the end of the 15th century, and may belong to this category.
The 16th century was an age of great houses, of which Hertfordshire had its share, though, as has already been said, time has dealt unkindly with them. They were as a rule in four ranges built round a rectangular courtyard, and remains of such houses exist at The Lordship, Standon, built in 1546 by Sir Ralph Sadleir. Little Hadham Hall, built c. 1575 by the Capels; Berkhampstead Place, built c. 1580 by Sir Edward Carey, and Gorhambury, built 1563–80 by Sir Nicholas Bacon. At Standon part of the west wing remains, with a gateway flanked by turrets; and at Hadham all the west wing, with a gateway of similar design but in more perfect condition, and part of the south wing remain. Both these houses are brick built, with mullioned square-headed windows, while Berkhampstead Place, of which only the north-west wing remains, is built of flint with a chequer work facing of flint and clunch. All three are still inhabited. Gorhambury, on the other hand, has been a ruin for over a century, and nothing but the walls of the brick-built hall, with a beautiful two-storeyed porch of stone, and parts of the west wing, with the base of an octagonal stair-turret, exist. Another great house, the Rye House at Stanstead Abbots, has fallen on evil days, and retains little more than the 16th-century gatehouse. The fashion of varying the brickwork with lozenge patterns in darker bricks, characteristic of the first half of the 16th century, is to be seen in the gatehouse of the outer court at Hadham Hall, at Clintons in Little Hadham, and at Queen Hoo, Tewin; and in the latter part of the century stepped copings to the gables came into use, as at Hadham Hall, the Brick House at Great Hormead, Furneaux Pelham Hall, and elsewhere. The brick chimney shafts of this date are often of excellent design, being octagonal, with moulded caps and bases, and shafts ornamented with lozenges, spiral curves, etc.; the Hertfordshire examples are chiefly found on the north-west side of the county. Taken as a whole, the early brickwork of Hertfordshire is not as fine as that of Essex or Suffolk, due allowance being made for the small number of brick houses of the best period. The late 15th-century brick cornices of Redbourn Church, and the similar work in the old vicarage of Rickmansworth, are the only examples of a very decorative treatment which is common enough in Essex. An instance of an open-roofed hall divided into two storeys occurs at Much Hadham Palace where the 16th-century roof is blocked by 17th-century floors.
In the smaller 16th-century houses brick and timber continued to be the usual materials. The H type continues to be common, but many of the simpler buildings are of the L type, which did not go out of fashion till the 18th century. Their most prominent feature is the big chimney stack between hall and kitchen, taking the hall and kitchen flues and those of the first floor rooms over them. Many of the country inns date in part from the 16th century; a well-preserved example of c. 1540, with the original doors still hanging in its arched gateway, is the Crown and Falcon at Puckeridge, near Braughing. The Peahen at St. Albans was till lately a very interesting early 16th-century building, but is so no longer, and in most of the larger towns, but particularly at St. Albans, moulded beams of 16th-century date are to be seen in the ceilings of many houses which have been refronted in the 18th or 19th century.
The splendid house of the Cecils at Hatfield, finished in 1611, is the finest secular building in the county, and overshadows all other works of its time, but there is a large number of houses of less importance, the most noteworthy being North Mymms, built by Sir Ralph Coningsby c. 1600; Rothamsted, a 16th-century timber-built house, enlarged, probably for the second time, c. 1650; Highdown, Pirton, built of flint and stone, with stone window mullions, and dated 1613; Tyttenhanger, re-built about 1654; Salisbury Hall, Shenley, c. 1680; Mackerye End and Turners Hall, late 16th-century houses, enlarged in the 17th century; Ayot Place, 1615; Letchworth Hall, c. 1620; Pirton Hall, Brent Pelham Hall, and many others.
The great Cecil house, Theobalds, is now represented only by an angle of one of its buildings, and 'King James's Palace,' at Royston, whatever may have been its original condition, is now a building of moderate size. Nearly all these houses are built of brick, and generally speaking, red brick becomes the normal building material during the 17th century, though there are many survivals of the old fashion of timber construction. The traditional open-roofed hall goes out of use with the rise in the standard of comfort, and during the century the transition from mediæval to modern house planning is nearly accomplished. The modified H-plan is still that most commonly used, and the L-plan for smaller buildings, but variations from the established types become frequent, and reflect the new conditions created by the rise of the individual architect, of whom Inigo Jones is the first English example, and the disappearance of the 16th-century 'surveyor.' Abnormal buildings like the Brick House at Great Hormead are, however, outside any scheme of classification, and must be due to the fancy of an eccentric owner.
Carved and moulded wood chimney-pieces, screens, and panelling were to be found in all but the smallest houses, and fortunately a good deal of fine woodwork yet remains, though every year becoming rarer by reason of Wardour Street and its agents. Except in the best houses, there is not much ornamental plaster-work of this century, as far as regards the interiors, but towards the end of the century external pargetting becomes common, showing a variety of types of combed work and ornamental panelling in low relief, and many house fronts bear conventional devices of crowned eagles, fleurs-de-lis, roses, 'carbuncles,' etc., of such similarity of style that they clearly have a common origin in the stock-in-trade of a local plasterer.
From the time of Elizabeth onwards, Hertfordshire, like other home counties, became a resort for rich London merchants, and a fair number of the fine houses which they built have survived, though now for the most part involved in the expansion of the city from which their builders sought to escape. Such houses are peculiarly liable to destruction at the present time, being entirely out of keeping with their surroundings, and their careful enumeration is, therefore, a matter of much importance.
Eighteenth-century buildings do not fall within the scope of the Commission, and must be passed over with a mere reference to the number of fine specimens in the towns and countryside, well deserving of full notice in the records of county societies, and of careful preservation by local authorities.
The condition of the monuments of Hertfordshire is, on the whole, good. The County Council and the Urban District Councils are alive to the advantage of preserving the ancient monuments in the county, and have exercised their powers by acquiring and protecting, among others, Waltham Cross (Cheshunt), the remains of the cross at Kelshall, and Waytemore Castle (Bishop's Stortford). The majority of the churches are in a sound state of repair; many, perhaps, have suffered less from neglect than from over-zealous restoration, too often carried further than was required by either practical or artistic considerations. The Totternhoe stone or clunch used in the old work weathers badly, and this has led to the patching of external stone-work with plaster or cement, which is an unsatisfactory mode of repair, since it is, at the best, of a temporary nature, and when it fails, as in the course of time it is bound to do, the cement in peeling off carries some of the old stone-work with it. Thus, from the practical and, of course, from the artistic and archæological points of view, this use of cement is to be regretted. The old churches at Ayot St. Lawrence and Thundridge, and the ancient chapels at Chesfield in Graveley, Flaunden near Hemel Hempstead, Long Marston in Tring, Minsden in Langley, and St. Mary Magdalene in Northchurch for some time have been disused and are in ruins. There is a tendency to neglect the remains of these buildings, which, in the case of Ayot St. Lawrence and Flaunden, are of peculiar interest. The church of St. James, Stanstead Abbots, is also now disused, and there is a danger of its being likewise neglected. Some careful repairs are needed on the churches of Ashwell, Hinxworth, Kelshall, King's Walden, Letchworth, Redbourn, Wallington, Willian and Wyddial, and the unrestricted growth of ivy is doing damage to the walls of the churches of Aspenden, Little Hormead, Throcking and elsewhere.
The ancient secular buildings which remain are, for the most part, well cared for, but the repairs and alterations carried out in the early part of the last century and later have tended to detract from the interest of many of them from the archæologist's point of view. The walls of Berkhampstead Castle and the remains of the Royal Palace and Dominican Friary at King's Langley require attention. A not uncommon cause of damage to secular buildings, more especially the smaller houses of c. 1600, is the constant demand for old panelling, staircases and mantelpieces, despite the fact that these fittings lose much of their charm and value when transferred to buildings of later or modern date.
The remains of the walls of the Romano-British town of Verulam, near St. Albans, are fairly well protected, but the trees and vegetation growing over and near them require watching, as they may endanger the masonry. Many of the earthworks have been much damaged in the past, but there is little destruction threatened at the present time except at Ravensburgh Castle, where young trees and undergrowth have recently been planted, which in time will do considerable harm and largely destroy the archæological interest of this very fine fortress.
British and Roman Roads.
Icknield Way: An old road or route can be traced across Hertfordshire, along the scarp of the downs in the north of the county. Its antiquity is shown by the fact that parish and county boundaries follow its course for 18 miles out of 22⅓ miles, the total length of its route in the county, and that it has been known since the 12th century as Icknield Street. The course of the route, as generally understood, is that given on the Ordnance Survey Map. It enters the county near Mortgrove in Hexton parish, and forms the parish boundary between Hexton and Lilly. It then becomes the county boundary on the north of Offley parish and the parish boundary between Offley and Pirton to Punches Cross. Thence it runs a little to the north of the River Oughton to Ickleford village. Passing to the south of Willbury Hill it follows the line of the parish boundary between Holwell (detached) and Norton on the north, and Walsworth, Letchworth and Willian on the south, almost to Baldock. It skirts the north of Baldock town and forms the boundary between the parishes of Bygrave and Ashwell on the north and Clothall, Wallington and Sandon on the south. Thence it becomes the county boundary to the north of Kelshall and Therfield (except for half a mile on the north-west of Kelshall, where the county boundary lies just north of the road) till it reaches Royston parish. It passes through Royston town, and on leaving the parish it again forms the county boundary to the north of Barkway and Barley parishes, and so passes out of the county.
Watling Street: This road leaves London by the Edgware Road, enters the county at Elstree, and passes through Radlett to St. Stephen's village. There the present road branches off to the north-east to St. Albans, while the Roman road has been traced continuing across the fields to Verulam, which it entered at the East Gate and passed out at the West Gate. For a short distance it follows the Gorhambury Drive, and its course can be traced across the fields to Bow Bridge on the main road from St. Albans to Dunstable, which it then joins and passes out of the county at Markyate.
Akeman Street: A small part of this road from Aylesbury through Tring and Berkhampstead to Boxmoor can be traced. The modern road southward from Boxmoor is too erratic in its direction to suggest Roman construction.
Ermine Street: The Roman road from London to Lincoln enters the county at a hamlet called Bull Cross in the parish of Cheshunt, a little east of the Great North Road, and follows the existing road to Flamstead End. Here it disappears for a couple of miles and is found again at Cold Hall in Broxbourne parish, and can be traced through the woods to a point near the parish boundary between Broxbourne and Hoddesdon. Thence it follows the existing road by Elbow Lane and Hertford Heath to Little Amwell, then by a cart road to Rush Green Farm and a hedge to a lock on the River Lea, which it crosses, taking a more easterly direction to Bury Field and joining the North Road at Ware Vicarage. It follows the North Road to Braughing, where the Roman road from Colchester probably crossed it, and so on northward by Buntingford to Royston, where it leaves the county.
Stane Street: This road from Colchester is so called in its eastern parts. It enters the county at Bishop's Stortford and can be traced by pieces of roads, footpaths and parish boundaries through Little Hadham to Braughing, where it crosses Ermine Street and passes by Hare Street in Cottered Parish, through Clothall to Baldock, and then along the high road to Biggleswade in Bedfordshire.
There may have been a road connecting Verulam with Colchester. In general its course has been lost, but portions of a road from Sandridge through Coleman Green to Ayot and Welwyn may give some indication of it. This road might be expected to join the Stane Street at Braughing. Another road branched from Watling Street westward.
Among the books and calendars of documents consulted in compiling the Inventory, the following were found most useful:—Cussans' History of Hertfordshire (1870–1881); the Victoria County History of Hertfordshire (1902–1907); the Transactions of the East Hertfordshire Archæological Society and of the St. Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archæological Society (1884–1908); Sir John Evans' Archæological Survey of Hertfordshire (1892); The Sessions Rolls of Hertfordshire (1581–1698, pub. 1905); and the Chronicles of the Monastery of St. Albans (from the 8th to the 15th century; Rolls Series, pub. 1863–1873). Some use has also been made of Haines' Handbook of Monumental Brasses (1861); Andrews' Monumental Brasses in Hertfordshire (1903); North and Stahlschmidt's Church Bells of Hertfordshire (1886); and Keyser's Buildings with Mural Decorations in Great Britain (1883). The older county histories and numerous smaller local publications have also been examined.