A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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BOROUGH OF HERTFORD (fn. 1)
Heortforde, Heorotforda (x cent.); Hertforde (xi cent.); Hurtford (xiii cent.).
The borough of Hertford is situated 2 miles west of the main Cambridge road. From it a road runs north-eastwards to Ware and north-westwards to Watton at Stone. To the west of the town a branch from this road leads to Welwyn and another runs south-westwards to Hatfield, where it joins the Great North Road. The road between Watton and Hertford would seem to be an ancient road from the fact that it forms for a little way the parish boundary. The ford by which the road crossed the Lea was evidently the ford from which Hertford took its name and was presumably a little to the south of the present bridge, the situation of which now causes a deflection in the road.
Hertford is divided by the River Lea into two distinct portions; the principal thoroughfares follow the shape of a large Y, with Fore Street for its main limb running east and west. A small triangle of streets forms its western termination and connects it on the south with Castle Street and on the north with a street known as the 'Wash,' which leading northwards over the river by Mill Bridge takes a westward inclination and joins St. Andrew's Street at Old Cross. Along Fore Street and between it and the Lea the greater part of the town is grouped, the northern portion consisting mainly of the houses which compose St. Andrew's Street, on the south side of which stands the rebuilt church from which it takes its name. All Saints' Church, which is also entirely modern, stands in a large churchyard a little to the south of Fore Street. The castle is situated on the south bank of the River Lea, to the south-west of the town, and gives its name to Castle Street, which skirts the original line of the moat on the south side.
To the north-west of the parish church of All Saints is the old rectory, a plastered half-timber building of the early 17th century. On the front door is the date 1631. The plan is of the H type, but modern alterations have obscured the original arrangement. At the north-east of the churchyard is Hale's Grammar School, a one-storied brick building with an attic floor and tiled roofs, lighted by modern brick-mullioned windows. Worked in nails upon the door is the date 1667; the door itself, however, appears from its style to be contemporary with the school building, which was erected about the year 1617 by Richard Hale of London. (fn. 2) The school was amalgamated with Ware Grammar School in 1905, and an increase in the endowment having been made by Earl Cowper a new building was added at the rear to extend the accommodation in 1907. Bayley Hall, situated to the west of the rectory, is now used as the residence of the head master of the grammar school. It is a fine Queen Anne house of three stories and a basement, square on plan, with a large central staircase hall. Much good panelling remains internally; the panelled dado to the stairs is of mahogany with occasional inlaid ornament. The elevations are designed in the dignified manner of the period, with moulded brick string-courses and gauged brick pilasters. A modern addition has been made on the east. To the north-west of the house is a stable building of the same date, the basement of which has a brick vault, supported by a small circular column of the same material.
The Shire Hall, where the assizes and quarter sessions are now held, stands on the north side of Fore Street in the centre of the market-place. By the charter of James I the corporation received the grant of 'a house on the royal waste called the Town Hall,' with a reservation of the right to hold sessions of the peace there. (fn. 3) The erection of a new Shire Hall was proposed in 1767, (fn. 4) and the present building was completed in 1769. (fn. 5) It is a symmetrically planned building of stock brick, from the designs of the brothers Adam. (fn. 6) Among the paintings in the Council Chamber are portraits of King William III, George II, Queen Caroline and other members of the royal family, presented by the third Earl Cowper in 1768. The corn exchange and public hall were built on the site of the old Butchers Market in 1857. (fn. 7) To the west of the Shire Hall, upon the same side of Fore Street, is an interesting pargeted house of the latter half of the 17th century. It is flush-fronted and of three stories with an attic and tiled roofs. The walls are decorated with well-modelled plaster panels, arranged in three bands, and each having a scroll ornament of acanthus foliage. The window openings have for the most part been enlarged in the 18th century, and the ornament has been much disturbed by subsequent alterations. The ground floor has been given over to shop windows. At the north-east corner of the market-place is the 'White Hart,' an early 17th-century building with 18th-century additions. Of a similar date is the house on the north side now occupied by the Hertfordshire County Council Education Office. On the west side are two good early 18th-century houses with an enriched modillion cornice of wood. The 'Salisbury Arms,' on the south side of Fore Street opposite the Shire Hall, dates from the early 17th century. The buildings are of brick and timber and surround a central courtyard. The front has been rebuilt, but the elevation towards Church Street remains nearly in its original condition. The main staircase, in its lower part, is original. The raking balusters are square moulded and the square newels have pierced finials. On the east side of the Shire Hall, at the corner of the market-place and Fore Street, is a three-storied building of the same date, the upper stories of which are supported at either end by lonic columns. The whole of the intervening part of the ground stage is occupied by modern shop windows. No. 56, on the south side of Fore Street, a little distance to the eastward, is a gabled halftimber building of the late 16th century. Some original panelling remains internally.
The buildings of the girls' school of Christ's Hospital stand at the west end of Fore Street, which forms the southern boundary of its site. Of the original buildings which were completed in 1689 for use as a preparatory school for boys as well as for girls, only the schoolroom and steward's house adjoining, together with the entrance gateways and portions of the boundary walls, now remain. The buildings as then laid out inclosed a long tree-planted rectangular courtyard with the schoolroom at the north end, the entrance gateway on the south, placed axially with the schoolroom, and a block of ten cottages on either side converted in 1760 into ten wards. The original girls' school block, which faces Fore Street on the west side of the entrance gates, and the head master's house at the south-east of the courtyard were erected after 1766; they are not shown on the plan of Hertford by J. Andrews and M. Wren, published in that year. In 1800 the dining hall adjoining the schoolroom on the west was built. The site was extended westwards to South Street by the purchase in 1897 of the adjoining brewery buildings, together with the site of Brewhouse Lane which divided the two premises, (fn. 8) the Blue Boy Inn being, however, left standing at the south-west. On the removal of the boys to Horsham in 1902 and the reservation of the school for the girls only, the old wards were demolished and new buildings planned on modern principles were erected in their place. The schoolroom is a plain building with a pedimented centre slightly broken forward, lighted by large square-headed windows and crowned by a tiled hipped roof. The south front has been re-faced with red brick to correspond with the new buildings. The interior is quite plain, with a coved plaster ceiling and a later bay on the north side divided by columns from the main room. Over the entrance doorway is a niche containing the oaken figure of a 'blue boy' brought hither from the former school at Ware. The steward's house at the north-east corner of the courtyard indicates the character of the elevations of the wards which have been pulled down. The dining hall to the west of the schoolroom, erected in 1800, is a plain building of stock brick, lighted by large semicircular-headed windows. Like the schoolroom its south front has been re-faced with red brick. Some shields and panelling from the demolished hall of Christ's Hospital in Newgate Street, London, are preserved here. The entrance gateway, with its stone piers, surmounted by leaden figures of 'blue boys,' is of the original date. These figures are known to have been placed in their present position in 1689. (fn. 9) The original girls' school block is a long two-storied building of brick, with a large schoolroom in the centre extending the whole height and surmounted by a pediment. It is lighted on the south front by a large 'Venetian' window, flanked externally by semicircular-headed niches, each containing an excellently modelled figure of a blue-coat girl. Among the many interesting relics preserved in the buildings is the monument to Thomas Lockington, Treasurer of Christ's Hospital from 1707–16, which was brought here from the church of St. Mary Magdalene, Great Fish Street, destroyed by fire in 1888. In the modern chapel is a fine brass almsbox inscribed 'The Gift of a Governour Sept. 21st 1787.'
In Maidenhead Street, which runs parallel with Fore Street on the north side of it, are some good early 17th-century houses. At the corner of Honey Lane, (fn. 10) which connects Maidenhead Street with the market-place, is the Old Coffee House Inn, a Jacobean building of two stories with an attic. The roof has projecting eaves finished with a plain plaster cove, and between the windows of the upper story are elaborate baluster pilasters. The window openings have all been altered. Next door, in Honey Lane, is the 'Highland Chief,' a much modernized house of the same date. Bull Plain is a short wide street leading northwards from Maidenhead Street to Folly Bridge, containing some 17th and 18th-century work. No. 16 is a brick two-storied house of the latter date, with a wood modillion cornice and moulded brick string-course. Some panelling remains inside. Fronting southwards upon Bull Plain, the back bordering upon the branch of the River Lea which is crossed here by Folly Bridge, is Lombard House, (fn. 11) a plastered building of timber and brick two stories in height, dating from about the year 1600. The front appears to have been rebuilt of brick in the early 18th century, but the back with its five gables, overhanging upper story and wood-mullioned windows remains in its original condition. In the entrance hall is a carved oak chimney-piece surmounted by the arms and crests of Tooke and Tichborne. (fn. 12) In Bull Plain, nearly opposite Lombard House, is a plastered brick mid-17th-century house, now three cottages, with a recessed gabled centre and two projecting wings crowned by bold modillion cornices.
'The Walnuts,' on the south side of Castle Street, is a two-storied 17th-century house, the walls pargeted in plain panels. In Peg's Lane, so named from a W. Pegg who first built there, is a row of framed and weather-boarded cottages of the 18th century. The house attached to the brewery in West Street, as the continuation of Castle Street is called, bears the date on a brick panel 1719, above which are the initials C.I.C. On the south side of West Street is Bridgeman House, a brick building of the first half of the 17th century, two stories in height, with a tiled hipped roof and a large square panelled central stack. The elaborately framed and panelled front door is of original date. The house is now converted into cottages. A door belonging to the premises at the rear of the yard next to no. 17 on the north side of Castle Street bears the date 1654. In Parliament Row, said to be so named from having been occupied by the members of the Court at the time of the Plague, are three plastered half-timbered cottages of the early 17th century. The ' Waggon and Horses' on the east side of Old Cross is a plastered two-storied building, probably of the early 17th century. No. 6 St. Andrews Street is a late 16th-century building of brick and timber rebuilt in the early 18th century. A chimney stack surmounted by two octagonal chimney shafts of brick, one of which is elaborately panelled, is the only detail remaining of the earlier date. At the north-east of St. Andrew's churchyard is a good early 17th-century cottage of brick and halftimber with an oversailing upper story. Opposite the church is a mid-18th-century house with a door-case in the Gothic taste of the Batty Langley school. On the same side of the road a little distance to the east of the church is a very fine brick house of the first quarter of the 18th century, three stories in height, now occupied by the Hertfordshire Imperial Yeomanry. Between the second and third stories is an entablature of gauged and moulded brickwork supported at either end of the elevation by Ionic pilasters. The central doorway and the window of the first floor immediately over are accentuated by entablatures and curved pediments supported by small pilasters of the same order. On the south side of the road, a little further eastward, is a plainer house of the same type and date.
The Roman Catholic church, built in 1860, (fn. 13) stands in St. John's Street near the Lea. The Congregational chapel in Cowbridge represents a congregation dating from 1673, (fn. 14) but the present building (succeeding one on the same site) dates only from 1862. (fn. 15) The Baptist chapel, at the junction of the North and Hertingfordbury roads, was built in 1842, and the Wesleyan Methodist chapel in the Ware Road in 1865. (fn. 16) Quakers are found in Hertford from an early date, (fn. 17) and though much diminished in numbers have a meeting-house in Railway Street at the present day.
The old county gaol, now superseded by the prison at St. Albans, stood on the south side of the Ware road. At the end of the 12th century there was a gaol at Hertford, entries for the repair of which appear on the Pipe Rolls, (fn. 18) but in 1225 a mandate was issued to the sheriff to build a new gaol there. (fn. 19) This, however, also seems to have fallen into disuse, for in 1290 the inhabitants of Hertfordshire petitioned for a prison in Hertford, (fn. 20) and licence was granted to them to build one there at their own cost on the site of the old one. (fn. 21) The castle had evidently been used as a prison, for William de Valence, the governor, opposed the building of the new gaol. (fn. 22) The prison stood on the north side of Fore Street on the site of the present corn exchange. (fn. 23) At the beginning of the 18th century many complaints were made of its insanitary state and of the prevalence of gaol fever there. (fn. 24) After the Act of 1700 (fn. 25) a proposal was made for the erection of a new building, (fn. 26) but the old one was patched up for the time being, (fn. 27) and it was not until more than fifty years later that the work was actually begun. (fn. 28) The borough prison, which had up to that time occupied a building in Back Street, was then amalgamated with it. (fn. 29)
It is impossible to suggest when the site of the town of Hertford was first settled. In 673 an important council was held at 'Heorutford' or 'Herutford,' which has generally been identified with Hertford. The council was held by Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Bisi, Bishop of the East Angles; there were also present St. Wilfrid of York and other great churchmen. It was the first synod of the united English Church, and dealt with various important matters, such as the date of Easter, the status of the bishops, marriage and divorce, and other points of great moment at the time. (fn. 30) Hertford, however, first undoubtedly appears in history in the 10th century, (fn. 31) for some years being brought into a position of prominence as the administrative centre of the district. About 913 (fn. 32) Edward the Elder, during his campaign against the Danes, established a 'burh' between the Rivers Maran, Beane and Lea. This site formed an important defensible position on the north side of the Lea, with a river protection on three sides. (fn. 33) On the completion of the work the king left Hertford for Maldon in Essex in order to superintend the building of the 'burh' at Witham. In the following year, however, some of his force returned to Hertford and 'wrought the burh' on the south side of the Lea, (fn. 34) with the object presumably of guarding both sides of the ford. We thus have at Hertford one of those double towns built upon the opposite banks of a river, such as arose at this time at Bedford, Stamford, Buckingham, York and elsewhere. What these 'burhs' were we do not exactly know. (fn. 35) At first they may have been purely military stations. They were evidently erected for the purpose of subduing the surrounding country, for it is stated in connexion with the building of Witham and Hertford that ' a good deal of the folk submitted to him [Edward] who were before under the power of Danish men.' From a military post it is only a step for Hertford to have become an administrative centre, to which the county, formed probably in the time of Edgar (957–75), was assigned and from which it took its name. (fn. 36) It was probably under the legislation of Edward the Elder limiting trade to boroughs that Hertford became a double market town and a mint town, at which coins were struck from the time of Edward II (975–8) to that of Edward the Confessor (1042–66). It was apparently governed as a royal town by one or more king's reeves, (fn. 37) to one of whom, who had a house in the town, there is a reference in the Domesday Survey. (fn. 38) By 1086 there was only one borough and one township, but for some time a survival remained of the two settlements in the two market-places, the one on the north side of the Lea at the Old Cross, (fn. 39) and that on the south at the market-place round the town hall. The prosperity of the town did not long survive the Conquest. It was off the main line of traffic, which at an early date passed from the Roman Ermine Street to the present north road nearer the Lea, and, although it retained its importance as the administrative centre of the county, its trade diminished.
The ancient borough, according to the earliest description we have of it, comprised an area in which were about 166 houses belonging to burgesses and about thirty houses held by large neighbouring landowners. (fn. 40) The earliest surviving delimitation of the boundary belongs to 1621, when it was set out as follows:—
From a post at the west end of the town in the road to Hertingfordbury at the end of Castlemead to the corner of Sealefield; then it meets the highway from Hertford to Watton, thence to a post near Papermillgate, and to the north side of the river at the east end of Papermill meade; thence down the river to Cowbridge; along the north side to the Lea at the east end of Hartham; thence along Priory or Hoppitts mead, along the mill stream to Butchery green, thence to Back Street . . . thence to a pile of stones near St. John's churchyard gate, and thence to the high road from Hertford to Ware; thence to Stonehall Close; then it turns back to the east stile of All Saints excluding the churchyard, thence to the 'Bell'; then it bounds on the tenements of the manor of Baylyhall, meets the highway of Castle Street, thence to a post in the street, and to the outermost ditch of the now decayed castle; along the outside of the ditch to the millstream of Hertford, along Castle Mead and so to the post. (fn. 41)
The borough thus comprised the whole of the civil parish of All Saints (fn. 42) and parts of the parishes of St. John and St. Andrew. (fn. 43) This was the area of the borough proper or of burgage tenure, but Hertford as a vill included a large area of surrounding territory. In 1428 the parishes which paid subsidy in the borough were the ' parish of the monks' (St. John), St. Andrew, St. Mary, St. Nicholas, and All Saints with Brickendon Holy Cross. (fn. 44) For lay taxation, however, Brickendon and Blakemere (afterwards Panshanger) were assessed separately from the borough. (fn. 45) The estate of Waltham Abbey, the 'Liberty of Brickendon,' (fn. 46) had belonged to the abbey with high immunities since the 11th century, but the abbey seems to have encroached on the bounds of the borough. It acquired much property in West Street, (fn. 47) and apparently drew this district into the Liberty. In 1274 the burgesses claimed that the 'hamlet of West Street had been withdrawn from the borough by the abbot.' (fn. 48)
The Abbot of Waltham was responsible also for the blurring of parochial boundaries. In the 12th and 13th centuries he acquired an estate at Rushen (in the parish of Amwell), (fn. 49) which became known as Little Amwell. As it entered the abbot's liberty it lost its connexion with Amwell parish, and from the 16th century was regarded as part of All Saints' parish.
The Prior of Hertford tried to set up an immunity like that of Waltham. In 1273–4 the burgesses complained that the Prior of Hertford had withdrawn certain men who used to follow the court of the king at Hertford and be there for view of frankpledge. (fn. 50) In the 15th century the priory and its lands called Limesy Fee were considered to be outside the borough (see below under Manors).
The boundary of 1621 includes a small area, and the burgesses aimed at expansion. In 1678 'in Bayliehall Street, Castle Street, West Street, and the street from Cowbridge to Porthill the inhabitants [had] a great trade and [paid] no scot or lot to the borough, whereby trade was removed into those streets and the freemen impoverished.' (fn. 51) The parishioners of St. John, on the contrary, complained that so many poor had settled in the borough part of the parish that overmuch poor rate fell upon the 'uplanders,' who lived in the parish outside the town. (fn. 52) The bounds were much enlarged by the charter of 1680. (fn. 53) 'They run from the furthest edge of Kingsmead to the Ware high road, then including the highway to a common place called London Crosse Hill; thence to Falling Cross Gate, then including the church and cemetery of All Saints to the west side of West Street; then to the Lea and to a post in the highway to Hertingfordbury; thence to the foot of Porthill; thence including the stream to the extreme edge of Kingsmead.' (fn. 54)
Thus West Street and the castle and All Saints' Church were brought within the borough. In 1610 the south side of Castle Street was scarcely built up; houses extended to Cowbridge and to St. Andrew's. Fore Street, the present Maidenhead Street, and the blocks where the Shire Hall and the old market stood, were all built up. (fn. 55) By 1766 there was little change except that the row of houses along the outer castle ditch was beginning to rise. (fn. 56)
In 1832 the bounds of the parliamentary borough (which had been coincident with the ancient borough) were extended to include the larger area known as the out-borough, the extension comprising parts of the parishes of St. John and St. Andrew and of the liberties of Brickendon and Little Amwell, (fn. 57) and these boundaries were adopted as the municipal boundary under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. (fn. 58) In 1888 the borough was divided for the first time into a St. Andrew's Ward and an All Saints' Ward for the election of county councillors. (fn. 59) Four years later the boundary was enlarged to include parts of the parishes of St. Andrew, Brickendon and Bengeo, so that the wards for the election of town councillors became the Town Ward and Bengeo Ward. (fn. 60) In 1894 the borough portion of Bengeo was split off from the rest of the parish, under the name of Bengeo Urban. St. John's parish and St. Andrew's were similarly treated. In 1900 the whole urban part of the borough was made one civil parish; its area is 1,098 acres of land and 36 of water. (fn. 61)
Under Edward the Confessor there were 146 burgesses in Hertford who belonged to the soke of the king. Eighteen other burgesses were the men of Earl Harold and Earl Lewin. (fn. 62) The term 'soke' implies that the king held a court for the burgesses, but it is uncertain if the earls had the like jurisdiction over their tenants. It does not appear how the earls obtained their burgages or whether the holders of such burgages could 'go whither they would.' (fn. 63) In 1086 the burgesses of the earls passed to William the Conqueror. (fn. 64) These, it is mentioned, all rendered dues. Besides the burgesses proper there were a number of houses in the borough held by nonresidents, the landowners of the neighbourhood. The dues on these houses were clearly not equally heavy all over the town. Some of the houses 'rendered dues and do so still' in 1086, one rendered no dues, and twenty-one paid none except geld. The dues probably included multure, which appears in a charter of William I, a payment for the burgess's house in the nature of gafol, and possibly something for pasture rights. (fn. 65) There may have been other dues, of which all trace is lost. The profits arising from the town probably included also the tolls of Ware, St. Albans, Barnet, Thele and Hatfield. (fn. 66) In any case the 'dues' do not seem to have been a fixed or essential part of burgage tenure. The burgess of 1086 was probably, as afterwards, the man who held a house within the borough with the land and pasture belonging, and resided there.
No attempt seems to have been made by the burgesses to obtain a permanent grant of the borough at fee farm. They seem to have farmed it in 1225 and 1226. (fn. 67) After this time the farm was either paid in by the sheriff (fn. 68) or by the warden of the town and castle. (fn. 69)
The aids formed a periodical burden on the borough. The full assessment in the 12th century seems to have been £10, of which a part, generally a half, was frequently remitted. (fn. 70) In the aid for marrying Maud eldest daughter of Henry II to the Duke of Saxony in 1168 eleven burgesses accounted for £18 10s. (fn. 71) Wiger and Henry the Reeve head the list, accounting for 100s. and 8 marks respectively; each of the burgesses accounting is apparently responsible for a definite amount. Possibly the eleven were the principal burgesses who collected the tax from the body of burgesses. After this date for a time (fn. 72) the aids and tallages were collected and paid by the sheriff. (fn. 73) In 1218 it is the burgesses who under the name of the 'men of Hertford' paid and apparently collected the tallage. (fn. 74) The same entry is repeated some years later. (fn. 75) A tallage was taken in 1227, which was possibly collected by the burgesses themselves, (fn. 76) but after this date the tallages cannot be traced.
The early constitution of the borough is obscure. It has been already suggested that before the Conquest the town was governed by the king's reeves; these officers continued till towards the close of the 12th century and possibly later. The exact date when the reeve gave place to the bailiff, which probably marks an increase of burghal rights, is not known. In 1296 the 'community of the vill,' to use the favourite 13th-century phrase, was paying 40s. 'yearly to have the election of the bailiff and other customs.' (fn. 77) This custom was known as 'Felst,' which may be connected with the Anglo-Saxon Felsan, to recompense; if this is so, the payment may imply the purchase of some rights of self-administration in the 12th century. The name may be older than the right to elect the bailiff; other privileges may have been bought in the 12th century, which were forgotten in the 13th. (fn. 78) The most likely time for the purchase of such a right as the election of the bailiff would be the prosperous years of the early part of the 13th century, c. 1226, when it was the bailiffs and not the reeve who held the farm of the borough and seem to have acted as the elected representatives of the burgesses. (fn. 79) In 1296 the election was claimed as a custom, (fn. 80) which is thus described in 1331: 'the bailiff . . . ought to be elected by the community of the vill, and they make the election each year in the next court after Michaelmas, both of the bailiff and of all other officials,' (fn. 81) e.g. sub-bailiff and ale-tasters. But the chief bailiff still received a yearly sum for a robe from the king. (fn. 82) The plural address of the writ of 1226 implies two bailiffs, (fn. 83) but one bailiff was usual throughout the 13th and 14th centuries; the sub-bailiff occurs for the first time in 1331. (fn. 84)
Other royal officials appeared in the 14th century. In 1359 the king appointed William de Louth his steward in the court of the vill of Hertford and in the manor, (fn. 85) and William accounted for the farm of the borough in the next year. (fn. 86) John of Gaunt kept a bailiff only, (fn. 87) and the steward disappears—for a time at least. (fn. 88) Although the constables, ale-tasters and minor officers do not appear in records, they must have been chosen at the borough court. (fn. 89)
Of the burgesses themselves we know little until the 13th century. We then find record of the payment of the house gafol, called Hagavel and fixed at 14s. (fn. 90) This commutation (doubtless bought) must have involved a re-partition by the burgesses among themselves. The 40s. of 'Felst' was possibly assessed among the burgesses in a similar way. (fn. 91) Multure and market dues, and perhaps other works, (fn. 92) must also have been due. Corresponding privileges would be trade rights, freedom from tolls, pasture and fishing. The right of burgesshood evidently lay with the burgage tenants, the holders of the ancient messuages, who resided in the borough. On such the exercising of their rights and duties was obligatory, for the earliest Court Roll (1362) states that 'six men should be burgesses and are not.' (fn. 93) The qualification hinted at is presumably the ownership of a burgage, the confirmation the taking of the burgess's oath. The burgess paid no fine on entry, but the tenant who held a messuage in the borough and did not reside within it paid a fine of 4d. (fn. 94) Thus we read 'Andrew Body, citizen of London, comes and shews a charter for tenements in the borough of Hertford in the parish of St. Mary the Less. Because he is a foreigner (extrinsecus) and not a burgess he gives 4d. fine and does fealty.' (fn. 95) It was possible, however, for new burgesses to be elected. These were apparently the residents in the out-parishes of the borough—the 'foreigners.' Such were constituted burgesses 'to guard and maintain all the liberties and customs of the vill,' and they gave 3s. 4d. each for the liberty. (fn. 96)
In the 15th century, for the first time, there is plenty of evidence as to the constitution of the borough. Power was falling into the hands of a group. The burgesses shared in the market and pasture rights, but took less and less part in the town government. In 1461 the whole community of the vill, with the assent of the chief pledges, elected the officials, (fn. 97) and so again in 1465. (fn. 98) In 1472 'all the chief pledges' made the election, a practice which recurred in 1475 and 1481. (fn. 99) The chief pledges always elected the new burgesses and even chose the new chief pledges. (fn. 100) The extension of burgess privilege mentioned above could not be allowed in the election of burgesses. To allow non-burgesses to elect would have been absurd. Hence in this the chief pledges act as the old 'community' and represent the burgess core of the court. The officials included the bailiff and sub-bailiff; two constables, two weighers of bread, two ale-tasters, two supervisors of meat, two of fish, and two of hides were usually chosen in the same manner and time. (fn. 101) The bailiff presumably was responsible to the steward and receiver of the duchy. (fn. 102)
The 15th century gives the first clear view of the borough court. Its work was of four kinds. Lands were seized and distraints levied to show entry; charters of conveyance were inspected, fealty taken, and a fine, if the purchaser was not a burgess. Conveyances of land in the borough out of court were treated as invalid. In other words, the court guarded and registered the transfer of borough land, which passed freely among burgesses only. This close treatment is probably very ancient, and necessary because of the position of property as a burgess qualification. Besides this the chief pledges presented offences against the assizes, assaults, neglect of frankpledge, defects of the watches, or disobedience to the borough officers. The court seems to have overstrained its jurisdiction in the 13th century, for in 1278 the suitors were presented for an illegal process against a thief. (fn. 103) Further, there were the elections of the officials and the burgesses. Finally, a few pleas of debt and trespass came into court—so few that the sessions must have been far less important as a tribunal than as a local government council.
Such was the constitution until the grant of a charter by Mary in February 1554. (fn. 104) The borough was incorporated under the style of a bailiff and fifteen burgesses with power to have a common seal and to act in courts of law. The bailiff was to be elected by the burgesses from their number on the Thursday after Michaelmas in each year, and was to take the oath. The bailiff and burgesses were to appoint constables and all other officials, and were also to choose new burgesses, as need might arise, from the 'tenants and inhabitants' of the borough. (fn. 105) Thus the charter placed the bailiff to some extent under the control of the new body of burgesses. Possibly the chief pledges may have developed some consultative functions before this time, for the new burgesses represent the pledges more than anything else. The 'whole community' were the chief losers in giving up the election of the bailiff to the fifteen burgesses.
The charter granted by Elizabeth in 1589 set the borough government on the lines along which it developed. The executive was in the hands of eleven chief burgesses, forming the common council, and a bailiff. (fn. 106) The former were co-opted from the assistants, the latter was elected from the common council by the assistants and chief burgesses annually upon St. Matthew's Day. The bailiff-elect took the corporal oath and entered on office at the following Michaelmas. The chief burgesses lost their office if they lived away from the borough for six months. The assistants were a body of sixteen, chosen from the inhabitants by the bailiff and chief burgesses; their only work was to vote at the bailiff's election. The powers of the bailiff and chief burgesses were legislative and executive. They had power to make ordinances at a court held in the town hall as often as they deemed convenient; and their ordinances might be enforced by fine and imprisonment. The bailiff and burgesses had power to deal with these fines and with those proceeding from the market. They appointed the constables and minor officers. They also chose the chief steward of the court; the steward of the borough was still apparently appointed by the Crown.
These stewards were both associated with the bailiff and one of the chief burgesses in the holding of the borough court of record every Monday. Its competence extended over personal actions within the borough where the sum sought was under £50. The bailiff alone had certain executive powers; he was clerk of the market virtute officii and he appointed the serjeant-at-mace.
This charter governed the borough for sixteen years. In 1605 James I reincorporated the town under the new style of the mayor, burgesses and commonalty. (fn. 107) The mayor was merely the bailiff of 1589. He was elected by the chief burgesses and assistants from the common council (or chief burgesses). The latter body was to consist of ten of the best men inhabiting within the borough (including the mayor). Each chief burgess was elected for life by the rest of the council and the mayor, who was given a certain control in the power of removing chief burgesses. The sixteen assistants were to be elected by the mayor and chief burgesses from the commonalty. The common council could also remove them. The powers of the assistants in the mayoral election were defined. On St. Matthew's Day the mayor and chief burgesses presented two candidates from their number, of whom the assistants chose one, who took the usual oath and came into office at Michaelmas following. The legislative powers of the old common council passed to the mayor and chief burgesses. Their executive powers were extended. They were to choose the chief steward of the borough, after the death of the Earl of Salisbury, who was appointed to the office by the king. They also chose the steward of the court (a lawyer), the town clerk, and the serjeants-at-mace; the admission of burgesses was placed in their hands. Judicial powers were divided between the mayor and steward. The court of record, to be held by the mayor and steward of the court, was transferred to Tuesday, and the limit of damages brought down to £40. The mayor and steward and one burgess were to be justices of the peace for the borough, but their jurisdiction seems not to have excluded that of the county magistrates.
The defect of this charter is the excess of trust left in the mayor and chief burgesses, who were irresponsible in their town government. The evil effects were quickly felt in the administration of the common pasture, if nowhere else. (fn. 108) Moreover, the corporation fell into lazy ways. In 1635 penalties were ordained for those who did not come, or did not come properly dressed, to official meetings, (fn. 109) and for those who gave the mayor or officers 'opprobrious words' or disclosed counsel. (fn. 110) At the same time it was ordered that four chief burgesses should attend the weekly court of record. The council met at 'monthly courts,' to which the chief burgesses and officials were to be summoned. The ancient array of flesh and fish tasters, ale-tasters and bread-weighers was still kept up, with four constables, four viewers of the streets and two of the commons. (fn. 111) The regulations made for the cleanliness of the streets prove that the corporation did something at least in the public interest.
Town government was complicated by the uncertainty of the bounds within which the charter applied (fn. 112); and this was the chief argument of the movers for the new charter obtained in 1680. (fn. 113) The style of the incorporation was then altered to the 'mayor, aldermen and commonalty.' The mayor was chosen from the common council by the same form of double election as before and on the same tenure. The ten aldermen were elected from the assistants by the common council (including the mayor). The sixteen assistants were chosen by the mayor and aldermen from the commonalty. Their powers were extended, in so far as they were to help in all the business of the borough, and limited in the election of the mayor, for the mayor, aldermen, recorder and chamberlain joined with them in the final vote. The recorder, indeed, assisted the mayor and aldermen in most of their functions. He took the place of the old steward of the court, and was elected by the common council. He assisted in the making of by-laws and in the choice of the two serjeants-at-mace. He paired with the mayor in his judicial work in the borough court, which was to be held on Wednesdays. The limit of damages was raised to £60. The mayor, recorder and one freeman, chosen by the mayor and aldermen, were to be the borough justices, and the mayor, in virtue of the older charter, remained clerk of market. The charter created an official, the chamberlain, who had long been wanting. He was elected by the mayor and aldermen, to hold office during their pleasure, giving account when they required. He collected the fines and amercements, made payments and managed the borough finance. The chief steward, the Earl of Salisbury, was to hold his place for life, after which it was to be filled by election, as in the charter of 1605.
This was the form of the constitution until 1835. The charter repeated the mistake of 1605. The mayor and aldermen had a monopoly of power without responsibility. The assistants, who shared in the making of by-laws, (fn. 114) were chosen, and perhaps removable, by the mayor. The usual life tenure of office increased the irresponsibility of the corporation.
The ordinances preserved resemble for the most part those of 1635, with an increasing tendency to the prescription of banquets. (fn. 115) Possibly the corporation was careless, if not corrupt, if the treatment of the pastures from 1645 to 1709 is a fair instance. In 1834 the mayor and council were unpopular rather for their politics than for any malpractice. (fn. 116)
During the 18th century practices untouched by charter hardened into customs. Thus in 1834 'the junior alderman who had not passed the chair' was usually elected mayor. (fn. 117) Otherwise no changes had taken place among the borough authorities. Even the two serjeants-at-mace still stood at the head of the police force; but there were seven constables chosen by the parishes, and watchmen and patrol under the Paving Act of 1787. (fn. 118)
The salient feature of the report of 1834 is the decay of the borough courts. The Wednesday court of record had fallen into disuse by 1782. In 1827 the inhabitants petitioned for its revival, and it was duly held in 1828. As, however, there were then only twenty-three summonses, and from 1830 to 1833 an average of three a year, (fn. 119) the court was not worth holding. The quarter sessions likewise did a very inconsiderable business. The petty sessions on Wednesdays was apparently the court of most resort.
Under the Municipal Corporations Act (1835) Hertford lost its archaisms. The ratepayer burgesses elected twelve councillors, who chose four aldermen, aldermen and councillors composing the council. (fn. 120) This body elected the mayor.
When the borough boundary was extended in 1892, and two wards formed, twelve councillors were given to the town ward and three to Bengeo, and one alderman was added to the council. (fn. 121)
The borough court of record has not survived. The quarter sessions of the borough justices were continued under the Act of 1835, (fn. 122) and are still held. The petty sessions are now held for the county every fortnight on Saturdays, and by the borough magistrates every Thursday.
The tenurial qualification for burgesshood had weakened by 1605, when burgesses to the number of three were admitted from the out-portions of St. John's and St. Andrew's by the charter. Nevertheless, it left definite traces. An out-burgess might join in municipal elections and the giving of counsel, but he could not be mayor. Deeper traces remained in the pasture rights. In 1621 the rights of pasture were said to belong to the 'ancient messuages,' thus following the burgage tenements. Later the right was claimed for all cottages above thirty years old; but in 1719 the commoners were still regarded as the 'owners of burgage tenements,' and in 1737 are described as the inhabitant householders of the ancient borough.
With regard to the freedom of the borough, as far as we can judge, the 16th-century qualification was seven years' apprenticeship to a freeman. The direct evidence for it only dates from 1655 (fn. 123); it was still the usual one in 1834. As early as 1598 the freedom could be bought (fn. 124); the payment varied in the early 19th century from £5 to £25. The eldest sons of aldermen took up their freedom on paying 1s. to the mayor and the usual fees.
In the 17th century the corporation treated applicants very fairly. Apprentices' indentures were entered on the rolls, and they could not be denied the freedom on payment of 1s. and the fees, after the completion of their service. The most important privilege was the exclusive right to trade and manufacture in the borough. It was re-asserted in the by-laws of 1692, 1731 and 1752, (fn. 125) and was maintained in 1834. (fn. 126) The corresponding duty was the 'quarterage,' apparently a payment for stalls in the market, (fn. 127) comparable with the earlier stall pence. Until 1731 the rate was higher for freemen dwelling outside the borough than for those dwelling within it (fn. 128); in 1635 the former paid 4d. a quarter, the latter 1d. (fn. 129) After 1624 the freeman, like the inhabitant householders, had the Parliamentary vote, (fn. 130) and this right was guarded in the Reform Act. (fn. 131) By 1834 almost all qualified as freemen voted either as £10 householders or as inhabitant householders within the ancient borough. (fn. 132) In 1839 there were only 366 freemen in a population of 5,631. (fn. 133) The privilege was clearly not worth preserving.
Hertford first sent representatives to the Parliament of 1298. (fn. 134) Its two members were present in subsequent Parliaments from 1301 to 1311. (fn. 135) After this time St. Albans or Bishop's Stortford frequently sent members, and the representation of Hertford became very uncertain. Its members sat in 1313, (fn. 136) 1315, (fn. 137) and from 1319 to 1322. (fn. 138) In 1336, 1373 and 1376 they also appeared, but from this time the right to separate representation fell into desuetude.
The claim to return two members was made in 1621, and the right was proved to the satisfaction of a select committee in 1624. (fn. 139) The Speaker refused to define the franchise, and the controversy over the vote of non-resident burgesses raged in a series of petitions from 1681. (fn. 140) In 1705 a select committee resolved that the vote was in the inhabitants, (fn. 141) freemen resident at the time of their admission, and the three chartered out-burgesses. (fn. 142) On this followed a second series of petitions accusing the fairness of the mayor as returning officer, (fn. 143) a matter on which two opinions were hardly possible. The borough vote was a very saleable commodity, (fn. 144) and bribery, comically flagrant, was rife in Hertford in 1833. (fn. 145) It was not, however, until 1867 that Hertford lost one member. (fn. 146) The Redistribution Act of 1885 merged the borough representation in that of the county. (fn. 147)
The rights of common held by the burgess by ancient custom are first described in 1295–6. (fn. 148) The 'community' used the pasture of Hartham (20 a.) throughout the year, each burgess paying 4d. a head for horses, 3d. for oxen and cows, 1½d. for calves and 1d. for sheep. Kings Mead was subject to the same rights, except when it was fenced for hay every third year. (fn. 149) A third meadow (included in Kings Mead in 1331) lay open once in three years. (fn. 150) The custom may well be more ancient than the burgesses believed, and the rights a survival of Saxon arrangements.
No change is noticed in 1331, but in 1384 'foreigners' are described as putting their cattle on the pasture at a rate of 1d. a head higher than that of burgess-kine. (fn. 151) As this usage is referred to ancient custom, it may well have existed, although unrecorded, in 1331.
After the grant of the charter in 1554 the question arose whether the common of pasture belonged to the tenants of the manor of Hertford or the inhabitants of the town. (fn. 154) The custom alleged was that the meadows should be inclosed from 2 February to 1 August, when they were thrown open to the inhabitants residing in Hertford; the Prior of Hertford also had common rights by agreement. (fn. 155) The owners, not being inhabitants, had put their beasts on the meadows, Kings Mead, Halles Holmes, Wrengdon's Mead, Halle's Cowlees, Hall's Horselees, Thurland and Chawdell Mead. (fn. 156) The case was apparently won by the inhabitants.
The difficulty was that many of the common lands lay outside the borough. Three kinds of commons were distinguished by the jury of 1621: Hartham and Kings Mead belonging to the borough; 'foreign' meadows lying outside the borough—Thurland, Hither Cowmead, Middle Cowlees, Heathe's Cowlees, Halles Hook, Horselees and Hoppitts (fn. 157) —which were common from 31 July to Candlemas; finally, fields belonging to other manors, and common for all manner of cattle at all times—Middle Field, Cockbush Field, High Field and others. (fn. 158) The last two classes of common rights appear here suddenly and cannot be traced. They may be omitted from earlier surveys as involving no payment to the Crown.
In November 1627 the corporation bought Kings Mead from the Crown for the use of the poor. (fn. 159) Disputes once more arose between the occupiers of the ancient burgage tenements and of the newer houses and cottages. The matter was finally referred to the Privy Council, who decided that the tenants of the newly-erected cottages should enjoy a life interest only, and that all right in the commons should then revert to the ancient burgagers. (fn. 160)
The mayor and his successors paid small sums to the poor and larger ones to the corporation, and kept no account. (fn. 161) In consequence of an investigation in 1709 the corporation were obliged to repay £15 11s. 10d. for every year since 1645, and the meadow was put into trust. (fn. 162) The corporation considered that they had no further jurisdiction, and the common rights were so little guarded that in 1737 fifty-three of the inhabitants agreed to impound cattle and take proceedings in defence of the poor. (fn. 163) In 1773 the same complaint was raised. (fn. 164) The commoning in Hartham was then still kept up, and was regulated by the mayor. (fn. 165) The agistments of this meadow, at the rate of 1s. a head of cattle, formed part of the borough income in 1834. (fn. 166)
Common rights over the meadow called Hoppitts or Le Holmes were disputed between the burgesses and the Prior of Hertford in December 1312. (fn. 167) The prior was evidently trying to free his lands altogether from jurisdictional and economic ties to the borough. The dispute was compromised. In the 16th century the commoning was still shared between the inhabitants of the borough and the prior (but not by his tenants), (fn. 168) and in 1621 it is mentioned again. (fn. 169)
Hertford was one of the towns which escaped 'waste' at the Conquest, (fn. 170) so that its economic history between 1065 and 1086 is continuous. The town was prosperous, at least in the eyes of King William and his officials, who found that it had paid much less than it could afford. (fn. 171) Its 164 burgesses imply that Hertford held a position in the county which it did not keep up. Ware, the rival of later days, had 125 householders, both free and unfree (fn. 172); St. Albans had forty-six burgesses and forty-two unfree inhabitants (fn. 173); Cheshunt had ten merchants, and the remaining fifty-three were villeins. (fn. 174) The facts point to a pre-Conquest prosperity which steadily declined during the Middle Ages. Saxon Hertford may have been in reality the most important market of the shire.
From the Conquest to the end of the 12th century the records of Hertford are blank, just at the time when we should like to know something of the condition of the market and whether the tolls of Ware, Hatfield and St. Albans were already charged with the farm. When the men of Hertford were amerced in 1191 for breaking the bridge of Ware (fn. 175) they were probably asserting their monopoly of the passage of the Lea.
Hertford must have suffered both directly and indirectly in the war of 1215–16, for the castle was besieged and taken more than once, and the district around was the seat of war. (fn. 176) At the tallage of 1217–18 Hertford, whose assessment was two-thirds that of Colchester in 1176, (fn. 177) was assessed at onethird the amount demanded from the latter town, and paid about twice as much as the two rural manors of Essendon and Bayford. (fn. 178) The borough paid tallage on the same basis in 1219 and in 1223–4. (fn. 179) It evidently did not stand out much above the neighbouring vills, and was not in the same class as a commercial centre like Colchester. If the assessment of 1217 was adequate, the town must have prospered in spite of its difficulties, for in 1227 it paid £10 to the tallage, (fn. 180) which probably bore an unusually close relation to real values. (fn. 181) Indeed, this sum was accepted instead of £16 18s. 2d., the original assessment, 'so that the poor and the greatly injured might be relieved.' (fn. 182)
In 1226 the provisional grant of a fair further points to the fact that the burgesses could afford some amount of municipal independence. The secret of this prosperity lay in situation. Hertford was the natural market to which would come the produce of the valleys of the Maran, the Beane and the Rib, country which was especially rich in corn land. The town was situated on the Lea, just above the southern bend which brings the river straight down into the Thames at London. The economic attraction of London must not be overlooked, for it caused a struggle against the exclusive rights of the borough early in the 13th century. This attack came from the metropolis as well as from the local competitors—Ware, Chipping Barnet, Hatfield and Cheshunt.
In the early part of the 13th century the transport of corn to London had been by boats belonging to Hertford, but about 1247–8 the men of London built a granary further down the Lea at Thele, and shipped the corn in their own bottoms. (fn. 183) Unfortunately the issue of the quarrel is unknown.
The neighbouring towns suffered from the monopoly claimed by the burgesses, who held that the Lea must be crossed at their town bridge. But the direct route from Royston to London passed the water at Ware, a rising town. In the 12th century Hertford must have asserted its rights, for until John's reign the bailiff of Hertford held the keys of the bridge and ford of Ware, so that carts could only pass with his licence. (fn. 184) During the war of 1215–16 the men of Ware disregarded the custom, and carts passed freely over the bridge and ford, nor had the burgesses recovered their rights by 1247. (fn. 185)
For a town which owed its existence to a monopoly of trade and traffic rights the matter was vital, especially as Ware had attacked the Hertford market by holding illegal markets on Wednesdays and Fridays. (fn. 186) In 1258 the men of Ware sued the burgesses, complaining that they had forcibly broken the bridge and dug a channel in the ford, so that no one, even on foot, could pass it. They had also cut the London road by digging a ditch across it. (fn. 187) The cause of these aggressions was clearly the fact that the men of Ware had either made or restored the road between Ware and Hoddesdon, thus leaving Hertford outside the main line of traffic. (fn. 188) The burgesses pleaded the orders of their lord, William de Valence, but the jury ascribed the whole affair to their desire to have the passage (of the Lea) through the middle of their town.
This check damped the enterprise of the men of Hertford. Five years later the aggression was on the side of Ware. (fn. 189) By 1274 the 'turning aside of the high road which used to go from Hertford to Ware' had become a fact, much 'to the detriment of the vill of Hertford.' (fn. 190) The bailiffs of Ware tried also to cut off communication by water by 'occupying the weirs, so that no ship might pass.' (fn. 191) The tolls at Ware due to the bailiff of Hertford were not paid in 1277, (fn. 192) but after this time they seem to have been rendered. In 1296 the 'tolls of the passage of Ware' and of Hertford were separately valued at 40s. a year, (fn. 193) but the steady increase in the tolls of Ware shows that the main traffic passed through the direct route.
Hertford had lost to Ware the passage of the Lea and the possession of the main road, and this constituted the best capital of the borough. If it had ever been an industrial centre it had lost its position before 1247–8, when the men of Hertford complained that before 1215–16 there were no weavers or dyers of cloth in Ware, but that 'now' there were. If this is true it may explain the prosperity of Hertford earlier in the century. The cloth industry cannot have been very vigorous. A document of 1290 gives few trade names beyond the ordinary carpenter, smith, miller, carter, fisher and butcher; the mustarder and the merchant are the only suggestive names. (fn. 194) In 1307 there are cutlers, a dyer, two 'chapmen,' and a mustarder. (fn. 195) Of course these casual mentions can be regarded only as clues. It is more significant that there is no trace of a craft or merchant gild.
Hertford was falling behind its neighbours. In 1290 St. Albans had more and richer taxpayers, (fn. 196) and even Cheshunt was larger than Hertford. (fn. 197) In 1308 the borough paid £7 16s. 8d., against £12 11s. 4d. from Cheshunt and £14 4s. 5¼d. from Ware. (fn. 198) The burgesses brought forward their old complaints against Ware without success. (fn. 199) In 1338 the taxable value was only half that of Ware. (fn. 200)
The history of the markets and fairs (q.v.) enforces the evidence of court rolls and accounts that Hertford decayed rapidly during the 14th century and more rapidly during the 15th. It seemed rather a village than a borough, and economic documents tend to treat it rather as a rural manor than as a town. The depopulation caused by the Black Death evidently gave an impetus to the decline. In 1428 there were not ten householders in the parish of St. Nicholas or that of St. Mary Minor. (fn. 201) The auditors began to allow the bailiff increasing sums for decay of rent. (fn. 202) Probably the last quarter of the 15th century was the apogee.
During this time there is naturally little development of trades. Brewing and baking are the most prominent, with the other provision businesses, the fishmongers, butchers and chandlers; tanning and glovemaking also occur. (fn. 203)
About the beginning of the 16th century new conditions caused a new prosperity in the borough. The working classes were now no longer themselves corn growers, and the question of their corn supplies was a new problem, especially acute in London. The provisioning of London taxed the energies of the Privy Council. (fn. 204) Hence, while many towns were emptying their workers into the country, Hertford found more and more buyers in the corn market. It was important that the market should not be monopolized by speculators, and in 1588 the privy councillors interfered to prevent it. (fn. 205) Their object was to keep back some of the grain for the small local buyer, but this was difficult in the face of dealers from London. In 1595 the supply (between 140 and 200 qrs. of grain) was sold within an hour of the ringing of the market bell, and bought not by the poor, but by bakers from London and local millers who bought for the London market. (fn. 206) At this time there were above forty water-mills alone within 10 miles of Hertford. (fn. 207) Many of these probably served the London trade.
Hertford hardly kept its position in metropolitan markets as supplies came in from more distant areas, but it remained the trade centre both for corn and other goods for the district lying north of the town. Corn and malt, the chief articles in the market in 1728, (fn. 208) are the staple commodities to-day. The trade of Hertford has changed rather in volume than in kind.
Hertford has probably had a market since the Saxon King Edward first built his 'burh' there, but there is no historical evidence of it until the reign of John, (fn. 209) when it is spoken of as though it were already established by ancient custom. The market days were Wednesday and Friday throughout the 13th and for the greater part of the 14th century, (fn. 210) but in this latter period the value of the market was sinking. In 1359–60 the whole tolls of the market for nine months were only 16s. 8d. (fn. 211) In 1383 the Wednesday market was transferred to Thursday by royal grant, (fn. 212) probably an attempt to catch custom, and the tolls went up. (fn. 213) The improvement was brief. In 1397–8 the tolls and pleas sank to 20s., and 'no more because merchants forsake the market for others on every side.' (fn. 214) Henry IV confirmed the grant of Edward III, (fn. 215) and pardoned the burgesses the 26s. at which the tolls were estimated for ten years, (fn. 216) and in 1438–9 Henry VI was only receiving 10s. 6d. from the market. (fn. 217) It seems to have become almost valueless by the end of the century. The Thursday market was still held early in Elizabeth's reign, but it suffered from the competition of the market at Hoddesdon. (fn. 218)
The Elizabethan charter gave to the corporation the market to be held on Saturday, (fn. 219) which has remained the market day for Hertford ever since. (fn. 220) The charter of Charles II revived the Wednesday market, (fn. 221) which survived in 1888 as a small cattle market, held in alternate weeks. (fn. 222) The corporation have taken the tolls of the market since 1589. (fn. 223)
The Hertford fairs originated in the time of the minority of Henry III. In 1226 the men of Hertford received a provisional grant until the king came of age of a week's fair from the Sunday before the Feast of SS. Simon and Jude (28 October) until the following Sunday. (fn. 224) Whether by prescription or by a grant in confirmation, the fair continued throughout the 13th and 14th centuries. In 1295 the tolls were worth 10s. (fn. 225) Before 1331 a fair on 15 August had been acquired by the burgesses, and the two fairs brought in £2 10s. yearly. (fn. 226) One of these fairs seems to have been a horse fair held outside the town in the 15th century. (fn. 227)
The Master of the hospital of the Holy Trinity held a fair on 22 July and paid half the tolls to the king's bailiff; he did so at least from the last quarter of the 14th century. (fn. 228) The amount was always small. (fn. 229)
These three fairs continued until the end of the 15th century, suffering a gradual decay. The bailiff was compelled to admit that the merchants had given up the Hertford round. The proof lay in the disappearing tolls. In 1437–8 the October fair brought in 6s. 8d. instead of 11s. 8d. as it had done forty years before (fn. 230); the July fair made no profits at all. (fn. 231) In 1444–5 the farmer of the market and fairs obtained a respite of payment, possibly in consequence of the paucity of his takings. (fn. 232)
Without some improvement in the 16th century the burgesses would hardly have troubled to obtain the three fairs granted by Queen Mary. One was to be held in the parish of St. Andrew from 23 to 25 June; the other two in the town on 27 to 29 October and on Passion Sunday with the Saturday and Monday. (fn. 233) The local distinction was probably derived from the three extinct fairs. Elizabeth regranted these three fairs and added another, to be held in the parish of St. Andrew from 7 September to 9 September. (fn. 234) But the dates seem to have been changed and the duration shortened very soon, as in 1598 the fairs took place on 24 October, 4 September, 24 June, and the Friday before Passion Sunday. (fn. 235) Seven years later a fair lasting from 30 April to 2 May was substituted for that in September. (fn. 236) The charter of Charles II re-granted this fair and confirmed the others. (fn. 237) At the present day the dates of the fairs are 12 May, 5 July, 8 November, and the third Saturday before Easter.
Courts of pie-powder appear in the accounts of the town for the first time in 1384–5, (fn. 238) although they were probably held earlier. They were granted to the burgesses by the charter of Queen Mary with stallage and picage. (fn. 239) Charles II re-granted these rights for all the fairs. (fn. 240)
Besides the tolls of the market and fair (fn. 241) there were the more interesting forinsec tolls. They are first mentioned in the reign of Henry III as existing under King John. (fn. 242) The tax was 2d. on carts of merchants, ½d. on pack-horses, and ¼d. on pedlars. (fn. 243) In 1296 the account is fuller. The 'through toll' was taken at the bridges of Ware, Hertford and Thele, at the 'Barre' of Hatfield and Barnet, (fn. 244) and at the two 'heads' of St. Albans. (fn. 245) The Abbot of St. Albans acquired the tolls of his own town and of Barnet, (fn. 246) but the tolls of Ware, Hatfield and Thele remained in the king's hands and were generally accounted for as part of the farm of the town, (fn. 247) although occasionally during the 14th and 15th centuries they were leased apart. (fn. 248)
This arrangement of tolls may be one for the sheriff's convenience, or a survival from the time when Hertford was the shire market with a monopoly over buying and selling and passage. The lowey or leucata, the district outside a town over which the borough officers had certain rights, existed in varying degrees of importance around many towns. It occurred at London and Durham, and there is an excellent instance of it in the confirmation by Henry II of the customs of Nottingham. By this the burgesses of Nottingham were to have the tolls from all those who crossed the Trent as far as Newark, as fully as in the borough of Nottingham. The charter continues: 'The men of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire ought to come to the borough on Friday and Saturday with their carts and loads, nor ought anyone to work dyed cloths for 10 leagues round, save in the borough.' Similar rights evidently occurred at Hertford, where the king claimed the tolls for merchandise carried through places within 7 miles of Hertford. (fn. 249) This liberty was apparently one of the rights which belonged to the pre-Conquest king's reeve at a time when Hertford as a villa regalis was the administrative centre for the district.
The right to have a common seal was first given to the bailiff and burgesses by the charter of Mary, (fn. 250) and was confirmed by the subsequent charters. (fn. 251) The British Museum has one specimen of an early date, presumably that made under the Jacobean charter. It shows a rosette of five double leaves, barbed and seeded, within a border. The legend is 'Burgus de Hertford, 1608.' (fn. 252) A later type (probably that used after 1680) shows the hart in the ford with a cross between the antlers; behind to the right a castle with three towers, to the left a tree on a low mound. (fn. 253)