THE HISTORY OF HERTFORD HEATH
Hertford Heath sits on high ground between the towns of Hertford and Hoddesdon and has a history that can be traced back to 54BC!
Always on the edge of history, the village continues to grow and flourish.
The neighbouring countryside witnessed the clash of Britain and Roman, Saxon and Dane and then Saxon and Norman. There was a settlement of the Catuvellauni tribe living locally before Julius Caesar invaded in 54BC, and in 1956 when builders were digging prior to laying concrete for garages in Trinity Road, an Iron Age Belgic Chieftain’s cremation grave, dating back to the second half of the first century BC was found.
Trinity Road was built on a field once called Grimstead Haw, suggesting that the Saxons who gave it that name had found remains of a forgotten people who had once lived there. Excavations in the 1970’s revealed remains of settlements dating back to Neolithic times.
Running through the village was Ermine Street, a Roman Road, originating in London. The road passed by the Roundings and continued from Hertford Heath Motors to the site of the former Townshend Arms, across the fields to Rush Green and on to York.
During the Middle Ages, the Heath served as grazing for the nearby manors of Amwell, St Margaret’s and Hailey.
By around 670, Anglo-Saxon tribes had built homesteads in the area and established place names that can still be found today. The Roundings probably derives its name from the ancient practice of ‘beating the bounds’. To the north of the village Rush Green also has its roots in the mediaeval period.
The Tudor monarchs frequently visited Hertfordshire and it’s quite possible that Queen Elizabeth travelled through the area on her way to Hertford Castle or Hatfield House.
In November 1524, Catherine of Aragon held court at Hertford Castle. On 3 May 1547, King Edward VI granted his sister Mary the manor and castle of Hertford, tolls from the bridge at Ware, and the manor of Hertingfordbury.
In 1588, the main beacon for East Hertfordshire was lit on Lesser or Beacon Hill to warn of the Armada in the Channel.
When the East India College was established in 1806, the need for staff led to accommodation being built for them. The only named roads at this time were London Road, Vicarage Causeway, Downfield Road (then called the Street), Hogsdell Lane and Mount Pleasant.
In 1862, the College buildings were transformed into a boy’s school. Shortly afterwards, in 1864, Little Amwell was made into a parish with a church of its own to cater for the growing population. The first Vicar was the Rev.David Barclay Bevin, followed by the Rev.CW Barclay whose wife was Florence Barclay the famous writer. The Mission Room was built during their time at the vicarage and Florence used it for her bible classes and Mother’s Meetings.
The old village school in Mount Pleasant was founded in 1837 as a ‘National School’.
Further growth was due to the businesses of Mr Willian Gray, a timber merchant and brickmaker. Extensive workshops and sawmills covered the strip of land between Heath Lane and Priorswood Road. The brickyard was situated near the end of Hogsdell Lane.
As the business employed over 100 men, a number of dwelling were build during the 1880s to house the workers. These included the cottages at start of Downfield Road those on Mount Pleasant and close to the shop on London Road.
A flourishing laundry business kept a large number of local women employed. Washing was taken in from Balls Park, Brickendonbury, Christ’s Hospital and Haileybury. There were drying greens all along Mount Pleasant. These activities continued into the 1900s.
In 1935 the Village Hall was built by Harry Fitch in London Road, and has been well used by the many of the villagers ever since.
During the years between the two world wars, houses continued to be built along London Road towards Haileybury. Shortly after the war, the development of Trinity Road and Woodland Road took place.
By now, the village had become self-sufficient with shops of every kind, including a butcher, bakers, hardware store, five grocery shops, a hairdressers, sweet shops, and a blacksmith’s. There were seven pubs!
Hertford Heath did not suffer any great damage during WW2 apart from a few ‘doodlebug’ landings. One landed in the allotments in 1944 and in July of the same year, two houses in London Road were demolished.
By 1957 the school was over-subscribed, and a new school was built in Woodland Road, opening in 1966. The old school buildings were later developed into private accommodation.
Further expansion in the 1960s saw the building of houses in Rushen Drive and Postwood Green. The development of Heathgate followed in the 1970s and Harlings in the 1980s.
In the 1990s the demolition of the Chapel and Heathfield, by then a care home in London Road, made way for more housing. !n 1997 Old Forge Row was built on the Heathfield site.
The need for more homes in the village continues. Olivers Way off Woodland Road was developed in 2007 and local builders and self-builders have been quick to buy individual plots of land to erect detached houses.
The downturn in pub custom nationally led to the closure of the Townshend Arms and in 2017, six new homes were built on this site. Further new homes were built on London Road.
The village still has one general store, a garage and three pubs but the only significant employer is Haileybury. However, it remains home to numerous self-employed craftsmen and small family firms.
A Neighbourhood Plan is currently being developed following a major survey and the involvement of many local residents and organisations. A separate web site provides full information about this. Click on the logo to visit the site.