Richard Lydekker.

Hertfordshire, by R. Lydekker online

. (page 4 of 9)
Online LibraryRichard LydekkerHertfordshire, by R. Lydekker → online text (page 4 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

designate the average type of weather experienced in a
district. In this latter sense it comprises the results of the
combined effects of temperature, atmospheric pressure, the
degree of moisture in the air, the direction and force of
the wind, and the amount of rainfall ; the study of climate
constituting the science of meteorology. Although the
climate of the British Isles is of an exceedingly changeable
type, yet the average of the seasonal changes is far from
being the same in all parts of the country. Taking tem-
perature alone, we find, for instance, that while the average
for the whole year in Shetland is as low as 43 Fahrenheit,
in the Scilly Islands it rises to 53. It is a very general
idea that in our islands the winter temperature of a place
depends upon whether it is situated in the north or the
south. This, however, is a mistake, the temperature
having little relation to latitude, but growing colder as we
pass from the west to the eastern side of the country ; the
south of England, as a whole, being milder than the north,
not because it is the south, but because it includes such a


large extent of land in the west. The degree of elevation
above the sea-level has much to do with temperature and
the amount of moisture in the air ; high lands being, as a
rule, colder and drier in winter than those lying at lower
levels. On account of the comparatively high elevation
of a considerable proportion of its area and its easterly
position, coupled with the prevalence of north-easterly and
easterly winds in spring, Hertfordshire ought to have, on
the whole, a cold and bracing climate for the greater part
of the year ; and, as a matter of fact, such is the case.
Indeed, it is commonly said that northern Hertfordshire is
so cold and bracing, that only strong and robust constitu-
tions can stand it ; but that for those blessed with such
constitutions it is one of the healthiest counties in the

Hertfordshire, however, like England on a small scale,
has local climates of its own, dependent upon differences
in elevation above the sea-level, in the amount of rainfall,
in the nature of the geological formation and soil, and
also in aspect, especially as regards protection from the
east wind in spring. The slope of a hill facing south or
south-west receives for instance far more sun in winter
than one which looks in the opposite direction ; while it
also escapes the full blast of the bitter east wind. Places
situated on chalk, and above all on gravel, are drier, and
consequently if on the same level and with a similar
aspect also warmer than those on cold, heavy clay or

As if to confirm and perpetuate the above-mentioned
popular error, it happens that the northern and north-



western districts of the county, that is to say, those consti-
tuting the chalk area, are very much colder and more
bracing than those to the south and east, whose substra-
tum is clay. This difference depends, however, not on
differences of latitude, but on the lower elevation of the
southern as compared with the northern districts, coupled
with the protection from cold winds afforded to the low
lands by the high ground. To those who are in the habit
of travelling by the Midland railway from the north-
western corner of the county to London, the differences
between the climate of the northern and the southern
districts is made self-apparent in early spring by the extra-
ordinary difference in the condition of the hedges and
trees on the two sides of the Elstree tunnel. It is true
that on this particular route the district south of the
tunnel is in Middlesex, but to the eastward much of
the lowland is in Herts. On the northern side of the
range of chalk-hills pierced by this tunnel the hawthorn
hedges may be seen at a certain period of the spring
to be absolutely devoid of a sign of green ; while on
the opposite side they will be in full leaf. There is, in
fact, about a fortnight's difference between the Elstree
and the Mill Hill side of this range in regard to the
development of spring-vegetation ; and while the northern
side is exposed to the full force of the east wind, the
combes and valleys with a south-westerly aspect near the
summit of the opposite flank are so warm and sheltered
that hardy species of bamboo and palm will grow in the
open air almost as luxuriantly as in similar situations in
Surrey or Sussex.


We see, then, as has been well remarked, that the
division of the .county, along the line indicated in the
section on its geology, into two very unequal portions
namely, a large north-western area with a relatively dry
soil arid atmosphere, and a smaller south-eastern tract with
a comparatively moist soil and atmosphere forms a suffi-
cient approach to an accurate climatic division.

Here we may mention that the daily temperature and
the amount of moisture in the air, together with the
barometric pressure and a number of other details, are
recorded at the Meteorological Office in London from
reports received from a host of observing stations (either
public or private) scattered at intervals all over the
country; and at the end of each year the averages, or
" means," of these observations are worked out for the
British Isles and England generally, and likewise for the
various counties and other local districts. This enables
comparisons to be instituted between the climates of
different places with much greater accuracy than would
otherwise be possible.

In the year 1905 the mean temperature for the whole
of England was 48*7, while that of Hertfordshire was
48*9, as deduced from observations taken at four stations,
of which Bennington showed the lowest mean of 48 '4,
and New Barnet the highest of 50*2. The aforesaid
county mean of 48*9 was, however, 0*6 above the
average ; the average mean for a series of years thus being
47 -8, or about i lower than that for England generally.

If we turn to the map here given we notice that,
speaking generally, the rainfall of England decreases


steadily as we pass from west to east. The moisture-
laden clouds, driven by the prevalent winds across the
Atlantic, precipitate their contents on reaching the land,
more especially if the land be high, and in consequence
the country beyond is less wet. Hertfordshire occupies
a middle position between the heavy averages of Wales
and S.W. England and the minimum of Essex and the
neighbourhood of the Wash, as we should expect. The
difference between the average of the various stations in
our country is remarkable. In the year 1905, which
is taken throughout as the basis of comparison, the
highest rainfall in England and Wales occurred at Glas
Lyn, near Snowdon, and was no less than 176*6 inches;
whereas the lowest was registered at Shoeburyness, in
Essex, this being only 14*57 inches; while the average
rainfall for Great Britain was 27*17 inches. In Hert-
fordshire, as we shall see, the average in that year for the
whole county was 23*47 inches, but this is 1*5 inches
below the general average for a series of years, which is
24*52 inches. In the same year the average for the four
chief observing stations in the county was, however, 24*22
inches, with a maximum of 25*88 inches at New Barnet
and a minimum of 22*51 inches at Bennington. These
extremes were exceeded by a maximum of 28*29 inches
at Pendley Manor, Tring, and a minimum of 19*31 inches
(or rather more than 5 inches above the Essex minimum)
at Hillside, Buntingford.

For a succession of years it has, however, been observed
that the rainfall of Hertfordshire is. in excess of that of
all the adjacent counties to the west and south. This is



Statute Miles

(The figures show the annual rainfall in inches.}


shown by the following comparative average rainfalls
for 1905; viz.: Bedfordshire (23 stations), 20-47 i ns ->
Buckinghamshire (32 stations), 22*06 ins.; Middlesex,
exclusive of London (49 stations), 22*26 ins. ; and
Hertfordshire (51 stations), 23-47 ins. Of the 104
stations exclusive of Hertfordshire, the combined mean
rainfall is 21 '6 inches; Hertfordshire thus showing an
excess over the average rainfall in the adjoining counties
of nearly two inches in actual amount.

As a whole, and in spite of the excess over its neigh-
bour in the matter of rainfall, Hertford may be reckoned
among the relatively dry counties; its average in 1905
being nearly four inches below that for England generally
in the same year.

At Bennington there were recorded 1523 hours of
bright sunshine during the year, and 54 absolutely sunless
days. Throughout Great Britain as a whole there were
1 86 days in the same year on which a minimum of
0-005 inch of rain fell ; all such days with that or a
greater quantity of rain being officially known as rain-days.
At Greenwich, where the total amount of rainfall was
23-024 inches, the rain-days numbered 161, and the
wettest month was June when 4*323 inches of rain
were registered. June was also the wettest month of
the year in Hertfordshire, but the amount of rain was
much less than at Greenwich, being only 3-46 inches.

As regards bright sunshine, the number of hours in
England as a whole amounted to 1535, while in Kent
the number reached 1667*8, and at Tunbridge Wells
1712*4 hours.


In respect to the number of wet days during the year
in question Hertfordshire therefore occupied a very credit-
able position, although its record for sunshine was less

9. People Race, Dialect, Settle-
ments, Population.

Previous to the Roman occupation of Britain Hert-
fordshire was inhabited by two British tribes, the
Cattyeuchlani, whose capital appears to have been Veru-
lam or St Albans, and the Trinobantes. To what
extent these original British inhabitants of the county
survived the Roman and Saxon invasions is unknown ;
but it may be taken as certain that at an early date
Anglo-Saxon was the language spoken in this part of the
country. Forty years ago Anglo-Saxon idioms and words
still lingered among the labouring rural population in the
Harpenden district (and probably elsewhere), which have
apparently now disappeared completely. Instead of
houses, the Anglo-Saxon plural housen was, for instance,
always used by the old people ; while when a log of
timber was cut the wrong way of the grain they would
say that it would be sure to spalt (equivalent to the
German spalten), instead of to split.

Of the Anglo-Saxon lan^iage there were originally
two chief dialects, a northern and a southern ; but after
the Norman conquest the number of such dialects was
increased to half-a-dozen. According to Dr A. J. Ellis's


English Dialects, southern Hertfordshire comes within
the domain of the south-eastern dialect, which also pre-
vailed in Middlesex, south-eastern Buckinghamshire, and
south-western Essex. Throughout this area there is,
however, an underlying basis of the middle eastern dialect,
which is still to be detected in northern Hertfordshire,
as well as in Essex, Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, and
Northamptonshire. It accordingly appears that if the East
Anglian counties of Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, and Norfolk
be eliminated, the whole of the country lying to the east-
ward of the Chiltern Hills, as well as the high grounds of
Northamptonshire, had one dialect in common, which
was the speech of the early Teuton settlers of this part of
England. This dialect, during the course of fourteen
centuries, has been gradually modified and altered by the
speech of London till it has resulted in the modern
English of this part of south-eastern England.

According to Mr R. A. Smith, writing in the Victoria
History of the Counties of England, " The grouping of
dialects in this part of the country would thus unite
Hertfordshire with Essex, and lead us to expect from
archaeology some indications of Saxon rather than of
Anglian influence in the county. The few results
already obtained in Hertfordshire certainly show a marked
absence of Anglian characteristics, but many discoveries
must be made before the peculiarities of East Saxon
remains can be demonstrated. To the west of the
Chilterns enough has been recovered from graves to
show that the settlers in the upper Thames valley, pre-
sumably the Saxons of the West, were homogeneous


[uniform in characteristics] and distinguishable from their
neighbours ; but at present nothing has been found to link
them with the people of Essex, who probably reached the
eastern slopes of the Chilterns at one time, but were
mainly confined to the north of Essex and the neighbour-
hood of London. In fact, the few discoveries in this
district point rather to a connection with Kent [the
country of the British tribe of Cantii] than with Wessex."

Whatever may be the precise state of the case with
regard to these details, it may be taken as certain that the
present population of Hertfordshire is mainly descended
from the Saxons who came to Britain in the fifth and
sixth centuries. There must have been, however, a
certain mixture of ancient British blood j while later, and
more especially among the higher classes, this was followed
by the infusion of a Norman strain. Otherwise the popu-
lation of the county does not appear to have been much
influenced by foreign immigration, although there was a
settlement of Huguenots in St Albans, who have left
their mark in the name of one of the streets French
Row near the market-place.

Passing on to the present day, we have the somewhat
curious anomaly that the population of the administrative
county is somewhat larger than that of the original
county ; this being due to the inclusion in the former of
some thickly populated areas. The population of the
administrative county in the census of 1901 was given as
258,423 ; ten years previously it was 226,587, thus show-
ing a very marked increase ; that of the ancient county
was 250,152 persons. The number of persons to a

French Row, St Albans


square mile in Hertfordshire, on the latter basis at the
former date, was thus about 398, against 558 for
England and Wales generally. During the last twenty-
five years the increase of the population has mainly
taken place on the three great lines of railways, the
Great Northern, the Midland, and the Great Western,
at such places as Barnet, Hitchin, St Albans, Harpenden,
and Watford. St Albans has indeed altogether out-
stripped the county town in point of numbers ; its popu-
lation being 16,019 in 1901 against the 9,322 of Hertford.
In common with England generally, there has of late years
been a marked tendency for the rural population to
migrate to the larger villages and towns ; and this domi-
nance of the urban population has been accentuated by the
transference to St Albans and elsewhere of large manu-
facturing and printing establishments from the metropolis.
The urban districts on the lines of railway likewise con-
stitute the residence of a large population of men having
daily business in London.

As in the country generally, the females in 1901
largely exceeded the male population in numbers ; the
total for the former being 18,176, and for the latter
16,723. The great majority of these lived in houses, of
which 54,963 were inhabited at the date in question. In
addition to these, 71 were living in military barracks;
something like another 5,200 were maintained in work-
houses, hospitals, asylums, industrial schools, etc., while
barges on the canals accounted for about another 147. It
should be added that the county contains several large
London asylums ; it would therefore give a very exag-



gerated proportion, as compared with the true state of
the case, if the number of lunatics resident in the county
were quoted.

Ancient House at Welwyn, now the Police Station

10. Agriculture Main Cultivations,
Woodlands, Stock.

As already mentioned, the greater portion of Hert-
fordshire, that is to say, most of the chalk area, exclusive
of the downs, commons, woods, and private parks, was in
former years devoted to corn, for the cultivation of which
its soil is particularly well suited. Indeed the county had


the reputation of growing not only the best barley for
malting, but likewise the best wheat-straw (that is to say,
the hardest and whitest) for plaiting. The wheat itself
was also of specially good quality and hardness, and there
was likewise an abundance of mills in which it could be
converted into flour. A noteworthy feature of Hertford-
shire agriculture is the practice of mixing chalk with the
soils, especially where they are clayey ; this resulting in a
decided increase in fertility.

A century and a half ago wheat, barley, and oats
formed the chief cereal crops ; beans being better suited
to the Vale of Aylesbury, while peas are profitable only
on the very light chalky grounds. Clover, lucerne, trefoil,
turnips, and (in later times) swedes and mangold are also
extensively grown. In this connection it is interesting to
note that the first crops of red clover and of swede turnips
ever grown in this country were sown at Broadby Farm,
near Berkhampstead ; a spot celebrated in literature as
having been the home of Peter the Wild Boy in 1725. A
certain amount of grass land was intermingled with that
under cereal and root cultivation ; while, as mentioned in
earlier sections, most of the heavy land in the south and
south-east of the county is under grass.

"Hertfordshire farming," observes a recent writer,
" has undergone little material change since Ellis's
description of it in 1732; the hay-crop has become a
more prominent feature perhaps, potatoes on the lighter
soils have gained a leading place in the rotation, and the
standard of fertility has been raised all round ; otherwise
a farm on the high chalk-plateau was farmed in 1732



pretty much on the same lines as it is to-day. Ellis gives
a list of the chief weeds, * crow-garlick, wild oat, carlock,
poppy, mayweed, bindweed, dock, crow-needle, black
bent' : they are not less troublesome nor any nearer
extinction at the present time, the last grass in particular
being very characteristic of corn-land on the * clay with

A Hertfordshire Farm near Rickmansworth

Every year the Board of Agriculture publishes a
return in which the number of acres in each county
devoted to each particular kind of crop is duly recorded,
the classification adopted being as follows, viz. : corn
crops ; green crops ; clover, sainfoin, and grasses for hay ;
grass not for hay; flax; hops; small fruits; and orchards.


Such land as produces none of these crops is classed as
bare fallow, of which Hertfordshire in 1905 possessed
14,275 acres.

Of the total of 4O2J856 1 acres in the county, 329,641
were under cultivation in that year; 1917 were orchards,
26,568 were woodland, while 1657. acres consisted of
heaths and commons used as grazing-grounds. At the
same date there were 116,700 acres under corn-cultiva-
tion; that is to say, something approaching one-fourth
the total acreage, against about one-seventh in Kent.
Green crops accounted for 32,702 acres, while of the
remainder there were 36,831 under clover, sainfoin, and
grasses, 3315 under lucerne, meadows claimed 54,589
acres, pasture 70,678, and small fruits 544. Of the corn-
grazing area, wheat occupied 51,691, oats 36,946, and
barley 27,960 acres.

It is thus apparent that out of the 329,641 acres of
cultivated land no less than 200,000, or more than half
the whole area of the county, and about 60 per cent, of the
total farming land, was still under the plough ; this large
proportion being at the time exceeded only in six English
counties. The increase in permanent pasture has, how-
ever, been steadily progressing since the great fall in the
price of cereals in the seventies ; this being aided by the
improvements in the means of communication throughout
the country, which have tended to rob Hertfordshire of its
original special advantage (owing to its proximity) in the
matter of supplying the metropolis with corn and straw.

The subject of Hertfordshire agriculture cannot be

1 See page 8 and footnote.
L. H. 5


dismissed without mention of the fact that the world-
renowned agricultural station at Rothamsted, in Har-
penden parish, founded and endowed by the late Sir J. B.
Lawes, is included within its limits. This includes a
laboratory, under a Director, situated on the west side
of Harpenden common, and certain plots of land in the
park at Rothamsted where agricultural experiments have
been carried on for more than sixty years. The whole
station is administered by a committee, mainly appointed
by the Royal Society.

Fruit is grown only to a comparatively small extent
in Hertfordshire. Very characteristic of the county are,
however, the orchards (now for the most part more or less
neglected) of small black cherries, known as Hertfordshire
blacks, and also as " mazzards," which are situated near
the homesteads of most of the older farms. These are
probably a cultivated variety of the wild black cherry of
the neighbouring woods.

On the rich-soiled, low-lying lands of the Lea valley
on the south-eastern side of the county are situated
numerous market-gardens and nurseries. The growing
of tomatos (at Harpenden), cucumbers, and grapes under
glass is carried on in several parts of the county on a more
or less extensive scale.

Elm, oak, beech, and ash form the most common
timber-trees of the county, but the predominance of each
kind in particular districts depends, as already mentioned,
on the nature of the geological formation. The under-
growth in the woods, which should be cut every 12 or 13
years, consists mainly of hazel.


As regards the number of the larger and commoner
kinds of domesticated animals, sheep in 1905 reached a
total of 94,461, or about 234 to every 1000 acres; the
average for England generally being 445 per 1000 acres.
The prevailing breeds are the Hampshire Down, the
South Down, and the Dorset ; the latter being favoured
on account of their early lambing.

Hertfordshire is not a great horse-breeding county, and
in 1905 the number of these animals was only 15,070.
Cattle numbered 38,636, and pigs 25,338. Shorthorns
are the favourite breed of cattle among the farmers; and
although in the chalk districts the soil is not specially well
suited for dairy purposes, farms near the main railways
despatch a considerable amount of milk to London. The
number of horses was nearly the same as in 1901, but
cattle showed an increase of nearly 20OO head. Sheep,
however, had decreased by over 2OOO and pigs by more
than 6000.

ii. Special Cultivations.

The most important special cultivation in Hertford-
shire is undoubtedly watercress, which is very extensively
grown in the river-valleys over a broad belt of country
extending from the Welwyn district, through the parishes
of Harpenden, Wheathampstead and Redbourn, and
thence to Amersham and Rickmansworth, as well as to
the Vale of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire ; this district
being reported to be the best in England for this particular



crop. The cress is grown in beds cut through the low-
ground from one bend of the river to another, so that
a constant, but regulated stream of water is continually
flowing through. The seed is sown in special beds, and
the young cress carefully planted out in regular rows in
the mud of the permanent beds during the autumn.
Much care has to be exercised in tending and weeding
the crop, from which two prolonged cuttings are obtained
annually ; the spring cutting being, however, much larger
and better than the autumn one.

After cutting, the watercress is tied up in bundles and
packed in flat, oblong, osier hampers, or baskets ; of which,
during the spring season, huge stacks may be seen at the
local railway stations awaiting despatch, either to the
metropolis, or to the great manufacturing towns of the
Midlands. For ordinary purposes the land on which
watercress is grown is almost valueless; but the watercress
beds yield a big rental. To furnish material for the
aforesaid watercress hampers, as well as for basket-work
generally, osiers are cultivated in some of the river-valleys,
as in the Lea a mile or so above Wheathampstead, where
there are extensive beds.

Next in importance to the cultivation of watercress

1 2 4 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryRichard LydekkerHertfordshire, by R. Lydekker → online text (page 4 of 9)