Copyright
Richard Lydekker.

Hertfordshire, by R. Lydekker online

. (page 6 of 9)
Online LibraryRichard LydekkerHertfordshire, by R. Lydekker → online text (page 6 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


and elsewhere. Much more important is a "find" at
Hitchin, near the source of the Hiz, and thus situated, in
part at any rate, in the Ouse basin. These implements,
which were first brought to notice in 1877, occur in clay-




Palaeolithic Flint Implement
(From Kent's Cavern, Torquay)




Neolithic Celt of Greenstone
(From Bridlington, Torks.}



90 HERTFORDSHIRE

pits worked for brick-earth, and are accompanied by bones
of the mammoth, hippopotamus, and rhinoceros.

Between the Palaeolithic and Neolithic age exists a
gap of untold length, for the land had again to be
re-peopled. Chipped, or rough-hewn celts, or hatchets,
of the latter age have been picked up in fields near Abbot's
Langley, Bedmond, Kensworth, Wheathampstead, Mark-
yate Street, and Weston. Polished celts are more rare,
but specimens have been found at Panshanger, King's
Langley, Aldbury (near Stortford), Ashwell, and between
Hitchin and Pirton. Perforated axe-heads and hammer-
heads of stone, which may belong to the close of the
Neolithic or commencement of the Bronze age, are still
more uncommon, although a few such have been found,
notably a hammer, near Sandridge, now preserved in the
British Museum. Much the same remark applies to
chipped arrow-heads the fairy darts of a more poetical
age but a few beautiful specimens have been found near
Tring, some so long ago as the year 1763 or thereabouts,
and others at Ashwell and Hunsdon.

After a time man learnt the use of metal. The
smelting of iron was at first beyond his power, and he
employed the mixture of copper and tin which we term
bronze. Of this age specimens of winged celts and
palstaves (a narrow hatchet, with a tang or socket for a
haft) have been found in various parts of the county, as
well as socketed celts, daggers, swords, spear-heads, and
the like. The most important discovery of this nature
was made in 1876 during drainage operations at Cumber-
low Green, near Baldock, when some forty bronze imple-



ANTIQUITIES 91

ments were found in a well-like hole. Gold ornaments,
probably referable to the same epoch, have been found at
Little Amwell and at Mardox, near Ware.

We now come to the early Iron Age, when man had
succeeded in mastering this metal. Of this a very brief
notice must suffice. Primitive coins, without inscription,
of the type issued by Philip II of Macedon, and hence
known as Philippi, were probably coined in the county in
early British times ; but after the Roman invasion a
number of British coins were struck at Verulamium,
among the most interesting of which are those of Tarcio-
vanus, who reigned in that city from (probably) about
30 B.C. to about 5 A.D. A large number of his coins
have been found at Verulam, as well as those of other
British sovereigns. Tarciovanus, it may be added, was
the father of Cunovelinus (Shakespeare's Cymbeline),
whose capital was Camulodunum, the modern Colchester.

Earthworks of great but unknown antiquity are by
no means uncommon in Hertfordshire ; one of the most
important being Grimes-ditch, or Grimm's Dyke, traces
of which remain on Berkhampstead common, as well as
on the opposite side of the Bulbourne valley, while a deep
ditch runs in a bold sweep from near Great Berkhampstead
through Northchurch and Wiggington to the north of
Cholesbury camp, and thence into Buckinghamshire.
Beech Bottom forms another great dyke lying between
the site of Verulam and Sandridge, and is probably pre-
Roman, and possibly connected with the encampment
east of Wheathampstead known as the Moats or the Slad.
The latter forms part of a great system of earthworks of



92



HERTFORDSHIRE



which the opposite side is marked by the Devil's Dyke at
Marford. The great earthworks running outside of and
parallel to parts of the Roman wall at Verulam are like-
wise older than the latter. Berkhampstead Castle may
stand on the site of an earlier camp, as British and Roman
coins have been found there ; but the mound or keep, as




The Devil's Dyke, Marford

at Bishop's Stortford, Pirton, and Hertford Castles, is
probably Saxon. On the other hand, the well-preserved
camp near Redbourn, known as the Aubreys, Auberys, or
Aubury, is certainly pre-Roman; and the same is probably
the case with some of the numerous other earthworks
dotted over the county, such as Arbury Banks, Ash well,
A few barrows or tombs of pre-Roman age have been



ANTIQUITIES



93



opened and examined in various parts of the county, as at
Therfield, Royston, and Easneye near Ware.




Ancient Causeway, Verulam

In evidence of the Roman occupation of Britain
Hertfordshire is unusually rich, although limitations of
space prevent anything like justice being done to this part
of the subject. The county is, in the first place, traversed



94



HERTFORDSHIRE



from south to north by three main Roman roads, the
Wading Street, running through St Albans and Markyate,
the Ermine Street, passing through Hertford, and the
Icknield Way, traversing Hatfield and Baldock ; as well
as by the Roman Way, connecting the latter town with
Hertford. Of these we shall speak presently. The




Roman Wall in St Germans' Meadow, Verulam

crowning Roman glory of Hertfordshire is, however,
the city of Verulamium, or Verulam, situated on the hill
on the opposite side of the Ver to St Albans. Much of
the foundations of this city lie buried within the area
partially enclosed by the remains of the massive walls ;
and the ploughman within that ring is constantly turning
up coins, fragments of pottery and glass, and other articles.



ANTIQUITIES



95



In one place are buried the apparently complete founda-
tions of an amphitheatre, which was opened out many
years ago, but again covered up after examination. Of
the waits considerable portions, in a more or less damaged
condition, still remain to bear eloquent testimony to the
lasting character of Roman masonry ; and much more
would have persisted had they not been used as a




St Albans' Abbey from the South Side
convenient source of materials for the construction of

4

St Albans' Abbey and other ancient buildings. The
basement of a Roman villa, in a fine state of preservation,
was opened out at Sarratt Bottom in 1908, and plans of
the structure prepared, after which the excavations were
filled in. Other Roman remains are known to exist in
the district.



96 HERTFORDSHIRE

Ravensburgh Castle, Hexton, is a well-known Roman
camp, built on an earlier foundation ; and remains of
Roman camps exist at Braughing and several other places
in the county, although in many cases the precise age of
such ancient stations does not appear to be definitely
ascertained.

Isolated Roman remains of various kinds occur in
many parts of Hertfordshire. From the writer's own
neighbourhood the British Museum possesses a Roman
altar found many years ago at Harpenden, as well as a
Romano-British stone coffin, containing a glass vessel and
pottery, found near Pickford Mill in the Lea valley, east
of Harpenden, in 1827. The remains of another Roman
interment, including fine specimens of amphorae, or large
two-handled pottery vessels, were found about the year
1865 near Harpenden station on the Great Northern
railway, and Barkway has yielded a fine bronze statuette
of Mars.

Reference may here be made to the ancient mill-
stones, for hand use, made of Hertfordshire pudding-stone,
and known as querns, of which the writer gave two fine
specimens from Harpenden to the British Museum. Both
stones have one flat and one convex surface, but the
convexity is much greater in the upper stone, which is
almost conical, and is completely perforated at the centre.
When in use, a stick, to serve as the axis of rotation, was
inserted in this hole and received in a socket in the nether
stone. The labour involved in making these pudding-
stone querns must have been enormous.

With the Saxon period we reach the age of church



ANTIQUITIES 97

building ; but apart from such portions of certain churches
as are of that age, Hertfordshire is exceedingly poor in
evidence of the Saxon dominion. A glass Anglo-Saxon
basin, together with a bronze Frankish pot of late sixth
or early seventh century work, was, however, discovered
at Wheathampstead in 1886. Anglo-Saxon relics are
believed also to have been unearthed at Redbourn at a
very early period, when they were attributed to St Amphi-
balus ; and a Saxon burial-place appears to have been found
near Sandridge in modern times, although unfortunately
ploughed over. Apart from the above, there are only a
few isolated "finds," such as of the coins known as
minimi, and of a gold ornament discovered at Park Street
in 1744.



16. Architecture, (a) Ecclesiastical
Abbeys and Churches.

The architecture of Hertfordshire buildings may be
most conveniently discussed under three separate sections,
namely : (a] ecclesiastical, or buildings related to the
church ; (b] military, or castles ; and (c] domestic, or
dwelling houses and cottages.

As in England generally, the architecture of the older
buildings of all three classes has been affected to a greater
or less degree by the nature of the building materials most
easily accessible. Throughout the northern chalk area of
the county the Totternhoe stone of Bedfordshire and the
northern flanks of Hertfordshire was largely employed in

L. H. 7



98 HERTFORDSHIRE

church building, both for inside and outside work, to the
latter of which it is but ill suited. Flint in the better
class of work "faced" or "dressed" by fracture so as to
present a flattened outer face was also very extensively
used. The Norman builders of the tower of St Albans found,
however, a quarry ready to their hands in the adjacent
walls of Verulam, and we accordingly find this part of
the structure made almost entirely of the characteristic
Roman bricks or tiles. Contemporaneous brick was also
locally used to a very considerable extent even in the
chalk districts ; and in the north-western part of the
county there are numerous beautiful examples of Tudor
brick chimneys, as at Water End. Timber in the old
days was, however, much cheaper than bricks, and we
consequently find many of the older buildings especially
cottages constructed of a framework of wood, arranged
in the fashion of a net, with the large " meshes " filled in
with brick. This type of work is locally known as brick
and studding and to the architect as half-timbered work.
Other buildings were largely constructed of a wooden
framework overlain with lath-and-plaster work.

Many of the churches built of flint or Totternhoe
stone have their angles or quoins made of harder material ;
in many instances of stone apparently from Northampton-
shire, but in other cases of Roman brick ; similar materials
being also used in the arches of some of the churches.

A large number of Hertfordshire churches have
relatively low battlemented towers, frequently with a
short spire or steeple in the centre as at Tewin, or a
turret in one corner. Kensworth is an example of such



ARCHITECTURE ECCLESIASTICAL 99

a battlemented tower without either spire or turret ; St
Mary's, Hitchin, Tring, Northchurch, Barnet, Bushey,
King's Walden, Cheshunt, and Watford are examples of
towers with a turret in one angle, while at Ashwell there
are turrets in all four corners. Some of the smaller
churches, like St Michael's, St Albans, originally had no




St Peter's, Tewin

aisles. Clothall church is peculiar in that the roof of
the tower forms a four-sided cone ; while the roof of the
church at Sarratt is equally unique in being saddle-backed,
that is to say, having a ridge running at right angles to
that of the roof of the nave and chancel.

Apparently there is no wholly Saxon church in the
county, although several of the older ones were con-

72



100



HERTFORDSHIRE



structed on the site of Saxon buildings, many of which
were probably of wood, and thus either perished through
decay or were burnt during the Danish raids. On the




St Mary's, Cheshunt

other hand, there are remains of Saxon work in St Albans'
Abbey, and there are several Hertfordshire churches which
are referred with a greater or less degree of certainty to
the period before the Norman conquest ; the original part



ARCHITECTURE ECCLESIASTICAL 101

of St Michael's, in St Albans, and of St Stephen's, to the
south-west of that town, may be cited as examples, both
dating from the middle of the tenth century. The
church of Sandridge on the road from St Albans to
Wheathampstead may likewise date from the same
epoch.




St Helen's, Wheathampstead

Of Norman churches there are numerous examples,
among which may be cited as a fine specimen St Mary's,
Hemel Hempstead, whose tall octagonal tower and spire
are visible from a long distance. The Norman arches of
the nave are of great solidity, while the western doorway,
dating from about 1 140, is a magnificent example of the
work of the period. Sarratt church is also largely Norman,



102



HERTFORDSHIRE



as was also the old church of St Nicholas, Harpenden,
unfortunately pulled down (with the exception of the
much later tower) nearly half a century ago. A consider-
able portion of St Albans' Abbey (now cathedral), the
pride of the whole county, is also Norman ; the tower of




St Mary's, Hemel Hempstead

Roman brick being, apart from modern additions, wholly
of that period. The old Saxon Church of King Offa,
which stood on or near the site of the present building,
appears to have been completely swept away by Abbot
Paul of Caen (1077 1093), the founder of the present



104 HERTFORDSHIRE

abbey, which although completed by him, was not conse-
crated till 1115. "It is to be inferred," according to the
Victoria History of Hertfordshire, " that a clean sweep was
made of the old buildings, and no evidence as to their site
has been preserved. The Norman Abbot's contempt for
his Saxon predecessors... led him to destroy their tombs,
and he doubtless laid out his- new building without
attempting in any way to accommodate them to those
previously existing on the site. But he preserved and
used up in his new church some of the stonework of the
old building, giving a very prominent place to the turned
shafts which still remain in the transept, and are the most
notable relics of the Saxon building." In the present
nave, which is the second longest in England, the first six
pillars on the north side belong to the original structure
of Abbot Paul ; after which we come to Early English
(Pointed) work ; this being continued to the west end of
the building and back to the fifth pillar on the south side,
whence Decorated work extends to St Cuthbert's screen.
The Norman work (1077 1093) of one side thus faces
Decorated work (1308 1326) on the other, but this is
due to accident rather than design, the Norman pillars
having given way early in the church's history. It has
recently been suggested that the Abbey stands on the site
of the old Roman amphitheatre, and that St Peter's Street,
St Albans, marks the position of the Roman cursus, or
race-course.

Of the Decorated style, in vogue during the reigns of
the three Edwards, in other words, throughout the four-
teenth century, in addition to the beautiful work in St



ARCHITECTURE ECCLESIASTICAL 105

Albans' Abbey, we have examples in Abbot's Langley,
Clothall, and Hitchin churches. Abbot's Langley has
also some fine Norman work in the nave. Many of the
churches of the Perpendicular period, like St Mary's,
Hitchin, have large and beautiful porches. Most of the
windows in Abbot's Langley church are Perpendicular,
although some on the south side are Decorated ; and
Tring and Offley churches are wholly of the Perpen-
dicular style.

Previous to the Reformation, Hertfordshire, like other
counties, possessed numerous religious houses, such as
priories, monasteries, nunneries, and hospitals ; all of
which, commencing with the smaller ones, were sup-
pressed by Henry VIII, whose chief agent in the work
was Thomas Cromwell. In many instances the sole
evidence of the existence of such establishments is the
survival of the word "Abbey" or "Priory" as the name
of a private mansion, but sometimes their gateways,
towers, or merely ruins, still remain.

The neighbourhood of St Albans is especially rich in
relics of this nature. To the south, on the banks of the
Ver, are the famous ruined walls of Sopwell Nunnery, a
building known to have been in existence so early as
1119; but of the monastery there remains only the fine
gate-house (long misused as a gaol), together with traces
of the cloister arches on the south wall of the abbey.
From documentary evidence, however, aided by excava-
tions in the abbey orchard, it has been found possible to
make a ground-plan of the whole establishment. The
last traces of the hospital of St Mary-de-Pr vanished only



106 HERTFORDSHIRE

during the last century ; the name surviving in a private
house by the Ver, which is known as the Pre.

Hitchin formerly possessed a large priory, as is indicated
by the designation of the home of the Delme-Radcliffes ;
as well as by the existence in the town itself of certain
almshouses known as the "Biggin." The latter were




Ruins of Sopwell Nunnery, St Albans

purchased by a private gentleman in 1545, being at that
time part of the disestablished " Priory of Bygyng in the
town of Hychen." The Biggin, which was once in-
habited by Gilbertine nuns, has a beautiful wooden
corridor. "The Priory" as the title of a house in the
main street of Redbourn, and " The Cell " as that of a
mansion further down the road, at Markyate, are but



ARCHITECTURE ECCLESIASTICAL 107

two among many other traces of monastic institutions
in the county.

Of King's Langley Priory, which is known to have
been in existence in 1400, a considerable portion still




The Priory, Hitchin



exists. Ashridge House now occupies the site of a large
monastery and college, of which there are many remains.
A brief reference may here be made to St Albans' clock-
tower, which was erected between 1403 and 1412, and
from which the curfew was rung till so late as 1861,




Courtyard in the Biggin Almshouses. Hitchin



ARCHITECTURE ECCLESIASTICAL 109

while a bell was also rung early in the morning to awaken
work-people.



17. Architecture. (V) Military Castles.

Like most other counties in the south of England,
Hertfordshire possesses the remains of several Norman




The Priory, King's Langley

castles, most of which appear to date back no further than
the Conquest, while others, like Berkhampstead (where, as
we have seen in a previous section, Mercian kings held
their courts), have been supposed to be constructed on the
site of earlier buildings of a similar nature. -" wsta

The total number of castles built by the Normans to



110 HERTFORDSHIRE

overawe their new English subjects is stated to have
been about noo. These, as may naturally be surmised,
varied considerably in size, some being royal castles,
constructed for the defence of the country generally and
ruled by a constable or guardian, while others belonged to
individual Norman noblemen for the defence of their own
estates, and were for the most part the terror of the
surrounding districts.

A Norman castle of the highest type occupied a large
area, the lofty and massive outer wall enclosing a space
of several acres, and being surmounted with towers and
protected by bastions, while it was also surrounded by a
moat or ditch. Within the enclosure thus formed were
three main divisions, the first of which was the outer
bailey, or courtyard, entered by a towered gateway
furnished with a portcullis (that is to say, a gate which
could be dropped down from, and drawn up into, the
tower by means of a system of chains and pulleys) and a
drawbridge. The stables and other buildings were con-
tained in this court. Next came the inner bailey, or
quadrangle, likewise entered through a towered and forti-
fied gateway, and containing the chapel, the barracks, and
the keep. Lastly, we have the keep or donjon itself,
which always contained a well, and constituted the final
portion which was defended during a protracted siege
when the garrison was hard pressed. In choosing the site
for such a military castle, either a more or less isolated
and steep hill or rock might be selected, or a situation in
marshy low-lands, where access might be rendered difficult
or impossible by damming back the waters.



ARCHITECTURE MILITARY 1 1 1

The Norman castle at Berkhampstead, which stood
close to the present railway due east of the station, and
portions of the ruins of which may be seen from the train,
was built by Robert Earl of Morton, brother of William
the Conqueror. According to a recent writer, the earth-
works of this castle represent the original fortress founded
by the Conqueror, and the appellation of a " burh " to the
structure is consequently erroneous. A Saxon " burh " or
"burg" was a fortified town, whereas the moated mound of
Berkhampstead, like those at Hertford, Bishop's Stortford,
Anstey, Bennington, and Pirton, are essentially Norman
castles of the type known as "mottes," or, from their
shape, as "mount and bailey castles." It is a common
idea that Berkhampstead was originally a stone castle, but
the earthworks now remaining really represent the fortress
itself. In the reign of Henry II the custody of Berk-
hampstead Castle was entrusted to Thomas a Becket, who
replaced the old wooden defences (such as stockades,
palisades, and towers) originally crowning the banks, by
walls of flint rubble, remains of which still partly surround
the enclosure.

Hertford Castle, the site of which forms the residence
of His Majesty's judges during the assizes, was built by
Edward the Elder about the year 905 ; and after the
conquest William I placed both castle and town in the
custody of Peter de Valoignes. Other ancient castles and
baileys in the county include the following, viz :

Anstey Castle, situated about a mile from the eastern
border of Hertfordshire, on the watershed between the
Stort and the Quin. Bennington Castle, built on high



112 HERTFORDSHIRE

ground about a mile from the river Beane and some two
miles from Walkern Bury ; the ruins include the remains
of a small, square keep, as well as of a bailey. Wayte-
more Castle, Bishop's Stortford, belonging to the Bishop
of London, is an excellent example of the type of fortress
which owes the main part of its strength to being situated
in a practically impassable morass; that is to say, when
the latter was kept well flooded. The flint rubble walls
of the keep are fully a dozen feet in thickness.

Smaller baileys existed at High Down, near Pirton ;
at Periwinkle Hill, on nearly level ground, midway
between Reed and Barkway ; and also at Walkern, on
the Beane, about a mile and a half distant from the
village. In the last of these it is noteworthy that the
church is situated close to the castle, although, unlike the
one at Anstey, it does not appear to have been included
in an outer ward.

The class of defensive works known as homestead
moats that is to say, simple enclosures formed into
islands by means of moats containing water do not,
perhaps, strictly speaking, come under the title of either
architectural or military structures. Still this seems the
most convenient place in which to mention them. The
northern and eastern districts of Hertfordshire are remark-
able for the enormous number of these homestead moats ;
these districts being equalled in this respect only by Essex
and Suffolk. On the western side of the county they are
comparatively uncommon.

" These enclosures," observes a writer in the Victoria
History of the county, " vary greatly in size, shape, and



ARCHITECTURE MILITARY 113

position, and it is obvious that they do not all belong
to one period, for in all ages to surround a piece of land
with a ditch has been one of the most elementary forms
of defence. There are, however, as with the larger
earthworks, certain typical forms It should be noted
that the typical feature of a homestead moat is that the
earth, dug to form the deep surrounding ditch, was thrown
on to the inclosure and spread, thus raising the island
slightly above the surrounding level. The construction
of moats, except for ornamental purposes, having ceased
when the state of the country no longer necessitated such
protective measures against men or wild beasts, they often
fell into decay, or were partially filled up, and their
vestiges converted into ponds, while many may have been
obliterated as interfering with agriculture, but there still


1 2 3 4 6 8 9

Online LibraryRichard LydekkerHertfordshire, by R. Lydekker → online text (page 6 of 9)