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Hertford in 1838

Hertford, the county-town, is in a low valley below the junction of the Maran or Mimram, and just above that of the Beane with the Lea, which last-mentioned river runs through the town. It is in the hundred of Hertford. The limits of the borough jurisdiction, as determined by the Boundary Act and the Municipal Reform Act, include parts of the parishes of St. Andrew. St. John, and Bengeo, the parish of All Saints, and parts of the liberties of Brickenden and Little Amwell, which, together with the parish of St. John, are attached for ecclesiastical purposes to the parish of All Saints.

The parliamentary borough was, before the Reform Act, much smaller than the municipal borough, which was divided into two parts, distinguished as the in-borough (parliamentary), and the out-borough. By the Boundary Act the parliamentary borough comprehends the whole of the out-borrough, with the addition of a small space beyond the then municipal boundaries, and the Municipal Reform Act extended the municipal boundary, and made it co-extensive with the parliamentary. The population of the in-borough, by the census of 1831, was 4,028 : with that of the out-borough (partly determined by conjecture), it amounted to 5,631. The part added by the Boundary Act contained probably about 200 persons. The town is irregularly laid out, but the streets are well paved and lighted with gas, and the general appearance of the place indicates prosperity and improvement. It has two parish churches : All Saints, a large cross church, with a square tower and spire at its western end, and St. Andrew’s. There are some remains of an ancient castle, consisting of little except a line of embattled wall and a mound. A handsome brick edifice was built on the site of the castle probably in the time of James I or Charles I ; but some parts of it are perhaps of older date. This building was occupied for a time by the East India College. It is now occupied by the East India Company as a preparatory school to the college now at Haileybury. The shire-hall is over the corn and general market. The county gaol and house of correction is out of the town, on the east side : one ward of it is appropriated as the borough prison. There is a town-hall. Near the east end of the town is a large building belonging to the governors of Christ’s Hospital, in London, at which a number of the girls and of the younger boys of that charity receive their education. They buildings will contain 500 children, with their needful attendants.

No manufacture is carried on at Hertford, but a good deal of business is done in malting, and there are many corn-mills on the Lea or the Mimram. The market, which is on Saturday, is one of the largest corn-markets in the kingdom. There are four yearly fairs, chiefly for cattle. The borough council consists of four aldermen and twelve councillors ; the borough has a commission of the peace. There are quarter-sessions held for the borough, and the assizes and sessions for the county are also held here. Hertford returns two members to parliament.

Hertford is a place of considerable antiquity. Sir Henry Chauncy would have fixed here the Durocobrivae of Antoninus, which is now more commonly fixed at Maiden Bower near Dunstable. In A.D. 673 a national ecclesiastical council was held at Hertford ; and about A.D. 905 Edward the Elder built the castle, and rebuilt the town, which had probably been ruined by the Danes. In the civil war of the reign of John, this castle was taken, after a brave defence, by the Dauphin Louis and the revolted barons : it subsequently came to the crown, and was granted in succession to John of Gaunt, and to the queens of Henry IV, V, and VI. Jean II, king of France, and David, king of Scotland, spent part of their captivity here during the reign of Edward III. Queen Elizabeth occasionally resided and held her court in this castle.

The living of All Saints is a vicarage united with that of St. John, of the yearly value of £290 with a glebe house ; that of St. Andrew (with which are incorporated St. Mary and St. Nicholas) is a rectory of the clear yearly value of £271 with a glebe-house. Both livings are in the deanery of Hertford, the archdeaconry of Huntingdon, and the diocese of Lincoln. There are several dissenting places of worship.

In 1833 there were in Hertford the following schools : the branch school of Christ’s Hospital ; a free grammar-school with 33 day-scholars on the foundation and 24 boarders ; the green charity-school, with 45 boys ; two national schools, with 161 boys and 45 girls ; another charity-school with 45 girls ; an infant school with about 20 children, and eleven other day or boarding and clay-schools, with 329 children ; one evening-school with 40 girls ; and three Sunday-schools with 196 children.

Hailbury College, two or three miles from Hertford, has residences for the principal and for several professors, and some accommodation for 100 students, who are trained for the civil service of the East India Company ; about 30 are sent out to India every year.