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Parliament Square, Hertford Town Centre
Hertford is located in Hertfordshire
Location within Hertfordshire
Population26,783  (2011 Census)[1]
OS grid referenceTL325125
• London19.2 mi (30.9 km) S
Civil parish
  • Hertford
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtSG13, SG14
Dialling code01992
AmbulanceEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
51°47′42″N 0°04′41″W / 51.795°N 0.078°W / 51.795; -0.078Coordinates: 51°47′42″N 0°04′41″W / 51.795°N 0.078°W / 51.795; -0.078

Hertford (/ˈhɑːrtfərd/ HART-fərd, locally /ˈhɑːrfərd/ HAR-fərd) is the county town of Hertfordshire, England, and is also a civil parish in the East Hertfordshire district of the county. The town has a population of approximately 26,000, according to the 2011 census.[2]


The earliest reference to the town appears in the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, written by Bede in 731 AD, which refers to Herutford. Herut is the Old English spelling of hart, meaning a fully mature stag; thus the meaning of the name is a ford where harts are found.[3] The Domesday Book of 1086 gives a spelling of Hertforde.[4]


Hertford has been the county town of Hertfordshire since Saxon times when it was governed by the king's reeves. By the 13th century, the reeves had been replaced by a bailiff, elected by the burgesses. Charters of 1554 and 1589 established a common council of eleven chief burgesses and a bailiff. Another charter of 1605 changed the bailiff's title to mayor. In 1835, Hertford became a Municipal Corporation; the ratepayers elected twelve councillors, who chose four aldermen, aldermen and councillors composing the council. This body elected the mayor.[5]

Since 1974, Hertford has been within the East Hertfordshire district of Hertfordshire. The headquarters of Hertfordshire County Council is at County Hall in Hertford. East Herts District Council's offices almost adjoin County Hall, and there is also a Hertford Town Council based at Hertford Castle (see "Landmarks", below).


Hertford is at the confluence of four river valleys: the Rib, Beane and Mimram join the River Lea at Hertford to flow east and then south toward the Thames as the Lee Navigation, after Hertford Castle Weir. The shared valley of the Lea and the Beane is called Hartham Common and this provides a large park to one side of the town centre running towards Ware and lying below the ridge upon which Bengeo is situated.

The town centre still has its medieval layout with many timber-framed buildings hidden under later frontages, particularly in St Andrew Street. Hertford suffers from traffic problems despite the existence of the 1960s A414 bypass called Gascoyne Way which passes close to the town centre. Plans have long existed to connect the A10 with the A414, by-passing the town completely. Nevertheless, the town retains very much a country-town feel, despite lying only 19.2 miles (30.9 km) north of Central London. This is aided by its proximity to larger towns such as Harlow, Bishop's Stortford and Stevenage where modern development has been focused.


Possibly the first mention of the town was in 673 AD: the first synod of a number of the bishops in England was held either in Hertford or at Hartford, Cambridgeshire.[6] It was called by Theodore of Tarsus; decisions included the calculation of the date of Easter.[7] In 912 AD, Edward the Elder built two burhs (earthwork fortifications) close by the ford over the River Lea as a defence against Danish incursions. By the time of the Domesday Book, Hertford had two churches, two markets and three mills. The Normans began work on Hertford Castle, and Hertford Priory was founded by Ralph de Limesy.[8] King Henry II rebuilt the castle in stone, but in 1216, during the First Barons' War, it was besieged and captured after 25 days by Prince Louis of France.[9] The castle was regularly visited by English royalty and in 1358, Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II, died there. The priory was dissolved in 1536 and subsequently demolished[8] and in 1563, the Parliament of England met at the castle because of an outbreak of plague in London. Hertford grew and prospered as a market and county town; communication was improved by the construction of the Lea Navigation Canal in 1767 and the arrival of the railway in 1843.[10] The Port Hill drill hall was completed in 1898 and Yeomanry House was brought into military use in 1910.[11]


Hertfordshire County Hall in Hertford

A fair amount of employment in the town is centred on County Hall (Hertfordshire County Council), Wallfields (East Hertfordshire District Council) and McMullens Brewery, one of a dwindling number of independent pre-1970 family brewers in the United Kingdom. Many residents commute to work in London.

Hertford differs from neighbouring towns as it lacks a modern shopping development (mall). However, it has most of the usual supermarkets. A Tesco store occupies part of the former Christ's Hospital Bluecoat Girls School, which closed down in 1985. Sainsbury's opened a new store on part of the McMullens Brewery site in June 2012.[12] A Waitrose occupied a reasonably large store in the Bircherley Green Shopping area that closed on 12 September 2017. The local branch of Woolworths closed for good on 27 December 2008, after the collapse of that store chain. There are fewer of the usual chain shops found in most high streets and this makes Hertford stand out from other "clone towns". There are a high number of independent shops in the town, with a variety of boutiques and salons.

Sport and leisure[edit]

Hertford has a leisure centre on Hartham Common.


There is a Non-League football club Hertford Town F.C., which plays at Hertingfordbury Park. Hertford Town Youth FC, a FA Charter Standard Football Club, play at County Hall Playing Fields, situated next to the headquarters of Hertfordshire County Council at County Hall in Hertford.[13] Other clubs surrounding the town include Bury Rangers, Hertford Heath Youth FC and Bengeo Tigers Football Club (an award-winning[14] FA Charter Standard Community Football Club.[15])


Hertford Cricket Club is an English amateur cricket club, located in Hertford, the county town of Hertfordshire. Cricket records for a Hertford club go back a far as 1825, however the club in its present form has been in existence since 1860. The club plays its matches at Balls park, Hertford. Currently the club runs five teams and all the teams play in the local league.


The statue of Samuel Stone


  • In the town are the remains of the original Hertford Castle, principally a motte. The castle's gatehouse, the central part of which dates to a rebuild by Edward IV in 1463, is the home to Hertford Town Council. The Motte, from the original Motte and Bailey castle in Hertford, can be found just behind Castle Hall, a short distance from the modern castle.
  • There are several churches in the town, All Saints', and St Andrew's, are late and mid 19th century respectively, although both stand on the sites of medieval places of worship.[18] In the northern suburb of Bengeo lies St Leonard's, a two-celled Norman church of considerable architectural interest.
  • In Railway Street can be found the oldest purpose-built Quaker Meeting House in the world, in use since 1670.
Hertford Quaker Meeting House
  • The Parliament of England temporarily moved to Hertford during a plague outbreak in London in 1563.[19] This is why the main square in the town, Parliament Square, is so named, although it is a twentieth-century creation.
  • The home of Alfred Russel Wallace (see above), now named Wallace House, can be found at 11 St. Andrew St. and is marked with a plaque.[20]
  • Built in 1779, the Shire Hall was designed by Robert Adam.[21] The ground floor houses Court Rooms.
  • The Hertford Corn Exchange was built on the site of a former gaol. After years in the doldrums it has now reverted to being a live entertainment venue.[22]
The Prince Albert Cottage



Hertford East railway station

Hertford serves as a commuter town for London, and has two stations :


The A414 main road now bypasses the town centre to the south and runs east to Harlow, the M11 and Chelmsford and runs west to Hatfield, the A1(M), St Albans and the M1. Hertford also lies just west of the A10 and the Kingsmead Viaduct which links it south to London and the M25 and north to Royston and Cambridge.

Bus and coach[edit]

For all bus and coach timetables see Intalink.[26]


During the months of April to September a scheduled Waterbus operates between Bircheley Green Shopping centre, Hertford and Ware priory.[27]


Schools in Hertford include the Sele School, Richard Hale School and Simon Balle School at secondary level, with primaries of Hollybush JMI, Millmead Community School,[28] Bengeo Primary School,[29] Morgans Primary School & Nursery,[30] Abel Smith School (named after banker and MP Abel Smith (1788–1859)),[31] St Andrew's School and St. Josephs RC School[32] and Wheatcroft School.

Private schools include St. Joseph's in the Park[33] in Hertingfordbury, Duncombe School,[34] (a preparatory school in Bengeo) and Haileybury College in Hertford Heath.

Pinewood and Middleton Schools are special needs schools that are available in neighbouring Ware.

Former schools include The Pines JMI school which was built on the Pinehurst estate in 1977 and closed in 2003.


Hertford Theatre, previously known as Castle Hall, is a modern theatre, cinema and art gallery complex at The Wash in the town centre.[35] The Hertford Corn Exchange is a building where entertainment such as comedy and art exhibitions take place. Hertford has many food, drink and entertainment establishments which have grown in number considerably since the eighties and nineties. It attracts people from nearby towns, and often the North London suburbs. There are approximately 25 pubs and clubs in the area,[36] and around 35 restaurants, takeaways and snack bars.[37] Hertford also benefits from public swimming pool and gym facilities and a small skatepark, all situated on Hartham Common.

Town twinning[edit]


Coat of arms of Hertford
Argent on water barry wavy a hart lodged Proper (recorded at the 1614 visitation).[40]
On either side a lion Ermine gorged with a collar pendent therefrom by a chain Gules an escutcheon Or charged with three chevrons also Gules (granted 20th October 1937).
Pride In Our Past Faith In Our Future


  1. ^ "Town population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  2. ^ "2011 Census – Unrounded Total Resident Population Estimate by Sex (count) – Large Settlements – Tabular Data View". atlas.hertslis.org. Hertfordshire Local Information System (HertsLIS). Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  3. ^ Skeat, Reverend Professor Walter William (1904), The Place-names of Hertfordshire, East Herts Archaeological Society (p. 27)
  4. ^ "The Domesday Book – Contents – Hertfordshire". www.domesdaybook.co.uk. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  5. ^ "The borough of Hertford: Introduction | British History Online". www.british-history.ac.uk.
  6. ^ Munby, Lionel M. (1977) The Hertfordshire Landscape, p. 91. Hodder and Stoughton, London. ISBN 0-340-04459-4
  7. ^ "Church Society - Issues - History - Synod of Hertford". www.churchsociety.org.
  8. ^ a b "Hertford.net". Archived from the original on 10 February 2009.
  9. ^ "Hertford Castle". www.johnbarber.com.
  10. ^ "Hertford.net". Archived from the original on 13 May 2008.
  11. ^ "Hertford". The drill hall project. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  12. ^ "Hertfordshire Mercury". Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  13. ^ "Hertford Town Youth Football Club". www.hertfordtownyouth.co.uk. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  14. ^ "Sorry. Something's wrong with the pitch. - Hertfordshire FA". www.hertfordshirefa.com.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 13 September 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ [1] Hertford's Victoria Cross winner', Retrieved: 20 September 2012
  17. ^ "Hertford.net". Archived from the original on 13 December 2009.
  18. ^ "The borough of Hertford: Castle, honour, manors, church and charities | British History Online". www.british-history.ac.uk.
  19. ^ "Hertford Timeline". Archived from the original on 22 July 2011.
  20. ^ "11 St. Andrew's St., Hertford. Copyright Tom Gladwin | The Alfred Russel Wallace Website". wallacefund.info. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  21. ^ "Geograph:: The Shire Hall, Hertford (C) Melvyn Cousins". www.geograph.org.uk.
  22. ^ "The Corn Exchange". Archived from the original on 12 February 2009.
  23. ^ 42 Fore Street
  24. ^ "Victoria and Albert Museum information on Prince Albert Cottages". Archived from the original on 14 May 2009. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
  25. ^ Burkeman, Oliver (4 January 2005). "Oliver Burkeman: Hertford, home of the Holy Grail" – via www.theguardian.com.
  26. ^ "Hertfordshire Travel Information : Intalink". www.intalink.org.uk. Archived from the original on 6 May 2010.
  27. ^ "Hertford & Ware Waterbus :: Discover Hertford". hertford.net. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  28. ^ "Home | Mill Mead Primary School". www.millmead.herts.sch.uk.
  29. ^ "Bengeo Primary School - Home". www.bengeo.herts.sch.uk.
  30. ^ "Home | www.morgans.herts.sch.uk". www.morgans.herts.
  31. ^ "Abel Smith School – An Ofsted 'Outstanding' School in Hertford, Hertfordshire". www.abelsmith.herts.sch.uk.
  32. ^ "Home | St Joseph's Catholic Primary School". www.stjosephs255.herts.sch.uk.
  33. ^ "Home - St Josephs's In The Park". stjosephsinthepark.com.
  34. ^ "Private Prep & Pre-Prep School in Hertfordshire - Duncombe School". Duncombe School.
  35. ^ "About Hertford Theatre". www.hertfordtheatre.com/. Hertford Theatre. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  36. ^ Hertford.net Archived 16 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine, pub list
  37. ^ Hertford.net Archived 2 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine, restaurant list
  38. ^ a b "Hertford.gov.uk". Archived from the original on 26 May 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
  39. ^ "British towns twinned with French towns [via WaybackMachine.com]". Archant Community Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  40. ^ [civicheraldry.co.uk/east_of_england.html "East of England Region"] Check |url= value (help). Civic Heraldry of England. Retrieved 10 March 2021.

External links[edit]