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Hertfordshire walk: Hertford historic town walk

Hertford Castle (c) Paul Crowley
Hertford Castle (c) Paul Crowley

Embark on this historic Hertford town trail and enjoy a unique journey around Hertfordshire’s county town, offering the chance to soak up everything this historically rich spot has to offer…

Setting the scene:

Bursting with beautiful buildings, open spaces and a variety of enticing independent shops, riverside Hertford offers walkers something special at every turn. Take a slow stroll around the Saxon streets of this pretty market town, using Go Hertford’s historic walk guide to soak up all the sights and stories of Hertfordshire’s County Town. Taking place entirely around the picturesque streets of the main town, you needn’t dust off your muddy walking boots for this route. But, we do advise picking up a hot drink from one of Hertford’s many welcoming cafes to keep you warm along the way, if embarking on a gloomy November day!

Key waypoints to look out for:

● The White Hart: This 17th Century pub forms a corner of Salisbury Square - named after the Marquess of Salisbury. In 1994 a water sculpture by William Pye was built in the square, representing the four rivers which flow into Hertford (Beane, Lea, Mimram, and Rib).

● Shire Hall: Arguably the most impressive building in the centre of town, Shire Hall was once the administrative offices for the County and Borough Councils, and now the home of the Magistrates Courts. It was designed in 1769 by James Adam.

● Hertford Castle: Most people picture the Castle when they think of Hertford. The remaining Gatehouse was built in the 15th century, and was the second on this site.

● St Andrew’s Church: While there has been a church with this name at this site since before the Norman Conquest, the building of St Andrews Church that stands here today was built in 1869.

● Number 11 St Andrew Street: Number 11 St Andrew Street was the childhood home of Alfred Russel Wallace, an impressive explorer and anthropologist whose work on evolution was published alongside Charles Darwin.

● McMullen’s Brewery: McMullen and Sons limited is recognised as one of the country’s leading independent brewers. The company was founded in Hertford in 1827 by Peter McMullen.

● The Old Ford: This is believed to be the original ford across the river which gave the town its name. Old Cross was the centre of Hertford in the 10th century.

● Beadle House: Beadle House, of Queen Anne period, was one of the homes of the Dimsdale family who are still famous locally. Dr Thomas Dimsdale used smallpox inoculation on the Russian Royal Court and was granted the title of ‘Baron of all the Russians’.

● Hertford Museum: While the building dates back to 1610 the frontage is from the 18th century. Explore the museum if you have time and discover to its rear a charming period garden.

● Folly Island: Across the bridge lies an area of Hertford known as Folly Island. The ‘island’ was called Bray’s Folly in 1766. The houses here were built between 1866 and 1893. It became an island when a millstream was dug through in the late 11th Century.

● Bluecoats: Look at the two figures above the gates to what was once Christ’s Hospital School. This establishment for children dates back to 1682, providing overspill education ‘for the recovery of their health by the benefit of the air’.

● The Friends Meeting House: The Friends Meeting House in Railway Street is the oldest of its kind in the world, still used as a place of worship. It’s open to the public at certain times throughout the year, with music concerts held there regularly.

● The Salisbury Arms: Take a moment to admire the beautifully decorated Salisbury Arms. The plaster work seen on the façade is called pargetting. Inside, you’ll be met with a beautiful Jacobean staircase. Cromwell and Fairfax stayed here before putting down their own army mutiny in 1647.

● All Saints’: The Church of All Saints with St. John’s was burnt down in 1891. The current building opened in 1895. Notice the wrought iron gates on both sides of the new dual carriageway which were erected to enable the assize judge to process from the Church to the assize Court at the Shire Hall.

Make a day of it:

You needn’t travel far from this walking route to extend your day out in Hertford, with our recommendation being one of the trail’s very own waymarked hotspots! A place for those who love tiny detail and hidden stories, explore over 100,000 objects and artefacts relating to the history of East Hertfordshire and the surrounding parishes at Hertford Museum. From prehistoric fossils to Roman statues and coins, the museum is open for families and individuals to scan the shelves, and explore the garden and exhibits free of charge.

Perfectly-placed pub:

Another hotspot straight from today’s walking route! Once you’ve soaked up all of Hertford’s rich history, why not settle in for a well-earned refuel at The Salisbury Arms? Picture mottled leather, wooden panelling, beams, open fires, and every other aspect of a truly quintessential pub! Offering a selection of the very-best British dishes in season, it would be rude not to stay around for a long and leisurely lunch here…

Find out more about The Salisbury Arms, or peruse the menu at:

Steps, stats, and stiles:

The entirety of this walking route takes place around the main town itself, covering an area of less than 1 square mile. The route is pathed throughout, making it easily accessible for wheelchairs, pushchairs, and dogs.

Route followed:

For this month’s walk we followed the ‘Discover Hertford Historic Walk’ route on the Go Hertford website


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