A BRIEF LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF
THE INNS AND PUBLIC HOUSES
OF HEMEL HEMPSTEAD.
(OR AN ALTERNATIVE PUB CRAWL)
Between the years of 1830 and 1869, there existed a ‘Beerhouse Act’, which enabled almost anyone to open such an establishment, purely by means of a payment of two guineas to the Excise. This combined with a general shortage of clean or ‘assured’ water probably, I believe, had a considerable bearing on the number of Inns and Public Houses that have come and gone in Hemel Hempstead over the Years. Indeed I can vouch, so far, for almost 140 of them !
Before setting off on our journey around the Town, it is worth remembering that Hemel has had its fair share of breweries, indeed there was something of a fondness for the Bury Mill area, where, in 1850, Samuel Deacon was known to have employed seven staff in his brewery there.
However, the first of two main breweries was The Anchor Brewery in Anchor Lane. This was owned by Nash, and was known to sell Imperial Stout at 1/ 8d per gallon, or 60 shillings per barrel. Fine India Pale Ale at 1/ 4d a gallon, or 48 shillings per barrel. It also sold Whiskey, Gin, Rum and Brandy all delivered free to your door !
The second of the two main breweries was The Star Brewery, owned by Spicer Elliot, which stood at the bottom of Bury Road. Here XX Mild Ale was sold at one shilling per gallon, and bottled ales of imperial pints were sold at Half a Crown a dozen !
So, lets set off on our journey around the Town’s Inns and Public Houses, beginning at Water End and The Red Lion, an 18th Century Inn, known from as early as 1730, when the then Landlord Richard Merlot was reported to have passed away.
Moving back towards Hemel, we turn left into Piccotts End Lane, and into Piccotts End itself, where amazingly, for such a small area of the Town, there have been no less than nine different drinking establishments. Still there today are The Marchmont, formerly Marchmont House, built between 1771 and 1772 by Lord Polwarth of Polwarth, the third, and last, Earl of Marchmont. In later years it would also become home to members of the Paston Cooper family. Further along the road we find The Boars Head, known from Parish Registers as early as 1736. It has been rather unkindly been known at times by it’s rather less than complimentary spoonerism !
The other drinking establishments in Piccotts End have been, The Chequers, known from 1714, The Cock referred to in 1843 as a new establishment and rated at £12.00 per annum, The Crown
which later became known as The Partridge, The Fox and Duck, known from a survey of the manor as early as 1633, The Rose and Crown which closed in 1904, when it’s licence was surrendered in favour of The Boars Head, The Windmill, which finally closed on January 4th, 1967, and finally Tom Long the Carrier also known from a manorial survey as early 1676, although who Tom Long was, or indeed what He carried we may never know !
We can now pass into the High Street, previously known as Market Street, which has been the home of a veritable plethora of Inns, Alehouses and Public Houses. To make this easier to follow we shall go down one side of the Street and back up the other before continuing our journey.
We begin at number 107, home of The Royal Oak. The name was changed from The Oak to commemorate the restoration of Charles II to the throne. This former Inn was known from rental records as early as 1523, and eventually closed in the early 1970’s.
At number 81 was once The Sun Inn, a 17th century Inn known from the Civil War period, when the then keeper, Francis Oxley, was known to have fought for the forces of the King in the Earl of Oxford’s Regiment. The inn continued to trade until January 24th, 1960, when last orders meant just that!
Next door to this was the home of what was The Lord Nelson, a 19th century Inn that has seen many other businesses run in the building since the Inn closed. This was formerly known in the 18th Century as The Mermaid or The Meremayde, and at that time was known to have six bedrooms and stabling for 14 horses. Despite this the Mermaids era ended in 1789 when it ceased trading.
It is strange to note that the Inn sign of The Lord Nelson was discovered in the basement of Number 63, which used to be The Angel , and to this day nobody can understand why!
Moving to Number 63, and The Angel Inn, this is known as a 19th century Inn, although the premises date back to the 16th century. This Inn had its own pew in St. Marys, reserved for the use of its own patrons, a privilege granted by the then Vicar John Warren.
Numbers 53-55 were the one time home of The Legged Inn, or The Leg Inn, as some would know it. This 19th Century Inn has also seen many other businesses run from the premises since it closed.
The Bell Inn is of course still trading at number 51. This was probably named after the Old Market Bell in the Market House across the street. Interestingly this was known at one time to have been able to stable up to 54 horses, and actually employed its own blacksmith. The Bell was apparently built on what was described as a ploughed field, and dates back to the 17th century, perhaps even the end of the 16th century. T
At 47-49 once was The Three Compasses, also known as The Compasses, an 18th century Inn that eventually closed for the last time on New Years Eve 1912.
The Kings Arms continues to trade at number 43, this 18th century Coaching Inn was created by the merger of two other Inns, The Black Lion (or Lyon), and The Princes Arms the latter of which was named after The Prince of Wales, who later became King George III. The Inn remains today as one of just four remaining Inns of the High Street.
The East side Hemel Hempstead High Street
The Kings Arms & The Bell in 1881
The Swan once occupied number 29, this was an 18th century Inn which was known to play ‘mine host’ to the workers from the Cranstones Iron Foundry in the alley next to it. The Inn finally closed in the 1960’s.
A little further down at number 23 once was The Cocke (or The Cock), this 17th century Inn appears to have closed in the late 19th century, as it shows as being vacant from 1870. Most of it was purchased by Joseph Cranstone in order to extend his ironworks.
At number 19 The Rose and Crown continues to trade. This was an 18th century Inn, although when known formerly as The Crown, it could be traced back as far as 1523.
Number 11 played home to The Ship, formerly known as The Hollybush. This was a former 17th century Inn, and has long since ceased to exist.
At number 9 used to be The Boot, a 19th Century coaching Inn, it closed in the 1930’s, and was re-opened on St. Albans Hill, where trade continues under it’s new name, The Tile Kiln.
The High Street in 1881.
The Boot is visible on the east side with the Half Moon and the White Hart opposite.
Moving across the street at number 24 we find what was the premises of The Half Moon, which is still remembered today as Half Moon Yard still exists. This 18th century Inn was another to close for the last time on New Years Eve 1912.
Number 28 is an interesting point of call, this was originally The Dolphin, an 18th century Ale House which it appears ceased trading in the third quarter of that century, when it was purchased by Nathaniel Wishart Robinson and William Henry Cranstone, and converted into The King Harry Coffee Tavern, an establishment set up by local businesses and churches to persuade the younger people of the Town to have their fun in other than the normal Inns and Public Houses of the time. The temperance movement was strong in these days, and Hemel Hempstead was clearly a part of their plans!
Up to number 32, and The White Hart, this, of course, is still in business today. Although known as a wine tavern as early as the 17th century, this is a 19th century Inn. The front of the building has been ‘boarded up’ for over twenty years and conceals a mid nineteenth century shop front.
48 - 52 once housed The Lamb, which stands on Church property, and which was built by the Vicar of St. Marys, The Reverend John Eggerton, in 1527. This would explain the alternative name of The Paschal Lamb.
The west side – The Lamb in 1881
The Red Lion used to occupy number 60, this was a 16th century Inn, known in 1756 to have only four bedrooms, but sufficient stabling for 16 horses! The Inn closed in 1900.
At number 64 was once The Kings Head, later to become The Old Kings Head, an 18th century Inn that finally closed in 1888.
The Brewers Arms once occupied numbers 76 - 78. This was a somewhat rough and ready 19th century Inn that acquired the nickname of The Poachers Retreat due to the clientele it attracted in those days. It finally closed in 1959, and is today a private residence.
At number 86 was once The Coach and Horses, a 19th century Inn that closed in 1903, in order for a licence to be granted elsewhere.
There were other Inns on the High Street, whose address is unknown, The George Inn , an 18th century Inn sold at auction in 1791 (when it is though it closed), as, being a large property with bar, having 2 stables, 2 parlours, kitchen and seven good bedrooms. This meant it must have changed a great deal, for in the 1756 billeting return it was said to have only one bedroom , and NO stabling at all! Last of all was The Boat, a 19th century Inn known to be kept in 1838 by one Martha Durrant.
We should also mention in passing The York, a probable beerhouse, at the lower end of the High Street, and also The Castle known in later life as The Shoulder of Mutton, the building was quoted in deed documents as ‘standing and being at the lower end of the High Street’, which could well, of course, have meant Queensway as we know it today.
Behind the High Street, used to stand The Shah named to commemorate the second visit to the Country of the Shah or Persia in 1889, which had it seems raised far more interest than his first visit in 1873. Through a short alleyway, we come into Herbert Street, where The Hop Garland once stood. It is a private house today, but the old Inn sign holder still remains !
Back on Queensway, roughly where the Fire Station stands today once stood The White Lion, an eighteenth century Public House, known from 1723, and two or three doors away stood The Swan and Trout, a rather low grade lodging house, hence it’s rather derogatory nickname of ‘The Flea and Blanket’, and lastly The Green Man, which may have been a previous name for one of the inns mentioned previously, or may indeed have been the large mystery Inn that stood across the junction of what is today the bottom of Alexandra Road.
Up the hill, and opposite the Local Conservative HQ, on the corner of the once Redbourn Road, once stood The Oak, further along the old Redbourn Road we find The Old Bell Gate, thought to have been named from it’s proximity to the entrance to the grounds of the Old Bell in the High Street. A short way further is The Beehive probably the only Public House to have had a ‘live’ inn sign, when at one time there was an actual beehive mounted on the Lintel over the doorway !
We can now move on into Highfield, and to The Royal Stag, one of the ‘New Town Pub’s’ named to remind us of the Town’s connection with Henry VIII, and his visits to Ashridge and The Bury, when the Royal chase of wild deer would have been high on the agenda.
Moving along Cambrian Way from Highfield we move on to Grovehill where we find Greenacres II, formerly The Cupid, and, if we then move along St. Agnells Lane to the junction with Redbourn Road, we come to where the original Cupid once stood, and opposite this the site of The True Blue Inn, this closed in 1912, the subject of a compensation order.
Compensation Orders were issued as a result of an Act of Parliament of 1910, which decreed that licensed premises which had insufficient trade, or, which were not maintained to a suitable standard, could have their licence removed by either the Brewery or by the Magistrates.
Moving along High Street Green, and right into Adeyfield Road, we pass the site of The Saracens Head, one of two pubs, along with The Halfway House on Marlowes, which closed to enable The New Venture in Queens Square to open. The New Venture was so named to indicate the challenge of the of the New Town venture.
While in Adeyfield we should also mention The Midland formerly The Midland Hotel, and The Mayflower which received it’s full licence at the expense of the Red Lion in the High Street, and The Bricklayers Arms in Bury Road.
Also there was The Masons Arms, known in a previous life as The Honest Coal Carter, which also closed for the last time in 1912, but whether it was the subject of a compensation order is not clear.
Belconey, & The Honest Coal Carter (centre back) c. 1905
Taking St. Albans Road, and turning right at the Maylands Avenue roundabout, we move into Leverstock Green, passing The Green Man, which was formerly The Litton Tree.............
The White Horse 1995, & The Litten Tree 2005
, and prior to that The White Horse, although the original White Horse had stood further along the road where the shopping centre is today, until it was demolished in the 1960’s.
Flagpoles outside the Whitehorse for the Coronation in 1953
The Plough remains today a very popular Inn and restaurant, as indeed does The Crabtree, recently re-opened after extensive refurbishment and extension.
The Plough in the 1920’s
The Crabtree is known as early as 1563 when it was used as the local pesthouse.
The Crabtree in the 1920’s
The final Inn still open today is of course The Leather Bottle, (below)known from as early as 1763, following the finding of an inventory of that date.
Another old Inn of the area was The Red Lion, known from a manorial survey as early as 1768. Indeed a little further down the road, in the front garden of one of the houses, is a tiny cottage known as ‘Frogs Island’, which is believed to have been the ostelry for the Red Lion, despite it being a 16th century building.
St Michael’s End, previously The Red Lion
(see motif over door)
Other Inns in the area have been The Rose and Crown which stood on the Bedmond Road opposite the junction of Church Road,
The Elms, Bedmond Road – preciously The Rose & Crown PH
The Three Horseshoes, 1904
and The Three Horseshoes which stood for many years next to the original White Horse, and which by 1933 had become a garage which took its name, being known as The Three Horseshoes garage for some time.
The Three Horseshoes Petrol Station in the 1930’s