Hertfordshire A Fascinating County. Hertingfordbury

One of the places featured in the book Hertfordshire A Fascinating County is Hertingfordbury.

Hertingfordbury is a picturesque village which, although only about one mile to the west of Hertford, manages to remain a peaceful place by the River Mimram. It has a fine church and a variety of historic buildings. The Cowper family lived here, several monuments to family members can be seen in the parish church, and Hertingfordbury became the home of Jane Wenham, the last woman in England sentenced to death for witchcraft.

It was Earl Cowper who provided Jane Wenham with a cottage. Jane Wenham of Walkern was sentenced to death for witchcraft. She was tried before Judge Powell at the Hertford Assizes. Having been found guilty by the jury, Judge Powell reluctantly passed the death sentence on her, but she was reprieved and received a pardon from Queen Anne. Jane was then provided protection by Colonel Plumer of Gilston until his death, and was then provided with a small pension by the Earl and Countess Cowper, dying here in 1730.

Spencer Cowper was a highly respected Judge, and also the grandfather of the poet William Cowper. Like Jane he also faced the ordeal of being tried for his life. While a young man he was arraigned at Hertford Assizes on 16 July 1699 standing accused of the murder of Miss Sarah Stout. The trial caused a sensation at the time, but he was acquitted and resumed his practice as a Barrister. He was later elected an MP and became a judge.

The village was designated a conservation area in 1968 and has a number of interesting buildings including Garth House which is a mid eighteenth century house standing on earlier foundations, with cellars dating from before 1630. The mother of Frederick Spencer Gore lived at Garth House. Frederick painted a number of pictures of Hertingfordbury, many of which are in public collections around the world.

St Mary’s Church stands on a hill overlooking the village. Inside St Mary’s has a number of marvellous monuments. There are also oak bench ends which were carved by Joseph Mayer of Oberammergau fame.

Monuments that were erected in St Mary’s include one to Lady Anne Calvert, the mother of Lord Baltimore who founded the colony at Maryland in America, showing her in a richly embroidered dress, and a monument to Sir William Harrington MP for Hertford, who lived at Hertingfordbury Park, and his wife in shrouds with their daughter kneeling by them in Jacobean dress, and a tablet to Sir Gore Ouseley ambassador to Moscow and Tehran.

In the Cowper Chapel a magnificent sculpture can be seen to Spencer Cowper by Roubiliac, depicting him in judge’s robes with figures of Prudence and Justice, a large monument to William, 2nd Earl Cowper, and a tomb chest to the 7th Earl.

The churchyard has an altar tomb with legs, the tombs of Benjamin Truman, Almeric Paget, and Pauline Paget.

Benjamin Truman was the famous brewer, who made his fortune in the eighteenth century from Porter, a dark, strong, bitter beer. Born in 1699 his Black Eagle Brewery at Stepney became known nationally. He had a country estate here and built a house in Palladian style which was demolished in the nineteenth century.

Almeric Hugh Paget, 1st Baron Queenborough, and his wife Pauline Payne Whitney Paget, were influential in laying down the foundations for our modern day physiotherapy. They established the Almeric Paget Massage Corps during World War I. In 1916 it was renamed the Almeric Paget Military Massage Corps, and the Military Massage Service in 1919. Starting with 50 masseuses the numbers rose to approximately 2000 in 1919.

Hertingfordbury, with its magnificent monuments, church, and variety of houses and cottages is a delightful village.