Ten historic sites in Hertfordshire – HeritageDaily
Hertfordshire is a county in southern England located just above London. With an occupation dating back to the Mesolithic period, Hertfordshire is rich with a variety of historic sites, monuments and ancient ruins just waiting for you to explore.
1 Roman verulamium
Verulamium is a partially excavated Roman town located in St Albans, Hertfordshire. Before the Romans established a colony, the city was the center of the Iron Age Catuvellauni tribe from around 20 BCE.
Verulamium obtained the privileges and citizen protection of a municipium around 50 CE and became an important center of commerce.
In the 3rd century, the city covered an area of 125 acres, encircled by a protective moat (moat) and city walls. (Most likely in response to the city’s sacking during the Buddica Uprising in AD 61, which resulted in the burning of Verulamium and its stone reconstruction).
The city contained a forum, a basilica, and many large dwellings, but the remains visible today include the Roman theater with adjacent buildings and shrine, a hypocaust, mosaics, the city wall, the gate and hundreds objects visible at Verulamium Museum.
2 Berkhamsted Castle
Berkhamsted Castle is a Norman fortress built in the typical motte-and-bailey style in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire to administer the local Anglo-Saxon colony in the 11th century.
In 1216, the castle defenses were besieged with the outbreak of a civil war between King John and the rebel barons. Over the following years, Berkhamsted became closely associated with the Earls and Dukes of Cornwall who transformed the fortress into a lavish residence.
Berkhamsted remained in use as a deer park for hunting and a prison to hold royal prisoners (including John II of France), until its decline from the 15th century.
3 St Albans Cathedral
St Albans Cathedral is a cathedral church in England located in the town of St Albans, Hertfordshire.
Originally considered an abbey in the 8th century by Offa II of Mercia, the building underwent successive architectural changes by the Normans in the 11th century, in addition to 19th century Gothic additions by the Victorians.
With the ruins of Roman Verulamium less than a kilometer and a half away, the ancient Roman city became the main source of building materials for the construction of the abbey and cathedrals. The cathedral and the modern city are in fact named after a Roman, “Alban”, who was the first– Registered British Christian martyr living around 3rd-4th century AD.
4 Hatfield House
Hatfield House is a large stately home and park situated beside the town of Hatfield in Hertfordshire. The current building is a Jacobean construction built in 1611 and the home of the Cecil family.
Witness to royalty, the estate is also home to the Royal Hatfield Palace which was the childhood home and preferred residence of Queen Elizabeth I. Built in 1497 by the Bishop of Ely, the minister of King Henry VII John Cardinal Morton, it consisted of four wings in a square surrounding a central courtyard.
5 Knebworth House
Knebworth House is a country house in the civil parish of Knebworth, Hertfordshire. The home of the Lytton family since 1490, Knebworth House was converted in 1843-45 by Henry Edward Kendall Jr. into the present Tudor Gothic structure.
6 Old House of Gorehambury
Old Gorhambury House is a ruined Elizabethan mansion near St Albans, Hertfordshire. The house was built around 1563-1568 by Sir Nicholas Bacon (Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England) who recycled the bricks from the dissolved Abbey of St Albans. Queen Elizabeth herself is known to have visited the house during her stay in Hertfordshire.
7 Sopwell Convent
Sopwell Priory (Priory of St Mary of Sopwell) was founded in 1140 near St Albans by Benedictine Abbot Geoffrey of Gorham. After the dissolution of St Albans Abbey in 1539, Sopwell Priory was purchased by Sir Richard Lee (a military engineer during the reign of King Henry VIII).
Lee demolished the priory and built a house he named Lee Hall on the site. The house was later renamed Sopwell House, the ruins of which remain today along Cottonmill Lane, near the center of St Albans.
8 Hertford Castle
Hertford Castle was founded as a fortress by Edward the Elder (King of the Anglo-Saxons) around 911 in Hertford, Hertfordshire. After the Norman invasion, the site was further fortified and transformed into a typical motte-and-bailey castle.
Throughout its turbulent history, the castle has witnessed siege, served as a prison for knights and templar kings, as a royal residence, and was home to the seat of the East India Company College. Today, part of the motte, the foundations, the curtain walls and the gatehouse remain.
9 Welwyn Roman Baths
The Welwyn Roman Baths are kept in a vaulted chamber under the A1 (M) near Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire. The baths are part of the Dicket Mead Villa, a 3rd century farm or settlement adjacent to a major Roman road.
The visible remains include the hypocaust, the tepidarium (hot room), the caldarium (hot room) and the floor of the frigidarium (cold room) and the cold bath, built in opus signinum.
10 Lordship Bennington
Benington Lordship is a Georgian mansion and mock Norman sentry box, located to the west of the village of Bennington in Hertfordshire. The gardens which surround the house extend over seven hectares and also shelter the remains of a Norman motte and a castle of bailey.
Defensive earthworks were first built in 1086, with a stone castle erected around 1136 by Roger de Valognes. The castle handed over to Robert Fitzwalter, leader of the Barony opposition against King John, and one of the twenty-five guarantors of the Magna Carta. In response, King John ordered Bennington Castle to be completely destroyed in 1212.