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The town of Hertford has a long history stretching back to Roman times and the first Church Synod was held here in 673 (although some dispute this fact, claiming that it was held at Hartford in Huntingdonshire). During the 9th century the area was captured by the Danes, who had sailed up the River Lea (which was already the boundary between Saxon and Viking England) and set up a camp just outside Hertford.

It was the Normans who first built a castle here after the battle of Hastings, although the oldest walls still standing today were built as part of Henry II's strengthening works in the 1170's. Ever since, the castle has been the centre of the town and in continual use. It was captured by the French in the 13th century, became a royal palace in the 14th century, and was home to Parliament and the Law Courts when Elizabethan London was gripped by Plague in the 1500's. Shortly after becoming King, Charles I granted Hertford Castle to William Cecil, the Earl of Salibury (whose descendants still own it) and since 1911 it has been used as council offices.

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Outside the castle walls the prosperous market town of Hertford developed and many old buildings still stand to tell it's history. From small medieval cottages to St Nicholas Hall & Verger's House (now an antiques shop, right) built around 1450 and the Salisbury Arms Hotel (originally the Bell Inn until 1800) which dates from the 1430's. The building that claims to be the oldest is St Leonards Church at Bengeo. The White Hart of 1621 and Friends Meeting House of 1670 (the oldest purpose built Quaker meeting house in the world and visited by William Penn who established Pennsylvania) both pre-date the great improvements to the Lee Navigation made in the 1700's which gave Hertford's economy a much needed boost. Another Hertford man with American connections was the Reverend Samuel Stone, who later sailed to America and co-founded Hartford, Connecticut. Stone was born here in 1602 and a statue of him was erected near the entrance to the castle in 1999.

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As with the neighbouring town of Ware, flour mills and malting played a major part in the town's prosperity and much of this produce was transported by barge to London. In 1761 an act of parliament allowed a new cut to be made from Dicker Mill to The Folly, in the centre of the town. The barge turning basin there became surrounded by wharves and maltings and a large corn exchange was built in Fore Street in the 1850's. Despite the arrival of the railways around this time, more goods continued to be transported via the Lee Navigation, and by 1930 barges of up to 100-tons were loading and unloading in the middle of the town. During the remainder of the twentieth century the mills closed and what little commercail traffic remained was sent by road. There are no longer any mills working in Hertford and on Folly Island victorian cottages and allotments now line the river instead of wharves. Barge docks such as St. Nicholas Lane (pictured) have been filled in, but long boats still visit the centre of Hertford, albeit now for pleasure, and the McMullens family brewery continues to provide employment in the town centre, as it has since 1827. A relief road was built in the mid 1960's which has saved the town centre from the much through traffic since, but it's construction did necessitate demolition of some buildings and separated the church from the rest of the town. Hertford Borough as such disappeared during the 1970's, but East Herts District Council has offices in the town as well as the Town Council.

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The building now used by the Town Council was in fact the main castle entrance built by Edward IV in 1463-5, since extended by sections built in the late 1700's and as recently as 1936/7.
The gardens around the castle are open to the public and the history of the town can be researched at Hertford Museum (01992 582686).