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Hoddesdon’s present day image owes much to Henry III who granted a weekly market and annual fare on the Feast of St Martin’s in 1253. From this time the town grew to be a centre of commence and home to a prosperous market.

Through the centuries wealthy traders built town houses, many of which still survive. One of them, Lowewood House, is now a local museum. By the 18th century Hoddesdon had developed into an important coaching centre on the route from London to Cambridge with over 30 inns.

It was from one of these that a "broad shouldered, pockmarked man" called Dick Turpin operated during the 1730s holding up travellers and stealing possessions on the Hoddesdon – Ware Road. Today many of the inns remain such as the Golden Lion (1535), White Swan (Photo above), Salisbury Arms (both 16th century) and the Bell (1660).
Wednesday has been market day in Hoddesdon since a cattle market was introduced in 1886, but the first market in the town is beleived to date back to 1253. A charter was granted by Henry III for a weekly market each Thursday and an annual fair held on the three days around St. Martin's day. A second fair on St. Peter's day was granted by Elizabeth I in 1560. Today, a market is held each Wednesday and Friday. The origin of the name Hoddesdon is not certain as there are at least two theories, but the spelling has changed only slightly since it's entry in the Doomsday book as 'Hodesdone'.

The clock tower in the centre of the town was built in 1835. Previously, the Chapel of St. Katherine had stood here since 1336. Part of the chapel remains though, as the bell in the clock tower is the one given to the chapel in1540. The present St. Pauls Church in Amwell Street was built in 1732, but was much changed in the late 1800's by a rebuilding project and the addition of the steeple. Despite it's long history, Hoddesdon only became a parish in it's own right in 1844. Prior to this it was on the border between Great Amwell and Broxbourne. Today, hundreds of shoppers fail to notice a split paving stone in front of the Co-Op department store, marking the former boundary line.


A brewery existed in the town centre for over 200 years, and many former brewery buildings still stand today. It was started around 1700 at the Thatched House Inn (now Bowman's shop) and eventually occupied a large part of Burford Street and the area behind (now Brewery Road). For most of it's life it was part owned by a member of the Christie family, eventually becoming Christie's Brewery until closure in 1928. One of the brewery buildings was converted into the Pavilion cinema, one of two picture houses the town once had. It opened in December 1930 and continued showing pictures until 1972, when it became a Bingo Hall. The building was finally demolished in early 1999.


As the town was on the main road north, there were once many coaching inns - at one time around 30! The White Swan, The Bell, The Salisbury Arms and The Golden Lion are all many centuries old, and some have been renamed several times over the years. The Salisbury Arms was once the Star, and until 1826 was called the Black Lion. The Golden Lion, which was built in 1535, was originally known as the White Hinde. Although some of Hoddesdon's old inns survive as shops, others were not so lucky. The Bull, built in 1575 as the Bell, was demolished as recently as 1964, a decade when some of the town's larger building projects took place. The Tower Shopping Centre, which now stands north of the clock was completed in 1967. Further down the High Street the Fawkon Walk shops were built towards the end of the 1960's, followed by the Civic Centre, and Library in the mid-70's. The plans for a large new Sainsburys superstore, and subsequent use of the old site, have been the subject of much local discussion over the past couple of years.


Despite these relatively recent additions and replacements, there are still plenty of older buildings in Hoddesdon. Most of the town centre is designated as a conservation area and a Heritage Trail around the town leads visitors past many buildings of historic importance. The trail is described on a board in the town centre and includes Lowewood House, which was given to the town in 1936 by Douglas Day Taylor and houses a museum containing photographs and memorabilia of the town's long history. Lowewood Museum website: http://homepages.tesco.net/~hdp/index.html


To the north east of the town centre is residential area of Rye Park, greatly built up after the war, and beyond this is the Lee Navigation and Rye House. The construction of a new housing estate was started here in 1999, using land formerly occupied by commercial buildings. To the west of the town centre is Barclay Park, an area of parkland which was given to the town by the Barclay family in the 1930's. An industrial area has also grown on the edge Hoddesdon, to the east of the town between the New River and the railway line.