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Stanstead Abbots


Visit Stanstead Abbotts any weekday and the aroma in the air will tell you that, unlike the neighbouring town of Ware, this village still has a malting industry, albeit in much reduced size from it's Victorian heyday. Winner of the title "Hertfordshire's Best Kept Village" in 1999, the combined communities of Stanstead Abbotts and St. Margarets lie between Hoddesdon and Ware, either side of the River Lee Navigation. Although St. Margarets station has a regular service to both Hertford and London, this area has now become a relatively quiet place thanks to the A414 dual carriageway which has allowed it to escape from the large volume road of traffic which now passes well south of it. The only down side of the road is the fact that it now separates the village from it's former parish church, St. James, which stands on a hill to the south east (with the 1752 built manor house, Stansteadbury), at a point where a Roman Settlement once stood. Parts of St. James Church date back to the 12th century, with additions made over the following four hundred years.

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The Manor of Stanstead Abbot was siezed by Henry VIII at the time of the dissolution and eventually passed to the Baesh family, who have a long history associated with the area. The 16th century chapel known as the clock house was built by Edward Baesh (whose wealth came from being General Surveyor of Victuals for the Royal Navy) and the almshouses of 1635 were built by his grandson, another Edward Baesh. As was usual for the time, strict terms and conditions applied to the poor women who lived in them, who had to be of good character. It was a great grandson of Edward Baesh, who was eventually forced to sell the manor to Edmund Fielde in 1676.

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More buildings were soon constructed including the mill, using water from a mill stream which was joined to the Lee just south of the village. The large house in the High Street called Stanstead Hall was built for the wealthy miller Michael Pepper in 1752 and later gained a circular tower at the side, housing a spiral staircase for the servants to use. Stansteadbury, the former manor house, was also built in 1752. Maltings then started to dominate the village until the industry was at it's height during the second half of the 19th century. The railway arrived in 1843 and the Abbey Maltings were constructed between the railway line and the river in 1866. Further maltings lined the river and mill stream south of the High Street and in 1893 the mill was converted to steam power. A new church was consecrated in 1881, nearer to the village centre. Designed by Alfred Waterhouse, St. Andrews replaced the ancient church of St. James, which by this time was too small for the growing Victorian community.

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The arrival of the 20th century saw a period of industrial change. The mill closed in 1926, and the building became F.G.Burt's furniture and glass fitting factory until 1991. The malting industry started to decline, and in the mid 1950's both the Abbey Maltings and Rose & Crown maltings closed. Today, the former Rose & Crown maltings on the east bank of the river are used as industrial units (the Rose & Crown has been demolished and replaced by houses), while on the opposite bank, next to The Jolly Fisherman pub, the land once occupied by French & Jupp's roasting factory has become Lee Valley Park's "Riverside Green". French & Jupp still make malt at their site next to the mill stream, but many of the old malting buildings have been converted into industrial units or flats.