The High Street, Hemel Hempstead
Past. Present & Future
by Elizabeth Buteux
Published by Dacorum Heritage Trust, 1998
Hardback, 143 pages with many pictures and drawings
ISBN 0 9510944 08
For more than five hundred years the tall, slim and elegant spire of St Mary's Church has stood guardian over the High Street. Even before the spire was erected, the splendid Norman church, one of the best preserved in the country, had been the focal point of the life of the people who had lived in and around the High Street.
It is the story of the High Street, from the first mention of the area in Anglo-Saxon times in AD 795 under King Offa, through the centuries down to the present day when the New Town of Hemel Hempstead lies beyond it that Elizabeth Buteux unfolds. People from the past who lived here, their domestic problems and often poor living conditions all pass by in these pages. Here are historic photographs of people, places and artefacts, supplemented by pictures of the High Street today well illustrating the changes especially over the last century, and fine drawings and artwork that evoke the essence of the High Street. It was indeed a highway for travellers and is now a place where time has left this corner of Hertfordshire with its intriguing buildings, alleys and odd corners as a delightful haven set above the rolling green of Gadebridge Park and the River Gade. Our ancestors knew a good site when they saw one - on the far side of the valley the Romans built a magnificent villa, many of whose distinctive thick red tiles can be seen in the flint fabric of St Mary's Church.
The High Street has learnt to change and adapt with the times, even to be the setting for a BBC television serial, and yet it still retains its charm. This is the essence of Elizabeth Buteux's book which will strike a chord with so many who look upon the 'Old High Street' with nostalgia and delight.
From the Dust Jacket
One of the excellent line drawings by Peter Wagon
At the time this page was last updated copies were available from the publisher
A History & Celebration
by Elizabeth Buteux
The Francis Frith Collection
Hardback, 118 pages, many pictures then and now
One of the Frith's "A History and Celebration" series
This book has a fault that is common to other books of the series - which is that there is no index. This greatly reduces its value to the genealogist and the amateur historian carrying out research on a particular topic. The bibliography is very short (leaving most of the page blank - so space was not the reason) and the selection of titles seems strange. The omission of serious modern publications on Hemel Hempstead such as Susan Yaxley's History of Hemel Hempstead, Scott Hastie's A Hertfordshire Valley andHemel Hempstead, The Story of New Town Development 1947-1997, and book produced by the Gazette - Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted & Tring - A Century of Change, does not give one much confidence in the book as a whole, although the illustrations are very good.