Hertfordshire Industry in 1903

From Hertfordshire - Little Guide -1903
available on CD from Archive CD Books


1. Agriculture. -- Charles Lamb used no mere haphazard expression when he wrote of Hertfordshire as "that fine corn country". Twenty years ago the country contained 339, 187 acres under arable cultivation, of which considerably more than half was used for corn; and the proportion thus used is till much larger than might be supposed. (In 1897 it amounted to about 125,000 acres.) At the same period there were about 60,000 acres under wheat alone; for this grain of which a large white variety is much cultivated, the county has long been famous. To this circumstance the village of Wheathampstead is indebted for its name. Barley and oats are also staple crops. The first Swede turnips ever produced in England were grown on a farm near Berkhampstead. Watercress is extensively cultivated, enormous quantities being sent into London from St Albans, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhampstead, Welwyn and many other districts. Much manure is brought to the farms from London stables and by its aid large second crops of vegetables are frequently obtained. Clover, turnips and tares may be mentioned among other crops prominently cultivated. Fruit is also sent to London, particularly from the district lying between Tring, Watford and St Albans, but none of the orchards are large.

The number of pigs reared in the county is - or was quite recently - rather above the average (per 100 acres under cultivation) for all England; the number of cattle rather below, and of sheep much below, this average.

2. Manufactures are fairly numerous.

(a) Straw Plait has for over 200 years been extensively made by hand for the Luton dealers. The wages earned by peasant girls and women in this employment were formerly high; 100 years ago a woman, if dexterous, might earn as much as 1 per week, but the increase in machinery and the competition from foreign plait has almost destroyed this cottage industry in some districts. During the last twenty years several large straw hat manufactories have been erected in St. Albans, and the trade enlarged, although the conditions of production are altered.

(b) Malting is still extensively carried on at Ware, which has been the centre of the industry for many years; it is said, indeed, to be the largest malting town in England. There are nearly 100 malting houses, many of them being beside the River Lea, navigable from this town for barges W. to Hertford and S. to London. There are extensive Breweries at St. Albans, Watford, Hertford, High Barnet, Baldock, Hitchin, Hatfield, Tring, Berkhampstead, and other places.

(c) Brick Fields are worked at Watford, St Albans, Hemel Hempstead, Broxbourne, Bishop's Stortford, Hitchin and elsewhere.

(d) Brushes of many kinds are manufactured at St. Albans and Berkhampstead.

(e) Hurdles are made at Barkway, Croxley Green, Breachwood Green, Chorley Wood, Albury, and at one or two other places.

(f) Iron Foundries are at Hertford, Ippollitts, Royston, Colne Valley (Watford), Hitchin and Puckeridge.

(g) Paper is made at Croxley Mills, King's Langley, and Nash Mills.

(h) Silk is made at the large mill on the River Ver, St Albans, and at Redbourn.

(i) Photographic plates, paper, etc., are made at Watford, Boreham Wood, and Barnet.

(j) Lavender Water is made at Hitchin, from lavender grown in fields close by.

Gravel abounds in many districts, and pits are extensively worked at Rickmansworth, Hertford, Heath, Wheathampstead, Watford and Harpenden.

There are windmills at Cromer, Albury, Goff's Oak, Anstey, Arkley, Much Hadham, Weston, Tring and Bushey Heath. Water mills are too numerous to specify, there being several on many of the small rivers named in Section II.

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