Hertfordshire Genealogy

Guide to Old Hertfordshire


Cow Roast,


It is a hamlet lying part in Wigginton and part in Northchurch. Information on it is sometimes listed under Berkhamsted and sometimes under Tring.




Excavations have shown that the Cow Roast was the site an early Romano-British settlement. and the area is protected as an ancient monument. Coins have been found  dating from the time of the pre-Roman leader Tasciovanus and Roman Emperors from Claudius (41-54 AD) to Honorius (395-423 AD). It stood on the major Roman Road which runs through a gap in the Chiltern Hills and was later known as Akeman Street. The general line of this road has remained in use until the present day. In 1813 a bronze helmet was found, while digging the canal, which is known as the Tring Helmet, and is in the British Museum.

Little is known about its subsequent history for well over a thousand years, but the route through the Chilterns became a major drovers route, with cattle being driven to London to provide fresh meat. The name Cow Roast is almost certainly a corruption of "Cow Rest" where there were pens and grazing for the cattle to be held overnight.

In 1762 the road was improved as part of the Sparrow's Herne Turnpike, which ran from Bushey Heath to Aylesbury, and a toll gate was established at the nearby New Ground. Dury & Andrew's map of 1766 shows one large and one smaller building on (at least approximately) the site of the present day Cow Roast public house.

In 1800 the Grand Junction Canal opened, with a lock (and now a marina) about 50 yards on on the other (East) side of the old road.

The earliest written record suggests that a Thomas Landon kept The Cow in 1806. (Mentioned in Hertfordshire Inns but no source given).

In 1811 the Gentleman's Magazine, in reporting on Roman remains from Wigginton, reported that coins and a gold ring had been found at the Cow Roast Inn.

It is shown as Cow Roast of Bryant's map of 1822.

In 1823 the toll rates along the Turnpike Road past the Cow Roast were set at 10d. per score for a drove of oxen or cattle. and the rates were raised in 1832. (see Berkhamsted: An Illustrated History)

In 1827 an inquest was held at the Cow Roast Inn - see A Fist Fight at Wigginton.

The 1828/9 Pigot's Directory for Hertfordshire, under Tring, lists Thomas London. Cow Roast, Wigginton. (Note that that many early directories, such as this one, did not normally list farmers.)

In 1837 the London to Birmingham Railway was built through the valley to the east of the canal.

The 1839 Pigot's Directory for Hertfordshire, under Tring, lists Thomas Landon, Cow Roast Wharf, under both "Taverns and Public Houses" and "Wharfingers".

The 1841 census lists Thomas Landon (senior) as a Farmer at the Cow Roast, Northchurch, with Thomas Landen (junior) as Innkeeper at the Cow Roast, Wigginton.

The 1846 Post Office Directory for Hertfordshire, under Tring, lists Thomas Landon senior as a famer, and Thomas Landon, junior as the tavern keeper of The Cow, in Cow Road, Wigginton.

At the time of the 1851 census the Cow Roast households in Northchurch were headed by Thomas Landon (farmer, 73), living in Somerset House, Charles Pignal (hostler, 46), and three farm labourers, Barnel Smith (22), John Grover (45) and James Halsey (34). Two families were living by the canal lock at Cow Roast. George Birdsley (41) was the lock keeper while Robert H. Platt was a "Water Account Keeper". (see MUSTILL, Cow Roast, Northchurch, 1891-1943 for further information about this occupation and an earlier reference to the paper maker, John Dickinson, monitoring the water flow.) The Cow Roast Inn was listed in Wigginton, the innkeeper being Thomas Langdon (farmer, 39). It was not far south of the Turnpike Road Toll Gate at New Ground.

From Craven's 1854 Directory for Hertfordshire

The hamlet currently consists of the Cow Roast public house, a row of mid 20th century houses and one older house, a petrol station and a separate car sales site (closed, June 2004, but now reopened), with the canal marina away from the main road over a canal bridge. In 1993 a new bypass for Berkhamsted means that there was a significant decease of traffic through Cow Roast.

Where not stated information comes from the book A Hertfordshire Valley and the booklet Archaeology in Dacorum.

Lock Keepers Cottage, Lock 46

Narrowboats passing through Lock 46

The Cow Roast Inn
The Cow Roast

in 2009

Click on picture for larger view

September 2009   significant new information added
December 2009   1827 entry added
June 2010   Modern photographs added
June 2014   1854 advert added