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The Taverns of Hertfordshire


The Taverns of Middlesex & Hertfordshire

by Mr Henry R. Plomer

Middlesex & Hertfordshire Notes & Queries, Volume IV, p 77-77, 1898

ONE or the most versatile as well as remarkable men that ever followed the profession of literature, was John Taylor, "the water poet." According to his own account he was at one time a waterman on the Thames, and this no doubt supplied him with that rich vocabulary or invective, that he was in the habit of using in his controversial writings; for the watermen of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries occupied the place or the hansom cab driver and busman or the present day. But Taylor gave up the calling or a waterman to indulge his love for scribbling. He was a most prolific writer, the list of his works, as given in Gray's "Index" to Hazlitt, filling four closely printed columns of that work. Like most literary men or that time he was often on the verge of poverty and would rattle off some lines of prose or verse and sell them to a publisher for the price of a dinner. Thus many of his writings were tracts of only a few leaves, and were but the dregs of ideas that he had a1ready given to the world.

Probably few men of his time, except Thomas Decker, had it more intimate knowledge of the lower life of London than John Taylor, and his writings contain much interesting information about the city and its inhabitants in the seventeenth century.

Amongst the hastily compiled pieces which Taylor published, one at least may be said to have some interest for the readers of The Middlesex and Hertfordshire Notes and Queries. It is a small octavo volume of thirty-two leaves and measuring a little over five inches by three. Only one copy of it, that in the British Museum, is known, and that is badly ploughed, and has to be tednerly used.

Its Title is a follows:--

The Honorable and Memorable Foundations Erections Raisings and Ruins of divers Cities, Townes Castles and other pieces of Antiquitie within ten Shires and Counties of the Kingdome: Namely Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey, Berkshire, Essex, Middlesex, Hartfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire:

With the description of many famous Accidents that have happened, in divers places in the said Counties. Also, a Relation of the Wine Taverns either by their signes, or names of the persons that allow, or keepe them, in, and throughout the said severall Shires.

By John Taylor.


Printed for Henry Gosson, 1636.

Henry Gosson, the publisher, had a shop on Old London Bridge next the gate, and his stock-in-trade consisted largely of small popular tracts and ballads the most saleable literature of that day.

In the preface to this high-sounding pamphlet, Taylor compares the taverns to be found in the country with those in London, much to the advantage of the former. He also refers to a larger work of his recently published and in all probability his "Travels through London"; this was produced the same year.

Of the literary merit of "Taverns in Ten Shires," as it is usually called, there is no occasion to say any thing here, its interest to us being chiefly as a record of the old hostelries that were to be met with in and around London in the time of Charles I. It is moreover the earliest record of the kind that we have; for though among the Middlesex County Records, Mr. Jeafferson discovered a list of three hundred and twelve victuallers' recognizances, taken in the sixth year of Edward VI that list only gave the number of the licensed houses in each parish, and neither mentioned the name or sign of any house, nor the part of the parish in which it was situated.

The Taverns of Hertfordshire

by John Taylor, 1636

as reprinted in Middlesex & Hertfordshire Notes & Queries, Volume IV, p 137-138  & 203-204, 1898


Hartfordshire is a County that surpasseth all Countries and Counties for making the best malt, and for good cleane High-waies conscionable short miles, meat, drink, lodging for travellers, kind men; women faire and honest, and with any thing that is necessary, this County is plentifully stored withall.

Barkhamstead is a good Market Towne, and it had once a castle there of strength; the Ruines of it are there yet to be seene; it hath been the habitation for Kings and Princes, for the most noble Prince Richard Brother to the King of England, dyed there; which Richard was King of the Romanes, and Erle of Cornewall. This Castle ruined is also famous for the residence there of that most illustrious Royall Spark, Edward the Black Prince; and lastly it is memorable for being the birth place of King Richard the third. Barkhamstead hath two taverns allowed or kept by Stephen Besowth and Francis Baker. [Berkhamsted]

At Tring, William Blacknall.

At Stevenedge, John Nodes. [Stevenage]

At Whethamstead, Thomas Stepping.  [Wheathampstead]

At Redburne, Prudence Miles. [Redbourn]

At Sabridgeworte, John Burr. [Sawbridgeworth]

At Walton, George Honor. [?Walkern or Watton]

At Colney or Coney, William Tompson.

Barnet is a good Market towne for Sheepe and Beasts, it is a great thorow-fare, and famous for the Battle fought neere it (on Easter day, the 14th of Aprill, 1471) betwixt King Edward the 4th and the Earles of Warwick and Oxford, where Warwick was slaine, and with great slaughter of men on both sides, King Edward had a bloudy victory. Barnet hath these Tavernes: John Brisco at the Antelop, Henry Owen at the Red Lyon, Thomas Brisco at the Rose; the Crowne.

At Baldock two, James Haiday and John Thurgood. At Stevenledg, John Node.;"

At Stansted Abby, John Giver. [Stanstead Abbots]

At the Bell at Rickmondsworth, Sara Marsh. [Rickmansworth]

At Bishop's Hatfield, William Walker, and Elizabeth Barefoot.

Hartford is the Provinciall towne of this Shire; there is a castle (as some write) built by King Edward the first; this towne hath been much larger, and in greater prosperity and accompt, for it had four churches, namely, All Saint's and Saint Andrew's, which are now standing; the other two are decayed or down, their names were Saint Maries and Saint Michael's. [Hertford]

Hartford hath these three Tavernes: Will: Scant at the Bell, Anne Vinmunt, Thos: Noble, Henry Chalkley, and Henry Butler; these four persons last named, doe inhabit and allow the other two Tavernes there, being the signes of the Glove, and the Angell.

At Hempstead two, Will: Smith, and Dorcas Goodwin. [Hemel Hempstead]

At Hitchin three, George Haiday, Thomas Harding, Priscilla Warner.

At Hoddesdon, John Sydes at the Black Lyon, and Francis Williams at the Chequer.

At WaItham Crosse two, Katherin Holt at the Bell, and Rosamond Hawton. [Waltham Cross]

At Royston three, Leonard Hamond, Anne Crofts, and Thomas Hayger.

At Watford two, Edward How, and Henry Gery.

At Markat Street, John Crane. [Markyate]

At Wellwin, Jesper Wilshire. [Welwyn]

At Barkway, John Rawley, and Thomas Smith.

Ware is a great thorow-fare, and hath many faire Innes, with very large bedding, and one high and mighty bed, called The Great Bed of Ware: a man may seeke all England over, and not find a married couple that can fill it. Ware hath three Taverns; Wil: Cross, or Wil: Raste at the Crown, Shelton Amery, Christopher Robinson, Widow Hall at the George; also she keeps a wine-seller at the Christopher.

At Bishops-Starford two, George Hawkins, and John Cheyny. [Bishops Stortford]

 At Buntingford two, Edward Bullen, and Anne Hensham.

At Wormeley, Rich: Bishop at the Black Lyon. [Wormley]

At Much-Hadham, Edmund Rustat.

At Puckeridge two, Sir John Wats doth allow one, and the other is inhabited or allowed under one Will: Northage. [St Albans]

Saint Albanes is famous for Antiquity, and for the death of our English Proto-martyr St. Alban, hee was martyr'd there in the raigne ol Dioclesian the Emperor, Ann, 268. After he had suffered many torments, lastly his head was struck off, and immediately the executioneer was struck blind. Offa, king of the Mercians, built the goodly Abby Church there, An. 795, and the said Church was dedicated to Christ and St. Alban, from whom the town hath denomination. The Brazen Font in the Church was brought out of Scotland by Sir Richard Lea, Knight, An. 1543, in the 36 yeare of the raigne of K. Henry the 8th. This towne is also famous for two memorable Bloody Battles there betwixt K. Edward the 4th, and K. Henry the 6th, where both the kings had various fortunes. It hath these wine tavernes; the Blew Bore, the Lyon, the Kings Armes.

Kingslangley is also famous for being sometimes the residence of kings, Edmund of Langley, son to K. Edward, the third was borne there, and K. Richard the second was first buried there. It hath a tavern kept or allowed by Rose Deacon. [Kings Langley]

At Abbots Langley, one Nicholas Breakespeare was borne, who was afterwards Pope of Rome, by the name of Hadrian the 4th, he died suddenly, chok'd with a fly in his cup.

This County of Hartford, had, at the suppression of Popery, 22 religious houses, as Abbies, etc. It hath eight divisions or hundreds; namely Odsey, Caysho, Braughing, Hartford, Hiching, Edwinstree, Broadwater and Dacorum. This County hath 18 market townes; 120 parishes, and 52 tavernes.

Henry Plomer added the following final note:

Such is Taylor's record of the taverns in Middlesex and Hertfordshire. Many of them, no doubt, he had visited in the course of his travels, and, let us hope, had met with good ale and good company.


John Taylor (1578-1653), the "Water Poet" was a waterman who ferried people across the River Thames at a time when the only dry route was the Old London Bridge and there were over 150 publications in his lifetime. There is a useful introduction on Wikipedia with links to other sites. It is clear than he is best known for his poetry and writings which throw light of London life at the time but his book The Pennylesse Pilgrimage; or, the Moneylesse Perambulation of John Taylor, alias the Kings Magesties Water-Poet; How He TRAVAILED on Foot from London to Edenborough in Scotland, Not Carrying any Money To or Fro, Neither Begging, Borrowing, or Asking Meate, Drinke, or Lodging, published in 1616, clearly demonstrates that he travelled. In addition, a waterman who ferried travellers across the Thames would find it useful to know something the main towns outside London and the inns where they might stay.