Bishops Stortford Things to Do

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  • Things to Do
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Most Recent Things to Do in Bishops Stortford

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    Cecil Rhodes

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    Cecil John Rhodes is Bishop's Stortford's most famous son, having been born here in 1853. He was the founder of the diamond company De Beers, which today markets 40% of the world's rough diamonds and at one time marketed 90%. He was an ardent believer in colonialism and imperialism, and was the founder of the state of Rhodesia, which was named after him. Rhodesia, later Northern and Southern Rhodesia, eventually became Zambia and Zimbabwe respectively. There's a large section about him plus some African artefacts in the Bishop's Stortford Museum.

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    King's Cottages

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    Almshouses were still being built for the benefit of the poor in the early 20th century and in Bishop’s Stortford, King’s Cottages fulfilled that role. Comprising of five blocks, the first two to be erected were funded by Sir Walter Gilbey in 1906 in memory of his wife, and named as such in recognition of his association with royalty. A third block, a gift of Admiral F. Vander Meulen, was built in 1907. The Admiral was also instrumental in arranging for a further block of cottages to be built in the name of his brother, Col. J.H. Vander Meulen. This was occupied by 1911. The fifth block, erected in 1915, was paid for by the Admiral’s sister, Mrs Georgina Menet, widow of the first Vicar of Hockerill’s All Saints church.

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    Bishop's Stortford Museum

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    The Rhodes Museum was established in 1938 in two listed Victorian Buildings, one of which is the birthplace of Cecil Rhodes, Victorian Empire Builder. As such it is a significant local landmark and has national and international links. Today, the Rhodes Museum and Local History Museum have merged to become the Bishop's Stortford Museum. The collections are housed together and provide a new focus on the town's rich local history and unique links with the story of Cecil Rhodes, Empire and Africa.

    Open: Mon-Fri 10am-5pm. Sat 10am-4pm. Admission: Seemed to be free when I visited!

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    Windhill

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    The mostly early 19th century houses that now line this wide and picturesque road were originally built as homes for wealthy and professional local people. It was their affluent disposition that allowed them to live here away from the noise and noxious smells of the town's market. Today the market place is no longer noisy, nor are there any bad smells, but Windhill is still a sort after address.

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    Half Moon Pub

    by Willettsworld Updated May 10, 2009

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    This inn began its life around 1642 in premises a few doors away where No 27 now stands next to the former White Horse Inn. Its popularity and importance at that time is confirmed by the fact that it issued its own trading tokens in 1666, each being worth one farthing. The inn also traded under different names on its original site, churchwardens’ accounts of 1681 revealing that Thomas Markwell paid 3d. (2 1/2p) rent ‘for the halfe Moone in North Street’, and a reference to it in 1736 stating ‘formerly the White Swan and now the Green Man.' The current name probably stems from 1752 when it moved to this site – a reference in 1767 stating ‘formerly the Green Man and now the Half Moon.'

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    Corn Exchange

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    Designed in the neo-classical style by Lewis Vulliamy and built in 1828, the Corn Exchange despite much alteration is still one of the few 19th century buildings in Bishop’s Stortford of real architectural merit. It is the oldest corn exchange in Hertfordshire and by far the most distinguished. There is even a suggestion that it inspired the design of St Albans Town Hall in 1832.

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    Market Square

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    This very small area beside the huge Corn Exchange hosts the market which actually extends down Potter Street. The first existence of a market in the town occurred during the reign of King Henry III in 1228. Bishops, like kings, were never slow at finding ways to increase revenue. And since no record exists of any king granting the town a charter to hold a market, we assume that permission was granted by the Bishop of London – responsible for the Manor of Stortford since the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066.

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    Methodist Church

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    The first Methodist service held in Bishop’s Stortford took place in 1823 beneath a large tree in the Causeway. The following year a seed warehouse in Church Street was purchased and converted into a chapel, and the first minister appointed in 1828. The current Methodist Church was built in 1903 at a cost of £5,000.

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    Former Railway Hotel

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    After the railway arrived in Bishop’s Stortford in 1842, it was only a matter of time before an inn would be built close by and assume the name ‘Railway Inn’. Thomas Heskin Court, the large Victorian building at the junction of Station Road and London Road, was that inn. Opened in 1850 it was owned in 1852 by James Patmore, an industrious man who earned his living as an ale and porter merchant and also as a hearse and mourning coach maker.

    Later renamed The Railway Hotel the building is now substantially larger than the original inn, its stable courtyard having had extensive additions built around it in the late 19th century to increase the number of rooms available for travellers.

    In the first half of the 20th century the hotel also became a popular venue for dances, wedding parties and receptions – a notable occasion being the reception held in 1935 to celebrate the opening of the Regent cinema in South Street (See Guide 15). But in the late 1960s the hotel took on an entirely different role as a music venue for bands such as Dr K’s Blues Band, Jack Dupree, Chicken Shack, Jethro Tull, Free, and Alexis Korner. Today’s the building has been converted into apartments.

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    The Cock Inn

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    Of the four inns that once traded here the Cock is the oldest and the only one still in business. Constructed around 1547, it has been a tavern since 1620 and was first known as the Black Lion. In 1749 it was renamed the Vernon’s Head and at some later date, the Cock Inn. In coaching days, attendants and servants of ‘notable’ travellers would lodge at the Cock Inn while their employers stayed at the more salubrious Crown Inn or Red Lion Inn that stood opposite.

    Timber-framed with three gables and crooked windows, and almost 500 years old, the inn has obviously had to undergo some alteration and modernisation, but this is minimal. In an upstairs landing is said to be a priest’s hiding hole – a secretive place built into the fabric of many such buildings at the time of the Reformation – and this one may well have been used in the 18th century by the notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin. He struck fear into the hearts and minds of many wealthy travellers on this route and is supposed to have often used this inn as a place to rest and, no doubt, count his stolen money.

    A faded poster on the wall of the bar reads: ‘Wanted. Known highwayman and rogue, Dick Turpin. For robbery and grievous offence upoune travellers on ye London to Cambridge coach. He has been espied in company at ye Cock Inn’. Had he been caught at the inn, a prison cell wasn’t very far away. Like many inns of that time the Cock was also used as a courthouse and jail, both housed in a part of the building that adjoined its south side.

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    War Memorial

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    The War Memorial was unveiled on 3 April 1921 to commemorate the 207 men of the town who lost their lives in the First World War. It is said that the town of Bishop’s Stortford gave proportionally more of its manhood in that conflict than any other town in the Empire. The names of a further 107 local men and women killed in the Second World War were later added to the base of the memorial. The county emblems of both Essex and Hertfordshire are represented on two of its sides and each November, on Remembrance Sunday, a service is held here in memory of the fallen.

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    Castle Gardens

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    During the 19th century the castle mound and eight acres of surrounding land was owned by the Taylor family, but in 1907 they decided to sell-up. The creation of Castle Gardens took place in 1907/08 when it was laid out with trees, flower beds, footpaths, fencing, bandstand and a shelter converted from an old cow shed. And as with all public spaces, bylaws were put in place: forbidding the public to beat their carpets or drive cattle through the gardens, or park perambulators on the flower beds.

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    River Stort

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    Unusually, the River Stort is named after the town, and not the town after the river. When early cartographers came to the town in the early 1600s, they reasoned that the town must have been named for the ford over the Stort and assumed the river was called the Stort. It has been ever since. Until then, there was no official name for the river. After 1769, the River Stort was made navigable to become the Stort Navigation - a 22km long canal that runs from the town to its confluence with the River Lee near Hoddesdon through a series of 15 locks.

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    Waytemore Castle

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    Said to have been constructed before the Norman Conquest of 1066, all that remains today of Waytemore Castle, to the east of the town centre, is this large motte (a raised mound in the form of a small, often artificial hill and topped with a wooden or stone structure known as a keep). However, the castle wasn't mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 but historians believe that it existed before this period.

    Norman built, or Saxon, the transition of Stortford’s wooden fortress to masonry castle would probably have taken place soon after 1086, although it’s thought the keep wasn’t constructed before 1135. The earth mound (pre-Norman or not) became the foundation for their familiar motte and bailey (courtyard) castle and its sitting in the valley, as opposed to the usual high ground, was a deliberate move to command the important river crossing.

    The 42ft (12.6m) high mound was surrounded by a moat and its top protected by a curtain wall of flint and rubble some 9ft (3m) thick. The later built keep, probably some 60–70ft (21m) high, stood within this wall and to add to its prominence, and remind Saxon inhabitants of the town and surrounding areas of Norman power and conquest, its exterior walls were probably painted white with a mixture of lime and chalk.

    Waytemore Castle was a royal fortress, a prison and a private residence of the lord of the manor i.e. the bishop of London, though there is little evidence to suggest any bishop ever actually lived in the castle. They did, however, use it for the Bishop’s Court where any local felony of a religious nature was dealt with. By the 15th century Waytemore Castle was no longer deemed necessary as a defensive stronghold and rapidly fell into disrepair. Despite this, castle dues were still being paid during Elizabeth I’s reign but by 1545 the Bishop’s Court had moved to the Crown Inn at Hockerill and the ruiness castle was pulled down.

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    Black Lion Inn

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    This wonderful looking pub dates back to the 16th century. Like most buildings of the Tudor period the inn’s exterior was originally plastered over to hide its timber-frame structure but when, in 1899, the property was renovated by local builder Joseph Glasscock, he painstakingly removed every inch of the plaster to reveal what we see today.

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