Bishops Stortford Things to Do

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Best Rated Things to Do in Bishops Stortford

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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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    The Old Monastery

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    The present three-storey building on this site was erected in the 17th century as a private residence called Windhill House, but has since undergone a great deal of alteration leaving very little of the original building intact. In the 18th century the timber and plaster walls were encased with bricks, and modernisation of the interior has left only the Jacobean staircase and plaster-work decoration on the dining room ceiling. The existing Georgian front was added in 1806 and one hundred years later the rear of the house was greatly extended to form the monastery.

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    St Joseph and the English Martyrs Church

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    This Roman Catholic Church was built in 1905. Renowned church architect, Doran Webb of Salisbury was hired to design the church and apparently visited Florence for his inspiration. He wanted it to blend in with its surroundings, as all small-town Italian churches do, and locals immediately dubbed the resulting Italian style church the ‘Italian Mission’. A church in San Miniato designed by Michelangelo inspired the interior, and for this Webb created a star-studded ceiling with scrolls around the arches. He also included a baldachin (a canopy over the pulpit).

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    The Boar's Head Pub

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    Records first mention this inn in 1630 but it was certainly here in the 15th century – the west wing having been dated at around 1420. This being the case, it was very likely the original Church House for St Michael’s and first used for the brewing of Church ales – a fund-raising event whereby wardens begged or bought malt to produce beer, and then sold it to the public to raise funds. During the mid 17th century the diarist Samuel Pepys regularly passed through Bishop’s Stortford and is known to have stayed at the Reindeer Inn at Market Square. However, after a ‘falling out’ with the landlady, Betty Aynsworth, he later frequented the Boar’s Head and is recorded as having dined here on 26 May 1668.

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    Tissiman's

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    Tissiman's the tailors is the oldest business in Bishop's Stortford. It is in fact, according to Family Business Magazine, the 26th oldest family business in the world and the third oldest family business in the UK. Legend has it that the firm was founded in 1601 by William Tissiman, a man of Swedish stock whose name in Swedish means 'fabric man'. Built around 1500 it is the town's earliest known timber-frame building, the first floor originally being jettied to the west and south above the pavement but subsequently cut back. The bow windows are thought to be early 19th century.

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    The George Hotel

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    The George Hotel competes with Tissiman's in the High Street for the mantle of oldest building in Bishop’s Stortford – though much of what you see is 17th, 18th and 19th century modernisation. It is, however, the town’s oldest recorded inn and the third oldest in Hertfordshire. The original foundations were laid down at the end of the 14th century and first mention of the inn was in 1417 when one Thomas Petworth kept it. Ownership later transferred to the Hawkins family of the Manor of Piggotts at Thorley (See Thorley), who regularly held their manorial courts here in the 15th century. It remained in their ownership for 300 years. The four gables along the High Street were built in the 19th century. King Charles I is said to have dined here and King Charles II made it his stopping off point on his way from London to Newmarket. The hotel is often frequented by a ghost known as the 'Grey Lady'.

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    Boardmans

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    This magnificent double-fronted building, originally built as a private house, stands on the former site of the Falcon public house, itself demolished in the 1750s as a result of a local road-widening scheme. Boardmans took over the shop in 1982, but since the early 1800s the premises had been a chemists, first occupied by Speechley and Milbank and latterly by Kingswood's. Prominent above the shop’s entrance stands the original *White Hart emblem of the 1st Herts Light Horse regiment, especially made in 1862 for the regiment’s barracks at Silver Leys. It's also the symbol of the county of Hertfordshire.

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    Former White Horse Inn

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    Currently a modern restaurant but once the White Horse Inn, this is, arguably, the finest building in North Street. The modern rendered exterior with pargetting decoration covers a timber and plaster framework thought to have been constructed around 1550, and its history can be traced back to 1572. An inn for more than 300 years it has since undergone much renovation and alteration, especially inside, but externally looks much as it did when built.

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    United Reformed Church

    by Willettsworld Written May 10, 2009

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    The site of this wonderful looking church has been religious since 1706 when a barn, here, was bought and converted into a Meeting House. This was then replaced in 1767 by a brick-built chapel. By 1858 the structure of the brick-built chapel was in urgent need of attention, but when repairs were estimated at £1,200 it was decided the money would be better spent on a completely new church. The old chapel was demolished in 1859 and in its place was built the church you see today, designed by WF Poulton in the Italianate style at a cost of £2,500. Named the Congregational church, it opened in 1860.

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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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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Bishops Stortford Things to Do

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