For 400 years, Hertford was home to a famous school called Christ’s Hospital or Bluecoats. It’s now an independent boarding school and it’s moved to Sussex. But its buildings and distinctive statues of blue-uniformed pupils remain. Established in 1552 to educate poor children, it was originally based in London, but moved to Hertford during the Plague. Its alumni include the Elizabethan playwright Thomas Middleton, writers Charles Lamb and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (who became lifelong friends in Hertford) and August Pugin who designed the Houses of Parliament. Bluecoats is now converted into apartments. And Tesco occupies the school’s former grounds. I suspect the large palm tree in the Tesco car park was once part of the school’s botanical garden.
Welcome to Peacockshock - my house on the internet. I'm Ian Peacock.
I’m based in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, but I’ve lived everywhere from London to Cambridge to Austria.
I’m mad about animals and have an adorable Jackapoo, Eddie, named after the dog in Frasier.
So don't dither on the doorstep. Have a wander round. You can either just scroll down this page, or you can mouse around the house and click on the rooms. Do keep coming back for new stuff. I update my witterings regularly
Enjoy your stay.
Hertford boasts the world’s oldest Quaker Meeting House. Founded in 1669, it’s been in use ever since.
The last witch to be condemned to death in England was from Walkern village near Hertford. Known locally as a “wise woman”, Jane Wenham complained in 1712 that her neighbour was accusing her of witchcraft. So the local vicar mediated and secured a massive 5p compensation, which she wasn’t happy with. According to local legend, she then cursed the poor vicar’s household and his servant became ill, claiming to be haunted by mysterious wailing cats. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, the servant allegedly came face to face with a mystic mog which had the face of Ms Wenham. It had a knife in its paw, handed it to the servant and said “kill yourself.” So Jane Wenham was put on trial in Hertford. The judge thought the accusations were ridiculous, but the jury found her guilty and she was sentenced to death. However she was granted a Royal Pardon and lived happily ever after, in the care of the Earl of Panshangar who took pity on her. The case stirred up controversy throughout England (click on thumbnails). Twenty years later, the old witchcraft laws were repealed.
Rare Witchcraft Manuscripts
There’s a small mound in Hertford castle gardens with an underground door. This is an 18th century ice-house, where ice from frozen rivers was stored to form a predecessor of the fridge.
Hertford’s Prince Albert Cottages, near Dimsdale Street, are exact replicas of some ‘ideal home’ cottages built for the 1851 Great Exhibition.
Unveiled in 1921, Hertford war memorial takes the form of a hart (deer) on a plinth. It was designed by Sir Aston Webb – the architect responsible for Admiralty Arch, plus parts of the V&A and Buckingham Palace. It’s made from the same Portland Stone as the Cenotaph in London. And it’s been claimed it stood on the first traffic roundabout in Britain. However, the first roundabout is in fact in nearby Letchworth. Described as an ‘intersection for gyratory movement’, it was constructed in 1910.
Letchworth Roundabout Info
One of Hertford’s nightclubs has a very ancient-sounding name. But Elbert Wurlings is in fact named after a family friend of the owner – Albert Wurly. Albert, from Hoxton London, was a pal of the owner’s grandfather.
I took this photo today at the Dunmore Pineapple in Scotland. I was visiting it for my forthcoming radio programme about pineapples. It’s a folly, dreamt up by an 18th century earl. The real pineapple on the lawn was placed there by me, but they did once grow pineapples there. You can actually stay in The Pineapple, via the Landmark Trust who rent out eccentric historic buildings to holidaymakers. My programme’s on Radio 4 at the end of September.