A Trip Through The Old Town, Hemel Hempstead

IMG_2175Today’s post is a weekend wander around Hemel Hempstead. There is a reason for this – last week, on my Thursday Doors post, roughseasinthemed asked if I could post some pictures of the Old Town area, as I had mentioned that improvements had recently been undertaken. Apparently their partner used to live here, and was curious to see what had been done. So here we are.

IMG_2163Hemel Hempstead Old Town has buildings dating back to the 1500s, though it is believed there has been settlement here since Roman times. Henry VIII used to rampage his way through here, and had a hunting lodge nearby, plus there are rumours of secret tunnels and trysts with Anne Boleyn. He is reputed, as is Anne, to haunt at least one building in the Old Town.

IMG_2180The Old Town has a mix of architectural styles, from half-timbered Tudor buildings,

IMG_2173to Georgian shops and apartments,

IMG_2164to the Victorian splendour of the rebuilt Corn Market, home to my Thursday door.

IMG_2194There are old carriageways leading to hidden courtyards,

IMG_2195Where the gates have been open so long, flowers grow around them.

IMG_2151The improvements took place a couple of years ago and are still ongoing. A rather nice set of gates was installed, one with an image of the church steeple, the other with the old Town Hall.

IMG_2176New paving and parking bays were laid, adding to the appeal of the streetscape.

IMG_2160The building covered in scaffolding was, until recently, a rather unattractive late 70s/early 80s edifice in dark red brick, a bit of an eyesore when compared to the other architecture in the area. It has now been painted off-white and is undergoing other renovations, no doubt trying to make it more sympathetic to the area.

IMG_2155This building is still a mystery, though a small plaque on the front door reads ‘Bank’. It is no longer a bank, and the tattered curtains and peeling woodwork add to the air of intrigue.

IMG_2170This is a small parking area overlooking the Norman church and graveyard. When it was being repaved, an underground chamber was discovered. Perhaps a remnant of the rumoured tunnels?


I’ll finish with a view over Gadebridge Park, which runs behind the Old Town. Apparently ghostly galloping can be heard there at night – at one time, the Park was private land belonging to a large house (now gone). The owner of the house was a military veterinarian and he used the land to rehabilitate injured cavalry horses, so was somewhat ahead of his time. Apparently the horses lived out their days in peace and tranquility but, every so often, would make formation and charge down the field, as though reliving their battle days. So perhaps it is their hooves that people hear…

Thanks for taking a trip around the Old Town with me. Happy weekend, everyone!

40 thoughts on “A Trip Through The Old Town, Hemel Hempstead

  1. Love this. One of these days I might have to visit Hemel Hempstead!
    And picture #9 (with the pavement) reminds me of scenes from the show “Pie in the Sky” – it wasn’t filmed there, by any chance? The “restaurant” would be just off to the left front corner of the picture.

  2. Lovely photos, Helen – a delightful walkabout. I walked a couple of miles of the Grand Union between Apsley Marina and HH the other week – a taste of the area’s old industrial heritage, but pretty too.

    • Thanks, Hugh – it has a bit of a bad rep, but I think it’s quite an interesting place, and really at the crossroads of history. Nearby St Albans was the Roman capital of Britain, Boudicca came through here, Berkhamstead Castle was where the Saxons surrendered to William the Conqueror, and then of course Henry VIII and his connection. Also, the only British Pope was born in the area too. So there’s lots going on 🙂 I did a ghost tour of the Old Town, which was where I learned the story about the cavalry horses – it was pretty cool. I’m considering doing one in London as well. Have you ever been on one?

      • No, I’ve never done a Ghost walk or tour. I worked for many years in The Strand, London, and there were lots of Ghosts walks there. There was also The Jack The Riper tour, but despite living in the city for 27 years, I never got around to doing any of them. Thank goodness I did find the time to visit The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and also The House of Parliament. When you live somewhere, I find it’s often the case that you don’t end up visiting some of the interesting places it has. Good for you that you have in Hemel Hempstead. History on our doorsteps is something we should all embrace.

      • Yes, I agree – when you live somewhere, there’s always the thought that you can see something ‘one day’. There is so much of Australia that I didn’t see in my 17 years there. I did, however, do a ghost walk in Melbourne and, typically for Australia, it was intense. So intense that a number of our group needed a stiff drink in the pub afterwards! The Hemel one was much more sedate 🙂

  3. Thanks so much for this post Helen, we both enjoyed looking at your fabulous photos. Apparently I have been dragged around the old town, but I don’t remember it. I think it’s due to a conscious mental blocking of the place as my MIL lived in Hemel.
    Partner remembers the bank, thought it might have been Natwest or Lloyds, but Lloyds has a big corner property. Or had. Whatever. Needs a paint job.
    Total contrast with the new town isn’t it? Again, many thanks for responding to my request 🙂

    • Oh you’re so welcome, I’m really pleased you enjoyed the photos 🙂 And yes, what a contrast with the new town – they have just spent a lot of money there as well, making it look nicer, but there’s not much they can do with the architecture there, unfortunately. Still, it’s nice to see investment in the town.
      And lol hilarious about your MIL and blocking Hemel out completely – I understand 🙂

      • Yes. Classic 60s (?) architecture. Drab. Dire. Dull. Above all else ugly.
        We didn’t live far away, Leighton Buzzard, the London commute. LB was the nearest we could afford at the time. I did like Berko, Tring, and the village with The Valiant Trooper. Still got a university friend in Berko, who I visited last time I was in the UK. Herts is a pretty part of the country. Conflicting though. Industrial estates and council estates and mega rich places next door. The UK in microcosm.

      • Yes, that’s so true – there’s a bit of everything here, especially being so close to London. And the New Town architecture… sigh. I guess when they built these new towns they thought they were building a brave new post-war world. But they’ve just aged so badly. I grew up in Coventry which is much the same.

    • Thank you – this bit of the town is really beautiful, yet just a few blocks away the landscape changes. Still, I suppose that’s true of a lot of places. I always try and see the beauty, rather than not 🙂

  4. Thanks for this page! I was born in 1960, to live in the Old Brewer’s Arms at 76-78 High Street (coloured light blue in your photos), and my parents ran the Spinning Wheel restaurant next door, People like Donovan, Whizz Jones and Maddy Prior sang there in those years – sadly, my parents’ marriage didn’t survive though – so nice to see the place nonetheless!

  5. Hello,

    Just to let you know that the car park in the Old Town (St Mary’s Close) was the old Market Of Old Hemel Hempstead before the New Town Development after World War II. Also the Mock Tudor door from 1902 I am sure was the Midland Bank or Natwest. The banks used to be as you go up the road: Lloyds on the corner (the last to go), Midland and Natwest. Not sure exaclty as I can’t remember who had the two trees as their logo on it during 1902.

    Round the back of the South Indian Restaurant is an ally way that has Georgian Windows at the back as my friend used to own the shop as a newsagent and has some fine work around there too.

    I hope this helps.


    • Hi Bryan, thank you for your comment, and all this useful information! Much appreciated 🙂 I’ll have to see if I can find those Georgian windows next time I’m up there, too!

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