Famous Names From Hertford's History

Over the centuries many notable names have contributed to the history of the town. Some have even had streets and Public Houses named after them. Detailed below are some of the people associated with the town's past and their contribution to our history.

Stephen Austin

Yorkshire born Stephen Austin set up a printing works in the town in 1767 and five years later established the first local newspaper - The Hartford Mercury. A printing company bearing the name is still located at the top of Caxton Hill, although no longer owned by the family.

Robert Addis

The Addis family establshed their brushmaking business in London in the late 18th Century. In 1920, Robert Addis, the head of the company, decided to move to Hertford, taking over existing premises in Ware Road. New offices fronting the road were built in 1935 and 1955. Later members fo the family became an Alderman, A Justice Of The Peace and a councillor.

Arthur Balfour

The Hon.A.J.Balfour (later Earl Balfour) was nephew of Lord Salisbury and Hertford's MP during part of the latter 19th century. It was Mr.Balfour that opened the new Public Library in 1888.

Simon De Balle

Together with John de Westreete, Simon de Balle was one of two deputies (MPs) sent to Parliament to represent the Borough in 1298. He was the owner of Ball's Park .

John Briant

Bell and clock maker of the late 18th century who had a foundry in Parliament Square. He cast 422 bells including those for The Shire Hall and All Saints Church.

Sir Thomas Byde

Recorder of London in 1669, who rebuilt the mansion at Ware Park.

Robert Cecil

Robert Cecil was first Earl of Salisbury, son of Lord Burghley, who lived at Theobold's Park. His Earldom was granted by King James I, who pursuaded him to exchange the Park for the Royal Palace at Hatfield.

William Cecil

William Cecil was the second Earl of Salisbury. In September 1628, ownership of the disused and derelict Hertford Castle was passed by King Charles I to William, son of Sir Robert, the first Earl.

James Cecil

The sixth and seventh Earls of Salisbury shared the same name. The latter however became the First Marquis of Sailsbury.

William Cowper

MP, later Lord Chancellor and Earl Cowper for his services to Queen Anne in unifying England and Scotland in 1706. Lived at Hertford Castle and Panshangar.

Lord Cranbourne

One of two Hertford MPs and Roundhead supporter during the Civil War. He controlled the Roundhead troops in Hertfordshire. The other MP - who supported the King was Thomas Fanshawe.

Anthony Denny

A Privy Councillor under Henry VIII, later knighted, he was gifted Hertford Priory following the Dissolution Of The Monasteries.

Thomas Dimsdale

Dr.Thomas Dimsdale first set up practice in the town in 1734. He had a strong interest in the prevention of smallpox and in 1767 he published a book on the subject. In the following year he travelled to Russia, where he innoculated Catherine The Great, for which he was handsomely rewarded with a title and wealth. He died in 1800 at the age of 90.

Thomas Duncombe

Radical Whig MP from 1826-32 and political rival to the [Tory] Dimsdale Family. The elections in which he partook were regarded as controversial and corrupt and steeped in allegations of violent intimidation.

Richard Fanshawe

One time owner of Ware Park.

Thomas Fanshawe

One of the towns two MPs during the Civil War who supported the King (the other was Lord Cranbourne, a Roundhead).

Sir Minto Farquhar

Late 19th century Member of Parliament and owner of Goldings.

George Faudel-Phillips

Sir George Faudel-Philips was an MP for the Borough and later became the second Jewish Lord Mayor of London. He lived in Balls Park during the 1880s, purchasing the estate in 1889. He was made a freeman of the town in 1897. His son, Lionel was also mayor from 1928-30.

John Finch

Mayor of Hertford, 1626-7. During his office, Hartham and the Kings Meads were purchased from King Charles I for £100.

Sir John Harrison

Lancastrian Harrison was an MP, initially representing Scarborough. He Purchased the estate of Balls Park in 1637, building a mansion on the site. He also acquired the land that was formerly occupied by Hertford Priory.


Author and creator of Biggles, lived at 41 Cowbridge between the ages of 7 and 19. He attended Richard Hale School (then Hertford Grammar).

Ralph de Limsi

Founded Hertford Priory in the late 11th century. He was a follower and knight of William The Conquerer.

John O'Gaunt

Otherwise known as John Of Gaunt, he was the third son of Edward III, born in Ghent. He was conferred Hertford Castle by The King in 1360.


Alexander Purkiss-Ginn was four times Mayor and granted the freedom of the town in 1929. He first pulled the switch that lit the town with electricity

Salisbury, Marquis of

See Cecils

Abel Smith

Father and son, b.1788 and 1829 respectively, both lived at Woodhall Park and served the Borough of Hertford in Parliament for many years. They built Christ Church and school in Port Vale (opened 30th June 1869) and Holy Trinity Church in Bengeo Street. The former has been demolished but the school house remains in use as a theatre by The Company Of Players.

Samual Stone

Samuel Stone, baptised 30th July 1602, founded Hartford in America in 1636. He sailed in 1633, in the ship Griffin.

John Tate

John Tate established the country's first paper mill in the 15th century on a site opposite Hertford County Hospital in North Road (formerly Sele Mill). The factory was visited twice by King Henry VII

Alfred Wallace

Naturalist, born 1823, came to Hertford with his family when he was around six years old, living in St.Andrews Street. He visited the Amazon and South-east Asia.

See also Street Names In Hertford

This article was last updated on 4th August 2020.