Hertford and The Railway
Hertford has been part of the rail network for almost 180 years and is distinguished by the fact that it has two railway stations operated by two different rail companies.
Northern and Eastern Railway
The first railway station was built by the Northern and Eastern Railway in 1843 opposite what is now The Great Eastern Tavern in Railway Place. This position, rather than one closer to the town, was chosen so as to keep the station at some distance from both the Gaol and Christ's Hospital School. The station was at the termination of the new branch line from the London-Cambridge railway at Broxbourne. When the railway opened there were seven trains to London every weekday and two on Sundays. Tickets cost 5s (25p) for first class, 4s (20p) for second class and 2s6d third class.
Great Northern Railway
In 1858 a second station was built at Cowbridge with the extension of the Great Northern Railway from Welwyn. The station was adjacent to McMullen's Brewery, with access via a wide spur off of Hartham Lane, which still exists today.
The line was extended from Cowbridge to Hertford East in 1888 when the new station was built in Mill Road. However, this link was only ever use for freight.
The station closed in 1924 with the opening of Hertford North. From then on until 1966 the section between North Road and Cowbridge was used solely for goods.
The station was demolished around 1980 and is now the site of an industrial estate.
In 1888 a new station - Hertford East - was opened. This lay much closer to the town centre in Mill Road and included covered arches for horsedrawn vehicles. There were also spurs off to the industrial area that had grown up nearby together with a link to Cowbridge Station. The service currently runs into London's Liverpool Street Station.
Hertford North station was opened in 1924 following the completion of the loop off the Great Northen line from Alexandra Palace to Stevenage. Along with the station came Beane Road and the development of housing nearby. Diesel trains operated until the line was electrified in 1977. The entrance to the station was rebuilt in the 1980s, including access for the disabled. The service currently runs south into London's Moorgate and Kings Cross Stations; and North to Stevenage.
With the increased use of roads, rail operations in the town were scaled down following the Second World War, culminating in the implementation of The Beeching Report in the 1960s, which closed many stations and lines, including the link between Hertford North and Hertford East. Although the track was taken up, the line of the railway is still in evidence in lower Bengeo, where the disused cuttings and bridges remain. At the point where the line crossed Mill Road there was still an old railway crossing gate up until the early 2000s. The old Cowbridge station building remained in place until quite recently, before it was demolished to make way for an expanded brewery and industrial units. The old disused sidings at Hertford East, complete with track, remained until new housing was built in 2015.
This article was last updated on 15th November 2020. The main image is of Hertford East station between 1906 and 1910, taken from the station signal box. The photographer is believed to be Les Thorne..