Powerflush nearby to Hemel Hempstead
Hemel Hempstead is a large town in Hertfordshire’s Dacorum borough. Hemel Hempstead is part of the Greater London Urban Area and is located 24 miles (39 kilometers) northwest of London. According to the 2011 Census, the population was 97,500.
It has existed as a settlement since the 8th century and was granted its town charter by King Henry VIII in 1539. It was developed as a new town after World War II. It is served by the parliamentary constituency of Hemel Hempstead. Watford, St Albans, Hatfield, and Berkhamsted are all nearby towns.
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The name’s origin
In Anglo-Saxon times, the settlement was known as Henamsted or Hean-Hempsted, and in William the Conqueror’s time, it was known as Hemel-Amstede.
The name Hamelamestede is mentioned in the Domesday Book, but in later centuries it was shortened to Hamelhamsted and, possibly, Hemlamstede. -stead or -stede simply meant “place” in Old English (reflected in German Stadt and Dutch stede or stad, meaning “city” or “town”), such as the location of a building or pasture, as in clearing in the woods, and this suffix is used in the names of other English places such as Hamstead and Berkhamsted.
It is theoretically possible that a previous name was corrupted to something very similar to Hempstead, and that Hemel arose as a way of distinguishing Hemel Hempstead from nearby Berkhamsted. Hemel is reflected in the German Himmel and Dutch Hemel, both of which mean ‘heaven’ or’sky,’ suggesting that Hemel Hempstead was in a less forested area open to the sky, whereas Berkhamsted (which could mean ‘birch,’ as reflected in the Dutch berk) was in a birch forest.
Another theory is that Hemel was derived from Haemele, the district’s name in the 8th century, and was either the name of the landowner or meant “broken country.”
Locals now refer to the town as Hemel. Prior to the Second World War, locals referred to it as Hempstead. Emigrants from Hemel Hempstead, led by John Carman, migrated to the American colonies in the early 17th century, establishing Hempstead, New York in 1644.
History from the beginning
The town was first mentioned in writing when Offa, King of Essex, granted land at Hamaele to the Saxon Bishop of London in AD 705. Hemel Hempstead is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Hamelhamstede, a vill with about 100 inhabitants. St Mary’s parish church was built in 1140 and is regarded as one of the finest Norman parish churches in the county. The church has an unusual 200-foot-tall (61-meter) spire, one of Europe’s tallest, which was added in the 12th century.
Following the Norman conquest, Robert, Count of Mortain, William the Conqueror’s elder half-brother, was granted lands associated with Berkhamsted Castle, which included Hemel Hempstead. Over the next few centuries, the estates passed through several hands, including Thomas Becket in 1162. Hemel Hempstead was in the Domesday hundred of Danais (Daneys, i.e. Danish), which had been combined with the hundred of Tring by 1200 to form the hundred of Dacorum, which retained its court into the nineteenth century. When he endowed the monastery at Ashridge in 1290, King John’s grandson, the Earl of Cornwall, gave the manor to the religious order of the Bonhommes.
Until the Reformation and the dissolution of Ashridge in 1539, the town was part of the monastery’s estates. In the same year, Henry VIII granted the town a royal charter to become a bailiwick with the right to hold a Thursday market and a Corpus Christi Day fair. William Stephyns was the first bailiff of Hemel Hempstead (29 December 1539). During this time, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn are said to have stayed in the town.
A collection of unusually fine medieval wall paintings dating from 1470 to 1500 was discovered in a cottage in Piccotts End, a village on the outskirts of Hemel Hempstead, in 1953. Sir Astley Cooper converted this same building into the first cottage hospital offering free medical services in 1827.
In 1581, a group of locals purchased lands – now known as Boxmoor – from the Earl of Leicester in order to prevent their enclosure. In 1594, these were transferred to trustees. The Box Moor Trust manages these moors, which have been used for public grazing.
Remains of Roman villa farming settlements dating from the entire period of Roman Britain have been discovered at Boxmoor and Gadebridge. Highfield is home to a well-preserved Roman burial mound.
18th to mid-twentieth centuries
Hemel Hempstead was an agricultural market town in the 18th and 19th centuries. Wealthy landowners built a few large country houses in the area, including The Bury, which was built in 1790, and Gadebridge House, which was built in 1811 by the noted surgeon and anatomist Sir Astley Cooper.
Commercial travel between the Midlands and London increased dramatically as the Industrial Revolution gained traction. Hemel Hempstead was strategically located on a direct route between these areas of industry and commerce, making it a natural hub for trade and travel between the two. The Sparrows Herne Turnpike Road was first opened in 1762. It drew a lot of traffic, which caused its surface to deteriorate quickly, and it became notorious for its ruts and potholes.
The Grand Junction Canal, a major project to provide a freight waterway between the Midlands and the Port of London, began construction in 1793. The canal from the Thames reached Two Waters, just south of Hemel Hempstead, in 1798 and was completed in 1805.
Hemel’s place on the commercial transport network was cemented even further in 1837, when the new London and Birmingham Railway reached the town. The construction of the line had been stalled for several years due to vigorous lobbying by a number of powerful local landowners, including Sir Astley Cooper of Gadebridge House, who were all eager to protect their estates from invasion by the “iron horse.” Their campaign was successful, and the main line was rerouted to follow the River Bulbourne rather than the River Gade, skirting the outskirts of Hemel Hempstead. As a result, the railway station serving Hemel Hempstead was built one mile outside of town at Boxmoor; the Boxmoor and Hemel Hempstead railway station (today’s Hemel Hempstead railway station) opened in 1837. The railways continued to grow, and a new route connecting Boxmoor to the Midland Railway at Harpenden opened in 1877. The Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead branch railway, affectionately known as the Nickey Line, crossed the town centre on a long, curved viaduct, eventually serving three local stations in town: Heath Park Halt, Hemel Hempsted (Midland), and Godwin’s Halt.
Despite the arrival of various modes of transportation, Hemel remained primarily an agricultural market town throughout the nineteenth century. The development of houses and villas for London commuters began in the late twentieth century. Hemel grew steadily, but did not become a borough until 13 July 1898, with its headquarters at the old town hall.
During World War II, the Luftwaffe dropped ninety high explosive bombs on the town. The most infamous incident occurred on May 10, 1942, when a stick of bombs destroyed houses in Nash Mills, killing eight people. The nearby John Dickinson & Co. factories, which made munitions, were targeted.
Hemel Hempstead was born in a shallow chalkland valley near the confluence of the rivers Gade and Bulbourne, 27 miles (43 kilometers) northwest of central London. The New Town grew up the valley walls and onto the plateau above the original Old Town.
To the north and west, the Chiltern Hills consist of mixed farmland and woodland with scattered villages. Berkhamsted is located to the west. The River Bulbourne runs through Boxmoor on the town’s south-western outskirts. Watford and the beginnings of the Greater London conurbation can be found to the south. St Albans, to the east, is a cathedral city that, like Hemel Hempstead, is part of the London commuter belt. The top of Roughdown Common, a chalk hill to the south of the town, at TL 049 055, offers possibly the best view of Hemel Hempstead in its physical setting.