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Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Hertfordshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 32457 12465



TL3212SW HERTFORD CASTLE 817-1/19/309 Gatehouse to Hertford Castle 10/02/50 (Hertford Castle demolished)


Castle gatehouse, subsequently residence, Local Authority offices since 1912. c1460-65, altered and extended late C18, C19 and C20, interior restored 1967-71, architects Donald Insall and Partners. Original floors framed by Thomas Norman, carpenter, 1464; original mason William Hull. MATERIALS: red brick (locally manufactured by Cornelius Gyles at 21 pence a thousand for initial build), English bond, with Flemish and English bonds used in later extensions and alterations. Stone dressings of Mertsham (Surrey) stone and Kentish stone; Ashwell clunch used for interior chimneypieces. Welsh slated roofs with lead roll ridges, hips, and lead valley gutters and flats recessed behind castellated brick parapets with Portland stone copings. Moulded stone string course; corbelled arcaded Lombardic frieze below parapet around original gatehouse block. PLAN: gatehouse has massive walls with 1/2 octagonal turrets each side of central gateway, infilled 1789-92. 2 upper floors each have 1 major and 1 minor chamber, with studded partition walls and beamed roofs still in situ. 2 bay south wing and single bay north wing added in 1937. Octagonal stair turret with castellated roof rises above main parapet level in south-east corner. EXTERIOR: 2 and 3 storeys and basement. West elevation has gatehouse left of centre, brickwork although restored retains traces of lattice-pattern diaperwork in black overburnt headers. Late C18 windows on all floors of Gothick style, stone mullioned with moulded lancet heads, stone surrounds and dripmoulds, with divided glazing. These are all 2-light, with exception of 3-light window centrally set on second floor, many installed in original embrasures which were widened as necessary. Recessed on first floor above infilled arch is a weathered carved stone panel with the Royal Arms of Edward IV; this was carved by the London mason Reginald Langley, and coloured by John Payntour of Ware. On the ground floor, against the original archway, the chamfered stone jambs of which can be seen at either side, is a panelled door recessed within stone porch. This has a panelled wood lining, moulded stone Tudor arch, panelled pilasters and raised spandrel panels with castellated parapet above string course. At left (north) of gatehouse is 1937 wing, with Flemish bond

brickwork, and one 3-light Gothick window with lancet heads and dripmould on first and ground floors. At right (south) of gatehouse is the residential wing, constructed 1789-92 by the Marquess of Downshire, brother-in-law of the Marquess of Salisbury, which replaced an earlier timber-framed, gabled, plastered building of c1600. Red brick, English bond, 3 storeys, lower than gatehouse, in simplified version of its general style; 2 bays. Second floor has single 2-light and single 3-light window, each with square 4-pane sashes, moulded stone mullions and surrounds. First and ground floor each with single 2-light and single 3-light window with narrow sashes recessed in moulded stone mullioned surrounds, with lancet heads and dripmoulds above. 6-panes to each sash on first floor, 8-panes on ground floor. South elevation has Lombardic frieze below parapet, and traces of diaper patterns and external render. Ground floor has projecting 3-bay mid C19 conservatory with multi-pane windows and glazed doors, moulded major mullions and transoms, and fascia with cornice gutter, with 3 glazed gables above. East elevation has original gatehouse right of centre, with brickwork and general features as described on west elevation. Early C19 doorway on ground floor infills original gateway arch. Twin leaf half-glazed doors with traceried fanlight in stone surround with roll moulded Tudor style arch, panelled outer surround with lancet sidelights and raised moulded quatrefoil above centre of arch, all recessed within chamfered jambs and intrados of original gateway. Above is early C19 hollow spandrel panel with raised dripmould. Offset plinth at ground-floor level. To right (north) is 1937 wing; to left (south), residential wing constructed 1789-92. 2 projecting bays, canted on left, rectangular on right, each with 3-light windows on each floor, all with stone moulded mullions, surrounds and dripmoulds, 4-pane sashes on second floor, lancet headed 6-pane sashes on first floor, and 8-pane sashes on ground floor. Below plinth level are 3-light basement windows, with 4-pane sashes. INTERIOR: the interior of the gatehouse was altered and embellished in Gothick style by the Marquess of Downshire in 1789-92. A new spiral stair was installed in the south-east turret, which was heightened to give access to the roof. Original fabric was covered over, and window embrasures were enlarged, and the original fabric often destroyed. However, on the upper 2 floors a great deal of medieval structure remained, and much was uncovered and restored in 1967-71. Entrance hall runs through the building within the line of the original gateway and has a 5-bay groined plaster vault above a scotia and bead cornice; at left is stair hall which has a similar treatment. Lower flight of stairs projects, Gothick

style clustered shaft newel post, arcaded traceried iron balustrades with matching dado, open string with bracketed hardwood treads, moulded hardwood handrail with trefoil ends, ramped to quarter landing which leads into turret and spiral stair, this is of cantilevered construction with bracketed treads, arcaded iron balustrades, continuous moulded handrail, arcaded iron traceried dado, rising to second floor, above which is circular ceiling with dentil cornice and Adam style fan pattern centrepiece. Beyond ground-floor stair hall a barred vaulted corridor leads into the south wing of 1789-92. This has a corridor with plaster groined sexpartite vaulting, moulded dado rail, panelled window surrounds, and at end twin leaf glazed doors with lancet fanlights above, doors to 2 main rooms 6-panel, Gothick style with lancet headed panels. Clerk's room has an elaborate late C19 fireplace with stone inner grate with 4-centred arch, shouldered wood architrave, foliated fascia and keyblock carved with harvest scene with putti. Conservatory has a timber and glass ridge and furrow roof; cast-iron staging with pierced quatrefoils, star pattern ceramic and encaustic tile floor. First floor has Mayor's Robing Room in gatehouse, which occupies two thirds of the area, and with its moulded timbers was clearly a room of high status, with the room beyond, possibly with service function having plainer, and cruder carpentry. The partition is of heavy close studding with brick-nogged infill of a variety of patterns, central post with cavetto chamfer supporting central longitudinal binder with double cavetto, into which are morticed heavy joists with cavetto, stop and tongue; wall plate also moulded. The post has a cut back jowl with mortices for a no longer extant brace. During restoration in 1971 the upper faces of the beams were exposed and the carpenters' marks were recorded. The Royal accounts for 1463-64 indicate that Thomas Norman, carpenter, was framing the floors, and the class of work in the 2 major rooms appear to indicate involvement of a skilled craftsman. The carpentry in the small service room is inferior with a chamfered beam and plain rectangular joists; on opening up the floor above in 1971, the carpenters' marks were observed to be cruder. The stonework was also exposed in 1971 revealing the cutting back of jambs and heads. A fragment of a damaged moulded cusped quatrefoil light was discovered in a splayed recess in the NW angle turret, and in the SW turret a doorway with a 4-centred chamfered clunch arch, and 3-plank oak door with strap hinges, in the return flank of the chimneybreast and blocked behind by later masonry, also on the east wall a lancet embrasure with an original splayed clunch jamb with evidence of painting and a raised 5 pointed star on a recessed circular ground. South wing access through arched

Gothick opening lined with a pilaster with recessed lancet panels. Second floor has Mayor's Parlour in principal chamber, again divided from north room by a heavy studded and brick nogged partition. Original doorway in NW corner with chamfered reveal, cavetto moulded jamb, and restored Tudor arched heads, left jamb and door. Beamed ceiling with 2 original cantilevered tie beams with new sections scarfed in, with moulded braces, and indications of truncated posts below; moulded ridge and chamfered purlins, with plain plaster ceiling panels between, 3 bays of roof in Robing Room, with 2 bays beyond partition, approx 8m span. Original clunch stonework exposed in window embrasures, two 2-light windows on east, central 3-light window on west and cutback, originally moulded, jamb visible in turrets. Roof: Late C18 king post trussed roofs above gatehouse and over south wing. Basement: Flint rubble, possibly from an earlier structure used as foundations. Plastered barrel vaults, and C18 vaulted structures beyond curtilage of south wing and beneath north wing. Basement of gatehouse converted to modern strong rooms and structure concealed. 2 basement rooms below south wing former kitchen and servants' hall. HISTORICAL NOTE: Hertford Castle reputedly originated as a Saxon fort built by order of King Alfred against the Danes encamped at Ware. The castle was built (or reconstructed) by William I shortly after 1066 as a motte and bailey - the motte mount, 22 ft high, remains in the north angle of the castle precinct overlooking the river. In 1304 the castle and honour of Hertford were granted by Edward I to his wife, Queen Margaret, and the castle became a royal palace, and a prison where David II and James I of Scotland and King John of France were held. In 1360 the castle was granted to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and remained property of the Duchy until 1627. From 1805-18, the castle was used by the East India Company College, from 1822-32 the Dispensary which preceded the General Infirmary (County Hospital) was held there, and it was also used as a judges' lodging. In 1911 Hertford Corporation approached Lord Salisbury to purchase the castle, and a lease of 75 years at a peppercorn rent of 2s 6d per annum was granted. The grounds were laid out as public gardens, and the entrance gates leading from The Wash were donated by Osmond Henry McMullen in 1912. Hertford Castle was used as the Borough Council offices until 1974, and since that date has been occupied by the Hertford Town Council and Property Division of the successor East Hertfordshire District Council. Hertford Castle Gate House, curtain walls, motte and bailey and precinct (qqv) are a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

(Turnor L: History of Hertford: Hertford: 1830-: 16-52,308-12; Victoria History of the Counties of England: Hertfordshire: London: 1902-1912: 501-6; Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England): An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Hertfordshire: London: 1910-: 113; East Herts Archaeological Society Newsletter: Hertford Castle Gatehouse: Hertford: 1949-1967; East Herts Archaeological Society Newsletter: Hertford: 1949-1971; The King's Works: London: 1963-: 678-71; Hertfordshire Countryside: Davies HG: 'From Royal Palace to Council Offices': Letchworth: 1946-1971: 34-38; Pevsner N: Buildings of England: Hertfordshire: Harmondsworth: 1977-: 187; Smith JT: Hertfordshire Houses: Selective Inventory: London: 1993-: 82; Page FM: History of Hertford: Hertford: 1993-: 21-70, 168-71).

Listing NGR: TL3245712465


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Doubleday, AH, The Victoria History of the County of Hertford, (1902), 501-506
Page, F M, History of Hertford, (1993), 21-70
Page, F M, History of Hertford, (1993)
Pevsner, N, Cherry, B, The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire, (1977), 187
Smith, J T, Hertfordshire Houses Selective Inventory, (1993), 82
Turnor, L , History of Hertford, (1830), 16-52
Turnor, L , History of Hertford, (1830), 308-312
'East Hertfordshire Archaeological Society' in East Hertfordshire Archaeological Society Newsletter, (1949-1967)
'Hertfordshire Countryside' in Hertfordshire Countryside, (1946-1971), 34-38
'East Hertfordshire Archaeological Society' in East Hertfordshire Archaeological Society Newsletter, (1949-1971)
Allen Brown, R, Colvin, H M, Taylor, A J, 'History of The Kings Works' in History of the Kings Works the Middle Ages, (1963), 670-671
Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Hertfordshire, (1910)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Date: 04 Sep 2000
Reference: IOE01/03124/14
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr A. Gude. Source Historic England Archive
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