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A History of Brickendon

The Brickendon Footpaths

from the Hertfordshire Mercury, Saturday, 3 April 1897

SIR – Free from all desire of emulating “the worthy old dame” who had seen the Lord Mayor’s Show “hundreds of times,” I beg to submit some reminiscences connected with the subject of the above footpaths. In the “thirties,” when early rising obtained more than at the present day, it was the established habit of some half-a-dozen or more of the principal traders of the town – weather permitting – to indulge in a “constitutional,” preparatory to the counter-drudgery of the day, by one or other of these said walks. And for the proper sustentation of the requisite animal vigour, they fortified themselves by a matutinal draught of rum and milk in this wise. On arriving at Dunkirks Farm, a phial of efficient capacity was withdrawn from the breast pocket of each, and the contents emptied into a large white bowl, then from old Hale’s best cow the completing dilution was milked; each after partaking of the luscious draught proceeded by either one of the footways as suited their several bents, and so by Mangrove or Brickendon-lanes home to breakfast. With this preface, then, I may state that between the years 1835 and 1895 I have traversed some one of those paths on hundreds of occasions. Mr. Gutteridge, who was a corn-dealer with a shop in Fore-street, and was also owner and occupier of the small farm on Brickendon Green which was purchased in 1881-2 by Mr. Demain-Saunders, always used the road from Brickendon-lane by Brickendonbury House – then occupied by Mr. George Gould Morgan – and so by the avenue to Hertford. His daughters, after him, up to 1880 also used the same road morning and evening daily, and their humble little conveyance, drawn by a still humbler pony, must surely be remembered by some few yet living, which was proverbially styled “The Brickendon Mail.” Mr. Pratchett, who managed Mr Adams’s bank after the death of Mr. Gutteridge, combined dairy-farming with his managerial functions, and occupied the homestead and land, but not the house, at Brickendon Green. He also held Bailey Hall Field, from which I have seen his cows driven to Brickendon by the same route. In 1868 the avenue was the bicycle school for aspirant “wheelmen,” who might have been counted by the dozen. A prize-fight came off in Mutton Close, on which occasion the avenue was crowded with vehicles. And tradition says that funerals have passed by the road used by Mr. Gutteridge and others. Funerals possessed but little attraction for me in those days. Now that I am nearer eighty than I care to confess, they are – though more insinuating – still less attractive, and so I am unable to say that I ever witnessed such a procession on that particular route. One other fact which must still be remembered. It was not until the “fifties” that All Saints’ Church was open for evening service, and St. Andrew’s was the only orthodox establishment for spiritual refreshment, and that supplied by the then Rector was of the “bumble-bee-in-sugar-hogshead” order and consequently commanded but sparse attendance. On fine summer evenings, Sundays especially, the avenue was “The Row” for Hertford, where were to be viewed the elite of the county (town) sauntering by the sward ad libitum, or by whichever path they chose. In 1865 I accompanied my brother-in-law over Dunkirks Farm with a view of his becoming the tenant, on which occasion he commented on these numerous ways, and he was informed that none of them could be stopped. The late Mr. Benjamin Young, many years since, barricaded the walk by Hagdell to Mangrove-lane. The barricade was demolished before the week was out. He renewed the fortification more strongly, and again the enemy assaulted and carried the works. In one of the “dailies” a few weeks since I saw the account of a similar attempt by Sir John Rose, at Moor Park, Farnham, where the Farnhamites adopted the same forcible argument, for which I have not yet learnt that they have been decapitated. The privileges that I have enjoyed for so many years, and accepted as Heaven-sent benisons, I now learn, to my great surprise, were but by worldly sufferance, but, even then, what a halo does it impart to the magnanimity of the long endurance of the sufferer! – Yours obediently,

VERBUM SAT.

Hertford, March 30th, 1897