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Themes Explorers and Adventurers Nobel Prize Winners
Actors/Actresses and Directors Famous People Places of Interest
Anglo-Saxons and Danes Historic Events Prime Ministers
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Inventors and Scientists Royal Consorts and Heirs
Artists and Architects Monarchs World Heritage Sites
Composers National Parks Writers and Poets

Hertfordshire lies in south-central England and borders the north of London. In 1965 part of the county was incorporated into the new Greater London.

Towns include the county seat of Hertford; the first "garden city" of Letchworth; and the first "new town" of Stevenage.

Actors/Actresses and Directors
One of cinema's greatest directors, the American Stanley Kubrick, died at his home Childwickbury Manor near the village of Harpenden in 1999. In his career he made comparatively few films but many are considered classics, including Paths of Glory, Spartacus and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick had lived in England since the early 1960s and at Childwickbury since 1979. He is buried on the estate.

The great nations have always acted like gangsters, and the small nations like prostitutes.
(The Guardian, 1963)

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The Chiltern Hills spread across four counties, starting in the Thames Valley in Oxfordshire, the hills stretch in a north-east direction up through Buckinghamshire to the counties of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. They were designated an AONB in 1965 to protect the chalk downland landscape and the abundance of woodland which covers it, providing an important haven for wildlife only 70km from London.

Artists and Architects
The sculptor Henry Moore was buried at Perry Green in 1986.

Henry Moore

Famous People
Nicholas Breakspear was born in Abbots Langley in 1100. He was the only Englishman ever to become Pope when he was elected as Adrian IV in 1154. He died in office in 1159 at Anagni near Rome.

Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, known due to his power and influence as "the Kingmaker" was killed during the Battle of Barnet in 1471. Neville exploited his vast inherited wealth and land to hold the balance of power between the warring Houses of Lancaster and York during the Wars of the Roses. He often changed sides and was influential enough to enable both the Yorkist Edward IV and the Lancastrian Henry VI become king. It was Edward IV's army that defeated Neville at Barnet and after Neville's death Edward was reinstated to the throne he had lost only the previous year.

Richard Cromwell, son of Oliver Cromwell, died in Cheshunt in 1712. In 1658 he had succeeded his father as Lord Protector but his rule was short and he was forced to abdicate less than a year later. After the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 he went into exile living in France and Switzerland before finally returning to England in 1680, where he lived until his death under another name.

Richard Cromwell

Historic Events

Major Battles
In 1455 the first Battle of St Albans was the preamble to the Wars of the Roses, a series of battles for the control of the throne between the Houses of Lancaster and York. During the battle the Yorkists under the king's cousin Richard, Duke of York defeated the Lancastrians, capturing Henry VI and killing York's rival, the Duke of Somerset.

In 1461 the second Battle of St Albans took place in the town when an army led by Henry VI's wife Margaret of Anjou attacked and released the King from captivity by the Earl of Warwick.

The Battle of Barnet in 1471 was a further battle in the Wars of the Roses, taking place near Hadley Green which now lies in London. The Yorkist Edward IV returned from exile to defeat the Lancastrian forces under Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick. Warwick whose power and influence led to him being known as "the Kingmaker" was killed in the battle, considerably weakening Henry VI's position.

Edward IV

Rebellions and Plots
It was at Hoddesdon in 1683 that the Rye House Plot failed. The plan to kill the pro-Catholic Charles II and his Catholic brother the future James II as they returned from the horse races only failed when the king left Newmarket early. The plot was named after Rye House which stood near the road where the assassination was due to take place.

Inventors and Scientists

The scientist and environmentalist James Lovelock was born in Letchworth in 1919. In the 1960s he developed what later became known as his Gaia theory (a name suggested by his friend the writer William Golding) which saw the planet Earth as a self-regulating organism. Although his theory created controversy at the time (it challenged Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection) it would come to be accepted by the scientific establishment and community. Impossible to pigeon-hole (he was an environmentalist who was highly critical of parts of the Green movement and a supporter of nuclear power) he was a passionate defender of the idea that a sustainable planet is only possible by working with nature and not against it.

James Lovelock


House of Stuart
House of Stuart
The first Stuart king of both England and Scotland James I died at Theobalds Park in 1625. He became James VI, king of Scotland in 1566 at the age of one. In 1603, on the death of the childless Elizabeth I, he became king of England due to him being the great-great-grandson of Henry VII. He is buried at Westminster Abbey.

James I
Monarchs buried at Westminster Abbey

Nobel Prize Winners

The Irish-born winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 George Bernard Shaw died in 1950 at his home Shaw's Corner in Ayot St Lawrence where he had lived since 1906. His ashes were scattered in the garden.

George Bernard Shaw

Martyrdom... the only way in which a man can become famous without ability.
The Devil's Disciple (1901)

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
Everybody's Political What's What? (1944)

Newspapers are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilisation.

Places of Interest

Historic Buildings
George Bernard Shaw's home Shaw's Corner at Ayot St Lawrence

Stately Homes and Palaces
Hatfield House was used by Henry VIII as a nursery for his children, Princess Elizabeth spent her first fifteen years at the house and she was there in 1558 when she heard of the death of her half-sister Mary I and her accession to the throne as Elizabeth I. James I exchanged the house for Theobalds Park and the new owners became the Cecil family.

Prime Ministers
Prime Ministers
Born as Robert Gascoyne-Cecil at Hatfield House in 1830, the Marquess of Salisbury became Prime Minister three times in 1885-86, 1886-92 and 1895-1902. He died at the house in 1903 and is buried in the nearby churchyard of St Etheldreda.

Marquess of Salisbury

English policy is to float lazily downstream, occasionally putting out a diplomatic boathook to avoid collisions.
(Letter, 1877)

In 1848 William Lamb, Viscount Melbourne, twice Prime Minister in 1834 and 1835-41, died at Brocket Hall near Lemsford. Like his successor the Marquess of Salisbury, he is also buried in the churchyard of St Etheldreda at Hatfield.

Viscount Melbourne

Brocket Hall was also the home to another Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston, who governed in 1855-58 and 1859-65. Palmerston died at Brocket Hall in 1865 whilst still in office and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Viscount Palmerston
Famous people buried at Westminster Abbey

Royal Consorts and Heirs

House of Plantagenet
Isabella of France, the former queen of Edward II, died in 1358 and her death has been given as either in the county at Hertford Castle where she may have lived for the last year of her life or at Castle Rising Castle in Norfolk where she had been imprisoned by her son Edward III since 1330. She was buried at Greyfriar's church at Newgate in London.

Isabella of France

Writers and Poets
For George Bernard Shaw see Nobel Prize Winners

The poet William Cowper was born in Great Berkhamstead in 1731.

William Cowper

No voice divine the storm allayed
No light propitious shone;
When snatched from all effectual aid,
We perished, each alone:
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelmed in deeper gulfs than he.
The Castaway (1799)

Graham Greene was born as Henry Graham Greene in 1904 at Berkhamsted. He died in 1991 in Vevey in Switzerland.

Graham Greene

There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.
The Power and the Glory (1940)

The poet Cecil Day-Lewis (father of the actor Daniel Day-Lewis) died in Hadley Wood in 1972. He had been Poet Laureate since 1968 when he succeeded John Masefield who had died the year before. He was in turn succeeded by Sir John Betjeman. He is buried at Stinsford in Dorset.

Cecil Day-Lewis
Poets laureate

County Links Genealogy in England

Genealogy Links

Family History Societies


Hertfordshire Association for Local History
Hertfordshire Record Society