Ware

Street Map

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Ware is a town of around 18,000 people in Hertfordshire, England close to the county town of Hertford. It is also a civil parish in East Hertfordshire district. The Prime Meridian passes to the east of Ware.

The town lies on the north-south A10 road which is partly shared with the east-west A414 (for Hertford to the west and Harlow to the east). There is a large viaduct over the River Lea at Kings Meads. The £3.6m two-mile bypass opened in  1976. At the north end of the bypass is the Wodson Park Sports Centre, with an athletics track, and Hanbury Manor, a hotel and country club. The former route of the A10 is now the A1170. The railway station is on the Hertford East Branch Line and operated by Greater Anglia and is only single track.

Archaeology has shown that Ware has been occupied since at least the Mesolithic period (which ended about 4000 BC). The Romans had a sizable settlement here and foundations of several buildings, including a temple, and two cemeteries have been found. A well-preserved Roman skeleton of a teenage girl has also been found. Ware was on Ermine Street, the Roman road from London to Lincoln. It has been said that Ware is one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe.

The modern name of the town dates from the Anglo-Saxon period when weirs were built to stop the invading Vikings from escaping in their longships after defeat by Alfred the Great in a battle near Ware. It was also a great coaching town, being on the Old North Road, less than a day’s journey from London. In the 17th century Ware became the source of the New River, constructed to bring fresh water to London.

The Ware Mutiny occurred on 15 November 1647, during the early stages the Second English Civil War at Corkbush Field, when soldiers were ordered to sign a declaration of loyalty to Thomas Fairfax, the commander-in-chief of the New Model Army (NMA), and the Army Council. When some with Leveller sympathies refused to do this they were arrested, and one of the ringleaders, Private Richard Arnold, was court-martialled and shot.

England’s first turnpike (toll) road ran from Wadesmill to Ware. The town was once a major centre of malting.

The Ware Town Council coat of arms was issued in 1956 by the College of Arms to Ware Urban District Council, and transferred to Ware Town Council in 1975. The arms are derived from matters with which Ware is associated — the barge rudders reference the bargemen of Ware, with the red and white striping on the rudders being the livery colours of the City of London, associating the Ware bargemen’s free entry rights to that City (q.v.); the crossed coach horns reference the town’s long history as a coaching town; and the sheaves of barley reference the malting history of Ware. The motto of the town “cave” (Latin for “beware”) was suggested by the College of Heralds, with the intent of its being a pun on the town’s name.

With the River Lea flowing through the centre of Ware, transport by water was for many years a significant industry. As an old brewing town (and some of the old maltings still stand, although none are functional), barley was transported in, and beer out via the river. Bargemen born in Ware were given the “freedom of the River Thames” — avoiding the requirement of paying lock dues — as a result of their transport of fresh water and food in during the great plague of 1665–66. A local legend says that dead bodies were brought out of London, but there is no evidence for this. “Buryfield” in Ware is thought by many to be where these supposed bodies were buried. The name apparently originates from before 1666, with the burial of large numbers of Roman inhabitants of Ware.

Ware has a fourteenth-century priory, now the local council offices and a conference centre. Recent restoration work has shown that the ‘priory’ – it was really a friary – dates from the thirteenth century. Opposite the priory is the large fourteenth-century parish church of St. Mary. It is known for its elaborate font with large carved stone figures. The town is also famous for its many 18th-century riverside gazebos, several of which have been restored recently. It is also famous for the Great Bed of Ware, which was mentioned by Shakespeare and is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Ware is also mentioned in the Canterbury Tales. Ware was the unintended destination of John Gilpin in William Cowper’s comic poem.

Today the town’s main employer is GlaxoSmithKline which has a large plant in the town, but there are also many other small factories. It is also a commuting town for London, with regular rail services between Ware railway station and London Liverpool Street.

Ware is home to Scott’s Grotto, built for John Scott, an 18th-century poet who owned Amwell House from 1768. The grotto, the largest in the UK, is a series of chambers extending over 65 ft into the chalk hillside. The chambers are decorated with shells, stones such as flint and coloured glass. The grotto is owned by East Herts District Council and was restored in 1990 by the Ware Society.

During two weeks of the summer, Ware Council holds the ‘Ware Festival’ culminating in the ‘Rock in the Priory’ a one-day open-air music festival that grows each year in popularity.

Some of the buildings along the High Street date back to the 16th century. Ware used to have many coaching inns and passageways between some shops lead to their stables. Many of these passageways also have former maltings. Crib Street has a good sequence of timber framed buildings which have been restored since the 1970s.

The statue of a maltster was unveiled in November 1999 outside St Mary’s Church in time with the Millennium celebrations. This statue commemorates the days in which Ware was the principal malt supplier to London. The malting days of Ware were at their peak in the 18th Century despite being initiated in the Middle Ages.

In Bluecoat Yard is Place House, Ware’s oldest extant surviving building. It dates from the 14th century, with additions in the 16th and 17th centuries, and was once Ware’s Manor House. It has a crown post roof.

Ware is twinned with Cormeilles-en-Parisis, France; Wülfrath, Germany.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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