Saturday, 3 September 2011

Hoddesden, Hertfordshire

SS Catherine and Paul was locked but to be honest I was completely unfazed as it's a particularly ugly Victorian build.

ST PAUL. Of the building of 1732 nothing will be noticed externally But the interior of the nave can still give an idea of it, a plain rectangle with flat ceiling and arched windows. The W front red brick with pediment. All the rest now appears in the form given to it in 1865 (chancel and chancel chapels) and 1888 (S steeple).

SS Catherine & Paul

Hoddesdon. If Izaak Walton could walk once more up its wide old street, his fishing-rod in hand, he would look in vain for his favourite Thatched House, though other inns he would pass by seem to have changed little. The oldest have overhanging storeys, and there is another which caught a poet’s eye, Matthew Prior putting the Bull into some doggerel lines, in company with a stone nymph he found standing with her pitcher as a conduit-head for the well in the High Street. The nymph was given to Hoddesdon by Marmaduke Rawdon, the rich merchant for whom St Monica’s Priory was built in 1622. A convent now, the red house keeps the old chimneys, the tower with a pierced parapet, the fleur-de-lys and Tudor roses in the hall (where plaster figures Hank the wide fireplace); and a magnificent oak staircase rises to the top floor with carvings of heroes and heraldic dragons. Here came the merchant’s nephew to live with him, the other Marmaduke Rawdon who, when in the Canary Islands on his uncle’s business, achieved fame by climbing the volcanic Peak of Teneriffe. His notes of life in 17th-century England are treasured in the British Museum. He died here but lies at Broxbourne.

Stanborough House, which we found transformed into a club, has a wing 300 years old. The clock tower in the main street rose in 1835, but has a 16th-century bell dedicated to St Anne; it probably came from the old chapel once on this site, for the church itself, mainly Victorian, goes back only to the 18th century. The River Lea which Izaak Walton loved (where many anglers still spend long and meditative days) fills the moat of what is left of old Rye House a mile away - just its 16th-century gatehouse with an upper room big enough to house the Great Bed of Ware, which it did house for many years, though now we must go to South Kensington to see it. But still there falls on this old gatehouse the shadow of the Rye House Plot, for here, had the plot not been discovered, Charles II and his brother James would have been assassinated one spring morning in 1683. It is thrilling to look on this gateway and think of how profound a change might have come over our history if the plans hatched here had not gone astray.

It was at Hoddesdon that Gulielma Penn, wife of the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, died; she was taken here to Jordans in Buckinghamshire for burial in the little graveyard there.

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