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Attractions

St Mary's Church

St Mary's Church in Hemel HempsteadBuilding work on this superb Norman church started in 1140 and was completed in 1180. The ground plan is unchanged apart from the addition of the vestry and porches, and a Victorian restoration. The spire was erected around 1340 and contains a fine ring of eight bells.

The church clock was a gift of the Earl of Marchmont in 1784. The restored spire still contains its original timbers and the church contains many interesting monuments to local people.

Set into the flint wall are examples of Hertfordshire pudding stone, an unusual local stone of glacial origin, comprising many rounded pebbles contained in a flinty cement. The red brick found in the outer walls of the church is of Roman origin, probably from the Roman villa in nearby Gadebridge Park.

The Bury (Charter Gardens) and Charter Tower

The Charter Tower in Gadebridge ParkThe former Bury stood on part of the land of Ashridge Monastery, given by King Henry VIII to John Waterhouse, his auditor at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. 

On his death, The Bury passed to Richard Coombe, who pulled down the old house and replaced it with another residence, an elaborate and sumptuous place according to the inventory of its owner, which remained there until 1790.

This site is now marked by the attractive walled Charter Gardens. A stone porchway forms the entrance to the gardens, on which the arms of Richard Coombe are carved. This tall tower built around 1595 is often referred to as the 'Charter Tower' because it is thought that Henry VIII may have stayed there in 1539 and granted the Market Charter as a mark of gratitude for the hospitality received.

The Bury, Queensway

A grade II-listed building built around 1790. A replacement for the original Manor House of William Ginger, a prosperous local attorney, its land once included the present West Herts College and Gadebridge Park. To the west is the site of the former Bury Mill, probably one of the four local mills recorded in the Doomsday Book. Certainly it was there in 1289 when a charter records 'Burimelne'. The Bury is currently used as the Registry Office.

Gadebridge Park

Bridge over the river GadeThis attractive parkland once formed the grounds of The Bury - and of Gadebridge House, demolished in the 1950s. Gadebridge House had been the home of the eminent surgeon and founder of West Herts Hospital, Sir Astley Paston Cooper. In 1811 he came to Hemel Hempstead to enjoy the rural peace, and remained until his death in 1841.

The carriageway to Gadebridge House originally passed through a ford until Sir Astley Paston Cooper arranged for a local iron founder, Joseph Cranstone, to erect a bridge around 1840. With its attractive design resembling bamboo, it echoes the Chinese style popular at that time.

Much of the parkland to the north of the River Gade is scheduled as an area of archaeological importance after an extensive Roman Villa, including a large bathing pool, was found during the building of the Leighton Buzzard Road in the early 1960s. Although the villa is no longer visible, protection prohibits the use of metal detectors, which could disturb vital evidence.

The clear waters of the River Gade show its origins in the pure chalk springs. A wide variety of plant life can be seen, including wild cress, once a notable feature of the area. Some of the waterfalls near here include some unusual square stone blocks, once used as railway sleepers on the nearby London to Birmingham railway, now the main line from Euston. Robert Stephenson was the engineer for this railway, in 1832. Being on a direct line, the route was intended to take it right through the Gade Valley. The landowner, Sir Astley Paston Cooper, rallied the opposition so that the House of Lords had to find another route, resulting in the present longer route nearer to Berkhamsted.

More information about Gadebridge Park and its facilities.