Ware, Hertfordshire


Ware Gazebos from south bank of River Lea - geograph.org.uk - 302424.jpg

Riverside gazebos
Ware is located in Hertfordshire
 Ware shown within Hertfordshire
Population 18,000 
OS grid reference TL495215
Civil parish Ware
District East Hertfordshire
Shire county Hertfordshire
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town WARE
Postcode district SG11 and SG12
Dialling code 01920
Police Hertfordshire
Fire Hertfordshire
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament Hertford and Stortford

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 on 17 January 1979. 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 through the town is now the A1170. The railway station is on the Hertford East Branch Line and operated by Greater Anglia and is on a short single track section of the otherwise double track line.

Historical information

Archaeology has shown that Ware has been occupied since at least the Mesolithic period (which ended about 4000 BC)[1] The Romans had a sizable settlement here and foundations of several buildings, including a temple, and two cemeteries have been found.[2] A well-preserved Roman skeleton of a teenage girl has also been found.[3] 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.[4]

The modern name of the town dates from the Anglo-Saxon period[5] 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.

Mary I had Thomas Fust burnt at stake in Ware for refusing to convert to Catholicism.

The Ware Mutiny occurred on 15 November 1647, between the First and 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.[6]

62 Children were sent to Ware after the Great Fire of London.

In 1683, the Rye House Plot involved assassinating Charles II after he passed through Ware. It failed.

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

In 1756 during the Seven Years' War, £350 was paid to the inns and public houses of Ware for the troops staying with them.

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.[7]

Ware Weir. The GSK offices are in the background.

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.[8]

Tragedy struck the town on 25 January 1990 when a 15-year-old local girl struck by a falling tree was one of 39 people to die in a storm that ravaged Britain.[9]

Ware Museum

Ware has its own Museum which in 2008 received Full Accreditation from the Museums, Archives and Libraries Council.[10] The museum is independent and run completely by volunteers. In 2012/2013 Ware Museum was home to the Great Bed of Ware on loan for one year from The Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The bed is reputedly haunted by the ghost of its maker, Jonas Fosbrooke, who is said to harass any non-Royal person who attempts to sleep in the bed.[11] The museum is partially housed inside an original Second World War Command Bunker used to co-ordinate local defences and respond to Air-raids and this part was refurbished for 2010. The museum contains many interesting items from the history of the town of Ware together with a number of exhibits relating to the Second World War. There are also a number of exhibits for children and many special activity days throughout the year.


Ware has the remains of a fourteenth-century friary, now the local council offices and a conference centre called The Priory. Recent restoration work has shown that it 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. It is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, but from April 2012 until April 2013 it was loan to the Museum in Ware. Ware is also mentioned in the Canterbury Tales. Ware was the unintended destination of John Gilpin in William Cowper's comic poem.[12]

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, which in 1997 featured headline local acts Pablo-Haggis and Dystopia, the latter led by Dr "Tommy" Thomson with lyricist & guitarist Chalky, & Wild Man Wilders, Duncan Vile, & Dave in ever needed support. The festival continues to grow each year in popularity.

Some of the buildings along the High Street date back to the 14th 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.[13]

The statue of a Maltmaker 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 maltmaking days of Ware were at their peak in the 18th Century despite being initiated in the Middle Ages [14]

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.[15]

Fairport Convention's 1971 album Babbacombe Lee was inspired by an old newspaper that fiddle player Dave Swarbrick bought in an antiques shop in the High Street of Ware when the band lived at The Angel former public house in nearby Little Hadham.

Education facilities

The town's secondary schools include Presdales School for girls, a former grammar school, which is now a successful language college and The Chauncy School, a co-educational semi-independent academy. There are two independent schools (both coeducational) nearby: Haileybury and Imperial Service College (ages 11–18), located between the town and Hoddesdon to the west of the A10 and St Edmund's College (prep to Sixth Form), a Catholic school near Puckeridge to the north. Hertford Regional College is the further education college in Ware. There are currently eight primary schools in Ware,[16] the largest being St Mary's School and Christ Church CofE (VA) Primary School and Nursery.[17] There are also numerous preschools and nurseries, the oldest being Orchard House Preschool [18] and the newest Riverside Nursery School.[19] The town has an active Youth Council made up of 11 young people from the town's secondary schools. [20]

Sport and leisure

Ware has two Non-League football teams. Ware FC was founded in 1892 and play their home games at Wodson Park sports centre in the north of the town.[21] The other Non-League team is Wodson Park F.C., founded in 1997, who also play their games at the sports centre but on a separate pitch. Ware is also home to the Ware Wolves flag football team, the 4th most popular flag football team in eastern Hertfordshire.


Notable residents


  1. ^ Ware and Hertford, From Birth to Middle Age, Robert Kiln and Clive Partridge, Castlemead Publications, Welwyn Garden City, 1994 ISBN 0-948555-37-8 (page 8)
  2. ^ Ware and Hertord, From Birth to Middle Age, Robert Kiln and Clive Partridge, Castlemead Publications, Welwyn Garden City, 1994 ISBN 0-948555-37-8 (pages 30 - 54)
  3. ^ Ware and Hertford, From Birth to Middle Age, Robert Kiln and Clive Partridge, Castlemead Publications, Welwyn Garden City, 1994 ISBN 0-948555-37-8 (page 44)
  4. ^ "Ware, Hertfordshire - The Story so Far". Ware Online. Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  5. ^ Ware and Hertford, From Birth to Middle Age, Robert Kiln and Clive Partridge, Castlemead Publications, Welwyn Garden City, 1994 ISBN 0-948555-37-8 (page 137)
  6. ^ Thomson, Alan. "The Ware Mutiny 1647: Order restored or revolution defeated?". The Rockingham Press (1996)
  7. ^ "Armorial Bearings". Ware Town Council. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  8. ^ "Ware - The Story so Far - 3 of 3". Ware Online. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  9. ^ "On This Day: 1990: Children killed in devastating storm". London: BBC. 25 January 1990. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  10. ^ "Ware Museum". Ware Museum. Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  11. ^ Ash, Russell (1973). Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. Reader's Digest Association Limited. p. 280. ISBN 9780340165973. 
  12. ^ http://www.accd.edu/sac/English/bailey/jogilpin.htm.htm
  13. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus; Hertfordshire (Buildings of England); ISBN 0-14-071007-8 ; pages 378 - 379
  14. ^ "The Malt Maker". Ware Online. Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  15. ^ Nikolaus Pevesner, Hertfordshire (The Buildings of England), page 379
  16. ^ [1], WareOnLine Primary Education
  17. ^ [2], Christ Church CofE (VA) Primary School and Nursery
  18. ^ |Orchard House Preschool
  19. ^ | Riverside Nursery
  20. ^ [3], Ware Youth Council
  21. ^ [4], Ware FC website, retrieved 5 November 2010