Coronavirus - message from the chair   Sadly the AGM, talks, & Flag Fen outing in 2020 are cancelled, but may be rescheduled.  The chairman's full message is here



MEETINGS which have already taken place in 2019 and 2020


16th January 2019


A414 strategy – bypass for Hertford? - talk then discussion


Derrick Ashley, County Councillor, Executive Member for Environment, Planning & Transport


The County Council was consulting on a potential Hertford bypass until 25 February 2019. It was looking at this option as part of a wider strategy to upgrade the capacity of the A414, with a southern route as the preferred option.  The issue of whether or not to have this bypass is still a ‘live’ one among decision-makers, and Councillor Ashley was keen to hear how people in Hertford respond to this proposal - the meeting was open to the public. A report of the meeting, and the views of the committee, can be found on the HOME page of this website.


6th March 2019


Portrait of a Hertford marriage: the Cowpers at the Castle


Clare Gittings, historian


This talk with slides was based on the extensive diaries that Sarah, Lady Cowper, kept in the early eighteenth century. The voices that emerge, often raised in argument, are recognisably all too human. Our lecturer is Clare Gittings, who gives talks to a wide range of local groups. 


24th April2019


Brief AGM: Committee and Treasurer's Reports, Election of Officers, followed by:


Discussion led by panel: Hertford’s last 50 years: for better or for worse?


A panel of speakers with knowledge or experience of different aspects of Hertford life will give their views on the changes that have affected the town, and we will then have a more general discussion, enabling every to offer their person views. One good reason for focusing on the last half century is that the Civic Society is 50 years old in 2019, and our discussion might help us to reflect on our future, and the town’s.


8th May 2019


Essex coach trip: Templar barns, Coggeshall and winery


First: two of the most amazing medieval barns in Europe, at Cressing. They are like wooden cathedrals (built by the Templars), though they do need some explanation. We had a guided tour of the barns, plus farm and walled Tudor garden. Second: in the middle part of the day a visit to Coggeshall, one of the most delightful old villages in the County.  Plenty of places for lunch. These include Paycocke’s House, ‘one of the most attractive half-timbered houses in England’ (Pevsner), more of which has recently been opened up; a National Trust house and garden, it comes complete with coffee shop. Aside from lunch, there was enough time to visit at least one historic place, perhaps Grange Barn (National Trust, you can picnic here in wet weather, joint ticket with Paycocke’s House) or the church where many Paycockes are buried.


Third: at the end the day a visit to Bardfield winery. Just outside the beautiful village of Great Bardfield (favoured by such 20th century artists as Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious), there is a winery even lovelier than Dedham Vale – complete with a Grade 1 listed Tudor barn (Anne of Cleves retired to the manor here after her marriage to Henry VIII was annulled). There will be an opportunity taste some of the wines, all organic. Alternatively, cups of tea or coffee.  


Sunday 30 June 2019, from 12.45 pm


Summer party, near Port Hill, Hertford


This was the Civic Society’s birthday bash, as we will be 50 years old in 2019. We were fortunate to have been invited back to hallowed ground on the side of Port Hill, where founder Alan Melville lived and where, lower down the hill, Jane and Harold Chaplin were our main hosts. We had the run of a pair of linked gardens on a series of different levels. There is even a terrace with a seat presented to the Melvilles at the Society’s 20th anniversary. This seat rests on paving graced with delightful hand-cut lettering which reads, in conclusion, ‘Enchanting garden where the sun smiles on a hundred delicate friendships’. Perhaps that says it all, though there is also an eco-house under construction, which we were able to inspect. And there was of course be some music (Brendan Dowse jazz singer/pianist), given we will be the guests of a very musical household. Plentiful free parking just over the road at Hartham.


The tickets were be priced at £10 providing that they are purchased more than two days in advance (thereafter £12.50, and no admission without a pre-reserved ticket). 




What is wanted for Bircherley Green?








Click here to play Event Video

Read the ideas for the town here, and for Bircherley Green here, both of which are summarised here


20 November 2019


Achieving the best contemporary architecture in and around East Herts,


Andrew Goodman, local architect


Andrew has a strong interest in sustainable design. In Hertford, his recent projects in the public eye include the foyer extension to Hertford Methodist Church in Ware Road and the St Andrew’s Centre for the church of that name. He will talk about leading examples of contemporary architecture locally, and about some of the difficulties faced by architects in this area, in creating good modern buildings.   


Evening meetings are usually held in the Roman Catholic Church Hall, 23 St John's Street, Hertford SG14 1RX, starting at 8 pm.  Tea, coffee, and biscuits are available before the start.  Non-members may attend but are asked to pay £2 at the door. 





Wednesday 22 January 2020 – 8.00 p.m.

Hertfordshire County Council have adopted a Local Transport Plan and an A414 Corridor Strategy. An important feature of both is the idea of “Sustainable Travel Towns” - in key towns along the A414 corridor and across Hertfordshire as a whole. “Comprehensive packages of schemes and behaviour change initiatives aimed at achieving a significant modal shift to non-car modes and reduction in single occupancy car use” are to be prioritised.
“Such packages could feature improved cycling, walking and passenger transport infrastructure and service levels, in combination with initiatives such as travel planning and marketing.”
“The detailed criteria for any settlement being included in the Sustainable Travel Towns programme will be subject to further local discussion to ensure that they have the support of key stakeholders and the wider community.”

Hertford Civic Society, in partnership with the Town Council, East Herts Council and other organisations, is seeking to help enable Hertford to become a “Sustainable Travel Town”.
Stephen Joseph, expert in /campaigner for sustainable transport at the national level, will talk about lessons that can be learned from other places.
We need improvements of this kind in Hertford - so do come to hear the suggestions of an outside expert, and to join in the discussion.



See slides. Hear the speaker clearly


Speakers' slides:  click here



MEETINGS & EVENTS PLANNED FOR 2020, but which are now uncertain 


Green Corridor for central Herts: where should it be and how wide?
Lecture, Wednesday 18 March 2020 - cancelled


Biodiversity experts Jonathan Fisher and Peter Oakenfull, who are locally-based and much involved in influencing plans for the Welwyn-Hatfield area in particular, will talk about the importance of safeguarding biodiversity. With considerable amounts of new housing expected to the west of Hertford, we need both to protect wildlife and to make sure that people have suitable access to the countryside. A protected ‘Green Corridor’ would help – but how big might it need to be, and where should it be?


Redeveloping Hertford Theatre
Brief AGM then presentation & discussion, Wednesday 29 April 2020 - cancelled

Hertford Theatre faces imminent redevelopment and expansion, in an imaginative scheme which has already undergone some reappraisal. It is therefore good to have the opportunity to hear about the plans from Rhys Thomas (Director of Hertford Theatre), Tamara Jarvis (East Herts Council) and Simon Lewis (project manager of the emerging scheme). Following a not-too-long presentation, there will still be plenty of time for questions and discussions. Rhys Thomas and his colleagues are very keen to hear the views of a broad cross-section of the people of Hertford, so do please come along.

Visit to Flag Fen Bronze-Age village and Huntingdon
Wednesday 20 May 2020 - cancelled

We will have a guided tour at Flag Fen, to help to bring alive this amazing prehistoric settlement, which includes a surviving section of a water-logged causeway, and even a small flotilla of bronze-age canoes: both exceptional survivals. A slightly out-of-the-way place (not far from Peterborough), and not necessarily well known, Flag Fen has been described by the Time Team of TV fame as “one of Time Team’s favourite sites, combining two magical qualities: organic preservation and deposited bronze objects.” (Tim Taylor, The Time Team Guide to the Archaeological Sites of Britain and Ireland.) Our tour will last 90 minutes, and the key parts (the preserved causeway, the canoes and a reconstructed hut) are all under cover. Cambridge University archaeologist David Gibson says that the site allows people to “visit in exquisite detail everyday life in the Bronze Age.” Visits to the “Pompeii of the Fens” benefit from a visitor centre with café. The site is on flat ground and does not involve strenuous walking: it is accessible to wheelchair users, and mobility scooters can be provided.   
We will then head to Huntingdon, in good time for lunch – there is no shortage of venues. In the afternoon, you will be free to explore the town, perhaps by yourselves (booklets can be made available) or perhaps with the benefit of a brief exploratory walkabout. Additionally, there is the Cromwell Museum, which reopens in March following a major refurbishment. Oliver Cromwell, who once quelled a mutiny of his army in Hertford, was raised in Huntingdon, and spent much of his life there.  
The cost of this outing is £27, which includes the guided tour of Flag Fen as well as the coach journey. We leave in our comfortable coach at 8.45 in the morning (from a layby alongside Tesco or Hertford East), and return to Hertford by 6pm or thereabouts. Please make your bookings by contacting Malcolm Ramsay. Most people now do this by email: his contact details can be found elsewhere in this Newsletter – see page XX.

Tea party – celebrating Hertford’s best new buildings
Date in late summer (to be confirmed later, together with venue)
 For 2020, we are trying out a new kind of party: a more informal event, without pre-booking, at which tea and cakes will be available, also with the possibility of prosecco or some other wine. Think of it as a town fete, for we will be celebrating the conclusion of a reinvigorated awards process, in which the best buildings in Hertford over the last few years will be discussed and celebrated. The party will be the final act of a reviewing process in which we hope members of the Civic Society will all have the opportunity to take part.
We are still developing the format both for the updating of the awards process and also for the concluding party. It will be an informal event one afternoon in late summer. Final details of the awards process and party will be publicised a bit later in the year.

The building of the House: Hertford Quakers and their Meeting House over 350 years
Lecture, Wednesday 21 October
The Hertford Quaker Meeting House of 1670, now the oldest purpose-built Meeting House in continuous use in the world, was constructed at a time of great adversity for Quakers and stands as testimony to the faith of those early Friends. One of the 200 or so Meeting Houses built before the Toleration Act in 1689, its history and architecture have some distinctive features, but still more unusual is its survival into the twenty-first century. This talk by Dr Chris Skidmore, a national expert, will cover the history of Hertford Quakers and their Meeting House in comparison with other contemporary Meeting Houses, bringing out the distinctive features and attempting to discuss the possible reasons for its survival. It celebrates its 350th anniversary in 2020, and this event is a joint one involving both Quakers and Civic Society in Hertford. It will take place at the Meeting House itself, in Railway Street, Hertford.

‘Few counties are as interesting as Herts’: revising Pevsner’s Hertfordshire
Lecture, Wednesday 18 November
Initially, James Bettley will tell the story of how Nikolaus Pevsner came to write the Buildings of England series, which has continued to evolve and be revised. Our lecturer was responsible for the new edition (the third one) of the Hertfordshire volume, published in 2019.  He explains the process of bringing this volume up to date, and talks about the wealth of exciting buildings in the county. He is a veteran of this process, having also revised the Suffolk ‘Pevsner’. A good communicator, he is High Sheriff of Essex for 2019-20.


Times and venues
Talks or lectures are, as ever, are at 8.00pm on Wednesdays, with refreshments from 7.45pm. With one exception, they still happen in the hall of the Roman Catholic church in St John’s Street. The exception is the talk in October about the Quaker Meeting House which, as noted above, takes place there instead.



Malcolm Ramsay: malcolm.ramsay789@btinternet.com; tel 01992 500002 (no ansafone); Dunkirks Farmhouse Southside, Queens Rd, Hertford SG13 8BJ.