Hertfordshire, United Kingdom


- Baldock village -



A  new challenge - A walk from Baldock to Royston in a day - part 1

Not far from my hometown of Royston lies Baldock, a town in North Hertfordshire that I have long admired, situated some 33 miles from London and close to the River Beane. It is a town steeped in Roman history as well as the history of the Knights Templars. Two Saturdays apart, the first towards the end of October, the day after my birthday and the latter early in November, I took the train from Royston down to Baldock, the aim being to  return to Royston on foot across the north Hertfordshire countryside, following segments of the Icknield Way.

The purpose of repeating the walk was to try out slight variations of what was basically the same  route linking a number of villages I knew and loved, each with a small church as the focal point. I wanted establish a definitive route for myself.

I could in reality refer to it as the church walk, as indeed the villages of BaldockGM, ClothalGM, WallingtonGM, RushdenGM, SandonGM, KelshallGM, TherfieldGM and RoystonGM, each with their own unique character and beauty, all boast a church at the heart of the village. Each walk provided some fresh discoveries.

In one of these villages, through which passes a road I had cycled on more occasions than I care to remember, I learnt that I had passed the very home where George Orwell had once lived, without realising it. The person responsible for enlightening me to this astonishing fact also accompanied me on the second of the walks described.

In fact, the week before, on the October walk, which I had completed alone, I had passed within viewing distance of the home, located along the Baldock Road, which she shares with partner Dougie Bisset. Both are colleagues of mine.

Baldock was founded by the Knights Templar in the 1140s. Perhaps for this reason, one theory of the origin of the name Baldock is as a derivation from the Old French name for Baghdad Baldac which the Templars had hoped to conquer during the Crusades. Other theories include that the name is derived from "Bald Oak", meaning a dead oak. The modern layout of the town, and many buildings in the centre, date from the sixteenth century, with the earliest dating from the fourteenth century. The town grew up where the old Great North Road and the Icknield Way crossed. Despite the construction of the A1(M) motorway in 1970, which bypassed the town (and which was called the Baldock Bypass for some years), it was still a major traffic bottleneck until March 2006, when a new bypass removed the A505 road (old Icknield Way) from the town. Due to its location, the town was a major staging post between London and the north: many old coaching inns still operate as pubs and hotels, and Baldock has a surprising number of pubs for its size. From the 1770s until 2008 the high street (London Road) was very wide, a typical feature of medieval market places where more than one row of buildings used to stand. In the case of Baldock, the bottom of the High Street had three such rows, until Butcher's Row was demolished by the Turnpike authorities in the 1770s. In late 2008, a town centre enhancement plan included a narrowing of the road and subsequent widening of paved areas.

View along Whitehorse Street towards Sun Street, Baldock, with the tower of the 13th Century church of St Mary covered by scaffolding.


Baldock's Methodist Church on Whitehorse Street; The point where Sun Street leads off from Whitehorse Street.



The finely carved door and fluted Roman Ionic pilaster surround at the entrance to Baranite House; The Victoria Pub, Sun Street, Baldock.


View of Baranite House and Victoria Pub, where Sun Street leads off from Whitehorse Street, St Mary's Church and tower in the background.

Baldock has since the 16th century been a centre for malting, subsequently becoming a regional brewing centre with at least three large brewers still operating at the end of the 19th Century, despite a decline in demand for the types of beer produced locally. The 1881 Census records approximately 30 drinking establishments (the town's population was at that time around 1900). There has been human activity on the site well before the modern town was founded. Prehistoric remains on Clothall Common date back as far as c3000 BCE. Many Roman remains have been discovered during building work in and around the town, and the core of the Roman settlement is on Walls Field near the Hartsfield Primary School in the town. Earlier Iron Age remains have also been uncovered in the same general location, which may be the earliest town ever to develop in Britain. A medieval leper colony, on Royston Road, was located during excavations in 2003, having been thought for many years to lie to the south-east of the town on the former Pesthouse Lane (now Clothall Road), the A507.  Baldock's positions at the crossing of two ancient thoroughfares, the Great North Road and the Icknield Way has made it a stopping point for a number of illustrious visitors, including Charles I, who passed through Baldock en route for London after his arrest in 1648, and supposedly Dick Turpin. Preacher John Wesley came to the town in 1747. However, perhaps one of the town's most famous visitors was Ludwig II of Bavaria, (builder of the famous Neuschwanstein Castle) who came to the town in 1879 on the recommendation of Sir Richard Wallace, to whom he had written for advice on England's medieval architecture. Wallace advised Ludwig to take a tour of the English countryside in order to survey a variety of ecclesiastical buildings, that he might draw inspiration from them for future building projects. In a letter to Wallace, Ludwig expressed particular admiration for the buildings of Hertfordshire, which he toured extensively.

View down Sun Street towards Victoria pub, where it joins Whitehorse Street, a main road in Baldock town centre.


RJ Chapman & Sons, the Baldock butcher where I regularly acquire South African delicacies such as biltong, Mrs Balls chutney, Pro Nutro breakfast cereal and Pro Vita.


View down Sun Street; View down Church Street at the junction with Sun Street.


Days of Ashwell, a local bakery up London Road (the High Street), Baldock.


The ornate Georgian doorway at No 9 London Road (the High Street), Baldock, adjacent to Days of Ashwell bakery.


The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, commonly known as the Knights Templar, the Order of the Temple ( or simply as Templars, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders.The organization existed for approximately two centuries in the Middle Ages.Officially endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church around 1129, the Order became a favoured charity throughout Christendom, and grew rapidly in membership and power. Templar knights, in their distinctive white mantles with a red cross, were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades. Non-combatant members of the Order managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom, innovating financial techniques that were an early form of banking, and building many fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land.The Templars' existence was tied closely to the Crusades; when the Holy Land was lost, support for the Order faded. Rumours about the Templars' secret initiation ceremony created mistrust, and King Phillip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Order, took advantage of the situation. In 1307, many of the Order's members in France were arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and then burned at the stake.Under pressure from King Philip, Pope Clement V disbanded the Order in 1312. The abrupt disappearance of a major part of the European infrastructure gave rise to speculation and legends, which have kept the "Templar" name alive into the modern day.


View down Baldock's London Road (the High Street) towards St Mary's Church.


Baldock's Community Centre building and its colourful clock.


Arches of former coaching inns, the London Road (the High Street), Baldock.


Taste Cafe and Bar, 24A London Road (the High Street), Baldock.


Baldock's London Road (the High Street) skyline.


The brick used in the construction of this building in Baldock London Road (the High Street) is typical of many buildings in Hertfordshire.


The almshouses purchased and built by monies bequeathed by John Wunne in his will in 1617, to house the poor.


Two views up and down Baldock London Road (the High Street).


Staffy B, a gift shop in Baldock; STARS Baldock Speech Therapy.


The Greene King pub towards the top end of Baldock's London Road (the High Street).


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