THE COUNTIES OF HERTFORD AND BEDFORD
 HERTFORD and Bedford are both farming counties, where
there is scarcely a bit of waste land anywhere,
excepting the round tops of the Chilterns, which divide
the two shires. These hills form part of one of the
long chalk ranges that start from Salisbury Plain.
Ploughed fields and woods climb the slopes, and the
short turf of the hill sides makes capital mutton, like
that bred upon the Downs.
Both counties have many woods and many parks, with
lordly mansions "where the wealthy nobles live."
Though there are no hills of any height except the
Chilterns, Hertford and Bedford cannot be called flat
shires; for the ground swells and sinks with a pleasant
rise and fall, and there are often clumps^ of trees
upon the uplands.
Many cows are to be seen grazing, chiefly in
Bedfordshire where butter is made for the London
market. There are fine pasture-fields in the north of
this shire, the soil being rather wet, like that of the
fen counties round it on either side. This is the case
especially along the banks of the Great Ouse, which
makes endless loops and turns in its course. Famous
onions and cucumbers are grown in the south-west of
this county, where the sandy soil suits these
vegetables. Hertford is, on the whole, a prettier
county than Bedfordshire, with more woods and parks and
hills. Besides the Chilterns on
 the north-west and west, it has low hills along the
Middlesex border. It is also a fruit-growing county,
with large cherry and apple orchards, where fruit is
grown for Covent Garden Market. Indeed, Herts is a
friendly neighbour-county to the great city of London,
which it supplies not only with fruit, but with all
kinds of table vegetables. Lettuces, green peas, and
cauliflowers are raised in its large market-gardens.
Flowers, also, are largely cultivated; and the roses of
Herts take the first prizes in the London Shows.
Better than flowers and fruit, better than peas and
potatoes, is the water of the New River to London. This
water is collected in large reservoirs at Hornsey and
Stoke Newington. At these places it is filtered to
clear it from impurities, and then caused to flow into
pipes, which carry it all over London. Where does it
come from, this water with which so many London
teakettles are filled? There are some springs of
delightful water close by Ware (where John Gilpin's
friend lived); Chadwell is the largest. To bring the
fresh water from these springs to thirsty London was
the thought of one Sir Hugh Myddelton, who lived some
two hundred and fifty years ago. He had a channel dug,
forty miles long, for the stream to flow in, and this
was the New river—really new then, though it is old now
in all but name.
Though there is much gardening done in Herts, both this
county and Bedford are, for the most part, under the
plough. Perhaps there is, for its size, more ploughed
land in Bedford than in any other English county.
Wheat, barley and oats, potatoes and turnips, peas and
beans are largely grown. Wheat is the chief crop, and
the white wheat straw of these counties is put to an
 Throughout Herts and Bedford, and in parts of Essex and
Suffolk, in which counties the wheat straw is of the
right kind, the women and girls are at work in the
cottages making straw plait, while the men are busy in
the fields. Thirteen straws are generally plaited
together, worked much in the same way as broad plaits
of hair. It is easy work, which the children learn to
The towns in Herts where straw plait is most largely
made are: the old town of Hitchin, Baldock, Eoyston,
Tring, Hemel Hempstead, Watford, where paper also is
made, and St. Albans. These are also the chief
market-towns of the county.
The two best known straw-plaiting towns are in Bedford,
these are Dunstable and Luton, both among the
Chilterns. The kind of plait called "Dunstable" is
much esteemed; at Luton "Tuscan" plait is made.
Bedford, Biggleswade, Ampthill, and Leighton Buzzard,
which has an old stone cross, are also straw-plaiting
towns. These are the market-towns of Bedfordshire, and
in them, and indeed all over the county, another kind
of cottage-work is carried on, the making of
pillow-lace. This is but a poor trade since the
invention of the Nottingham frame for lace-making.
II. JOHN BUNYAN
THERE are various places of interest in the county of
Bedford. Near the market-town of Woburn is Woburn
Abbey, an ancient abbey which has been converted into a
very stately palace indeed, the seat of the Dukes
 of Bedford; with many books, and pictures, and statues,
beautiful and rare; with a wide park, and a model park
farm. There is Ampthill, where once stood Ampthill
"The mournful refuge of an injured queen,"—
Katherine, the first queen of Henry VIII., whom he put
away that he might be free to marry another lady.
And, most interesting of all, there is Bedford, among
the rich meadows of Ouse, whose valley is here called
the Vale of Bedford. It is an old town, with a rich
Free Grammar School.
Bedford is a very quiet town, and its interest lies,
not in the memory of dukes or queens, but in that of
John Bunyan, a tinker by trade, who was for twelve
years a prisoner in the old gaol which stood upon the
bridge. Very sad for him, but well for us; for in that
old gaol he saw Doubting Castle and the Slough of
Despond, and the land where "the shining ones
commonly walked, because it was on the borders of
heaven." There he saw Pilgrim leave the City of
Destruction, and climb the Hill Difficulty, on his Vay
to the Heavenly City, which was on a hill "higher than
the clouds." Perhaps but for this long imprisonment we
should never have had the delightful and helpful story
of ' Pilgrim's Progess/ one of the best books in the
What was his crime? Only that he would persist in
preaching in a Baptist chapel at Bedford without leave,
without a licence. He lived in troublous times, through
the Civil War, through the days of the Commonwealth,
which were good days for the Puritans, of whom he was
one. But after the Restoration the
 king and his friends were bitter against the party who
had put Charles I. to death. Thousands of Puritans were
imprisoned all over the country for slight breaches of
the law, and among the rest was John Bunyan.
III. ST. ALBANS, HERTS
THE town of St. Albans stands where stood the city of
Verulam, one of the thirty-three great cities left
behind by the Romans. The Watling Street passed under
its walls; and it was here that "the British warrior
queen," Boadicea, fell upon the Roman citizens with a
large army of her people and slew many thousands of
Here fell the first martyr who died upon British ground
for the faith of Christ. He was a soldier in the Roman
army, whose name was Alban.
He was taken to the top of a hill clothed with flowers,
and which sloped down to a beautiful plain. A great
multitude of persons followed; and the martyr's face
was so full of heavenly joy that the executioner begged
he might suffer in his stead.
Five hundred years later a great abbey was raised here
to his memory, and the town still bears the name of
This rich and famous abbey received many visits from
royal persons. Henry VI. was staying there when, upon a
May day in the year 1455, was fought the first battle
of St. Albans, the first battle in the grievous Wars of
the Roses. A sad time for England followed; for sixteen
years war raged up and down
 the land. Though the people in the towns went on with
their business, all the great barons and their
retainers fought, either for the House of York or for
that of Lancaster.
The king belonged to the House of Lancaster; he could
not see any reason why he should not be king as long as
he lived, and leave the crown to his son. He said, "My
father was king; his father also was king; I myself
have worn the crown for forty years from my cradle"
(his father, Henry V., had died when he was a baby);
"you have all sworn fealty to me as your sovereign. How,
then, can my right be disputed?"
The king was right enough. There was no good reason why
he should not be king. But he was often ill, and not
able to govern the land himself, so things went wrong,
and the king was blamed. When Richard, Duke of York,
said he had the best right to be King of England, he
found many ready to support him.
This first battle only lasted an hour, but Henry's army
was beaten, and he was left, wounded in the neck by an
arrow, a prisoner to the Duke of York.
Other battles followed; sometimes the Red Rose won,
sometimes the White Rose. Those of the House of
Lancaster chose the red rose as their badge, while
those of York wore the white; and the civil war was
thus known over Europe as the quarrel between the two
Upon a Shrove Tuesday, six years after the first
battle, the two armies met once again near St. Albans.
The king was on the field, but he was brought there as
a prisoner by the Yorkists. The battle lasted long, and
when night set in the Yorkists fled, though the mighty
Earl of Warwick was their leader. The victory
 was with the queen; and when she heard that her dear
lord was upon the field she took her son and hastened
to greet him and bring him again to his own friends.
Then the royal family and their northern lords went to
the abbey, at the doors of which they were met by the
Abbot John and his monks, who chanted hymns of triumph
and thanksgiving; and the king and his party returned
thanks for the victory and for his deliverance.
The Abbey Church still remains; it is built in the form
of a cross, and is the longest church in England.
Hertford is an old town, which stands upon the Lea. It
is known for its large fairs and markets, and for its
rich free schools. In its ancient castle all the kings
of the House of Lancaster have held court. Six miles
off is Hatfield House, which was given to the Princess
Elizabeth by her brother; here she dwelt as a sort of
prisoner at large during the reign of Mary; and here is
the tower from the window of which she looked down with
envy upon the happier milkmaid at her work.
Near the city is the Rye House, famous because the
owner of it formed a plot with some others to shoot
Charles II. This plot was discovered, and led to the
death of two good and great men who had nothing to do
with it, Lord Russell and Algernon Sidney, of whose
most unjust execution our country must always be
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics