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Photo of the A414 Cole Green Bypass

The A414

The A414 is a 67 mile strategic route between Hemel Hempstead and Maldon in Essex.

The route was established when the first definitive list of road numbers was published on 1st April 1923. The numbering system was devised to help target funding for maintenance of the road network following the introduction of the road fund licence.

The route and path of the A414 has changed over the years, as areas have been bypassed by new dual-carriageways and roads redesignated.

The current road from Hemel Hempstead to Harlow is dual carriageway, narrowing to a single carriageway in Hertford as the road passes beneath a railway bridge carrying the Hertford Loop between Stevenage and Wood Green.

This feature looks at the history of the A414 and some of the things you can see along its path as it travels eastwards through Hertford.

The Original Road

The A414 approached Hertford from the west through Hertingfordbury Road, before joining St.Andrew Street and then turning in to Fore Street through the town centre.

Leaving the town heading east, the route followed Ware Road before turning right up Gallows Hill toward the Amwell Crossroads south of Ware.

Photo of congestion in Fore Street, Hertford before the Inner Relief Road

It is hard to believe that this major artery once included the narrow stretch of road between Parliament Square and Market Place past The Salisbury Hotel and Shire Hall.

Over the years as traffic volumes have increased the road has been rerouted along bypasses and the relief road.

In the following sections we'll look more closely at the A414 in and around Hertford, and some of the features that can be seen along the way.

Map of The Five Greens

Western Approach

Until 1993, the A414 was a single carriageway road that ran past Cole Green, Birch Green and Staines Green. These three hamlets together with Letty Green and East End Green are known as The Five Greens and with Panshanger Park make up the parish of Hertingfordbury. Curiously, the parish does not include Hertingfordbury itself, which is actually part of Hertford’s Castle Ward.

The villages were blighted by heavy traffic until a new dual carriageway opened in 1993.

To the north of the villages is the Panshanger Estate, owned by the Earls Cowper for the best part of two centuries.

We'll start our journey where the Old Coach Road passes through Cole Green. It is here we find the South Lodge of the Panshanger Estate.

South Lodge

On the north side of the Old Coach Road is the South Lodge of the Panshanger Estate, built around 1830-40 for the 5th Earl Cowper.

Photograph of Panshanger's South Lodge at Cole Green

Panshanger featured three other lodges - to west in Panshanger Lane, to the north on Welwyn Road and the east in Thieves Lane, Hertford.

A lodge, or gatekeeper's lodge, is a small building situated at the entrance to the estate of a mansion or country house, intended as the office and accommodation for a gatekeeper who was employed by the landowner to control access to the property.

Panshanger Park

Panshanger park opened to the public on 31st March 2014. The nature reserve and country park is owned by Tarmac, who manage the site together with Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust and Hertfordshire County Council.

From the late 17th century to the early 20th century, the house and surrounding estate were owned by the Cowper family. The estate was shaped around the Mimram Valley following advice from Humphry Repton and Lancelot 'Capability' Brown.

The estate was inherited by Ethel Grenfell, Baroness Desborough following the death of the 7th Earl Cowper in 1905.

The Baroness died in 1952 and shortly after the estate was sold off in lots and the house demolished.

The park came in to the ownership of Tarmac in the 1980s and parts have been quarried for sand and gravel.

Photo of the Panshanger orangery

Whilst the house was demolished, the nearby orangery remains.

Photo of the Great Oak in Panshanger Park

In the northwest of the park is the Great Oak, believed to have been planted by Queen Elizabeth I.

Photo of lake at Panshanger Park

Panshanger Park is registered as a Grade II* park and garden by Historic England.

The Hertingfordbury Bypass opened in 1980, taking heavy traffic out of the village's narrow winding streets.

Mayflower Place

Before the construction of the Bypass, the road ran directly through the village of Hertingfordbury. The first building a traveller would have encountered is the impressive village hall.

Photograph of Mayflower Place

Gifted to Hertinfordbury by Lady Katrine Cowper, widow of the last Earl Cowper of Panshanger, the building was constructed in 1910 in honour of her husband.

As village halls go, it is an impressive and sizeable structure. Built of red brick with stone dressings, the Jacobean style building features a main hall, bar, kitchen, toilets and generous grounds.

The building was renamed Mayflower Place when the Panshanger Estate was broken up and sold off folowing the death of Lady Desborough, with the hall being inherited by her grandson Julian Salmond. It is a Grade II listed building and now owned by the East Herts Lodge of Freemasons.

Hertingfordbury

The village of Hertingfordbury lies about a mile west of Hertford. The A414 originally passed through the village before the bypass opened in 1980.

Photograph of Hertingfordbury Mill

Notable buildings in the village include Epcombs - a Georgian brick house that originated as a farm prior the Norman Conquest; The Rectory - former family home of the Addis family, and the 19th century corn mill on the River Mimram.

Photograph of Hertingfordbury village

Nearby is the 16th century White Horse Inn, once a staging post for the Reading to Cambridge coach

The map below shows the village around the mid-20th century.

Old map of Hertingfordbury

Hertingfordbury is interesting in that it is approached from the east and west, yet the main road through the village runs north to south. The dog leg bend at the southern end of Hertingfordbury is particularly sharp, whilst the bend to the north was a gentler curve before it was replaced by the Thieves Lane roundabout.

The War Comes to Hertingfordbury

The morning of Thursday 3rd October 1940 was dull and misty. Villagers would have been going about their business unaware of events that were unfolding 6 miles to the west.

A German Junkers JU88 bomber had become lost in poor visibility and happened upon the de Havilland Aircraft factory at Hatfield. The crew took the opportunity to offload their payload, killing 21 people and injuring 70 more.

Shortly afterward the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire, before heading east towards Hertford.

The crippled aircraft was unable to maintain height and crash landed at East End Green Farm, Hertingfordbury.

Photograph of crashed German WWII bomber

The pilot, Oberlutnant Siegward Fiebig and his 3 crew members, Eric Goebel, H Ruthof and K Seifert all survived and were taken to Hertford and Hatfield police stations before being transferred to Canada as prisoners of war.

The River Mimram

The River Mimram is a chalk stream that originates at Whitwell near Stevenage, where springs feed a watercress farm.

The River flows through Welwyn, Digswell, Tewinbury and Panshanger Park, where it feeds a number of the park's lakes.

Photograph of The River Mimram at Panshanger Park

The river then passes under the A414 Hertingfordbury bypass before flowing through the village and under the old corn mill.

Photograph of The River Mimram as it flows beneath the A414 Hertingfordbury Bypass

Photograph of The River Mimram at Hertingfordbury

The Mimram joins the River Lee just north of Hertford Football Club.

River levels have suffered due to abstraction and there are increasing calls for the county’s chalk streams to be protected.

Hertingfordbury Road

Before the Hertingfordbury bypass was built, the A414 ran east toward Hertford from the junction with Thieves Lane.

Photograph of the old Hertingfordbury Road

The single carriageway can still be found to the immediate north of the new road between Hertingfordbury and Hertford, serving a handful of homes.

Photograph of the old Hertingfordbury Road

The roadmarkings and cat's eyes are long gone after half a century but the road acts as a reminder of the A414's past.

The only section of single-carriageway on the A414 is in Hertford, as the road runs under the Hertford Loop railway line between Stevenage and Bowes Park on north London. The wide bridge passes under six lines of track, four of which are sidings. Stationary trains can often be seen on the bridge.

Photo of Cross Lane roundabout in Hertford

Cross Lane roundabout

The roundabout at the junction with Cross Lane was constructed in the mid 1980s.

Previously, westbound traffic on the A414 turned left in to Cross lane and then right in to North Road - which at that time was one-way - before joining Gascoyne Way.

The Inner Relief Road

Travelling east from the Cross Lane Roundabout, Hertingfordbury Road becomes Gascoyne Way, the controversial 'Inner Relief Road', of which more later.

Hertford Castle Gatehouse

Photograph of Hertfiord Castle gatehouse

As you drive east to west on Gascoyne way you'll pass the gatehouse of Hertford Castle on the left.

Built by Edward IV in 1460-65, the gatehouse is the only castle building to survive, save the outer walls.

The castle was built on the site of a Saxon burgh in the 12th century and was a Royal Palace for over 300 years.

In 1628, King Charles I granted Hertford Castle to William Cecil, the 2nd Earl of Salisbury. The family own the castle to this day.

Hale Road Roundabout

The Hale Road roundabout is where the B158 crosses the A414. To the north of the roundabout is Parliament Square, The Wash and Millbridge, whilst to the south is Hale Road, which came into being when the relief road was built, linking to Pegs Lane.

Photograph of Hale Road roundabout of the A414 Gascoyne way at Hertford

The junction suffers from congestion during peak hours as traffic from the B158 crosses and joins the A414.

The B158 originally ran from the A10 at Wadesmill to the A1 at Brookmans Park. It now runs from the A602 just south of Tonwell to the A1000 at Brookmans Park.

Air Quality Measurement

The A414 dual carriageway from the Cross Lane roundabout to the Bluecoats roundabout is a designated Air Quality Managament Area.

An Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) is an area where air pollution levels have exceeded the national air quality objectives for nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. Councils monitor the air quality in the area and identify what action can be taken to improve it.

Photograph of air quality monitoring equipment A414 Gascoyne way at Hertford

The latest data for this measurement station can be viewed here

Multistorey car park

Whilst the purpose of Gascoyne Way was to remove traffic from the town centre, planners were aware this also meant removing passing trade from Fore Street.

In a bid to address this issue, a new multi-storey car park was provided to give easy access to shops and businesses in the town centre.

Photograph of Gascoyne Way multi-storey car park in Hertford

Entry to the four-level car park was directly from Gascoyne Way, with a similar exit at the opposite end. At the entrance was a ticket barrier and payment was made on exit to an attendant in a booth at the exit. This payment system was later replaced by a pay-and-display system. The attendant's booth can still be seen, although bricked up when it fell in to disuse.

Photograph of Gascoyne Way multi-storey car park in Hertford

The stark, almost brutalist quality of the concrete structure drew much criticism when it was built in the 1960s. Little has changed since.

Gascoyne Way is named after the Gascoyne-Cecil family, who have a long connection with the town. Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the 7th Marquess of Salisbury, is High Steward of Hertford and a Deputy Lieutenant of Hertfordshire.

Hale's Grammar School

On the opposite side of the dual carriageway is a 17th century building that was built as a school by Richard Hale of King's Walden, near Hitchin.

Photograph of Hale's Grammar School

The grammar school was founded in 1617 and used a single open classroom, with long rows of desks and a master's desk at each end.

The County Council took control of the school around 1900 and renamed it Hertford Grammar School.

Having outgrown the premises, the school moved to a new building in Hale Road in 1930.

The old Grammar School was extended in 1931 and renamed the Longmore Senior Girls School.

The buildings are now used to support Key Stage 3 & 4 children who have been permanently excluded from mainstream education.

The Inner Relief Road

The Hertford Inner Relief Road was conceived in the 1950s when it became clear that traffic levels in the town centre were becoming unsustainable.

Following a series of surveys and a public enquiry by the Ministry of Transport, plans for a relief road were given the go-ahead in December 1963.

Over 100 plots of land were subject to compulsary purchase and a large number of buildings were demolished to clear a path for the road.

Old photograph of the inner relief road under construction
Carriageway construction where Gascoyne Way meets Hertingfordbury Road (Photo: Peter Ruffles)

Work started on the carriageways in Spring 1965 and the relief road was opened in November 1967. The dual carriageway ran from St.Andrew Street in the west to the Bluecoats roundabout in the east.

Old photograph of the inner relief road under construction
Construction of the Hale Road roundabout in 1967 (Photo: Peter Ruffles)

London Road from the Bluecoats roundabout heading south was dualled in the 1970s with the opening of the Rush Green Bypass.

In the mid-1980s Hertingfordbury Road was dualled between the railway bridge and Gascoyne Way, making the entire A414 through Hertford a dual carriageway.

The Inner Relief Road was controversial in the 1960s and it remains so to this day. A road designed to ease congestion has itself become a source of congestion. There was no easy answer to Hertford's traffic problems 60 years ago and that remains the case today.

Photo of Castle Street subway

Pedestrain subways

There are five pedestrian underpasses beneath the relief road.

These are at St.Andrew Street, Castle Street, Church Street, Rookes Alley and London Road.

The largest of the five subways is the Rookes Alley underpass with a width of 2.9m compared to 2.4m in London Road and 2.2m in the other three.

Photo of flooded subway

The pedestrian underpasses are poorly maintained and frequently suffer from flooding during heavy rain, making it difficult for pedestrians to cross from one side of the town to the other.

Efforts have been made to improve the subways with artwork by local students but lighting and general unkeep remain substandard.

Photo of the Bluecoats roundabout on the A414 in Hertford

Bluecoats Roundabout

The Bluecoats Roundabout is the largest junction in central Hertford and has four exits - on to the A414 heading south and the A414 heading west, the A119 heading east, and an exit on to Fore Street and the town centre.

The roundabout is named after the former Christ's Hospital School, also known as the Bluecoat school, immediately north of the junction.

Photograph of congestion on Gascoyne Way approaching the Bluecoats roundabout in Hertford

The roundabout suffers severe traffic congestion during the weekday morning and afternoon peak periods.

A manual count of vehicles in 2014 showed that 26,768 vehicles were using the stretch of A414 between the Cross Lane and Bluecoats roundabouts every day.

Bluecoats

On the north side of the Bluecoats roundabout is the site of Christ's Hospital, a charitable private school founded by Edward VI in 1552.

The school was initially situated in Newgate, London, with the Hertford site acquired in 1682.

Photograph of Christ's Hospital svchool building

The buildings fronting Fore Street were built as the girls school in 1778.

The name Bluecoat School is derived from the distinctive blue coats worn by the children as part of the school uniform.

The school left Hertford in 1985. The buildings became offices and residential properties, whilst the playing fields were sold to Tesco.

Stag House

On the east side of the Bluecoats roundabout is Stag House, an office development built in the mid-1980s.

Photograph of Stag House, Hertford

The site was previously occcupied by Neale's Garage, shown in the photo below.

Aerial photograph of Neal's garage in London Road, Hertford

When the Inner Relief Road was first opened, the New London Road exit was only a single carriageway. Dualing came later when the A414 was rerouted with the opening of the Rush Green Bypass.

The Road to Ware

Before 1975 the Ware Road was designated the A414, before turning right in to Stansted Road towards Gallows Hill and the Amwell crossroads beyond.

With the opening of the Rush Green Bypass the road became part of the A119, with the new route for the A414 being London Road and the new dual carriageway to the A10 interchange at Rush Green.

Photograph of the A119 exit on to the Ware Road

In November of 1988 the new Tesco store was opened along with an extension to Mill Road, creating a new junction with Ware Road.

From the Bluecoats Roundabout the A414 heads south up London Road. Originally a single carriageway the road was later dualled.

Lucy Boxes

A few metres up London Road you'll find a pair of Lucy Boxes next to the pedestrian underpass.

Photograph of Lucy Boxes in London Road, Hertford

Lucy boxes are iron cabinets used as electrical junction boxes. They are named after the company that manufactures them - W.Lucy & Co Ltd, later known as The Lucy Group

The period boxes have a distinctive shape and colour - usually green, that mark them out amongst similar more modern cabinets.

War Department

Hertford Fire Station is in Old London Road on the site previously occupied by the Hertfordshire Militia barracks.

War Department marker stone in London Road, Hertford

This stone marker can be found in the wall at the north-eastern corner of the perimeter.

The Broad Arrow symbol between the W and D is traditionally used in heraldry but is also associated with the Ministry of Defence and the War Department - a body that existed between 1855 and 1857.

Balls Park

To the east of the A414 London Road is the estate and mansion of Balls Park.

The estate named after its original owner Simon de Balle, a burgess of the Borough of Hertford, who attended the 1295 Parliament at York. Following the Dissolution in 1535, the property passed to the Crown.

Bridge abutment

The estate features 63 acres of parkland featuring lawns, topiary yew trees and a spoon shaped canal surrounded by ornamental tress and shrubs.

The Mansion was built between 1637 and 1640 by Sir John Harrison, and extended in the 18th century to feature a substantial service and stable wing.

Photo of Balls Park Mansion in Hertford

In 1901 the state was sold to the Faudel-Phillips family, who enlarged the house by removing a series of service buildings and constructing a new west wing.

Following the death of Sir Lionel Faudel-Phillips in 1940, the estate was sold to Hertfordshire County Council and used as a teachers' training college.

A secondary school was built on the north-west corner of the site, opening in 1958. Originally called Balls Park Secondary Modern School, it is now an all-through school known as Simon Balle School.

The site has since been purchased by developers who have converted the buldings to residential use, including new-build properties.

Photo of residential properties on the Balls Park estate in Hertford

The park is open to the public and popular with dog walkers.

Old London Road

A short section of the old carriageway can be found to the immediate south of the new road.

Photo of Red Lodge in Old London Road, Hertford

Red Lodge sits at the junction with one of the two drives that approach the Balls Park mansion, the other being White Lodge in Mangrove Road.

Photo of Old London Road, Hertford

The centre line of the old carriageway can still be seen - double solid lines that prohibit overtaking. You can also see the indentations left by the cats eyes, long gone.

Map of the Foxholes area of Hertford

Foxholes

Foxholes Roundabout

The building of the Rush Green by-pass and dualling of the A414 in 1975 saw the creation of a new roundabout 500m west of Foxholes Farm.

There are four exits, with the dual-carriageway from Hertford joining the by-pass, an exit on to the road to Hertford Heath, an exit on to the Rush Green bypass and an exit on to John Tate Road and Foxholes Business Park. This exit originally served the Fioxholes Quarry, which occupied the site before the business park

Map of Foxholes Roundabout, Hertford

John Tate was the first English papermaker and produced paper at nearby Sele Mill in the late 15th century.

Rush Green Bypass

The Rush Green Bypass opened around 1976 and links the Foxholes Roundabout to the Rush Green Interchange 1.3km (0.8mi) to the east.

Photo of the Rush Green Bypass, Hertford, looking east

To the north is the residential Foxholes estate and to the south are pastures used by Foxholes Farm for grazing cattle.

Ancient Settlements

Forty acres of fields at Foxholes were quarried by the Redlands Gravel Company from the 1970s to 1980s.

This quarrying revealed extensive areas of ancient occupation. Finds included artefacts from the late Palaeolithic period (c.25,000-10,000 BCE) and Masolithic period (8000-5000 BCE). as well as the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.

At Foxholes Farm a late Iron Age village was revealed, enclosed within a rectangular bank and ditch. A large amount pottery and artefacts were recovered from the ditch, including examples of agricultural tools and iron and bronze age brooches.

Photo of a neolithic roundhouse at Celtic Harmony camp
Example of an Iron Age roundhouse

Most importantly, a 4th century roman corn dryer was found at Foxholes. It was carefully removed by achaeologists and is now part of Hertford Museum's collection at the Seed Warehouse in the town centre.

The Foxholes Tunnel

Dating back to the 1970s, this tunnel linked two parts of the Foxholes Quarry that were bisected by the Rush Green Bypass.

Photo of tunnel under the A414

The tunnel is still in use today, linking the Foxholes estate to the pastures and green fields of Foxholes Farm.

Photo of undeveloped land on Gallows Hill

Gallows Hill

400 yards north of the Rush Green bypass is the former site of the town gallows.

Between 1741 and 1799, 107 executions took place on the hill, mostly for Highway Robbery and Burglary.

From 1800 onwards executions took place outside the gaol in Ware Road.

Photo of bowl barrow on Pinehurst Estate, Hertford

Bowl Barrow

Nearby on the Pinehurst Estate is a prehistoric burial mound, believed to date back around 3500 years.

Bowl barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, constructed as earthen or rubble mounds which covered single or multiple burials.

Foxholes Estate

Following the completion of sand and gravel quarrying, land north of the A414 was designated for housing. Outline planning permission for 850 homes was granted on 5th September 1988.

Photo of developmenmt hoarding

Further plans for a supermarket and petrol station were submitted in 1993 but permission for these was refused.

Photo of homes on the Foxholes Estate, Hertford

A number of road names on the Foxholes estate have vulpine sources - Vixen Drive, Foxes Close, Reynards Way and Cublands.

Map of the A414 road

The map above shows the route of the A414 through Hertford in 1956. The road can be seen to the west of Hertford as it approaches from Hertingfordbury, along Fore Street and Ware Road, before rising to Gallows Plain (now Gallows Hill) and Rush Green.

The line of the route changed with the coming of the relief road and Rush Green by-pass, taking over part of the A602 to the south of the town. The A602 that ran past Little Amwell and through Hertford Heath to Hoddesdon has now been renumbered as the B1197.

Rush Green

The Rush Green interchange is where the A414 meets the A10. The junction is controlled by traffic lights on three of the five entrances on to the roundabout, which features two bridge spans across the A10.

The A10 and A414 share the same roadway for 1.4mi between Rush Green and the Ware South turnoff, with a dual carriageway spur road linking to the Amwell Roundabout.

As well as the A414 and A10, the junction also serves the B1502, which was previously the A414 before the Rush Green Bypass was opened.

Peak hour congestion is an issue at the roundabout, exacerbated by a sub standard access/exit to the petrol station and fast food outlet and mix of local with longer distance traffic.

The Rush Green Roundabout is in three different council wards. The junctions with Gallows Hill and the A414 are part of Hertford, the junction with the B1502 heading south is in Hertford Heath, and the A10 southbound off-slip is in Ware.

Services at Rush Green

There were initially no services at Rush Green when the interchange opened in the mid-1970s.

Proposals for a petrol station were submitted in September 1986 and planning permission granted the following month.

A McDonalds restaurant and "drive-thru" was added 15 years later in 2001.

Photo of McDonalds and petrolstation at the Rush Green interchange on the A10 at Hertford

Access to the services at Rush Green has proved controversial following the introduction of the "drive-thru" at McDonalds, resulting in queueing traffic blocking the roudabout. A Clearway has been imposed in the southeast corner of the roundabout but this is largely ignored and unenforced. Plans have been approved for an additional lane for traffic accessing the services but there is doubt that this will solve the problem.

And this is where our five mile journey ends, as the A414 joins the A10 heading south for 1.4mi, before turning east to the Amwell Roundabout and onward to Harlow in Essex.

Photo of A10 on-ramp heading south from the Rush Green roundabout

The old A414, now renumbered the B1502, runs parallel for a while before cutting under the A10 to meet at the Amwell Roundabout.

But what of the future for this busy road?

A414 Corridor Strategy

In 2019 Hertfordshire County Council published plans for improvements to the A414, the centrepiece being an east-west Rapid Transit System between Hemel Hempstead and Harlow. The scheme has since evolved into the Herts & Essex Rapid Transit (HERT) a new, sustainable passenger transport network.

The plans also recognised the 'severe traffic congestion' on the A414 at Hertford.

Provision of a Rapid Transit System would mean addressing these congestion problems, and to this end the report included a Hertford bypass as a potential solution. However, a public consultation in the Winter of 2018/19 indicated a lack of support for a bypass. The county council have more recently stated that: "further route optioneering work will consider whether a bypass is required to enable HERT to travel through the Hertford area or whether this can be enabled by other measures".

Photo of Bluecoats roundabout in Hertford

Other options for the A414 at Hertford include widening carriageways and converting existing roundabout junctions into much larger 'grade separated' junctions comprising additional bridge structures. Tunnelling is another option discussed, although this is likely to be very expensive both in terms of construction and on-going maintenance and operations.

Any solution to the town's congestion problems are likely to be as controversial as the Inner Relief Road was in the 1960s.

The report acknowledges that doing nothing will have consequences: "Maintaining the status quo in Hertford in terms of transport provision is likely to lead to rising congestion, delays and more rat-running on less appropriate roads in the town as travel demand increases. Local proposed developments may not be able to proceed in a sustainable manner. Rising congestion also represents a threat to prosperity and existing businesses in the town, and may deter potential new commercial development. Linked to this consequence, rising levels of predominantly highway-based travel demand will exacerbate air quality issues within Hertford."

Timeline

The timeline below summarises the changes that have taken place on the A414 in Hertford over the last 100 years.

1923: The A414 comes in to being with the publication of a definitive list of UK road numbers.
1967: Hertford Inner Releif Road opens.
1976: Rush Green bypass opens.
1980: Hertingfordbury bypass opens.
1985: Hertingfordbury Road dualled between Gascoyne Way and Mimram Road.
1993: Cole Green bypass opens.

Published 29th November 2023
Maps from openstreetmap.org and Ordnance Survey