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The village museum’s 10-year project “Redbourn through the Centuries” continues this year, focussed on the 19th century. There will be talks and events concerning this important era in Redbourn’s history, starting with “The Impact of vicars, victories and Victoria on Village Life “by Kate Morris on 21st April”.


Redbourn had become a recognised halt for the London mail coaches and at the beginning of the 19th Century, three of these arrived just before midnight, on their way to Birmingham, Liverpool and Carlisle, having left London GPO at 8 pm. Redbourn High Street must have been bustling as horses were changed. All this was to alter after the coming of the railway in 1877 when the Nickey Line was built to link the St. Pancras line with the Euston line, running from Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead and passing through Redbourn. The station was at the top of the track that now leads towards the Millennium picnic site and what is now the Nickey Line walking and cycle trail.

Public Houses

There were a good many of them during the 18th Century, often changing ownership and name, including: The Bell; Red Lion; Black Horse; Bull; Chequers; Crown; Fox; George; Holly Bush; Prince’s Head; Punch Bowl; Lamb; The Running Horses; Saracen’s Head; Tom of Bedlam; White Hart; White Horse and The Queen Victoria which opened in 1838 following the coronation of Victoria the previous year.

Trade and Industry

The industrial revolution did not only affect the towns, it also changed the way of life in rural communities like Redbourn. Woollam’s silk mill opened in 1857, with modern machinery powered by steam. In 1861, Lady Glamis (Charlotte Bowes-Lyon) had a hat factory built, employing villagers to work the straw that was grown and plaited locally. She lived at Redbourn House until her death in 1881.

At this time there was a small gas works in Fish Street, providing energy for gas lamps and this is a verse from a poem read at the inaugural dinner:

“Tis really a fact which can’t be gainsayed

That inflammable gas can now be conveyed

To silk mill, shops, houses and mansions so neat

By underground pipes from the works in Fish Street”

The Parish Council decided to have the High Street lit and ten lights were ordered for £17 10 shillings.

At the end of the century, Mr Russell Harborough built a factory next to his home in the High Street, employing more local people to make jam and sweets from fruit grown and harvested in nearby fields.

A famous visitor

Exactly 200 years ago in June 1818, the poet John Keats visited his friend, Dr Henry Stephens, at The Bull in Redbourn High Street, where Henry lived, and his parents ran the hotel. The two young men had studied medicine at Guys Hospital and shared the same lodgings. Henry Stephens later practiced as a doctor in Redbourn and London, and was famous for inventing free-flowing, waterproof ink. Keats however found fame through his poetry but tragically died in Rome, aged just 25.

Following on from Kate Morris’s talk on the 19th Century, other events will include a celebration of our Keats connection as well as our annual Redbourn in Steam day on Bank Holiday Monday, May 28th and an outing to a historic railway.

Pauline Ridgwell

Charity Information

Chair : Ian Caldwell
Treasurer : Teresa Finnigan
Secretary : Russell Thomas

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