The fifty years from the last decade of the eighteenth century saw great changes in Britain. Significant technological and economic change, not to mention wars, affected great swathes of the population and profoundly changed many aspects of life. In this book Fabian Hiscock considers this dramatic upheaval as it played out in western Hertfordshire, focusing in particular on just one of the many innovations of the time: the Grand Junction Canal, created to connect the Midlands with London.
Having described the complex process of creating the Canal itself, the author turns to how western Hertfordshire experienced, and responded to, the new trade route that now traversed its fields and settlements. In the area's towns and villages – particularly Rickmansworth, Watford, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and Tring – the Canal made an impact, but to what extent did it live up to the promises made by its promoters? And what were the impacts on trade and transport, on work and home life? Did it create jobs and wealth for local people? Or did it simply pass through, leaving those living on either side relatively unaffected? Whether and in what way western Hertfordshire changed as a result of the Grand Junction Canal is the focus of this work.
1841 is the chosen end date for the study period because of the coincidence of the Census undertaken that year, which sheds some light on the industrial make-up of the area, the tithe awards made between 1838 and 1844, allowing study of the Canal's effect on land ownership and usage across the area, and the start of the London and Birmingham Railway's real economic effect.
In combining canal history with a detailed social and economic study of a part of the county that is not much written about, Fabian Hiscock has written a superbly researched and wide-reaching book that will be of interest to a broad range of readers.
After careers in the Royal Navy and in industry, Fabian Hiscock added local history to his long-standing interest in the history of the waterways, completing his MA by Research in History at the University of Hertfordshire in 2016. He is also involved with the heritage education charity Rickmansworth Waterways Trust.
ISBN 978-1-912260-15-7, Sep 2019, 256pp, paperback
“Fully referenced but written in an easily readable style, this book should satisfy both the academic and the amateur local historian. A pioneering study, it has a relevance to rural areas well beyond Hertfordshire as it deepens the understanding of rural transport needs and problems in the first half of the nineteenth century, and prompts the reader to make comparisons with his or her own area.” Peter Brown, The Local Historian
“The illustrative maps, drawings and sample documents are reproduced to a high standard, and the publishers deserve congratulation for the book's elegant appearance. Excellently referenced, it includes an index and extensive bibliography.” Victoria Owens, Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society
“This is an extensive and detailed study which is intriguing and interesting… It tells of the effect of new transport infrastructure on an agricultural community with small market towns which again, 50 years later, was going to have to respond to the coming of the London and Birmingham Railway along much the same route.” Ted Martin, History in Bedfordshire
“This book will certainly appeal to economic and social historians as well as to those with an interest in transport history, not to mention Hertfordshire.” Ruth Jeavons, Herts Past & Present
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