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Royston, Hertfordshire

Historical Description

Royston, an ancient market-town, head of a union and county court district, and a parish, partly in Herts and partly in Cambridgeshire. The town includes parts of the adjacent parishes of Basingtowne, Kneesworth, Melbourn, and Therfield. These portions have been made into an ecclesiastical district with a population of 3300. The town stands at the intersection of Icknield Street and Ermine Street, on themutual boundary of Herts and Cambridgeshire, adjacent to the Hitchin and Cambridge branch of the G.N.R., on which it has a station 13 miles ENE from Hitchin, 13 SW from Cambridge, and 38 by road and 44½ by rail from London. It is supposed to have originated in the time of William the Conqueror, took its name from Roisia de Vere, who put up a cross at it, had an Augustinian priory founded in the time of Henry II., and had also a royal hunting seat built by James I., and occasionally occupied by that king and by Charles I. It is now a seat of petty sessions and county courts, and gives. The title of Viscount to Earl Hardwicke. The town, which is situated in a bottom among the chalk downs, comprises several streets chiefly edificed with brick houses, is partially paved, and has a good supply of water, which is raised by steam power from a well 120 feet deep. The public buildings include a market-house, an institute, a cottage hospital, a police station, and a workhouse. The market-house, which stands on Market Hill, is a building of brick which was erected in 1836. The institute is a building-of white brick, standing at the comer of Melbonm Street, which was erected in 1855 at a cost of about £1600, and which includes a library, museum, class-rooms, and a lecture hall capable of seating 500 persons. The cottage hospital was erected in 1869 at a cost of about £1000, and can accommodate eight in-patients. The police station stands near the Market Hill, and was erected in 1883 at a cost of about £3000. The workhouse, which stands on the Baldock Road, is a building of brick erected in 1835, and capable of accommodating 244 inmates. The market for corn and cattle is held on Wednesday, and there are fairs on Ash Wednesday, Easter Wednesday, Whit-Wednesday, first Wednesday in July, and first Wednesday after 10 October for cattle. The industries include malting, brewing, steam flour-milling, lime burning, and the manufacture of artificial manure. There are a head post office, two banks, and the town publishes two newspapers. The church, which formed part of the old conventual church, dates from the latter half of the 13th century, and is a spacious building of dressed flint and rubble in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, and a lofty embattled western tower. It was considerably enlarged in 1891, and at the same time the interior was partly renovated. It contains some ancient brasses, and the effigy of a knight very beautifully executed in alabaster. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of St Albans; net value, £250 with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of St Albans. There are one Wesleyan, one Unitarian, and two Congregational chapels. The town possesses some almshouses for eight poor widows in the parish of Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire; four other almshouses which were erected in 1885 in Queen's Road, and some small charities. Many antiquities have been found at various times in the neighbourhood of the town, and there are numerous barrows on the hills to the E and the W. A very curious cavern is situated under part of Melbourn Street, which separates the counties of Herts and Cambridgeshire. It was discovered by accident in 1742, and was found to be an artificial excavation in the chalk, almost circular in shape, having a diameter of 17 feet and a height of about 25½ feet. It appears to have been originally formed at a period anterior to the introduction of Christianity, and subsequently to have been used as a Roman sepulchre, a Christian oratory, and a hermitage. Royston gives name to the hooded crow, Corvus cmnix, which visits the town about the beginning of winter and migrates to Sweden and Germany in spring. Area of the parish in Herts, 315 acres; population, 1262; in Cambridgeshire, 20 acres; population, 439.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyHertfordshire 
Ecclesiastical parishRoyston St. John the Baptist 
Poor Law unionBuntingford 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

Findmypast, in association with the Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies have the Baptisms, Banns, Marriages, and Burials online for Royston

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Royston from the following:

Land and Property

A full transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Hertfordshire is online.


Online maps of Royston are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Hertfordshire newspapers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitations of Hertfordshire, 1572 and 1634. Edited by Walter C. Metcalfe, F.S.A. is available on the Heraldry page.

DistrictNorth Hertfordshire
Postal districtSG8
Post TownRoyston