Baldock (St. Mary)

BALDOCK (St. Mary), a market-town and parish, in the union of Hitchin, hundred of Broadwater, county of Hertford, 18 miles (N. by W.) from Hertford, and 37 (N. by W.) from London; containing 1807 inhabitants. This place, in the reign of Stephen, belonged to the Knights Templars, to whom Gilbert, Earl of Pembroke, had given the site. In a charter of confirmation granted by his descendant William, the place is termed Baudoc, of which the present name is a variation; though some antiquaries derive it from Balbec, supposing the town to have been so called by the Templars, in memory of the city of that name in Syria, from which their order had been expelled by the Saracens. The town is situated near the intersection of the great north road and the Roman Ikeneld-street, between two hills which command an extensive view of a fine open country; and consists principally of one street: the houses are mostly ancient, but interspersed with several of modern erection, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. A horticultural society, patronised by the nobility and gentry in the neighbourhood, was established in 1825.

The trade is principally in malt, the land in the vicinity being highly favourable to the growth of barley: the fens and marsh land near the town form an extensive grazing district, and cheese of a peculiar quality is made here; there is also a very large brewery. The general market, which was on Saturday, has been discontinued; and a market exclusively for the sale of straw-plat is now held on Friday. The fairs are on the festivals of St. James, St. Andrew, and St. Matthew, each continuing two days; at the last a great quantity of cheese is sold. The county magistrates hold a pettysession here on the first Monday in every month. The parish comprises about 150 acres of land, the soil of which is in general chalky. The living is a discharged rectory, valued in the king's books at £10. 8. 9., and in the patronage of the Crown; net income, £126. The church, erected by the Knights Templars, and nearly all rebuilt in the early part of the fifteenth century, is a spacious structure, partly Norman, and partly in the later English style, with an octagonal steeple built a few years ago; and contains a finely carved oak screen, part of the ancient rood-loft, and a very curious font. There are places of worship for the Society of Friends, Independents, and Wesleyans; and almshouses for twelve aged widows, founded and endowed in 1621, by Mr. John Winne. In cutting through Baldock hill, to form a new turnpike-road, a great number of fossils, consisting of cornua ammonis, sharks' teeth, &c. was discovered.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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