Puckeridge, Pockkridge, Pokeriche, Pokkerigge

The following extract is taken from A History of the Parish of Standon by Christopher Perowne Vicar of Standon 1934 to 1947 – later Canon Perowne.  Printed June 1967 by Stephen Austin & Sons Ltd, Hertford

Chapter II

Puckeridge, Pockkridge, Pokeriche, Pokkerigge

“The public are more familiar with the name Puckeridge than they are of Standon for two reasons. One is that the village lies on the Cambridge London road and secondly there is a well known Hunt which takes its name from the place where used to be the original kennels. The site of the kennels is to be found marked on most of the old maps (such as the tithe map) up behind the George Inn, but today there is nothing left of any buildings.

Puckeridge was at one time a good deal larger place than it is today and in the 17th century was a place of some note in the County. There was a weekly market attended by all the local farmers; this market had received its Charter from King Edward I; a Fair once a month was granted at the same time. There were also numerous inns, some of which remain today, but alas some of the best known of the old ones were burnt down or fell into ruin and decay through neglect. Puckeridge was a great coach station, twenty-four coaches going through in the day and nearly all would stop at one of the inns for the horses to be changed; relays always being kept in the stables. You can imagine the stir and bustle of commercials, huntsmen, sportsmen of all sorts, grooms, chambermaids, ostlers, boots, drovers, coach passengers and many others who would be gathered in one of the inns, the Old Bell, the Rising Sun, the George, the Falcon, the White Hart, or one of the many others which existed, the good lunches, reasonable charges, the tables groaning with sirloins and rounds of beef, tankards of ale and such like old English fare. The Old Bell, for instance, which stood just opposite where the George Inn is today, was well known to nearly all those who travelled by coach. Wilkins, the driver of the famous Beehive coach, would stop here for his passengers to refresh themselves. At that period the inn was kept for successive generations by the Carter family, and was celebrated for the best ale between London and York. The inn at one time acted as post office, and an amusing tale is told that ‘Suky Burnett gave the mail guard, one night by mistake, her pockets out of the window instead of the mail bags’! The George which is still in existence, was largely rebuilt some years ago, but for some time it was used as a private house by John Monck, the celebrated huntsman; an oil painting of him hangs in the Hertford Museum. The Rising Sun was another well known inn; this was at the corner of the Standon-Bishops Stortford Road where now stands Fordham’s shop; it was burnt down in 1891. An interesting account of the fire is given in a newspaper of the “Times”, a cutting of which I have. It mentions the old fire engine which was useless, and stresses the need for the purchase of another. The engine used to be kept in the shed which is next to Arthy’s baker’s shop and was only sold about forty years ago for a few pounds as old brass and copper.

The White Hart is one of the oldest still in existence, it consisted of not only the present building but across the road, including all the houses up to Mently Lane, and some of the old stables are still to be seen behind one of the houses (Long’s)

Another interesting relic of the past, at present in Standon Church tower, is the Toll board of the Wadesmill Turnpike Trust, which mentions the names of the vehicles, phaeton, calash, cabriolet, curricle, chaise, coach, cart, chair and so on, and the charges for the same. Pepys the diarist stayed a number of times at various inns at Puckeridge, the White Hart, the old Bell, the George and the Crown and Falcon … Some few years ago a visitor to the White Hart asked one of the inn staff which was the room which used to be occupied by Pepys the diarist, and was answered that as they had so many visitors to stay he could not remember Mr.Pepys!

The roads of the 17th century cannot have been too safe, for there is a strong legend that the landlord of one of the inns in Puckeridge (whose relatives still live in the neighbourhood) was a friend and helper of Dick Turpin, the famous highwayman who made himself well known to travellers on the road! Not only then were travellers in danger of being robbed, but nearly two hundred years earlier we read of messengers being waylaid. In 1599 in a Hist. M.S.S. at Hatfield House, part 9, page 298, we read in the following letter from Thomas Sadeir and John Brograve to Sir Robert Cecil, dated from Stondon, August 14th, 1599: ‘We have according to the directions given to others and to us, charged watches in the towns within our limits to be straitly kept both day and night, and in a watch at Puckeridge, a hamlet of Stondon and Braughing, there was a man attacked and brought before us, having many letters directed as by the superscriptions thereof may appear to you with a box covered with crimson velvet where in is contained the passion of Christ engraved. Whether there be just cause why we should trouble you we certainly know not, because we thought not good to open the letters some being directed to honourable personages; but lest any imputation of negligence in this dangerous time might be taxed upon us, we thought it not amiss, for the better discharge of our duty, to trouble you with the person, his letters, and token.’

There is an interesting mention of Puckeridge in a “Black Letter” of 1581, and in the same paper of even an earlier date, 1400 A.D.: ‘The Doome warning all men to the Judgemente : Wherein are contained for the most part all the strainge Prodigies hapned in the worlde, with divers secrete figures of Revelations tending to mannes stayed converstion towards God; in manner of a generall Chronicle gathered out of sundrie approved authors by ST BATMAN professor in Dianinitie. “Imprinted by Ralphe Nubery assigned by Henry Bynneman. Cumpriailegio Regali.

“A good example against wecked Blasphemers, of what estate soeuver they be.

“At Stondon a little village 20 miles from London, not far from ye highway to Cambridge, where for a time the writer her of did abide, avoiding the great plague that then was in London and also in Cambridge, a Gentleman that was named mayster Barington, whose wife was afterwards maryed in Cambridge to one maister Carington, and of her also he (the author of this prodigie) hearde the same: the sayd Gentleman Barington, was a greate swearer, and did customablye use great othes, specially by the blood of oure Lorde, and upon a Sonday or else a festival Holyday, he went forth on huting and hauking, and nothing speeding after his mind, he came unto an alehouse, at a thorow faire called Puckrych, 8 miles from Ware, in the highway to Cambridge, the one side of which thorow faire was in the said parrish of Stondon where the Gentleman was, and called for drinke, and anon he began to sweare after his unhappy custome, saying, by Gods blood this day is unhappy and within a while after in swearing so he bled at the nose and therewith more and more vexed, he began to raile and blaspheme the name of God in swearing passion, woundes, flesh, nayles, blood and body till at the last he fell farther to bleede at the eares, at the eyes, at his wrests, the ioyntes of his hands, and of all his body, at the Nauil and foundament, in marvailous great quantine and streames of blood, loathsomelye blearing out his tongue in fearfull manner as black as pitche, so that no person durst come near him: this continued till the Duiell and death had made an ende of him. On the morrow they layde the body on a carte, carrying it to Stondon, the body bleeding after a strange sort, was buryed in the highway (by the North Gate on the way to Stortford). A manifest token of God’s displeasure against swearers and abusers of the Saboth”. It is an interesting fact that in 1936, when the local Council were laying on water and sewage in the village of Standon, that at the corner herein just mentioned, the workman in digging found a skeleton of a man, and I like to think that it was that blasphemer who died at Puckeridge on that Sunday morning so long ago.

F. A. Casquet in his “Parish Life in Medieval England” mentions on page 22 7 – ‘So also, the parish priest of Standon, at the beginning of the fifteenth century, was ordered to publish an excommunication under the following circumstances: ‘Margaret Basun, a parishioner, was charged by some people with having stolen a silver ring belonging to Alice Brayner and with having sold it to Anne Boghley. Margaret Basun denied the truth and was called to make canonical purgation before the Bishop: she did so: and the Bishop having heard the case, declared her innocent of the charge, and ordered her innocence to be proclaimed, and an excommunication to be pronounced against those who had defamed her. Adrian the fourth an Englishman, called Nicholas Breakespeare thesonne of one Dan Robert a monke of San Albons, and at one time of Pockeridge, going to Agnania to denounce the excommunication against the Emporer Fredericke, after he had tarryed there a few days, walking forth with some of his companye to coole him, drinking of a certaine spring of water forthwith a flye did enter into his moathe, and sticke so fast to his throate, that he was choaked.”

There is no church in Puckeridge these days nor has there been one for many years, and no trace can be found of one, but several authorities tell us that there was one. Tanner says, “There was a free chapel with a chantry in it in the time of King Edward the second. Vide pat. 13. ed. 2 M. 16 pro cantania facienda in capelia Omnium Sanctorum de Pokkerigge, et de tennis et redditibus ibidem…… Pat. 11 Hen.4.P.2.m.4 de fundatione et dotatione liberae capellae Omnium Sanctoum ibidem et de Eadem in Regis protectionem sucepta. Pat.2. Hen 5. p.a.m.3g. de Custodia liberae capellae de Pokeriche commissa abbati de Waltham. In Cambdens Brittania we are told that the village was called ‘Pulcher (beautiful) Church.’

Although there is no Church there is a Congregational Chapel which has been there since 1832, prior to which services were held in a farmer Weir’s barn. In the Hertfordshire Mercury of December 20th, 1905, an interesting account is given of the family of one of Puckeridge residents: ‘Among the tradesmen who lived in Puckeridge about the year 1656 was a certain George Rogers who we can imagine carried on the business of a grocer and general shopkeeper, and was altogether in tolerably thriving circumstances. He appeared to have been a churchwarden of the church which has long since disappeared and which was dedicated to All Saints or else he may have held a similar appointment at the adjoining village of Standon. During the reign of Charles II and Commonwealth, tradesmen were allowed to issue copper tokens of small value to assist the currency and for the convenience of themselves and others. This worthy shopkeeper found some difficulty in providing sufficient small change for the customers who patronized his establishment to obtain the various commodities with which he supplied them. He therefore had a considerable number of small coins or tokens of the value of one farthing made of copper or brass. These tokens originally circulated far and wide between the years of 1648 and 1673 and bore various inscriptions. Those which George Rogers used were inscribed with his name on one side in two lines between four small roses and another rose between his initials G. R. The other side had the word ‘Puckridg’ across it, with two long stemmed tobacco pipes known as ‘churchwardens’ arranged as a St Andrew’s Cross, and having a clove between them at each end.

One of these tokens was lately unearthed at the Hertford “old” Grammar School during the excavations for the new buildings, and it is only natural that some conjectures should be made as to how it arrived at the spot where it was found. It may, therefore, be tolerably correctly surmised that the said George Rogers, being a grocer as shown by the cloves on his tokens, was the father of a family which consisted of boys and girls, and he considered it his duty to bring them up respectably and give them as good an education as he could afford. His thrifty wife attended to the girls and instructed them in the rudiments of learning and also in household duties and taught them the use of the distaff and other 17th century accomplishments necessary for them in after life. But his two boys, who were as unruly and uncouth as the boys of his neighbours, were under his personal supervision and required to be controlled accordingly. As these boys would have to make their way in the world, he decided that they should be instructed in Latin in addition to their other studies, this language being much taught and writted at the time. The nearest town at which this privilege could be obtained was Hertford for the Free School was flourishing there having been founded by the late Sir Richard Hale, of Kingswalden, in the year 1616 for the ‘instruction and bringing up of children and youth in the Latin tongue and other polite learning’. He therefore drove his nimble steed to that ancient borough on a certain market day, and put up at the sign of the Chequers which adjoined the Grammar School Master’s house in Fore-Street. He had a long interview with the Headmaster, Mr. Ralph Mynors, and ascertained the terms and conditions upon which he would undertake to instil into the minds of his two prospective pupils ‘Latin as she is spoke’ and other useful and necessary items of a classical education. The interview was considered satisfactory and the terms were arranged, for the master was always willing to receive any number of boys, refractory or docile, and he knew exactly how to bring them to obedience. As Puckeridge was nine miles from the county town it was too far for daily travelling, and bicycles had not then engaged the thoughts of man, so it was decided that the two boys should attend the school of boarders.

A few Saturdays afterwards George Rogers conveyed his two ‘hopefuls’, Richard and James, to the imposing buildings in Fore-street, Hertford, where he deposited them with the accompanying box containing clothing and comestibles, and consigned them to the tender mercies of Dominie Mynors and his good wife… The fond parents of these two boys, familiarly known by this time as Dick and Jamie, supplied the youths with a certain amount of pocket money, amongst which were some of the small tokens which father used in his business. Very naturally as boys did in those and other days they bartered some of them for marbles and sweets, and other articles of that period, and, as often happened these coins were mysteriously dropped and lost sight of, one of them being recovered nearly three centuries afterwards. Hence we may account for the finding of a copper token of the seventeenth century on the school premises in 1905, above referred to.

During the past few years many new houses have been built in Puckeridge, and no doubt when the “by-pass” has been created Puckeridge will blossom forth as a useful shopping centre for the parish. A much needed set of flats has been started for the old people, and this is to be enlarged. At the present moment the main street, owing to its narrowness and ever increasing traffic, has become most dangerous and makes shopping not only dangerous but almost impossible.”