Baldock (/ˈbɔːldək/ BAWL-dək) is a historic market town in the local government district of North Hertfordshire in the ceremonial county of Hertfordshire, England where the River Ivel rises. It lies 33 miles (53 km) north of London, 15 miles (24 km) southeast of Bedford, and 14 miles (23 km) north northwest of the county town of Hertford. Nearby towns include Royston to the northeast, Letchworth and Hitchin to the southwest and Stevenage to the south.

Baldock High St 1

Baldock High Street – before regeneration
Baldock is located in Hertfordshire
Location within Hertfordshire
10,280 (2011 Census Baldock East and Town wards) [1]
OS grid referenceTL247337
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townBALDOCK
Postcode districtSG7
Dialling code01462
AmbulanceEast of England
EU ParliamentEast of England
UK Parliament

History and etymology

Baldock has an exceptionally rich archaeological heritage.[2] Paleolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements show the site of Baldock has been continuously occupied since prehistoric times.[3]

The earliest monument in the area is a narrow Cursus, probably from the middle Neolithic.[4] At the beginning of the Iron Age there was a hillfort at Arbury Banks, 5 km to the northeast of Baldock, that dominated the area. In the Late Iron Age (c. 100 BC), the local power base shifted from the hillfort to the vicinity of Baldock. The soil was easily farmed and transportation was more convenient. In the later part of the middle Iron Age (from prior to c.100 BC) Baldock became the site of a large Oppidum, arguably the largest such site in Britain. The Oppidum in turn became a sizeable Roman settlement, which although not administratively important, seems to have been a significant cult centre. The Baldock area is also host to the highest quantity of finds of ancient coins in Hertfordshire after the Verulamium region. The site was used until the fifth or sixth century.[2][4] The Roman settlement gradually disappeared and there is no entry for Baldock in the Domesday Book.[3]

Baldock was founded by the Knights Templar (also the name of the town's secondary school) as a medieval market town in the 1140s.[5] It was laid out by the Knights Templar on land in the manor of Weston in the hundred of Broadwater,[6] granted by the earl of Pembroke, Gilbert de Clare, before his death in 1148.[7] The 1850 tithe map,[8] drawn up before the parish boundaries were extended in the later 19th century, clearly shows the boundaries of the land grant made from the manor of Weston in the 12th century. It is a triangular parcel of land beside the old Roman Road cut out from an older estate; it is likely that the Templars used their knowledge of mathematics when siting buildings.

The main theory of the origin of the name Baldock is as a derivation from the Old French name for Baghdad: Baldac or later Baudac,[3][9] which the Templars had been thwarted from conquering during the Crusades. Although the Templars' connections to Baghdad were "tenuous",[10] it was widely regarded as the most prosperous market in the world and the Templars perhaps hoped that the name would confer a similar prosperity on their own market town in England.[11] Founding contemporaneous documents use the spelling Baudac. This place is first recorded as "Baldac" in the Pipe Rolls of Hertfordshire in 1168.[12]

It is possible the Knights Templar used a name already in use, especially since the location was already a crossroads. Other etymologies have been suggested, including Middle English "balled" meaning bald together with Old English "ac" meaning oak; and a conjectured Old English personal name "Bealdoc" meaning bold (with diminutive -oc suffix).[13] In addition the settlement was already thriving as a late-Saxon part of Weston,[3] and may have been identified by a large old tree near the Saxon graveyard or where the Templar church was built.

Marco Polo relates that in 1225 Alau the Great Lord of the Tartars captured the Calif and the great city of Baudac,[14] achieving what the Crusaders had not. The connection between the great city of Baudac and the ruins of Babylon, in the facile minds of the Templars, were obscurely compared with the great city of London and the ruins of Baldock.

The modern layout of the town and many buildings in the centre date from the sixteenth century, with the earliest dating from the fourteenth century.[3][11]

It was where the old Great North Road and the Icknield Way crossed. The A1(M) motorway (1963), was called the Baldock Bypass for some years. In March 2006, a new bypass removed the A505 road (part of the old Icknield Way to the east of Baldock) from the town.

Thanks to its location, the town was a major staging post between London and the north: many old coaching inns still operate as pubs and hotels, and Baldock has a surprising number of pubs for its size. From the 1770s until 2008 the high street was very wide,[15] a typical feature of medieval market places where more than one row of buildings used to stand. In the case of Baldock, the bottom of the High Street had three such rows, until Butcher's Row was demolished by the Turnpike authorities in the 1770s. In late 2008, a town centre enhancement plan included a narrowing of the road and subsequent widening of paved areas.[15]

Since the 16th century, Baldock has been a centre for malting, subsequently becoming a regional brewing centre with at least three large brewers still operating at the end of the 19th Century, despite a decline in demand for the types of beer produced locally. The 1881 Census records approximately 30 drinking establishments (the town's population was at that time around 1900). Throughout the early 20th century a large number of pubs continued to operate, many of which were sustained by the adjacent and much larger town of Letchworth, which had no alcohol retailers prior to 1958, and had only two pubs and a single hotel bar until the mid-1990s. Its larger population had for many years visited both Baldock and Hitchin for refreshment.

The Wynn almshouses, in the High Street, were founded in 1621 and were endowed "To the World's End" by John Wynne, a cloth merchant from London who left £1000 in his will of 1614 for their upkeep.[16]

Since 1850, the town has a railway station which today operates on the line between London Kings Cross and Cambridge. With frequent services to London, including fast services of around 30 minutes, the town is home to many commuters. The station is part of the Thameslink Programme which will connect Cambridge to Farringdon, City Thameslink and Blackfriars via the Great Northern Route. There has been human activity on the site well before the modern town was founded. Prehistoric remains on Clothall Common date back as far as c 3000 BCE.[17] Many Roman remains have been discovered during building work in and around the town, and the core of the Roman settlement lies between Walls Field and Bakers Close. Earlier Iron Age remains have also been uncovered in the same general location, which may be the earliest town ever to develop in Britain.

A medieval leper colony, on Royston Road, was located during excavations in 2003, having been thought for many years to lie to the south-east of the town on the former Pesthouse Lane (now Clothall Road), the A507.

From 1808 to 1814, Baldock hosted a station in the shutter telegraph chain that connected the Admiralty in London to its naval ships in the port of Great Yarmouth.

A history of Baldock's Middle Ages (ISBN 0-905858-97-2) was compiled by Vivian Crellin, a former headmaster of the Knights Templar School, while local archaeologists Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews and Gilbert Burleigh published Ancient Baldock: the story of an Iron Age and Roman town in 2007.

Baldock's position at the crossing of two important thoroughfares, the Great North Road and the Icknield Way has made it a stopping point for a number of illustrious visitors, including Charles I, who passed through Baldock en route for London after his arrest in 1648[18] and supposedly Dick Turpin. Preacher John Wesley came to the town in 1747.[19]

In the 1960s and 70s Baldock was a centre of laser research at a MOD laboratory called SERL (Services Electronics Research Laboratory). This facility closed in the late 1970s and some projects and staff were transferred to RSRE (Royal Signals & Radar Establishment) near Pershore.

Baldock Tesco
Tesco supermarket

Baldock was formerly the location of a film processing factory which closed before the company (originally based in Letchworth Garden City) could move in; local folklore has it that it was a silent film studio, but this is not the case.[20] The building was then bought by the Full-Fashioned Hosiery Company from Halifax, later becoming the Kayser Bondor ladies stocking factory (which temporarily produced parachutes during World War II). Its Art Deco facade still stands as the largest Listed Building in the town; it was converted to a Tesco supermarket in the late 1980s.

St Mary the Virgin Baldock
Church of St Mary the Virgin

Another notable building in the town is the thirteenth century Baldock Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin at the centre of the town. The original church was built in about 1150 by the Knights Templar before being largely rebuilt in about 1330 by the Knights Hospitaller. It is a Grade I listed building.[21]

Malting and brewing were formerly major industries in the town, but apart from some light industry, today it is mostly a commuter town.

Baldock lost its local football team, Baldock Town F.C. in 2001, after nearly 100 years of existence.

To the east of the town there is a large residential estate that was built in several phases. This is known as Clothall Common. An archaeological dig took place in this part of Baldock in the late 1980s.

According to the humorous book The Meaning of Liff, a Baldock is defined as: "The sharp prong on the top of a tree stump where the tree has snapped off before being completely sawn through".


Several events take place in Baldock throughout the year. The largest three are the Annual Beer Festival, the Charter fair and the Balstock music festival.

Baldock Festival

The Baldock Festival is a cultural festival which started in 1983 and takes place on the first weekend in May. The festival consists of events throughout the town and the local area, such as museum trips, a barn dance, cheese tasting, brewery tours, clairvoyance evening, cricket match, comedy sketches, family quiz night, mystery tour, open gardens, history talks, and several music events, some of which feature local bands. The festival culminates in the Historic Street Fair held in the High Street, on the second and final weekend where stallholders dress in clothing of the era and help to portray what life was like in the historic town.

The Baldock Beer Festival takes place during the first weekend where local and national real ales, real ciders and continental lagers may be sampled.

Baldock Charter Fair

Baldock's Charter Fair dates back to 1199, when King John granted to the Templars the right of holding a yearly fair at Baldock on St. Matthew's Day and for four days following.[22] This would mean the original fair was held on 21–25 September, but with the Calendar reform of 1752 the dates are now 2, 3 and 4 October. Today the principal part of the fair is a visiting Amusement Fair which sets up in the High Street.


In 2015, the Balstock Festival completed its tenth year, having grown from a small event held in one pub, to a three-day event featuring more than 200 artists held on 13 stages across the town.{} It is now Hertfordshire's biggest free music festival with all proceeds going to a nominated charity.{} In 2015, that charity was Up on Downs, a local charity which provides which aids families that have children with Downs Syndrome.{}

The 2012 festival resulted in some controversy with a dispute between the organisers of the festival and the Performing Rights Society [23]

In literature

Daniel Defoe, in his book A tour through the whole island of Great Britain, passed through Baldock and commented: "Here is that famous Lane call'd Baldock Lane, famous for being so unpassable, that the Coaches and Travellers were oblig'd to break out of the Way even by Force, which the People of the Country not able to prevent, at length placed Gates, and laid their lands open, setting Men at the Gates to take a voluntary Toll, which Travellers always chose to pay, rather than plunge into Sloughs and Holes, which no Horse could wade through."

Baldock is one of the waypoints on Warren's long drive up the Great North Road, which brings about the occasion for the novel's plot, the rescue of the shipbuilding town of 'Sharples' (Blyth), in "Ruined City," by Nevil Shute.

Baldock is mentioned frequently in the supernatural thriller The Green Man by Kingsley Amis (1969). The town is the nearest centre to the fictional pub owned and run by the main character "Maurice Allington". The Green Man was later adapted into a television drama starring Albert Finney as Allington.

The author Monica Dickens, who lived in nearby Hinxworth for four years after World War II, refers to her regular visits to Baldock and to The George and Dragon public house in particular, in her 1978 autobiography An Open Book.[24]


Primary education

  • St Mary's Church of England (VC) Infant School
  • St Mary's Church of England (VC) Junior School
  • Hartsfield Junior Mixed and Infant School
  • St John Roman Catholic Primary School

Secondary education

Notable burials in Church of St Mary the Virgin

  • Rev. Josias Byrd (c.1578-1666), Rector of Baldock remembered for giving Charles I a drink when he passed through Baldock. Location of grave now lost.
  • Rev. John Smith (1799-1870), Rector at Baldock and the first person to decipher the Diary of Samuel Pepys.
  • Josiah William Smith (1816-1887), son of the above, an English barrister, legal writer and judge.

Sport and leisure

In the town centre there is a small museum next to the Arts and Heritage Centre at Baldock Town Hall.

Baldock has a Cricket Club with three teams, a Netball Club and a Bowls club all based in Avenue Park.

There is a Non-League football club called Baldock Town F.C. who play at Arlesey Town's Hitchin Road ground. There is a Sunday league football team Templars FC

The 110 mile Icknield Way Path from Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire to Knettishall Heath in Suffolk passes through the town.

Nearby villages

See also


  1. ^ Baldock Wards of 2011 Census.North Hertfordshire Council
  2. ^ a b Moorhead, Sam. "A survey of Roman coin finds from Hertfordshire", in Lockyear, Kris (2015). Archaeology in Hertfordshire: Recent Research. University of Hertfordshire Press. ISBN 9781909291478
  3. ^ a b c d e Mawer, J. E. B., Stenton, Allen and Gover, F. M. (1938) The Place-Names Of Hertfordshire (English Place-Name Society Volume XV), Cambridge University Press, ASIN: B0019T1T10 in Archaeology Data Service archive – Baldock
  4. ^ a b Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Keith J. The Baldock Bowl: an exceptional prehistoric landscape on the edge of the Chilterns in Lockyear, Kris (2015). Archaeology in Hertfordshire: Recent Research. University of Hertfordshire Press. ISBN 9781909291478
  5. ^ Baldock Museum & Local History Society. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  6. ^ Domesday Online Map: Weston
  7. ^ Andrews, H C (1938) Gilbert de Clare, earl of Pembroke, and his gifts, from his manor of Weston to the Knights Templars, c1138-48, Trans EHAS 10/2 (1938), 150–62.
  8. ^ Archived 2 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine Hertfordshire County Council Heritage Shop: Tithe Map on CD – Baldock c. 1850
  9. ^ Eilert Ekwall (1981). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names. Oxford [Eng.]: OUP. p. 24. ISBN 0-19-869103-3.
  10. ^ Evelyn Lord (2002). The Knights Templar in Britain. London [Eng.]: Longman. p. 60. ISBN 0-582-47287-3.
  11. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 February 2015. Retrieved 2015-02-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Baldock – History and Further Information (downloaded 1 February 2015)
  12. ^ The Place-names of Hertfordshire (Google eBook), by Walter William Skeat, East Herts Archaeological Society, 1904. Page 59
  13. ^ Harrison, Henry (1912). Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary. London: Eaton Press. p. 18.
  14. ^ Travels of Marco Polo, by L. F. Benedetto, 1931. Page 26.
  15. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 February 2015. Retrieved 2015-02-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Baldock Town Centre Strategy (downloaded 1 February 2015)
  16. ^ AA Touring Guide of England, 1974, PAGE 138, ISBN 0-09-211550-0
  17. ^ Gilbert R Burleigh and Keith J Fitzpatrick-Matthews (2010). Excavations in Baldock 1978–1994, volume 1: an Iron Age and Romano-British cemetery at Wallington Road. Letchworth Garden City: North Hertfordshire District Council Museums & North Hertfordshire Archaeological Society. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-9554116-5-6.
  18. ^ [1]. The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin Baldock on the Church of England website
  19. ^ [2] A Vision of Britain Through Time: John Wesley
  20. ^ Moira Keast (2007). The Story of Kayser Bondor. Baldock [Eng.]: Baldock Museum and Local History Society. pp. 13–14.
  21. ^ "Church of Saint Mary, Baldock". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  22. ^ William Page, ed. (1912). "Parishes: Baldock". A History of the County of Hertford: volume 3. British History Online. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
  23. ^ Tanna, Chandni. "Licensing threat to future of Balstock music festival".
  24. ^ Dickens, Monica An Open Book, Mayflower Books/Heinemann (1978) pgs 111–122

Further reading

Bramwell G Rudd (2014) Courtaulds and the hosiery & knitwear industry, ISBN softback 978-1-905472-06-2, hardback 978-1-905472-18-5

External links

A505 road

The A505 is an A-class road in England. It follows part of the route of the Icknield Way and the corresponding Icknield Way Path and runs from Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire to the A11, Cambridgeshire near Abington and Sawston. Being built in the East of England countryside, the majority of the road is flat, and some of the road is raised.

Baldock Cemetery

Baldock Cemetery is the burial ground for the market town of Baldock in North Hertfordshire and the surrounding area. It is maintained by North Hertfordshire District Council.Baldock Cemetery opened in the early twentieth century when the churchyard of the nearby Church of St Mary the Virgin was closed for burials. Access to the cemetery is via a drive from The Sycamores, which is off Norton Road in Baldock. The cemetery is open for the burial of people of all faiths.Seven casualties from both World Wars are buried here, two from World War I and five from World War II including Flight Sergeant Cyril Ivan Walker of 49 Squadron, who was killed when the Lancaster bomber he was in crashed on take-off in April 1945; these graves are distinguished by Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones.It has been stated that the cemetery will be full by about 2020. An attempt by The Baldock Society in 2012 to gauge whether there was local support for a new cemetery in Baldock was met with little interest.

Baldock Town F.C.

Baldock Town Football Club is a football club based in Baldock, Hertfordshire, England. Having originally been established in 1905, the current version of the club was established in 2003. They are currently members of Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division and groundshare with Arlesey Town at their Hitchin Road ground.

Baldock railway station

Baldock railway station serves the town of Baldock in Hertfordshire, England. It is on the Cambridge Line, 36 miles 47 chains (58.9 km) north of London King's Cross, and is located on the outskirts of Baldock on Station Road.

Baldock services

Baldock services is a motorway service station on the A1(M) motorway near Baldock in Hertfordshire, England. It is operated by Extra. Work on the service area started in March 2000, with the services opening on 22 January 2001. It was reported in 2007 that a flock of mallards had taken up residence at the service area.As well as a hotel, restaurants, shops and a petrol station, Baldock services has facilities for the rapid charging of electric cars, operated under the Ecotricity (Electric Highway) public charging network.

Bobby Ray Baldock

Bobby Ray Baldock (born 1936) is a Senior United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and a former United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico.

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Baldock

The Church of St Mary the Virgin is a parish church of the Church of England in Baldock in Hertfordshire. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the original church on the site dated to about 1150 and was built by the Knights Templar before being largely rebuilt in about 1330 by the Knights Hospitaller. It is a Grade I listed building.

Darrel Baldock

Darrel John Baldock AM (29 September 1938 – 2 February 2011), commonly nicknamed "The Doc" and "Mr. Magic", was an Australian rules football player, coach, and state politician. In 1966 he captained the St Kilda Football Club to its first premiership. Baldock is a member of the Australian Football Hall of Fame and has been upgraded to the status of "Legend". He was also a handy cricketer, playing two first-class cricket matches, once for Tasmania and once for the Tasmania Combined XI. After retiring from football, Baldock served in the Tasmanian Parliament for fifteen years.

George Baldock

George Baldock (born 9 March 1993) is an English professional footballer who plays as a right-back for Premier League club Sheffield United.

Knights Templar School

Knights Templar School is a co-educational secondary school with academy status located in the market town of Baldock in North Hertfordshire, England. In a February 2006 Ofsted report, the school was described as "outstanding", one of only eight secondary schools in Hertfordshire to be so recognised. It retained its "outstanding" status following a further Ofsted inspection in February 2009. The Knights Templar School gained academy status on 1 April 2011. Following an Ofsted inspection in October 2012 the school was categorised as "good" against a newer, far more demanding Inspection framework.

In September 2014 the school celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Minnie Baldock

Lucy Minnie Baldock (20 November 1864 – 10 December 1954) was a British suffragette. Along with Annie Kenney, she co-founded the first branch in London of the Women's Social and Political Union.

North Hertfordshire

North Hertfordshire is a local government district in Hertfordshire, England. Its council is based in Letchworth.

The district was formed on 1 April 1974 by the amalgamation of the urban districts of Baldock, Hitchin, Letchworth, and Royston and the Hitchin Rural District.

From eastward clockwise, it borders the districts of East Hertfordshire, Stevenage, Welwyn Hatfield, St Albans in Hertfordshire, Central Bedfordshire, Luton, Central Bedfordshire again, and South Cambridgeshire.

Radwell, Hertfordshire

Radwell is a village and civil parish in Hertfordshire, England. It is situated close to the A1 a little to the north of Baldock and Letchworth Garden City and is in the district of North Hertfordshire.

The small 14th century Church of All Saints is in the centre of the village. The actor Nigel Hawthorne and his long-time partner Trevor Bentham lived in the village for some years until the nearby Baldock Services was built. Fearing the noise levels from the service station would become unacceptable the couple moved to Thundridge in Hertfordshire.

Ralph Baldock

Ralph Baldock (or Ralph de Baldoc) was a medieval Bishop of London.

Baldock was elected on 24 February 1304, confirmed 10 May, and consecrated on 30 January 1306.Baldock served as Lord Chancellor of England from 21 April 1307 to 2 August 1307. He licensed Bow Church on 17 November 1311 as a chapel of ease. He died on 24 July 1313.

Robert Baldock

Robert Baldock (or de Baldock; died 28 May 1327) was the Lord Privy Seal and Lord Chancellor of England, during the reign of King Edward II of England.

SG postcode area

The SG postcode area, also known as the Stevenage postcode area, is a group of nineteen postcode districts in England, which are subdivisions of fifteen post towns. These postcode districts cover north Hertfordshire (including Stevenage, Baldock, Buntingford, Hertford, Hitchin, Knebworth, Letchworth, Much Hadham, Royston and Ware) and east Bedfordshire (including Arlesey, Biggleswade, Henlow, Sandy and Shefford), plus a small part of south-west Cambridgeshire and a very small part of Essex.

Sam Baldock

Samuel Edward Thomas Baldock (born 15 March 1989) is an English professional footballer who plays as a striker for Reading

He grew up in the village of Steeple Claydon, Buckinghamshire, while attending the Royal Latin School in Buckingham. His younger brother, George Baldock, is contracted to Sheffield United.

Weston, Hertfordshire

Weston is a village and civil parish in the North Hertfordshire district of Hertfordshire, England.

It is located around 4 miles north of Stevenage, 2.5 miles south of Baldock and the same distance south-east of Letchworth, although it lies in the Hitchin post town. The A1(M) motorway passes to the west and the A505 Baldock bypass to the north, in a cut-and-cover tunnel that passes through the Weston Hills. These hills were made famous by the Robin Hood-style character Jack o'Legs, who was allegedly buried in the village's church graveyard.

Weston Hills, Baldock

Weston Hills is a 17 hectare Local Nature Reserve in Baldock in North Hertfordshire. It is owned by Hertfordshire County Council and North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC) and managed by NHDC.The site has grassland, woodland and mixed scrub. Six hectares is chalk grassland, and this is its most important ecological feature and one of the best examples in Hertfordshire; plants are very diverse because the harsh conditions do not allow vigorous species to become dominant. Plants include autumn gentian, clustered bellflower, harebell and six species of orchid. There are slowworms, common lizards and many species of butterfly. Some chalk quarries date back to the Roman period, and there are also ancient earthworks.There is access from Chiltern Road, ivel Way and Limekiln Lane, and from the Icknield Way Path.

Boroughs or districts
Major settlements
East Hertfordshire
North Hertfordshire
St Albans
Three Rivers
Welwyn Hatfield
Unparished boroughs
See also

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