A History of Hoddesdon

By Tim Lambert

Early Hoddesdon

The history of Hoddesdon began in Anglo-Saxon times. Hoddesdon began as a Saxon village. Its name was probably Hodda’s dun, which means Hodda’s Hill. At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 Hoddesdon was a large village with a population of between 300 and 350. To us, it would seem tiny but villages were very small in those days. Some villages in Hertfordshire had populations of less than 100.

Not surprisingly Hoddesdon later grew into a market town. (In those days there were few shops and usually, if you wanted to buy or sell anything you went to a market). In 1253 the king granted permission for a market and an annual fair to be held in Hoddesdon. (In the Middle Ages fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year). Afterward, Hoddesdon was a busy little market town though it only had a population of several hundred.

Like the rest of England, Hoddesdon suffered severely when the Black Death struck in 1348-49 but it soon recovered. In the Middle Ages Hoddesdon was on the main road from London to the north and no doubt the townspeople benefited from the traffic passing through the town. n In the Middle Ages the Church ran the only hospitals. There was a hospital in Hoddesdon.

In the 16th century and 17th century there were many inns in Hoddesdon and the town continued to flourish. However, like all towns in those days, Hoddesdon suffered from outbreaks of plague. It struck Hoddesdon in 1603, 1612, 1625, and 1666.

In 1683 came the Rye House Plot in Hoddesdon. The conspirators planned to assassinate King Charles II and his brother the Duke of York (later James II) as they passed Rye House, about 1 mile east of the town centre. The plot failed because the king and his brother passed through the area earlier than expected.

In the 18th century, Hoddesdon was a small but busy stagecoach town. Many stagecoaches stopped in Hoddesdon on their way to or from London.

Modern Hoddesdon

At the time of the first census in 1801, Hoddesdon was still a very small town with a population of only 1,227. However, it grew much larger during the 19th century. There were many changes in Hoddesdon during the 19th century. Hoddesdon Clock Tower was built in 1835. Then in 1840, the railway reached Broxbourne. The coming of the railways meant the end of the stagecoaches that passed through Hoddesdon.

Then in 1841, John Warner provided a school for boys in Hoddesdon. In 1842 oil lamps were used to light the streets of Hoddesdon. From 1848 they were replaced by gas. A waterworks company was formed in Hoddesdon in 1876.

Meanwhile, the explorer William Gosse was born in Hoddesdon in 1842.

In the 19th century brewing was a major industry in Hoddesdon.

A wooden tankard

In the 20th century amenities in Hoddesdon continued to improve. The first cinema in Hoddesdon was built in 1913. In 1923 gas street lights were replaced by electric ones. A public library opened in 1937.

Meanwhile, in 1921 a War Memorial was erected in Hoddesdon. Then in 1935, the boundaries of Hoddesdon were extended to include Broxbourne and Wormley. The by-pass opened in 1974.

The first Hoddesdon and Broxbourne Carnival of Light was held in 2007.

Today Hoddesdon is largely a commuter town for London. In 2023 the population of Hoddesdon was 20,000.