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Chimney Sweep services in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire

As Hemel Hempstead was developed after the Second World War as a new town, the town has a lot of properties that are old enough to have working chimneys. Many new build houses may have chimneys fitted, but they are often imitation and purely to add a traditional aesthetic look to the property. These chimneys are not generally connected to any form of heating system.

Hemel Hempstead has existed as a settlement since the 8th century and was granted its town charter by King Henry VIII in 1539. It is covered by the Hemel Hempstead parliamentary constituency. Nearby towns are Watford, St Albans, Hatfield and Berkhamsted.

History of Hemel Hempstead

The origin of the Hemel Hempstead name goes back to when the settlement was called Henamsted or Hean-Hempsted in Anglo-Saxon times and then in William the Conqueror's time by the name of Hemel-Amstede. The name is referred to in the Domesday Book as Hamelamestede, but in later centuries it became Hamelhamsted, and, possibly, Hemlamstede. In Old English, the term 'stead' or 'stede' was a reference to a 'place', such as the site of a building or pasture, as in clearing in the woods, and this suffix is used in the names of other English places such as Hamstead and Berkhamsted.

It has been argued that a previous name may have become corrupted to something very similar to Hempstead, and that Hemel originated as a way of singling out, or specifying Hemel Hempstead as opposed to nearby Berkhamsted. Hemel is reflected in the German Himmel and Dutch Hemel, both of which mean 'heaven' or 'sky', so it could be that Hemel Hempstead was in a less forested area which had an uninterrupted view of the sky, while Berkhamsted, which could mean 'birch', reflected in the Dutch berk, was originally located in a forest of birch trees.

Hemel Hempstead residents leave for the colonies

Hemel Hempstead is mostly referred to by the local population as Hemel. However, before the Second World War the locals called it Hempstead. Some emigrants from Hemel Hempstead, migrated to the American colonies in the early 17th century and founded the town of Hempstead, New York in 1644.

Early Hemel Hempstead

The first official recording of the town of Hemel Hempstead is the grant of land at Hamaele by Offa, King of Essex, to the Saxon Bishop of London in AD 705. Hemel Hempstead on its present site is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as a vill, Hamelhamstede, with about 100 inhabitants. A vill is the smallest administrative unit under the feudal system, consisting of a number of houses and their adjacent lands, it roughly corresponds to the modern parish. The parish church of St Mary's was built in 1140, and is recognised as one of the finest Norman parish churches in the county. The church features an unusual two hundred foot tall spire, which was added in the 12th century, it is one of Europe's tallest church spires.

Hemel Hempstead after the Norman Conquest

Following the Norman Conquest, Robert, Count of Mortain, who was the elder half-brother of William the Conqueror, was granted lands associated with Berkhamsted Castle which included the area now known as Hemel Hempstead. These estates passed through a few different owners over the next few hundred years, including Thomas Becket in 1162. Hemel Hempstead was in the Domesday hundred of Danais which by 1200 had been combined with the hundred of Tring to form the hundred of Dacorum, which maintained its court into the 19th century. In 1290 King John's grandson, the Earl of Cornwall, gave the manor to the religious order of the Bonhommes when he endowed the monastery at Ashridge.

Hemel Hempstead remained part of the monastery's estates until the Reformation and break-up of Ashridge in 1539. At the same time, Hemel Hempstead was granted a royal charter by Henry VIII to become a bailiwick with the right to hold a Thursday market and a fair on Corpus Christi Day. A bailiwick is simply a district or jurisdiction of a bailie or bailiff.

A royal romance in Hemel Hempstead

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn are reputed to have stayed in Hemel Hempstead whilst they were courting. In a pub in the older part of Hemel Hempstead, there is a wooden fireplace with some scratched graffiti that is believed to have been carved there by Anne herself.

Until Tudor times Hemel was still a rather small agricultural hamlet. It is said that in 1539 King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn visited Hemel Hempstead and stayed at the Bury in Gadebridge park, all that remains is the charter tower next to the church. His daughter Elizabeth I also had connections with the area. Quite some time into her reign she gave the lands around Boxmoor to Robert Earl of Leicester, who conveyed the land to the Boxmoor Trust so that the land would be preserved for the use of the local Hemel Hempstead inhabitants.

Surprisingly, Hemel Hempstead residents are to this day entitled to grazing rights on the moor.

In 1953 a collection of beautiful Tudor wall paintings, dating between 1470 and 1500 were discovered in a cottage in Piccotts End, a village on the outskirts of Hemel Hempstead. The building had been converted into the first cottage hospital providing free medical services in 1827.

Later Hemel Hempstead history

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Hemel Hempstead was a thriving agricultural market town. Wealthy landowners built some grand country houses in the area, including The Bury, built in 1790, and Gadebridge House, built in 1811.

Hemel Hempstead from the Industrial Revolution

As the Industrial Revolution took hold of the country, commercial travel between the Midlands and London became an everyday event for more and more people. Hemel Hempstead was located on a direct route between these areas of industry and commerce and this made it a centre for trade and travel between the two. The Sparrows Herne Turnpike Road was opened in 1762 and it attracted a good deal of traffic that resulted in its surface wearing out quickly and it became notorious for its ruts and potholes, causing damage to the wheels of the vehicles using the route.

In 1793 construction began on the Grand Junction Canal, a major project to provide a freight waterway between the Midlands and the Port of London. In 1798, the canal from the Thames reached Two Waters, just south of Hemel Hempstead, and opened fully in 1805.

Hemel Hempstead's position on the commercial transport network was increased further in 1837 when the route of the new London and Birmingham Railway reached the town. The line's construction had been delayed for several years by lobbying by a number of powerful local landowners who were opposed to the line. Their anti-railway campaign was successful and the main line was routed along the River Bulbourne instead of the River Gade, skirting around the edge of Hemel Hempstead. As a result, the railway station serving Hemel Hempstead was built one mile outside the town centre at Boxmoor; Boxmoor and Hemel Hempstead railway station opened in 1837. The railways continued to expand and in 1877 a new route opened connecting Boxmoor to the Midland Railway at Harpenden. The Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead branch railway crossed the town centre on a long, curved viaduct, eventually serving three local stations in the town at Heath Park Halt, Hemel Hempstead and Godwin's Halt.

Despite the incursion of various forms of transport, Hemel Hempstead remained principally an agricultural market town throughout the 19th century. Toward the end of that century, development of new houses for London commuters began to be built in Hemel Hempstead. The town started to expand, but only became a borough, with its headquarters at the old town hall on 13 July 1898.

With the new houses, came a lot of scope for local tradesmen such as gardeners and chimney sweeps to ply their trade. It has to be remembered that houses of that age were heated by open fire or wood or coal burning stove, so the chimney sweep would have been a common sight for the local inhabitants of Hemel Hempstead. Keeping the chimneys free of the build-up of creosote and soot would have certainly kept a small army of chimney sweeps busy at that time. Only later, with the advent of gas central heating, would the chimney sweep start to see a decline in the need for his services.

World War Two leaves its mark on Hemel Hempstead

During the Second World War ninety high explosive bombs were dropped on Hemel Hempstead by the German Luftwaffe. The most notorious incident was on 10 May 1942 when a stick of bombs demolished houses at Nash Mills, killing eight local people. Like so many targeted towns at this time, there would be a strategic reason for the bombing campaigns and Hemel Hempstead was no different, as John Dickinson & Co. factories which were used to produce munitions for the war effort, were the target.

Bringing the old Hemel Hempstead up to date

When the Second World War was over, the government decided to designate Hemel Hempstead as the site of one of its proposed new towns that were to house the population that had been displaced by the London Blitz. In 1947, the Government purchased 5,910 acres of land and began work on the New Town. The first new residents moved in during April 1949, and the town continued its planned expansion through to the end of the 1980s. Hemel Hempstead grew to a population of 80,000, with new developments enveloping the original town on all sides. The original part of Hemel Hempstead is still known as the Old Town and has many interesting and historic buildings.

Even today, much of the properties in and around Hemel Hempstead have working chimneys and with more and more people returning to the solid fuel or wood burning stove, the need for a chimney sweep is once again increasing.

As the energy price crisis deepens, one can only imagine that this trend for more traditional heating will continue to rise. The chimney sweep could once more be a common sight in and around the streets of Hemel Hempstead.

Why not call Ansell Chimneys now for a free quote

If you would like to know more or are interested in a quote we would be happy to help. Phone us on 01923 661 614, email us at or fill in our enquiry form and we will be in touch as soon as possible.