Notes from Hertford

On Saturday 12th July my wife and I took our friend the American Wallace scholar Jim Costa, on a visit to Hertford - the town north of London where Wallace went to school. Although it was a 'fun' rather than research trip I did discover a few things which I thought would be worthwhile reporting:

1) We visited the churchyard of St Andrews to look at the gravestone of Wallace's maternal grandfather John Greenell (1745 - 15 July 1824) and his second wife Rebecca R. Greenell (? - 18 October 1828). Rebecca was the stepmother of Wallace's mother and the Wallace family's move from Usk to Hertford happened because of her death (we don't know exactly why, but it was probably a result of the inheritance she left to Wallace's mother). Note that as (I think) Raby's points out in his book on Wallace, Rebecca died in October, so it might have taken until 1829 for the Wallace family to move to Hertford - in which case Alfred would have probably been 6 rather than 5 when he moved there. We can't be sure of the dates though.

In his autobiography My Life Wallace says that his father Thomas and his sister Eliza are buried in a tomb in St Andrews, but we could not find it (I know it still exists as Ahren Lester has photographed it). Wallace says:

"There is also in the same churchyard a family tomb, in which my father and my sister Eliza are buried, but which belonged to a brother of my mother's grandfather, William Greenell, as shown by the following inscription:—

"Under this tomb with his beloved wife are deposited the remains of
A native of this parish, who resided 56 years in St. Marylebone,
In the County of Middlesex,
Where he acquired an ample fortune,
With universal esteem and unblemished reputation.
He died the 17th day of January, 1791, aged 71."

There is also an inscription to his wife Ann, who died a year earlier, and is described as the "wife and faithful friend of William Greenell, of Great Portland Street, Marylebone." As the tomb was not used for any other interment till my sister's death in 1832, it seems likely that William Greenell had no family, or that if he had they had all removed to other parts of England."

Note that the church has been rebuilt (in 1869) since Thomas and Eliza were buried there, so it is not the same as it was in Wallace's day - see See and

St Andrews church in 1830 from Turnor's History of Hertford. Public Domain.

St Andrews church as it is today. Copyright G. Beccaloni

2) We called into Hertford Museum and found out that their excellent "World of Wallace" exhibition has just gone on tour. It will be shown at 4 venues, the first of which is the Museum of Oxfordshire in Woodstock, where it will be displayed from the 19th July to 31st August (see We picked up a leaflet the Museum produced on Hertford's Wallace Trail and from it I was very surprised to learn that All Saints' Vicarage, which someone had told me had been destroyed, still survives! This was the third house that Wallace and his family lived in whilst in Hertford (note that Wallace also boarded there with a Miss Davies some time before they moved in). The house is No. 8 Church Street - see

The Old Vicarage. Copyright G. Beccaloni

3) I took Jim to see the Wallace commemorative roundel in Birchley Green Shopping Centre which I helped to design (see It was installed in 2007 and is wearing very badly - with some of the designs almost worn away through people walking on it. This is not surprising and when it was being designed I pointed out that I thought that limestone was too soft to be used for this purpose and that granite would be much more durable...

Closeup of the roundel - note that the bird of paradise's lower half has almost worn away!

4) The last Wallace site we visited was the school where Wallace was educated. After we got back I did some research on the school and found that up until 1900 it was known as Hale's Free Grammar School or simply as Hale's Grammar School (it was founded by Richard Hale in 1617). I (as well as everyone else!) have been incorrectly calling it Hertford Grammar School - see for more information.

Hale's Grammar School (from a watercolour by Eliza Dobinson c. 1815). Copyright Tom Gladwin

The School building as it is now. Copyright G. Beccaloni

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith