02 May, 2011

Heronsgate, Hertfordshire, Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty?

A pleasant walk in the Hertfordshire countryside, taking in the Grand Union Canal, gravel pits and a charter land colony.
Beginning at Rickmansworth with a coffee in the Wetherspoons then a walk down the Grand Union Canal for a few miles (76 miles from Braunston)
From Travels around London

From Travels around London
until we reached the gravel pit that is now flooded and called Stocker's lake. Walking round Stocker's lake and having a rest on a lovely sunny landing stage with Canada Geese and Coots turned a pleasant day into a heavenly one. Walking back into Rickmansworth (Mill End) and past some particularly good homes for heroes we got slightly lost sand had to back track, but eventually we passed under the M25 and headed off through fields to Heronsgate.

Heronsgate was partially laid out as an estate by the Chartist Coöperative Land Company. The intention was to enfranchise working people by allowing them to buy freehold land. The chartists obtained 2-4 acres of land with a luxuriously equipped cottage on roads named after the industrial towns they were drawn from. Stockport Road, Nottingham Road, Bradford Road being examples used there. The Estate was named O'Connorville after Feargus O'Connor MP who led the company. Of course like many other back to the land movements it failed, not least because the people attracted to the scheme were industrial workers, rather than farmers, and that 2 acres is not really enough to support a family. Somebody living in Rickmansworth in the 1840s could hardly take a job in London to support themselves.
From Travels around London

The estate is now an exclusive development of housing for the wealthy but one or two charterville cottages remain. There was a plaque on one cottage celebrating the Estate's 150th anniversary of 1997, and a plaque on the village hall of 1884 that reads: 'In proud memory of O'Connorville founded here in 1847 by Feargus O'Connor MP Chartist, Idealist and Social Reformer'. The church's foundation stone was laid in 1886.
The local pub, which is not on the Estate, bears the name 'The land of liberty, peace and plenty', which I thought was a fitting tribute to those pioneers who came from the industrial north with high hopes of freedom.

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