The Hoddesdon Society's aims are:
We review and comment on planning applications and development plans, raise local awareness and take action about issues which affect Hoddesdon and Broxbourne. Our most recent major success was the hard-fought campaign to stop the incinerator, with permission refused by the Secretary of State in July 2019. The Society organised open meetings, a march of 1,000+ people and made daily representations (for weeks) at the public inquiry.
The Stuart Hamilton Award is presented by the Hoddesdon Society for projects of architectural merit and for the conservation of heritage assets. The last award was made to Wetherspoons for the conservation of the wonderful Elizabethan murals that are now a central feature in The Star.
The inaugural meeting of The Hoddesdon Society took place at Esdaile Hall on September 15 1961 after news leaked out of plans to build new shops in the town centre, demolishing the 16th century Bull Hotel. Mr E Bartleet became the first chairman, and committee members included Hoddesdon Urban District Councillor, L F R Jones, who was an architectural journalist.
Being on the old North Road, Hoddesdon was the first overnight stop for travellers on horseback heading out of London en route to York, Cambridge, Newmarket and Norwich, and The Bull was one of the many inns in Hoddesdon which catered for travellers.
The fight by The Hoddesdon Society and other concerned residents to save The Bull began in earnest when Hoddesdon Council turned down the application to demolish the building on the grounds it was on the Ministry of Housing and Local Government’s statutory list of buildings of historic or architectural interest and a Public Inquiry was called.
The debate went national when two members of The Hoddesdon Society appeared on the BBC home service programme Town and Country in April 1961. Mr Paddick told the reporter: “Take away the Bull Inn and the whole character of the main street will be altered".
At the public inquiry on October 3 1961, the majority of speakers and residents were firmly against the loss of their most iconic building. However, the Government’s planning inspector disagreed and the minister subsequently backed his view that “a suitably designed new building could replace the Bull without detriment to the street scene”.
The demolition of The Bull took place in 1964. In its place, Hoddesdon got its first purpose-built supermarket – a utilitarian brick block which today houses the town’s Peacocks store.
The floodgates opened for developers and, despite The Hoddesdon Society’s best efforts to influence designs and proposals, the northern half of the town was bulldozed to make way for the Tower Centre, then the largest shopping centre in Hertfordshire.
In the late 1960s, The Hoddesdon Society was successful in helping to stop the destruction of Rawdon House – the remarkable early 17th century mansion at the southern end of the High Street. Having served as St Monica’s Priory throughout the 20th century, in 1969 the large building was sympathetically restored as office accommodation and still operates as such today.
Another major achievement in the late 1970s was persuading the newly created Broxbourne Council not to sell off Lowewood, but instead to set it up as the Borough’s museum in 1984 with members of The Hoddesdon Society helping to catalogue the initial collection.
More recently the society lobbied the council for a major refurbishment of the clock tower and ran a local design competition for a new canopy to be erected around the base. As a result of the competition, the society awarded the Council the Stuart Hamilton prize for their work on the clock tower and the covered seating in the High Street.
This article is partly based on a feature published in The Mercury 23/02/14