Things to do in Ware, Hertfordshire
Ware is a pleasant market town in east Hertfordshire. Set in the valley of the River Lea it lies just to the north of London and was once a popular coaching town on the Great North Road.
The site of Ware has been occupied since Neolithic times. It had a sizable settlement in Roman times, being on Ermine Street; the road from London to Lincoln. Ware received its unusual name in the Saxon period. Some weirs were built, perhaps by King Alfred the Great, to strand Viking ships on the River Lea. It is from these weirs that the name of the town grew. According to the Domesday Book, Ware was one of the largest towns in Hertfordshire.
The Great Bed of Ware, reputedly the largest bed made in England, probably dates from the 1590s. Now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London it used to be on show in various Ware inns. It has been mentioned by Shakespeare and others.
Off East Street is Bluecoat Yard, situated here is Ware's former manor house, Place House. If open, impressive wood work can be seen, including a crown-post roof.
The High Street is lined with timber-framed buildings, although most have later facades. Along the street can be seen many entrances to the courtyards of the coaching inns. These picturesque yards are often lined by former maltings. At one time Ware was the leading malting town of England.
At the west end of the High Street is the late fourteenth century church of St. Mary's. Although much restored it is still an imposing building and houses a fine font. This has several carved figures, including St. George killing the dragon.
On the opposite side of the road is Ware Museum, the former gatehouse to the Priory. Entrance to the museum is free, it is open throughout the year on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Among its artefacts are Roman and malting items. There is also a Second World War air-raid shelter. The Priory itself was really a Franciscan Friary and is now Ware's town hall. Part of the fifteenth century cloisters can be seen by the main door. There is a pleasant riverside garden with a restaurant.
A walk along the banks of the River Lea can be made from the Priory. The river is lined with about ten gazebos, most dating from the eighteenth century. They form an impressive and unusual site. To the south of the river is Scott's Grotto, dating from the eighteenth century. This is a series of tunnels and rooms, all lined with shells, flint and coloured glass. It is open on Saturday afternoons and Bank Holidays from Easter Eve to the end of September. Admission is free, but a donation is welcome. Bring a torch as there is no light in the grotto.
Description by Andrew Wang
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