School Lane

The modern Welclose Street was known in the 15th century as School Lane because of its proximity to the Monastic School. On the western side of the street was the toft of Squillers. A map of 1634 shows the location of the parcel of land known as Wellclose which was described in 1597 as "alias Squillers", so giving its location, although the property probably stretched to the street front. Abbot Wheathampstead built a barn on the property in 1438. His clerk Matthew Bepset also had a tenement hereabouts which included a dovecot. In 1446 Master John Wheathampstead paid rent to St. Mary's Sopwell for the toft of "Squylers". It seems to have been this toft which was amalgamated with the property known as Newlane to form the Manor of Newlane Squillers. 



Originally this was a large rectangular open space in front of the Great Gateway of the Abbey, its name deriving from room land (i.e. an open space). The Nunnery of St. Mary de Prae held an annual fair here under a charter granted to them by King John in 1199. It was here that the rebels gathered in 1381 prior to breaking in to the Abbot's prison in the Great Gate. What is now Romeland Hill was known from at least the 13th to 15th centuries as Hockerhulle and it was this frontage that was built up. This unusual name occurs elsewhere in Herts. at Hockerill, the first element seemingly the Old English hocer = hill or hump.
It was on Hockerhulle that the Monastic School in existence by 1100, was situated by the 13th century. In 1420-40 Abbot Wheathampstead repaired a tenement"in the corner next to the Grammar School" which means that the site of the school is now covered by the 18th century Romeland House. In 1497/8 Robert Clothman left a tenement with a garden "lying upon Hokerhyll ageynst Scoille Lane". In the 15th century there were shops here as well as an inn known as "le Key". This later became known as the Cross Keys (one of two inns of this name in the town) and survived until the 18th century.

Tankerfield Place

Excavation in 1978, prior to the construction of this new development showed that occupation began in the early13th century when a simple two room peasant house, barn or store and ?kitchen were built. This setup looked very much like the sort of agricultural holding seen in villages of the time, although a farmstead opposite the main entrance to the abbey might seem surprising. The house was rebuilt as a timber framed hall house in the fourteenth century ans at a later date a latrine with mortared flint shaft was attached to the hall. The house was demolished c.1450.after which the plot lay vacant for over a century.

Reconsruction dawing of the buildings built in the early 13th century. The House and Barn were built using earthfast posts, The Kitchen/Workshop may have had simple clay walls

Reconstruction drawing of the house as rebuilt in the 14th century. This was of timber-framed construction and later a latrine was added to the open hall

 3 Romeland Hill

Concealed behind the 19th century front are two surviving bays of a building with crown post roof and original cellar, built c.1400. This may have been the Key mentioned above.


Spicer Street

This street took its name from the Abbey officer called the Spicer. In 1335-49 a tenement in Spicerestrete which had been given to the convent by John de Harleston was transfered to the abbey Almoner on certain conditions for finding spicerey for the convent.
The excavation on Romeland Hill also investigated a small area immediately to the west of Spicer Street. Here there was evidence of a building probably used by a 13th century broonze worker.

The Vine

The Vine, sometime a public House and still displaying its sign, was originally built as a house in the second half of the fifteenth century. The present house began as the two bay open hall, with crown post roof, with a two storied bay to the north. At the south end (now a seperate property) there was probably once a two storey cross wing although this part of the house was rebuilt in the later 17th century.


The Vine today and a conjectural reconstructioan
of thr Medieval House.
(plan after Smith and Kilvington)

Dagnall Street

This street is now cut into two - Upper and Lower Dagnall Street - by the 19th century Verulam Road which opened in 1826. As it is parallel with Romeland/Church Street there was a marked diference in the amount of space available on either side of the street. Indeed its seems that building was generally confined to the northern side of the street with Church Street properties mainly stretching back to the southern frontage. As elsewhere in the town this meant that buildings were at the head of very long plots of land, much of which could be used for agriculture. Thus in 1253 Reginald Trumpington had a messuage with two strips of arable land to the north.
In 1349-96 John Gumbard and his wife Alice, gave to the Abbey a tenement with 29 acres of land. In 1484 Margaret Wangford left "all my interest in the lease which I have in Gombardes...." and 1496-7, the butcher Robert Porter, left to his wife the remaining years of a lease "in a certain field called Gumbardes held by me of Thomas Fisher, baker". There were 20 acres known as "Gumbedes" in 1545 and the name still survives in the city as Gombards and Gombards alley.
At the upper end of the street, on its southern side, excavations in 1981 prior to the construction of Christopher place showed that here the properties curved round from French Row to back onto the street. Here the only building was, probably a shop, built at the end of the 14th century, the rear bay of which contained a timber lined cellar. In around 1480, sometime after the building had been removed, the cellar was filled with much rubbish including pottery imported from the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.
At the lower end of the street, perhaps where New England Street Playing Fields are now,was an area known as "Dagenhale Bottom" and land called "le Scolewyke" , both recorded in the 1280s-90s.
In 1428 a Pardoner was slain in this street although in what circumstances is not known.

18 Lower Dagnall Street


This is the two storey jettied cross wing of a hall house, the hall long since demolished. The crown post roof and details of doors and windows recorded when the house was refurbished in the 1960s show that it was built in the first half of the15th century.

18 Lower Dagnall Street today and drawing showing the hall reconstructed