Therfield Heath Conservation – History of Therfield Heath
Written by Astrid Matthews
Nowadays we’re lucky enough to use The Heath simply as a nature reserve, for long walks and picnics or a drink at the Heath Café Bar. There are many sports clubs based at The Heath and all around the villages surrounding it, including Royston Rugby Club, Royston Tennis Club and Royston Archery Club. It’s difficult to think of The Heath as anything but peaceful, however, it’s not always been this tranquil. Centuries before the present day, in 1603, King James stopped off in the town on his journey to London. He was drawn to The Heath due to its suitability for hunting. Between the years 1604 to 1625 King James returned to Royston regularly, with the intention of visiting The Heath, which he turned into his own hunting ground after building his hunting lodge in 1604. Just two decades after King James’ constant gunshots ended, The Heath became an overnight camp out for 20,000 roundhead soldiers on their travels during the civil war. Imagine the hive of activity on our Heath that night!
In more recent events, The Heath became a training ground for Herts Militia from 1855 to 1982. Here they built the rifle range which was later used by Bishop Stortford’s gun club until it was closed in 1982. During this time World War II broke out and the Allies used The Heath as a prisoner camp. Originally at the end of 1941, the camp held 300 Italian prisoners in just 8 huts. By 1944, 8 huts had expanded into 20 and the Italian prisoners had been cleared to make way for new German prisoners. These huts were used for living and sleeping in, washing and mending uniforms, there was even a medical hut and one large hut designated for eating. Prisoners were expected to do local farming and building, do road work and dig ditches all around The Heath. Eventually, the huts were given up and offered to the council for housing local residents. All very interesting and hard to imagine now!
Please join us and keep up to date on what is happening and help us celebrate this unique site which is still free to access all year round.
The Listing magazine allows us to connect with everyone in the area on a monthly basis. We encourage those readers to also use our website and Facebook as a great way to access instant messages. Please search “Therfield Heath & Greens” and this will take you to our website and also our Facebook & group page. Therfield Heath & Greens FB Group / Therfield Heath FB