A Short History of Bayford
In the Beginning...
Mentioned in the Doomsday book of 1086 as Begesford, the village appears to have comprised 22 ‘villans', 1 slave and a priest within an area appropriate for 20 ploughs! The census of 1861 showed a population of almost 300 and 140 years later (2001 census) that figure had grown to 435: considerable expansion, but still quite small in the scheme of things. Fortunately the original rural nature of Bayford persists to this day.
Bayford remains an oasis of countryside even though it is just three miles south of Hertford, ten minutes from Potters Bar and an easy ride to Hatfield and Welwyn to the North. Although possessing a railway station, unmanned of course, you won't normally find a rush of early morning commuters on the platform.
The family most associated with the history and development of Bayford since the 1800's are the Bakers. It is hard to think of a modern day equivalent to William Baker, later Sir William, who was clearly a colossus of a man. An entrepreneur, investor, politician and benefactor, he still had time for his family and the community. He became a Freeman of the City of London aged 29 (in 1734) and in his early thirties was advising the government as an expert on American trade. Baker later became a director of the East India Company (sales of £2 million a year even in the mid- 1700's) making lots more money although he was not always successful. One ship in which he invested sank with a loss of £384 per sixteenth share. He purchased the Bayford estate in 1757 for £21,000. The main house then was Bayford Manor, which remains a fine listed building in the village to this day, with wonderful gardens open to visitors on Gardens Day.
White and black clapboard house, Georgian, Queen Anne and artisan architecture all contribute to the charm of Bay ford, whilst housing a varied and interesting community.
Naturally, there is the village pub, and perhaps it's not surprising to learn it is named The Bakers Arms. Sadly, the village shop, Blacksmith's forge and post office have long since disappeared. But there is a thriving primary school and a village church, St Mary's, which remains a gem.
Dating from 1871, the present church replaced a smaller church from 1804, but records of baptisms, marriages and burials go back to 1538, and there was certainly a place of worship well before 1366. In that year the people of Bayford sought a licence for burials in the parish rather than braving the floods to carry bodies to neighbouring Essendon. The elegant interior includes some beautiful stained glass windows and houses a notable 15th century font. William Yarrell (1784-1856), whose extensive writings on natural history are now kept in the British Museum, is buried in the churchyard.
It was the church that provided the catalyst for Bayford Gardens Day, since in 1988 the church roof needed to be replaced and this gave rise to the fund raising initiative to open the village and gardens.