Bengeo is on a rise between the River Beane and River Rib overlooking Hartham Common. Its toponym is derived from an Old English name meaning spur or ridge over the River Beane. The Domesday Book of 1086 records it as Belingehou. It evolved through forms including Beneggho and Beningho in the 13th century, Bengeho in the 15th century and Benjow in the 16th century before reaching its current form.
Geography and amenities
See map of Bengeo.
Other than the south east corner which adjoins Hertford, Bengeo is mostly surrounded by countryside. Informally (the terms having no official status) Bengeo consists of Upper and Lower Bengeo; Upper Bengeo is the area at the top of Port Hill leading out of Hertford town centre, while Lower Bengeo is the area on the side of the hill and centred on Byde Street. On an approximate north-south trajectory Bengeo is bisected by the B158, known as Port Hill as it leaves Hertford and climbs the hill to Upper Bengeo and then as Bengeo Street as it continues through, and then out of, Bengeo to the north. Leaving Port Hill to the east runs The Warren, an ancient footpath along the edge of the River Beane and Hartham Common leading to the ancient church of St Leonard.
Bengeo has various of its own amenities including a Post Office, local shops, several public houses, two veterinary practices, a number of sports teams, two churches (see below) and a Plymouth Brethren Meeting Room. There are two State primary schools, Mill Mead Primary School in Port Vale in Lower Bengeo close to Hertford and, at the opposite end of Bengeo on the north end of The Avenue, Bengeo Primary School; on the east side is Duncombe School, an independent preparatory school.
The Church of England parish church of St Leonard, Bengeo, is a 12th-century Norman building and the oldest building in Hertford. It was the parish church of Bengeo until 1855, when it was succeeded by the new Holy Trinity parish church designed by Benjamin Ferrey. St. Leonard's is still used for regular Sunday services in summer months, as well as hosting exhibitions and concerts.
Close to St Leonard's Church along St Leonard's Road are three of Hertford's oldest houses, Revels Hall, built in the mid sixteenth century, Bengeo Old House, formerly the vicarage, built in the late sixteenth century and Bengeo Hall, built in the late seventeenth century and home to landscape painter Joshua Gosselin. All are Grade II* listed buildings.
On the west side of Bengeo are two further Grade II listed buildings, The Old Pest House and Little Molewood. The former, on the corner of Byde Street and Fanshawe Street, was built in 1763 as a smallpox isolation hospital; the latter, situated on The Avenue, is an arts and crafts style house, built in 1904 for the Graveson family of Hertford by the architects Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin, who were the architects and planners of Letchworth Garden City.
The prominent concrete water tower on The Drive was built in 1929 and opened in 1930 to boost the water supply to new housing which could no longer be adequately accommodated by the then (but no longer) existing pumping station and water tower on Tower Street. The Drive was developed after the construction of the tower. Today it has an array of aerials on the top, providing inter alia a local television relay from Crystal Palace transmitting station.
Sir Thomas Dimsdale (1712–1800) pioneer of smallpox inoculation lived at Port Hill House and established an inoculation house still known as "The Pest House" on the corner of Byde Street and Fanshawe Street. He was also MP for Hertford from 1780-89.
Thomas Charles Byde Rooke (1806–1858) was an English physician who married into the royal family of the Kingdom of Hawaii was born in Bengeo. He built a mansion called the Rooke House in Honolulu that became popular with political and social leaders of the Kingdom.
Sir Roy Malcolm Anderson FRS (born 12 April 1947) is a leading British expert on epidemiology and was educated at Duncombe School in Bengeo. He has mathematically modelled the spread of diseases such as new variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease and AIDS.
Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival CB DSO* OBE MC OStJ DL (26 December 1887 – 31 January 1966) was a British Army officer and World War I veteran and attended school in Bengeo. He built a successful military career during the interwar period but is most noted for his involvement in World War II, when he commanded the forces of the British Commonwealth during the Battle of Malaya and the subsequent Battle of Singapore.
John George Howard, (1803–1890) born John Corby in Bengeo, and was an official surveyor and civil engineer for the City of Toronto government in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was also the first professional architect in Toronto where he was responsible for the design of numerous public, commercial and residential buildings. He was the principal donor of High Park to the people of Toronto.
Edmund Feilde (1620–1676) politician and barrister owned land in Bengeo.
Noel Pemberton-Billing (1881–1948) aviator, inventor, publisher, extreme right-wing politician and MP for East Hertfordshire lived on Farquhar Street in 'Hertford House' and built a number of bungalows in the grounds, which incorporated some of his inventions. The aviation company he founded went on to develop, amongst other aircraft, the Spitfire.
George Ezra (1993–present), singer and songwriter, lived in Bengeo and attended Bengeo Primary School.
James Judd (1949–present), classical music conductor, spent his childhood and youth in Bengeo, living in The Drive. He was music director of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, from 1987 to 2001, and music director of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO), from 1999 to 2007. Presently (2017) he is music director of the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion, artistic director and principal conductor of the Daejeon Philharmonic Orchestra in South Korea, and music director-designate of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra.
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