This is Tring

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Tring High Street

Area Map

Large scale

Town Centre

The old market town of Tring lies in magnificent countryside in the Hertfordshire Chilterns.  Both the Town and surrounding area offer much to interest the visitor.

The name Tring is thought to derive from the Saxon 'Tre', meaning 'tree'.  This, when suffixed with 'ing' meant "a place of trees", which still describes the character of much of the surrounding countryside.  The Town forms part of the Borough of "Dacorum", a name that also has ancient origins in the time when west Hertfordshire was occupied by the Vikings.  The hundred formed by this area became known by its Anglo-Saxon name, Danais, meaning "of the Danes", but by the end of the 12th century this had been Latinised to Dacorum.  When local government was re-organised in 1974, the administrative area that includes the districts of Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted & Tring was named Dacorum.


Wintertime, Ashridge.

Springtime, Ashridge.

Summertime, Ashridge.

Tring is situated in a low point at the summit of the Chiltern Hills - the "Tring Gap" - at the junction of the old Roman Akeman Street (buried beneath the Tring bypass) and the Icknield Way. Akeman Street was a major Roman road that linked London to Cirencester, its route passing through Tring, Aylesbury and Bicester before veering to the south-west and its final destination. Much of the section between London and Bicester is still used today as the A41.  Icknield Way was one of the few long-distance trackways to predate the Roman occupation.  The present day Ridgeway Path, which passes just to the south of Tring and is much favoured by walkers, follows the course of the Icknield Way's western section.


Members of the Wendover Canal Trust rebuilding the Tring to Wendover Canal (the Wendover Arm).  Opened ca. 1799, the section of the Arm west of Little Tring was closed to navigation in 1897 and abandoned in 1904.  The towing-path provides a pleasant walk (6¾ miles) from the Grand Union Canal (formerly the Grand Junction Canal) at Bulbourne Junction, past Tring (Gamnel Wharf), Buckland, Aston Clinton and Halton, and on to Wendover.

A few months later reconstruction has moved on ― it's reassuring to see that the subject of their endeavour holds water . . . .

Nice to see the flooded section of the Wendover Arm at Little Tring being used for leisure.


There is evidence that people have lived in this attractive and fertile area for thousands of years. It exists in such relics as the Iron Age barrows, ditches and defence works that lie along the route of the Ridgeway Path and in Saxon burials, some of which were unearthed recently during the extension of the Tring Bypass.  But as with other aspects of British history, few reliable documentary records predate the Norman conquest.

After his defeat of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, "William the Conqueror" is believed to have accepted the final surrender of the Saxon nobles at Berkhamsted Castle, just a few miles down the road from Tring, and it was here that William was thought to have been declared King of England (although the monastic chronicler might have had 'Little' Berkhamsted in mind, which lies to the east of the County near Hatfield).

Witch hunting

The last execution of an English witch was in 1686 and the last trial for witchcraft was in 1717. However, in 1751, the Half Moon pub at Wilstone near Tring was the venue of the inquest into the death of a vagrant, Ruth Osborn. Ruth, accused by townsfolk of being a witch, had been drowned in the village pond by a mob, prominent among which was a drunken chimney sweep, Thomas Colley. Colley was later executed at Tring for her murder and his body hung in chains near the scene as a warning to those who would murder so-called witches. The authorities took the precaution of bringing in a troop of soldiers to make sure that the locals - who really did believe Ruth to be a witch -  did not prevent the hanging. [A detailed account  (.pdf file, 2.2MB) - courtesy Wendy Austin]

When dividing up the spoils of war among his supporters, William granted the Manor of Tring to Count Eustace II of Boulogne, who had been fully involved in the fray at Hastings and is thought to be the knight whose name is faintly depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry as "Eustatius".  Twenty years later, William's great stocktaking ledger, the Domesday (or Doomsday) Book, refers to Tring as one of Count Eustace's holdings. Our original parish church probably dated from this period, but was either destroyed or rebuilt, for Norman stonework exists in parts of the exterior of our present church, Saint Peter and Saint Paul.  The Tring Tiles, which probably formed part of a frieze on the interior walls of the Church's chancel, date from a slightly later period.


There was an Old Person of Tring,
Who embellished his nose with a ring
He gazed at the Moon, every evening in June,
That ecstatic Old Person of Tring.



In 1385, Richard II granted the Town a charter [1] to hold a weekly market, which continues to this day and is now located on the site of Tring's former Cattle Market.  The architect Christopher Wren, famed for Saints Paul's Cathedral, the Wren Library and many beautiful London churches, designed and built one of his three country houses in Tring Park and it is here that Charles II is said to have taken the occasional break with his mistress, Nell Gwyn.  The Park's 300 acre formal landscape (now managed by the Woodland Trust) was created in the late 17th and early 18th century by Charles Bridgeman and James Gibbs.  Its design combines gently undulating grassland, carefully placed groups of trees and a backdrop of dense woodland on the steep escarpment above the Park. Although much altered externally during the 19th century, Wren's mansion remains . . . .  


Tring Mansion,
former home of a branch of the Rothschild banking family, now the home to the
Tring Park School for the Performing Arts.

Students from Tring Park School entertain the town at the Tring Christmas Festival
they performed Abba, and WOW! What a performance!


Another notable to have had connections with Tring was the first President of the United States, George Washington, whose great-great-grandfather, the Reverend Lawrence Washington, lived in Tring and died in poverty there around 1654.  The births and deaths of some of George Washington's forebears are recorded in the church register.

The Welfare State in Tring - 1792.

Highway robbery! - the Tring Mail.

Do you own a Bank of Tring £10 note?.......

The Hertfordshire Genealogy Website carries an interesting account of Tring as it was in 1947.

Lower High Street

The changing face of Tring ― these two Victorian gems in Station Road are soon to be demolished.


The 19th century brought significant changes to the  town. The Grand Junction Canal was opened in 1805 to be followed in 1838 by the arrival of the London and Birmingham Railway, which brought Tring to within an hour's journey time of London (once, that is, the traveller had reached Tring Station, which lies some 2 miles from the town centre). Both canal and railway cross the Chiltern Hills at Tring in deep cuttings, the construction of which were major engineering tasks for the time involving the manual excavation of millions of tons of chalk and flint.  The Tring reservoirs at Wilstone, Tringford, Startops End, and Marsworth, built to supply the canal with water as it crosses the summit at Tring, are designated "Sites of Special Scientific Interest" (SSSIs comprise Britain's very best wildlife and geological sites and are protected by legislation).


The construction of Tring Cutting, London and Birmingham Railway, 1837.

Tring cutting, engineered by Robert Stephenson, is 2.5 miles long.  It was constructed using "horse runs". A horse at the top of the cutting was harnessed to a large barrow by a length of rope over a pulley. The barrow, when filled with debris, was hauled up a steep plank-way by the horse and guided by a navvy. Any irregular movement of the horse could throw both man and barrow down the slope at risk of life or limb. There were some 40 horse runs at Tring.  Tring Cutting was later widened and during the 1960s the line ― by now the "West Coast Main Line" ―  was electrified.  See also The Train now Departing.


The Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News, Aug., 26th, 1848.

Another accident occurred on the London and North Western Railway, at Tring, on Friday morning, by which the life of one of the new corps of engine drivers has been placed in imminent peril.  The following are the circumstances:—Thomas Sands, aged 28, formerly employed in Woolwich Dockyard, but since the dispute between the London and North Western Railway Company and their engine-drivers filling the place of one of the latter, left Birmingham, at a quarter to nine o'clock on Thursday night, in charge of a luggage train, which he brought on without accident until it reached the Tring cutting.  While passing through this cutting, it appears that his engine became out of order, it is believed owing to a deficiency in the supply of water in the boiler.  The unfortunate man attempted to rectify the defect, but, probably from ignorance of the mechanism of the engine, he was unable to do so, and a rush of steam taking place, it is said Sands become frightened, and threw himself off the tender-plate on to the embankment.  The guard and stoker, who were on the engine with him, retained their places, and in a few minutes brought the train to a standstill.  On returning down the line they found Sands lying on the embankment perfectly insensible.  A superficial examination proved that the poor fellow had sustained a severe fracture of the thigh, close to the hip bone, as well as several extensive scalds about the body.  The impolicy of the Directors attempting to work their line with new hands is apparent from these accidents and others that have happened to the working stock of the Company.

Tring Cutting (ca. 1900): I suspect the locomotive is an L.N.W.R. Precedent (aka "Jumbo") class
2-4-0  on a down express.  See also The Railway comes to Tring.

Photograph: Wendy Austin collection.


Industries that grew up in Tring during the 19th Century included flour milling, brewing, silk and lace-making, straw plaiting (for the Dunstable and Luton straw hat industry) and we had a thriving cattle market — indeed, many of the community were involved in some way with agriculture.  Except for flour milling and the re-emergence of brewing, only traces of these industries now remain, most notably the site of the former Cattle Market and the buildings of one of Tring's Breweries, the Maltings and the Silk Mill, each of which have been put to other uses.


TRING'S SILK MILL (ca. 1890) —
it provided much employment in the town during the Victorian era—the building remains in commercial use.


ERALD MASSEY (1828-1907)

Poet and Egyptologist Gerald Massey was born at Gamnel Wharf on the canal at Tring in 1828, the son of a poor and illiterate canal boatman. On reaching eight years of age, Massey was sent to work 12-hour days in the grim conditions of Tring's silk mill.

"There's no dearth of kindness
    In this world of ours;
Only in our blindness
We gather thorns for flowers."

In his early life Massey was active in the Chartist movement, which attempted to improve the conditions of working people including giving them the right to vote at elections. Today, he is probably best known for his books dealing with the meaning of ancient Egyptian mythology and its influence in shaping later western religions.


From the Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News

Apr. 17th., 1847.

At the petty session, at Tring, on Thursday last, George Norman and Joseph Copcutt, two lads, about 16 years of age, were charged with running away and leaving their employment at the silk mills at Tring. Proof of the offence being given, and it further appearing that this was not the first time they had been guilty of the same offence, they were committed to Hertford gaol, for one month's hard labour.

Feb. 27th, 1847.

At the Herts Adjourned  Quarter Session, last week, Thomas Wilkins, a miserable looking boy, aged sixteen, pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing two loaves of bread, the property of James Hanshaw, at Tring. Sentenced to be imprisoned for one month, one week in solitary confinement.

Sept.7th., 1850.

On Wednesday last, the town of Tring was all in a bustle, in consequence of that being the night which was fixed upon by Mr. T Atkins, of Oxford, the contractor, to light the gas for the first time.  Great preparations were made to celebrate the event, and an immense concourse of people was present.  The men who had been employed at the works were sumptuously regaled with a supper, at the Green Man Inn.  The preparation on the occasion reflects great credit on Mrs. Philby, the worthy landlady.  Mr. Atkins presided at the head of the table, and was ably supported by Mr. Andrews as the vice chairman. Ample Justice being done to so good a spread, Mr. Atkins reminded the company, about 40 in number, that there were great crowds outside and that something must be done to amuse them.  The whole then turned out and headed by a band of music paraded the town, halting before the residence of Mr. W. Brown, the chairman of the board of directors, and also before the residence of T. Butcher, Esq., banker, and several others, playing favourite airs and marches on the road.  The whole returned to the Green Man Inn, in front of which simple preparation was made for fireworks, which on the signal being given (a gun fired) were let off.  Here the concourse of people was immense, and for those who are fond of such sights we may confidently state that they were satisfied, for seldom if ever have we seen so good an exhibition of fireworks in a country place.  This over, the people began to dispense, but many remained for some time gazing intently on a large star which was fixed in front of the Green Man, and splendidly illuminated with gas.  On enquiry we were informed that the price of gas here at the commencement will be somewhat about 8s. or 8s. 4d. per thousand, with a discount off to large consumers. The opinion of the board is that a large consumption and not high prince is the most remunerative.


4.1  litre Railton Light Tourer, 1935.

The Spirit of Tring concert.
Who would have thought that such a chilly September evening could turn into such a fantastic musical event!


The existing town centre owes much of its character to the Rothschild family who in 1872 acquired Tring Park and its mansion.  With the help of local architect William Huckvale, banker and statesman Nathaniel (later 1st Baron Rothschild of Tring) set about a radical transformation, rebuilding the farms and building new cottages in the town to replace decaying property.  The old Market House outside the church was demolished to create a public open space and a new Market House erected by public subscription to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.  Among Huckvale's other commissions was the estate office, the Victoria Hall, the  Rose and Crown Hotel, and the Zoological Museum, built to house Lord Rothschild's eccentric elder son Walter's immense zoological collection. A trip to the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum is a must for all visitors to Tring.

Some of Tring's
tudoresque designs by architect William Huckvale (1848-1936) . . . .

"Lousia Cottages," a row of almshouses adjacent to Huckvale's Zoological Museum.

This attractive five-sided private residence was one of Tring Mansion's gatehouses . . . . and in the days
before parked cars and wheelie bins became standards feature in the street scene . . . .

Photograph: Wendy Austin collection.

The Rose and Crown Hotel (difficult to miss) . . . .

 . . . . has existed on its present site since the 16th century.  From the middle of the 17th to the middle of the 19th Century it housed the Excise Office and was also at some time host to the Inland Revenue.  One 19th Century landlord, Timothy Norwood, who was also an excise man, brewed his own beer; indeed, beer was brewed on the premises until the 1860s.  The Inn also did service as a railway booking office for the London and North Western Railway Company and even after the coming of the railway, it continued to be a busy and important coaching inn.  The original building, which was Tudor with 18th Century additions, was demolished in 1905 when it was bought and rebuilt by Lord Rothschild, mainly for guests of the family, to a design by William Huckvale.

(Lionel) Walter Rothschild, 2nd Lord Rothschild
(1868 - 1937) . . . .

. . . . worked for the banking family firm of N. M. Rothschild and Sons, although his greatest passion was zoology, particularly the collecting and taxonomy of birds and butterflies. He participated in, and funded, expeditions across the world to gather specimens, and wrote numerous scientific papers.  He established his own private zoological museum in Tring, which became one of the world's largest natural history collections. He opened the Museum to the public in 1892 and in 1936 gifted it to the Trustees of the British Museum.  Admission is free and it's well worth a visit (top of Akeman Street).

 The Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum now forms part of the Natural History Museum.

This tiger doesn't bite!  A notable eccentric, the animals that Walter Rothschild let roam his estate included zebra, a tame wolf, rheas, marabou stork, a dingo, kangaroos, kiwis, cassowaries and giant tortoises. A notable achievement was to train a team of zebras to pull his carriage.


Following World Way II, much residential housing was developed around the old town. New schools were opened and in 1975 the Tring section of the A41 dual carriageway was built, alas cutting across beautiful Tring Park.  The new expressway has since been extended to link us directly to the M25 to the South, and Aylesbury to the North.

Modern Tring is now largely residential with many of the population commuting to London to work.  We do have some industry including flour milling and brewing, and the Tring Industrial Estate has recently been developed on the North-Western boundary of the town.  The fortnightly Tring Auctions, held since 1832, continues to attract many visitors including BBC television's popular antique auction shows.

The Market House, which houses Tring's council chamber and offices, was built by public subscription to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, and opened in 1901.  Its timber framing, steep pitched roof and ornate chimneys (out of view) proclaim it to be another of William Huckvale's tudoresque creations, and a nice centre-piece for the Town. The ground floor, now occupied by a shop, was originally open.

Formerly the Rothschild estate office, and below close-ups of some of Huckvale's trade-marks . . . .




Victoria Cross is the highest award for gallantry that a British and Commonwealth serviceman can achieve.

    The memorial to Tring servicemen who fell during the Great War stands in the High Street in front of the Parish Church.

    One of the names listed is that of Edward Barber, VC.  Edward was born in Tring in 1894, the son of William and Sarah Ann Barber of Miswell Lane.  During the Great War he served in the Grenadier Guards in France.

Edward Barber, VC.
Photo Wendy Austin collection.

    On 12th March 1915 at the battle of Neuve Chapelle, Private Barber ran in front of the grenade company to which he belonged and threw bombs on the enemy with such effect that a large number immediately surrendered.  When the grenade party reached Private Barber they found him alone and unsupported, with the enemy surrendering all about him.  Edward was killed later that day by a sniper.  His name appears on the Le Touret Memorial in the company of many of his comrades who also have no known grave.  Edward's Victoria Cross is on public display at The Guards Regimental Headquarters in London.


    Just up the road from Tring, behind Saint Bartholomew's Church at Wigginton, lie the twin graves of James Osborne and his wife Rhoda. James, a private in the Northamptonshire Regiment, won his Victoria Cross on 22nd February 1881 at Wesselstroom (also called Wakkerstroom), South Africa, during the First Boer War.

James Osborn, VC., and John Mayes.
Photo Wendy Austin collection.

    On 17th December 1880, the British garrison in Wakkerstroom (C Company of the 94th Regiment) were relieved by a larger component of 120 men of the 58th Regiment under Captain H. M. Saunders together with about 45 volunteers from among the townspeople.  Most of the troops were housed in a mud-walled “fort” built some 1.5 km north of the town, the others being stationed in the courthouse and the Dutch Reformed Church, which had been modified with loopholes to enable rifle fire and had been surrounded by a deep ditch.  An old naval howitzer was placed in front of the church on the body of a water cart.

    The Boers under Commandant van Staden threw a cordon around the town and there were many exchanges of fire.  The British made occasional sorties to ‘recover’ cattle and horses that had been ‘captured’ by the Boers.  During one such sortie, on 22nd February, 1881, Private James Osborne, then aged 23, rode out under heavy fire to rescue a comrade, Private Mayes, who had been wounded.  Osborne was awarded the Victoria Cross for his valour,
his VC being published in the London Gazette in March 1882.  James died at Tring in 1928.



Armistice Day, 2010, also marked the funeral of Corporal David Barnsdale of 33 Engineer Regiment.

David, who was from Tring and a former pupil at Tring School, was 24 years old and on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. He lost his life while clearing improvised explosive devices in the area east of Gereshk. His colleagues described David as "a hugely popular guy, a fantastic son, grandson, brother, boyfriend and friend who will be sorely missed". He leaves his parents Wendy and Stephen, his sister Vanessa and his girlfriend Helen.

A very large crowd assembled in Tring to witness David's funeral at the Parish Church.

St Peter & St Paul Church, Tring.


Note on the Tring Market Charter.

    "Order to all the king's bailiffs and ministers and other lieges throughout the realm not to distrain the men and tenants of the archbishop of Canterbury of his manor of Tring for payment of toll on their goods and wares, as that manor is of the ancient demesne of the crown and they and their ancestors have been quit of such payments since time beyond memory; and they are being unlawfully distrained to make such payments at various places."

From: 'Market Privileges 1381-1385', Borough Market Privileges: The hinterland of medieval London, c.1400 (2006).


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