Hertford to the Fore – meet the ambitious people of Fore Street in our county town

PUBLISHED: 11:48 10 July 2013 | UPDATED: 12:00 10 July 2013

Chris Addison, Hertford Corn Exchange

Chris Addison, Hertford Corn Exchange

clive tagg 2013

Hertford has been at the heart of the county’s political and trading life since Saxon times and its Norman castle and medieval architecture speak of its strategic importance over the centuries. John Hutchinson picks one street – Fore Street, and finds it still full of ambition

It was built on the site of an old butcher’s market in 1857. Prior to that it was the site of a prison, where rumour has it the last ever witch in England was hanged. Now the Hertford Corn Exchange it is an entertainment venue and enjoying a renaissance after it was bought by Chris Addison and his wife Juliette five years ago.

‘When I took over the building, I said I wanted to give it back to the people in Hertford and the surrounding areas, and we are continuing to try and do that,’ says Chris. ‘We are trying to recreate the venue it used to be, to get good acts and music in as well as letting the community use it for events.’

The WHO, The Pretenders and The Kinks have all entertained audiences at the corn exchange, and after using most of their savings to give the site the push it needed, Chris is hoping he can turn into the premier entertainment venue in Hertford and beyond.

Chris, a former music promoter adds, ‘We are very passionate about the place - I love the challenge and wouldn’t change it for the world.

‘Every Friday we run a free entry live music night, and once a month we run an 80s disco, which has proved very popular and is also free.

‘We have had people visit from all over the world, from as far as Japan and Canada, but as I said five years ago, we never want to take our eye off the local community.’

Walking through the cobbled streets of Hertford and passing the numerous boutiques, there is a real air of friendliness as the owners seek to coax you in to see their specialised and often unique goods. This feeling of a personal service suits a town that has refused to sit back and let big business take over its high street.

One shop that aims to take care of its customers is Emma H Lingerie. Opened in 2011, it sells functional and sexy items, but owner Christine Bland’s overriding aim is to ensure all women get the correct bra fitting - something 80 per cent of British women don’t have, she says. What makes the shop stand out above and beyond this, is Christine’s expertise and specialist service for those who have had a mastectomy.

‘People are now definitely more aware of the issue and realise that it’s important to look at history in the family. The fact that Angelina Jolie had a mastectomy recently has helped bring this out in the open,’ she says. ‘Angelina had reconstructive surgery, but there are always going to be people who perhaps don’t have that option, or it wasn’t available to them at the time. We help cater for this and take every care in our advice and fitting.’

While for many in the county there’s only one Hertford, for one couple there are many, and their life’s mission is to visit them all.

Keith Marshall and partner Sue Dickson are hoping to visit every Hertford and Hartford (the town’s original spelling) in the United States – that’s 29 in total.

The Hertford Hunters, who run Marshall’s Furniture shop in the town, have crossed off 14 on the map so far, which has taken them to Indiana, Wisconsin, New York, Missouri and Vermont.

But a combination of the recession, plus work commitments has seen the likeable couple put their trekking on hold. Hopefully, as Sue explains, this is going to change. ‘We have definitely kept our eye on carrying this on, and we will finish it. The recession has made things difficult but we will get back to it – we are the Hertford Hunters and we want to write a book on it. Our children are older now so they can look after themselves a bit more, the map is still on the wall and we will definitely do it.’

Their furniture shop bears testament to their travels, with T-shirt from every namesake they have visited, as well as a map pinpointing them all.

Sue says the mission has brought them friendships and a lot of good times. ‘We love visiting all the other Hertfords - one minute we’d say hello to people who live there, the next minute we would be invited to stay the night.’

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