Posted: Tuesday 27th June 2017
Did you know that North Hertfordshire had its very own answer to Robin Hood in the form of a giant called Jack O’ Legs who stole bread from rich bakers to feed the poor?
Or that the roads of West Hertfordshire are said to be haunted by a 16th century aristocrat turned highway woman who terrorised the county before being fatally wounded during a robbery?
These are just some of the fascinating lore and legends that you can discover at Hertfordshire museums and heritage organisations throughout the county as part of the “Traditional Hertfordshire” project.
The project focuses on folklore, local traditions and superstitions and brings together six museums and heritage organisations across Hertfordshire to build a sense of county identity and shared heritage.
Organisations taking part in the project include Dacorum Heritage Trust, Mill Green Museum and Mill, North Herts Museum, Royston and District Museum and Art Gallery and Stevenage Museum. Each organisation has interpreted the theme differently depending on their collection and specific priorities, with the aim of engaging with local people and visitors to Hertfordshire.
North Herts Museum in Hitchin has recently hosted an exhibition focusing on local folklore and legends, such as that of the Alchemist of Lilley. Here, visitors also discovered that the county has a history of some curious and downright unusual traditions and customs. For example, in olden days, a snail kept in a pill box was thought to cure toothache and stewed earthworms were used to treat jaundice.
The museum worked with the Hitchin Folk Music Society to revitalise traditional songs and rhymes, once again setting them to music and performing them. The event also featured Morris dancing and storytelling.
Led by Hertfordshire County Council’s Museums Development Service, the project, which runs until January 2018, is being funded thanks to an “Our Heritage” grant of £68,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, along with a £5,000 contribution from SHARE Museums East.
Councillor Terry Douris, Cabinet Member for Education, Libraries and Localism, said: “Hertfordshire has a unique cultural heritage and the various exhibitions look back to days gone by and include myths, stories of fairies and witchcraft, crafts, folk music and a traditional fair.
He added: “The events are designed to be fun and family-friendly. There really is something for everybody – including workshops for schools, half-term activities for children and evening concerts of folk music. This project will inspire and reinvigorate interest and knowledge to help recreate Hertfordshire’s sense of local identity.”
Partnership projects like this one are an important part of the county council’s “Shared Heritage Strategy” which aims to increase opportunities to access and enjoy Hertfordshire’s heritage.
To find out more about activities and exhibitions, please visit: www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/TraditionalHertfordshire