• Sir Henry Chauncy

    1632-1719

    Born in 1632 in Hertfordshire at Yardley Bury. Chauncy attended school at Yardley vicarage. At the age of nine he went to Stevenage Grammar school, where he stayed for five years, he spent one year at Bishop's Stortford Grammar school under headmaster Thomas Leigh. Aged fifteen he went to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, but left without taking a degree. Regardless of any academic qualifications he was admitted to the Middle Temple, London, in 1650, and was called to the bar in 1656. Chauncy went on to hold a number of high positions at law in Hertfordshire, and was knighted by Charles II . 

    In 1681 he inherited his father's estate, which eventually gave him the opportunity and financial resources to give up the legal profession and compile The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire.

    It took him fourteen years to research and a further five years in the press, but it was finally published as a single large volume in 1700, the 500 copies dedicated to its principle sponsor the third earl of Bridgewater. The book was not, however, completed to his original design. Escalating costs and a private legal dispute prevented him from using further material he had gathered, his original intention being to publish it as an appendix and give to readers free of charge. As it turned out, the additional material was freely drawn upon by Nathaniel Salmon for his History of Hertfordshire, published in 1728. 

    Chauncy is widely credited as Hertfordshire’s greatest historian, and his Antiquities is regarded as the authority for all histories of Hertfordshire written before the 20th century. It has subsequently been drawn upon not only by Nathaniel Salmon, but also by 19th century historians, Robert Clutterbuck and J.E. Cussans. 

    Henry Chauncy married three times and fathered nine children. He maintained his house at Yardley Bury, but also lived at Lombard House, Hertford, where he is said to have written much of Antiquities. He died at Yardley Bury at the end of April 1719 and was buried in the parish church. 

    *Only 500 copies of the first edition were printed in 1700. A second edition, in two volumes with folding map and 45 engravings, was produced in 1826 by John Morse Mullinger in his print shop at No 18 North Street, Bishop's Stortford.

    References: from a Shortford History and Guide www.stortfordhistory.co.uk