An overview, unfinished, unchecked for fact, grammar and spelling. I have a lot more to go however, but to celebrate the creation of Stanstead Abbotts Local History Society here is my contribution. If anyone wishes to correct and add they will be most welcome to visit the SALHS site and even join us!
R Dixon. May 4th 2012.
Stanstead Abbotts History.
It is quite sometime ago since Sharks swam along the High Street, probably in the region of four million years ago but luckily time and tectonic plate movement give us better conditions to enjoy the village.
Over hundreds of million years ago warm seas and billions of sea creatures together laid down the foundations of our little corner of Hertfordshire giving us the benefit of 250 metres of chalk beneath our feet. (The reputation of the Lea Valley and its limestone underlay has reached farmers as far afield as the Midlands for its ability to keep our fields green and fresh and on an even PH keel).
The Lea Valley was a late development in our country's geological history. The area was in fact the estuarine bed of a large river running west from Europe. (Here man found the conditions and hunting grounds ideal as long ago as 800,000BC. The remains of his hunting tools, camp fires and the bones of his kills can be found in this layer). Evidence of this movement of water has been found in our local gravel beds to the delight of our geologists. Large sheets of ice over the land 100,000 years ago caused the river to divert (to the area where the Thames is now) and melt-waters and rain over that amount of time caused a new river this time to run south cutting through this ancient estuary and created a valley, our Valley, and the River was named a long time ago called The Lea.
A fertile place to live.
It would take a few more thousands of years before anything recognisable as the High Street would be seen. A glacier or two had to melt first...before it finished forming the valley and eventually man returned.
Technologically he was better equipped on his return visit, he had the ability to make the finest of flint weapons, such as arrow heads which were second to none, and it is likely that he found the area a good place to live. An 8,000 year old camp fire and evidence of his fight to survive has been found near Roydon Road and at Rye Meads near Hoddesdon Road, along with arrow heads found around the village.
DNA and blood-grouping evidence in recent years tells us about movement of people on a large scale. We don't know whether they thought they were on holiday, or just blown off course, but it seems these first visitors to our village came from Ireland and the west. This goes against the traditional belief that we arrived from France. Our nearest blood brothers are, in fact, from the Basque area of northern Spain- some very determined tourists without doubt.
It appears that early man established himself into the environment by adapting to it and then manipulating it. Faint evidence exists that it is likely that he drained and created fish-funnelling points on the river. He built strong huts and even henge monuments in the same way as his generation did in other areas of our country. By 6,000 years ago he probably farmed and led a settled life here. With our modern development of this area we've wiped out nearly all the early evidence of his existence. Except, there is us, of course. DNA testing has given us direct proof of links between a 7,000 year old skeleton and families in the west country nearby. This gives us real evidence of continuity and belies the different names we give to separate our 'ages' e.g. Celt, Saxon or Norman. Maybe a few of our villagers go back to then too...