Map

The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from:

Summary

For more, see this page on the history, which includes:

Between 1644 and 1810, the site of the building that now stands at the corner of Market Square and High Street (No 2 Market Square - currently Bishop’s Stortford Tourist Information Centre) was that of the Reindeer Inn.

It was built when the town was fast becoming a popular destination for travellers and was just one of several hostelries that sprang-up around the busy market place at that time (See Market Square). Its status as an inn also means it was offering alternative accommodation to the long established George Inn at the corner of North Street, and therefore would have been an extensive property. Travellers necessitated plenty of available rooms and their horses required good stabling.

How popular the Reindeer was at the start isn’t known, but its fortune and reputation certainly changed in the early 1660s when a new landlady arrived. She was the notorious Betty (Elizabeth) Aynsworth, who with her husband, Edward Aynsworth, soon established the Reindeer as a place of good ‘entertainment’.

Betty had originally lived in Cambridge where she was a noted procuress (meaning she was basically a pimp who employed prostitutes). There was nothing particularly unusual in her role at that time, but her unsavoury reputation didn’t go down too well with the university authorities and she was eventually banished from the city by the Vice Chancellor.

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Market Square (Reindeer Inn)

Between 1644 and 1810, the site of the building that now stands at the corner of Market Square and High Street (No 2 Market Square – currently Bishop's Stortford Tourist Information Centre) was that of the Reindeer Inn.

It was built when the town was fast becoming a popular destination for travellers and was just one of several hostelries that sprang-up around the busy market place at that time (See Market Square). Its status as an inn also means it was offering alternative accommodation to the long established George Inn at the corner of North Street, and therefore would have been an extensive property. Travellers necessitated plenty of available rooms and their horses required good stabling.

How popular the Reindeer was at the start isn’t known, but its fortune and reputation certainly changed in the early 1660s when a new landlady arrived. She was the notorious Betty (Elizabeth) Aynsworth, who with her husband, Edward Aynsworth, soon established the Reindeer as a place of good ‘entertainment’.

Betty had originally lived in Cambridge where she was a noted procuress (meaning she was basically a pimp who employed prostitutes). There was nothing particularly unusual in her role at that time, but her unsavoury reputation didn’t go down too well with the university authorities and she was eventually banished from the city by the Vice Chancellor.

Whether or not her arrival in Bishop’s Stortford was by design or accident is open to debate, but there is little doubt she would have been fully aware of the town’s importance as a halfway-house for those travelling between London and the towns and cities of East Anglia, particularly Newmarket. Not only was Newmarket the site of Charles II’s country palace, it was also the home of horse racing and regularly attracted London’s gentry.

One contemporary chronicler wrote of Betty...’This famous lady has been carted out of Cambridge for a Bawd, then settled in Bishop’s Stortford and at length got into so good a plight as to entertain the nobility and foreign ambassadors between London and Newmarket, serving them in place with all the rarities desired.'

The most famous person known to have stayed at the Reindeer and partake in the ‘entertainment’ was the diarist Samuel Pepys, whose relationship with Betty (according to his diary) was a little more than platonic. . . .

Pepys's diary covered just ten years of his life (1659–1669), but wasn't published until over one hundred years after his death, and then not fully until 1970. Written in shorthand, it has been transcribed three times – the first in 1821 by Rev John Smith of St John's College, Cambridge. His transcription was then given to Richard Lord Braybrooke to edit, who in 1825 produced 'Diary and Correspondence of Samuel Pepys'. He added many footnotes, including this one:

'Elizabeth Aynsworth, here mentioned, was a noted Procuress at Cambridge, banished from that town by the University authorities for her evil courses. She subsequently kept the Rein Deer Inn at Bishop's Stortford, at which the Vice-Chancellor and some of the heads of Colleges had occassion to sleep, in their way to London, and were nobly entertained, their supper being served off plate. The next morning their hostess refused to make any charge, saying that she was still indebted to the Vice-Chancellor, who by driving her out of Cambridge had made her fortune. No tradition of this woman has been preserved at Bishop's Stortford; but it appears from the register of that parish that she was buried there 26th March 1686. It is recorded in the History of Essex, iii. 130, 8vo., 1770, and in a pamphlet in the British Museum entitled 'Boteler's Case', that she was implicated in the murder of Captain Wade, a Hertfordshire gentleman, at Manuden, in Essex, and for which offence a person named [William] Boteler was executed at Chelmsford 10th September 1667, and that Mrs Aynesworth, tried at the same time as an accessory before the fact, was acquitted for want of evidence; though in her way to the jail she endeavoured to throw herself into the river, but was prevented.'

This implies that Betty's attempt to throw herself in the river occurred after she was acquitted, so we can only surmise it was a guilt related attempt to commit suicide. Whatever the reason her conscience seems to have been permanently clouded, for though she returned to the Reindeer, and perhaps continued her old ways, she also made a point of fraternising with local church members and managed to procure herself a Christian burial in St Michael's churchyard.
Braybrooke's footnote is certainly informative, but what is questionable is the actual year in which he states the trial took place – See below: THE TRIAL OF WILLIAM BOTELER

The Aynsworths were amongst the town traders who issued their own trading tokens in the 17th century – one bearing the name of Edward Aynsworth, worth a halfpenny, the other with a deer, chained, inscribed with the name of Elisabeth. Her name also lives on locally as Aynesworth Avenue, a small housing development off of the Stansted Road.

In 1881, former town historian J L Glasscock wrote: 'The Reindeer Inn stood on the site now occupied by the house of Robert Cole'. This implies that the inn was demolished after closure in 1810, and that the house shown in the photograph (above) taken in the mid 1800s, replaced it. That's not to say Robert Cole actually built the house, but in his ownership it was later converted into a shop. Under new ownership in the early 1900s it became a grocers named Walkers & Co Stores Ltd. The premises has continued as a commercial outlet of one sort or another ever since.

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References

  • 1667
    • Oct