Hertfordshire born, Hertfordshire bred...

Local words and phrases

Hertfordshire born, Hertfordshire bred

Strong in the arm, but weak in the ‘ead.

Were you born and bred in Hertfordshire? If so, you might have been taught this rhyme when you were younger.

This year, as part of our celebrations of 1000 years of Hertfordshire in the written word, we are collecting local words and phrases. 


Do you ever take a beaver to work? Farmworkers around Ardley, Datchworth and Wood End would regularly take a beaver to work, but we might call it a ploughman’s lunch. It was in fact their lunch or snack to be eaten in the fields.


Residents of Ware might remember being called moulder. During the 1960s, when the brickworks were still in operation there, a good friend might have been called a moulder.

A warning

Finally, a piece of local lore:

Borrower takes and breaks

Owner lends and mends


Many thanks to those who have shared these pieces of local culture.

If you know any local words or phrases, please add a comment to this page.

This page was added on 14/01/2011.

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  • Many years late, but re Hertfordshire hedgehogs.
    I was told that it was because we were supposed to be prickly bastards.

    By John Innes (08/04/2020)
  • Gwen: born in Bournemouth, like my father, my immediate recollection was “Hampshire Hog”. Purist would claim that can’t work for a female!

    By Steve Miller (22/12/2013)
  • If we left a door open we were asked if we were born in a barn, not Redbourn. A case of Chinese whispers perhaps? Yes I’m a Hertfordshire Hedgehog too. Mum was born in Hampshire, what does that make her

    By Gwen Chaloner (14/05/2013)
  • nige here iwas born and bred in hemel and ive never ever heard the term treacle bumpstead and my family go back to the 1400s in hemel . i will see if my mother can shed any light as she is about to visit me in 4 weeks time in wagga wagga nsw australia watch this space

    By nigel stanbridge (07/09/2011)
  • Thankyou ricasso for Camel Bumpstead. I have only heard and read about it as Treacle Bumpstead from other sources. It looks like Hemel hempstead has more than one nick name. Alan French.

    By Alan French (27/05/2011)
  • sorry, dont mean to sound picky but its not Beaver, its Bever, as in Beverage, at least thats what the old chaps in me village of Sandridge called it

    By ricasso (10/05/2011)
  • If I left a door open at home my grandmother, who was Hertfordshire born & bred, would always ask: “Were you born in Redbourn?”

    By Shirley Everall (04/05/2011)
  • I’m Herts born and bred, I was always told it was camel bumpstead !

    By ricasso (04/05/2011)
  • Just another point, having left Herts about 30 years ago I’ve lived in and travelled around many county’s in the country and I can say that phrases like swede basher and also carrot cruncher are common to most areas in Britain, as is the “born and bred, strong in the arm etc…” saying, the relevant county name being inserted in the appropriate place!

    By ricasso (04/05/2011)
  • I must have a treacle mind. I see that I have made more than one typing error in trying to correct the previous typing error. The word tying should be typing, and mpre should be more. I am embarrassed.

    By Alan French (28/04/2011)
  • SWEDE BASHER: I have been in two minds whether to refer to this expression, as the first time I heard it the person jokingly called themselves by this term. But recently, someone has informed me that during the 1950’s they were called this and took it as an insult. I do not know if swede basher is exclusive to Hertfordshire, but it is/was a term for someone born out in the country/countryside. It has been used, and so I impartially submit the term for this thread. I do not intend it as an insult.

    By Alan French (28/04/2011)
  • Hi, Correction to Treacle Bumpstead. I have made a tying error. Where I said 29th Century, it should read 20th. I am sorry and will write a hundred times, “I must be mpre careful in future.”

    By Alan French (22/04/2011)
  • TREACLE BUMPSTEAD: Nick name for Hemel Hempstead. Various theories put forward as to how this arose. Including cockney rhyming slang. Has even been linked to Bovingdon Docks. But according to a book titled Tales of Hertfordshire, it was an uncomplementary term, given by people in outlying districts, who said that people from Hemel Hempstead had treacle minds.

    During the 29th Century, an amateur comedy film was made called Treacle Bumpstead by Hemel Hempstead Cine Society. Now Hemel Hempstead Movie Makers. It was shot in colour on super 8 and given striped sound. No copies have ever been made, as far as I am aware.

    By Alan French (20/04/2011)
  • Only thing that comes to mind is that we were always called Hertfordshire Hedgehogs but I do not know why.

    By John Halsey (20/04/2011)