The town lies on the north-south A10 road which is partly shared with the east-west A414 (for Hertford to the west and Harlow to the east). There is a large viaduct over the River Lea at Kings Meads. The £3.6m two-mile bypass opened on 17 January 1979. At the north end of the bypass is the Wodson Park Sports and Leisure Centre and Hanbury Manor, a hotel and country club. The former route of the A10 through the town is now the A1170. The railway station is on the Hertford East Branch Line and operated by Abellio Greater Anglia and is on a short single track section of the otherwise double track line.
Archaeology has shown that Ware has been occupied since at least the Mesolithic period (which ended about 4000 BC) The Romans had a sizable settlement here and foundations of several buildings, including a temple, and two cemeteries have been found. A well-preserved Roman skeleton of a teenage girl has also been found. Ware was on Ermine Street, the Roman road from London to Lincoln. It has been said that Ware is one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe.
The modern name of the town dates from the Anglo-Saxon period when weirs were built to stop the invading Vikings from escaping in their longships after defeat by Alfred the Great in a battle near Ware. It was also a great coaching town, being on the Old North Road, less than a day's journey from London. In the 17th century Ware became the source of the New River, constructed to bring fresh water to London.
Mary I had Thomas Fust burnt at stake in Ware for refusing to convert to Catholicism.
The Ware Mutiny occurred on 15 November 1647, between the First and the Second English Civil War at Corkbush Field, when soldiers were ordered to sign a declaration of loyalty to Thomas Fairfax, the commander-in-chief of the New Model Army (NMA), and the Army Council. When some with Leveller sympathies refused to do this they were arrested, and one of the ringleaders, Private Richard Arnold, was court-martialled and shot.
62 Children were sent to Ware after the Great Fire of London.
In 1683, the Rye House Plot involved assassinating Charles II after he passed through Ware. It failed.
England's first turnpike (toll) road ran from Wadesmill to Ware. The town was once a major centre of malting.
In 1756 during the Seven Years' War, £350 was paid to the inns and public houses of Ware for the troops staying with them.
The Ware Town Council coat of arms was issued in 1956 by the College of Arms to Ware Urban District Council, and transferred to Ware Town Council in 1975. The arms are derived from matters with which Ware is associated — the barge rudders reference the bargemen of Ware, with the red and white striping on the rudders being the livery colours of the City of London, associating the Ware bargemen's free entry rights to that City (q.v.); the crossed coach horns reference the town's long history as a coaching town; and the sheaves of barley reference the malting history of Ware. The motto of the town "cave" (Latin for "beware") was suggested by the College of Heralds, with the intent of its being a pun on the town's name.
With the River Lea flowing through the centre of Ware, transport by water was for many years a significant industry. As an old brewing town (and some of the old maltings still stand, although none are functional), barley was transported in, and beer out via the river. Bargemen born in Ware were given the "freedom of the River Thames" — avoiding the requirement of paying lock dues — as a result of their transport of fresh water and food in during the great plague of 1665–66. A local legend says that dead bodies were brought out of London, but there is no evidence for this. "Buryfield" in Ware is thought by many to be where these supposed bodies were buried. The name apparently originates from before 1666, with the burial of large numbers of Roman inhabitants of Ware.
Tragedy struck the town on 25 January 1990 when a 15-year-old local girl struck by a falling tree was one of 39 people to die in a storm that ravaged Britain.
Ware has plenty of listed buildings by Historic England, many timber framed, Four grade I, fifteen grade II* and 181 grade II, including the remains of a fourteenth-century friary, now the local council offices and a conference centre called The Priory and Fletcher’s Lea. Recent restoration work has shown that it dates from the thirteenth century. Opposite the priory is the large fourteenth-century parish church of St. Mary. It is known for its elaborate font with large carved stone figures. The town is also famous for its many 18th-century riverside gazebos, several of which have been restored recently. It is also famous for the Great Bed of Ware, which was mentioned by Shakespeare. It is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, but from April 2012 until April 2013 it was loan to the Museum in Ware.The bed is 10'9" square and 7'6"high and has reputedly accommodated 12 London butchers and their wives!. Ware is also mentioned in the Canterbury Tales. Ware was the unintended destination of John Gilpin in William Cowper's comic poem.
Some of the buildings along the High Street date back to the 14th century. Ware used to have many coaching inns and passageways between some shops lead to their stables. Many of these passageways also have former maltings. Crib Street has a good sequence of timber framed buildings which have been restored since the 1970s.
Today the town's main employer is GlaxoSmithKline which has a large plant in the town, This company was formally known as Allen & Hanbury and has a long connection with the town, with many historical items on view in a section on the company in the museum . There are also many other small factories. It is also a commuting town for London, with regular rail services between Ware railway station and London Liverpool Street.
Fairport Convention's 1971 album "Babbacombe" Lee was inspired by an old newspaper story that fiddle player Dave Swarbrick bought in an antiques shop in the High Street of Ware when the band lived at The Angel former public house in nearby Little Hadham.
Ware Tourism Office.
Ware has its own Museum which in 2008 received Full Accreditation from the Museums, Archives and Libraries Council. The museum is independent and run completely by volunteers. In 2012/2013 Ware Museum was home to the Great Bed of Ware on loan for one year from The Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The bed is reputedly haunted by the ghost of its maker, Jonas Fosbrooke, who is said to harass any non-Royal person who attempts to sleep in the bed. The museum is partially housed inside an original Second World War Command Bunker used to co-ordinate local defences and respond to Air-raids and this part was refurbished for 2010. The museum contains many interesting items from the history of the town of Ware together with a number of exhibits relating to the Second World War and from Allen & Hanbury pharmaceuticals now known as G.S.K, a long established company in the town. There are also a number of exhibits for children and many special activity days throughout the year.
In August 2016 Hertfordshire's newest visitor attraction opened on its outskirts of Ware within the grounds of the Van Hage Garden centre in Great Amwell. Ventura Wildlife’s Zoological Gardens is one of the UK’s newest and most interactive small zoos and is currently set within approximately 2 acres of Hertfordshire countryside. This unique zoo offers visitors of all ages and abilities the chance to get up close to a variety of wild animals. The zoo is home to many animal species including; grants zebra, ring-tailed lemurs, red-fronted lemurs, red kangaroo (the first to be kept in Hertfordshire in over 150 years), wallaby, emu, Burmese python and reindeer. Unusual species housed within the collection include the only Cuban Hutia currently exhibited in a UK zoo and fossa, Madagascar's largest carnivore. Ventura Wildlife's Zoological Gardens participates within the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) for fossa and is involved in many other conservation initiatives both locally and internationally. As with all good zoos education plays a key role within the zoo and it is a proud institutional member of the International Zoo Educators Association. The zoo has recently completed its own education and conference centre known as the 'The Explorers Lodge' themed on the 1930-50's era of exploration and adventure.
The zoo is open all year round and offers a range of daily keeper talks, animal feeds and interactive animal encounter shows. For winter 2017 the zoo will be opening 'Critter Cover' and indoor area featuring 18 exhibits displaying a range of exotic insects, reptiles and small mammals from around the World.
Ventura Wildlife's Zoological Gardens is owned and operated by Ventura Wildlife an organisation based in Enfield dedicated to providing people with the chance to discover nature.
Ware is home to Scott's Grotto, built for John Scott, an 18th-century poet who owned Amwell House from 1768. The grotto, the largest in the UK, is a series of chambers extending over 65 ft into the chalk hillside. The chambers are decorated with shells, stones such as flint and coloured glass. The grotto is owned by East Herts District Council and was restored in 1990 by the Ware Society.
In Bluecoat Yard is Place House, Ware's oldest extant surviving building. It dates from the 14th century, with additions in the 16th and 17th centuries, and was once Ware's Manor House. It has a crown post roof.
The statue of a Maltmaker was unveiled in November 1999 outside St Mary's Church in time with the Millennium celebrations. This statue commemorates the days in which Ware was the principal malt supplier to London specialising in brown malt for a beer known as 'Porter' and was the premier malting town in England with 140 malt houses by 1880 but these have all now closed. The maltmaking days of Ware were at their peak in the 18th Century despite being initiated in the Middle Ages
The town's secondary schools include Presdales School for girls, a former grammar school, which is now a successful language college and The Chauncy School, a co-educational semi-independent academy. There are two independent schools (both co-educational) nearby: Haileybury and Imperial Service College (ages 11–18), located between the town and Hoddesdon to the west of the A10 and St Edmund's College (prep to Sixth Form), a Catholic school near Puckeridge to the north.
There are currently eight primary schools in Ware, the largest being St Mary's School and Christ Church CofE (VA) Primary School and Nursery.
There are also numerous preschools and nurseries, the oldest being Orchard House Preschool and the newest Riverside Nursery School.
Ware is also home to the Ware Campus of the Hertford Regional College (HRC) which in 2015 was extensively modernised with a substantial new building. The new £10.5million building houses the Creative & Enterprise Campus including 3D Design, Graphic Design, Fashion Design, Visual Merchandising, SetDesign, Photography, Art & Design, Fine Art, Animation & Multimedia and Creative & Digital Media.
Sports Facilities in Ware
Wodson Park Sports and Leisure Centre is located on the North side of Ware and is owned and operated by the Wodson Park Trust which is a community based charity providing sports and recreation facilities for the people of East Hertfordshire. It has an extensive range of Sports and entertainment facilities in including indoor sports halls, restaurants, entertainment facilitates and an external athletics facility. It is also the home to the Ware Football Clubs.
The Ware Drill Hall is a Grade II Listed Building in the centre of Ware which is home to many sporting clubs and community facilities and hosts many sporting, cultural and music events throughout the year. The facility is currently operated by The Ware Drill Hall Association (WDHA).
There is evidence to suggest that cricket has been played in Ware since before 1770 and the present Ware Cricket Club has its grounds at Bell Lane in Widford.
The Ware Bowling Club was founded in 1926 and in located in grounds behind the Ware Priory . In 2008 we became Bowls England Club of the Year and it is also well known for its Topiary hedges in the grounds.
Ware has two Non-League football teams. Ware FC was founded in 1892 and play their home games at Wodson Park sports centre in the north of the town. The other Non-League team is Wodson Park F.C., founded in 1997, who also play their games at the sports centre but on a separate pitch.
The Ware Wolves flag football team, most popular flag football team in Hertfordshire, takes its name from the town although it actually plays in Hertford.
The Chadwell Springs Golf centre is located in Ware and is currently undergoing a major refurbishment programme.
Hertford Rugby Football Club was formed in 1932 as the Old Hertfordians by a group of enthusiasts from Hertford Grammar School. The club played at six different venues until moving to their present location at Hoe Lane in Ware in 1949. It is also home to the The Old Hertfordians Squash Club which has two courts here.
Ware was one of the first places out of London to take up the Scouting movement and now has many Scouts and Guide clubs.
Ware has two swimming pools one indoor and one outdoor:
Fanshawe Pool - The Fanshawe Pool and Gym is located in Park Road.
Ware Priory Lido - The Ware Priory Lido was built in 1934 and is one of the few remaining still in regular use in the country. It was substantially altered in the 1970s with new changing rooms and is situated in the grounds of Ware Priory.
Swimming Club - Following a meeting of "The Townsfolk of Ware" in May 1934, it was agreed that a "swimming club" be formed and this is still running today and is now based at Fanshawe Pool.
The Ware Festival Committee organises a wide range of events throughout July; from a lively Carnival Parade, through to an Over 60s Party, Raft Race, Teddy Bear’s Picnic culminating in the 'Rock in the Priory' a one-day open-air music festival. Visitors to Ware during July will find a packed programme of events throughout the four Festival weekends, with something for everyone.
For over 30 years there has been an annual fireworks display in Ware on the nearest Saturday to Guy Fawkes Night each year. The display was originally organised by the Round Table organisation however in recent years it has been taken over by the 3 Rotary Clubs in Ware namely - The Rotary Club of Hertford Shires, The Rotary Club of Ware and The Rotary Club of Amwell. The event is held in a field off High Oak road and attracts many thousands of attendees. All the profits from the event are donated to both local and international charities supported by Rotary.
Dickensian Evening is an annual event that celebrates the work of Charles Dickens, in particular his festive novel - A Christmas Carol and takes place on the first Friday in December each year.
The event is run through the town centre and the Drill Hall is also used for pitches and stalls. Some of the festivities include carol singing, fairground amusements and a craft market, making it an enjoyable event for all ages.
Edward Lear makes reference to Ware in More Nonsense Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, etc:
"There was an old person of Ware,
Who rode on the back of a bear:
When they ask'd, - 'Does it trot?'--
He said 'Certainly not!
He's a Moppsikon Floppsikon bear!'"
Ware has a number of Churches. Cormeilles-en-Parisis, France
Michael William Balfe — composer, owned the country estate Rowney Abbey, where he died in 1870
William Godwin - Philosopher, was a congregational minister in Dead Lane (now part of Church Street) 1778-9 and was said to have lost his faith here.
Russ Ballard - musician and composer, lead singer and guitarist of Argent, lives between Ware and Thundridge
Henry Coddington — vicar of Ware 1832–45
Nino Firetto – radio presenter, TV host and actor — born in Ware
Sir Nigel Hawthorne — actor, lived in the nearby village of Cold Christmas
Billy Lunn - singer, songwriter and guitarist of The Subways
Marc North — professional footballer with Leicester City and Grimsby Town — born in Ware
Brian Wilde — played Foggy in Last of the Summer Wine and Mr Barrowclough in Porridge — lived in Myddleton Road, Ware
Stuart Storey - the athlete and sports commentator has long been associated with Ware and the Wadson Park Sports facility.
Richie Firth - Absolute Radio breakfast sidekick to Christian O'Connell. Master of the jolly jape, slave to his appetite