The Roisia Stone
Royston grew up at the crossing of two ancient thoroughfares, Ermine Street and the Icknield Way; the former was created after the Roman conquest, while the Icknield Way has long been accepted as a prehistoric routeway. The modern equivalent to Icknield Way is the A505 (which now bypasses the town to the north). The A1198, known as the Old North Road, follows the alignment of Ermine Street northwards.
A cross, variously known as Royse’s, Rohesia’s, or Roisia’s Cross, was erected by the crossroads at an unknown date (although the area is thought to have been awarded to a Lady Roisia during or soon after 1066) The cross gave the settlement its earliest name of Crux Roesia or Roisia’s Cross. By the 14th century this had become Lady Roisia’s Town, Roiston or Royston. The Roisia (Royse?) Stone, a large boulder of red millstone grit bearing a square socket, is thought to have been the base of the cross and still stands by the cross roads at the northern end of High Street.
King James’ Palace
On 29 April 1603 James VI of Scotland was travelling down to become King James I of England, pausing overnight at the Chester residence in Royston. Attracted by the suitability of the area for hunting, James later hired the house for a year. In 1604 the king decided to create a hunting lodge in the town by demolishing the “Cock” and “Greyhound” Inns. The king’s lodgings were completed in 1607, and were described in 1652 as “all of brick well-tiled double-built, in length 78 ft., breadth 43 ft., height from eaves to ground 24 ft., thickness of walls 24 inches”. The buildings were never extensive enough to cater for a full court, but provided a suitable spot for hunting, near enough to London for convenience and sufficiently far away to deter intrusion. Indeed he created a strict prohibition on anyone else from taking game within 16 miles of Royston and an elaborate infrastructure was established to support the King in the pursuit of his sport. He returned almost every year to hunt and shoot.
Royston’s War Memorials
The War Memorial in Melbourn Street was erected in 1922 to the memory of the servicemen of the town who were killed in the First World War and is now a listed monument. Each year it is the focal point of the Remembrance Day parade and service in Royston, one of the largest such services in Hertfordshire.
The central portion of Portland stone contains a group of figures, the centre one being Thomas Cartwright (theologian). The other figures represent a bowman at Agincourt, a medieval knight in armour, a soldier of Queen Elizabeth I, one of Cromwell’s Ironsides, a soldier of George II and one from Wellington’s army at Waterloo. In front is a two-foot high bronze statuette of a private of the First World War with a crow at his feet. On either side of the memorial are the names of those servicemen from the town who were killed during the First and Second World Wars.
Close by, in the Priory Memorial Gardens, is a further memorial to those who lost their lives in the Second World War. This memorial commemorates those members of the United States Air Force 91st Bomb Group, who died whilst stationed at Bassingbourn from 1942 to 1945. The original memorial, a fountain, was dedicated in 1963 and a replacement memorial was dedicated in 1989. The veterans from America return to Royston regularly, bringing with them children and grand-children to foster the long and lasting friendships that were forged during the terrible days of the war.