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The first recorded mention of the town is the grant of land at Hamaele by Offa, King of Essex, to the Saxon Bishop of London in AD 705.Hemel Hempstead on its present site is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as a vill, Hamelhamstede, with about 100 inhabitants.In 1798, the canal from the Thames reached Two Waters, just south of Hemel Hempstead, and opened fully in 1805.Hemel's position on the commercial transport network was established further in 1837 when the route of the new London and Birmingham Railway reached the town.
In that same year, the town was granted a royal charter by Henry VIII to become a bailiwick with the right to hold a Thursday market and a fair on Corpus Christi Day.
In Old English, "-stead" or "-stede" simply meant a place, such as the site of a building or pasture, as in clearing in the woods, and this suffix is used in the names of other English places such as Hamstead and Berkhamsted.
It is theoretically possible for a previous name to have become corrupted to something very similar to Hempsted, & that "Hemel" originated as a way of specifying Hemel Hempstead as opposed to nearby Berkhamsted.
Unusually fine medieval wall paintings from the period between 14 were discovered in some cottages in Piccotts End, very close to Hemel Hempstead in 1953.
This same building had been converted into the first cottage hospital providing free medical services by Sir Astley Cooper in 1827.
The Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead branch railway — affectionately known as the Nickey Line — crossed the town centre on a long, curved viaduct, eventually serving three local stations in the town at Heath Park Halt, Hemel Hempsted (Midland) and Godwin's Halt.