Hertfordshire has many beautiful villages and hamlets. So it’s no surprise that centuries ago our county was home to even more.
Unfortunately, over time these beautiful places have been lost to development and in some cases to ruin. Many were located on important routes to London, and over time these routes changed and villages were abandoned.
Some colonial historical records have survived – notably the Domesday Book of 1086, which was a survey of much of England and Wales.
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Here is a selection of stories from villages in our region, how many people lived there and why they were left abandoned.
Just three miles from Baldock, Caldecote is a small group of houses around the now redundant Church of St. Mary Magdalene. The village was first mentioned in the Domesday Book compiled in 1086, although historians believe it could date back much further.
While the village is now cut off from the main roads, it was once located between Stotfold and Ashwell, which were much more important in the Middle Ages.
According to the North Herts Museum, the first remains discovered date from 2200 to 1700 BC. In the early 14th century, crop failures struck, leading to famine and then two outbreaks of the Black Death.
Around 1600 the town was abandoned, in addition to two farms – one at the manor and Caldecote Marsh, which would also soon be abandoned. A mansion remains today – although obviously much altered and this building is believed to have been constructed around 1475.
Situated near where Digswell still stands near Welwyn North railway station and between Welwyn and Garden City, the village was largely lost in the upheaval. The village was first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, with a population of 37 households – relatively large for the time.
The only real sign of the old village is the Church of St John the Evangelist which was built in the 13th century but has been significantly modified over the years. There is also Digswell House built on the same site as an older residence, but hundreds of years later.
3. Old Flaunden
It is not known when Flauden was first established between Latimer and Chenies in the Chilterns and on the border between Herts and Buckinghamshire. Nicolas de Flaunden first lived in a mansion in the 13th century, before his son rapidly improved it until it became a village.
However, the village was based on the banks of the River Chess and it began to flood regularly. Then, during the 18th century, construction began uphill, the town gradually abandoning its original site to disappear under water and grass, while Flaunden is now safe from flooding and much more settled between Chesham and Chorleywood.
Pendley near Tring was first settled around AD 300, but in the Domesday Book there is only a population of seven households. The land was seized by William the Conqueror in 1066 before being given to his brother-in-law Robert de Mortain.
The colony passed through very respectable hands as custodians, including Sir Robert Wittingham and Jon de Angle, considered the first MP. However, the mansion was destroyed in a fire in 1835.
The area was abandoned by the Harcourt family and put up for auction, with the rebuilding process beginning in 1872. Today Pendley Manor is a luxury hotel and spa, still in this 19th century building – which is much larger than the original. establishment lost.
5. New sales
First mentioned in The Domesday Book, Newsells was owned by Eudo Dapifer, steward to William the Conqueror. Just south of Royston, it was in the top 20% of settlements recorded in Domesday, with 44 households.
However, it is unclear how it grew from a small village to the private mansion it is today. The original mansion and country was built in the late 17th century but burned down during the Second World War when it was owned by racehorse breeder and landowner Sir Humphrey of Trafford and his family. After de Trafford’s death, the estate continued to function as an active stud farm.
6. Dinsley Temple
In the Domesday Book, Dinsley was home to 40 households, including 19 villagers. It would become an important part of the county after the Knights Templar moved into the area, which soon became known as Temple Dinsley.
The commandery built to house the Templars and host the cult would become the place of visit of the Templars from all over the country. The mansion belonged to King Harold before 1086, but there is no way to be sure when it was built.
When the Knights Templar disbanded, the estate was given to the Hospitallers, who would then be appropriated by King Henry VIII and handed over to his servant Sir Ralph Sadleir. Then the house was demolished and all signs of its past were erased.
Close to Bricket Wood, Hanstead is now a superb country house. It was built for Sir David Yule, one of the wealthiest men in the country during his lifetime between 1858 and 1928.
However, some kind of settlement goes back much, much further. In 1086 there was a colony with 26 villagers, three small landowners, four Frenchmen and one slave.
It belonged to the Abbey of St Albans, but unfortunately there is not much further information about its use. With other settlements often held by a lord or king, this may have been a sign that this was a more traditional village – but unless historians began to study the lost areas of St Albans, we may never know.
For more stories of where you live, visit In your region.
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