population of more than 30,000, Harpenden must be the largest Hertfordshire
community still claiming to be a village at heart.
Harpenden grew out of Westminster Abbey’s gradual clearing of woodland for
farming and settlement within its Wheathampstead manor, granted by Edward the
Confessor in 1060. A first reference to a parish church is in 1221 so the
town evidently grew up around then.
nearby Redbourn and Wheathampstead, this popular dormitory town enjoys wonderful
stretches of common lands and greens, which together cover nearly 250 acres.
1848 and 1914 the common was a regular venue for horse racing, which didn’t
please everyone. In his History of Hertfordshire in 1879, John Edwin
Cussans commented ‘Notwithstanding that these meetings are under the most
unexceptional patronage as regards the Stewards, yet for two days in the year
all the London pickpockets, sharpers and blackguards who happen to be out of
gaol are permitted to make Harpenden their own and to make travelling in a
first-class carriage on the Midland Railway a danger to men and an impossibility
arrival of the railway and the sale of farms for residential development after
1880 radically changed Harpenden’s surroundings. Nevertheless, the town’s core
remains intact and, in just a few minutes, you can either be out in the
countryside, in Rothamstead
or on the common.
Harpenden’s more prestigious contribution to history is Rothamsted Manor and its
Institute of Arable Crop Research, formerly Rothamsted Experimental Station. In
front of its main building, which faces the common, is a stone, erected in 1893,
commemorating 50 years of experiments by Sir John Bennet Lawes and Joseph Henry
Lawes (1814-1900) inherited the family estate in 1834. Acknowledged as
‘the father of agricultural science’, his early field experiments on
Hertfordshire farms led him to patent a phosphate fertiliser, the sales of
which, enriched him immensely. With the proceeds, he established the
experimental station, building laboratories in the 1850s. The station continued
the development of the artificial fertilisers on which most modern farmers now
Whilst still retaining that village feel, today Harpenden
is also a thriving commuter town. The Thameslink rail service offers fast,
efficient access to
in around 30 minutes. With excellent road access via the M1, M25 and A1M,
Harpenden is also ideally situated for the car user. Alternatively, nearby Luton
Airport, offers a convenient hub to an extensive choice of European city
Harpenden common remains a jealously guarded landscape
which boasts a County Wildlife Site designation and supports cricket, football
and golf amenities. Additionally, Harpenden’s Leisure Centre is located in
Harpenden offers a number of excellent restaurants and
several award winning pubs. Blessed with two quality, town centre, supermarkets
and innumerable boutiques and small shops, Harpenden is well placed to address
the needs of the serious shopper.
Southdown & Batford are distinct local communities within
Harpenden. Southdown is only 15 minutes walk from the town centre and railway
station. Additional extensive local shopping and dining facilities are also to
be found in both locations.
retains its alluring character; tree lined High Street, profusion of cottages
and town greens, today matched by modern facilities. With diverse and delightful
residential properties, a beautiful local amenity in the Common and a
well-deserved reputation for excellent schooling, it is not difficult to
understand why Harpenden is such a sought after location.