Church Green in Harpenden Town Centre
Harpenden shown within Hertfordshire
|Area||4.93 sq mi (12.8 km2)|
|– density||5,973/sq mi (2,306/km2)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||East of England|
|EU Parliament||East of England|
|UK Parliament||Hitchin and Harpenden|
|Website||Harpenden Town Council|
Harpenden is a town in the City of St Albans district in the county of Hertfordshire, England. The town's population is just under 30,000. Harpenden is an affluent commuter town, with a direct rail connection into London and property prices well above double the national average. Geographically it is located between (and a short distance from) two much larger neighbours: Luton town (to the north) and the city of St Albans (to the south). It is flanked by the villages of Redbourn (to the west) and Wheathampstead (to the east).
Geography and administration
Harpenden railway station is served by Thameslink on a frequent and fast rail link to central London. Some trains stop at 'all stations' on the route, others stop at St Albans before continuing non-stop to London St Pancras International (Harpenden to St Pancras International – 23 minutes). Trains run north to Luton and on to Bedford. From London, the trains continue south to Brighton via Gatwick, Sevenoaks or Wimbledon and Sutton. The rail link therefore gives direct access to London Luton Airport (one stop north) and London Gatwick Airport (approx 1hr 10 m on a limited stops train). The Nickey Line railway used to link Harpenden, Redbourn and Hemel Hempstead. It has since been converted to a path forming part of the National Cycle Network. In common with much of the region, Harpenden is an area of extremely high property costs. Land Registry data suggests that the average house price in Harpenden in the 1st quarter of 2006 was £500,902 (against £287,277 for St Albans District generally, and £183,598 nationally). The data also indicates that an unusually high proportion of houses in Harpenden are owner occupied (81.4%, as opposed to 69.6% in the District generally, and 66.2% nationally). The average price of a detached house is over £900,000 as of January 2012.
Harpenden has a large number of its streets named after English literary figures on the East side of the town (an area known, unsurprisingly, as the Poets' Corner), including Byron Road, Cowper Road, Kipling Way, Milton Road, Shakespeare Road, Spenser Road, Shelley Court, Tennyson Road, Townsend Road, Masefield Road and Wordsworth Road.
There are Roman remains in land around Harpenden, for instance the site of a mausoleum in the park at Rothamsted. A tumulus near the river Lea was opened in the 1820s and it contained a stone sarcophagus of Romano-Celtic origin. Five objects dating from around 150 AD, were inside including a glass jug with a Mediterranean stamp and samian ware dishes used for libations.
Up to the 13th century the area of the parish consisted of woodland with small hamlets and single farmsteads around cleared areas called "End" or "Green" and there are 19 Ends and 18 Greens in area of Harpenden and Wheathampstead parishes. Many of these still survive today.
Harpenden village 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 (where it is referred to as Harpendene) so it is inferred that the village grew up around then. The church of St Nicholas is the oldest church in the town, originally built as a Chapel of ease in 1217.
Just beyond the southern edge of the town lies Nomansland Common (sometimes simply called "No Man's Land") upon which part of the Second Battle of St Albans was fought during the Wars of the Roses. Nomansland Common also saw the first annually contested steeplechase in England, in 1830 when it was organised by Thomas Coleman, and the last fight of nineteenth century bare-knuckle fighter, Simon Byrne. It was also the haunt of the highwaywoman known as Lady Katherine Ferrers, better known as the "Wicked Lady".
A widespread but now little-known industry of Harpenden was straw-weaving, a trade mainly carried out by women in the nineteenth century. A good straw weaver could make as much as a field labourer. The straw plaits were taken to the specialist markets in St Albans or Luton and bought by dealers to be converted into straw items such as boaters and other hats or bonnets.
The arrival of the railway system from 1860 and the sale of farms for residential development after 1880 radically changed Harpenden's surroundings. First the Dunstable Branch of the Great Northern Railway passed through the Batford area with a station later named Harpenden East railway station (this line is now closed and forms a cycle track). Then the main line of Midland Railway was built in 1868 with a station near the main village which still exists today. The Harpenden and Hemel Hempstead Railway, know locally as the Nicky Line was opened in 1877.
Between 1848 and 1914 the common was a regular venue for horse racing. 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 to ladies." Golf has been played on the Common since 1894 and it was at that time Harpenden Golf Club was set up by a group of Harpenden people with the help and a financial contribution of 5 pounds from Sir John Bennet Lawes of Rothamsted Manor. The club moved to a new course at Hammonds End in 1931, at which time Harpenden Common Golf Club was formed by those who wanted to remain at the Common. In 1932 Bamville Cricket club was formed and shares part of the Common with the Golfers.
Harpenden is the home of Rothamsted Manor and Rothamsted Research (formerly Rothamsted Experimental Station and later the Institute of Arable Crops Research), a leading centre for agricultural research. 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 Gilbert..
Lawes inherited the family estate at Rothamsted 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 depend. Some of the long-term 'classical field experiments' begun by Lawes and Gilbert remain in place to this day (such as Broadbalk) representing a unique resource for agricultural and environmental research.
In 1913 the National Children’s Home moved to Harpenden with a large site Highfield Oval which was home to over 200 children. The site featured a print works, a carpenters’ and joiners’ shop, a bootmakers shop and a farm where boys undertook apprenticeships. Girls were mainly trained in domestic service with some being trained in sewing and office work. The children lived in a "family" of 8-10 children each run by a sister or house mother. The chapel was gift from Joseph Rank and was built in 1928. The home was run on site until 1985. The site is now the head office of Youth with a Mission an international Christian missionary organization.
During the Second World War, Harpenden was used to evacuate children from heavily-bombed London. However, Harpenden was not totally confident in its safety, as evidenced by the now decaying Bowers Parade air raid shelters, soon to be secured for the future. It has been suggested both that it be used for educational and emergency training purposes.
The Harpenden and District Local History Society has a collection of local material and archives which can be consulted, and holds regular meetings on topics of historical interest.
Harpenden has many shops commonly found in other English towns, with three central supermarkets, multiple female clothes shops, charity shops, banks, estate agents and chemists. A good proportion of these are run by independent retailers. The local council has resisted the opening of fast food chain outlets. Cafes are also common in Harpenden, but with only two commercial chains; the rest are owned independently. There are multiple restaurants, mainly of Italian origin, and many pubs. The Batford and Southdown, and Luton Road districts also have their own shopping areas.
Parks and commons
A notable feature of Harpenden is its abundant parks and commons. The central area of Harpenden, known locally as "the village" is characterised by Church Green, Leyton Green and the High Street Greens, which give the town its provincial feel.
Just to the south of the town centre is Harpenden Common, stretching from the shops in the town centre for more than a mile to the south, encompassing a total of 238 acres (96 ha). Today Harpenden Common hosts two cricket clubs, Harpenden Cricket Club, a Hertfordshire Premier League club that celebrated its 150 anniversary in 2013 and Bamville Cricket Club who play on Sundays on the golf course, a football club, bridle ways for horse riding, ramblers' paths and Harpenden Common Golf Club, all contained in an area of natural beauty which was awarded a national Green Flag Award in 2007. Harpenden Town Council is keen to help retain and maintain the environment and oversees habitat issues including bird and bat watching, the maintenance/regeneration of gorse, fungi and all the original wildlife(fauna and flora) for the benefit of the people of Harpenden. Since 1894 Harpenden Common Golf Club has traditionally maintained a large part of the common and today works closely with Harpenden Town Council and Countryside management. This partnership has enabled the people of Harpenden to take full advantage of the common for all kinds of leisure activities, and the relationship of the golfers and others users has been excellent for many years.
Just to the south of Harpenden is the large expanse of Nomansland Common.
Harpenden has several secondary schools:
- St. George's School, a specialist Technology and Language College
- Sir John Lawes School, a specialist Media Arts College and Science College and Teacher Training college
- Roundwood Park School, a specialist Mathematics and Computing College and Language College
- Aldwickbury School is an independent all-boys preparatory school.
Harpenden is twinned with:
- Rothamsted Research, the largest agricultural research centre in the United Kingdom, and perhaps the oldest in the world, is in Harpenden.
- In a 2008 episode of Peep Show, Sophie was mentioned as owning a mug marked "Harpenden, Harpenden, Harpenden".
- An annual classic car show, "Classics on the Common", is held on the last Wednesday in July attracting over 10,000 visitors and 1300 cars. One of the biggest events of its type in Europe, it is a free event with any monies collected going to charity.
- In the Monty Python's Flying Circus episode "Deja vu", Michael Palin hijacks a plane and wants it to fly to Luton, then he changes his mind and wants them to take him to Harpenden. Also in Monty Python the Poet McTeagle says "Oh give to me a shillin' for some fags and I'll pay yet back on Thursday, but if you can wait till Saturday I'm expecting a divvy from the Harpenden Building Society."
- In the final episode of BBC 1's Miranda, Series 3, Harpenden was mentioned as a possible destination for Miranda.
- Nan Asquith, the pen name of Nancy Evelyn Pattinson, the author of 20 or so romantic novels, settled in Harpenden after the war and stayed there until shortly before her death in the seventies.
- Julian Bliss, international clarinettist and child prodigy was born and raised in Harpenden.
- Steve Borthwick – who is the current Saracens rugby captain lives in Harpenden.
- Ken Brown, who played in the Ryder Cup and is now a commentator for major golf competitions such as the British Open, grew up and still lives in Harpenden and is a member of Harpenden Common Golf Club.
- Steve Bould Ex-professional footballer and current Arsenal assistant manager
- Craig Charles, comedian and actor in Red Dwarf and Coronation Street and host of the Funk and Soul Show and Robot Wars.
- Ralph Chubb, poet, artist and printer was born here in 1892.
- Dave Clarke visually impaired Paralympic GB football captain
- Donald Coxeter, 20th century geometer attended St. George's School.
- Joanna Dennehy who murdered three people in Peterborough grew up in Harpenden.
- Matt Dickinson, Everest mountaineer, author, scriptwriter and director.
- Lee Dixon, former Arsenal footballer.
- Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, involved in the Dreyfus affair lived in Milton Road, after his flight from France until his death in 1923. He is buried in St Nicholas' churchyard.
- Siobhan Fahey, singer in Bananarama lived in Harpenden while she was 14 – 16. She attended Sir John Lawes School for those 2 years.
- Andy Farrell, Saracens and England Rugby player.
- Owen Farrell, rugby player for Saracens and a former member of St Georges School.
- Ronald Fisher, a statistician who almost single-handedly created the foundations for modern statistical science. worked at Rothamsted Experimental Station.
- Ben Foden, Northampton Saints and England International Rugby Union player.
- Miles Golding, classical musician and violinist of Split Enz.
- Martin Gore from the band Depeche Mode.
- Chris Grigg, businessman, Chief Executive of British Land, lives in Harpenden
- Una Healy, singer from The Saturdays
- Richard Herring, Comedian and podcaster, living in Harpenden while London home is renovated.
- George Hogg, British journalist who rescued 50 orphaned children in China during the Japanese occupation.
- Frank Ifield, Australian singer and yodeller lived in Harpenden.
- Guy Johnston, cello soloist and winner of BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2000.
- Stanley Kubrick, filmmaker, lived and died in nearby Childwickbury Manor.
- Henry Lawson, Australian writer, lived in 'Spring Villa', Cowper Rd, Harpenden from July–September, 1900.
- Andy Linighan, former Arsenal footballer.
- Doug McAvoy, former General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers lived in Harpenden between 1975 - 1990.
- Eric Morecambe, comedian, lived in Harpenden, close to his beloved Luton Town FC. His funeral and burial took place in St. Nicholas Church. The Public Halls are named after him.
- Albert Moses, an actor who starred in Mind Your Language playing Punjabi student Ranjeet Singh and a number of James Bond films.
- John Motson, Football commentator.
- Tim Rice, the composer, attended Aldwickbury School.
- Christopher Strauli, actor, who starred in Only When I Laugh and Full House was born in Harpenden.
- Dame Ellen Terry, actress 1847–1928, who lived in Harpenden from 1868 to 1874.
- Katherine Warington, research botanist, 1897-1993, born and lived in Harpenden; worked at Rothamsted Experimental Station.
- Sir John Wittewronge, owned and lived at Rothamsted Manor, where in the seventeenth century he kept a weather and gardening diary which has very early records of rain, temperature and winds.
- Ashley Young, Manchester United and England International football player.
- Richard Youngs alternative musician, grew up in the town and recorded several albums there, especially Lake and Advent.
- Jack Wilshere Arsenal and England International Football Player
- Mick Harford Ex-England International Football Player and Manager. Currently working for Millwall Football Club. He notably managed Luton Town Football Club.
- Jonathan Vernon-Smith Radio presenter for BBC Three Counties Radio was born in Harpenden and attended Sir John Lawes School
- Joe Lenzie Music Producer and DJ was born in Harpenden and attended Sir John Lawes School
Harpenden is home to various sports clubs. Just a selection are listed below:
- Harpenden Cricket Club
- Harpenden Town Football Club
- Harpenden Rugby Football Club
- Elliswick Lawn Tennis Club
- Harpenden Lawn Tennis Club
- Harpenden Dolphins Cricket Club
- Bamville Cricket Club
- Harpenden Colts Football Club
- Harpenden Hockey Club
- Harpenden Golf Club
- Harpenden Common Golf Club
- Harpenden Swimming Club
- Harpenden (Lawn) Bowling Club
- Harpenden Aro Runners 
- Skew Bridge FC 
- Harpenden Rovers Football Club
- Forastero Harpenden Cycling Club
Scouting in Harpenden
There is a strong tradition of scouting in Harpenden. There are a large number of scouting units in and around the area of Harpenden, all falling under the heading of the "Harpenden and Wheathampstead District Scouts".
Harpenden Scout Groups
Harpenden Explorer Scout Units
As well as taking part in a number of volunteer roles and marching in both the remembrance and St Georges day parades, a well known local institution that heavily involves the local scouts is the Harpenden Gang Show. An annual variety show in which the cast is composed entirely of cub scouts, scouts and explorer scouts, all between the ages of 9 and 18. The Harpenden Gang Show recently earned the accolade of being the worlds longest continuously running Gang Show, with a performance every year since 1949.
- Hertsdirect.org, however, other sources suggest that the population is either higher, or lower.
- "Current House Prices in Harpenden". Retrieved 2013-02-18.
- Source. Part of the discrepancy is explained by the "top-heavy" nature of the Harpenden property market, which has a disproportionately high level of detached houses (40.8% in Harpenden, against a national average of 22.8%) and a disproportionately low level of flats (16.5% in Harpenden, against 19.2% nationally) and, slightly perplexingly, significantly fewer terraced houses (15.4% in Harpenden, against a national average of 26.0%).
- "House Sale Prices in AL5 during January 2012". Home.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- Les Casey (18 February 2011). "Iron Age Burial in Harpenden, Pre-Roman settlements in the Lea Valley at Batford". Harpenden Local History Society. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
- Rosemary Ross (8 February 2011). "Traces of Roman occupation, Fragments found by builders or in field surveys". Retrieved 11 June 2012.
- Pat Wilson (September 1977). "Burial Mound in the Lea Valley, Romano-British sarcophagus found in the 1820s". Harpenden Local History Society. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
- Rosemary Ross (30 November 2010). "Ends and Greens (adapted from The Settlement of Wheathampstead & Harpenden, Vol 1, WEA)". Harpenden Local History Society. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
- Eric Brandreth (October 1975). "Notes on the Growth of Harpenden". Harpenden Local History Society. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
- "National Children's Home". Harpenden and District Local History Society. May 2002. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
- "National Children's Home Open Day programme". 20 June 1953. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
- "Growingup in the nch Forum: Harpenden - Highfield - Harpenden, Herts". Retrieved 8 October 2012.
- http://www.ywam.org/searches/BProfile.asp?BID=56 ywam.org
-  Survey of four World War II air raid shelters, Harpenden
-  Harpenden Town Council meeting re: Air Raid Shelter
- http://www.hertsdirect.org/comdirectory/comvol/herit2y/hthist3y/587461 hertsdirect.org
- "British towns twinned with French towns [via WaybackMachine.com]". Archant Community Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-20.
- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/classiccars/2754321/Classic-cars-on-the-Common.html telegraph.co.uk
- http://alumni.indiana.edu/profiles/alumni/jbliss.shtml alumni.indiana.edu
- Emma Clark (7 July 2010). "Interview: Harpenden golfer and commentator Ken Brown". Hertfordshire Life. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
- "Serial killer from Harpenden pleads guilty to triple murders". Herts Advertiser. 20 November 2013.
- http://www.economics.soton.ac.uk/staff/aldrich/fisherguide/rafreader.htm economics.soton.ac.uk
- "Warming Up". Richard Herring.com. 5 March 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- "Oral evidence taken before the Education and Skills Committee". parliament.uk. 23 June 2003. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Harpenden.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Harpenden.|
- Harpenden Town Council
- Harpendia – online magazine and video channel
- Harpenden History, Local History Society website
- Harpenden Society, Your Civic Voice