Harpenden is a town in the St Albans City district in the county of Hertfordshire, England. The town's population is just over 30,000. Harpenden is considered a commuter town, with a direct connection on the rail passing through Central London. Geographically, it is only a short distance from Luton town at the north and the city of St Albans towards the south. It is bordered by the villages of Wheathampstead to the east and Redbourn to the west. There was evidence found in 1867 that before the Roman presence, Belgic farmers occupied the area. A number of items were found such as mounts shaped like ram’s heads, a bronze bowl, and a bronze escutcheon. There are Roman ruins to be found in the land around Harpenden, for instance the site of a mausoleum in the park at Rothamsted. Near the river Lea a tumulus, or an ancient burial mound, was opened in the 1820s, which a Romano-Celtic stone sarcophagus was found. More artifacts dating back to around 150 AD were on the inside including samianware dishes for beverages and a glass jug with a Mediterranean stamp. Until the 13th century, the area of the parish comprised of woods with small settlements and lone farmsteads around cleared areas called "Green" or "End”. There are 18 Greens and 19 Ends, many still surviving at present in the parishes of Harpenden and Wheathampstead. Harpenden village grew out of Westminster Abbey's gradual woodland clearing for agriculture and settlement. A first allusion to a parish church is in 1221, in which it is mentioned as Harpendene, so it is concluded that the village developed up around then. The church of St Nicholas is the oldest church in the town, initially built as a Chapel of ease in 1217. Just outside the southern brink of the town, you can find the Nomansland Common, which is sometimes merely called "No Man's Land”, where a part of the Wars of the Roses was fought. Here in 1830 to the first annual steeplechase in England was organized by Thomas Coleman, and the last match of nineteenth century bare-knuckle fighter, Simon Byrne was held. Harpenden was used to evacuate children from the heavily bombed city of London during the Second World War.
Things to do, things to see
Harpenden has many shops, which are also commonly found in other English towns. These include three central superstores (Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and Sainsbury's), along with several stores for ladies’ clothing, banks, estate agents, chemists and charity shops. Independent retailers run a good proportion of these. You will find a lot of cafes in Harpenden as well, however there are only two commercial chains, namely Costa Coffee and Caffè Nero, while the rest are independently owned. There are numerous restaurants and pubs here for your culinary adventures. If you want to expand your options, you can visit the shopping areas at Batford, Southdown, and the districts at Luton Road.
A distinguished feature of Harpenden is its plentiful parks and commons. The central area of Harpenden, known locally as "the village" is characterized by Leyton Green, the High Street Greens and the Church Green, which give the town its rustic feel. Just towards the south of the town center is Harpenden Common, moving from the shops in the town center towards the south for more than a mile and covering a total of 238 acres. These days Harpenden Common hosts two cricket clubs, namely the Harpenden Cricket Club, which is a Hertfordshire Premier League club, and the Bamville Cricket Club, who play on the golf course on Sundays. They also hold events for a football club and offer bridle ways for horse riding and ramblers' paths along with the Harpenden Common Golf Club. This is all enclosed in an area full of natural beauty that was presented a national Green Flag Award in 2007.
Rothampsted Manor and Park
You can find it on the western side of the town. Rothampsted Manor and Park was part of the estate of Sir John Bennett Lawes, an agricultural scientist. The first mention of the Rothamsted estate was made in 1212 when Henry Gubion owned it. During World War II, it was commandeered for the use of the military, and after the war, it was changed into accommodation for staff and visitors to Rothamsted. This use continues to present day. The Rothampsted Experimental Station is still operative, but it is open for the public to walk through. Closer to the town, the spacious park remains a very lovely place to spend your summer afternoon. It is equipped with facilities such as tennis courts, a skate park, and a play area for children.
Batford Springs Natural Reserve
This reserve is situated on the River Lea on the eastern side of the town, and is an additional green open area to pass time. Why not pack a picnic for a day out and pass a tranquil afternoon surrounded by nature? Kids will love walking around this lovely place, which is also home to a river ford, weir and sluice gate that kids have fun exploring.
St Nicholas Church
It is the biggest church in its parish, and is located on Church Green just off the High Street. For 800 years, this church has provided a haven for people for worship. It was originally built as a Chapel-of-Ease in about 1217, until it was expanded as the population grew and the existing tower was added in 1470. In 1861, the old church was demolished to make space for a larger building. The tower contains a ring of eight bells, with the oldest of them dating from 1612.
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