Hertfordshire Greens

Hertfordshire has 159 places with Green in their name, says Lee Prosser in An Historical Atlas of Hertfordshire (University of Hertfordshire Press, 2011) and around one third are mentioned before 1500. Tom Williamson (The Origins of Hertfordshire, University of Hertfordshire Press, 2010, pp231-233) says many developed in the 12th and 13th centuries from isolated farmsteads, although some bear pre-Norman conquest names. They are primarily found on higher ground, the term ‘green’ distinguishing the cleared area from the once surrounding woodland. Some place names appear to duplicate the distinction by including derivations of the Old English word leah, which means a clearing in the woods – Shilley Green.

That 159 might be open to challenge, though I admit I haven’t tried my own count. The Ordnance Survey suggests Upper Green is a distinct place but it seems to me it is actually the upper of two village greens in Tewin – in fact, local signage identifies another green that Upper Green stands above. On the other hand, Redcoats Green has its own signpost but the OS omits Green from the name.

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Today some are a just a place name. Wateringplace Green is a ruined cottage, a scattering of ancient oaks and ponds. Sedge Green is where three country lanes meet. Others continue as hamlets, postcard pretty with thatched cottages and cricket pitches and country pubs – Southern Green, Ley Green – while the expanses of grassland at the heart of Roe Green or Moor Green hark back to the common grazing around which the settlements rose. Then there are those that are enclosed and absorbed by Stevenage, like Pin Green and Symond’s Green. Norton Green is currently still freestanding because the A1M separates it from the sprawl though the thunder and fumes of the traffic are a price to pay.

During the (first?) 2020 corona virus lock down, my Jack Russell and I walked around and between several dozen greens in Hertfordshire and a few that fall inside Bedfordshire or Essex. The idea was to try to take at least one half-decent photograph at each place. Some are of the place – you can recognise it from the picture. But I didn’t want to gazette chocolate box houses and end up with a collection of tourist board pictures, so the prettiest places were often the ones where I found it difficult to find a distinctive subject. So, many of my photos are not identifiably of the place but from it or about it. Almost all of the pictures featured were taken during the lock down but a few pre or post date it. The shot of Bassus Green above is from 2017. Sadly, two of the ancient trees have since fallen. The pictures are all monochrome. I retain copyright on them but get in touch through the Contact page if you want to use one.

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