Area Guide: Ayot St Lawrence is a small village with a rich history
- Credit: Archant
With its chocolate box cottages and picturesque rural setting, Ayot St Lawrence is an idyllic Hertfordshire village best-known for its links to playwright George Bernard Shaw.
George Bernard Shaw, who moved to Ayot St Lawrence in 1906, once described the village as a “twelth century village where the last thing of real importance was perhaps the Flood”. Appearances may suggest that not a lot has changed since then - but, contrary to the impression its narrow roads and olde worlde homes may give, Ayot St Lawrence isn’t quite the remote rural idyll it appears.
Located between Harpenden and Welwyn village, Ayot St Lawrence is a short drive from both. It’s also five miles from Welwyn Garden City, while Luton is just 10 miles away. The villages of Kimpton, Codicote and Wheathampstead are all within a couple of miles.
Part of the Welwyn Hatfield district, Ayot St Lawrence has a Welwyn postcode (AL6). According to Zoopla, the average price for property in the village currently stands at £762,481.
It’s rural setting means Ayot St Lawrence has plenty to offer the visiting walker, including the nearby Ayot Greenway, which links Welwyn Garden City with Wheathampstead.
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Rail links are easily accessible at Welwyn North and Welwyn Garden City. The A1(M) is also close at hand, immediately east of Welwyn, while the M1 is just west of Harpenden.
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Ayot St Lawrence’s original Norman church was partially decimated under orders from Sir Lionel Lyde in 1775, as the structure blocked the view from his home, Ayot House. The church was dedicated to St Lawrence, a martyr who supposedly had his heart roasted on a grill in the 12th century!
The building was replaced by a neoclassical church, which was commissioned by Sir Lionel in 1776. It was designed by an architect named Nicholas Revett who was inspired by Greek architecture.
Ruins of its predecessor still remain and are now as popular an attraction among visitors as the classical Greek temple that replaced them.
The Brocket Arms
The Brocket Arms is a 14th century country inn offering local beers, fine food and a large garden, including a play area for children.
Accommodation is available (one room has a four-poster bed), and breakfast is served in the old English bar and restaurant, with low beamed ceilings and fireplaces creating a cosy and relaxed ambiance.
Reports of a ghost in The Brocket Arms were first recorded in 1969. One evening, at approximately 9PM, staff member Teresa Sweeny claimed to have seen a figure of a man dressed in brown with a cowl. She reports not being able to see his face. Once she turned towards him, he suddenly disappeared.
Several months later the ghost was seen again by a customer in the dining room doorway. The ghost has been described as a pilgrim who hung himself in what would now be the bar. It is said that footsteps can still be heard.
This Arts and Crafts house is the former home of playwright George Bernard Shaw. He and wife Charlotte had just left a house in nearby Welwyn and were in ‘the agonies of house hunting’ as Shaw wrote to H.G. Wells, when they found the house that would become their most permanent home.
When Bernard Shaw died in November 1950, after more than 40 years at the house, he left behind a home filled with the relics of a long and fascinating life - two long and fascinating lives, as many of the objects in the house were purchased by Charlotte. From the stunning bust of Shaw sculpted by Rodin and his 1926 Nobel Prize for Literature, to the daily tools of a writer that cover his desk, Shaw’s Corner is full of treasures.
Now owned by the National Trust, it is ideal for a fun, educational family outing, set in a classic English garden.