Area Guide: The Hertfordshire village of Flamstead
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
There’s much more to Flamstead than just a scarecrow festival! We found out more about this historic and characterful Hertfordshire village.
Immediately west of the M1, a short drive from Redbourn and Harpenden, is the pretty village of Flamstead. Although the first record of this ancient community does not appear until 1006 (mentioned in a Charter granted by King Ethelred to the Abbot of St Albans) there was a settlement present in Roman times.
The Domesday Book records the area, 80 years later, as being held by Ralph de Todeni, granted by William the Conqueror. The de Todeni family were Lords of the Manor for 244 years.
For an idyllic village deep in the Hertfordshire countryside, Flamstead is well connected with easy access to London. The M1 is a couple of minutes away and the nearest station is 3.5 miles away in Harpenden, with regular trains to London St Pancras.
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Flamstead is home to many attractive properties, from period cottages to more modern family homes.
There are only a handful of houses currently on the market in the village, ranging from a four-bed Grade II listed 18th century cottage on River Hill for £895,000 to a three-bed fixer-upper on Old Watling Street for £425,000.
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According to Rightmove, the overall average price of property in Flamstead is £514,708.
Flamstead has 65 listed buildings. The church (dedicated to St Leonard, a somewhat obscure 6th century monk) is difficult to date as it developed in stages, but it’s estimated to trace back to Saxon times.
The iconic tower dates from 1140 and a list of parish priests dating back to 1223 is recorded there. There are medieval wall paintings and the Saunders Memorial of 1670 also.
There are various other important buildings within the parish like the mansion at Beechwood (today a preparatory school). Beechwood Park gave its name to a song by The Zombies, written by the group’s bassist Chris White, who grew up in Markyate.
Also of considerable interest are the almshouses opposite The Three Blackbirds, which are dated 1669, and the pub itself, the western wing of which is 16th century.
Time Team come to Friar’s Wash
In 2008 Channel 4’s Time Team discovered a previously unknown major Roman temple complex near the parish at nearby Friar’s Wash. They ended up unearthing not one temple, but four - one of which is so rare it is only the second of its type ever found.
This came about when the team were presented with an aerial 30-year-old photograph showing double square cropmarks in a field.
When a tessellated pavement was discovered, a whole complex of buildings was revealed, becoming one of the most important excavations in the show’s history. They also unearthed numerous bronze and silver coins and lead curse-tablets made by 3rd century worshippers.
Festivals and Culture
Since the creation of Flamstead Scarecrow Festival in 2002, residents have made over 120 scarecrows every year, attracting thousands of visitors over the three day festival. Attendees pick up a trail map and voting form on arrival and make their way around the village, noting their favourite scarecrows. Last year’s festival raised around £23,000, which was donated to the church roof fund.
2014 marked the inaugural Flamstead Book Festival and the event has grown year on year. In the past the festival has attracted best-selling authors such as Tony Parsons, Ian Ridley and Sophie Hannah.
Flamstead Village School is a small primary with around 120 pupils on roll. Set in beautiful grounds overlooking valleys and woodland, it was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted at its last inspection.
Two of the closest state secondary schools are Townsend CofE in St Albans (‘good’) and The Stockwood Park Academy in Luton (‘requires improvement’).
Food and drink
The Spotted Dog has been a public house since around 1800 and has since been carefully renovated into a warmly inviting space in which to relax.
They serve great food, fine ales, delectable wines and quality coffee (supplied by their in-house coffee shop, CoffeeDog, which is open every morning). There’s always a roaring fire in the winter and the interior features unique reclaimed furniture from the 50s and 60s.
The Three Blackbirds is ideally situated for a snack or meal for ramblers and horse riders. The traditional menu includes pub classics such as sausages and mash and fish and chips, and afternoon tea is also available at weekends. There is table football for the children, a pool table, darts and BT Sports.
Finally, The Rose & Crown at Trowley Bottom is a more of an olde worlde boozer, and no less charming for it.