Area Guide: George Bernard Shaw is forever linked to the village of Ayot St Lawrence
- Credit: Archant
Ghosts and playwrights make up the colourful history of this little parish, found along country lanes outside of Harpenden...
Ayot St Lawrence is a small village and civil parish nestled in the centre of Hertfordshire, between Harpenden and Welwyn.
The village is situated along the southern side of a winding road. Surrounding it is a 17th century school house and timber and plaster house. The village is part of the Welwyn Hatfield district, with a Welwyn post code (AL6).
Residents in the area would be paying up to £1029 for a Band A property in council tax, and up to £1543 for a Band D property.
Properties in this area are quiet, with generous amounts of interior and exterior space. According to housing statistics, the average price paid for a house is £1,363,750. The current average value for a house is £1,528,034, and £2,276,301 for a flat. Properties to rent are approximately £1,250 per calendar month.
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Easily accessible tube links include Welwyn north and Welwyn garden city railway stations.
Landmarks and History
Ayot St Lawrence old church was partially decimated under orders by Sir Lionel Lyde in 1775, as the structure blocked the view from his house. The church was dedicated to St Lawrence, a martyr who supposedly had his heart roasted on a grill in Aboyt Manor in the 12th century!
The building was replaced by a Greek revivalist church in the 18th century. Ruins still remain from the structure for a historical visiting site.
The new Greek revival styled church was commissioned by Sir Lionel Lyde in 1776, designed by an architect named Nicholas Revett who was inspired by Greek architecture. The new St Lawrence church was modelled with influence from the temple to Apollo.
Reports of a ghost in The Brocket Arms were first recorded in 1969. One evening, at approximately 9PM, staff member Mrs. 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.
Shaw’s corner is an arts and crafts house. The establishment’s appellation is derived from playwright George Bernard Shaw. Shaw’s corner is ideal for a fun, educational, extra curricular outing for children. The craft house is set in a classic English garden.
Ayot St Lawrence is sat within an array of countryside, popular with walkers.
The Brocket Arms, mentioned earlier, is a 4 star 14th century country inn. A 5 minute walk from Shaw’s corner, the inn is equipped with TVs and free wifi. En suite or private bathrooms are available depending on preference. Rooms are supplied with tea and coffee-making facilities. Upgraded rooms include 4-poster beds.
Complimentary English breakfast is served in the old English bar and restaurant, with low beamed ceilings and fireplaces, creating a cosy and relaxed ambiance.
L’olivo Ristorante Italiano is a modern restaurant located 1.9 miles from Ayot St Lawrence. Its spacious modern décor is also equipped with a comforting fireplace in the bar dining area. The popular restaurant has received various positive reviews for a trusted enjoyable dining experience.
Focus on Shaw’s Corner
Shaw’s Corner was originally built as the New Rectory for Ayot St Lawrence by the Church of England in 1902. The house was designed very much in the Arts and Crafts style with stained glass windows and hearts cut into the banisters.
We’re not sure if the house was ever used as the rectory, as it was offered for rent by the Church of England by 1906. The Shaws had just left a house nearby in 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 George Bernard Shaw died in November 1950, he left behind a house 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 Shaw’s wife 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, the collection at Shaw’s Corner is full of treasures.
Focus on walking routes
Nestled deep in the Hertfordshire countryside, Ayot St Lawrence holds plenty of interest for the visiting walker. There is one route in particular, popular with ramblers which is an easy walk out into the countryside, which when added to the other attractions, will make this a very nice half day out. All of the countryside section is waymarked, with the first section to the southern-most part of the Ayot Greenway following The Hertfordshire Way, which is the longest path in the county. The trail is a circular walk.
Roadside parking is available adjacent to, or near the ruins of The Ayot St Lawrence Old Church, which is easily visible from the road. Whilst its main gate is usually padlocked, a notice nearby gives contact numbers if you would like to have a closer look at the church and churchyard. There is also a steel plaque just inside the grounds that gives some details of the church’s chequered history.