Area Guide: Markyate is a venerable village in North Hertfordshire with a vibrant history and a peculiar set of former residents...
- Credit: Archant
Poised between the borders of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, Markyate has been part of all three counties at various points in its history.
Known variously as Marchiate, Marczate, Mercygate, Merkygate, Margate, and Markeyatestreet since the early 12th century, Markyate’s boundaries - like its name - have consistently eluded classification; the village is currently part of Decorum Borough Council, with a Luton phone number and a St Albans postcode (AL3).
A three bedroom detached property, with an unspoiled panoramic view of the countryside, has just become available on Millfield Lane, (guide price £2,750,000). Property prices average £754,645, £514,588 and £459,344 for detached, semi detached, and terraced houses respectively; properties in band A were taxed £1,035.51, band D £1,553.26, and Band H £3,106.52 by Decorum Council this year.
Formed in 1993, the Markyate Amateur Dramatic Society (MADS) gathers every year to put on a pantomime for the community; Pinocchio, Aladdin, Peter Pan and Jack and the Beanstalk have delighted residents in the last few years. MADS aims to involve people from all sections of the village, including the local schools, the Roosters (the Markyate social club), the Pavillion Indian restaurant, the Care group, the Brownies and the Scouts.
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Other community clubs and activities include Markyate Cricket & Football club, the Markyate Heath Walkers and the Markyate Dancing Academy.
Only two public houses now remain in the village: The Plume of Feathers and The Swan. The White Hart closed in the early 1970s, followed by The Red Lion at the end of 2009, both of which became private dwellings, and the Sun Inn in 2014. All of these had been around in the coaching era.
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Being near the M1 motorway and London Luton Airport, there is a large three-star Holiday Inn hotel just south-east of the village.
The area has several good schools; junior schools include Markyate Village School for children aged 4-11 in the state sector, and Beechwood Park school, a preparatory co-educational day and boarding school in the private sector.
The area is in the catchment area for Barnfield South Academy in Luton, an academy which Ofsted notes ‘produces very well-rounded pupils who are proud ambassadors’ for the school. Priory Academy in Dunstable, overlooking the historic Priory Church, provides care to all students from 7:45am to 5:30pm with breakfast and after school clubs.
Markyate is a 15 minute drive from Harpenden, Luton and St Albans. The area has strong transport links, located less than four miles from Luton Airport Parkway and Luton train stations. The closest airport, London Luton, is a mere five miles away.
Markyate’s saints and sinners
Along with Chris White, bassist and song writer for St Albans’ favourite band The Zombies, Markyate has several residents of interest including Christina of Markyate and Markyate’s ‘Wicked Lady’, Katherine Ferres.
Christina of Markyate’s story was recorded by a monk of St Albans Abbey in the early 12th century. According to the chronicler, Christina’s mother always knew that her daughter would be destined for great things when a dove flew into her sleeve and lived there for seven days when she was pregnant. As a teenager, Christina visited St Albans Cathedral with her parents, and left intent to preserve her virginity for the rest of her life. She did not tell her parents about her vow, however, who demanded she marry the eligible bachelor of their choice. A kind monk helped Christina escape her disagreeable suitor by disguising her in men’s clothes, and brought her to the cathedral for refuge. Christina eventually became head of Markyate’s community of Benedictine nuns.
Lady Katherine Ferres was an English aristocrat known as the ‘Wicked lady’, who, according to popular legend, terrorised the residents of Hertfordshire as a highway woman during the Civil War. At 13-years-old she was married to Sir Thomas Farshawe, who took control of her estate and sold off many of her assets, including her manor at Flamstead and much of its surrounding land. Katherine decided to take her financial future into her own hands, and was highly successful, before she was reportedly killed by a gunshot wound in a botched robbery.