Area Guide: Sandridge
- Credit: Archant
Sandridge is a parish, north-east of St Albans. It consists of a number of streets of small houses and villas, and sits to the east of Bernard’s Heath upon the land of Earl Spencer.
Originally known as “Saundruage” (meaning a place of sandy soil serviced by bond tenants) the earliest recorded mention of Sandridge is in 796 – the parish being part of the revenue of the Mercian Kings. It was given by Egfrith, son of Offa, in the first year of his reign to Abbot Eadric second abbot of St Alban’s Monastery and his monks.
In February 1461 the final skirmishes of the Second Battle of St Albans took place in Sandridge (the Earl of Warwick used it as a means of retreat).
Sandridge was one of the earlier homes of the great English general, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, and his infamous wife, Sarah. Quite the scandal surrounded Sarah, who was very close to the monarch at the time, Queen Anne. Sarah was known to be overly confident with the men in her life, and with the Queen. This eventually lead to her over-stepping the mark when her jealously of Anne’s friendship with another woman drove her to insinuate the Queen was a lesbian, ultimately leading to Sarah’s dismissal from the royal circle. On her death, she left their home, Sandridge Manor, to her grandson John Spencer. The manor of Sandridge has descended with the title of Earl Spencer to John Poyntz the present earl.
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There is a park at Marshall’s Wick and a large common north of the village called Nomansland which was formally a fruitful source of dissension between the Abbeys of St Albans and Westminster.
Coleman’s Green is a small hamlet on a branch road between St Albans and Wheathampstead. There stands an old ivy-covered chimney there. John Bunyan, the writer and Baptist, is said to have preached, and occasionally lodged, in the cottage this chimney was attached to.
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On entering the village from the south, the old workhouse, now converted into cottages, sits back from the road with Pound Farm, a picturesque 17th century house, on the opposite side of the road.
There are many interesting earthworks in the parish. Namely the Devil’s Dyke, which forms part of the boundary between Sandridge and Wheathampstead; a moat running parallel to it called the Slad, and Beechbottom, another entrenchment. On Nomansland Common is a great boulder of the conglomerate known as ‘pudding stone,’ which in former days indicated the division between the lands of St Albans and Westminster; it also divided the dioceses of Lincoln and London, and the archdeaconries of Huntingdon and St Albans.
Charles Boutell, the archaeologist, was at one time curate of Sandridge. He was secretary of the St Albans Architectural Society, founded in 1845.
In 1939 the first WW2 secret Wireless Intercept Station was constructed at the top of Woodcock Hill. It was the first base dedicated to diplomatic interception with radio operators listening to the wireless traffic between Germany, Italy, Tokyo and others. Messages intercepted at Sandridge were sent to Bletchley Park for decryption. The results were vital to Winston Churchill.
The village has three pubs: The Green Man, The Rose and Crown and The Queen’s Head. It is base for Sandridge Rovers F.C., who play in the Hertfordshire Senior County League. Sandridge Rovers Football Club was formed in 1896 and were members of the Mid Herts League for several decades. The club were elected to the Herts County League in 1967 and started the 1969–70 season in the Premier Division, where the first team has been ever since. Home matches take place at the Spencer Recreation Ground, shared with Sandridge Cricket Club. There is a branch of the White Van Leasing Co., a village convenience store, the base for Herts Garden Rooms and a village hall.
In 2008 the Woodland Trust announced plans to create a new forest north of Sandridge - the largest featuring native tree species, to be developed over a 12 year timeframe. The forest was formerly agricultural land, but still contains 45 acres of ancient woodland, which has been integrated into the new woodland.
In 2009, a Guinness World Record attempt was made for the ‘BBC Tree O’clock ‘ scheme to plant the most new trees as possible in one hour, with three woodland sites making the attempt. Heartwood came second, with 20,326 planted.
The Woodland Trust’s Annual Volunteer Awards often features Heartwood Forest volunteers. Awards include the Bluebell Award, for the best guardian of woods and trees, the Acorn Award for the most inspiring volunteer and the Willow Award, given for the best collaborative achievement.
The project, being ongoing, hosts tree plantings and hedge laying events, among others, and is supported by an excellent blog (heartwoodforest.wordpress.com)
St Leonard’s church
The west tower of the church has had trouble staying up! It collapsed in 1688, and was not replaced until 1837, when a badly designed brick tower was set up in its place; this was replaced with the correct flint/stone in 1886, at which time the church was given an all-round renovation. The eastern face of the church features carved shields with the saltire of St Alban and the cross of St George. The figure on the south, with a hood and long gown, holds a pair beads. There are six bells, one from 1837, and the remaining five from 1887.