Area Guide: The Hertfordshire village of Watton-at-Stone
- Credit: Archant
The village of Watton-at-Stone is rich in history, amenities and celebrity connections. Stephen Froome found out all about it.
Watton-at-Stone, locally referred to as Watton, is a small village about halfway between Stevenage and Hertford.
According to Michael Smith, the chairman of Watton-at-Stone Parish Council, Watton is “a rural village small enough to care [and] populous enough (2,500) to support many of the facilities found in larger settlements”.
The facilities on offer in Watton include three village halls and a council-run community hall providing a range of fitness and sport facilities including football (Senior, Junior and Ladies) and cricket.
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Michael adds that there’s a “very active” Scouting movement, “all set within the green belt and miles of rural walking and cycling, both club and individual. Feeling tired? Relax in our two pub/eateries The George and Dragon and the Bull.”
Following the closure of the Waggon & Horses pub in 2010, the two traditional English pubs in the village both serve food and have a car park and beer garden. The Bull dates to the 15th century, and describes itself as a ‘local village pub’ with ‘a warm welcome, unassuming and friendly service and outstanding food’.
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It is rumoured that Catholic priests avoided Henry VIII’s guards by hiding up the chimney of the pub’s large fireplace during the dissolution of the monasteries.
The village is also served by a Londis shop and a Chinese takeaway, while additional amenities include a sports field with two tennis courts, a football pitch and cricket pitch.
There’s also a GP surgery, a dental practice, a pharmacy, a butchers, post office, hair salon, bakery and a dry cleaners.
Michael says: “Even if you need more than freshly baked bread, locally sourced meats a general store and a post office, we have a train station and buses every hour, connections within ten minutes to A1 and A10 to get everything else.”
Watton-at-Stone is on the Hertford Loop rail line, with trains to Moorgate taking approximately an hour. Stevenage and Hertford are under 10 minutes away by rail. Nearby roads include the A602 and the A119, with the M25 approximately 35 minutes drive. The 390 bus provides a service to Hertford and Stevenage, and a morning service to Welwyn Garden City runs on Thursdays.
Michael adds: “You are only 20 minutes from Lister hospital with A&E and a full range of medical services not to mention Hertford County and QE2 at Welwyn Garden, about half an hour distant.”
Primary school children in the village are educated at the Watton-at-Stone Primary and Nursery School, which was found to require improvement at its last Ofsted inspection. Secondary pupils attend schools in Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City, Hertford and Ware. The Independent day and boarding Heath Mount School for boys and girls between the ages of three and 13 is on the edge of the village.
There are regular services and bell ringing at the St Andrew and St Mary Parish Church, as well as a Sunday Club for children. The Methodist Church is at the heart of the community, holding Sunday services, and providing a venue for a lunch club, card making group, craft club and art class, among other activities and groups. Catholic residents tend to worship in Stevenage, Hertford and Ware.
There is evidence of human habitation in Watton as far back as Palaeolithic times. St Andrew and St Mary church dates back to the 16th century and was used to detain royalist prisoners during the Civil War. Floodlighting was installed in 1999, which creates an atmospheric illumination at night. A Methodist chapel was built in 1891. Cottages in the village date back to the 15th and 16th century, but there are also buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Housing estates were built in the latter half of the 20th century. The current average property value is around £460,000.
Harry Potter star Rupert Grint, who played Ron Weasley in the popular film series, grew up in the village. Other notable residents and former residents include Sir Nigel Gresley, the locomotive engineer who designed the Flying Scotsman, and boxing promotor Frank Warren, who has worked with famous names including Mike Tyson, Amir Khan and Frank Bruno.