Area Guide: The quaint and characterful Hertfordshire village of Markyate
- Credit: Archant
A charming village filled with beautiful buildings, there’s lots to like about Markyate.
The North Hertfordshire village of Markyate is close to the borders of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire and 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).
Property prices have been growing steadily in the village in recent years – the average sold price last year was £397,989 according to Rightmove, up 16 per cent on 2015 and a whopping £30 per cent – nearly £100,000 – on 2014.
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 recent 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.
Other community clubs and activities include Markyate Cricket and Football club, the Markyate Heath Walkers and the Markyate Dancing Academy.
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Markyate Village School and Nursery expanded from a single form entry in 2015, and now takes 45 Reception pupils each year. It was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted at its last inspection.
The closest state secondary schools to the village are in Luton and Dunstable, including Stockwood Park Academy (‘good’).
Beechwood Park School is a preparatory co-educational day and boarding school in the private sector.
Markyate is a 15 minute drive from Harpenden, Luton and St Albans. The area has strong transport links, being close to the M1 and less than four miles from Luton Airport Parkway and Luton train stations. The closest airport, London Luton, is just five miles away.
The long, narrow High Street is full of great little shops, including a bakery, a pharmacy, a beauty salon, an estate agency, a dry cleaners, a convenience store with post office and a fish and chip and kebab shop.
Surprisingly for such a small village, Markyate also has not one but three Indian restaurants.
Two traditional public houses 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. The Sun Inn closed in 2014 and is currently for sale, with planning permission in place to convert to a family home.
In 2016, The Local micropub opened on High Street. It serves local ales fresh from the cask, as well as wines, ciders and soft drinks. It describes itself as “a pub like they used to be”, proudly offering absolutely no keg lager, spirits, large TV screens or electronic games.
Markyate’s saints and sinners
Along with Chris White, bassist and song writer for St Albans’ 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 him, 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 on preserving 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.