Area Guide: The Hertfordshire village of Bricket Wood between St Albans and Watford

One of Bricket Wood's historic homes. Picture: Archant

One of Bricket Wood's historic homes. - Credit: Archant

A well-connected village known for its naturist resorts, there’s more to Bricket Wood than first meets the eye.

Conveniently located between St Albans and Watford, Bricket Wood forms part of the parish of St Stephen within St Albans District Council. 

We found out more about this idyllic Hertfordshire village.


History

Until the train station was built in the late 1850s, the area now known as Bricket Wood was a scattered rural community utilised mainly by farmers.

Then, in 1889, brothers Henry and William Gray bought up land in the area and built Woodside Retreat Fairground.

The fairground attracted droves of visitors from London and nearby towns, and a small settlement developed around the station.

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In 1923, a rival fairground, Joyland, was built nearby by R.B. Christmas. Though both enterprises were closed in 1929, Christmas used his leftover land to build up bungalows with their own water supplies.

During the 1950s, housing estates were built for the convenience of employees of aviation company Handley Page, which had a plant nearby at the Radlett Aerodrome.

Housing was provided in Hunters Road, Juniper Avenue, Black Boy Wood and Claremont in Bricket Wood, according to St Albans Museums.

Soon the area would prove popular with commuters thanks to its proximity to London and its offbeat blend of village and urban life.

Bizarrely, Bricket Wood is also known for its ties to Gerald Gardner, who is regarded by many as the "father of modern witchcraft".

In 1945, Gardner purchased a plot of land near Bricket Wood, now known as Five Acres.

He dismantled a 16th century Wiccan witch cottage in Ledbury, Herefordshire, and reconstructed it at Five Acres as a convening point for his brand of pagan witchcraft.

Bricket Wood was also home to a secret Cold War rail centre, now given listed building status by Historic England.

The disused Air-Raid Precaution Railway Control Centre was built in Station Road in 1954 as a defence against Soviet aggression.

In the event of war, key rail workers from London Euston were to be transferred to the single-storey, reinforced-concrete building to keep the trains running.

It is the only surviving example in England of an air-raid precaution railway control centre constructed during the Cold War period.


Property

Hanstead House is one of the village’s best known buildings and has a rich and varied history.

It was once owned by the Scottish entrepreneur Sir David Yule, arguably the most influential Brit to do business with India during the British Empire.

Hanstead House was subsequently used as an Arabian horse stud farm, the UK college campus for American evangelist Herbert W. Armstrong's Radio Church of God movement, and a corporate training facility.

More recently, it’s been transformed into 11 luxury apartments as part of the wider Hanstead Park development of new build homes.

All the elegant apartments have been sold with prices from around £1m.

The Grade II listed Picture House is one of Bricket Wood's best known buildings. Picture: Archant

The Grade II listed Picture House is one of Bricket Wood's best known buildings. - Credit: Archant

The Grade II-listed Bricket Picture House on School Lane is another exceptional building.

It was built by the architect Frederick Wallen for himself around 1890.

The upper floor of the front part of the house has a remarkable set of plaster reliefs featuring pictures of popular sporting pursuits of the time, including wrestling, rowing, and hunting.

According to Rightmove, properties in Bricket Wood had an overall average price of £651,915 over the last year, with detached properties selling for an average price of £867,179. 

Homes currently on the market in the village include a four-bed, detached chalet bungalow in Lye Lane for a guide price of £895,000.

A new build, five-bed detached family home on Linden Homes' Hanstead Park development is going for £1,325,000, while a private and gated four-bed, three bathroom property in Bucknalls Drive is on the market for £1,425,000.

The Hanstead Park development in Bricket Wood. Picture: Linden Homes

The Hanstead Park development in Bricket Wood. - Credit: Matt Clayton / Linden Homes


Amenities

Local amenities are concentrated primarily in the hubs of Oakwood Road and the Bricket Wood Parade in Old Watford Road.

Oakwood Road offers a functional variety of goods and services, including a pharmacy and a Londis convenience store.

The Black Boy pub in Bricket Wood.

The Black Boy pub in Bricket Wood. - Credit: Google Street View

The village is also home to two pubs – The Black Boy, in Old Watford Road, and The Gate, in Station Road.

The Black Boy, first opened in 1754, prides itself on its range of real ales and boasts Cask Marque accreditation. The freehouse also hosts live music, and shows major sporting events.

After opening, The Black Boy became an obvious stopping off point from the 1770s when the route from St Albans to Watford was incorporated within a toll road and a turnpike opened nearby.

A view of the massive beer garden at The Gate in Bricket Wood.

A view of the massive beer garden at The Gate in Bricket Wood. - Credit: The Gate

The Gate, a country pub on the outskirts of Bricket Wood, has a huge garden to the rear, along with a cosy indoor space for you to enjoy your food and drinks. 

It was winner of the 'Best Marketed Pub' and 'Rising Star' respectively, by its parent company, Wells & Co, in their Pub Partner Awards 2022.

You can even order delicious stonebaked pizzas and sides for takeaway.


Nature

Bricket Wood Common is situated between School Lane, Mount Pleasant Lane and Bucknalls Drive.

A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), it consists of an area of around 78.5 hectares and consists of diverse habitats including semi-natural woodland, hornbeam coppice woodland, wet lowland heath and acid grassland, and ponds and seasonal streams. 

A part of the Munden Estate, the Common supports an array of wildlife. 


Naturism

The area around Bricket Wood is also a hotspot for naturists.

For those who dare to bare, naturist resort Spielplatz – German for ‘playground’ – is located off Lye Lane.

Lye Lane in Bricket Wood

Lye Lane in Bricket Wood - Credit: Archant

Then there's the nearby British Naturism's Sunfolk facility, a five acre woodland naturist site in How Wood, that also provides ample opportunities to strip off and unwind among like-minded nudists.


Schools

Mount Pleasant Lane Primary, formerly known as Mount Pleasant Lane Junior Mixed and Infant School and Nursery, takes children aged three to 11. The school was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted at its last inspection.

The village is served by a number of excellent senior schools, including Parmiter’s in Garston, and St Michael’s Catholic High School, both rated ‘outstanding’.


Transport

Bricket Wood station runs between St Albans Abbey and Watford Junction. Picture: DANNY LOO

Trains running between St Albans Abbey and Watford Junction pass through Bricket Wood station. - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Flanked by the M1 and M25, and just a 15-minute drive from the centre of St Albans to the north and Watford to the south, Bricket Wood has excellent road links.

It also has a station that connects residents to St Albans Abbey and Watford Junction by rail.

This area guide is sponsored by Frost's, who have offices in St Albans, Marshalswick, Wheathampstead and Harpenden...

This area guide is sponsored by Frost's, who have offices in St Albans, Marshalswick, Wheathampstead and Harpenden (www.frosts.co.uk/branches) - Credit: Archant