Area Guide: The charming Hertfordshire village of Sandridge
PUBLISHED: 08:00 14 August 2017
Sandridge sits to the east of Bernard’s Heath upon the land of Earl Spencer. It has easy access to Wheathampstead, Harpenden and St Albans.
Originally known as “Saundruage” (meaning a place of sandy oil serviced by bond tenants), the earliest recorded mention of Sandridge was in 796 when the parish was 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, the second abbot of St Alban’s Monastery and his monks.
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 led 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.
St Leonard’s Church was built in the 1100s. 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 of beads. There are six bells, one from 1837 and the remaining five from 1887.
Between Sandridge and Wheathampstead is the famous Nomansland Common, named after the 15th century dispute between the Abbeys of Westminster and St Albans.
Coleman’s Green is a small hamlet on a branch road between St Albans and Wheathampstead. John Bunyan, the writer and Baptist, is said to have preached, and occasionally lodged in the cottage here.
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 Beech Bottom, another entrenchment.
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 WWII 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.
Sandridge School is the local primary, situated on Woodcock Hill. A single form entry school, it takes students from the ages of 4-11 and was recently rated ‘good’ by Ofsted.
Sandridge is the base for Sandridge Rovers FC, who play in the Hertfordshire Senior County League. Formed in 1896, the club was a member of the Mid Herts League for several decades. Then, in 1967 the club was promoted to the Herts County League and by the 1969-70 season in the Premier Division, where the team has played ever since. Home matches take place at the Spencer Recreation Ground, shared with Sandridge Cricket Club.
The charming village has three popular pubs: The Green Man, The Rose & Crown and The Queen’s Head.
Additionally, Sandridge has its own village hall and a local convenience store, Darby’s - The Old Village Stores. The eagerly anticipated Heartwood Tea Rooms will be an exciting new addition to the village and is due to open very soon.
Sandridge also has some spectacular properties for sale, including a huge, six-bed home set in a plot approaching six acres on the outskirts of the village - yours for £2m.
In 2008 the Woodland Trust announced plans to create a new forest north of Sandridge - the largest to feature native tree species - which is to be developed over a 12-year timeframe. Since its construction, 500,000 trees have been planted.
In 2009, a Guinness World Record attempt was made for the ‘BBC Tree O’clock’ scheme to plant the largest possible number of new trees in one hour, with three woodland sites making the attempt. Heartwood came second, with 20,326 planted.
The on-going project hosts tree planting and hedge laying events, among others, and is supported by an excellent blog (heartwoodforest.wordpress.com).