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Church Green Harpenden.jpg
Church Green in Harpenden Town Centre during Spring.
Harpenden is located in Hertfordshire
 Harpenden shown within Hertfordshire
Area  4.93 sq mi (12.8 km2)
Population 29,448 (2011)[1]
   – density  5,973/sq mi (2,306/km2)
OS grid reference TL135145
Civil parish Harpenden
District St Albans
Shire county Hertfordshire
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district AL5
Dialling code 01582
Police Hertfordshire
Fire Hertfordshire
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament Hitchin and Harpenden
Website Harpenden Town Council
List of places

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Harpenden is a town in the City of St Albans district in the county of Hertfordshire, England. The town's population is just under 30,000.[2] Harpenden is a commuter town, with a direct rail connection into London and property prices well over double the national average.[3] Geographically it is located between (and a short distance from) two much larger neighbours: Luton town (to the north) and the city of St Albans (to the south). It is flanked by the villages of Redbourn (to the west) and Wheathampstead (to the east).


The Harpenden coat of arms sign before entering the town centre
Church Green in Harpenden Town Centre
Christmas tree on Church Green

There is evidence of pre-Roman Belgic farmers in the area. In 1867 several items were found including a bronze escutcheon, rams-head shaped mounts, and a bronze bowl.[4]

There are Roman remains in land around Harpenden, for instance the site of a mausoleum in the park at Rothamsted.[5] A tumulus near the river Lea was opened in the 1820s and it contained a stone sarcophagus of Romano-Celtic origin. Five objects dating from around 150 AD, were inside including a glass jug with a Mediterranean stamp and samian ware dishes used for libations.[6]

Up to the 13th century the area of the parish consisted of woodland with small hamlets and single farmsteads around cleared areas called "End" or "Green" and there are 19 Ends and 18 Greens in area of Harpenden and Wheathampstead parishes. Many of these still survive today.[7]

Harpenden village grew out of Westminster Abbey's gradual clearing of woodland for farming and settlement within its Wheathampstead manor, granted by Edward the Confessor in 1060. A first reference to a parish church is in 1221 (where it is referred to as Harpendene) so it is inferred that the village grew up around then. The church of St Nicholas is the oldest church in the town, originally built as a Chapel of ease in 1217.

Just beyond the southern edge of the town lies Nomansland Common (sometimes simply called "No Man's Land") upon which part of the Second Battle of St Albans was fought during the Wars of the Roses. Nomansland Common also saw the first annually contested steeplechase in England, in 1830 when it was organised by Thomas Coleman, and the last fight of nineteenth century bare-knuckle fighter, Simon Byrne. It was also the haunt of the highwaywoman known as Lady Katherine Ferrers, better known as the "Wicked Lady".

A widespread but now little-known industry of Harpenden was straw-weaving, a trade mainly carried out by women in the nineteenth century. A good straw weaver could make as much as a field labourer. The straw plaits were taken to the specialist markets in St Albans or Luton and bought by dealers to be converted into straw items such as boaters and other hats or bonnets.

The arrival of the railway system from 1860 and the sale of farms for residential development after 1880 radically changed Harpenden's surroundings. First the Dunstable Branch of the Great Northern Railway passed through the Batford area with a station later named Harpenden East railway station (this line is now closed and forms a cycle track). Then the main line of Midland Railway was built in 1868 with a station near the main village which still exists today.[8] The Harpenden and Hemel Hempstead Railway, know locally as the Nicky Line was opened in 1877.

Between 1848 and 1914 the common was a regular venue for horse racing. In his History of Hertfordshire in 1879, John Edwin Cussans commented "Notwithstanding that these meetings are under the most unexceptional patronage as regards the Stewards, yet for two days in the year all the London pickpockets, sharpers and blackguards who happen to be out of gaol are permitted to make Harpenden their own and to make travelling in a first-class carriage on the Midland Railway a danger to men and an impossibility to ladies." Golf has been played on the Common since 1894 and it was at that time Harpenden Golf Club was set up by a group of Harpenden people with the help and a financial contribution of 5 pounds from Sir John Bennet Lawes of Rothamsted Manor. The club moved to a new course at Hammonds End in 1931, at which time Harpenden Common Golf Club was formed by those who wanted to remain at the Common. In 1932 Bamville Cricket club was formed and shares part of the Common with the Golfers.

Harpenden is the home of Rothamsted Manor and Rothamsted Research (formerly Rothamsted Experimental Station and later the Institute of Arable Crops Research), a leading centre for agricultural research. In front of its main building, which faces the common, is a stone, erected in 1893, commemorating 50 years of experiments by Sir John Bennet Lawes and Joseph Henry Gilbert..

Lawes inherited the family estate at Rothamsted in 1834. Acknowledged as "the father of agricultural science", his early field experiments on Hertfordshire farms led him to patent a phosphate fertiliser, the sales of which enriched him immensely. With the proceeds, he established the experimental station, building laboratories in the 1850s. The station continued the development of the artificial fertilisers on which most modern farmers now depend. Some of the long-term 'classical field experiments' begun by Lawes and Gilbert remain in place to this day (such as Broadbalk) representing a unique resource for agricultural and environmental research.

In 1913 the National Children’s Home moved to Harpenden with a large site Highfield Oval which was home to over 200 children. The site featured a print works, a carpenters’ and joiners’ shop, a bootmakers shop and a farm where boys undertook apprenticeships. Girls were mainly trained in domestic service with some being trained in sewing and office work.[9] The children lived in a "family" of 8-10 children each run by a sister or house mother. The chapel was gift from Joseph Rank and was built in 1928.[10] The home was run on site until 1985.[11] The site is now the head office of Youth with a Mission an international Christian missionary organization.[12]

During the Second World War, Harpenden was used to evacuate children from heavily-bombed London. However, Harpenden was not totally confident in its safety, as evidenced by the now decaying Bowers Parade air raid shelters,[13] soon to be secured for the future. It has been suggested both that it be used for educational and emergency training purposes.[14]

The Harpenden and District Local History Society[15] has a collection of local material and archives which can be consulted, and holds regular meetings on topics of historical interest.


There are two civil parishes: Harpenden and Harpenden Rural.

As Harpenden is located in Hertfordshre just outside London, Harpenden is an area of extremely high property costs. This is common in the region. Land Registry data suggests that the average house price in Harpenden in the 1st quarter of 2006 was £500,902 (against £287,277 for St Albans District generally, and £183,598 nationally). The data also indicates that an unusually high proportion of houses in Harpenden are owner occupied (81.4%, as opposed to 69.6% in the District generally, and 66.2% nationally).[16] The average price of a detached house is over £900,000 as of January 2012.[17]

Harpenden has a large number of its streets named after English literary figures on the East side of the town (an area known, unsurprisingly, as the Poets' Corner), including Byron Road, Cowper Road, Kipling Way, Milton Road, Shakespeare Road, Spenser Road, Shelley Court, Tennyson Road, Townsend Road, Masefield Road and Wordsworth Road.

The River Lea flows through the Batford neighbourhood.


Facing North at Harpenden station from platform 1 (Southbound)

Harpenden railway station is served by Thameslink on a frequent and fast rail link to central London (although this service has been criticized frequently over the years for its quality of service). Some trains stop at 'all stations' on the route, others stop at St Albans before continuing non-stop to London St Pancras International (Harpenden to St Pancras International – 23 minutes). Trains run north to Luton, Luton Airport and on to Bedford. From London, the trains continue south to Brighton via Gatwick Airport, Sevenoaks or Wimbledon and Sutton. The rail link therefore gives direct access to London Luton Airport (one stop north) and London Gatwick Airport (approx 1hr 10 m on a limited stops train). The Nickey Line railway used to link Harpenden, Redbourn and Hemel Hempstead. It has since been converted to a path forming part of the National Cycle Network.

The A6 used to run through Harpenden, although the road numbering was changed to avoid congestion. The M1 runs nearby. The closest access to the M1 is Junction 9 at Redbourn & Dunstable or alternatively Junction 10 for Luton & Airport.

A number of bus services pass through Harpenden. There are 4 main frequent and reliable routes.

The 321 Arriva service between Luton Station Interchange and Watford Town Centre (Via St Albans) passes through Harpenden every 30 minutes (Monday - Saturday) and every 60 minutes (Sunday).

The 366 Centrebus service between Luton and South Hatfield passes through Harpenden every 60 minutes (Monday - Saturday).

The 635 Uno service between London Colney and Luton passes through Harpenden every 60 minutes (Monday - Friday).

The 657 Uno service between St Albans and Redbourn passes through Harpenden every 60 minutes (Monday - Saturday):)


Costa Coffee in the Town Centre during Spring
Waitrose supermarket in Town Centre

Harpenden has many shops commonly found in other English towns, with three central supermarkets, multiple female clothes shops, charity shops, banks, estate agents and chemists. A good proportion of these are run by independent retailers. The local council has resisted the opening of fast food chain outlets.[citation needed] Cafes are also common in Harpenden, but with only two commercial chains; the rest are owned independently. There are multiple restaurants, mainly of Italian origin, and many pubs. The Batford and Southdown, and Luton Road districts also have their own shopping areas.

Parks and commons

A view of Harpenden Common Golf Club

A notable feature of Harpenden is its abundant parks and commons. The central area of Harpenden, known locally as "the village" is characterised by Church Green, Leyton Green and the High Street Greens, which give the town its provincial feel.

Just to the south of the town centre is Harpenden Common, stretching from the shops in the town centre for more than a mile to the south, encompassing a total of 238 acres (96 ha). Today Harpenden Common hosts two cricket clubs, Harpenden Cricket Club, a Hertfordshire Premier League club that celebrated its 150 anniversary in 2013 and Bamville Cricket Club who play on Sundays on the golf course, a football club, bridle ways for horse riding, ramblers' paths and Harpenden Common Golf Club, all contained in an area of natural beauty which was awarded a national Green Flag Award in 2007. Harpenden Town Council is keen to help retain and maintain the environment and oversees habitat issues including bird and bat watching, the maintenance/regeneration of gorse, fungi and all the original wildlife(fauna and flora) for the benefit of the people of Harpenden. Since 1894 Harpenden Common Golf Club has traditionally maintained a large part of the common and today works closely with Harpenden Town Council and Countryside management. This partnership has enabled the people of Harpenden to take full advantage of the common for all kinds of leisure activities, and the relationship of the golfers and others users has been excellent for many years.

In addition the town has large green public spaces available in Rothamsted Park, Batford Park, Kinsbourne Green, Lydekker Park and the Nicky Line which bisects the town.

Just to the south of Harpenden is the large expanse of Nomansland Common.


Harpenden has several secondary schools:


Harpenden is twinned with:


File:Rothamsted Research.jpg
Rothamsted Research is the largest agricultural research centre in the United Kingdom
  • Rothamsted Research, the largest agricultural research centre in the United Kingdom, and perhaps the oldest in the world, is in Harpenden.
  • In a 2008 episode of Peep Show, Sophie was mentioned as owning a mug marked "Harpenden, Harpenden, Harpenden".
  • An annual classic car show, "Classics on the Common",[19] is held on the last Wednesday in July attracting over 10,000 visitors and 1300 cars. One of the biggest events of its type in Europe, it is a free event with any profits collected going to charity.
  • In the Monty Python's Flying Circus episode "Deja vu", Michael Palin hijacks a plane and wants it to fly to Luton, then he changes his mind and wants them to take him to Harpenden. Also in Monty Python the Poet McTeagle says "Oh give to me a shillin' for some fags and I'll pay yet back on Thursday, but if you can wait till Saturday I'm expecting a divvy from the Harpenden Building Society."
  • In the final episode of BBC 1's Miranda, Series 3, Harpenden was mentioned as a possible destination for Miranda.

Notable residents


Harpenden is home to various sports clubs. Just a selection are listed below:

Scouting in Harpenden

There is a strong tradition of scouting in Harpenden. There are a large number of scouting units in and around the area of Harpenden, all falling under the heading of the "Harpenden and Wheathampstead District Scouts".

Harpenden Scout Groups

  • 1st Harpenden
  • 2nd Harpenden[7]
  • 3rd Harpenden
  • 4th Harpenden
  • 5th Harpenden
  • 9th Harpenden
  • 10th Harpenden
  • 12th Harpenden
  • 1st Wheathampstead
  • 1st Kimpton

Harpenden Explorer Scout Units

  • Harpenden Explorer Scout Unit (HESU)
  • Kinsbourne Explorer Scouts (KES)
  • Shackleton Explorer Scout Unit (SESU)
  • Wheathampsted and Kimpton Explorer Scout Unit (WAKESU)

As well as taking part in a number of volunteer roles and marching in both the remembrance and St Georges day parades, a well known local institution that heavily involves the local scouts is the Harpenden Gang Show. An annual variety show in which the cast is composed entirely of cub scouts, scouts and explorer scouts, all between the ages of 9 and 18. The Harpenden Gang Show recently earned the accolade of being the worlds longest continuously running Gang Show, with a performance every year since 1949.[27]



  1. http://www.neighborhood.statistics.gov.uk/dissemination/LeadTableView.do?a=7&b=11124249&c=Harpenden&d=16&e=62&g=6434302&i=1001x1003x1032x1004&m=0&r=1&s=1385654053427&enc=1&dsFamilyId=2473
  2. Hertsdirect.org, however, other sources suggest that the population is either higher,[1] or lower.[2]
  3. "Current House Prices in Harpenden". Retrieved 18 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Les Casey (18 February 2011). "Iron Age Burial in Harpenden, Pre-Roman settlements in the Lea Valley at Batford". Harpenden Local History Society. Retrieved 11 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Rosemary Ross (8 February 2011). "Traces of Roman occupation, Fragments found by builders or in field surveys". Retrieved 11 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Pat Wilson (September 1977). "Burial Mound in the Lea Valley, Romano-British sarcophagus found in the 1820s". Harpenden Local History Society. Retrieved 11 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Rosemary Ross (30 November 2010). "Ends and Greens (adapted from The Settlement of Wheathampstead & Harpenden, Vol 1, WEA)". Harpenden Local History Society. Retrieved 11 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Eric Brandreth (October 1975). "Notes on the Growth of Harpenden". Harpenden Local History Society. Retrieved 11 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "National Children's Home". Harpenden and District Local History Society. May 2002. Retrieved 8 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "National Children's Home Open Day programme". 20 June 1953. Retrieved 8 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Growingup in the nch Forum: Harpenden - Highfield - Harpenden, Herts". Retrieved 8 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. http://www.ywam.org/searches/BProfile.asp?BID=56 ywam.org
  13. [3] Survey of four World War II air raid shelters, Harpenden
  14. [4] Harpenden Town Council meeting re: Air Raid Shelter
  15. http://www.hertsdirect.org/comdirectory/comvol/herit2y/hthist3y/587461 hertsdirect.org
  16. Source. Part of the discrepancy is explained by the "top-heavy" nature of the Harpenden property market, which has a disproportionately high level of detached houses (40.8% in Harpenden, against a national average of 22.8%) and a disproportionately low level of flats (16.5% in Harpenden, against 19.2% nationally) and, slightly perplexingly, significantly fewer terraced houses (15.4% in Harpenden, against a national average of 26.0%).
  17. "House Sale Prices in AL5 during January 2012". Home.co.uk. Retrieved 7 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "British towns twinned with French towns [via WaybackMachine.com]". Archant Community Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/classiccars/2754321/Classic-cars-on-the-Common.html telegraph.co.uk
  20. http://alumni.indiana.edu/profiles/alumni/jbliss.shtml alumni.indiana.edu
  21. Emma Clark (7 July 2010). "Interview: Harpenden golfer and commentator Ken Brown". Hertfordshire Life. Retrieved 20 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/lifestyle/family-life/2003/05/13/me-and-my-health-84229-12953255/
  23. http://www.economics.soton.ac.uk/staff/aldrich/fisherguide/rafreader.htm economics.soton.ac.uk
  24. "Warming Up". Richard Herring.com. 5 March 2012. Retrieved 7 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Oral evidence taken before the Education and Skills Committee". parliament.uk. 23 June 2003. Retrieved 21 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "David Richardson Biography". Sound Recording Technology. Retrieved 24 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. http://www.hwgangshow.org.uk/

External links