Village cast iron water pump, dating from the early 19th century
|Population||2,272 (2011 Census including Whempstead)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||East of England|
|EU Parliament||East of England|
Watton-at-Stone is a village in the English county of Hertfordshire, situated midway between the towns of Stevenage and Hertford in the valley of the River Beane. The 2011 census showed a population of 2,272 living in 946 households. Watton-at-Stone is also a civil parish in East Hertfordshire District Council.
The A602 formerly ran through the centre of the village between Stevenage and Hertford before a bypass was built in 1984 through farmland to the north-east. The section of the road to Hertford was renamed the A119, and the A602 then ran out of Watton-at-Stone to Ware. Watton-at-Stone is served by a railway station on the Hertford Loop Line. The station opened for passengers on 2 June 1924, was closed on 11 September 1939 (though the line continued to run through the village), and reopened on 17 May 1982, paid for partly by public subscription.
A war memorial lies in a field adjoining the church.
In the village itself there is a small convenience store, café and takeaway restaurant as well as a hairdressers, newsagent and a butcher's shop.
The name Watton first appeared in writing in an 11th-century publication of 10th century Anglo-Saxon wills as Wattun. It was later recorded in the Domesday Book as both Wodtune and Watone. The origin of the word is uncertain, and is variously ascribed to Old English wád or woad, and ton meaning small farming settlement; or waden meaning ford; or from waétan meaning watery. The suffix -at-Stone dates from the early 13th century and may be derived from the presence of two large examples of Hertfordshire puddingstone, now situated at the former Waggon and Horses public house.
However, it is far more likely that the suffix refers to the Roman road (anciently described as a Stone Street) that ran from Verulamium (modern St Albans), fording the River Beane at Watton-at-Stone. The area where the bridge over the railway was built was shown on tithe maps as a common, and the fields to the east and west of this point were named Stoneyfield and Further Stoneyfield. It is deduced that the Roman Road passed through this area, and the later village took its name from the important routeway. In the 1950s, sections of the road agger, composed of large flint nodules, could still be seen at several points in the village; most obviously, the northern boundary of the grounds of Chestnut House preserves the line of the road
Roman and Anglo-Saxon origins
The Roman road was the first known development in Watton and it crossed the High Street at the point of the modern milestone. There is no evidence of a permanent Roman settlement at Watton, however archaeological finds suggest Roman activity, possibly a market place trading to travellers as they slowed to cross the River Beane. It is possible that the High Street was a pre-existing track and therefore the new Roman road formed a crossroads here.
The permanent settlement of Watton-at-Stone was probably established by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the post-Roman period. It is likely that the original settlement was on the high ground at Watton Green, overlooking the Roman road and river valley below. There was a possible battle between the Danes and Saxons which took place on a field named "Danesfield" to the west of the village, although the field name is the only evidence to suggest this. If a battle did occur here it would most likely to have been in 911 with 1016 suggested as an alternative possible date.
The Lord of Watton manor in 1066 was Alwin Horne, an Anglo-Saxon thegn who owned other lands at Walkern, Sacombe and Middlesex. Alwin Horne is believed to have fought at the Battle of Stamford Bridge under King Harold in 1066 and later that year killed at the Battle of Hastings.
In later years, the natural springs in the area once made the village a popular spa town. The village has a number of dwellings dating from early Tudor, such as Watton Place, through to late Georgian constructions.
Church of St Mary and St Andrew
The parish church is dedicated to St Andrew and St Mary. It dates from the fifteenth century, and is built in the Perpendicular style. The building is constructed from flint, and is protected by a Grade II* heritage listing.
The Iron Age Aston Mirror was found nearby, closer to Watton-at-Stone than to the village of Aston, but technically in Aston parish due to the convoluted border. It is now kept at the British Museum. A collection of Belgic armour and weaponry was discovered in the mid-19th century by workers digging a drain at the north end of the village.
Watton-at-Stone was home to the boxing promoter Frank Warren. The Sun's racing tipster 'Templegate' was also a previous resident of the village. It was the childhood home of the actor Rupert Grint, well-known from his role of Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter film series.
The locomotive engineer Sir Nigel Gresley lived in Watton House until his death in 1941. The evangelical author and social campaigner Edward Bickersteth was rector of the church for twenty years from 1830 until his death in 1850. His one-time curate was the theological scholar Thomas Birks.
For the summer of 1923, the Georgian red-brick rectory at Watton-at-Stone became the short-lived home of Alan Turing, founder of computer science and the leading cryptologist at Bletchley Park in World War II. Andrew Hodges in his biography: Alan Turing: The Enigma tells of how a gypsy fortune teller at the church fête foretold that he would be a genius.
The name is also spelled unhyphenated as Watton at Stone and appears in this form on Ordnance Survey maps. The County Council favours the hyphenated version. Both spellings are equally valid.
Locally, the '-at-Stone' suffix is frequently dropped.
- 2001 Census, Key Statistics: Parish Headcounts
- Watton Conservation Society (2002). Watton-at-Stone Village Guide (PDF). Watton-at-Stone: Watton-at-Stone Conservation Society. p. 6.
- Page, William (1912), A History of the County of Hertford: volume 3, retrieved 16 March 2008
- East Herts Council, Watton-at-Stone, retrieved 8 June 2015
- Hertfordshire County Council Environment (October 2001), Hertfordshire Landscape Survey: Woodhall Park and Watton-at-Stone slopes, archived from the original (PDF) on 29 October 2007, retrieved 8 June 2015
- Powell-Smith, Anna. "Open Domesday". Retrieved 23 October 2019.
- Smith, Richard J (2019). "Englefield History". Retrieved 23 October 2019.
- Tompkins, Herbert H. (1922), Hertfordshire, Second Edition
- filmreference.com, Rupert Grint Biography, retrieved 4 February 2008
- Nock, Oswald S. (2007), The Locomotives of Sir Nigel Gresley, Longmans, Green and Co, p. 173
- Hylson-Smith, Kenneth (1989), Evangelicals in the Church of England, 1734–1984, Continuum International, p. 144, ISBN 978-0-567-29161-5
- Larsen, David L. (1998), The Company of the Preachers, Kregel Publications, p. 463, ISBN 978-0-8254-3086-2
- Hodges, Andrew (1983). Alan Turing: The Enigma. Simon & Schuster. p. 20. ISBN 0671492071.
- Tompkins, H.W. (2008), Hertfordshire, BiblioBazaar, pp. 182–183, ISBN 978-1-4375-3234-0
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