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10 key dates in Kings Langley’s remarkable history

PUBLISHED: 16:54 30 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:54 30 October 2017

Portrait of King Richard II of England

Portrait of King Richard II of England

© Getty Images

There are few villages in England that can lay claim to such a varied and remarkable history – Kings Langley’s story includes Romans, kings and queens, world leading industry and spies. Julie Lucas opens the record books

101-200 The Romans

Perhaps due to its close proximity to the Roman city of Verulamium, a riverside villa was built at the site of Kings Langley in the second century in an area now known as Roman Gardens. Archaeological evidence including tessellated paving and pottery was discovered in 1981 when the land was sold for development.

Pottery was discovered in 1981 at what is now the Roman GardensPottery was discovered in 1981 at what is now the Roman Gardens

1276 Eleanor’s palace

In 1276 the manor of Chilterne Langley was purchased by Eleanor of Castile, wife of King Edward I and inspiration for England’s 12 Eleanor crosses (including at Waltham Cross, and before its destruction, St Albans), beginning a long royal connection with the village. The queen built a luxurious hunting palace on a hill above the settlement with its own deer park.

1282 A new name

As ownership of the manor changed, so the name changed too. By 1282 it had become Langley Regina, ‘Queen’s Langley’, in Eleanor’s honour. It would later become Kings Langley.

1302 Edward II

Edward I granted Eleanor’s palace to his heir Prince Edward when he was invested as Prince of Wales. The young prince kept a small menagerie at the palace which included a lion and a camel. By the 14th century the royal residence had grown to three courts, complete with stables, barns, mills and a hunting lodge with parks and gardens.

Portrait of King Edward II of England (GettyImages)Portrait of King Edward II of England (GettyImages)

1308 Holy orders

A year after being crowned king, Edward II founded a Dominican friary on land adjacent to his palace. It was built to accommodate more than 100 monks. During the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII it was found to be the richest in England. Part of the building still remains.

Holy ordersHoly orders

1349 Seat of government

Kings Langley Palace was a favourite residence of Edward II’s son, Edward III, who used it as his seat of government during the Black Death. His fourth surviving son, Edmund of Langley (brother of the Black Prince), was born here in 1341. Edmund became the first Duke of York and led troops in France and Portugal. He was keeper of the realm when his nephew Richard II campaigned in Ireland. Edmund died in Kings Langley and was buried here in 1402. His tomb is in the memorial chapel of the Church of All Saints.

Portrait of King Edward III of EnglandPortrait of King Edward III of England

1400 Richard II

The body of Richard II was also buried at Kings Langley church for a time after his death in 1400. He died in prison at Pontefract Castle – possibly murdered. His remains were later moved to Westminster Abbey. In his play Richard II, Shakespeare set scene IV of Act III in the Duke of York’s (Kings Langley Palace) garden – drawing parallels with the neat order of the garden and the unruly nature of the state.

1825 Paper mills

The Kings Langley section of the Grand Junction Canal (later Grand Union Canal) was opened in 1797 and heralded the development of some of the world’s first paper mills along the valley. The mechanised paper-making process using an ‘endless web machine’ invented by John Dickinson led to the opening of Home Park Mill in 1825 which employed generations of families for 150 years.

1913 Bedtime favourite

The favourite bedtime drink Ovaltine was made in King’s Langley. A factory opened in 1913 with seven workers and business grew to include two local farms. The site was expanded in the 1950s and employed 1,400 before automation took over. It remained a major local business until its closure in 2002.

1944 Secret operations

In 1944, Barnes Lodge in the village (demolished in 1975) played a secret role in the Second World War. Largely unknown to the wider community, 127 people were engaged in ‘war work’ in the secluded grand house, which was requisitioned as an underground radio communications station as part of an operation to launch an uprising against Nazi rule in Warsaw, Poland.

Secret operationsSecret operations


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