PUBLISHED: 11:21 25 April 2008 | UPDATED: 15:08 20 February 2013
Jessica Clark looks at the history of Codicote and discovers how villagers are shaping its future
ONCE a market area providing passers through with rest and food, Codicote has flourished into a village that is in popular demand. The last 50 years alone has seen the population double to 3,000 residents, but it appears a close eye is being kept on how it develops - keeping a tight grasp on its celebrated history.
The Saxon village lies in a valley in the Chiltern Hills, around seven miles south of Hitchin. It is believed the village was initially based around the 11th century church of St Giles at the top of the hill, but the important position of Codicote between London and Oxford gave the villagers a chance of profit. With the building of the first pub in 1279 to serve travellers, the focus of the village shifted to how we know it today.
In fact the pub that launched the wise opportunity for Codicote is the oldest building in Hertfordshire to still hold an alcohol license. Formerly The George and Dragon pub, the building is currently Thai restaurant As You Like It and boasts a half-timbered frame typical of the village.
A market quickly sprang up in the Village Green, one of the first in Hertfordshire to be granted the status, to provide for locals as the village grew. It became renowned for selling quality cloth - in fact it is believed the plague spread to the village through the transport of the material. It's believed that as the market began to thrive,
stall holders began to build more permanent structures to sell from and they are the shop fronts used today in the village centre.
Codicote Parish Councillor John Warwick, 65, of Poynders Meadow, a founder member of the village's Local History Society, believes the village's earlier days has had a lot of impact on the success of Codicote today.
He says, 'Codicote had a lot of people coming through it which forced it to became self-sufficient to keep the passers-through happy and I think that could be the reason we still are. We've got a lot of busy shops which is quite something for a village these days.'
The village became home to one of the first barn conversions in England, a trend which quickly spread through the village. The renovations became a way to turn a beautiful beamed barn into a modern home without losing the building altogether. The barns, some of which date back to the 16th and 17th century, are at the desirable end of the housing market in Codicote.
John, whose family history in Codicote dates back to the 1700s, adds, 'The village has grown so much over the years, but we all keep a close eye on how it develops, and I think that's the key. We're lucky to have some tasteful barn conversions and sensitive new builds.
'I'd like to see the village continue thriving as it is - I would hate to see it become another dead village but I don't think that's likely to happen. It's rural and un-spoilt - I love it. It's my passion to look into the history of Codicote.' John adds, 'When it's your own village it's so interesting. I'm always thinking 'I wonder who used to live there' or 'why was that building built'.'
It is clear how passionate the residents are about their village from the Parish Plan - a volunteer-lead initiative that identifies areas that can be improved. With such a protective arm around Codicote, it seems that the expansion of the village is unlikely to be a threat but rather a benefit. Great respect and interest for their history as well as a great desire to keep the village alive and bustling provides a recipe of success in the life of Codicote.
FIND OUT MORE
The Codicote Local History Society holds regular exhibitions on the history of the village. Dates can be found at www.codicotelocalhistorysociety.co.uk