10 things to know about Kings Langley
PUBLISHED: 11:41 07 April 2015
The village of Kings Langley near Hemel Hempstead is brimming with history both ancient and modern, and there's plenty going on today too, as Alice Cooke found out
In 1276 the manor of Chilterne Langley began a long royal connection when it was purchased by Queen Eleanor, wife of King Edward I. Above the village on a hill she built a hunting palace complete with its own deer park and in her honour the village was renamed Langley Regina, later to become Kings Langley.
A Dominican priory was established too, although it fell into disrepair after the Dissolution and little remains now. Sadly, the same goes for the palace and the church that accompanied the priory, although elements were reused in the village’s Church of All Saints.
Every June the village hosts a summer festival to raise funds for local charities. Organised by the Rotary Club, last year it featured falconry displays, a petting zoo, children’s games, a funfair, wild west show, a dog show, stalls, dance routines, as well as live music throughout the day. Dates for 2015 are yet to be confirmed, see hemelhempsteadrotary.co.uk for updates.
Voice of an angel?
Kings Langley Community Choir is always looking for new members. The group rehearses at Kings Langley Senior School on Tuesday evenings during term time and has concerts lined up in London in May. The chior will also perform at Kings Langley Carnival in June. See kingslangleychoir.co.uk
Close to the former major Roman city of Verulamium, Kings Langley was once a Roman settlement. The remains of a second century Roman villa were excavated in 1981 after they were uncovered at a housing development. The building had a hypocaust, red tesserae paving and plaster walls painted in various colours, windows were glazed and the roof tiled.
Body of a king
The body of Richard II was buried at the Church of All Saints for a time after his death (probably murder) while he was imprisoned at Pontefract Castle in 1400. His remains were later removed and taken to Westminster Abbey.
Richard was not the only royal to have been buried at the church – in 1402 the 1st Duke of York and brother of The Black Prince, Edmund of Langley, was laid to rest here. His body still lies in the memorial chapel.
Kings Langley has many literary links – in Shakespeare’s Richard II, Scene IV of Act III is set in the grounds of the palace garden. Novelist Emily Sarah Holt sets much of her 1875 popular classic The White Rose of Langley in the palace. In Alan Bennett’s raucous 1973 play Habeas Corpus, the village is mentioned in a joke by housekeeper, Mrs Swabb.
Food of champions
In 1865, Swiss chemist George Wander began to manufacture malt extract and launched the ‘food drink’ Ovomaltine. In 1909 his son Albert took over and the product name was changed to Ovaltine. In 1913 he opened a factory in Kings Langley. Originally there were just seven workers, but as business grew and two local farms were purchased to provide dairy and poultry products (the main ingredients in Ovaltine are barley, milk and eggs), the site was expanded to employ around 1,400 in the 1950s before automation reduced employment. In 1971 the factory was visited by endorser Muhammad Ali, who said he had drunk Ovaltine ‘since he was a little boy’. It remained a major local business until its closure in 2002.
In 1944 Barnes Lodge in the village (demolished in 1975) played a secret role in the conflict with the Axis powers. Largely unknown to the village, 127 people were engaged in ‘war work’ in the secluded grand house, which was requisitioned as an underground radio communications station as part of the operation to launch an uprising in Warsaw, Poland against Nazi rule.
And the rest is history
The Kings Langley Local History and Museum Society has a fascinating collection of artefacts and documents relating to the area. The majority is housed at the village library, where visitors can access them. Archivists meet at the library on Wednesday mornings to research and receive enquiries on family and local history.