Pirton: A jewel of the county

PUBLISHED: 17:12 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:34 20 February 2013



On a visit to Pirton, Louise McEvoy discovers it's not just a pretty place

PICTURESQUE Pirton is situated three miles north-east of Hitchin and is a definitive jewel in Hertfordshire's sparkling crown. With its quiet beauty and rural charm, this delightful village is nothing short of idyllic and is nestled comfortably within the rolling countryside, making it easy to forget it is so close to bustling Hitchin.

Pirton has been described by English Heritage as 'one of the most important historic sites in Hertfordshire' and is most noted for its medieval monuments, particularly the motte and bailey castle known as Toot Hill, which means 'look out'.

St Mary's Church stands in beautiful surroundings within one of the castle's two baileys and dates back to the 11th century, although it was rebuilt in 1877 retaining the remains of its tower. The Grade I listed church is unusual for its lack of stained glass windows which were mostly shattered by a wartime doodlebug.

To the south-east of the castle and the church is a large grassed area called The Bury and this contains the earthwork remains of the now deserted part of the ancient village, with noticeable depressions in the land depicting where streets of the old village once stood and areas of raised ground indicating the position of the houses.
Residents are extremely proud of Pirton's history and its no wonder as both the castle and The Bury are nationally important and are designated as Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

Pirton is made all the more special by the community spirit which exudes from the residents and which embraces the village making it the home of more than 30 groups and organisations.

Steve Smith is chairman of Pirton Sports and Social Club, as well as president of Lea Sports Pirton, Shillington and Gravenhurst Football Club, and says, 'If you were to wander through Pirton on a Sunday afternoon you may get the impression that it is a sleepy little place with not much going on. But scratch the surface and you will find a host of activities.' He explains there are groups ranging from an amateur dramatics society to a school association, and from organisations for the over 60s to toddlers' groups.
Steve adds, 'Sport is well represented in the village. The football club now has 10 teams, from Under 8s to adults, as well Saturday sessions for five to 10-year-olds. The cricket club also has a number of teams, including colts' sides, and the tennis club has the use of hard courts with lighting.

'The sports and social club acts as much more than just a host for sporting activities. Regular social events also take place, with the club trying to organise a different event on the last Friday of each month. These range from the ever popular quizzes to murder mystery evenings, live bands and casino nights. A firework display is also held each November.'

If you plan to visit Pirton for the day, Steve suggests making it a Sunday, when you can spend the morning at the recreation ground watching the cricket colts training or the youngsters involved in football practice. Whileaway your lunchtime supping a pint, having a bite to eat in the social club or in one of Pirton's two pubs, The Fox or the Motte and Bailey, and listening to nothing but birds singing and trees rustling. Then spend the afternoon exploring the rest of the village, with its narrow public footpaths providing a maze of interlinking routes between the main roads and, for the more serious walker who is looking for more of a challenge, the Icknield Way runs through the village.

For those not easily spooked, head to Pirton's recreation ground on Halloween and spend the evening trying to work out whodunnit at the murder mystery night.
However you decide to spend your time, one thing's for certain, you won't be short of something to do. Steve sums up Pirton in a nutshell when he says, 'It's picturesque but busy', adding, 'It's a lovely place to visit and a lovely place to live.'

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