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History[change | change source]
Situated between the villages of Welwyn and Knebworth, Woolmer Green was first settled in the Iron Age. The Belgae colonised the area in the 1st century BC, and later it was settled by the Romans. Many Roman artefacts have been found in the surrounding area with a Roman bath house existing at nearby Welwyn. The village was at the junction of two thoroughfares, the Great North Road and another road called Stane Street (or Stone Street) from St Albans. The route of this road runs across the parish along the path of Robbery Bottom Lane, continuing on as a public bridleway to Datchworth and then Braughing, on its eventual way to another major Roman town, Colchester.
Thomas de Wolvesmere is recorded as having lived in a dwelling here in 1297, and his name is considered to have led to the current name of the village.
Woolmer Green has always been one of those places which is “neither here nor there”. In the Middle Ages part of the village was in Mardleybury Manor, part in Rectory Manor, with the northern part owing allegiance to Broadwater Manor or Knebworth. Things have not changed; the village is still at the point where the Districts of North Hertfordshire, East Hertfordshire and Welwyn Hatfield meet.
Apart from the trade generated by travellers, life in Woolmer Green was agricultural and feudal until the middle of the nineteenth century. Things started to change, however, when the railway arrived in 1850 (although the nearby station in Knebworth was not opened until 1884 after intervention from Viscount Knebworth). The village school, which was opened a few years after this, obtained much funding from the railway.
In 1863, only a gunsmith and a shoemaker were listed in the trade directory. By 1898, when the population of Woolmer Green stood at 363 and that of Knebworth at 382, there were five shops including two beer retailers; no mention in the trade directory of the many ‘front room shops’! This level of service persisted until recent years with a general store and Post Office, a baker, a small supermarket and a butcher. These have all now closed.
The main road through the centre of the village was still the Great North Road down which thousands of cattle and sheep were driven ‘on the hoof’ to London markets each year. The area around Knebworth and Woolmer Green provided what was probably the last overnight stop for the animals and their drovers before they reached London.
During the 20th century the village became a popular destination for tourists travelling to and from London as it lies on the old Great North Road from London to Edinburgh. Many who passed along the road would have visited the cottage inhabited by the late Harry McDonald, who for many years adorned both the cottage and garden with intricate carvings of animals and other objects. He became famous as the Woodcarver of Woolmer Green. The Woodcarvers Cottage, as it came to be known, was demolished after his death.
Woolmer Green independence[change | change source]
Prior to the millennium year, 2000, Woolmer Green was part of the parish of Welwyn for local government purposes. In that year, however, the parish gained its independence from its neighbour, and the inaugural meeting of the Parish Council was held in May 2000. The first chairman of the new Woolmer Green Parish Council, Judith Watson, was instrumental in achieving the separation.
The railway through Woolmer Green[change | change source]
The boundary between Woolmer Green and Welwyn parishes is formed by the path of the East Coast Mainline railway. The small viaduct to the south of the Parish, at the end of Robbery Bottom Lane, follows the same basic design as the long Digswell Viaduct. It was designed by William Cubitt and built by Thomas Brassey between 1848 and 1850 for the sum of £4,643. There are seven arches with a height above the roadway of 17m and a length of 60m. The viaduct and the bridges over London Road and Heath Road are all original, dating from when the railway was first built, although they have been strengthened and the parapets raised.
Immediately to the south of the viaduct the railway enters the first of two tunnels (with a very short open section in the middle) between Woolmer Green and the station at Welwyn North. The first tunnel heading south was the site of a notorious accident in 1866.
There was a temporary railway halt at Woolmer Green during the war which was used by soldiers, but nowadays the nearest station is just down the road at Knebworth.
Woolmer Green Village Hall[change | change source]
The parish has an excellent modern Village Hall and adjoining sports field which are very actively used by the community. The hall was opened in November 1990 by local celebrity Barry Norman and is licensed for wedding ceremonies.