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Harpenden’s Coat of Arms and Crest was granted to the former Urban District Council in 1949 and subsequently transferred to Harpenden Town Council by order of Her Majesty in Council; recorded in the College of Armson 30th May 1978.
The designation is: -
Bendy of six Gules and argent three Garbs or a chief Azure. Thereon on pale between two Saltires throughout of the third a Fesse dancette Sable and for the Crest on Wreath of the Colours. Within Wattled palings proper aMountVertthereon a Hart lodged also proper.
The crest showing a hart at rest over traditional mountings of a helmet and wreath alludes to the County of Hertfordshire; the two gold diagonal crosses represent the Diocese of St Albans, with the black W between them taken from the Wittewronge arms, as are the diagonal stripes in the bottom part of the shield. The three gold sheaves symbolise Harpenden’s connections with wheat growing, including in the past with the straw-plaiting industry.
Harpenden is situated on a dip-slope of the Chiltern Hills. The original village lies between two river valleys running in a north west to south east direction. The westerly valley of the River Ver has been used since Roman times as the route of Watling Street between St Albans and Dunstable; the eastern valley contains the River Lea, which rises north of Luton and flows through Hertfordshire and then to the River Thames.
Harpenden is first recorded in an eleventh century deed in which Edward the Confessor granted an estate to Westminster Abbey, consisting of the area around Hwaethamstede (now Wheathampstead) and Herpedene. This district was first settled by the Belgae who arrived in the first century BC, spreading inland and clearing dense prehistoric forests to make small farm clearings, which became the ‘Ends’ and ‘Greens’ which are so numerous locally.
The Belgae were followed by the Romans, who left traces of their occupation in both river valleys and at Rothamsted. Then came the Anglo-Saxons; they were threatened by the Danes until an agreement of 886 made the River Lea the agreed boundary between them, Saxons to the west, Danes to the east.
For many years the village saw little change. Agriculture was the main occupation of its inhabitants, the area being especially suited to growing wheat. The resulting abundance of good strong straw encouraged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the growth of the straw plait industry, in which most of the women and young children took part. The straw-hat trade was centred on Luton and Dunstable; people from all the villages round about sold their plait to the hat manufacturers, considerably supplementing small agricultural wages.
Situated as it is between Watling Street to the west and the Great North Road to the east, the road through Harpenden was never one of the country’s main highways. Consequently the village grew slowly. When railways were being developed all over the country there was little reason for one through Harpenden. The people of Luton were campaigning for a railway so a branch line was opened from there in 1860 passing through Harpenden at Batford to join the main Great Northern line at Hatfield. Eight years later the Midland Railway opened its mainline extension from Bedford to London. Many of the workers on the railway were billeted in the small village of Harpenden, which, with its neighbouring hamlets of Hatching Green and Batford and its cluster of farm workers’ cottages in the ‘Bowling Alley’ to the south, was deemed to justify a station of its own as the line was completed. This direct link with the capital, together with the sale in 1882 of an estate of over a thousand acres of land for building, really started the village’s development. The first estate to be built was that adjacent to Milton Road. Houses were built in a variety of styles as other estates were developed over the years, eventually linking the hamlets of Batford, Southdown and Kinsbourne Green to the pleasant town we know today.
The growth of Harpenden by 1889 justified its elected representative to claim the status of an Urban District Council. Local Government re-organisation in 1974 saw Harpenden become part of the City and District of St Albans and the successor parish council took the title of Harpenden Town Council in 1989 leading to the inauguration of the first Town Mayor.
Last updated about 1 year ago