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The Village Green, the Heart of Historical England

Aug 15, 2008
The village Green has always been at the heart of life in Historical England, serving the needs of the village inhabitants a various guises. It is such a shame that so many of these marvelous green spaces are now neglected or abused.

Originally developed in Anglo Saxon settlements as places where livestock could be protected or the green used as common grazing ground the village green has developed over the centuries into a center of village life, equally as important as the village church or manor house, it served the common peoples needs. Some of the uses are outlined here as examples of how important they were to the whole community.

The Village Pond
Among the livestock kept by villagers were ducks and geese and the pond was their sanctuary with the green itself providing grazing. Horses, sheep and cattle used it as a watering hole but since the introduction of more modern methods when livestock was moved from the green to adjacent farm land the ponds life went into decline. The invention of the tractor saw the end of the need for horses, and no need for a watering hole the ponds became overgrown an polluted with waste.

Most modern day village ponds are man made, lined with clay or even polythene and are more a place for relaxation and children to pond dip in than a village utility. Whatever their use they enhance England's countryside, long may they live.

The Village Stocks
Punishment was a public display of law and order and a deterrent to would be law breakers and the village stocks were at the forefront of this humiliation. There were other punishment held on the greens such as ducking stools and whipping posts but the stocks are the most common of these still in evidence today.

Up until the 19th century the behavior of the villagers was controlled by the local Squire and sometimes the church Rector and some of the crimes you could be punished for were, drunkenness, rowdiness, swearing and of course stealing. Perhaps something the Government of the day ought to consider bring back.

The Village Water Supply
As well as having the pond to serve as a water supply for livestock many villages had a village pump situated on the green. Before the advent of piped water this was the only means for locals to obtain clean, fresh water. The collecting of water from the pump was therefore a daily chore, usually carried out by the women and children of the community.

The Village Playground
One of the most charming sites when touring the countryside is to come across a village green with a cricket match being played, Englishness personified. But well before cricket was introduced the village green was used as a practice ground for the local archers before marching off to the battlefields of Agincourt. Aristocracy used the green for jousts and tilting contests which often included a fair for the less well to do enjoy.

Various festivals were celebrated on the village green, some of which are still performed today. Spring time was welcomed in by Morris dancing and the Maypole was dressed and danced around and on Midsummer day fires were lit and celebrations held.

So you can see that the village green was central to the life of the community and in many ways still is today. But with the closing of local shops and pubs the village green is under threat which is such a pity for residents and visitors alike. I may be getting old and cynical but I feel that some things really were better years ago.
About the Author
Steve has a passion for English history and he has set up his web site to share his passion with you. He gives a simple introduction and some personal views on historical England from which you can enjoy and learn about the history of England, London and much, much more at www.historicalengland.org
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