Click here for Walkern’s Magna Carta baron William de Lanvalei
Walkern (‘Walchra’ in Domesday) is a village and civil parish in East Hertfordshire. It is located about four miles from Stevenage, close to the source of the River Beane, a chalk stream. Walkern is noted as the home of Jane Wenham, who was in 1712 the last woman in England to be convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death. Walkern’s rare octagonal dovehouse, built around 1700, is the symbol of Walkern History Society.
The River Beane crosses Church End at a scenic ford in the medieval heart of the village. The ford is overlooked by the 15th century Bridgefoot Farm and thatched Wych Elm cottage. Close by is a rare Wealden House.
The parish church of St Mary the Virgin is one of the oldest village churches in Hertfordshire, with a Saxon wall and rare chalk rood (crucifix) dating back to the middle 10th century. St Mary’s also houses a fine Purbeck marble effigy, most probably of William de Lanvalei, Walkern’s Magna Carta baron.
Walkern has had several mills for grinding the wheat that grows so well in the area. The original medieval mill was located near the church, but was re-located to the southern side of the village probably in the early 17th century. This mill was rebuilt and converted to steam-power in the 19th century, and continued in use until WWII. The building is now residential.
Barley for malting was also grown extensively in the area, and Wright’s Brewery was established in the village in the mid-19th century, using its own artesian well to produce beer and aerated water. Wrights started cider-making in WWI and was finally closed in the 1980s and converted to housing.
Walkern Hall, originally Clay Hall, was built in the late 18th century. The brewer and diarist John Izzard Pryor lived there from 1828 until his death in 1863, capturing life in the village in a series of detailed diaries. John Izzard was the great-great-great-great-uncle of the current owner of Walkern Hall.
The village has several shops including a convenience store and Post Office, ‘Beaubelles’ a locally run hair and beauty salon, ‘Hearts and Crafts’ a haberdashery shop, ‘Jolie’ a shop that features homestyle products, ‘The Brewery Tearooms’ serving fine teas and cakes, a petrol station, a Christmas shop on the north side of the village, and a public art gallery near the White Lion public house. Other pubs include the Yew Tree which also offers Chinese cuisine.
The village also features a primary school, a doctor’s surgery, a recreation ground, a Sports and Community Centre – where, according to the time of year, cricket or football is played, and many other clubs use the facilities, including Walkern History Society. Walkern Sports and Community Centre is located at the southern end of the village near the War Memorial, and opposite the old mill.
With thanks to Walkern History Society for the use of their photographs.