Village History

The earliest known mention of Datchworth appears in an Anglo-Saxon charter dated 969 when King Edgar gave land in Datchworth to St Peter’s Church Westminster. It would have been around this time that the parish of Datchworth was formed from one of the large Saxon estates probably centred at Welwyn. The parish boundary has changed several times since particularly during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

In 969 Datchworth was spelt Decewrthe. ‘Dece’ was derived from a man called Dćcca who occupied an enclosure which, in old English, was called ‘wrthe’ and was probably surrounded by a moat, fragments of which remain. The church, Norman in origin, was erected within the confines of the moat and subsequently a manor house was built nearby. It is thought that the current church was preceded by an earlier one.

Long before Datchworth was a parish there is evidence that earlier settlements existed. Archaeologists have found remains and artefacts that pre-date the Roman era and although a Roman road runs through Datchworth Green it has been suggested that this road was originally an Iron Age route connecting Braughing and Welwyn which were two important Iron Age centres.

Datchworth is mentioned in Domesday Book of 1086 which was an assessment of the taxable value of land. Datchworth was assessed as five hides which is an area roughly equivalent to 600 acres of cultivated land. In 1838 a land survey was made again for the purposes of valuation for the Tithe Award and on this occasion there were over 1500 acres of arable land and 200 acres of pasture. The agricultural character of the parish has remained ever since.

Datchworth has not gone untouched by various national events such as the Black Death and indirectly by the English Civil War when a Royalist rector was ousted in 1643. However he was reinstated at the Restoration in 1660.

It has had its fair share of troublemakers who in many cases would have been punished at the whipping post situated on Datchworth Green (its notice board is depicted in the picture gallery). The last recorded use was on 27 July 1665 when two vagabonds were flogged.

The well-known highwayman, Walter Clibbon who, with his band of accomplices, was in the habit of lying in wait for men returning from market with the intention of robbing them. On 28 December 1782 he attacked Ben Whittenbury who luckily was accompanied and a fight ensued whereupon Clibbon was shot dead. Whittenbury was rewarded for his bravery.

In 1991 Datchworth museum was opened and contains a wide selection of artefacts. It is open on the third Sunday of each month from March to November.

There are two books about the village. Five Hide Village (published in 1984) is now out of print but the most recent book, entitled A History of Datchworth and published in 2014, is readily available.