History talk explains why Little Wymondley is bigger than Great Wymondley

John Laflin during his talk on the history of the Wymondleys at Great Wymondley Village Hall. Pictur

John Laflin during his talk on the history of the Wymondleys at Great Wymondley Village Hall. Picture: JP Asher - Credit: Archant

Why is Little Wymondley bigger than neighbouring Great Wymondley? It’s a question often asked, but rarely answered.

The apparent anomaly is nothing to do with the numbers of people, but because Great Wymondley historically comprised more land than Little Wymondley – just one of numerous things explained by John Laflin during his talk on the history of the two villages.

“Great Wymondley is great on the basis of geographical area, and not population or number of houses,” said John, who said its extent once went out as far as what is now Stevenage Old Town.

About 50 people attended the talk at Great Wymondley Village Hall, which outlined the history of the area from its pre-Roman beginnings right up to modern times – including the 1982 visit of the Queen and Prince Philip, during which Her Majesty was presented with a framed history of Great Wymondley.

John began his talk by saying there was evidence of Iron Age settlement in the area, and that the layout of some fields around Great Wymondley indicated that they may have never changed since Roman times.

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The name ‘Wymondley’, he said, came about in the 7th century – derived from the name of Saxon chief Wymond and the word ‘ley’, meaning ‘pasture’.

Notables mentioned by John during his talk included the Tudor-period Needham family – whose name the hotel near Little Wymondley bears – and John de Radcote, whose surname was later corrupted into Redcoats.

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The Hermit of Redcoats pub, John said, was named after Victorian curiosity James Lucas – a recluse who kept his mother’s corpse in his house with him for three months, and refused to leave his house for 25 years.

John also dedicated much time during his talk to explaining that the building in Great Wymondley referred to as ‘the Manor House’ was actually the old manor farmhouse, and that the original manor house’s unknown location was probably behind the houses opposite the village hall.

Little Wymondley has outgrown and taken precedence over Great Wymondley since a main road was built between Coreys Mill and Hitchin in the 18th century – going through Little Wymondley.

John’s talk last Sunday was one of a series of events held to raise funds for the restoration of St Mary’s Church in Great Wymondley.

Further planned fundraisers include a gala dinner on May 24 at the Redcoats Farmhouse hotel.

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