The area of Kitters (or Kidders) Green was at one time quite separate from the village of Abbots Langley and subject to a separate census. The 1851 census shows that the hamlet had a population of 127. There were two large houses, one farm and 23 scattered cottages and sheds close to the Manor House. Interestingly, the 1839 tithe map doesn’t show any ponds in the green area, but only one opposite the Manor House (in front of where the workers’ cottages now are).
Imagine the area at the turn of the last century. The green as we know it now was largely made up of a pond with a path or causeway going across the top close to the buildings. It was pretty shallow and probably fed from the natural underground springs. Much of the rest of the green would have been covered with washing lines with laundry hung out to dry on lines and flapping in the wind. The main access to the village was from the valley end, firstly from the turnpike road from London to the north, and later from the canal and railway. All of the goods needed (groceries, coal, fertilizer etc.) would arrive by one of these routes and be brought up the hill by horsedrawn carts. Having arrived at Kitters Green, the horses would be driven into the shallow ponds to be watered and the drivers would find their way into the Royal Oak to do the same. Most of the year this would result in the earth being churned up and the area may not have been the pretty area that we see today.
During the 1920s and 30s the water levels began to drop and the ponds drained away. This was probably due to the area’s underground water level being gradually lowered by demands made by Abbots Langley’s expanding population. In the late 1950s the Parish Council purchased the green from the Oxford and Cambridge colleges and became responsible for improving and maintaining its current excellent condition.
To the north of Pound Cottage is a row of locally listed late 18th and early 19th Century flint cottages; they have an inset of what appears to be beer bottle bottoms embedded into the brickwork that indicates the date of 1842. These were inhabited by people employed by the Manor House or on Home Farm. Billy Crush, who grew up in one of these cottages, says that the inhabitants were the head gardener, head cowman and the head groom/chauffeur. (The tithe map of 1839 shows a cluster of cottages in this area that appear to face onto the Green.)
POUND COTTAGEPound Cottage is one of the oldest buildings on Kitters Green, a Grade II listed detached timber framed dwelling dating from the mid 17th century with 20th century additions that include a porch and a converted garage to the side adjacent to Kitters Green. The 1839 tithe map shows it as being 3 cottages and gardens, owned by Anne Puddephat and inhabited by John Buckope, James Tayler and George Gower. Now it’s back to one dwelling.
THE POUNDOn the corner of the green is The Pound. Animal pounds, which dated from medieval times, were used to impound stray livestock (cattle, pigs, geese, etc.) until claimed by their owners on payment of a fine or sold to cover the costs of impounding. The traditional style pound was installed by the Parish Council in 1984. Very old maps from the early 1800s don’t show a pound being sited here, but further up the road, midway between Langley Road and Adrian Road. However, old photos show that there was certainly a pound here at the turn of the 19th century. This probably rotted away and a replica was installed by the Parish Council in 1984. This also fell victim to rot and the one you see today was installed in 2021.
ROYAL OAK PUB
Dating from around 1717, this building is recorded as being one cottage owned by Sarah Lewin. A barn on the site is said to have been where the one-time pest house used to be. In 1786 it was owned by Luke Lewin, a bricklayer and Parish Clerk and a descendant of Sarah.
SHERWOOD HOUSE/CASTANO COURT
At the back of the green stood Sherwood House, later named Castano House. This is now the site of Castano Court flats.
YEW TREE COTTAGE
Yew Tree Cottage is the other old cottage and dates from around 1650. Known in the past as The Yews, Yew Tree Cottage or Yew Cottage, it is a typical-of-its-time timber-framed construction and the 1914 Deed of Partition records it as being ‘formerly two cottages’. However, a late 1890s photo (in the possession of Isaac Collins’s great, great grandson) of Isaac Collins and his granddaughter Susan Bolton Collins, standing in the front garden of the cottage shows only one gate and front door. It has a long single storey building at its rear which at one time housed a village laundry. This is shown on 1926 conveyance documents as having its own entrance in Garden Road, so this may be what was separately recorded. The property had a freshwater spring and two wells and this was probably the main reason why laundering was an excellent option for its residents. There were washing lines on the green for hanging out the washing. The laundry at the rear was demolished during the 1900s, but the drying rails and their pulleys, suspended from the roof trusses, still exist inside the roof space of the Victorian extension at the back of the cottage (certainly until 2011). Rumour has it that the current residents of the cottage still have the right to hang their laundry out on the green.
The building has undergone many changes over time. In 1985 when it was listed as a Grade II*, it still had a mud floor and this was still there when the new residents moved in, in 1989, with flagstones just laid on top in the kitchen and the ‘laundry extension’ area.
The house would originally have been built on oak beams laid directly on the ground and, after more than 300 years, one of these rotted enough to cause one corner of the house to sink and distort the roof. Specialist restorers were called in who stabilised the cottage with lime mortar and bricks and a new oak rail, rebuilding the east wall that had buckled. Whilst new timbers were installed as needed, the old original timbers are still there. The restorers declared that the building is now good for another 400 years and long may it stand.
As one may expect where such an old property is concerned, in 2005 the family called it the ‘Haunted House’ after one of their babysitters saw a ghostly child walk across the sitting room.
MAYS OR MEGS COTTAGE
One-time manorial property and traditionally occupied by the Manor House head gardener.
There used to be other cottages and dwellings around the area known as Kitters Green, some of them wooden, that stretched down the road towards Tanners Wood or what is now Greenways. They were scattered around and built at different angles from each other with orchard trees between them. This may be the origin of the name Garden Road.
Notable Occupants of the Grand Houses of Abbots Langley – The Manor House
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These notes are based on information provided during a Parish History Walk – Kitters Green and Around – led by Delva O’Regan of the Abbots Langley Local History Society on Sunday 7th August 2022. This page will be updated with more information in due course.