Aldbury Area Guide
With its quintessentially English duck pond and medieval stocks, Aldbury has an irresistible chocolate box appeal and is perhaps the prettiest village in the county. Half-timbered Tudor buildings sit alongside ivy-clad brick houses of typical Chilterns architecture in picture-perfect fashion. But the village has an unexpectedly cheeky history too, thanks to Playboy.
About AldburySitting roughly halfway between Tring and Berkhamsted, Aldbury is a quintessentially English village, and is often used as a TV and film location. Little wonder really; the village has all the required elements for portraying English village life, with a large and pretty duck pond, thatched cottages, a 13th Century church, cute village shop and, of course, local hostelries. There is even an ancient stocks and whipping post.
Among many other productions, The Dirty Dozen, The Avengers, and Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason were filmed here, while the large Georgian mansion in the village - Stocks House - has connections with a rather more raucous side of celebrity: in the 1970s it was purchased by American Playboy executive Victor Lownes and reputedly used as a training camp for Playboy bunnies. Pop music’s nutty boys, Madness, filmed some scenes for the ‘Our House’ video in the 1980s there too, while in the 90s the house and swimming pool adorned the cover of the Oasis album, Be Here Now.
After Lownes’ death, the house was sold and became a hotel and golf course. Today Stocks House is a private house once more, although the adjacent golf course remains.
Nestled at the foot of the beautiful National Trust Ashridge Estate, Aldbury offers one of Hertfordshire’s steepest hill walks. The wooded slope towards the Bridgewater Monument climbs to one of the county’s highest points and rewards those that dare with a particularly fine panorama.
But it is the vibrant and thriving community that is, perhaps, Aldbury’s proudest asset: residents seldom leave, opting instead to up- or downsize within the village. Part of their reason to stay might well be the presence of The Greyhound Inn, a family-run country hotel and restaurant.
Aldbury’s excellent Church-of-England Primary School feeds into the highly regarded Tring Secondary School, while a number of nearby private schools include the renowned Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, and Berkhamsted School.
Perfect for leading a delightfully tranquil existence, Aldbury is also an easy place from which to sample the neighbouring market towns. Tring and Berkhamsted are about 2.5 miles and 4 miles respectively, so you can dip in and out of their headier lifestyles and retreat back home on a whim. And with Tring’s mainline station just a 20-minute walk along, fittingly enough, Station Road, the village is within easy reach of London. The A41, M1 and M25 are all close by as well.
HistoryFirst mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book as Aldeberie, Aldbury has Anglo-Saxon royalty connections, with the village manor house held by a certain Alwin, thane to Edward the Confessor. The parish church of St John the Baptist dates back to the early 1200s, was enlarged in Romanesque style in the 14th century and then restored in 1866-7 and covered in flint rubble masonry and Totternhoe Stone.
The 17th and 18th centuries gave Aldbury the village that we see today, although the serene beauty of the streetscape hides a somewhat motley past including a gold rush-style land grab by the locals. In the absence of a major landowner, village farmers set about extending their landholdings by chopping down forests and converting the land to arable and meadow, with the copyholds (an early form of lease) converted to freeholds in 1691.
However, as with many an anarchy, the proponents failed to capitalise on their gains and most of the 17th century was a period of decline for Aldbury: it was still being described as ‘a very rough place’ in 1846 (almost unbelievable looking at the village today). Only when the manor house was demolished and sold for scrap did the tide begin to turn, with the salvaged materials helping to repair the buildings in the village.
Ironically, perhaps inevitably, it was the re-emergence of more substantial landowners that sewed the seeds of Aldbury’s recovery. The Duncombe family acquired a number of properties, built today’s Stocks House in 1773 and eventually formed an estate of around 550 acres. A little later in the early 19th Century, the 7th Earl of Bridgewater and Lord of the Manor of the Ashridge Estate, began stamping his mark on Aldbury, building new houses with roofs not of traditional thatch but slate, imported by barge along the new Grand Junction Canal.
The influence of the estates continued as the village population rose, with projects aimed at improving the amenities in Aldbury - the church restoration and the building of the alms houses and school being some examples. As the village improved, word got out, and a burgeoning tourism industry saw the opening of tea rooms and souvenir shops alongside the long-established Greyhound Inn and Valliant Trooper taverns.
Charmed by Aldbury’s location and emerging village loveliness, day-trippers turned into residents as they began to buy property here and settle. And that, as they say, is history.
- Explore the 5,000 acres of National Trust countryside on your doorstep
- Enjoy a famously good dinner at The Greyhound
- Walk the dog up the hill to the Bridgewater Monument, then tuck into a bacon sandwich and a slice of cake at the Brownlow Cafe
- While away a Sunday afternoon, relaxing by the duck pond
- Climb the 172 steps to the top of the towering Bridgewater Monument, and see if you can spot Canary Wharf