The Gaddesdens: Midsomer murders and a monastery

Situated within the Chiltern Hills' Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to the north of Hemel Hempstead, are Great Gaddesden, Little Gaddesden and Gaddesden Row.<br/><br/>Louise McEvoy explores their different identities


THE village of Little Gaddesden lies adjacent to the Ashridge Estate, which includes some 5,000 acres of land managed by the National Trust.The area is popular among filmmakers and television series producers, featuring in programmes such as ITV’s Midsomer Murders and Lewis and blockbusters including Stardust and Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.Peter Grainger is vice-chairman of the Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall, Hudnall and Ashridge, which was established in 1975 in response to a threat of a large development of modern houses. He has lived in the village since 1969, and explains, ‘I found it entirely by accident one foggy night. I saw a derelict cottage with a For Sale sign outside and fell in love with it instantly. I decided to buy it and bring it to life.’Mr Grainger says Little Gaddesden, which is a linear village which stretches for a mile-and-a-half, has a shop and ‘a fabulous school’, and boasts an interesting range of buildings, from ‘simple terraced houses to rather elaborate dwellings’. He also explains that there is a complete cross-section of people living there – from farmers to businessmen who commute to London. ‘People come here for peace and quiet and for a nice rural way of life,’ he explains, describing Little Gaddesden as a ‘wonderful area’ with a ‘fabulous community’. ‘There are a whole host of societies covering everything you can think of – art, music and bowls, for instance,’ he enthuses. ‘I look out of my back window onto 5,000 acres of land which is National Trust, and yet we are close to London. We have the best of both worlds.’Asked how a visitor to the village might spend their time, he suggests, ‘The Bridgewater Arms is well worth a visit, where you can get a great meal and good beer.’ A traditional village pub, The Bridgewater Arms has open fires and oak beams, and offers a good selection of ales. ‘It’s one hub of the community,’ says Mr Grainger, ‘and the other is the church of St Peter and St Paul.‘There are also great walks, and Ashridge Business School right in the middle of everything. It was originally a monastery and has fabulous gardens which are open to the public.’In 2002, the Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall, Hudnall and Ashridge published A Century Remembered, a book written by the villagers which documents the history of Little Gaddesden over the past 100 years. ‘It’s a fascinating read,’ says Mr Grainger, who helped put the book together.For more information, and topurchase a copy,


WITH about 50 dwellings, Gaddesden Row is about one-mile long from end to end and boasts a village hall, a children’s play group, and a newly-formed youth club. There is also a pub, the Old Chequers, which serves food and has a beer garden.Mr Brooks says, ‘Most of the people have family living in the area, so it’s very much a personal community and people know each other.’Gaddesden Row is home to the Golden Parsonage, and Gaddesden Place was created by architect James Wyatt in 1768, overlooking parkland running down to the River Gade. The original house was gutted by fire in 1905 and consequently had to be rebuilt. For more information about the Golden Parsonage, Gaddesden Place and the Gaddesden Estate, visit


THE parish of Great Gaddesden stretches from the north-eastern boundary of Hemel Hempstead to the county boundary with Bedfordshire, with the village of the same name home to the 12th-century Church of St John the Baptist.Victor Brooks, who has lived in the parish of Great Gaddesden since 1963 and is known for his knowledge of the area, reckons about 200 people live in the village.‘Great Gaddesden has quite a popular school, and people come from quite a distance to attend,’ he says, adding, ‘There are no other amenities apart from the church, and a village hall on the outskirts.’Asked how a visitor may spend their time, he suggests, ‘There are a lot of nice walks and we are very well served with footpaths here.’ He also says it is well worth visiting the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, where visitors are welcome. ‘The building itself is quite impressive and very well designed,’ he explains.For more information about the monastery, visit