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History of Knebworth

KNEBWORTH lies near the southernmost edge of the North Hertfordshire district, between Stevenage New Town to the North and Old Welwyn to the South. There is evidence of habitation since Neolithic times and occupation in or near Knebworth in the Bronze Age, although there is little to support any Roman occupation. It is likely that a small community may have been started at Knebworth between the 5th and 7th centuries, inhabited by Saxons.

The first written evidence of occupation is in the Domesday Book when it was called Chenepworde – meaning the farm belonging to Cnebba. The census taken in 1086 indicated a population of about 153 people. Census figures for 1991 showed an increase to 4,028 and a further increase to 4,433 according to the 2001 census (still under review).

Ownership of Knebworth continued in various baronial families until passed to the crown in 1517. Between 1346 and 1492 various families held the manor, until 1492 when Thomas Bourghchier sold the reversion to Robert Lytton. The village of Knebworth formed by tenements, farms and land grew up around the manor.

Knebworth House, one of the great houses of Hertfordshire, stands in the Knebworth Housegrounds of Knebworth Park and has been the home of the Lytton family for over 500 years. The grounds now form a Country Park with picnic areas and many other facilities, which together with the house are open to the public. It has been the venue for Pop and Classical concerts.Within the grounds of Knebworth Park lies St. Mary’s Parish Church, the nave and chancel of which date back to 1120 A.D. Three hundred years later a tower was erected, and the North chapel was added in 1520

In 1886, the Scots farmers working in the district established their own church using the local blacksmith’s shop in Station Road. This was replaced in 1887St Mary's by a new Congregational Church, later to become the United Reformed Church in 1973. Trinity Church, Methodist/URC situated in Park Lane was formed by uniting the former Knebworth Methodist and Knebworth United Reformed Churches in 1996. The present building was extended and refurbished in 2000.

By the late 19th century, Knebworth had expanded, mainly due to the proximity of the Great North Road, and the opening of Knebworth railway station in 1884. A new community grew up and became New Knebworth, (the ‘New’ has since been dropped), whilst the original community around Knebworth House and the Parish Church became Old Knebworth. The A1(M) completed in 1962, now allows traffic to by-pass the village.

A new church (St. Martin's) designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, a brother-in-law of Lord Lytton, was built in New Knebworth and was consecrated by the Bishop of St. Albans in November 1915. An extension was completed in 1964.

Knebworth boasts 3 inns:- The Roebuck at Broadwater is the eldest, possibly dating back to 1420; the Lytton Arms, Old Knebworth, circa 1840, (the present building was erected in 1887), and the Station Hotel (Station Pub) built in 1883.

More than 70 clubs and organisations are listed in the current Knebworth Directory, and there is a wide variety of shops and businesses centred around the main London - Stevenage Road. 

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