Therfield Heath and Greens
Therfield Heath and Greens are formed from the waste of Therfield Manor at the time of enclosures. This was a relatively late enclosure by which time forward thinking people had begun to realise the value of open space.
The 1888 Award is considered by some to be the first piece of environmental legislation passed. It specifically sets out that the Heath is to be maintained for the benefit of the people of Royston and Therfield, for them to have somewhere to play sports and enjoy the open air. It also enshrined the right of the militia to train with arms on the Heath.
The eight Conservators were set up by parliament via the Award of 1888. A mainly elected body designed to represent the main groups who use the Heath. There are six elected conservator’s who serve for a period of three years, three Conservators elected by commoners or stint holders. Three more are elected by the residents of the “special drainage district of Royston”, that is best defined as Old Royston. Finally the current Rector of Therfield and someone elected as the representative of the Lords of the Manor of Therfield, who are the Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens
The commoners or stint holders have the right to graze sheep on the Heath. In the vernacular “stint” is a period of work, “I’ve done my stint now it’s your turn” On the Heath a stint is the right to graze four sheep.The number of stints a commoner owns relates to the area of land the commoner owned at 1888.
All common land is owned by someone. The someone in this case was originally the Crown and then the Abbey of St Albans and later the Church Commissioners. After much debate they sold to the managing body, the Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens. The Church Commissioners had grown increasingly impatient with the number of letters of complaint about the management of the Heath and decided that the income of £1.39 per annum did not justify the expense of the numerous letters and visits to the Heath ownership involved.
For example in 1908 a RE Saunders Esq failed to become elected as a Conservator. He was also refused membership of the Golf Club. After much correspondence with the Church Commissioners and letters to the local papers he announced that on Whit Monday he would be taking action on the Heath. He exercised what he considered his right to roam freely on the Heath by marching into the Golf Club. He was removed from the Golf Club by ‘the golf club steward gently laying his hand on his arm’. The demonstration continued when Mr Saunders and his son removed the railings from around the Golf Club.
The passion for the Heath shown by Mr Saunders is still shown by members of the public today.
In the light of this aggravation the Church Commissioners decided to sell the Heath. They considered selling the Heath to, the National Trust, Hertfordshire County Council or the Herts and Beds Wildlife Trust. The chairman of the Conservators at that time worked very hard to ensure that the Heath and Greens were sold to the managing body. He was successful and so a charity, the Therfield Regulation Trust was set up to own Therfield Heath and Greens. This arrangement continues today with Therfield Regulation Trust owning the land and the Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens continuing to do the managing role as they have since 1888. The elected Conservators also serve as Trustees of the Therfield Regulation Trust, thus full filling three roles, Conservator, Managing Trustee of the Trust and as Property Owing Trustee.
As well as the Heath, the Conservators also own and manage greens in and around Therfield Village.
The Central Greens Ducks Green
Hay Green Dane End
Washing Ditch Green Rush Green
They also own the Playing Field in Therfield which is leased to Therfield and Kelshall Sports Club