The Arden – A Culturally Defined Area in Warwickshire

The arden was the name of a former forest and culturally defined area that in antiquity and into early modern times encompassed large parts of Warwickshire, as well as adjoining parts of Staffordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire. The arden was bounded by the Roman roads Icknield Street, Watling Street and Fosse Way and by a prehistoric salt track from Droitwich. It was a dangerous wilderness where bears and wolves roamed. Shakespeare’s arden may have promulgated an English nostalgic autosterotype of Merry England as seen by such artists as Pre-Raphaelite John Collier, or the actual forest may have been more sinister than he suggests, with its dangers and threats.

On the outskirts of the arden, towns were built at Henley-in-Arden and Coleshill, with Roman villas at a number of sites. In the medieval era, royal forests subject to forest law were established on wooded land adjoining the arden, at Sutton Park in the Anglo-Saxon era and Feckenham Forest in the early Norman era.

A large part of the arden is privately owned and used for dwellings. The communal land is owned by the village, while the area occupied by dwellings is leased to individual leaseholders who pay taxes on their square footage for village, county and local school expenses. The village operates a town-meeting form of government and its governing documents and ordinances are found on this website.

A special task force set up by the Town Assembly is reviewing the arden’s governing documents and ordinances. You can see meeting announcements and a schedule of topics under consideration on the task force’s new web page. A great deal of information about the arden’s responsibilities and rights as a leaseholder is also available in the Red Book, which you can access here on this site.

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