As its name suggests, the arden is an area of open woodland bounded by farmland, villages, and roads. The forest was once so dense that it impeded human travel, and there were dangerous animals within its walls, including bears and wolves, which did not become extinct in Great Britain until the early seventeenth century.
The arden became a symbol of England’s “folk tradition” of Merry England and inspired such artists as Pre-Raphaelite John Collier. It also embodied the English nostalgia autostereotype of an idyllic country life, as depicted by Shakespeare in his plays.
Located near the geographic center of England, the arden was a patchwork of many smaller and larger woods. It was bounded by the Roman roads Icknield Street, Watling Street and Fosse Way, and by the prehistoric salt track from Droitwich to Temple Balsall.
As the arden became enclosed and deforested during the medieval era, it was renamed by the Knights Templar as a preceptory of their order, Temple Balsall. Eventually the order was suppressed by the Reformation in the sixteenth century, and the land passed into the hands of local families.
Today, the arden remains a unique community where people own their houses and pay rent for their leaseholds on communal land owned by the Arden Club. Learn about Village history and organization by visiting the Arden Club’s website, which includes publications such as “Arden: Here’s How It Works” a brief guide to the Town Meeting form of government, as well as information on current ordinances and committees.