A village green is a common open area which is a part of a settlement. Traditionally, such an area was often common grass land at the centre of a small agricultural settlement, used for grazing and sometimes for community events. Some may also have a pond, originally for watering stock.
The green is traditionally at a central location and provides an open-air meeting place for the people of a village, for example at times of celebration, or for public ceremonies. May Day festivities are traditionally located at the green, with the Maypole erected at its centre.
The common use of the term village green reflects a perception of a rural, agricultural idyllic past. However the actuality of such locations always has been very wide, and can encompass woodland, moorland, sports grounds, and even — in part — buildings and roads. They may also be positioned far from the centre of the community, especially if the community has moved, or been absorbed into a larger settlement.
Greens are increasingly rare and are mainly to be found in the older villages of mainland Europe, the United Kingdom, and in areas of New England and Ohio in the United States. Enclosure, the agricultural revolution, and urban development have led to the loss of a number of village greens. Town expansion in the mid 20th century led in England to the formation of local conservation societies, often centring on village green preservation, as celebrated and parodied in The Kinks' album The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society. The Open Spaces Society is the present-day UK national campaigning body which continues this movement.
The term can also apply to Urban parks. In the United States, the most famous example of a town green is probably the New Haven Green in New Haven, Connecticut. New Haven was founded by settlers from England and was the first planned city in the United States. Originally used for grazing livestock, the Green dates from the 1630s and is well preserved today despite lying at the heart of the city centre. The largest green in the U.S. is a mile in length, and can be found in Lebanon, Connecticut. One of the most unusual is the Dartmouth Green in Hanover, New Hampshire, which was owned and cleared by the college in 1770. The college, not the town, still owns it and finally surrounded it with buildings as a sort of collegiate quadrangle in the 1930s, although its formal origin as a town green remains apparent.
Town and village greensEdit
As well as the general use of the term, Village Green has a specific legal meaning in England and Wales, and also includes the less common term Town Greens. Town and Village Greens were originally defined in the Commons Registration Act 1965, as amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, as land:
- which has been allotted by or under any Act for the exercise or recreation of the inhabitants of any locality
- or on which the inhabitants of any locality have a customary right to indulge in lawful sports and pastimes
- or if it is land on which for not less than twenty years a significant number of the inhabitants of any locality, or of any neighbourhood within a locality, have indulged in lawful sports and pastimes as of right.
These Acts have now been repealed and replaced by the Commons Act 2006 although the fundamental test of whether land is a TVG remain the same. This means that it is possible for land to become a village green if it has been used for twenty years without force, secrecy or permission (nec vi, nec clam, nec precario). Village green legislation is often used in attempts to frustrate development. Recent case law (Oxford County Council vs Oxford City Council and Robinson) makes it clear that registration as a green would render any development which prevented continuing use of the green as a criminal activity under either or both of the 1857 Inclosure Act and the Commons Act of 1876. This leads to some most curious areas being claimed as village greens, sometimes with success. Recent examples include a bandstand, and (ultimately unsuccessfully) a beach.
A notable example of a village green is that in the village of Finchingfield in Essex, which is said to be "the most photographed village in England." The green dominates the village, and slopes down to a duck pond, and is occasionally flooded after heavy rain. The village of Great Bentley, also in Essex, has the largest village green in the UK at 43 acres.
Some greens that used to be a common or otherwise at the centre of a village have since been swallowed up by a city growing around them. Sometimes they become a city park or a square, and manage to maintain a sense of place. London has several of these: Newington Green, originally a Dissenting village, is one good example, with its church anchoring its north end.
There are two places in the United States called Village Green: Village Green-Green Ridge, Pennsylvania, and Village Green, New York. Some New England towns, along with some areas settled by New Englanders such as the townships in the Connecticut Western Reserve, refer to their town square as a village green.
- ↑ "Oxfordshire County Council v. Oxford City Council & Ors (2005) and others  UKHL 25 (24 May 2006)". Bailii.org. http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKHL/2006/25.html. Retrieved 2009-09-14.
- ↑ http://www.iwight.com/council/committees/Human%20Resources%20and%20Misc%20Appeals/1-9-06/Paper%20B.htm
- ↑ "UK | England | Cornwall | Bid to call beach a village green". BBC News. 2004-11-09. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cornwall/3993377.stm. Retrieved 2009-09-14.
- ↑ "Carlyon Bay Beach". Carlyonbay.org.uk. http://www.carlyonbay.org.uk/news.html. Retrieved 2009-09-14.
- The Open Spaces Society - gives UK information on how to claim a village green.
- Town Greens of Connecticut - historical information on the town greens that are found in almost every Connecticut towncs:Náves