Great Offley

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Great Offley
St Mary Magdalene Church.JPG
St Mary Magdalene, Great Offley
Grid reference: TL148262
Location: 51°55’40"N, 0°20’10"W
Population: 1,307  (2001)
Post town: Hitchin, Luton
Postcode: SG5
Dialling code: 01462
Local Government
Council: North Hertfordshire
Hitchin and Harpenden

Great Offley is a village in Hertfordshire, found on the main road between Hitchin and Luton. Surrounding Great Offley are the hamlets of Little Offley and The Flints. In the southwest of the parish, near Luton, there are the hamlets of Cockernhoe, Mangrove Green and Tea Green, and also the Putteridge Bury estate.

Offa, King of the Mercians in the 8th century, is said to have built a palace here and thus gave his name to the village.

The village

Great Offley lies on the top of a chalk escarpment ridge 521 feet above sea level in the centre of Offley parish, which is the most north-eastern ridge of the Chiltern Hills. Its population was recorded as 673 in 2001. The village was by-passed by the A505 dual carriageway in the 1970s

There is a most interesting group of buildings, including Offley Place, which was rebuilt in 1810 but which retains a Tudor porch and a 17th-century wing.

The village still has a Post Office/General stores, the butchers shop was closed in recent times to be replaced by a ladies' hairdressers. Two landmarks close to the centre of the village are the water tower and lose by a radio mast.

Offley Endowed JMI School is situated close to the village centre.

The village has its own Telephone Exchange which is located on Offley Hill.

The 152 mile Chiltern Way long distance footpath passes through the parish, as does the 170 mile Chiltern Cycleway.[1]

Parish church

The parish church named after St Mary Magdalene contains some attractive monuments. Its nave is Early English, and the chancel was recased and its interior built by Sir Thomas Salusbury in the 18th century. The tower dates from about 1800.


The Flints

The Flints is a hamlet which lies just ½ mile west of Great Offley, and its population was 40 in 2001.


Main article: Cockernhoe

Cockernhoe lies 2½ miles southwest of Great Offley. It has a village school and a small church (St Hugh's).

Mangrove Green

Mangrove Green lies just north of Cockernhoe and south of Putteridge Bury, and its population is 108. The village has one pub, the King William IV.

Tea Green

Tea Green lies 2½ miles south of Great Offley, and its population is 44. Tea Green sits on top of a chalk ridge on the opposite side of Lilley Bottom in the Mimram Valley. A major landmark is the tall water tower which is next to the White Horse Pub.

Two of the oldest barns in the area (dating from the 16th Century) are located at Tankards and Crutchmore Farms[2]

Offley Chase

Offley Chase lies approximately 2 miles south west of Offley along Lilley Bottom.

Putteridge Bury

Main article: Putteridge Bury

Putteridge Bury is an estate which belongs to the University of Bedfordshire. It was originally acquired in 1965 as a Teacher Training College. The mansion was built in the style of Chequers was completed in 1911. The Putteridge estate is a mixture of arable farmland and woodland.



Around the village

The farms of Offley parish are a mixture of arable, and woodland with some minor seasonal grazing. To the east of the village all the round to the south east forms part of the King's Walden estate.

During the winter months, pheasant and partridge shooting takes with several shooting syndicates operating to the north of the village as well as a big shoot organised by King's Walden Estate.

Red kites along with buzzards and sparrowhawks can be seen in the area.[3]

Many of the farms in the area are no longer used for agriculture and some have been sold off for housing development. Several farms up until the 1970s had herds of dairy cattle but low milk prices forced many farms to turn to arable farming.

Much of the woodland is not used for timber and is made up of oak, beech, horse chestnut trees with smaller plantations of pine and spruce. During the spring many of the woods are carpeted with bluebells. There is a sizeable herd of fallow deer and muntjac appear on occasion.

Offley at War 1939 - 1945

Offley was Headquarters for an Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) Searchlight unit based in Hoo Lane, that had detachments in Hitchin along Bedford Road, Chapel Foot along London Road, as well as at Whitwell and Diamond End.[4]

At 7.15am on 18 July 1944 a Lancaster Mk.111 bomber belonging to 115 Squadron RAF[5][6] crashed into the farm house at West End Farm, killing the crew as well as the farmer's wife and two daughters (one of whom was home on leave from the Auxiliary Territorial Service).

The aircraft LM616 (KO J) had left its base at RAF Witchford near Ely several hours earlier to support Allied ground forces taking part in Operation Goodwood during the Normandy campaign. The Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces objective was to bomb units of the 16th Luftwaffe Field Division and the 21st Panzer Division which were located around the Manneville area in France.[7]

LM616 received severe damage during the raid, in which its controls and navigation aids were shot up. The aircraft had descended through low cloud only to see the high escarpment of the Chiltern Hills at Offley loom into view too late for the crew to take immediate action. The aircraft hit trees in a wood on top of Birkitt Hill before the colliding with the farm house at West End Farm.[8][9]

Glebe Farm Explosion

At 3 pm on the 8 January 1945 a US Army lorry carrying munitions was involved in a road accident with a petrol tanker as it was passing Glebe Farm at the Flints.

The drivers managed to evacuate nearby residents however a bus from Luton came round the corner just as an explosion occurred, killing three US Servicemen on the bus and injuring 21 others. The explosion was so severe that it made a crater on the road 50 feet wide and 14 feet deep.

The Windmill and Farm were completely destroyed and Flint cottages were severely damaged, other houses in Offley suffered extensive blast damage.[10][11]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Offley)