Many of us know the history behind our most famous towns and landmarks, and can talk for hours about them.
But others seem to completely slip through the cracks.
Over the centuries, dozens of Hertfordshire’s villages and settlements have all but vanished, with historians piecing together clues to give an idea of what used to stand there.
It can be easy to forget in some cases, especially where villages have since been rebuilt so you’d never even realise.
That’s the case in Flaunden, Hertfordshire – a quaint but bustling village that has gradually moved location over time.
It’s even jumped from one side of the Hertfordshire-Buckinghamshire border to the other.
Thankfully, now it’s on the right side of the divide and has become one of the most desirable areas in the county.
We’ve looked back at the history of this intriguing village where tales of former Nazi war criminals and Cold War spies are told.
What was the history of Old Flaunden?
The original Flaunden village was around two miles away from its current location, and while it was not included in the Domesday Book there are signs of settlement in the Chess Valley from around the Roman times.
The settlement’s most notable feature was a church alongside the banks of the River Chess near Latimer.
According to the Chesham Heritage group the church was built around 1235 AD by Thomas Flaunden.
Thomas was the son of Nicholas de Flaunden, who owned a manor in the 1200s according to Flauden’s village history.
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As it was a long walk from Hemel Hempstead and being a very small building, the discovery that it would often flood eventually became too troublesome and it was abandoned in 1825.
It is thought that the church became lost amidst the trees, but some vandals had managed to spot it over the years.
The North Wall collapsed somewhere between 1910 and 1918 while the rest has fallen into a state of disrepair and it’s currently protected behind fencing.
What is in Flaunden now?
The church suffered the same problems as the handful of homes in the area, and gradually people started to move uphill.
This sped up with the building of St Mary Magdalene Church which was created in 1838.
Some buildings preceded the church by a decent stretch though.
The Green Dragon pub, still in place, was originally built in the 17th century as a residential house before being converted into a pub.
The pub itself has some interesting history, according to its website.
One former regular, Guy Burgess, is thought to have been one of the most notorious traitors during the Cold War, who defected to the Soviet Union as part of the infamous Cambridge Spies.
It was even believed that the day before his defection he was spotted in the tap room of the Green Dragon to a then-unknown man, who turned out – years later – to be Donald Maclean, another spy and defector.
According to the biography of the pub, he’s not the only infamous figure to have visited the Green Dragon as Joachim von Ribbentrop, Germany’s ambassador to London before WWII, reportedly enjoyed a drink while staying at his weekend home in Latimer.
In 1938, von Ribbentrop was called back to Germany to become Adolf Hitler’s Foreign Minister, and was one of the first Nazis to be hanged following the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.
Thankfully, there’s been no infamy for more than half a century.
The village’s other pub is also highly regarded, with the Bricklayers Arms well known as one of the best pubs in the country.
The Good Pub Guide 2020 called it Herts’ best pub, and our review agreed, saying: “In every single area they excel, and it’s easy to see why they were named the best pub in Hertfordshire.”
Beyond the pubs, Flaunden is a quaint and beautiful village, with a traditional church, village hall and stunning views across Hertfordshire.
It comes at a price, though, and according to research by estate agents Savills, it’s the third most expensive village in the county.
In July last year, they found the average home costs £858,386 and homes are hard to come by, because it remains a desirable place to live.
And if you are willing to part with that much cash, at least you know your home won’t flood.
However, for those who can’t permanently stay, we know it’s an ideal place to visit post-lockdown for incredible food, drink and local history.