Arden is a place in England where Shakespeare was born and raised. It is also the name of a forest that is located next to Stratford-upon-Avon. The forest is named for Mary Arden, who was the mother of Shakespeare.
The Forest of Arden is a vast area of thickly forested land that once occupied an area of Warwickshire in central England. It is now a National Park and contains many miles of old tracks, trails and pathways that connect it to the rest of the country.
There are several important medieval settlements in the area, including Henley-in-Arden, Hampton-in-Arden and Tanworth-in-Arden. The area was once a rich woodland, extending from the River Avon in the south to the River Tame in the north.
During the medieval period the forest was protected by forest law and a system of royal forests was created. These forests, known as ‘forest lands’, were held by lords who owned them, who were responsible for their upkeep and for maintaining the integrity of the forest. In some cases, the lords of the forest would have had authority to levy taxes on all the villagers living within the forest’s boundaries, and in other cases they could only raise such taxes on those who had made their own land within the forest.
The forest was a key area of political and religious activity. The Knights Templar used a preceptory at Temple Balsall in the Forest of Arden from around 1162 until they were suppressed in 1312. A Coughton wayside cross is still present, where travellers would say prayers before entering the forest.
A distinctive white heterolithic sandstone from the Triassic age is quarried in the area and was used to build many of the buildings in the region. This sandstone is unique as it has a high concentration of calcium carbonate (‘lime’). It was also found in the River Cole, and was a popular source of limestone for building sewage systems in the late 18th century.
In the nineteenth century a new style of architecture was developed that was influenced by the French Renaissance, which included an extensive use of stone. The sandstone from the Forest of Arden was often used to build churches and other public buildings, as well as a range of private homes and gardens.
The sandstone from the Forest of Arden is still in demand today. The area is now a tourist destination and many visitors come from far flung places to see the sandstone in its original form, as well as to enjoy the surrounding countryside and wildlife. The sandstone is highly prized by architects and homeowners alike, and it is the material of choice for many buildings in the UK. the arden