Great Bentley in Essex has Britain’s largest village green. Visiting it last week, I wasn’t sure that size was necessarily an advantage. It’s difficult to see houses on the other side of this 42-acre tableland without binoculars. The chances of bumping into other villagers while crossing it seem remote, as you probably wouldn’t pass within hailing distance.
Most village greens were nibbled from commons in the late Middle Ages, perhaps as a result of social changes following the Black Death. Great Bentley seems just to have kept the common; I’d love to know why.
Greens aren’t completely de rigueur in England only about a third of villages has one but seem to be special to this country. They’re not much found in the deeper parts of Wales or Scotland, let alone Ireland or France. Some London greens Chelsea, Pimlico are more greys, as the verdure comes from the window of Daylesford Organic.
Paddington Green survives as little more than the name of a police station. Stepney Green would seem to be a football pitch, to judge from Google Earth. Shepherd’s Bush Green whose name, I suspect, was invented by estate agents as an alternative to the older Gagglegoose Green is effectively a traffic island. None of them is very satisfactory. Perhaps we’d better reclassify Trafalgar Square?