A village green is a
open area within a
village A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet (place), hamlet but smaller than a town (although the word is often used to describe both hamlets and smaller towns), with a population typically ranging from a ...
or other settlement. Historically, a village green was common
grassland Grasslands are areas where the vegetation is dominated by grasses (Poaceae). However, sedge (Cyperaceae) and rush (Juncaceae) can also be found along with variable proportions of legumes, like clover, and other Herbaceous plant, herbs. Grassland ...
with a pond for watering cattle and other stock, often at the edge of a rural settlement, used for gathering cattle to bring them later on to a
common land Common land is land owned collectively by a number of persons, or by one person, but over which other people have certain traditional rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it, to collect wood, or to cut turf for fuel. A person ...
for grazing. Later, planned greens were built into the centres of villages. The village green also provided, and may still provide, an open-air meeting place for the local people, which may be used for public celebrations such as
May Day May Day is a public holiday usually celebrated on 1 May or the first Monday of May. It is an ancient festival of spring and a current traditional spring holiday in many European cultures. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the f ...
festivities. The term is used more broadly to encompass woodland, moorland, sports grounds, buildings, roads and urban parks.


Most village greens in England originated in the Middle Ages. Individual greens may have been created for various reasons, including protecting livestock from wild animals or human raiders during the night, or providing a space for market trading. In most cases where a village green is planned, it is placed in the centre of a settlement. Village greens can also be formed when a settlement expands to the edge of an existing area of
common land Common land is land owned collectively by a number of persons, or by one person, but over which other people have certain traditional rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it, to collect wood, or to cut turf for fuel. A person ...
, or when an area of waste land between two settlements becomes developed. Some historical village greens have been lost as a result of the agricultural revolution and
urban development Urban means "related to a city". In that sense, the term may refer to: * Urban area, geographical area distinct from rural areas * Urban culture, the culture of towns and cities. Urban may also refer to: General * Urban (name), a list of people ...
. Greens are now most likely to be found in the older villages of mainland Europe, the United Kingdom, and older areas of the United States. Some greens that used to be a common or otherwise at the centre of a village have 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, such as Newington Green, with
Newington Green Unitarian Church Newington Green Unitarian Church (NGUC) in north London is one of England's oldest Unitarianism, Unitarian churches. It has had strong ties to political radicalism for over 300 years, and is London's oldest Nonconformist (Protestantism), Nonconfor ...
anchoring the northern end. 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 The Kinks were an English rock band formed in Muswell Hill, north London, in 1964 by brothers Ray and Dave Davies. They are regarded as one of the most influential rock bands of the 1960s. The band emerged during the height of British rhyt ...
' album '' The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society''. The Open Spaces Society is a present-day UK national campaigning body which continues this movement.


United States

In the United States, the most famous example of a town green is probably the New Haven Green in
New Haven New Haven is a coastal city in the U.S. state of Connecticut. It is located on New Haven Harbor on the northern shore of Long Island Sound in New Haven County, Connecticut, and is part of the New York metropolitan area. With a population of ...
Connecticut Connecticut () is the southernmost state in the New England region of the United States. As of the 2010 Census, it has the highest per-capita income, second-highest level of human development behind Massachusetts, and highest median household ...
. 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 largest green in the U.S. is a mile in length, and can be found in Lebanon, Connecticut. This is the only village green in the United States still used for agriculture. 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 surrounded it with buildings as a sort of collegiate quadrangle in the 1930s, although its origin as a town green remains apparent. An example of a traditional American town green exists in downtown Morristown, NJ. The Morristown Green dates from 1715 and has hosted events ranging from executions to clothing drives. 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. The village green of Bedford, New York, is preserved as part of Bedford Village Historic District.


A notable example of a village green is that in the village of Finchingfield in Essex, England, 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 small village of Car Colston in Nottinghamshire, England, has two village greens, totaling 29 acres (12 ha), and the village of Burton Leonard in North Yorkshire has three. The Open Spaces Society states that in 2005 there were about 3,650 registered greens in England covering and about 220 in Wales covering about . The northern part of the province of Drenthe in the Netherlands is also known for its village greens. Zuidlaren is the village with the largest number of village greens in the Netherlands. The Błonia Park, originally established in the Middle Ages, is an example of a large village green in Kraków, Poland.


In Indonesia, especially in Java, a similar place is called ''Alun-Alun''. It is a central part of Javanese village architecture and culture.

Legal definitions

England and Wales

Apart from 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 green''. Town and village greens were 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 fewer 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. Registered greens in England and Wales are now governed by the Commons Act 2006, but the fundamental test of whether land is a town and village green remains the same. Thus land can become a village green if it has been used for twenty years without force, secrecy or request (''nec vi, nec clam, nec precario''). Village green legislation is often used to try to frustrate development. Recent case law (''Oxfordshire 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 the Inclosure Act 1857 and the Commons Act 1876. This leads to some most curious areas being claimed as village greens, sometimes with success. Recent examples include a bandstand, two lakes and a beach. On 11 December 2019, a Supreme Court decision put the future of some village greens at risk in England and Wales. The case involved five fields (13 hectares) in south Lancaster, the Mooreside Fields, owned by Lancashire County Council. The lands had been available for public use for over 50 years. According to the Commons Act 2006, land used for informal recreation for at least 20 years can be registered as a green and is then protected from development. (Granted, the Growth and Infrastructure Act of 2013 specified that land designated for planning applications could not be registered as a village green, but that did not apply in the Moorside Fields case.) The Moorside Fields Community Group attempted to register the lands in 2016 under the Commons Act. The local authority challenged the registration, wanting to retain control of the lands for future expansion of the nearby Moorside Primary School's playing fields. The Council's challenge failed in the High Court and then in the Court of Appeal; the registration of the land as a village green could proceed. Lancashire County Council subsequently appealed to the UK Supreme Court. In the appeal decision, cited as ''R (on the application of Lancashire County Council) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Respondent)'' the Court overturned the previous judgments. At the same time, the Supreme Court also ruled against the registration of lands in a separate case in Surrey involving the 2.9 hectare Leach Grove Wood at Leatherhead, owned by the National Health Service. After publication of the decision in the Moorside Fields case, Lancashire County Council told the news media that the Court had "protect[ed] this land for future generations". In effect, the Supreme Court decision left lands owned by public authorities by their statutory powers open to development for any purpose that they deem to be appropriate. This could have far-reaching ramifications in England and Wales, according to the Open Spaces Society, a national conservation group that was founded in 1865. A representative made this comment to The Guardian: "This is a deeply worrying decision as it puts at risk countless publicly owned green spaces which local people have long enjoyed, but which, unknown to them, are held for purposes which are incompatible with recreational use".


File:House on Village Green, Melmerby - geograph.org.uk - 236245.jpg, Village green in Melmerby, Cumbria in England File:Stanford in the Vale village green (2002).jpg, The village green in Stanford in the Vale, Oxfordshire File:Pritzhagen 07.jpg, A large green in the village of Pritzhagen, Germany File:Willerzie.jpg, The village green in Willerzie, Belgium

See also

* Common land * Park * Town square


External links

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 town {{Authority control Villages Urban studies and planning terminology Landscape history Landscape Parks Common land