The arden is the formerly densely forested area that occupied most of modern Warwickshire, parts of Shropshire and Staffordshire, and part of Worcestershire. It was bounded by the Roman roads Icknield Street, Watling Street and Fosse Way, and by a prehistoric salt track from Droitwich. The name is believed to derive from the Brythonic word ardu, meaning ‘high’. It has been used to describe the area since ancient times, and was adopted in the early Middle Ages as the name for an organisation of Foresters (or “woodmen”) who were stewards of the land. The name was later applied to the hermitage at Guy’s Cliffe. It is also the name of the group of archery clubs founded in the seventeenth century by members of the gentry who held the medieval court positions of Verderer and Warden of the Forest, and which still exist.
The townspeople of the arden are known as ‘Ardenians’. They are a close-knit community that comes together each year for the 111th Arden Fair, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 1. This year’s festival will feature music, theater, crafts and more. The Ardens’ ethos is rooted in the Arts and Crafts movement, which was a reaction against industrialization that prized hand-crafted goods and individualistic design. Many of the area’s homes have Arts and Crafts elements, which contribute to the tight-knit character seen at the fair.
The ardens have a town-meeting form of government, and the Arden Club is responsible for the annual fair. The proceeds help maintain the Arden Gild Hall, which is used for concerts, musicals, plays, dances, Saturday evening dinners and other programs throughout the year.