The village green and its lime-tree – in German called „Anger“

„Anger“ (middle high German anger, old high German angar) originally marks a lot of grazing-land owned by the community (in English still named „village green”). Maybe belonging to the old rights of the teutons the right to use it lay in the hands of all village inhabitants. This right for using was preserved till today. Mostly the village green lay in the centre of the village and was often a free lot of land – the main village place – in some villages combined with a pond which also was used by all people. At Datterode there was also once a so called „Kerschenteich“, a pond where cress was grown. “Kerschen” is an old German word for cress. All people of Datterode were allowed to use it. This pond was back-filled with the soil when they built the new schoolhouse in 1901 (cf. „History of Datterode“). The village green was a place of meeting (f. ex. also to celebrate the “Kirmes” – parish fair, the main festival once a year), cattle run (especially at night) and feeding place for wayfarers but court place as well. In many cases in close proximity of the village green stood the school and the fire engine house (the old fire engine house of Datterode stood also in the near of the village green).

View to the meadow close to the village green in 50s of the last century where the pond once was. Left hand recognisable the old fire engine house with its tower fort the hoses. (in dialect: „s’Schbridzenhüüs“).

Although „village green settlements“ were characteristic types of settlements during the period of the German colonisation of the east in the middle ages, this does not apply to Datterode and the other villages of the Ringgau area (cf. „Landscape and settlement in the Ringgau area“). The village green was surrounded by lime trees – sometimes with a lime tree in the centre. On the village green under the lime tree court procedures of the sovereign took place. At some places there were stone tables at which jurisdiction for the inhabitants was announced or judgements were executed.

In „Hessischen Jahrbuch für Landesgeschichte“ (Hessian Yearbook for Country History), Band 51, 20011, we can read of the village court places in the old county of Eschwege:

Man legete einen teppech ûf daz gras,
dâ vermûret und geleitet was
durch den schaten ein linde.


They laid a carpet on the grass,
Which was affixed and contained
By the shadow of a lime tree.

„These verse of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s in 1210 originated „Parzival“ poetry, Karl Frölich, whom we owe a lot about the essential knowledge of the village court places, starts his article about „lime trees on hessian village places“; these verse demonstrate that there were already contained lime trees at the beginning of the 13th century. Legal acts under the lime tree (sub tilia) are founded on documents in upper Hesse since the mid-13th century. But there are no such documents for the Werra River area and also not for the Ringgau. Anyhow the former county of Eschwege (lower Hesse) was chosen because village greens can be documented in nearly all villages with one or more village green lime trees. “

The ancient department of Eschwege included among other things the Court of Boyneburg, to which on the other hand Datterode belonged. „Originally the court had been at the Boyneburg castle itself, where there was a jail in 16th century. Gallows as symbol for an execution place are shown in the Mercator map of 1592 northwest of the Boyneburg close to the Netra Creek und east of the village of Netra.“  An area at the highway B 7, app. 1500 m direction to Röhrda, is still known today as „Gallowscant” and “Gallowscant Creek”. Whether  there was really an execution place is not known.

The village green of Datterode which today is restored again and has history over centuries. The first hint was documeted  in 1570 by telling about a house beneath the village green („um 1570 zu einem Haus under dem anger), 1636 you find documented a place in front of the school, named „the little village green („platz vor der schuelen, der kleine Anger genant); 1629 a house and a yard are discribed at the big village green (Haus und Hof beim grossen anger), 1717you find documented the word village green (Anger), 1787you find community village green (Gemeinde Anger); today at the same place an the Netra Creek, not at the church,  4 young lime trees contained in plain wall. 1844: Community village green (lime tree) … the only public place used for conventions of the community members to publish laws etc. and used as dance floor for the youth at common merriments (Der Gemeindeanger (Linde) … ist der einzige öffentliche Platz und dient zur Versammlung der Gemeindemitglieder bei Bekanntmachungen von Gesetzen etc. und als Tanzplatz für die Jugend bei allgemeinen Belustigungen.“).

If the germ cell of the village was around the church (cf. “History of Datterode”) there must have first been the „little village green“ as mentioned above in the near of the church. The “place in front of the school” is a hint because the old school house stood in front of the church (street called “Kirchrain” which means “Churchcant”) till they break it down (1978) and beneath that area there is still a half-rounded place noticeable.

The increasing settlement forced the people to settle more in the sole of the valley where you find today the village green („the big village green“). While the “little village green” lost his importance during the increasing settlement and a bigger place was necessary the „big village green“ could have been arranged. Thats how the cources can be interpreted.

The village green was nearly preserved in its old shape till the 60s of the last century. The surrounding blocks of stone were not in their original shape but the trees with the lime trees marked the area as the historic place. The blocks of stone in the direction to the Netra Creek were removed to bring crop wagons under the trees as a shelter when thunderstorms or heavy rain hit the village. And of course the place was used to store lumber which required a drive way on the place.

The surroundings were scruffy and during lasting rain the whole area inclusive the ancient pond area became a muddy slew. During the fixation of the streets and the starting of a modernization mania in 60s which could have been also owed to the upcoming tourism (optical embellishment), village green and the surrounding area were remodeled. The ancient “Guard House“ (in dialect: „s’Wachhisschen“), which was used in former times for the homeless and later after WW II for the dispelled germans was teared down aswell as the old backing house (in dialect: „s’Backhüüs“) with assembled cattle scale.

The village green itself was robbed of its dateless blocks of stone and the old trees were removed. It got a modern angular conrete border and atypical planting. Furthermore the stomped soil was covered with concrete slabs (should have been for roller skaters).

In the course of the village restoration (a special state programme for the villages) at the beginning of the 90s of the last century the sinful elimination and evil alignment to historical roots of the village green enclosure and planting grounds took place. The blocks of stone, which the Heimatverein got from the Hessian Road Administration first, were levelled to the street (partly embedded) which is historically wrong and of course unsightly. After a decision of the community council following an application of the Heimatverein the historic correct sitting height of the blocks of stone was constructed. This work was payed by the Heimatverein. The planting consists of four chestnut trees in the colours red and white (the hessian state colours) around the village green and a lime tree at the centre. (cf. „The Barnhouse-lime-tree).

The village green of today, together with the backing house - built by the Heimatverein in 2002 and the „Geesefellows monument“ created in 2007 – is a very appealing historic ensemble, which enriches the overall appearance of the village shape. It is again place for communication and for all the different events it is very much accepted.

Hessischen Jahrbuch für Landesgeschichte, Band 51, 2001, „Vorarbeiten zu einem Rechtshistorischen Atlas“ m. w. N.

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