Top 10 Biggest Villages in England

Villages are quintessentially English. And when we think of the word ‘village’ we imagine a village green surrounded by gorgeous thatched cottages with roses around the door.

It’s a nostalgic image but one that comes easily to mind when we consider what we think a village should look like. 

And many of them do still look like this. You only have to watch episodes of Grantchester or Father Brown to know that these kinds of villages aren’t just a chocolate box image. Villages with cricket played on the green in summer and a Christmas tree in winter are dotted all around England.

And they are a delight to residents and visitors alike.

But the fact is, villages don’t always look quite so picturesque. Many villages have become urbanised over time so the village green has been swallowed up by shops or housing.

This may seem sad but times change and villages change with them. 

What’s more, it may surprise you to learn that there’s no official designation of what a village is. If a settlement does not have a town charter, town council or licence to hold a market from the Crown, and of course is not a city, then it has every right to be called a village. 

So let’s look in more detail at the villages that claim to be the biggest:

What are the biggest villages in England?

There are lots of villages that claim to be the ‘biggest’. And because there are ambiguous ‘rules’ about what makes ‘a village’ a village it’s become a grey and rather controversial area. 

The Problem with Villages

There is no problem with villages as such. It’s just that many villages have become suburbs of local towns or cities. And without a buffer zone of green space and with changing local councils, it’s often hard to tell when a village is no longer a village but part of something bigger. 

Many people trying to cite evidence for why their village should be the biggest, include postal addresses as an indicator. But postcodes are based on the Post Office’s practical working methods and change frequently.

Thus, they are not a factor in an area’s classification as a town or village.  

And there are other problems too. Some villages claim that having the largest population makes their village the biggest, others claim that the area that the Parish council governs indicates how big it is.

How many facilities a village has is another factor that some people claim makes a village not a town.

For example, a village’s status could be challenged if it’s historically tied to more than one church community. 

Top 10 Biggest Villages in England

You see how difficult it is! 

However, we’re going to take you through some of the villages that claim to be ‘the biggest village in England’ based on both population, area and general consensus of what constitutes a village. 

Is Wombourne the biggest village in England?

Firstly, let’s tackle this question. For those living in Wombourne, or those who believe Wombourne is the largest village in England, we’re sorry to challenge that claim. Wombourne has a large population and parish area, and just about makes it into our top 10, but it’s not actually the largest. 

According to the size, area and general consensus, Wombourne is actually the 10th largest village in England. 

But before the inhabitants of Wombourne get angry, remember there is no official guide which designated exactly what a village is. So if Wombourne residents want to claim they’re the ‘Biggest village in England’ based on factors outside of this article, we’re not going to stop them. 

So, without further ado, let’s look at the main contenders:

The 10 Biggest Villages in England

1. Bradfield, South Yorkshire

Congratulations go to Bradfield in South Yorkshire. It’s possibly the largest village in England, it’s full of history and it’s picturesque to boot. 

While technically, it’s a village of two parts, calling itself High and Low Bradfield, it’s still considered by many to count as one. It has a population of over 17,000 and a huge parish area of 142.92 km2

Bradfield is nestled against the River Loxley at the bottom of a sheltered valley. Its Grade 1 listed Church, St Nicholas’, was built in the 1480s but can trace worship on the site right back to Anglo-Saxon times.

There’s a village shop and post office. And it has a pub, The Old Horns Inn, which claims to have the best views of any beer garden in the Peak District.

So we think that’s a good enough reason to visit England’s largest village

Bradfield South Yorkshire

2. Great Baddow, Essex

Great Baddow, in Essex, claims to be second in the ‘biggest village’ stakes based on population size and its history. Like some of the other villages in our top ten, Great Baddow is now more of a suburban village.

It has been connected to Chelmsford over time through the conurbation of the city. But it is still very firmly on the outskirts and has plenty of green space that you would associate with more traditional villages. 

The population is over 14,000 and it has pubs, schools and a small shopping centre. St Mary’s Church was built on a site of worship that dates back to 1172. And another historic building dating back to 1372 is still in use as a restaurant.

It also has a recently opened brewery at Brewery Fields which gives another clue to part of the village’s heritage. 

3. Broughton Astley, Leicestershire

This village comes third in our ‘biggest villages in England’ list. And it’s a village in the traditional sense that is surrounded by plenty of green space – that ‘green buffer’. But Broughton Astley, in Leicestershire, has many urban elements, such as a leisure centre, small shopping arcades and a few pubs.

And with a population of nearly 12,000, you can tell that the residential area is quite sprawling. This does not mean that it doesn’t have its charming elements with the quaint St Mary’s church sitting cheek-by-jowl with a babbling stream. 

cathedral in Broughton Astley, Leicestershire

4. Rawmarsh, South Yorkshire

If you were walking or driving through Rawmarsh, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was a suburb of Rotherham. As it is now connected to the large minster town by housing and industrial properties.

But because of its history as a village and its lack of town designation, it claims to be 4th on our top 10 list of biggest villages. It can’t quite claim to be the most attractive village in England as Rawmarsh is largely residential with a population of over 13,000.

But it does have a beautiful church called St Mary’s and a long history dating back to the Domesday book. 

5. Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire

With a heritage that can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon settlement mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 949, and later in the Domesday Book, and with a population of over 12,000, Chalfont St Peter has a claim to the fifth position in our list. 

The village lies between the towns of High Wycombe and Watford and is just north of the M40. Chalfont St Peter has a vibrant community with a strong sense of its identity as a village.

And with pubs, a high street and a central place of worship at St Peter’s Church their claim seems a fair one to us. 

6. Cranleigh, Surrey

Cranleigh in Surrey is certainly large with a population of over 12,000 at the last census. It can also claim to have plenty of lovely sights.

It is about 10 miles southwest of Guildford and is close to the Weald, an ancient English forest. 

The High Street is prosperous and pleasant looking. The community holds festivals, a carnival and Fun Days for local families. And being well within the London commuter belt, it’s unsurprising that it is known for its ‘café culture’. 

There is a little bit of controversy about whether Cranleigh is a village or a town. And with the local tourist information group ‘Visit Surrey’ calling it a ‘small market town with a village atmosphere’, its place on the ‘biggest village’ list may be short-lived.

7. Cottingham, East Riding of Yorkshire

Cottingham’s claim to being the seventh biggest village in England is fair. Although, like many other villages on our list, it has become more or less a suburb of Hull.

And with a population to rival Bradfield at over 17,000, it’s a highly residential village.  

It has two high streets, Hallgate and King Street which dissect the centre of the village. It has a local school, a library and the historical church of St Mary’s in Hallgate in which the famous poet Phillip Larkin is buried.

The high street shops and buildings show pleasant facades and it retains enough of a rural feel to seem more like a village than a town. 

8. Kidlington, Oxfordshire

Like many of our largest villages on this list, Kidlington could be mistaken for a town. Its village centre does have a rather small-town feel. And with a population of over 13,000, it is certainly ‘big’.

Despite this, it still has no town council and is considered a village to this day. The village has grown around the historical place of worship, St Mary the Virgin, which dates back to 1220. 

The church’s steeple is very distinctive and is commonly called ‘Our Lady’s Needle’ because of its steep pitch. It’s also a Grade 1 listed building with some fine stained glass and the nearby almshouses are very quaint. 

9. Lancing, West Sussex

Lancing in West Sussex is the only seaside village in the top 10 biggest villages in England list. It also just about maintains a green buffer area between Worthing and Southwick. 

It has the largest population on the list at over 18,000. But with a much smaller area of only 14.14 km2, it’s a significantly smaller parish than Bradfield at the number 1 spot.

While the high street has a modern flavour, it can trace its history back to a Romano-British temple and a possibly earlier Iron Age site. 

Of course, we mustn’t forget the fact that this village has a lovely long shingle beach which draws tourists and villagers alike in summer months for swimming and picnics. 

10. Wombourne, Staffordshire

Very firmly in the centre of the country, very close to Wolverhampton lies Wombourne. And as we know, the village, like countless others, claims to be England’s ‘biggest’.

It has yet, however, to be consumed by its large city neighbour and has plenty of green space surrounding it. 

Wombourne has Anglo-Saxon origins and is another village listed in the Domesday Book. This large village with a population of over 14,000 has a long and interesting history.

Although the village has grown since it listed 13 villagers in 1086, it retains its village feel with a cosy pub, the spired St Benedict’s church and its industrial-age buildings. 

And whether it is the 10th or largest village in England, we think it’s certainly worth a visit. 

How many Villages are there in the UK?

According to the Commons Library in the Houses of Parliament, there are 6,116 villages in the UK. But like everything we’ve mentioned, this parliamentary list is controversial.

Why? Because it’s based on an element that all of the villages on our list would challenge.

The kind of settlements included in this list are communities with a population of 7,500 or under. As the population is only a factor in what constitutes a village, it seems an arbitrary number. 

How Many Villages in England

It’s more likely that the number of communities that claim the title of ‘village’ certainly runs in the several thousand. But like many of England’s quaint and ancient traditions, the facts remain a delightful enigma. 

We’d certainly recommend a road trip around England to see if you could challenge our list.  And with English village names like Lower Swell, Nether Wallop and Sheepy Parva it would be fun finding out.