The arden is a former forest and culturally defined area that in antiquity and into the Early Modern Period encompassed much of Warwickshire, plus parts of Staffordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire. It was also a name for a particular sandstone found there that is now quarried and used in many local buildings.
The word arden is thought to be derived from the Brythonic word ardu, meaning high or hilly ground. Arden is situated near the geographical centre of England, and it borders the Cannock Chase and Cotswolds Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
In his 1909 novel, The House of Mirth, William Somerset Maugham wrote about a visit to Arden House, then owned by Edward Henry Harriman: “It was a house brimming with treasures. A stairway of unpolished marble led to giant rooms, with marble floors softened by rugs and bearskins. Vases and tubs of flowers lined the corridors. A bas-relief of Harriman stood over one fireplace. The music room was furnished with a fountain of the Three Graces, and corbel carvings of bighorn sheep were hung over several other fireplaces.”
Today, the arden is home to about 250 households in the village of Arden along with Ardentown and Ardencroft. Arden is a self-governing town-meeting village, and it has a unique form of government established by the Act to Reincorporate of July 29, 1996. People own their houses, but pay rent — land rent — on the land leased for dwellings to cover village, county, and local school expenses. Land rent is based on square footage of the leasehold.