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Berkhamsted Heritage Walk
A Glimpse of Our History
a web initiative of Peter Such
based on the Berkhamsted Heritage Walk leaflet
compiled by John Cook and published by Berkhamsted Town Council
with assistance from Dacorum Borough Council Heritage Service

This page last updated Tuesday, 20 September 2005

This initiative links with several other web initiatives of Peter Such promoting Berkhamsted:
The Canal Trail, The Graham Greene Trail and 'Seasonal Berkhamsted'

1. Berkhamsted Station is a good starting point, encouraging day visitors to use public transport. Berkhamsted can provide a good day out, what ever the season or weather. If inclement, it is still possible to view many of the town's historic and architecturally interesting buildings and even walk along the canal's newly restructured towing path without the need of more than stout shoes. There are plenty of nearby restaurants or pubs to dive into for morning coffee, a full lunch, or after-noon tea.

On a summer's day, with the long evenings, it is possible to 'do' the town and walk (at a good pace) over to Ashridge, returning for an evening meal before going home. Ideally, you will take a couple of days to do all this more leisurely. If one takes in the Hockeridge woods and the country lanes around Champneys and Rossway on the opposite hillside, then you will need at least three days to gain 'a feel for Berkhamsted'.

Now known as the 'West Coast main line' Berkhamsted was not intended to be on the London to Birmingham Railway. The line was originally intended to go further East, following the Gade Valley and not the Bulbourne valley but was re-routed west through landowner opposition [Scott Hastie, Berkhamsted: An Illustrated History]. The present station, built half-a-century after the line was started in 1834 is a few hundred yards north of its original location (due to the later addition of a second pair of tracks) which is why it is in Lower King's Road and not Station Road.

It was awarded a blue plaque by the Berkhamsted Citizen's Association for the recent sensitive restoration to what is a fine Victorian building. Its passenger underpass, unfortunately, continues to challenge even modern methods to overcome the seeping damp. [cf. Graham Greene Trail leaflet].

'The other side of the tracks' shows the private waiting room of Lord Brownlow, the last owner of Ashridge to treat the estate as a family home. Immediately above this waiting room was his private platform. His private train was kept in a shed which was used, well into the fifties, as the goods receipt and delivery area from which a three-wheeled, articulated 'mechanical horse' delivered packages locally. These sidings were all lost with electrification to make room for commuters cars.

2. Berkhamsted Castle (to the right of the photographer in the picture above, from which same position the picture below was taken) lost its main gatehouse and outer two moats to the railway, whose engineers recognissed the value of this ancient fortification, the swampy ground testing their engineering skills [Scott Hastie].

Historic Berkhamsted on the Town Council's site provides a drawing of how the castle might have looked when first built. Archaeological evidence provides for a Saxon homestead, as being the meeting place at Berkhamsted for the handing over of the English crown to William the Conqueror, after the battle of Hastings in 1066—the Saxon rulers meeting him here from London. It was the Norman's who built the stone castle, believed to be William's half-brother Robert, the Count of Mortaigne. He originally built of earth mounds and palisades, It was only later that walls of flint were built with corner stones quarried from Totternhoe (near Dunstable).


Stairway leading to the top of the keep from which to view the town, the steeple on the horizon, slightly off-centre right in the lower picture is the steeple to Ashylns School.

3. The Grand Junction Canal, now called the Grand union Canal. There is a separate Canal Trail which describes the journey from Bank Mill, the site of a working mill for almost one thousand years to Billet Lane, which leads, via a footpath to Berkhamsted Common and the Ashridge estate.

4. 'The Crystal Palace'. Refer to 'Canal History 3' and 'Graham Greene Trail 1'.

5. The Totem Pole. Refer to 'Canal History 3'.

6. The Boote, 1605. Refer to 'Canal History 3'.

7. The Gardener's Arms. John Cook (a former Town Mayor whose home it is) describes it as "One of a pair of mid-term nineteenth century houses originally built as ale houses but first used as shops. Henry Nash, a local historian and benefactor lived here. Nash had a strong interest in education and helped establish Berkhamsted School for Girls (see 24) as well as Berkhamsted Mechanics' Institute, early meetings of which were held in this house. Between Chapel Street and the High Street is an attractive row of old cottages, many of which are 'listed'. These are on the right of the picture below which looks down Castle Street from St. Peter's church. The white building standing out clearly in the middle distance is 'The Gardener's Arms'. The second picture below shows the ancient yew and a better view of 'listed' cottages.


Part II—Nos. 8–13.

The photographs on this site are copyright Peter Such 2004.
The text, John Cook (original material, as cited) and Peter Such (additional material) ©2004..