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The Graham Greene Trail

TThis page last updated Monday, 23 July 2012

The Graham Greene Trail
original leaflet text by Sylvia Hall, photographs and some additional text for this web version by Peter Such

The printed leaflet (of which the text provided here is merely a reference point) is available from the Trust for the price of a stamped addressed envelope. The purpose of this web version is simply to draw attention to Berkhamsted's connections with Graham Greene for a wider audience who may not be able to visitbut might re-consider, especially during our Festival period, when they realise how much Berkhamsted and the Graham Greene Birthplace Trust have to offer admirers of Graham Greene.

Sylvia Hall's text introduces us to the many obvious and some less obvious influences of Berkhamsted to be found in Greene's work and in his own character. She starts the Trail at Berkhamsted station, where our picture shows 'the class of 2002' gathering for the start of that Festival's specially arranged Trail walk.

1. "In The Human Factor Graham Greene portrays Castle's journey home by train from work in London to Berkhamsted station and his bicycle ride 'the longer way home across the canal bridge, past the Tudor school…'

In Yours etc, a selection of Graham's letters to the press, Graham's brother Hugh [a former Director General of the BBC], using the pseudonym of Sebastian Eleigh, won a Spectator competition for part of a story in the style of Graham Greene: `At Berkhamsted station, he wal- ked  rapidly   along  the  tiled






passage smelling of urine, like an elongated public lavatory…' [The tiles are still there (picture right) but no longer visible behind the modern cladding to keep the damp at bay.]"

2. References to the Grand Union Canal are made in a Sort of Life, The Captain and the Enemy and The Innocent. A separate canal trail is provided on this web. Sylvia Hall refers to the 'Swiss Cottage' pub where the Captain  refreshed  himself  which is in reality 'The Crystal Palace '(below, left).

Sylvia Hall tells us that "Fear of drowning came early to Greene and reports in Berkhamsted's The Gazette of drownings in the canal apparently increased his fear. In The Quiet American the injured Fowler, submerged in a paddy field, says: 'I had always hated and feared the thought of drowning'."

3. Castle Street. Much of the information contained in the Trail leaflet at this point is to be found in the canal history trail page 3.

4. Berkhamsted Collegiate School. There are two pages of views of the Castle campus, taken by Ramón  Rami Porta, an early visitor and enthusiastic supporter of the Festival. Sylvia Hall has this to say.

"This school was formed in September 1996 by the coming together of Berkhamsted School, founded in 1541 to educate boys and Berkhamsted School for Girls, founded in 1888. Charles Greene, Graham's father, taught at the Boy's School for many years before being appointed Headmaster in 1910. He retired in 1927. From 1910, he and his family lived  in School House, the original Tudor building (below left) facing the church  (below right).

As a six-year old, Graham's impressions were of the 'long path from the street to the front door' and only a flower-bed between him and 'the old disused churchyard'. Graham was baptised in  the  School  Chapel (below left) in November 1904 and was a pupil of the School for ten years from the age of  seven.

The family home in School House was separated from the boys' boarding quarters by 'the green baize door' (above right), which is mentioned in Greene's short story 'The Basement Room'.  This door was to become representative in his mind of the very narrow dividing line between love and security and the traumas and uncertainties which faced him in the outside world. The significance of a door, green-baized or otherwise, can be traced through many of his stories.

The Ministry of Fear, The Captain and The Enemy, The Human Factor and Doctor Crombie all have aspects of the school and school-life within their tales, from which perhaps the reader may divine Graham's own feelings during his time here. He certainly seemed to find his position of Headmaster's son an invidious one, feeling that he was regarded as a spy, though this may have been due to his lively imagination and extra sensitivity, as his brothers and cousins who attended the school did not have the same problem."

Part II—Trail leaflet numbers 5 to 14


All material throughout this site, except where otherwise stated,
is the copyright of The Graham Greene Birthplace Trust ©2004.