In Cowper’s Country

Living Magazines William Cowper

In the first of our new series, the Berkhamsted Local History and Museum Society tells more about our town’s history.

According to the Bucks Herald, the poet William Cowper was born in Berkhamsted in 1731. This is from an article in 1892:

‘Berkhampstead is well worth visiting, firstly, because English history – or, at any rate, a great deal of it – was made here; and, secondly, because in its rectory the poet Cowper was born. A friend of mine who took George Cruickshank round to see the town very naturally asked how he liked it. ‘There are too many public houses,’ was the reply. Well, from the teetotal standpoint, that undoubtedly is the case. Berkhampstead is a prosperous town… a growing one, where chemical preparations, with a view of the enrichment of the impoverished farmer, flourish, and where a good deal of hardware is manufactured. Its main thoroughfare is spacious, and well lined with decent dwellings.

‘It was along that road that the little Cowper was drawn to school, and not to the public grammar school just by, which… brings many people to reside in this pleasant Hertfordshire town. Of the poet we have no trace anywhere… [no] family pew in church… [a] tablet in the chancel to the memory of the poet’s mother… stained-glass memorial window of the poet; at the bottom we see Cowper himself. The only relic of the rectory… is the well-house.’

With thanks to Linda Rollitt of the BLHMS.