Berkhamsted’s historic Rectory Lane Cemetery celebrates its 180th anniversary this month.
Today the restored cemetery is a vibrant and contemporary garden of commemoration, the recipient of major design and landscape awards.
But its beginnings date back much further than this – to 1842.
Back then, Berkhamsted, like towns and cities across Europe during the Industrial Revolution, saw a huge increase in its population, and a desperate search began to find land for the burial of its dead.
The Rectory Lane Cemetery was founded in 1842 as an overflow graveyard for St Peter’s Church, and lies on a former garden donated to the town by the wealthy benefactor, Charlotte Catherine Anne Egerton, Countess of Bridgewater (1763-1849).
‘A walk through the cemetery today offers a fascinating glimpse into Victorian Berkhamsted,’ explains Ranger Kate Campbell. ‘You can trace the history of notable families and discover connections with local landmarks. From butlers and governesses to leaders in industry and horticulture, the cemetery contains stories from all walks of life.’
Visitors to the cemetery can search the burials database on the mobile-friendly website www.rectorylanecemetery.org.uk. The cemetery also hosts sessions for local primary schools, bringing local history to life and looking at wildlife.
‘The fact that the cemetery is here today, celebrating its 180th anniversary, is because of a team of incredible volunteers and professionals, who have restored and revitalised this space,’ Project Manager, Dr James Moir explains. ‘And there are so many ways that the community can keep contributing, including joining our weekly work parties or becoming a grave gardener. Getting involved in outdoor activities is great for your mental and physical health, and will ensure that the cemetery continues to serve as a place for nature, history and community for many years to come.’
Rectory Lane Cemetery is a free public space, open to all, every day: off the High Street Berkhamsted, HP4 2HQ.
If you would like to be involved in the continuing care and maintenance of this special place through volunteering please get in touch to find out more at: firstname.lastname@example.org