What has been achieved? | Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted

Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted

What has been achieved?

The  project has been delivered!  Over the three years between 2017 and 2020, in spite of the impact of some appalling weather conditions during the landscaping work and then working restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Cemetery has been transformed – from a dead space to a living place.

‘What you’ve helped deliver at Rectory Lane Cemetery is a very special place indeed for our community. My own experience over recent weeks, and what I observed again today, was all sorts of people – from the youngest to the oldest and all in between – passing through and taking the opportunity to connect with the beautiful surroundings as well as each other. A perfect combination of inspiration and reflection. Just right for our time.’

Visitor quote

The Project and everybody who contributes to it has also been recognised with a number of awards:

  • Winner of the Landscape Institute ‘Excellence in Heritage and Culture‘ Award 2021. The judges described the project as ‘a sensitively designed and detailed scheme which effectively balances change with architectural and nature conservation issues.  It demonstrates an exemplary level of historical research, conservation approach, community and artist involvement, alongside a keen eye to the future of the site, which has resulted in a successful cultural asset that is accessible to a diverse range of users.  The project illustrates thoughtful levels of sustainability, from interventions that support biodiversity, environmental education and best use of resources to mental health benefits‘. The judges noted ‘that the huge increase in footfall since its completion, along with extensive volunteer contribution indicates that it is a project of exceptional value.’
  • Winner of the Landscape Institute ‘Excellence in Community Engagement‘ Award 2021. The judges were ‘unified in their deep appreciation of the project, from concept and design through to management and maintenance.  It’s been carefully considered and crafted throughout, with community at its heart.  The sense of empowering people and enabling agency was palpable and clearly this site is intended as a place where everyone feels a sense of belonging and a connection.  The vision of the site is clear and shared, which in turn drives commitment, interest and participation of those involved.  It’s a terrific instance of community-driven design and co-production working in concert with professionals.’
  • Winner of the Berkhamsted Citizens’ Association Environment Award 2021
  • Winner of the Green Flag Community Award 2021
  • Joint Winner of the Green Flag 25th Anniversary ‘Team of the Year‘ Award 2021
  • Finalist in the Green Flag 25th Anniversary ‘Most Improved Space‘ Award 2021
  • Finalist in the RIBAJ 2021 MacEwen competition rewarding ‘architecture for the common good.’  The judges were impressed with the ‘intelligent’ and ‘subtle’ spatial interventions. ‘It turns around a space that normally feels daunting. Local spaces have become really important in the last year. There are 30,000 struggling cemeteries and there’s significance in seeing the potential of a cemetery, especially now we need to claw back all the public space we can.’
  • Winner of the Green Flag Community Award 2023

When we started

A decaying overgrown grave in 2013

When we started, the Cemetery was an overgrown, unloved area which had:

  • 3 acres of neglected scrub
  • A boarded-up Sexton’s Hut
  • 540 metres of failing boundary walls
  • 1,000 damaged and decaying Memorials
  • Rusting gates and leaning gate piers
  • A crumbling Memorial Arch
  • Unattractive seating
  • Over 200 neglected trees

Initial work

A conservation team lifting the restored Seat of Remembrance into place in 2016

Between 2014 and September 2017 we:

  • Held regular Sunday work parties
  • Removed destructive trees and saplings
  • Recorded and cleaned gravestones and monuments
  • Restored the Seat of Remembrance (with its lovely sculpted dogs)
  • Began the “adopt a grave” scheme
  • Initiated community consultations
  • Held a seating design competition
  • Ran Heritage Open Days events which attracted hundreds of new visitors
  • Conducted guided tours
Our open days have attracted hundreds of new visitors
  • Published trail booklets to highlight the history of the site, the lives of some of those buried there and the symbolism of the graves
  • Consulted with monumental conservation experts with regard to the state of all the monuments
  • Conducted surveys of the trees, flora and fauna on the site
  • Enhanced the site’s ecology, improving habitats for birds, insects and animals and introducing a more sensitive mowing rotation
  • Installed a beehive

This was made possible through the work of our volunteers and supported through grants, donations, Waitrose and Tesco community schemes and initial funding from the Heritage Lottery and Big Lottery Funds.


Transforming the Cemetery

Repairing the leaning gate piers

The award of the main Delivery Grant of £907,600 in September 2017 has funded an ambitious three-year programme of conservation, landscaping and community engagement.

Monument conservation specialists were brought in to:

  • Rebuild and strengthen the walls
  • Straighten and repair the leaning Memorial Arch and gate piers
Before and after: several memorials that had been broken or toppled were restored by conservation specialists
  • Restore the iron gates and railings
  • Reinstate 19 key memorials

In addition to the selected graves, a further 40 memorials have been restored.  Relatives are commissioning restorations by the project’s stonemason.

We worked with monument conservation specialists to restore the cemetery and with experienced landscapers to create new features
  • Our landscape architect designed a number of improvements which were implemented by a professional landscaping team including: a contemporary Garden of Remembrance; welcoming entrances; accessible paths and steps; an events area for performances and group activities; steps and handrails to the upper cemetery
The Read in Peace seat
  • Specially designed seats were installed in each of the three ‘zones’, including the sculptured Read In Peace seat with its integrated bookshelf 
  • The infrastructure was improved with disabled parking, cycle racks, bins and a facility for volunteers 
  • Electricity and water was brought onto the site
Visitors can search for burials on a cemetery map
  • Interpretation has been developed to help people enjoy their visits, whether for leisure or to trace relatives, including a searchable map and database of burials and telling the story of the Cemetery in the refurbished Sexton’s Hut
Visitors can learn about keeping bees
  • Our Community Engagement Officer and volunteer team have delivered an ambitious programme of events, from storytelling, theatre and guided tours in role to bee information sessions, school local history sessions and creative writing workshops

And now

Enjoying the Memory Circle seat in the lower cemetery
  • The cemetery is a much valued community asset, with a growing number of visitors regularly appreciating the space.
  • More and more volunteers are getting involved in the project, inspired by the transformation and wishing to be part of its ongoing improvements – as grave gardeners, naturalists, working party members, genealogists…
  • The community is welcoming the opportunity to commemorate loved ones and significant life events with individually inscribed fused glass tiles on the Celebration of Life wall.



‘I am in awe of all the work that has already been done. I can’t imagine walking onto this site in the state that it was in when they started this project and actually being able to see the possibilities of it, and you’ve just done such a brilliant job.  I’m standing here now in the remembrance area, and it’s peaceful. It’s so appropriate but so modern,  but mixed up with all these wonderful memorials. It’s just stunning.’

Visitor quote


For more information please contact

photo of Kate Campbell

 Kate Campbell

       07866 024254  
photo of James Moir

 James Moir

Convenor and Project Manager during the works
   07545 786 372