White Hill, Berkhamsted
Berkhamsted Castle was probably established a short time after the Norman Invasion of 1066. It was here that the Anglo-Saxons surrendered to William the Conqueror. The castle was built by William’s half-brother, Robert de Mortaine. Over the centuries, many notable historical figures lived here, including numerous English Kings and Queens, Thomas Becket, Edward the Black Prince and Geoffrey Chaucer.
1840s: the Countess of Bridgewater’s Soup Kitchen
Berkhamsted Castle is connected with Rectory Lane Cemetery in some surprising ways. The cemetery’s original benefactor, Charlotte, Countess of Bridgewater was renowned for her charitable work around the local area. Sometime around 1841 (the year before Rectory Lane Cemetery was established), the Countess ordered a soup kitchen to be set up within the castle grounds to feed the poor. Historians think that the soup kitchen building formed part of the Victorian lodge house that stands today inside the castle walls.
Cobb: a local historian
Rev John Wolstenholme Cobb (1829–1883), Rector of St Peter’s Church, was also an enthusiastic local historian and carried out a great deal of research about the history and construction of Berkhamsted Castle. His book, The History and Antiquities of Berkhamsted, has provided us with a depth of understanding of Berkhamsted Castle and of the history of the town which has hardly been surpassed since. Cobb’s work is still widely respected today as a reliable historical source and is often referred to by researchers. Cobb died in 1883 and his grave is in the lower part of the cemetery, close to the Bridgewater Foundation Stone.
Coopers’ sheep grazing
Lucy Anne Foot is perhaps best known as the widow of Brigadier-General Richard Mildmay Foot (1865–1933), in whose memory she commissioned the charming Seat of Remembrance with its canine arm rests in 1933. Lucy Anne was a member of the Cooper family, the owners of Coopers Chemical Works. In its heyday, Coopers pioneered a highly successful sheep dip formula, and kept a flock of sheep to conduct product tests. For years, the sheep were grazed on a strip of land to the east of Berkhamsted Castle. In later years, Coopers was taken over by larger companies, but the strip of land remained in the possession of successor companies until it was donated to Berkhamsted Castle Trust in 2016.
A tragic death
In 1926, the Castle was the scene of a tragedy. Sergeant Arthur Ringsell (1879–1926), a discharged soldier who had served in the Boer War and WWI, committed suicide by slitting his own throat in the grounds of Berkhamsted Castle. He then staggered to railway arch next to Berkhamsted Station, bleeding profusely, where he was found by friends. He was taken to the West Herts hospital but sadly died aged 47. Many who served in war at this time suffered undiagnosed mental health problems in addition to their physical injuries; Ringsell had been discharged as unfit for service, but aside from a war pension, no proper support was provided to these men who more unseen wounds in silence.
Look around the Castle
Discover the memorials in Rectory Lane Cemetery with historical links to Berkhamsted Castle
5 burials are found — click on a burial below to find out more: