Castle Street Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire
Berkhamsted School is an independent school in Berkhamsted. Its long history is deeply embedded in the heritage of the town. It was founded during the reign of Henry VIII, in 1541 by a priest, John Incent, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Incent was a Church of England priest who came from Berkhamsted. His parents Katherine and Robert Incent were prominent members of St Peter’s Church and Robert served as the Secretary to Cicely, Duchess of York at Berkhamsted Castle.
John Incent served the Crown during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, confiscating religious property. He was master of a monastic hospital in Berkhamsted, the Brotherhood of St John the Baptist. In 1523 he closed it down and appropriated its lands, later using the property to establish a school. In 1541 he obtained a Royal Charter for “one chauntry perpetual and schools for boys not exceeding 144 to be called Dean Incent’s Free School in Berkhamstedde”. It was common practice at this time for high-ranking clergy to make their mark by founding schools.
Incent “builded with all speed a fair schoole lartge and great all of brick very sumptuously.” It was completed in 1544 ; “when ye said school was thus finished, ye Deane sent for ye cheafe men of ye towne into ye school where he kneeling gave thanks to Almighty God”.
Incent died 18 months later. The school was incorporated by an Act of Parliament as The Free Schole of King Edwarde the Sixte in Berkhampstedde. The school crest granted at the time – and still in use today – bears Incent’s coat of arms of crossed swords on a blue shield. John Incent’s parental home still stands on Berkhamsted High Street facing St Peter’s Church.
Berkhamsted School had no chapel of its own; for over 300 years the St John’s Chantry in neighbouring St Peter’s Church was used exclusively by the masters and boys of the school for worship, until a new school chapel was built in 1894. It was designed in a Gothic Revival style by the local architect Charles Henry Rew. The interior is quite unusual as the altar sits at top of a long flight of stairs. Rew based this layout on the design of the church of the Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice. CH Rew died in October 1912 and is buried in Rectory Lane Cemetery.
In 1997, Berkhamsted School amalgamated with the Berkhamsted School for Girls, (established 1888) and Berkhamsted Preparatory School, and later with Heatherton House School in Amersham, and Haresfoot School in Berkhamsted.
Notable past headmasters have included Edward Bartrum (1864–1889), whose wife Caroline is buried in Rectory Lane Cemetery, and Charles Henry Greene (1911–1927), father of author Graham Greene.
Discover the memorials in Rectory Lane Cemetery with historical links to Berkhamsted School
9 burials are found — click on a burial below to find out more: