High Street, Berkhamsted
The Hall (also known as Berkhampstead Hall) was a large mansion that once stood at the east end of Berkhamsted High Street. Entering the town from Bourne End, this would be one of the first major buildings a traveller would see, on the left-hand side, behind high brick walls. It was situated next to the modern site of Swing Gate Lane School, and opposite the entrance to Old Mill Gardens. The Hall was an important Berkhamsted landmark as it was home to several wealthy locals, several of whom have memorials in Rectory Lane Cemetery.
Local historians frequently describe The Hall as “austere”, in reference to its plain brick side which faced the high street. In fact, it was a rather elegant Georgian building, with a stone-faced rear and large bay windows overlooking extensive gardens which included greenhouses and mature cedar of Lebanon trees. The interior had many beautifully decorated rooms, including an entrance hall, a billiard room and 17 bedrooms. the whole property was attended assiduously by an army of house staff and gardeners.
The Hall was built on the site of an older house that had once been used as a makeshift prison during the Civil War. Its 18th-century replacement was bought and sold by a series of wealthy middle-class families. At the turn of the 19th century, Augustus Pechell (d.1820) and his wife Sarah Pechell (d.1839), ancestors of the Smith-Dorrien family, resided here.
In the 1840s, at around the time that Rectory Lane Cemetery was established, the house was occupied by William Booth Grey (1773 –1852), Son of the 5th Earl of Stamford, and his wife Frances (“Fanny”) Somerville (1782- 1849). Fanny was a daughter of Scottish nobility, and she was visited by her brother, Mark Lord Somerville. Although none of them is buried in Rectory Lane Cemetery, their names are important to the Cemetery’s history, as both William and Lord Somerville generously donated £25 each towards the establishment of the Cemetery, and their names are inscribed on the Cemetery foundation stone.
In 1851 Thomas Halsey MP took up residence at The Hall. The census in 1851 lists Thomas, his wife Frederica, their one-year-old son Ethelbert Arthur Sackville Halsey, and 13 domestic staff. In 1854, Thomas, Frederica and Ethelbert were all drowned when the steamer Ercolano sank in the Gulf of Genoa. Also on board was MP Sir Robert Peel MP, who survived. The Halseys’ other son, Frederick Halsey (later 1st Baoronet Halsey), was boarding at Eton at the time.
After the Halsey tragedy, The Hall was sold. It became the home of the Curtis family; Thomas Curtis resided here until his death in 1884, when his nephew Captain Constable Curtis (d.1909) lived here. His son, Rev. Henry G Constable Curtis (1865-1957), later served as Rector of St Peter’s Church 1902-08.
The last private resident of The Hall was Edward Green, uncle of the author Graham Greene, who purchased the house in 1917. From 1928 The Hall was used by the Berkhamsted School as a prep school, while the land of the former gardens was sold off for housing development. The building was suffering from dry rot, and finally it was demolished in 1937. Today, the street names of the Hall Park Estate make reference to the history of this land.
Discover the memorials in Rectory Lane Cemetery with historical links to The Hall
3 burials are found — click on a burial below to find out more: