White Hill | Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted

Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted

White Hill

White Hill
White Hill, Berrkhamsted

White Hill is a rising slope overlooking Berkhamsted Castle. The hill has it place in Berkhamsted’s history — it is thought that during the Barons’ War, Prince Louis of France encamped his army here during the siege of Berkhamsted Castle in 1216. It is the former site of a large house, also called White Hill (sometimes called Whitehill or Whitehall).

The White Hill house was far more recent, almost certainly Victorian in origin. In the 1891 census it was recorded as the home of Francis Frederick Lidderdale, a retired merchant banker who had been born into a Scottish banking family in St Petersburg, Russia. He had moved to Berkhamsted from Paddington in London, and was listed as living at White Hill with his wife Esther, three sons, three maids and a cook.

In 1898 they moved to live on Heath Lane, Hemel Hempstead and Richard Ashmole Cooper, a partner in the William Cooper & Nephews Chemical Works, moved into White Hill.  Coopers was a thriving Berkhamsted family firm which specialised in sheep dip and exported products all over the British Empire, especially to South Africa. Richard Ashmole Cooper was responsible for establishing the Cooper Research Laboratory on Ravens Lane.  By 1908 Richard had moved out of White Hill to live at at his father Richard Powell Cooper’s house, Ashlyns Hall, on the other side of Berkhamsted. Richard Ashmole Cooper took charge the company when his father died in 1913. All of the Cooper family are buried in Rectory Lane Cemetery, in the large Cooper Family Vault next to the Memorial Arch.

The next residents of White Hill were Richard Ashmole Cooper’s sister, Lucy Anne and her husband, General Richard Mildmay Foot (1865-1933). Richard was a decorated army officer who had served in the Second Boer War and later in WWI. He and Lucy Anne had met in Berkhamsted and married in Cape Town in 1902. They returned to Berkhamsted around 1908. Richard joined William Cooper and Nephews as the Estates Manager. Following a company merger, he subsequently became a director of Cooper, McDougall and Robertson Ltd.

In the 1911 census, Samuel Rowland Timson (1855-1932) was listed as living at “The Kraal” at White Hill – “Kraal” is an Afrikaans word for a sheep or cattle enclosure or an enclosed village.  Coopers had a number of farm buildings and specialised laboratories in the White Hill grounds at the rear of the house, and kept livestock there for veterinary research;  it is possible that there was also a residential building there. Samuel Rowland Timson was a son of the Berkhamsted master tailor Samuel Timson (1832–1899), one of 13 children.  Samuel junior started working at Coopers aged 16 as an office boy, and rose to an important position in the company representing Coopers exports in South Africa.  Although Samuel Timson the elder is buried in Rectory Lane Cemetery, Samuel Rowland Timson died in Cape Province, South Africa on 13 February 1932.

During the Foots’ residency, White Hill remained a centre of animal care; Lucy Anne was a keen agriculturalist and bred prizewinning Jersey Red Poll cattle at Hamberlins Farm in Northchurch. The cattle were renowned for their high-quality milk yield; during WWII, when General Charles de Gaulle was living in exile at Little Gaddesden, his wife Yvonne de Gaulle insisted on buying her milk from Lucy Anne Foot.

In 1924, the Foots purchased a three acres (1.2 hectares) of land immediately to the east of Berkhamsted Castle from the trustees of Lord Brownlow’s estate to use it as a pasture for grazing the sheep used in Coopers’ research. Around this time, Berkhamsted was expanding rapidly and tracts of land were being sold off by country estate owners for new housing developments. The Foot’s acquisition probably saved this part of the Berkhamsted Castle site from development. Even after Coopers was bought out and closed its Berkhamsted premises, this small tract of land remained in the possession of successor companies until 2018, when it was donated to Berkhamsted Castle Trust.

Horses were also stabled at White Hill, and around 1926, Charles Miller worked as a groom there. He and his wife, also called Lucy, were recorded on the electoral roll as residing in the stables at White Hill. The Millers both lie buried in Rectory Lane Cemetery.

Lucy Anne and Richard Mildmay Foot were keen dog owners and bred pedigree “Beorcham” Irish Setters and greyhounds, exhibiting at Crufts. When Richard died in 1933, the grieving Lucy Anne commissioned the Seat of Remembrance, a charming stone seat next to his grave in Rectory Lane Cemetery with the arm-rests sculpted as a pair of Irish Setters. Lucy died in 1946 and was buried with her husband.

Whitehill is also the name of the narrow lane that runs in front of Berkhamsted Castle and continues up the hill to the junction with Gravel Path. The bottom section of the lane in between the Castle and the railway actually runs along the former outer moat of the Castle. The southern part of the outer moat was filled in when the railway embankment was built in the 1830s, and the remains of the Castle barbican gate were also swept away. Such is progress!

Following the death of Lucy Anne Foot, the Cooper family sold White Hill. The builder who bought the house shocked the town by burning White Hill to the ground and felling all the trees in the grounds. Having cleared the land, he built 17 houses — and then died. As a result, nothing remains today of the White Hill house and farm, and the site is now occupied by flats and private houses, but the legacy of the Coopers and the Foots is all around us in Berkhamsted today.


Cemetery connections

Discover the memorials in Rectory Lane Cemetery with historical links to White Hill

4 burials are found — click on a burial below to find out more:

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