SHINING THE LIGHT ON HIDDEN HEROINES | Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted

Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted


March  2018

To mark International Women’s Day on March 8th, the Friends of St Peter’s Berkhamsted has just published the latest in their educational booklets entitled “Remarkable Women (1)”. It charts the lives of 10 notable females associated with the Cemetery between the 1840’s and 2005.


 It begins with the Countess of Bridgewater who donated land for St Peter’s Churchyard detached and who was very influential in the design and community participation for the project. It then goes on to tell the life stories of women ahead of their time whose contribution really counted. They came from all walks of life and included a philanthropist, a benefactor and lunatic, livestock breeder, an actor, a WW1 Nursing Matron, the founder of a magazine and an Innkeeper who befriended exiled Royalty.


This booklet, by Jenny Sherwood of the Berkhamsted Local History and Museum Society, is the fifth in the series but has taken the longest to produce. The reason for this is quite poignant: information about women’s lives in Victorian England is much harder to come by than about their male counterparts.  A number of these women came to public notice only after they were widowed. One Eliza Quincey Lane who founded a local magazine which eventually became a national title, wrote as “Quincey Lane” to disguise her gender.


Pictured left is Katherine Finch who is featured in ‘Remarkable Women (1)’


Kate Campbell, Community Engagement Officer at the Rectory Lane Cemetery explained: “This represents the latest fruits of our research into the important people of Berkhamsted of yesteryear. We are very excited by the results and plan to host events which will bring these stories to life – keep an eye on our website and Facebook page. We would also be keen to hear from anyone who has information about their relations buried in the Cemetery – who knows, perhaps we can publish a second volume!”


The booklet can be downloaded from the website and will be available at forthcoming events including Saturday market stalls over the summer. Kate Campbell can be contacted at



The Hidden Heroines are:


CHARLOTTE CATHERINE ANN EGERTON THE COUNTESS OF BRIDGEWATER 1763-1849 who donated the land as well as funding many local educational projects.


ANNE HEWSON 1777-1853 – a woman of independent means who sponsored her nephew in his early business endeavours and by whom she was cared for when declared a lunatic.


MARY (POLLY) PAGE 1787 – 1865 who took over the running of the Kings Arms from her father and was thought to have had a liaison with Louis XVIII of France during his exile.


KATHERINE FINCH 1794-1872 who supported her husband General Finch in his civic benevolence and after his death founded a school for the poor in Potten End.


MARY ANN SMITH-DORRIEN 1825 – 1909 who as well as giving birth to fifteen children, two of whom became national figures, supported the Tring and Berkhamsted Ambulance Fund as well as serving as a Governor of the newly founded Berkhamsted Girls Grammar School.


ELIZA QUINCEY LANE 1847 – 1901 who founded the Hertfordshire Constitutional Magazine in 1888.

CATHERINE PARTRIDGE (NEE STANNERS) 1859 – 1926 who as a widowed mother kept the communication lines flowing in and around Berkhamsted for twenty-eight years as operator of that new-fangled apparatus, the telephone exchange.


LUCY ANNE FOOT 1876 – 1946 was a keen breeder of both livestock and dogs. She continued with the breeding of the Beorcham line of prize-winning Irish Setters started by her husband, including the renowned 11-year-old sire Beorcham Blazes, veteran at Crufts 1935.


SISTER COTTINGHAM 1886 – 1918 who served her country in WW1 and succumbed to the post war epidemic of Spanish Flu while Matron of The Beeches VAD hospital. Her work was recognised by the men of the Inns of Court Officers’ Training Corps who were stationed in Berkhamsted 1914-1919.


MARY WIMBUSH 1924 – 2005 who began working as an actress with the BBC in 1945 and was known to many Archers fans as Julia Pargeter. Before that she had brought many roles to life and won the Best Actress in the 1991 Sony awards


Note to editors

The Friends of St Peter’s, Great Berkhamsted, has secured a National Lottery grant of almost £1m to restore and transform Rectory Lane Cemetery in Berkhamsted. The funding has been awarded through the Parks for People programme, run by Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund.

To date, more than £900million of money raised by National Lottery players has been invested in parks since 1996.


About ‘The Friends of St Peters’


Launched in 2013 it is a Registered Charity (Registered Charity Number 1160314). The Friends encourage a wider appreciation of the church and its churchyards as a rich store of local and architectural history. They organise social and fund-raising events and act as a focus and resource for all who are interested in the continuing history of our town. The Friends provide an opportunity for individuals, families, local institutions and businesses to become involved in the care and conservation of this irreplaceable heritage.

For further information:

Heritage Lottery Fund Press Office – Natasha Ley 020 7591 6143 / Siobhan Palmer 020 7591 6056

Big Lottery Fund Press Office – 020 7211 1888

Friends of St Peter’s – Elaine Mercer 07866 119749