Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted

Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted

Three different zones

Careful analysis of the landscape and features in the Cemetery led us to develop its three key areas, each with their own distinctive character:

Lower zone: for activities and events

lower zone mapThis area – the oldest part of the Cemetery – has an established parkland feel, with fewer, irregularly distributed but early headstones, which have a pleasing variety of design and form. Trees, some in a row and some in clusters, provide shelter for gazebos and marquees at events.  Irregularly distributed around this area, they create a sense of discovery. The fine Yew Tree Walk at the south end lends itself to promenade style performances.

The Performance Area is located in this area as is the sculptural seating, including the circular Read in Peace seat.

The newly installed accessible paths enable everyone to enjoy moving safely around this area.

The idiosyncratic and elegant Rectory Lane gates and gatepiers provide a perfect welcoming entrance point at the shortest distance from the High Street. Just inside the gates two parking bays are reserved for Blue Badge holders. Hardstanding for refreshment provision for events is located just along the bottom pathway.

Middle zone: for memorialisation

middle zone mapThe middle section of the site is more open than the older part of the Cemetery; with graves mainly  along the path edges and west boundary wall, and there are two large areas on both the east and west sides where headstones are almost entirely absent. The whole area is defined and served by two principal access points – the Memorial Arch (with the Seat of Remembrance next to it) and the formal entrance off Three Close Lane (currently blocked) with its turning circle for horses and hearses and solemn gate piers.

In this section are also located all the WWI War Graves Commission graves and the new Garden of Remembrance and Memorial Wall which are designed to re-activate the traditional function of the Cemetery as a place of contemplation and memoralisation. The refurbished Sexton’s Hut can house small gatherings, as well as providing information on the history of the Cemetery.

Accessible paths continue into this area.

Upper zone: for health and nature

upper zone mapThis comprises the less intensely visited top part of the Cemetery, which is entered by the current Three Close Lane entrance (the original point of entry for grazing animals). The mown paths climb the steep slope, which then levels out to form a secluded terrace and together these two areas form the upper zone, an area where habitats for wildlife and bio-diversity are already established and will be further fostered by managing the grassland rotations. This green, more private area, has inspiring views down the Cemetery and over the town; there are spectacular, ancient Yellow Meadow Ant hills; a pretty line of Silver Birch trees leading through to the terrace, a shelter belt at the top of the site.

This is an area where sustainability will become the key theme. Estate fencing  defines the northern boundary (replicating what was there in 1921, before this upper part was consecrated) and will possibly allow grazing to be re-established; a felled oak is carved into a bench; arisings and other natural material are being composted, beehives have been established. This area is perfect for fostering activities and learning around health and wellbeing – walking is brisker because of the hill, dog-walkers or joggers can loop up and down, bat and star gazing sessions can be hosted at the top of the site, bug safaris can explore the richer habitats here.

Our Volunteers’ facility – The Retreat – is sited here.

The three zones underpin the themed approach by transforming the whole site from a ‘Dead Space into a Living Place’, but with an emphasis on the heritage activities and events taking place in the lower zone.

The middle zone provides a perfect area in which to explore the ‘Cradle to the Grave’ theme, with an emphasis on commemorating the lives of the many people buried in the Cemetery.

The upper zone incorporates a ‘Local to Global’ theme in its emphasis on increased environmental awareness. The zones underpin the vision by aligning the desire to create a pivotal heritage asset (highlighted in the lower zone), a garden of commemoration (in the middle zone) and an environmental haven (in the upper zone).

Photos