The local government re-organisation of 1974, following the Local Government Act 1972, meant that the former Berkhamsted Urban District was absorbed into the new Dacorum District Council, centred on Hemel Hempstead and its new town. Dacorum was awarded borough status in 1984. The A.41 by-pass to the south of the town was opened in 1992. With the exception of some businesses located in the town and at Northbridge Road, much of the local manufacturing industry gradually closed or moved away during the last quarter of the twentieth century. An increasing number of residents commuted to and from London and other towns in the region.
Berkhamsted Castle is a well-documented example of an 11th-century motte-and-bailey Norman castle, with historical records dating from the 12th to 15th centuries. The castle was a high-status residence and an administrative centre for large estates. The royal castle’s presence clearly affected the town. It created jobs for the local population, both in the castle itself and also, for example, in the large deer park and in the vineyard, which were maintained alongside the castle. Moreover, for nearly 400 years, patronage from the royal court connected to the castle helped fuel the town’s growth, prosperity and sense of importance.
The Bulbourne River with the Gade, which it joins at Two Waters, Hemel Hempstead, is one of a small number of low-level routes through the Chiltern Hills. It has always provided a connection from London to the north. The completion in 1792 of the Sparrow’s Herne Turnpike Trust road linking Bushey and Aylesbury meant Berkhamsted could boast ‘London in a day and reasonable tolls’! In 1798 the Grand Junction Canal was completed, followed in 1838 by the London & Birmingham Railway. View the Berkhamsted canal walks guide here.
The Grand Union Canal
Berkhamsted, on the Grand Union Canal, was once a busy inland port and the centre of boat building activity. It is still called the Port of Berkhamsted today. The Grand Union Canal linked London to Birmingham, cutting through Berkhamsted. Castle Wharf was once the centre of canal trade and boat building. Today, Berkhamsted is a great place to explore the canal and let your children experience a little bit of our historic past close at hand. There is even a good track that will take you all the way to London if you hop on your bike and are very adventurous!
The Chiltern Hills
The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) covers 324 square miles of countryside, stretching from the Goring Gap on the River Thames in southern Oxfordshire up through Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire to Hitchin in Hertfordshire. Its designation as an AONB in 1965 recognised that the Chiltern Hills contain some of the finest landscapes in the country which are worthy of protection at the highest level. Berkhamsted is lucky enough to be located just on the edge of the AONB, and has easy access to the wooded hills, chalk streams, commons, nature and historic environments that characterise the Chilterns.
The Rectory Lane Cemetery Project
Town cemeteries give a great insight into the social history of a town and its locality and Berkhamsted’s is no exception. By the early 1800s the churchyard of the Parish Church of St. Peter’s was becoming full and more land was required to keep pace with life and death in a growing Hertfordshire town. Land detached from the church itself was donated by the Countess of Bridgewater (of Ashridge House) in 1837 and for the next century and a quarter, around seven thousand of the townsfolk – rich and poor, young and old – were interred here, on the originally- donated land and two extensions to it. More recent history was characterised by decay and neglect.
However, the last ten years or so has seen a local group of volunteers restore life to this detached churchyard. With the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, buildings and graves have been restored, new all-weather pathways have been laid and new interventions introduced. The work goes on and you can read about it in the link below.
Quick link : www.rectorylanecemetery.org.uk
Berkhamsted Citizens Footpath Map
A walk around the town and its environs would not be complete with tracing your route on the Berkhamsted Citizens Footpath Map.
First produced in 1936, the current map was updated to mark the 90 th anniversary of the Berkhamsted Citizens Association in 2014, and covers a large swathe of territory from Whipsnade to Whelpley Hill and from Bovingdon to Cheddington. All rights of way and permissive paths are shown, and there is a street map of Berkhamsted on the reverse. The price per map is £2.95 from Waterstones or the NT Shop at the Bridgewater Monument.
Annual – or at least ‘regular’ – events include the Festival of Light, Berkofest, Berkofest Book Festival, Heritage Open Days, Berkhamsted Food Festival, the Berkhamsted Half-Marathon and Fun Run, Ashridge House Open Gardens Day and the Graham Green International Festival. Berkhamsted Raiders Community Football Club is one of the most successful and respected youth football clubs in the country, and in Europe.