Thursday, 1 August 2013

Berkhamsted Heritage Walk...

A brief tour of Berko, coz we've just got back from a 10k walk round Tring and it's rather hot.

If you have a quick stroll west of the canal you quickly come to the town centre arranged very neatly along one high street. Lots of the older buildings have the blue plaques of the heritage walk. We picked up the guide leaflet from the civic centre on the high street. There are 32 points of interest and we did them over a couple of strolls out and not in any particular order. Oh and I haven't copied it word for word the pamphlet is of course written far more professionally. 

1.   The London and Birmingham Railway - Well whadaya know another world first, the trains first went through Berko in 1837 and linked London and Birmingham, the worlds first intercity line. I thought some little scroat did an advert in the 80's saying 'this is the age of the train' - think it may well have been a hundred years or so earlier. The present station is from 1875 and there is a good chippie next door that was closed on Sunday.

2.   Berko Castle - Guillaume De Normandie was a bit of a french bully boy, after killing poor old King 'arrold somewhere down on the south coast he rode inland and ended up in Berko where the southern softies caved in and offered him the crown. He then rode to London and was crowned on Christmas day 1066. It was actually his half brother Robert who built the first castle. Oh and the bully was never actually King William as the name hadn't changed until after he was dead. There is a rather nice cottage built in the grounds, don't know why - just google it!

Through the castle walls

This is what happens to the canals if you don't dredge them

The storm is brewing

Cottage in the middle of the castle

3.   GJC - Grand Junction canal - Now known of course as the Grand Union. In the year of our Lord 2013 the waters did convey the vessel known as 'Lois Jane' down to and back from the great city of London

4.   The Crystal Palace - William Paxton was Lord Brownlow's agent, uncle Joseph built the great exhibition building, Crystal Palace, in 1851. The pub used to have a glazed front. It still looks good from the front, bit shit from the canal side though so everyone goes down to the Boat or the Riser.

5.   The Totem Pole - Its a genuine one, not something dreamt up by C&RT for one of their daft canal side artworks costing £50,000 whilst the bridges crumble and the locks collapse. No this was a gift from the people of British Columbia to John Alsford who sold off his timber merchants in 1970. The site is now flats.

Pretty it ain't

6.   The Boote - Once one of six pubs on the road that linked the town and the castle. It is now a very pretty 1605 oak framed house.

7.  The Gardeners Arms - Ale houses from the mid 1800's. The end of the road is the high street, a roman road formerly known as Akerman Street and before that a Belgic track so people have been trudging the same path for over 2000 years! Said Berko had a lot of history didn't I.

8.  The Dower House - Elegant pre Victorian house dating from early 1800's. A bit further along is a lovely terrace of houses designed as one entity now housing boutique shops.

9.   The Poplars - a big old 19th C middle class home, one of only a few that have remained residential. Sir Michael Hordern was born here in 1911.

10.  The Goat - 19th C drovers inn. The cattle were pounded in three closes behind.

11.  The Rex Cinema - modern but listed because of it's fantastic art deco interior by David Nye. The son of the property that got knocked down was Llewellyn Davies, James Barrie used to stay there and Llewellyn was the inspiration for Peter Pan.

12.  Childhood home of Clementine Hozier - later the wife of Sir Winston Churchill.

Nearly as good as the reproduction one opposite

13. Rectory Lane - William Cowper was born here in 1731, the rectory became a place of pilgrimage when he was at the height of his popularity.

14.  The Red House - Another pre Victorian house. Home of John Tawell a prominent local citizen and benefactor  who was publicly hanged for murder in 1845

15.  Dean Incent's House - Dating from 1500 beautiful timber framed house. Home to John Incent the dean of St Pauls Cathedral 1540-1545

handsome house right on the high street

16.  Graham Green's Birthplace - another notable author who, in 1904, was born in St Johns boarding house where his father was the house master.

17.  The Swan - One of three old coaching inn's 16th C, that stood together in a row, each with an opening for, well, coaches to go through.

18.  The Kings Arms - the principal inn of Berko for 200 years. The exiled King Louis XVIII of France  became a frequent visitor as he was rather fond of the landlord's daughter Polly Page. James Snook was a stableman here but his job on the side was a highwayman, he was hanged in 1802 on Boxmoor (presumably because of the highwayman thing not coz he was a rubbish stableman)

173 High Street - I don't know why they didn't give this one a number. It contains parts of what are thought to be the earliest jettied urban building in the country. The oldest timbers date from the 13th C (Dendrochronological analysis dated two structural timbers to between 1277 and 1297). It was either a shop or a three bay cross wing to an aisled hall. A note in the window however says that English heritage have been working closely with the owners and they now believe it is possibly the oldest shop in Britain. Oh and our solicitor is next door.

19. 179 High Street - 1920's and Art Nouveau wood carving, an early property for it's large plate glass shop windows.

20.  The Bridewell - now a nasty 1980's type building but the site was formerly the police station and had been since 1764.

21.  The Sayer Almshouses - How much does the Queen's cook earn, just a guess, lets say £65k. John Sayer was King Charles II's cook and he had enough spare dosh to build these Almshouses! They were built to house poor widows and have been ever since 1684.

Very charitable
22.  The Monk House - dating from 16th C . Until only 50 years ago the famous Lane's nurseries grew vines either side of Monk house for export to France and Germany. It is now a Cafe Rouge.

23.  Early Victorian Bakery - still a bakery today!

24.  The Bourne School - now Britannia building society. Originally 1737 rebuilt in 1854 Churchill's Mrs was a pupil here when it changed to a Girls school.

25.  William Cowpers School - Where he went to school, there is one big shop here now but it was three large houses.

26. The Town Hall - Lovely building now a gastro pub. Gothic style by eccentric Victorian Architect Edward Buckton Lamb.

There is still a town hall entrance on the right

27.  The Market Square - The ancient trading centre for 250 years before being burned down in 1854

28.  Grab all Row - Pre Victorian version of 'supermarket sweep'? I don't know but the vine that grows outside is from the 19th C. Vine growing was even mentioned in the Domesday book.

29.  The Court House - In this Elizabethan hall the town's corporation met after Berko was granted it's first charter in 1618, it has been fantastically well restored and is still available for public use.

30.  St Peters Church - The parish church of Berko dates from 1220 and is one of the largest churches in Hertfordshire, it's right on the high street too. There is an ancient yew tree in the corner that has never been dated. For over 600 years everyone who died in Berko was buried here. What, may be 100 per year, that's a lot of bones under that grass!

60,000 skeletons under there!

Man, yew is old

Almost looks out of place on the high street

31.  Berkhamsted School - Founded in 1541 and much extended over the years it really is a very pretty collection of historical buildings. Lots of people have been schooled here, none I have ever heard of they even started letting girls in in 1994.

School entrance

32.  Berko School Chapel - Looks good but not open to the public, so you'll have to say you're a posh kids parent and gate crash an open day!

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