Berkhamsted's parish church is St. Peter's, one of the largest parish churches in Hertfordshire. It was consecrated in 1222 by the Bishop of Lincoln, although parts of the church are believed to be older. At the back of the church lies a marble tomb of a knight and his lady. It is thought to be that of Henry of Berkhamsted, one of the Black Prince's lieutenants at the Battle of Crecy.
The photo shows the church on the right and the old Courthouse to its rear,
To see a cinema from the golden age of film going visitors must see the Rex Cinema in the High Street. The cinema opened in 1938 and closed in 1988 but re-opened as a private venture in 2004. It has all the feel of a cinema from the 1930s and even if you do not want to see a film you can see the foyer where there is a cafe. You could perhaps glimpse the auditorium as I did by having a quick look by quietly entering it - it really is impressive.
The cinema is a grade 2 listed building and films quickly sell out. Because of its closeness to London major stars sometimes visit to introduce films.
There used to be a Home and Colonial in every English town but they closed years ago so I think the shop of this name in the High Street is an attempt to recreate one of these classic English shops.
This is a real treasure house of old books, furniture, clothes, shoes, bags and other interesting things. A wonderful shop to browse around. I must admit when we gave up on teak furniture in the 80s no one wanted it and here is old teak furniture as prices I had to look at twice at!
There is also a cafe on the top floor and this is reviewed separably.
I guess this should be a shopping tip but this is one of the must see things in the town.
The town has many old buildings and they all carry a blue plaque explaining who lived there. A typical old house is Dean Incents house opposite the church in the High Street. John Incent was Dean of St Pauls Cathedral between 1500 and 1545 and he was the founder of Berkhamsted Collegiate school which still exists today.
His house in the town (see below) was built in 1500 and is inhabited still.
The Grand Union Canal passes through the town on its way from London to Birmingham. It lost its canal trade as late as the early 1960s and the small inland port around the Castle Street area also disappeared with the loss of commercial traffic.
However the canal lives on for the use of the many colourful canal craft that ply this busy canal. There are a number of locks in the town and it is nice spending time watching the barges travel slowly through the town. Many tie up and moor here to take on provisions or visit the town.
Near the railway station (on the other side of the tracks coming from the town centre) are the ruins of Berkhamsted Castle.
There was already a Saxon fort on this site when in 1066 King William granted the Manor and Honour of Berkhamsted to his half brother Robert and work began on a castle - the site was seen as important as it guarded a main route through a valley.
The castle fell in to disrepair in the late 1400s and in 1580 Elizabeth 1 leased the castle to the keeper of the Queens Jewels and he demolished the castle and used its stone to build Berkhamsted Place (demolished in 1967) on the hill above the castle site.
Today it is owned by the National Trust and admittance is free. There are are some retaining walls to see and a mound with impressive views of the town from its summit.
A pleasant place to walk - there are description boards around the site describing how the castle would have been.
There used to be a timber yard on the spot near the Grand Union Canal at Castle Street where flats now stand and if you look in to this private complex you can see one of Englands four totem poles.
In the early 1960s, Roger Alsford, a great-grandson of the founder of the timber company , went to work at the Tahsis lumber mill on Vancouver Island. During a strike he was rescued from starvation by a local Kwakiutl community. Alsford's brother, William John Alsford, visited the island, and in gratitude for their hospitality, commissioned a totem pole from the Canadian First Nations artist Henry Hunt. The western red cedar pole, 30 feet (9.1 m) long and 3 feet (0.91 m) in diameter, was carved by Hunt at Thunderbird Park, a centre for First Nation monuments. The completed pole was shipped to Berkhamsted in 1968.
The carvings on the totem pole represent four figures from North American First Nations legend: at the top sits Raven, the trickster and creator deity; he sits on the head of Sunman, who has outstretched arms representing the rays of the sun and who wears a copper (a type of ceremonial skirt); Sunman stands on the fearsome witch-spirit Dzunukwa; at the base is the two-headed warrior sea-serpent, Sisiutl, who has upstretched wings.
This spot is a nice for a gentle stroll in the afternoon or maybe plan a bike ride from London.
Feed the ducks and swans, have a drink at the pubs along the way, take a look at the narrow boats and even give them a hand negotiating the numerous locks.
We had a lovely stroll around this ruined castle on peaceful Sunday afternoon.
"William the Conqueror received the submission of the English at Berkhamsted Castle after the Battle of Hastings. Around 1070, his half-brother, Robert of Mortain, built a timber castle. It was in the classic Norman motte-and-bailey form, with a defensive conical mound and oval bailey.
The castle stayed in royal hands, and in 1155 Thomas Becket was granted the honour of Berkhamsted by King Henry II. "
The Rex Cinema is an Art Deco masterpiece. It opened with ‘Heidi’ starring Shirley Temple on 9th May 1938 on one huge screen with the sharpest film projection and clearest non-booming sound anywhere in the world. However, due to modern technology and multi-screen complex cinemas, it closed down in 1988. Then, after refurbishment it re-opened in 2004.
The Court House, much altered since it was built in Elizabethan days, formerly faced the highway, but for centuries it has been in the shadow of the shops and houses which created Back Lane, renamed Church Lane.
Berkhamsted Town Hall was designed by Edward Buckton Lamb and opened in 1860. It was largely funded by public subscription. It replaced a Market House and was always intended to be multi-functional. Over the years it accommodated council meetings, classrooms, theatre, a postal sorting office and a British Restaurant. By the late 1960s it was worn out. But for a public outcry and the efforts or prominent Berkhamsted citizens, it might have been demolished. However, today it has been restored and is now a brasserie.
The ruin of Berkhamsted castle is located right beside the railway line. The original fortification dates from Saxon times although what remains is Norman. Work on the Norman structure was started in 1066 by William the Conqueror who later passed the castle to his half-brother, Robert, Count of Mortain. Berkhamsted was of some strategic importance, and there was already a Saxon fort guarding the main route through the valley. In the 12th Century, the castle was home to Thomas Becket, Chancellor of England and later Archbishop of Canterbury. In the 14th Century, it became the residence of Edward, the Black Prince, and Geoffrey Chaucer was appointed Clerk to the Works. In 1469, Edward IV granted the castle to his mother Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, who lived here for the remainder of her life. After her death, the castle gradually fell into decay. The castle is said to be unique in having a double moat. All that remains are part of the exterior walls, earthworks, moats and motte.
Open: 10am-6pm. Admission: Free.
Carved by an artist of the Kwakiuti tribe from Canada's Pacific coast, this splendid object arrived in 1970 and is located by the canal, beside Castle Bridge. To say it's unusual to find in leafy Hertfordshire is an under-statement!
The parish church of St Peter is one of the largest in Hertfordshire. Parts of it, like the nave, date back to the early 13th century. The Lady Chapel is of similar age, and although its windows are more recent there are signs of the originals' settings. Other notable features include 14th century tombs of a knight and his lady and the large east window commemorating the poet William Cowper.