The Seat of Remembrance is a beautiful stone bench in Berkhamsted’s Rectory Lane Cemetery, erected in 1934 in memory of a World War I officer, Brigadier General Richard Mildmay Foot. Its arms are carved in the shape of two charming Irish Setter dogs in red Mansfield stone. After years of neglect, this forgotten piece of Berkhamsted’s heritage had fallen into disrepair, but was lovingly restored in 2016 after a public appeal.
In 2015, volunteers Alan and Ann Mosley and their grandson William discovered the remains of a collapsed stone bench in Rectory Lane Cemetery, lying on the ground and obscured by undergrowth. On the stone backrest was a small shield with the words ‘Seat of Remembrance’ carved into it. Whilst clearing undergrowth and debris around the bench, the Mosleys also uncovered a broken gravestone lying on its back in front of the seat. This marked the grave of Brigadier General Richard Mildmay Foot, a World War I officer who died on the 16th October 1933, aged 68 years, and of his wife, Lucy Anne. Further research uncovered that in 1934 she had been granted permission to erect a seat in memory of her husband. Lucy Anne Foot died in 1946, aged 70 years, and was buried with her husband.
While there are a number of graves of those who died in the First World War that are carefully tended by the War Graves Commission, we must also not forget those who, like Brigadier General Foot, played an equally significant role in that war, but who survived. With the World War One Centenary commemorations fresh in our minds, it was decided to launch an appeal to restore the bench.
This was the Friends’ first major project in our plan to restore the Cemetery as a community space. The cost of cleaning and repairing the stonework, replacing the teak seat and relaying the paving was £5,000, money raised by the people of Berkhamsted through donations and through Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme. The highly skilled stonemason Sam Kelly carried out painstaking repairs, which included replacing the dogs’ broken noses. The restored bench was unveiled on 11 September 2016 at the Friends’ Heritage Open Day event by Professor Sarah Foot, a great granddaughter of Brigadier General Richard and Lucy Foot and Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Christ Church, Oxford University.
The restored seat can be seen today in the cemetery, situated next to the brick cemetery arch. It features two endearing Irish Setter dogs carved in red Mansfield stone with a timber base made of teak. visitors to the Cemetery are welcome to come and sit here, enjoy the tranquillity and think of those gone before us.
Remember that the Friends have many ongoing projects like the Seat of Remembrance – do please support the continuing work to restore Berkhamsted’s heritage and donate to the Friends.
Born in 1865, Richard Mildmay Foot was an unassuming gentleman with a remarkable military career, which encompassed fighting in Zululand (1887–1888), in the South African War (1889–1902) and finally in the First World War (1914-18) when he received many awards and was made a Companion of the Bath. In between conflicts he was a major figure in the Territorial Army, commanding the 4th East Anglian Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. In Cape Town he married his second wife, Miss Lucy Anne Cooper, the eldest daughter of Sir Richard Powell Cooper. Sir Richard was the owner of William Cooper and Nephews who produced the famous Cooper’s Sheep Dip. After the war, Richard Mildmay Foot joined the family firm, later becoming vice-chairman.
Foot was an enthusiastic breeder of Irish Setters, and in a tender tribute to his love of dogs, Lucy Anne commissioned the Seat of Remembrance with sculpted dogs as arms. The family connection to the Coopers explains the positioning of the seat right next to the Cooper memorial.