The Friends of St. Peter's Berkhamsted

Friends of St Peter's, Great Berkhamsted

Catherall, George 1832 – 1919; Charlotte 1798 – 1893; Sarah 1836 – 1891

Grave Number 237

George Catherall was a successful linen draper with a shop in the High Street, and lived at ‘the bottom of Water Lane’.[1]

He was born and grew up in Hemel Hempstead but by 1851 aged 19, was working as a Drapers Assistant to James Elliaman in Slough. Ten years later he was established as a draper in Berkhamsted[2] – at this time living on his own, but by 1871 his sister Charlotte was living with him, and Frank his nephew – very likely Charlotte’s illegitimate child. By this time he had two assistants. He was also a Director of the Gas Light and Coke Company[3] and two years later, was elected a trustee of Atkins Charity[4].

In 1878, he read an address, as a member of the Berkhamsted St Peter’s branch of the Church of England Temperance Society, to the Rev. W. Emmett, curate, on leaving the parish, begging ‘his acceptance of the accompanying chair and tea service’.[5] Later, in 1885 at the annual holiday of the juvenile branch of the Temperance Society he ‘amused the children by scrambling sweets’[6] In 1889 he was a vice-president of the Berkhamsted and Northchurch Working Men’s Liberal Club[7]

By 1881, he had increased his workforce to 3 assistants, of which one was his nephew and another his niece. In 1887 he served on the Grand Jury at St Albans Court,[8] but four years later he himself was in court:

Hemel Hempstead Petty Sessions, on Wednesday last, present A.H Longman Esq (in the chair) Captain Cooper and John Marnham Esq.

William Batchelor, Ann Batchelor and Lillie Batchelor were charged with assaulting at Berkhamsted, George Catherall, draper, High Street, Berkhamsted on the 18th inst (Feb 1891)

There was a cross-summons wherein George Catherall was charged with assaulting Ann Batchelor at the same time and place.

The case against the Batchelors was taken first, Mr Penny for the prosecution. And Mr Boydell of Watfors for the defence.

Mr Penny opened the case for his clients.

George Catherall said that about 7.30 pm he was coming from the direction of Gossom’s End towards his shop, when he was assaulted by the wife and daughter of William Batchelor. They did not speak to him nor he to them. Witness did not see them till he felt them. They caught hold of him, and Mrs Batchelor struck him with a stick on the head and shoulders, and the daughter digged at him with her fist. Witness struggled and got the stick away. It was not a formidable stick. The husband came up with an oath, and struck witness about the head and face with his fist, and nearly knocked the witness into the windows. Witness rushed into Newton’s shop and they rushed in after him, and continued the assault. The man struck witness fearful blows, and knocked him against some goods. (Bucks Hreald – compalinat shouted for the police) P.c. Read came in and took the man into custody, and took him away. The women continued the assault, and hung on to him. Witness got outside of the shop. Some men gave him his hat, which had been knocked off his head. Witness had no stick, and the wife said, “No, you’ll not, it is mine.” They both tried to get the stick away from the witness, and witness threw it away. He gave them no provocation. Witness showed marks on his face caused by the assault.

Cross-examined. – Witness had known defendants many years an at one time was on very good terms with them. That ceased when Batchelor’s son told him a lie. It did not absolutely cease. Witness used to take the son about a good deal, and he made him various presents from time to time. The friendliness ceased about a year and a half ago. Witness never gave the son a ring, but witness sent in a bill for a ring, and for 2s 6d money lent/ He sent the bill in to Mrs Batchelor. The son was going to an evening party in London, and he asked witness to get a ring for him, which witness did. Witness thought that the envelope produced had contained the bill. The son was about 24 years of age now, and was about 22 when he had the ring. Witness sent the bill in to the mother because she would see it paid. They were always very straight in their payments. Witness knew nothing about two post-cards produced, and which were dated Feb 18th. They were not in witness’s handwriting.

By the Bench – He did know the handwriting. It was that of hs assistant, Richard Franklow. Witness did not see him before they were sent, nor did he knw that they were sent. He knew of them only after the assault. Mrs Bathcelor did not come acroos the road to the witness, and asked him what he meant by those post-cards. The wife called witness a b—– and the husband added to it. He did not strike the wife. Bathcelor did not say “What do you mean by striking my wife”. One of the post-cards was directed to Mrs Bathcelor, the other to Miss Batchelor. Witness never said to Batchelor. “It’s all very well for you to get prizes for flowers when you steal them”.

The Chairman said the Bench were of opnion that the handwriting on the post-cards was not that of the prosecutor.

Thomas Margreaves, a boy of 13 years of age, said that at the time in question he was coming from Northchurch, and when near Newton’s shop the prosecutor was in front of him. Witness knew all the defendants. Mrs Batchelor came from the side of the path, and hit the prosecutor three or four times with a stick. Prosecutor said nothing to her. Witness was near enough to hear if he had said anything. The daughter came, but she only took hold of the prosecutor. Batchelor ran from the side of the Town Hall, and said “Leave her alone”. Prosecutor was trying to get the stick away. He did not strike Mrs Batchelor. Batchelor struck the prosecutor about the head with his fist, and when in the shop he kept hitting him. 

Cross-examined – A little boy was with witness. Witness did not hear Mrs Batchelor say “ What do you mean by sending the post card?’ Witness did not see Batchelor’s face bleeding.

Frank Holliman, antoher biy, said he lived in the High Street. He was near timson’s shop when he saw the prosecutor. This witness corroborated the evidence generally. He said when Mrs Batchelor raised the stick, the prosecutor put his hands up. Miss Batchelor did not do anything to the prosecutor. She was a little behind her mother, but she did not take part in the struggle. Witness heard Batchelor say “What are you hitting my wife for” He then struck prosecutor.

Frederick Grver, another boy, also corroborated the evidence.

P.c Read said he was against the station when his attention was called to the opposite side of the way. He went into Newton’s shop and saw the three defendants striking prosecutor. He did not see the prosecutor do anything in the way of assault. Witness took Batchelor by the collar, and took him to the poclie station.

Cross-examined – When at the police station, witness saw that Batchelor had a little scratch on his face.

Mr Boydell addressed the court on behalf of his client, and said there was continued ill-feeling between the parties, which culminated by the sending of the post cards, which the defendants believed came from the prosecutor. According to his (Mr Boydell’s) instructions, prosecutor struck the first blow.

Henry Wells of 100, Cotterells, Hemel Hempstead, grainer, said he saw the parties struggling together. There was no other person present at the time besides witness. Witness saw prosecutor strike Mrs Batchelor, and he saw Batchelor strike prosecutor. He did not hear anything said. He saw Batchelor afterwards. He had a scratch on his face.

Cross-examined – Witness was about 10 yards from them. He was going to the railway station at the time. He did not see the boys there.

The cross-summons was then gone into, and Mr Catherall took his place as defendant.

Mrs Batchelor, who is rather deaf, said they lived in kitsbury Road. She had known the defendant all her life. She produced a piece of paper which she said was put round two rotten rabbits. It bore a direction which was in the handwriting of the defendant. A letter followed the rabbits. She could sware (sc) that the post cards came from the defendant. She went to him and said “How came you to insult me by sending those post cards this afternoon.” He said “I will let you knw” and hit her with his fist. Witness’s husband and her daughter were on the other side of the road, and her daughter followed. Defendant struck the first blow and he struck the last. He struck her husband while in the shop. There was no blood on her husband’s face before defendant struck him.

Cross-examined – Witness had a stick in her hand. She did not carry a walking stick, but she had carried one before. At the time in question she did not take it for any particular purpose. She received the cards about four o’clock, on that afternoon. She went to see Mr. tripp, the police-inspector.

William Batchelor said he saw the defendant strike at his wife twice. He followed defendant into the draper’s shop. Defendant struck witness and drew blood. This was after witness was in the hands of the policeman. Witness did not see the three boys.

Cross-examined. Witness had no stick. He went at the defendant. Witness’s wife did not usually carry a stick. Witness meant to see the defendant if there was any chance of seeing him. Witness saw Mr Tripp before the assault and showed him the post-cards.

Lillie Batchelor said they were together when they saw Mr Catherall. Her mother said “I will go to him, and ask him why he sent those cards”. Witness saw him strike her twice. Witness did not touch the defendant. When at home her mother took the walking stick, and said if the defendant hit her, she would hit him again.

Batchelor said he was a labourer and gardener at Lady Spencer’s .

The Chairman said the Bench found the Batchelors guilty of the assault charged against them, and they dismissed the case against Mr. Catherall..

The Batchelors were ordered to pay £1 each, including costs, and to be bound over to keep the peace.

The money was paid.

The Chairman said the Bench thought that disgraceful conduct relative to the case was carried on at the defendant’s house.


Bucks Herald: There was an old-standing grievance between himself and Batchelor, who imagined complainant to have done him some injury’ but there was no foundation for the same. It arose through Batchelor making a claim for attending to his greenhouse fire, which he had endeavoured to settle with him.  The Magistrates considered the case proved, and fined each of the Batchelors £1, including costs, which sums were paid, and they were also bound over in £5 to keep the peace for six months. The summons against Mr. Catherall was dismissed.

It is curious that the grievance recorded in the Bucks Herald appears to bear no relation with the explanation given in the Gazette, where the reference to the fact that George ‘used to take the son about a good deal, and he made him various presents from time to time’ does raise suspicions about George’s sexual inclinations, particularly as he never married. In 1891, George’s household consisted of himself, Charlotte his mother aged 83, two draper’s assistants – his niece, Annie C., Richard Franklow (as mentioned at the trial), and Alice M. Holloway aged 32, housekeeper, and a female servant Rose Maidhew aged 18.

Only a few days before, George’s sister Sarah had died, triggering an inquest.[10] This was held by the Deputy-Coroner Mr L. Smeathman at George’s house. Miss Alice Holloway stated that she had been Mr Catherall’s housekeeper for 12 years. Miss Cathrall, who for ten years had suffered from partial paralysis, and was unable to stand or do anything, had been under her care. Dr. Batterbury had attended her at intervals, his last visit being in last October. Miss Catherall, who was fifty-five years of age, had a bad cold for about three days, and that was the only difference witness had seen in her condition. She died on Monday about five p.m. Deceased had her usual milk and  beef tea, and witness took her a cup of tea, which, however, she did not drink. Deceased was never left. About twenty minutes to five, witness noticed her leaning forward, and thinking her appearance unusual, she went to fetch Mr. Catherall, who was out, and deceased expired before he arrived. There was nothing exceptional in the condition of the deceased, who had been in such a state frequently.

Mr G. Catterall said his sister had been an invalid for nearly thirteen years, and for ten years had lived with him. He saw her at midday in her room, reading, and said to her “Oh! You are better,” as he looked in, to which she nodded. He did not think there was any need for the holding of an inquest.

Dr Batterbury said he had attended Miss Catherall for nine years off and on, seeing her in October for the last time. She suffered from a chronic spinal disease and had several attacks of threatened paralysis. He was sent for about 5 p.m and found her dead, sitting in her chair. He found no marks of violence on her body. He thought death was due to natural causes, but not having seen deceased for five months could not certify what was the exact cause of death. He thought an inquest was requisite in all cases of sudden death when the deceased was not under medical attendance. He consideed the immediate cause of death was syncope, a sudden failure of the action of the heart. A verdict was returned in accordance with the medical testimony.

In 1894, Arthur Dealey and John Davis, two small boys of Berkhampstead, were charged with stealing apples from the garden of Mr George Catherall, at the bottom of Water-Lane, Berkhampstead on the 12th inst. They pleaded guilty, and were ordered to receive six strokes with a birch rod.[11]

George’s mother died the following year, aged 85. She had worked both as a butcher[12] and beer seller[13]. When she died, she was described as ‘the relict of David Catherall of Hemel Hempstead’[14].

In the Cemetery, the epitaph states the memorial was erected by George Catherall ‘in memory of his mother, faithful, loving kind, and to mark where also rests his long suffering, last surviving sister.’, who as we saw suffered from a chronic spinal disease.  Bizarrely, neither his mother’s name, Charlotte, nor his sister’s name, Sarah, are given – nor are the dates of their respective deaths (1893 and 1891).   But the gravestone also bears an inscription, which in fact reveals a fascinating insight into George’s personal life. 

There is a shore

of better promise; and I know at last,

When the long Sabbath of the tomb is past,

We two shall meet in Christ – to part no more.

The poem chosen is by Henry Kirke White (21 March 1785 – 19 October 1806)[15]. The poem refers in the opening lines to ‘Fanny’, asking ‘Where are thou, love?’

It transpires that Fanny appears to have been George’s ‘flame’ and in 1911, when he was 79 and still a bachelor, she was living with him aged 68 as his housekeeper.  Like George, she had been born in Hemel Hempstead, so perhaps they had known each other since childhood. When he died in 1919, he left his estate valued at £3,449 3s 9d to her.






[1] No 128 in 1894 and 1895, then 103 in 1902-1919

[2] In 1870, recipients of offetory money ‘who go where they please in the town for clothes, laid out the money as follws: to Mrs Halifax £21 19s; Mr Rolph £53 12s 5d; Mr Hale £81 2s; Mr Catherall £95 9s 2d; Mr loader for shoes £3 11s.

[3] Hertford Mercury and Reformer 23rd June 1877

[4] Bucks Herald 20th December 1873

[5] Herford Mercury and Reformer 7th December 1878

[6] Hertford Mercury and Reformer 11th July 1885

[7] Hertford Mercury and Reformer 2nd February 1889

[8] Herts Advertiser 9th April 1887

[9] The Hemel Hempstead Gazette and West Herts Advertiser 28 February 1891. Another, shorter account appears in the Bucks Herald 28 February 1891

[10] Bucks Herald 21st March 1891

[11] Bucks Herald 29th September 1894

[12] 1841 Census

[13] Bucks Gazette 5th September 1840 (spirit licence refused for Charlotte Catherall of Berkhamsted). However, in the 1841 , census she is living in the high Street, Hemel Hempstead, with George, aged 9, and two younger daughters Ann aged 7, and Sarah 5.

[14] Bucks Herald 7th January 1893

[15] Henry Kirke White was born in Nottingham, the son of a butcher, a trade for which he was himself intended. However, he was greatly attracted to book-learning. By age seven, he was giving reading lessons to a family servant. After being briefly apprenticed to a stocking-weaver, he was articled to a lawyer, George Coldham. While in this position, he excelled in studying Latin and Greek. Through the efforts of his friends, he was able to enter St John’s College, Cambridge. Close application to study induced a serious illness, consumption was the disease, according to Sir Harris Nicholas memoir, to which he ultimately became a victim, and to which White made many allusions in his poems and letters. Fears were also entertained for his sanity, but he went into residence at Cambridge, with a view to taking holy orders, in the autumn of 1805. The strain of continuous study proved fatal. He was buried in the church of All Saints Jewry, Cambridge, which stood opposite the gates of St John’s College, but has since been demolished.

One of his poems is entitled ‘Inscription for a Monument to the Memory of Cowper’ – William Cowper was born and grew up at the Rectory here in Berkhamsted. The final two lines encourage the reader to ‘gird thy loins with lowliness, and walk with Cowper on the pilgrimage of Christ.’


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