The Friends of St. Peter's Berkhamsted

Friends of St Peter's, Great Berkhamsted

Richard Steel (1767 – 1856)

Grave Number 347

‘This tomb was erected by a few of his friends as a token of their esteem and regards.’

Richard Hailey Hall Steel was surgeon of the Hemel Hempstead Infirmary ever since its opening.  Before that, he’d served in Ireland during the Rebellion, (that was in 1798!). He was clearly someone who had experienced close encounters with mortality on the battlefield. As a surgeon, he knew quite a bit about the human body; about trying to preserve life for as long as possible.

In Berkhamsted, here where Lloyds Bank now stands, Dr Steel lived in a house which “… bore rather a forbidding aspect; it had large bow windows adorned with faded green curtains and [was] over-shadowed by trees. No light was seen in the window except occasionally the faintest flicker, which gave to it a more weird-like aspect. A nervous patient might…have to wait some time in the surgery in semi-darkness… had perhaps listened to some of the stories… of doctors keeping skeletons in their cupboards, and of having them supplied by body snatchers. It would be very unfair to judge of our good old doctor by this gloomy picture. In his own person he was remarkably neat, and his manner cheerful. To have seen him with his tight-fitting pants, his Hessian boots… the most critical observer would have pronounced him the beau-ideal of a gentleman, and when mounted on horseback… he might well have been the envy of half the equestrians of the neighbourhood. He lived to be a good old age’ (Nash, Reminiscences, pp.17-18).

He appears to have had no immediate family in the area – he never married, and had no children. So this was an expression of appreciation by a small community of his friends in the town.

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