The Lane family owned a flourishing Nursery business, which at its height was of national, even international, repute. The firm was established by Henry Lane in about 1777 and, taken over at his death by his son, also Henry Lane. It was really the latter’s son, John Edward Lane who developed the business leasing land close to St John’s Well Lane by the present Canal Fields but also land stretching up to Greenway Common on the south side of the High Street. There were also orchards at Broadway (Bourne End) and the Balshaw Nurseries at Potten End.
The Garden Index of 1885 writes ‘ For upwards of half a century the name of John Lane of Berkhamsted, the present head of one of the oldest and best known nursery firms in this country, has been familiar to horticulturists.’ It was not until the 1960s that the firm finally folded. The firm was, perhaps best known for the apple, the Lane’s Prince Albert. This was cultivated by Thomas Squire, a Berkhamsted Quaker of the Homestead, in 1841, the year of the visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to Berkhamsted on the way to stay with the Duke of Bedford at Woburn. Lane marketed the apple as ‘Lane’s Prince Albert’ to commemorate the visit.
Henry Lane and his wife are to be found in Grave number 247, John Edward Lane junior and his brother Frederick Quincey Lane, both sons of John Edward Lane and Sarah Foster (of the Berkhamsted Brewer family) are to be found in Grave numbers 241 and 245. It is notable that graves of some of the Foster family are nearby as are also those of the Meeks since Sarah Susannah Lane, daughter of Henry Lane married Richard Meek.
From the link with the Fosters it appears that both John Edward Lane and Frederick Quincey Lane had some share in the Foster’s brewery business. In the 1861 census John Edward Lane is listed as Brewer and Maltster and is residing at the Swan with Hannah, his second wife and other members of the family and his son-in-law George Foster, who is a pupil brewer. In the 1891 census Frederick Quincey Lane is listed as a Nurseryman and Brewer and was residing at the George.
It is not, however, only the man of the household who is worthy of notice but also Mrs Quincey Lane who is listed surprisingly in the 1891 census as journalist. The enumerator has additionally written in pencil ‘author’! In 1888 Vol. I of ‘The Hertfordshire Constitutional Magazine’ had appeared, available from G. Loosley of Castle Street, edited by Quincey Lane. In presenting the magazine to the people of Hertfordshire the proprietors aimed to meet a long-felt want, within the reach of the general public. ‘No pains will be spared to make the contents interesting and instructional to the highest degree.’ Frederick Quincey Lane, nurseryman and brewer could hardly be the author, but maybe his wife Eliza Jane was the mysterious Quincey Lane. Both the Hertfordshire Standard and the Journalist confirm this. ‘It is edited by Mrs Quincey Lane ….who was the first lady journalist enrolled on the books of the London District of the National Association of Journalists.’
Throughout the second half of the 19th century and well into the twentieth century members of the Lane family held prominent positions in the Berkhamsted Lodge of Freemasons. In the publication in 1945 to mark the centenary of the Masons in Berkhamsted a family tree of the Lanes is included to help the reader understand the complicated relationships.