The Friends of St. Peter's Berkhamsted

Friends of St Peter's, Great Berkhamsted

The Whately Family of Surgeons

Grave Number 15 and 256

The two brothers, Thomas Whately and George Frederick Whately, both sons of Thomas Whately of Grafton Street, Mayfair, London, a surgeon, although not natives of Berkhamsted, played significant roles during their time in the town. We know that Thomas Whately arrived in the town shortly after qualifying in 1837 and lived to start with in the High Street together with his widowed mother, Paulina and his unmarried sister, Paulina. The two women were well-to-do and dealt in property. (Grave number 15)

Paulina junior is commemorated together with George Frederick Whately, her brother, who arrived in the town in 1858 and was surgeon in the town for 20 years. He and his family lived in the house opposite the church next door to Dean Incent’s House. He was much loved by the ordinary people of the town.

Thomas Whately together with his wife Jane, is commemorated in grave 256. Theirs was a childless marriage. He died at the early age of 54 and was surgeon for 30 years. He had a very prominent position in the town, not only in medical circles, where he was Surgeon to the West Herts Infirmary and Medical Officer to the Great Berkhampstead Union, but in much else besides. He was no doubt wealthy, owned Egerton House and other property in Castle Street, was a trustee of various charities, subscribed to the rebuilding of the Town Hall and Market House, supported the idea of the Mechanics’ Institute and gave lectures of ‘an instructive nature’, often illustrating them with experiments. He had great respect for history and ancient institutions of the town and tried to revive the town charter. He was active in campaigning to prevent Earl Brownlow from enclosing part of the Common in 1865.

Perhaps his greatest legacy to the parish of St Peter’s and the people of Berkhamsted was his gift of the ‘Great West Window’ which was awarded a bronze medal at the Paris Exhibition, 1867.

On the day of his funeral a performance of the Dramatic Club was cancelled and all shops closed.

The newspaper report of the funeral of Thomas Whately of Egerton House:

“Funeral of Thomas Whately, Esq.. On Saturday the body of this highly respected gentleman was interred in the cemetery. Such a funeral had not been witnessed in the town for many years. Every shop had its shutters up, and a general gloom pervaded the place. The coffin was followed to the grave by at least 120 persons. In addition to the relatives and friends of the deceased, there were the Committee and a number of the members of the Mechanics Institute , of which Mr Whately was a firm friend, and Vice-President , a number of the Odd Fellows also showed their respect by attending as mourners. The Rector officiated, and in a feeling manner performed his part of the funeral ceremony” Herts Guardian, Agricultural Journal , and General Advertiser May 1867.

Jenny Sherwood

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