William Claridge was a life-long resident of Berkhamsted and has left for posterity a remarkable legacy of paintings, prints and photographs depicting events and people from all walks of life who lived in the town in the mid nineteenth century and left their mark e.g. Thomas Whately, the surgeon, and Mr Ghost the gravedigger! William Claridge was a good amateur artist and Berkhamsted’s first photographer. Perhaps the best known of his drawings because they were lithographed were the two drawings of the visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to the town in 1841 when they were on their way to stay with the Duke of Bedford at Woburn. These show the elaborate decorations and the triumphal arch that the people of Berkhamsted prepared as greeting to their Queen. One of these can be seen in the Clock Room at the Town Hall.
William was a well-to-do man and is listed in 1832 as owning freehold property in Grubbs Lane (later called Chesham Road) In both the 1851 and 1861 censuses he is described as a ‘proprietor of houses’. He did not marry until his mid-forties and then chose as his bride a very much younger woman, Charlotte, who was born in the Isle of Man. The family settled in a large house in the High Street almost opposite the Black Horse, now an Indian restaurant. Although the house no longer stands we have a photograph of that part of the High Street recording where the family lived. There were two daughters Sarah Isabelle, named after William’s mother, and Elizabeth who was four years younger.
The Berkhamsted Local History and Museum Society holds a number of Claridge’s paintings and drawings and copies of many of his photographs in its Collection in the DHT Museum Store.