A new website has been launched to celebrate and promote the Friends’ flagship project, Rectory Lane Cemetery, the result of months of painstaking research into parish records and a dedicated web development project.
Since 2014, the Friends of St Peter’s Rectory Lane Cemetery Project has been working to restore this once-neglected burial ground as a community asset. The new website at www.rectorylanecemetery.org.uk is designed to celebrate this historic site, giving a new online presence to the achievements of the cemetery project, and to promote wildlife diversity, cemetery events and the beautiful community space.
At the heart of Rectory Lane Cemetery’s history are the stories hidden under the gravestones, the real lives of the people buried here, and the new website now offers a fully searchable database of the burials in the cemetery, making it a valuable genealogical resource for anyone researching their family history. Typical Hertfordshire names like Rance, Holliday, Pocock, Smith-Dorrien or Halsey, and hundreds of others, can be found by searching online.
The website opens up an interactive “window” through which you can see the lives and fortunes of people who made their mark on Berkhamsted. Among the personalities of the past, we meet coachbuilders from the days of horse-drawn carriages, the first automobile owners, a stationmaster, chemical manufacturers, farmers, clergy, nobility and the fallen of two World Wars.
The war graves tell some of the most moving stories – accessible via an interactive map of Rectory Lane’s military burials. Here we encounter young men who died of wounds from fighting in the Somme trenches; decorated generals; some of Britain’s first airmen; and poignant connections with Berkhamsted’s famous Inns of Court training camp.
An interactive town map shows how the past can be seen all around us today, drawing connections with well-known places across the town, such as Ashlyns Hall, Ashridge House and Cooper’s Chemical Works, as well as many hidden surprises. These connections sharpen our appreciation of how those buried here shaped modern Berkhamsted.
The website is also designed for community participation. Visitors to the website can post “in memoriam” messages on a burial to commemorate a loved one. When the cemetery re-opens to the public, visitors will be able to stand in front of a memorial and search the online burial records via their mobile, uncovering hidden histories and old photographs on the spot. And for nature enthusiasts, there will be a space to post photos of wildlife they encounter.
The Rectory Lane Cemetery Project are especially keen to hear from anyone who has memories about family members or ancestors buried here, and there is an opportunity for relatives to contribute to these stories.
Begin your journey into Berkhamsted’s fascinating history today: