The Friends of St. Peter's Berkhamsted

Friends of St Peter's, Great Berkhamsted

Supporting the work of maintaining and enhancing St Peter's Church and the churchyards that belong to it.

Rectory Lane Cemetery

The Rectory Lane Cemetery Project is the flagship project of the Friends of St Peter’s, transforming our once-neglected cemetery into a community space and conserving our heritage for future generations.

Rectory Lane Cemetery is a ‘detached’ cemetery of St Peter’s Church. It was founded in 1842 with a gift of land from Charlotte Catherine Anne, Countess of Bridgewater, when St Peter’s churchyard ran out of space for new burials.

The cemetery was extended several times until it too ran out of space. A new municipal cemetery opened in 1946 at Kingshill and burials at Rectory Lane ended in 1976.

The 3-acre site was difficult for the congregation of St Peter’s to look after, and over the years, the cemetery became very neglected. Weeds grew over paths, saplings spouted out of historic monuments, and the cemetery became a magnet for antisocial behaviour and vandalism.

In 2014, the newly formed Friends of St Peter’s identified Rectory Lane Cemetery as a flagship project. This forgotten piece of church land was full of beautiful Victorian monuments and had many family connections in the local area, and it was time to make improvements.

When we started

A pile of broken headstones in 2013

The Cemetery was an overgrown, unloved area which had:

  • 3 acres of neglected scrub
  • A boarded-up Sexton’s Hut
  • 540 metres of failing boundary walls
  • 1000 damaged and decaying Memorials
  • Rusting gates and gatepiers
  • A crumbling Memorial Arch
  • Unattractive seating
  • Over 200 neglected Trees
 

War Graves

Berkhamsted's Commonwealth War Graves

Of particular historical interest were the many Commonwealth War Graves in Rectory Lane Cemtery. The commemorations of the World War I Centenary in 2014-18 made our project all the more fitting as we remembered the Fallen.

 

The Cemetery Project

Volunteers clearing the cemetery
  • A project group was formed from local volunteers to put together a plan for restoring the cemetery.
  • Local architects helped to draw up plans to improve the paths and landscaping,
  • Volunteers formed monthly work parties to clear overgrown vegetation and removed destructive trees and saplings
  • Gravestones and monument inscriptions were recorded and cleaned 
 

Involving the Community

A cemetery open day draws the crowds
  • Hugely popular Heritage Open Days events and guided tours have been held to stimulate interest
  • Public consultations presented the ideas to local people to get their views.
 

Fundraising Initiatives

Reconstructing the Seat of Remembrance

We began fundraising from grants, donations and through community schemes run by Waitrose and Tesco. 

Special community initiatives captured the imagination of local people and raised awareness of our project:

  • Restoration of the Seat of Remembrance with its lovely sculpted dogs
  • A design competition to create new cemetery seating 
 

Lottery Funding

Heritage Lottery Fund

In 2016, the Friends of St Peter’s secured a grant of £907,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund to enable this exciting three-year project to go ahead.

 

Repairing the Fabric

Underpinning the large gate piers
  • Historic features including, memorials, walls, pillars, gates and buildings are being repaired
  • We have engaged an expert monument conservator to advise us on repairing selected monuments in the Cemetery.
  • Damaged headstones are being lovingly restored by an apprentice stonemason
  • We are resurfacing paths to improve accessibility for everyone

 

 

New Cemetery Features

The planned "Read in Peace" seat

To enhance the cemetery for the whole community, the project is creating:

  • A new Garden of Remembrance
  • A small events area for performances and activities such as yoga
  • Better quality features such as newly designed seating, sculptures and bins
  • Interpretation to help people enjoy their visits, whether for leisure or to trace relatives
 

Cemetery Ecology

The cemetery is an ecologically significant area, and supports many species of rare lichen and wildlife. We even have a cemetery beehive, which produces an annual batch of delicious local honey! We continue to enhance the cemetery ecology by:

  • Improving habitats for birds, insects, bats and animals
  • Introducing a more sensitive mowing rotation
 

The Cemetery Online

The mobile-friendly Rectory Lane Cemetery website

Rectory Lane Cemetery now has its down dedicated website where you can

  • find out more about the cemetery’s fascinating history
  • search for burials
  • discover Berkhamsted’s hidden wildlife haven

 

Visit the Cemetery website