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. We are working to transform Berkhamsted’s once-neglected cemetery into a community space and to conserve our heritage for future generations.

Rectory Lane Cemetery is a ‘detached’ cemetery of St Peter’s Church. It was founded in 1842 when St Peter’s churchyard ran out of space for new burials. Eventually, Rectory Lane Cemetery also ran out of space, and burials ended here in 1976.  This 3-acre site proved difficult for the congregation of St Peter’s to look after and the cemetery became very neglected, overgrown with weeds, saplings sprouting out of historic monuments, and a magnet for antisocial behaviour and vandalism.

This forgotten piece of church land was full of beautiful Victorian monuments with many family connections in the local area. In 2014, the Friends of St Peter’s volunteers started a project to turn Rectory Lane Cemetery from a dead space into a living place.

New website

Rectory Lane Cemetery now has its own dedicated website to tell the story of this once-forgotten burial ground.

Visit to discover:

  • the history of the cemetery
  • how Friends of St Peter’s volunteers transformed this beautiful space
  • a searchable database of burials
  • links to historic sites across Berkhamsted
  • a wildlife guide
  • news about the cemetery project
  • community events in the historic cemetery grounds
  • educational activities for children

…and much more.

The website is perfect for researching your family history, or for anyone who just wants to discover more about Berkhamsted’s rich history. 


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 Cemetery. The commemorations of the World War I Centenary in 2014-18 made our project all the more fitting as we wanted to honour the Fallen.


The Cemetery Project

Volunteers clearing the cemetery

Local volunteers got together to:

  • draw up plans for restoring the cemetery
  • form monthly work parties to clear overgrown vegetation
  • clean and restore gravestones and monuments, record inscriptions and research history

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 and questionnaires were held
  • The feedback of hundreds of local people helped us to shape our plans.

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
  • Local architects helped to draw up plans to improve the paths and landscaping,
  • 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