Churchyard


The churchyard at St Peter's is today a pleasant and green space, but in previous centuries this area was full of gravestones and in use as a burial ground.

With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, Britain experienced rapid population growth. As a result, many graveyards were no longer large enough to acommodate burials and new cemeteries were opened to provide new burial space. St Peter's graveyard, like many others in Britain, fell into disuse when the new cemetery was opened nearby on Rectory Lane.

flattened stones visile under snow in the graveyard In a photograph which was taken around 1870, we can see that the there were headstones and a number of wooden graveboards still standing. Sometime after this date, the majority of the headstones were laid flat and accompanying footstones removed, some being used as paving by the S door. The levelled headstones still lie under the grass today; during winter, a layer of snow reveals their positions more obviously, as this picture reveals.

graveyard

Traditionally, burials in churchyards were mostly made on the south and east sides of a church. Legend has it that the Devil was supposed to inhabit the north side of the church, a belief that may date from pre-Christian times when the sun was revered. At Berkhamsted St. Peter, however, the churchyard has always been limited by two roads which existed when the church was built in the early 13th century - on the east side is Castle Street and to the south is the High Street, the route of the Roman road called Akeman Street. As a result of this confinement, nearly all of the burials here are on the north side of the church. A few burials were made on the south side, but as the highway gradually widened, burials were limited. Today, only two 18th-century coffin tombs are in evidence.

smith dorrien monument

The graveyard has been in use for many centuries, but the oldest recorded headstone here dates from 1722, although the 19th century historian John Edwin Cussans mentioned a small stone dating from much earlier. Other names listed by Cussans have been lost, possibly becuase they were inscirbed on the several wooden graveboards shown on the 1870 photograph. Two broken headstones showed evidence of repair with iron staples.

Despite its medieval appearance, the tall monumental stone cross on the eastern side overlooking Castle Street dates from 1910.  It was erected in memory of Mary Ann Smith Dorrien, mother of General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien. Carved figures on the top depict the Crucifixion of Christ, St Anne, St Peter and St John the Baptist.

 

1. Churchyard cross. To the glory of God and the dear and honoured memory of his servant Mary Ann Smith Dorrien (of Haresfoot) Her friends and fellow parishioners placed this cross MCMIX.
2. In memory of Edward son of Edw. Hikesley & Hannah his wife who died June 9th 1812 aged .. years. Also of mary their daughter who died (April or August) 18th 1812 aged 12 years.
3. Here lyeth the body of Joseph Bates who departed this life the 29th of August 1736 aged 31 years. He was a dutiful son, a loving brother and a tendere friend and much lamented by all who knew him.
4. Illegible.
5. Robert Woodbridge(?) stone damaged and mainly illegible.
6. In memory of mr William Tomlin late of Redcross Street in the city of London who departed this life the 24th August 1802 in the 55th year of his age.
7. Sacred to the memory of Ann Tompkins... William S M... who departed... July... age... "Let friends... Whilst in the...This transient... A crown of glo(ry)... Edward Tompkins their son who died .5th Oct 1825 aged 17 years. Stone flaked on right side.
8. In memory of Mary Tompkins daughter of Wm and Mary Tompkins who died 5th Dec 1809 aged 5 years. And Wm their son who died in his infancy. "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord".
9. In memory of Hannah... Relict of Ri... o... died 23rd... aged 8... Stone flaked on right side.
10. Sacred to the memory of Mr Thomas Swinscow who departed this life August the 10th 1821 aged 47 years. Also of Mrs Mary Penton daughter of the above who departed this life October the 16th 1821 aged 21 years.
11. Sacred to the memory of John griffin eldest son of the late John and Ann griffin who died 6th Aug 1812. Also of Eliza widow of the above who died 20th Sept 1816 aged 42 years.
12. In memory of Ann wife of John Griffin who died July 13th 1823 aged 63 years. Also of John griffin husband of the above who departed this life November 18th 1826 aged 68 years. And of Emma Griffin their daughter died November 16th 1797 aged 3 years. Also Edward Jones Griffin their son who died November 4th 1831 ...aged(?)..
13. Sacred to the memory of Mrs Sarah Howard wife of Joseph Howard who died September the 9th 1821 aged 41 years. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord". Also of M E Howard who died November 20th 1823 aged 5 months. And of H W Howard who died June 19th 1826 aged 1 year & 8 months.
14. Sacred to the memory of Mrs Hannah Collins wife of Michael Collins died Nov 18th 1838 aged 36 years. "...so... H... the... Death... Take up my soul away". Also of Mr Charles Collins husband of the above who died 13th May aged 66 years.
15. M... rest of inscription illegible.
16. Sacred to the memory of Richard Woodman (of this town) who departed this life 20th October 1813 aged 77 years. Also of Mary Ann Woodman wife of the above who departed this life 13th March 1811 aged 67 years Also of Richard Woodman son of the above who departed this life 30th January 1812 aged 8 years. Also of Allen Woodman son of the above who departed this life 24th January 1813 aged 36 years.
17. In memory of Thomas Parsons husband of Margaret Parsons who died
18. Sacred to the memory of Charlotte wife of William Billington ParsorE who departed this life March 13th 1836. Also of their two infant children.
19. In hope of a joyful resurrection here lyeth the body of Ann Howard who died August the 24th 1810 aged 66 years. Also of Joseph Howard husband of the above who died October the 29th 1821 aged 71 years.
20. In memory of Charles son of Charles & Hannah Collins who departed this life 4 Aug 1812 aged 1 year and 7 months. "Sleep Sleep youthfL_ babe and take your rest. God taketh away those whom he loveth best'. Also of Joseph Collins who departed this life September 9th 1825 aJ=_ 22 years. "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away blessed be tr= name of the Lord".
21. In memory of ...17 ...1817 ...months Mary Mills who departed this life October 10 1817 aged .. months. Stone broken into several pieces.
22. In memory of (Wi)ll(iam)? Billington ... 1807?.
23. In memory of Mary the wife of William Billington who departed this life 18.. aged .0 years.
24. In memory of (William)? ... 25. Illegible.
26. ... Thomas Woodman(?) ... Mary Woodman(?) ...18c(?) stone with cherz-_ heads, broken and repaired with iron staple.
27. In memory of Ann Marshall who died the 7th March 1810 aged 61 years This stone is erected as a testimony of respect by the family she faithfully served during a period of 38 years.
28 May 1810 aged 57 years. Also of Margaret wife of the late Thomas Parsons who died 10 Nov 1833 aged 56 years.
28. In memory of Mary wife of George Acr? ...
29. In memory of Mr James Littleton who died March 22nd 1771 aged 56 y=_ Also John Tomlin who died Oct 12th 1806 aged 68 years. Also Sarah Tomlin who died Jan 29th 1824 aged 86 years. Also William Tomlin w-: died April 14th 1853 aged 73 years.
30. In memory of Margaret daughter of Thos & Margt Parsons who departed this life Feb 18th 1809 aged 11 months.
31. ... body of George ... George & Elizabeth who departed this life .. Face of stone flaking badly.
32. ...memory Thomas Lake who departed this life the 6? ... aged 66? He ... down re.
33. Sacred to the memory of Isaac Dell who departed this life the 10th July 1837 aged 63 years. And of Jane Dell his widow who died 24th May 1838 aged 65 years. Also of Ellen Dell daughter of the above who died 7th Janry 1810 aged 2 weeks and was interred near this spot.
34 Sacred wife of james Austin ... 27 ... 1816 aged .. years ... also of Mr james Austin ... aged .. years …
35 Sacred to the memory of Charles P... Octo ... aged 39 years ... He lived respected and ... Stone is flaking badly.
36. To the memory of Mary Norman died April 30 1801 aged 19 years. And her brother William Norman died Sep 22 1809 aged 29 years.
37.In memory of Jonathan Hawes who departed this life Aug 31 1791 aged 51 years.
38... W.. H...D...  By S... Elizabeth ... Th April... This stone was broken and repaired with an iron staple to the top from another stone.
39. Sacred to the memory of Mary Holt who departed this life the 13th of April 1811 aged 76 years.
40. Sacred to the memory of Mary Hallifax daughter of William & Jane Hallifax who departed this life 8th Sept 1817 aged 17 years. "For I know that my redeemer liveth". Job 19th c 26th verse. Also of William Hallifax son of the above who departed this life 24th June 1841 aged 43 years. "I know when I have believed I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day". 2nd Timy 1st c 12th verse.
41. Sacred to the memory of Jane Hallifax wife of William Hallifax who departed this life December the 3rd 1828 aged 73 years. "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God". Heb ch 4 verse 9. Also of the above William Hallifax who departed this life the 19th May 1835 aged 69 years. "I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness". 17th Psalm 18th verse.
42. In memory of Mrs Sarah Compigne wife of Mr george Compigne of this town who died the 2nd August 1822 aged 44 years. Also Louisa Compigne eldest daughter of the above who died 13th April 1804 aged 8 months and was buried at Wisbech St Marys in the isle of Ely. Also George Compigne eldest son of the above who died at sea off the coast of Africa 22nd August 1831 aged 27 years. Also George Compigne Esq husband and father of the above who died 5th January 1813 aged 60 years.
43. To the memory of Maria wife of Joseph Austin who departed this life July 29th 1832 in the 30th year of her age. Also two of her children who died in their infancy." ... taketh away ... Who can ... him ... will say unto him that doth...
44. Sacred to the memory of Mr William Barlow who departed this life .. April 1813 aged .. Years who died 31st October ... aged..
45. Illegible.
46. Sacred to the memory of Daniel Webster who departed this life Septr 13th 1816 aged 42 years. Also martha Webster who departed this life June 23rd 1834 aged 58 years.
47. In memory of Joseph Birch who departed this life 6th April 1804 aged 47 years. "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1, 31.
48. In memory of Mary daughter of edward Butterfield & Mary his wife who died Oct 18th 1814 aged 15 years. Also of Frances their daughter who died Oct 31st 1814 aged 6 years."These tender branches sleeping here were love by their parents dear few were their days and short was their race but heaven we hope is their dwelling place".
49. Illegible.
50. Sacred to the memory of Mr John Cook many years butler at Haresfc:: There he died 13th Janry 1837 aged 66 years.
51. Illegible.
52. Sacred to ... John Hall(ifax?) who departed this life September .. 1829 aged .. years. Surface of stone badly flaked.
53. In memory of Mr William Bailey who departed this life November 21st 1826 aged 27 years. "He lived beloved and died lamented".
54. To the memory of Mr Nicholas Bailey who died 15th Novr 1806 aged 84 years. And Mary his wife who died 7th Decr 1798 aged 64 years. Also three of their children Benjamin died Novr 1778 aged 15 yea-=-Sarah died 15th Decr 1788 aged 18 years. Mary died 26th May 1805 aged 39 years.
55. In memory of Thomas Nodin who departed this life .. Jan 1791 agec 71 years ... Mary Nodin who died 8th oct 1772 aged 32 years. Mary nodin second wife of the above Thomas Nodin ... aged 67? years. Stone damaged.
56. Illegible. (said to be of William Bailey 1826 and John Bailey 1E_=
57. Here lyeth the body of Jonathan Hawes who departed this life the 29th anno domini 1722 in the 4$ year of his age. Also of John Stevens (grandson of the above 1809).
58. Illegible.
59. This stone has no inscription but has an incised rectangle with which is a crown and letter S all at one time infilled with brass.
60. Chest tomb. In memory of Mrs Susannah Walker who departed this =_ 25th February 1827 aged 71 years. Also sacred to the memory of Mr William Collier surgeon who departed this life 29th Septembe_ 1838 aged 61 years. Also sacred to the memory of Mrs Ann Collie_ wife of the above who departed this life 25th August 1845 aged 63 years. On S face Sarah Sophia Collier 1826.
61. Here lyeth the body of Mr Joseph Turney who departed this life Novr 22nd 1779 aged 47 years. Also of Sophia his daughter who c__: July 3rd 1786 aged 13 years. "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord".
62. Sacred to the memory of Thomas Monk(?) Elizabeth ... w died April 21st 1828 aged .... and .. months.
63. Sacred to the memory of Elizabeth (wife of Charles Foster) who departed this life 26th July 1815 aged 27 years. Also of the above Charles Foster who departed this life 20th September 1836 aged 34 years. Also Mrs Emma Freeman who departed this life 1837 aged 26 years. Also Mary Foster who departed this life 10th November 1E-z' aged 20 years. Also Elizabeth Foster who departed this life 1. December 1851 aged 18 years.
64. (Beside St C chapel) Here lyes the body of Jane Hartus late widow of Captain Henry Hartus of Yorke Buildings London who died 5 March 1720 aged 65 years. Here lyeth also the body of Mrs Jane Stratton only daughter of the above Jane Hartus and wife of Capt Richard Stratton of Savage Garden London who departed this life 5 Jan 1722-3 aged 41 years. This stone moved from chancel during Butterfield restorations c1870.
65. (Beside St C chapel) In memory of Mr James Field who departed this life the 2nd of January 1791 aged 45 years. This stone was removed from chancel.
The following are a group of footstones removed when headstones were laid flat and used as paving near the S door.
66. M E D 1823 M? W R 1836.
67. R W 1813 M A W 1811 R W 1812 A W 1823.
68. J G 1842.
69. S B 1834.
70. C C 1812 J C 1823.
71. M C? 1826.
72. J H 1791.
73. E A 1823.
74. E A 1813.
75. W J C? undated.
76. Sacred to the memory of Mr Stevens Norriss who died 21st August 1811 aged 69 years.
77. To the memory of Mr Charles Lambert 31 years master of Mr Bournes Charity School and clerk of this parish who died 15th November 1837 aged 69 years. Also of Mary his widow who died 26th June 1846 aged 84 years.
78. To the memory of William Rees Morris born 15th Sept 1830 who departed this life 25 Augst 1841. "In youthful prime from earth released and taken to an heavenly rest. Asleep in Jesus".
79. War Memorial (to follow).

Addition from an old photograph:
NE section of churchyard near the cross:
In memory of Elizabeth MA? Thomas who departed this life Dec ?? 1856 aged 67 years

 

Contact

For more information please contact:

Heritage

 


 

See also

War Graves in Three Close Lane Cemetery

The Berkhamsted War Memorial outside St Peter's

The Great War Monument inside St Peter's