Dead Space to Living Place

Berkhamsted’s once-neglected cemetery wins Green Flag Community Award 

Rectory Lane Cemetery in Berkhamsted has been awarded a Green Flag Community Award, after a huge volunteer-led restoration project. 

Rectory Lane Cemetery is a free public space, open to all, every day: off the High Street Berkhamsted, HP4 2HQ. Click here for more information.

Rectory Lane public art event

For decades, this Victorian cemetery was an overgrown and forgotten space, its memorials damaged, and its old avenues buried from sight. Now, it has achieved the international mark of quality for green parks and spaces. 

The transformation came about through a Heritage Lottery Funded scheme initiated by the Friends of St Peter’s Church Berkhamsted. It has involved the work of over a hundred volunteers, artists, landscape architects, stone masons and conservationists.  

The result is a beautiful, safe and accessible green haven in the heart of the town.

“We wanted to preserve the 19thcentury features of the site – its precious monuments, and trees, and arch-ways,” says Project Manager James Moir. “But we also wanted to make the cemetery a welcoming place for the local community to come for their physical and mental well-being. The Green Flag judges commended us for giving visitors a meaningful experience and this is of huge importance to us.”

The cemetery contains a new garden of remembrance, scenic accessible pathways and seats for families and friends to meet, and a zone dedicated to wildlife study and education. 

The cemetery also provides a fascinating insight into local history: a team of volunteer genealogists are researching the stories of those who came to rest in the grounds, and offer support to individuals, from across the globe, who are searching for the memorials of family members. 

“The cemetery has become much loved by the people of this town, and its future is a bright one,” says Community Engagement Officer Kate Campbell. “It has also shown itself to be a unique venue for events. We’ve had choirs and poets perform here, school trips, yoga and tai chi classes, nature workshops on everything from bees to compost. We really encourage people to get in touch with us if they would like to hold their event in this beautiful setting. And more importantly, with the Green Flag recognition, we hope that even more members of the community will continue to be inspired to use this place for peace of mind and body.”  The Green Flag Award judge summed up: “This is an exceptionally well thought through, designed and executed community Cemetery restoration that sets a high bar for community engagement and activities.  At the heart is a small team … who are to be congratulated and celebrated for their achievement.”

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