Local historian Percy Birtchnell wrote articles for the Parochial Review and Berkhamsted Review under pseudonyms ‘Beorcham’ and ‘Townsman’ for over forty years.
Here is an index to articles written by Percy Birtchnell from Sep 1948 to his Memoriam article in Apr 1986 (use Ctrl-F to search for particular items). New! Links available from the index to see some of the original articles, or Facebook posts related to them.
For later articles, such as John Cook’s Around the Town, there is a searchable archive of complete back issues of Berkhamsted Review and its successor from 1995 to the current issue.
Percy Charles Birtchnell 1910-1986
Percy Charles Birtchnell was born in Highfield Road Berkhamsted, the son of an outfitter’s assistant. He attended Chapel Street Infants’ School then Victoria Boys’ School, where he later became a Bourne scholar. There he developed an interest in history, especially local history. He began writing at an early age; his first articles appeared in the local press when he was only fifteen years old. He is perhaps best known for his contributions to the Berkhamsted Review where he wrote under the pen name “Beorcham”, an early spelling for Berkhamsted. He served a seven years’ apprenticeship as a compositor at Cooper’s printing works (later the Clunbury Press) and later became a monotype keyboard operator, one of the fastest in the country. Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, he opened a men’s wear shop in the newly built Rex parade and installed his father to manage the shop, which he later took over. His great interest in local history led him in 1950, together with other likeminded people, to form the Berkhamsted & District Local History Society of which he was secretary until a few weeks before his death. Bob Clark, later the owner of Birtchnells, summed him up , “He loved his town, his church, the schools and its history, both ancient and modern, but probably above all, the people, for it is the people not things which surely make a town what it is.”
Jenny Sherwood, Chronicle, Vol I, pp.6-9
Percy Birtchnell was highly regarded in the town, as evidenced by this tribute, written by the Editor of the Review in Apr 1986:
“On 12th March in Berkhamsted everyone who heard the news of Percy Birchnell’s death was affected – how sorry people were. He was a kindly man, always seeking the quieter ways of life; punctilious about detail – no editor of the ‘Review’ dared face him when there was a printer’s error in his ‘Beorcham’ articles – but with a wry sense of humour which lightened all that he did. I suppose we could truly call him ‘Mr. Berkhamsted’: he was born in the town, educated in the Bourne School and worked here all his life. His two best known books, A Short History of Berkhamsted and Bygone Berkhamsted reflected both his love of his birthplace and his careful eye for detail in researching its history.”