David Pike of Pike’s Corner

There are still a few people remaining in Berkhamsted today who will know the location of Pike’s Corner. The story of one family, particularly of David Pike, is a story of success and of someone who from humble beginnings came to play a prominent position in the town and in a small way to become a landowner.

By 1911 David was running the business on the corner of Lower Kings Road (Pike’s Corner) jointly with one of his six sons, Leonard Alfred. They are both described as wholesale grocers and fruiterers. As well as selling directly from the shop to its customers was able to supply produce to the large houses, restaurants and schools and to other shops, which were not directly wholesalers.

Pike's Corner

Pike’s Corner

Following the death of his son Sydney Eric Pike, it is notable that David Pike became involved in the grandiose scheme to provide a lasting memorial to those who had lost their lives in World War One. The scheme, to redevelop the Wilderness and Water Lane, would have brought considerable benefit to the ordinary people of the town. It involved the clearance of slums: “the area of marsh and desolation, which at present is between Mill Street and the Lower Kings Road, is not only provocative of illness and disease, but… must directly affect the health and welfare of the inhabitants.” Mr David Pike offered to buy and present to the town the old Baptist burial ground for it to be used as an open space in memory of his son killed in the War. Unfortunately, the plan “to make this memorial one of the noblest in the country, and one which will permanently benefit the town, and add to its beauty” came to nothing.

There is no doubt David Pike was a shrewd businessman. From the 1926 Kelly’s Directory we learn that he had retired and the business on the corner of the High Street and Lower Kings Road was in the hands of Leonard Pike. David and his wife Mary Jane were living at 9 Ashlyns Road, a house built on land which David had purchased. The houses in Kings Road above the Girls’ School were built on land that had belonged to the Smith-Dorrien family as part of the Haresfoot Estate. David sold parcels of this land to builders Sydney and Robert Gilbert and Charles Harrowell. Thus began the development of properties in Kings Road, Ashlyns Road and Upper Ashlyns Road. David, the son of an agricultural labourer died in 1933 at the age of 82, leaving effects worth over £22,000.

Jenny Sherwood, Chronicle, v.XIII, pp.3-8