The Berkhamsted Local History & Museum Society would not exist without the dedication and support of experts, enthusiasts and volunteers.
Here is a gallery of some Society committee members, followed by biographical notes of our now-retired Chairman Jenny Sherwood, Ann Nath, Leslie Mitchell and Michael Browning.
Introducing our Society chairman…
Mary Casserley was born and bred in Berkhamsted, to a railway and brewing family. She has a beer bottle from the Locke & Smith Brewery where her great great grandad worked. Her grandad, ‘Jock’, can recall riding with his grandfather on a horse and cart, delivering barrels of beer to the Officers of the Inns of Court Who were stationed in Kitchener’s Field during the latter years of the Great War.
An accomplished artist, Mary published her book of drawings of Berkhamsted High Street in 2002, and “Postcards of Berkhamsted, 1902-1945” in 2012. Many people will recognise her latest paintings of the Chilterns which revisit “a classic era of Railway poster design, recreated in the vibrant tones of 1930s travel art”.
Of her new role, Mary says: “I am honoured to be elected Chair of this thriving, busy society. I am looking forward to meeting both existing and new members at our summer outings, Heritage Open Days, and talks.”
Jenny was born in Hampstead in the last month of King George V’s reign, the second of five children. Her father worked for Barclays Dominion Colonial & Overseas Bank in West Africa. Shortly after her birth he transferred to the Inspection Department in order to spend less time abroad. The family moved first to Edgware and then to the outskirts of Rickmansworth; it was here the war years were spent. One of her most vivid memories of those times was seeing the glider that had come down whilst on the way to Arnhem. In the kitchen of the home was a large map, on which her father marked the battles of the War. He himself was in the Home Guard, having served in Mesopotamia during WWI. When Miss Henning closed her little school, Jenny joined her elder brother as one of the few girls at his Prep School, which had moved out of London to Hertfordshire’s countryside. At the age of seven she went to school in Watford, travelling on the LMS line from Rickmansworth, long since closed. She has memories of lessons in the coal cellars during air raids at the time of the doodlebugs.
After school, she read History at Bedford College for Women, London University. After university Jenny went to Manchester University and trained to be a Teacher of the Deaf. Her sister was born deaf as a result of maternal rubella. Jenny regrets now that she did not go on first to do historical research, but her work in the field of deafness brought her a wider experience of life and gave her opportunities that the purely academic field would never have done.
In 1959 Jenny met Ken, a chartered accountant, on a walking tour in Wales; they were married in February 1961 in Watford. In August 1969 they moved to Berkhamsted with their three children and immediately became very involved in local affairs. In January 1970 Jenny joined the Berkhamsted & District Local History Society and has been a member ever since. She became Chairman of the National Council of Women (Berkhamsted) and was invited to be Chairman of the Herts Association for the Disabled, Berkhamsted branch.
After the youngest child started school, Jenny became a county advisory teacher with responsibility for Dacorum, a post she held for 20 years. This gave her the opportunity to extend her geographical knowledge of the County. Retirement was the signal for Jenny to return to historical research and writing. She joined the Committee of the History Society and in 1999, became Chairman, and shortly after Jenny became a director of Dacorum Heritage Trust and Chairman of the Education sub-committee. The Museum Trust and the History Society merged to become the Berkhamsted Local History & Museum Society. The Society has long been striving to have more information available for visitors to Berkhamsted Castle. Together with the Castle Liaison Group and Berkhamsted Town Council this has now come to fruition with the opening of the Castle Visitor Room. Once again the Castle has gained the prominence it deserves.
Jenny has contributed to many historical journals, including the Bulletin of the Tewkesbury Historical Society, The Chronicle and other local publications. She wrote the text for Berkhamsted—a Celebration and History and part of the Castle booklet. She also wrote a chapter on Berkhamsted for the book A County of Small Towns: the development of Hertfordshire’s urban landscape to 1800.
Ann Nath 1941-2007
Ann joined the History Society over seventeen years ago, but first became involved when she volunteered in the early 1990s, when help was needed in setting up the Heritage Store behind the Civic Centre. The ladies were asked to so a “little gentle dusting” and cleaning, while the gentlemen rebuilt the second-hand shelving. However, the “gentle dusting” developed into extremely dirty washing down of the shelves and floors with the need for frequent new buckets of water. Memories of this “gentle dusting” have been a source of amusement ever since. Ann continued every week without fail since the Store opened, helping to sort out the archives and particularly the thousands of Berkhamsted photographs. Her enthusiastic and endless work over so many years contributed enormously to the Heritage Store being granted museum status.
In the end six properties were researched and published and the reports incorporated in Tom Williamson’s book The Parks and Gardens of West Hertfordshire and as a lasting tribute, Ann’s name is recorded in the acknowledgments in the book.
Spurred on by this success, the History Society’s own research continued with two further detailed reports on the Manor of Maudelyn and Berkhamsted Place. Ann excelled in the procurement of information on local families connected with these. Medieval history was perhaps her greatest love and her knowledge was profound. Ann was our expert on the early kings and queens of England. She was responsible for sorting and placing in folders many of the Society’s vast collection of photographs and could quickly lay her hands on any required photo, without needing to check on our computer system MODES as to where it might be! She knew her way well round the Store and was especially knowledgeable about the archaeology collection, often helping with guiding for Museum tours. Shortly before he last illness she helped put boxes back in the newly-installed mobile shelving in the Archaeology Store.
Every Wednesday she came into the Store, researching on some aspect of medieval Berkhamsted, looking for evidence of early charters, or for the mention of Constables of the Castle. Her research took her further afield to Hertford, to the Guildhall Library, to Wallingford. The excitement with which she recounted what she had discovered was infectious. She contacted record offices throughout the country, following leads.
She cared passionately about Berkhamsted Castle and represented the Archaeology Society on the Castle Liaison Group. When BLHMS won an “Awards for All” lottery grant and was asked by the CLG to prepare information panels Ann had very definite ideas about what should be included and made suggestions for appropriate illustrations. Although she checked the text and saw some of the rough proofs, sadly she did not live to see the finished panels on display in the Visitor Room at the Castle.
When BLHMS was searching for a new Secretary Ann agreed to step into the breach, on condition that she should be only minute Secretary. She was already Secretary of the Archaeology Society and Secretary of the Friends of Dacorum Museum, and represented the Friends on the board of the Dacorum Heritage Trust! A keen local historian, a hard and enthusiastic worker, Ann contributed much to our knowledge and understanding of the history and heritage of Berkhamsted. Her passing has left a gap in all our lives. We miss her cheerful “busyness” and her excited enthusiasm for every new discovery, but she has left much behind as a permanent legacy.
(Adapted from the Society’s tribute to Ann, read at her Memorial Service, 6th September 2007).
Les Mitchell held the position of President of the Society from March 2010 until his death in October 2012. He was a great character and had a wealth of knowledge of Berkhamsted’s local history. The large congregation at his memorial service is a testimony of the respect and affection in which he was held. Les wrote memoirs of his life in Berkhamsted for the Chronicle: It was but yesterday…
Michael Browning, honorary life member, served for many years as a most efficient Membership Secretary until his death in June 2013. Michael came to Berkhamsted in 1991 on his marriage to Ann and immediately immersed himself in Berkhamsted’s history. He worked in the Museum Store every Wednesday and was among the first to master the intricacies of the MODES system (Museum Object Data Entry System). He was actively involved in the surveys of the Berkhamsted gardens in the 1990s.
Berkhamsted – The Past 150 Years
At the opening of the exhibition: Les Mitchell, Michael Browning, Jenny Honour, Jimmie Honour, Antony Hopkins, John Pitkin, Jenny Sherwood and Eric Holland.