Exploring the Society’s collection at the Museum Store…

Berkhamsted Frith or Common and Ashridge

“Lady Marian’s name is particularly associated with what has become known as ‘the Battle of Berkhamsted Common’” (you can read Jennifer Sherwood’s article about Lady Marian Alford, 1817-1888 in the Society’s Chronicle for Mar 2018).

Lady Alford_bk5092
Lady Marian Alford at Ashridge

In the first lines of her book Berkhampstead Frith or Common and Ashridge, published in 1878, Lady Marian explains her reasons for writing…

“My object in writing a true version of facts which have been placed before the world in a garbled form, either intentionally, or through ignorance, is to show exactly the position in which my eldest son was placed, his actions and motives.”

On page 22, she explains that “opposition to the enclosure had arisen from a class of persons, who, having no rights themselves, yet imagined that waste lands were… public property. Lord Brownlow… believed that when he bought the Honor and Manor of Berkhampstead from the Crown… he acquired the privileges belonging to them.”

“The Steward of the Manor was unaware of the existence of the surveys of 1607 (Dodderidge’s) and of 1616 (Norden’s)… they were overlooked until the lawsuit began, when they were printed [by Brownlow’s lawyers]… at least [provided] a proof of the honesty of our intentions, if not the acumen of our legal advisers.”

Maps referred to it the book…

Alford Map 1
Plan of the Manor of Berkhamstead 1866
according to the bounds described in Dodderidge’s Survey of 1607
Alford Map 2.1
Plan of the Manor of Berkhamstead 1878
shewing roads new and old and proposed under enclosure

With thanks again to Bill Willett for taking the trouble to photograph the pages of the book and the maps from our collection in the Museum Store.

Beating of the bounds

When Birtchnell’s gentlemen’s outfitters closed down, the Society was grateful to receive from Bob Clark a number of items from Percy Birtchnell’s local history collection. Les Mitchell identified the locations shown in an extensive collection of small and large photographs. Also included were books and documents, clothes and artefacts.

One set of pictures was mounted on a display board, entitled ‘The Beating of the Bounds of Great Berkhamsted Rural, July 15 & 17, 1903′.

Beating Bounds at Thunderdell Lodge

Beating the bounds at
Thunderdell Lodge

Beating the Bounds, remembered by Sydney Chappell…
“I believe the last occasion on which the bounds of the Parish were beaten was during my time as a Bourne scholar, in 1905 or thereabouts. On the second day of the event, the boy scholars were invited to be present. So we twenty boys with about the same number of local dignitaries assembled in Shooters Way at the top of Gallows Lane. We were all issued with a six foot osier wand with which to do the beating. Also a bunch of narrow ribbons, light blue, yellow and black, the colours of Berkhamsted, to pin to our caps. I still have my bunch of ribbons but they are now very bedraggled.

We started off down the lane to the bottom and turned left across the fields to Soldiers Bottom. Then through the Hockeridge Woods on to the Chesham Road. After a short rest for refreshments (ginger beer for the boys, something a bit stronger for the men) and pork pies, we crossed onto Haresfoot Park and up to the Haresfoot house.

Anyone accosted on the route was forced to run the gauntlet, which meant running through a double row of the assembly, who used their wands to hurry him or her on. At Haresfoot Park the elderly Lady Smith-Dorrien, graciously came out on to the lawn and walked between the double row with wands forming an arch.

The house was apparently built right on the boundary so one of the company had to walk through it as near as possible over the boundary.

From then on we continued through the park to Brickhill Green, where after disposing of the remainder of the refreshments, we dismissed.”
(Berkhamsted Review, Nov 1990).