If you know Berkhamsted and are interested in local history, this is a worthwhile read. You can download it for free here:

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Dates 04 December 2012 – 09 December 2012
Time spent reading 2 hours, 40 minutes
Highlights 34
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all we purpose doing is to give a brief sketch of the condition of Berkhamsted physically and socially, prior to the introduction of railways, to notice a few of the events that have transpired, and to take a cursory glance at some of the men who have played their part in the progress of the town from that time.

Leaving the Hall on his left (a plain but massive building, presenting no special attraction beyond the suggest! veness of plenty within)

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Hall Park, opposite the Esso garage. No longer there?

Fire, although a terrible calamity at times, often proves a blessing in disguise by ridding the world of some of its greatest eye-sores.

To hear the ring of the anvil, and the ponderous thud of the sledge-hammer, and to watch the golden shower of fiery hail, has been a source of delight to the juvenile mind in all ages, and here it was considered no mean privilege for boys to be permitted to assemble on a cold Winter's night around the glowing forge.

This old man was well acquainted with "Peter the Wild Boy" that strange specimen of humanity who was brought from the forest in Hanover

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Buried in the grounds of St Mary's, Northchurch.

The only object on which the poet's eye had rested, and still remaining, is the old ivy-covered well.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Was opposite Castle Street. I assume this has gone now?

Whatever charges may be brought against the people of Berkhamsted either in the past or the present, it can never be said of them that they have been guilty of a wearisome uniformity in their buildings.

One of those men who are so radical as to be always among the leaders in any daring act made an attempt to bring it to the ground. He was accustomed to the use of the saw, and this he vigorously applied to some of the posts that supported the fabric, but eventually had to abandon the task ; he had not carefully considered the labour involved in cutting through some twenty oak posts filled with nails, the accumulation of ages ; he therefore had to submit to the humiliation of defeat.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Someone tried to demolish the old market house in Berkhamsted High Street by sawing its support posts!

Where the Town Hall now stands was the site of a house and premises for many years in the occupation of a well known family who carried on the useful trade of London Carriers, almost the only means by which Berkhamsted received its supply of merchandise from the Metropolis.

As the face is said to be the index to the mind, so the exterior of a house may sometimes indicate the character of those that dwell therein.

It is true he was a bachelor, and many unkind things are said of this unfortunate class, who have not the same incentives for making their homes attractive as those who have wives and daughters to consider.

He lived to be a good old age; and in the cemetery may be seen a graceful memorial erected to his memory by a few friends who recognised his worth

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Note to self to look for the Doctor's memorial the next time I pass the church.

there was a daily coach from Aylesbury which made the journey from that town to London in four hours

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It must have seemed like a massive distance. Today it would take about an hour or so in the car.

in the excitement of the moment, instead of the letter-bags, he caught up a pair of his nether garments and cast them into the arms of the astonished guard!

All kinds of vegetable refuse were cast into the street, and pigs were the recognised scavengers.

It should also be borne in mind that Berkhamsted at this time was largely depending on Agriculture for its daily existence, and those so engaged were compelled to resort to many practices for the profitable cultivation of the soil, from which the refined citizen might turn with disgust.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran


After the closing of the shops, which had then only a. dismal apology for lighting, the town was left in total darkness, save one solitary oil lamp in front of the King's Arms —the effect of this was to intensify the surrounding gloom.

they could retire to rest with the full confidence that the town was safe under the guardianship of a responsible and trustworthy official, then known as the night-watchman.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

No police. One man, wandering the town in the dark with a 'bludgeon' and rattle, calling out the hour through the night. Amazing.

In those days publicans enjoyed much greater privilege than in these more temperate times, and their hospitalities often extended far into the night, then our watchman's friendly escort was duly appreciated by some of the bewildered guests, who could not always distinguish their own door from that of their neighbours.

In addition to the foregoing accomplishments he also practised the art of phlebotomy, a remedy which a few ignorant people had faith in as a cure for various ailments, especially for pains in the head nothing gave so much relief as the letting of blood; and this clever old practitioner would take from his patients as much of the vital fluid as they felt they could spare

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Crikey. He was a turner (woodcutter), barber and dentist too!

the town of Tring having had the honour of drowning the last witch in this county

The legend ran thus—Any one suffering from this disease was to proceed, with the assistance of a friend, to the old oak tree, known as Cross Oak, then to bore a small hole in the said tree, gather up a lock of the patient's hair and make it fast in the hole with a peg, the patient then to tear himself from the tree, leaving the lock behind, and the disease was to disappear.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Berkhamsted's cure for ague.

it was soon found that an unlimited number of houses were licensed to sell beer to be drunk both on and off the premises. At one time there were seven of these houses in Castle Street alone, whereas, previous to the passing of this Bill, there where only seven public-houses for the' whole of the town.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

That's a lot of pubs for one small town!

The old master did not take kindly to the altered conditions,, and before the school could be worked with any degree of success he had to be pensioned off with £250 per annum, which he received from the funds of the School for about a quarter of century

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

From what I can make out, Berkhamsted school was shut for 25 years for some reason and it sounds as though the schoolmaster wanted it that way. He must have had a lot of power. It sounds as though there was no schooling whatsoever in Berkhamsted for the first quarter of the 19th century.

This line as first proposed would have passed some three or four miles from Berkhamsted; but fortunately for us, certain land proprietors strongly objected to the intruder breaking in upon the privacy of their estates, and the opposition that was raised compelled the Company to change their route, greatly to the benefit of Berkhamsted, and probably to the lasting regret of those who were so short-sighted as to reject so great a boon

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

The railway must have transformed Berkhamsted.

It must seem strange to the present generation that there should have been any serious opposition to the introduction of railway conveniences, which every one is now desirous of having brought within easy reach of his own door; but it must be remembered that they were untried experiments, and all kinds of imaginary evils were conjured up by ignorant people as to the results that were to follow this presumptuous act of man.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

We've come full circle. This was written in 1890 before everyone owned a car. Now the government is planning a new railway, HS2, that nobody wants.

To talk of travelling at great speed without the aid of horses, savoured somewhat of satanic influence, and good people held up their hands with a kind of pious horror, and prayed to be preserved from the coming doom.

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Some are always scared of new technology. Railways in this case.

many serious accidents occurred, and when the Watford tunnel gave way, and several lives were sacrificed

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I read this as I passed through the tunnel this morning!

Lofty and massive as this wall is, it is no exaggeration to say that there are more bricks in the foundation than are visible in the superstructure.

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This is the wall that holds up the elevated section of railway right by the station entrance.

Nothing displays greater weakness than to suppose one's own little plummet is sufficient to explore the depths of the ocean.

The portrait that now adorns the walls of the Town Hall was raised by public subscription in grateful recognition of the valuable services he had rendered to the town, and it deserves to be carefully preserved as a lasting memorial of a most worthy man.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Rev. J. R. Crawford - I wonder if the portrait is still there?

A very clever satire was given, describing the event, by Punch, in that humorous periodical, in March, 1866.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Note to self to look this up.

No greater mistake can possibly be made than to check the flowing tide of education on the score of economy.

Everything is pointing to a glorious future for Berkhamsted.