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Town Guide

Berkhamsted lies on the western edge of Hertfordshire, bordering the Chiltern Hills. Over much of the last millennium it was an important market town with strong royal and literary connections; today it is a vibrant residential and cultural centre, and while it is now part of the Borough of Dacorum it has retained its own strong identity. Together with the adjoining village of Northchurch it is separated from other towns and villages by lovely countryside, all of it in the Metropolitan Green Belt and much of it classified as being an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Street Map

Click below to view a street map of Berkhamsted.

  • Street Map (PDF, 1.8 Mb)

    Street Map of Berkhamsted

History of Berkhamsted

'Berkhamsted is a lively town set in a valley of the Chiltern Hills with a history going back beyond Saxon times. Its claim to fame includes strong royal, literary and teaching connections.'

It was in Berkhamsted, where earlier there was a Saxon fort, that William was handed the crown in 1066. Here, his half-brother, Count Robert of Mortain, built a 'motte and bailey' castle with two moats. Substantial ruins of the Castle still remain. This was the favourite home of the Black Prince, who honeymooned here with the Fair Maid of Kent. Geoffrey Chaucer was Clerk of the Works. Berkhamsted School was founded in 1541 by Dean Incent, whose father was Secretary to Cicely, Duchess of York.

The hymnist and poet, William Cowper, was born in the Rectory here, less than two hundred years before Graham Greene was born at St. John's, Chesham Road, a boarding house of Berkhamsted School. James Barrie often stayed here and the Llewellyn Davies children who lived in Egerton House were the inspiration for Peter Pan. A few doors down the High Street Clementine Hozier lived and attended the Girls' School, now part of Berkhamsted School. She became the wife of Sir Winston Churchill.

Among the many distinguished Old Berkhamstedians are Claude Cockburn, Peter Quennell, Richard Mabey, Michael Meacher and Robin Knox-Johnston.

The valley route north through Berkhamsted has always been of major importance. Originally the ancient Roman road (Akeman Street), it later became a turnpike road for the Sparrows Herne Turnpike Trust.

The Grand Junction, now the Grand Union Canal, was opened through Berkhamsted in 1798. Up until the Second World War the canal was a principal artery of the industrial revolution linking London with the West Midlands. The 'Father of Inland Navigation', the Duke of Bridgewater, who inspired the canal system in England, had his home 'up on the hill' at Ashridge.


Totem Pole

The location of the Berkhamsted Canadian totem pole is next to the Grand Union canal, adjacent to Castle Street Bridge. In the early 1960s, Roger Alsford, a great-grandson of the founder of the timber company, James Alsford (1841–1912), went to work at the Tahsis lumber mill on Vancouver Island. During a strike, he was rescued from starvation by a local Kwakiutl community. Alsford's brother, William John Alsford, visited the island, and in gratitude for the local people's hospitality, commissioned a totem pole from the Canadian First Nations artist Henry Hunt. The western red cedar pole, 30 feet (9 m) high and 3 feet (1 m) in diameter, was carved by Hunt at Thunderbird Park, a centre for First Nation monuments. The completed pole was shipped to Britain and erected at Alsford's Wharf in 1968. Alsford's warehouses were replaced in 1994 by a private housing development which limit access to the pole, so that it can be viewed only at a distance from the public road. It is one of only a handful of totem poles in the United Kingdom, others being on display at the British Museum and Horniman Museum in London, Windsor Great Park, Bushy Park and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The carvings on the totem pole represent four figures from First Nations legend: at the top sits Raven, the trickster and creator deity; he sits on the head of Sunman, who has outstretched arms representing the rays of the sun and wears a copper (a type of ceremonial shield); Sunman stands on the fearsome witch-spirit Dzunukwa; at the base is the two-headed warrior sea serpent, Sisiutl, who has up-stretched wings.


Heritage Walk and Blue Plaque Guide

This short walk, which starts and ends at the railway station, takes you through the
heart of the town.

Although it cannot cover all places worth visiting or describing, we hope it will provide a flavour of the town and spur you on to explore more of Berkhamsted, its historic waterway and its surrounding countryside.

Most of the buildings referred to have blue plaques with numbers that correspond with those
against the entries in this leaflet.


Berkhamsted Audio Trail

Audio Trail Walk 1

This Berkhamsted Audio Trail is a six mile (can be shortened to 4 mile) circular walk through and around the historic town of Berkhamsted. The route includes the Railway Station, part of the Grand Union Canal, Sugar Lane or Garden Field Lane, Long Green, Sandpit Green, Kingshill Way, Butts Meadow and Castle Street, with the availability of downloadable audio commentary points along the way. The Parish Paths Partnership has recently installed two new benches along the route at Sugar Lane and Tompkins Meadow, with fantastic views over the surrounding countryside (please see below).

There is parking nearby at the Railway Station or town centre car parks. Public transport links are detailed on the route map.

The Audio Trail has been produced by Berkhamsted Town Council and the local community as part of the Parish Paths Partnership, a programme delivered by the Countryside Management Service and funded by Hertfordshire County Council

  • Audio Trail Brochure 1 Map of the Berkhamsted Audio Trail route.
  • MP3 Audio Trail To play, left click on the audio trail link or right click it and select 'save target as' to download the MP3 file.
  • Audio Commentary Here is a written PDF copy of the Audio Trail Commentary.

Audio Trail Walk 2

This 5 1⁄2 miles circular walk from the Railway Station takes in some historic sites dating back to WW1 including The Inns of Court WW1 Memorial on New Road and the WW1 practice Trenches used by the Inns of Court Regiment before being sent to fight in France. The Walk also takes in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Kitchener's Field through to Berkhamsted Common, Ashridge Park and Alpine Meadow before returning through Castle Hill and back to the Railway Station.

The Audio Trail has been produced by Berkhamsted Town Council and the local community as part of the Parish Paths Partnership, a programme delivered by the Countryside Management Service and funded by Hertfordshire County Council

  • Audio Trail Brochure 2 WW1 Trenches & Alpine Meadow Brochure.
  • Audio Trail 2 Part 1 To play, left click on the audio trail link or right click it and select 'save target as' to download the MP3 file.
  • Audio Trail 2 Part 2 To play, left click on the audio trail link or right click it and select 'save target as' to download the MP3 file.
  • Audio Commentary Here is a written PDF copy of the Audio Trail Commentary.

Audio Trail Walk 3 Graham Greene's Common

Berkhamsted Audio Trail No 3 is a 3½ mile (can be shortened to 2¼ mile) circular walk starting and ending at the Railway Station and taking in various parts of Berkhamsted and Northchurch Common which feature significantly in the works of Graham Greene. The route includes Kitchener's Field, the carpark at the top of New Road (an alternative start and finish point) the Common, Frithsden Beeches and the WW1 practice trenches. Downloadable audio commentary points, incorporating Greene's own writing, describe what to look out for along the way.

There is parking nearby at the Railway Station, town centre car parks or in the carpark at the top of New Road. Public transport links are detailed on the route map.

The Audio Trail has been produced by Berkhamsted Town Council, Northchurch Parish Council and the local community as part of the Parish Paths Partnership, a programme delivered by Groundwork Hertfordshire and funded by Hertfordshire County Council

  • Audio Trail Brochure 3 Details and a map of the route, showing location of Audio Points.
  • Audio Trail 3 Part 1 To play, left click on the audio trail link or right click it and select 'save target as' to download the MP3 file.
  • Audio Trail 3 Part 2 To play, left click on the audio trail link or right click it and select 'save target as' to download the MP3 file.
  • Audio Commentary Here is a written PDF copy of the Audio Trail Commentary.

Audio Trail Walk 4 In the Devil's Own Footsteps

Berkhamsted Audio Trail No 4 is a 4.3 mile linear walk starting at Berkhamsted Railway Station and ending at Bovingdon Memorial Hall. The route traces areas "fought over" by the Inns of Court Officers Training Corps ("The Devil's Own"), who were stationed in Berkhamsted for the duration of WW1. The route includes the Moor, Butts Meadow, Kingshill Way, Sandpit Green, Swing Gate Lane, the Bourne Gutter, Lower Farm, Coles Hill Wood, Bourne End Lane and Bovingdon Airfield. Downloadable audio commentary points, incorporating first hand descriptions by the Corps' Commanding Officer, describe what to look out for along the way.

There is parking nearby at the Railway Station, or town centre car parks. Public transport links are detailed on the route map.

The Audio Trail has been produced by Berkhamsted Town Council, Bovingdon Parish Council and the local community as part of the Parish Paths Partnership, a programme delivered by Groundwork Hertfordshire and funded by Hertfordshire County Council

  • Audio Trail Brochure 4 Details and a map of the route, showing location of Audio Points.
  • Audio Trail 4 To play, left click on the audio trail link or right click it and select 'save target as' to download the MP3 file.
  • Audio Commentary 4 Here is a written PDF copy of the Audio Trail Commentary.

Graham Greene Trail

This walk introduces those places in Berkhamsted which had an influence on Graham Greene's life and work. -

For more information visit the Graham Greene Trail website.


Berkhamsted Waterways Walk

This walk starts at the station and explores the sections of the River Bulbourne and Grand Union Canal which run through the town.

For more information visit The Chilterns AONB website.


Berkhamsted Castle

Berkhamsted Castle is a Norman motte-and-bailey castle built during the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century.

The story of Berkhamsted Castle begins with the landing of Duke William of Normandy on the Sussex coast and King Harold's defeat at the battle of Hastings. After Harold's defeat William marched with his army through southern England, pillaging as he went. Crossing the Thames at Wallingford, he reached Berkhamsted, where he was met by the bishops of Worcester and Hereford, Earls Edwin and Morcar and the chief men of London, who swore allegiance to him and offered him the crown. William was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.

For more information about the castle visit the English Heritage website.

Castle Visitor Room

The Castle Visitor Room has an exhibition depicting the history of the castle organised by the Berkhamsted Local History and Museum Society. This is open at Easter and for the summer from May to the end of September 10.00-16.00 and by special arrangement during the week for school and other groups. For further details see the Berkhamsted Castle website.


St Peter's Church

The Parish Church of St Peter is a Grade II* listed church with the earliest part dating from c.1200, and the architecture spans at least five architectural periods, mostly 14th and 15th Centuries and is recognisable by its 85-foot (26 m) clock tower.

The church has counted among its worshippers such notable figures as the poet William Cowper and John Incent, who went on to become Dean of St Paul's Cathedral 1540-1545.

For more information about the history of St Peter's Church visit the British History Online website


Grand Union Canal

Port Of Berkhamsted

The Grand Union Canal runs through Berkhamsted and has played a large part in the history of the town.

With the advent of canal transport, Castle Wharf became a hub of inland water transport and boat building activity. It is still known as the Port of Berkhamsted.

The canal and surrounding areas are now managed by the Canal and Riverside Trust.

For more information visit the Canal and Riverside Trust website.


The Chiltern Canal Corridor

The Chiltern Canal Corridor provides the history and information on the canal and nearby locations as a canal walk for the length of the Grand Union Canal as it passes through the Chilterns.


Berkhamsted - statistical information (including population, housing, health and deprivation)

This section contains a range of statistical information about the three wards in Berkhamsted.

Castle Ward

East Ward

West Ward