Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for BERKHAMPSTEAD

BERKHAMPSTEAD, a town, a subdistrict, and a district in Herts. The town is chiefly in the parish of Great Berkhampstead, but includes part of that of Northchurch. It stands in a deep rich valley on the Bulbourne river, and on the Grand Junction canal, adjacent to the Northwestern railway, 28 miles NW of London. It perhaps occupies the site of the Roman station Durobrivæ; and it was a residence of the kings of Mercia. William the Conqueror made oath at it to maintain the ancient laws of the kingdom. Robert, Earl of Mortaigne, got it from the Conqueror, and erected at it a strong castle on the site of the Mercian palace. Henry I. took it from the earl, in punishment of rebellion; and made it the centre of a royal domain. Henry II. kept his court at it. King John gave it for a time to Jeffrey Fitz-Piers, Earl of Essex; but resumed it at the earl's death and made it again Crown property. Richard, king of the Romans, got it from Henry III., and died at it. The castle now belongs to the Prince of Wales as Duke of Cornwall, and gives him the title of Baron. The "honour" connected with it includes numerous manors in Herts, Bucks, and Northampton.

The town comprises one street about a mile long, and five others leaving this at right angles. The houses are chiefly of brick and not regularly aligned; but many are handsome. The railway passes on an embankment overlooking the town and the valley; and a communication comes from it over the canal. The remains of the castle are at the N end of Castle Street; and consist of detached portions of massive walls, with a double moat on the NW side, and a triple one on the other side. The chief public buildings are a new market house, a grand town hall, a church, three dissenting chapels, a grammar school, a free-school, a workhouse, and almshouses. The church is a spacious, ancient, cruciform structure, of mixed styles, with a central square embattled tower; has a number of side chapels; and contains tombs of the Torringtons, the Cornwallises, the Incents, the Water-houses, and others, and some brasses. The grammar school was founded by Dean Incent, in the time of Henry VIII.; underwent recent restoration; has an endowed income of about £1,300; and was intended originally for the education of 144 boys, but now educates only 24. The free school was founded, in 1727, by Thomas Bourne; and has an endowed income of £279. There were anciently three monastic hospitals. The town has a head post office,‡ a railway station, a banking office, and three chief inns. A weekly market is held on Thursday; and fairs on Shrove-Monday, Whit-Monday, 5 Aug., 29 Sept., and 11 Oct. Straw-platting and the manufacture of wooden utensils are carried on. Berkhampstead sent two members to parliament in the time of Edward III.; and got a new charter from James I., conferring privileges some of which are still enjoyed. It is now a seat of petty sessions and a polling-place. Axtel the Puritan and Cowper the poet were natives. The town's limits are those for registration of births and deaths. Pop., 3,631. Houses, 738.

The subdistrict contains the parishes of Great Berkhampstead, Berkhampstead-St. Mary, and Little Gaddesden, and part of the parish of Pitstone. Acres, 9,474. Pop., 5,733. Houses, 1,178. The district comprehends also the subdistrict of Tring, containing the parishes of Tring, Wigginton, Aldbury, Puttenham, and Marsworth, and part of the parish of Pitstone. Marsworth and Pitstone are electorally in Bucks. Acres of the district, 24,583. Poor-rates in 1866, £6,506. Pop. in 1861, 13,204. Houses, 2,725. Marriages in 1866, 105; births, 456,-of which 30 were illegitimate; deaths, 253,-of which 106 were at ages under 5 years, and 7 at ages above 85 years. Marriages in the ten years, 1851-60, 845; births, 4,286; deaths, 2,750. The places of worship in 1851 were 12 of the Church of England, with 4,035 sittings; 1 of Independents, with 314 s.; 13 of Baptists, with 4,264 s.; 1 of Quakers, with 200 s.; and 2 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 370 s. The schools were 12 public day schools, with 859 scholars; 12 private day schools, with 320 s.; 23 Sunday schools, with 2,368 s.; and 1 evening school for adults, with 29 s.


(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, a subdistrict, and a district"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Berkhampstead AP/CP       Berkhampstead PLU/RegD       Hertfordshire AncC
Place: Berkhamsted

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