21 November 2023

An apple tree, Quakers,
and some more
churches and chapels
in Berkhamsted

The Quaker Meeting House in Berkhamsted is almost hidden behind the trees at 289 High Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

The Quaker Meeting House in Berkhamsted is almost hidden behind the trees at 289 High Street and just opposite Saint John’s Well Lane. This Grade II listed building was built in 1818 and celebrated its bicentenary in 2018.

The Quaker presence in Berkhamsted dates back to 1650. It is a small Quaker Meeting, part of Luton and Leighton Area Meeting of the Society of Friends. Meeting for Worship is from 10:30 am to 11:30 am on the second and last Sundays each month.

This apple tree in the grounds of the meeting house is a local variety, Lane’s Prince Albert. It was developed by Thomas Squires, a local Quaker and keen gardener who helped finance the building of the meeting house. He gave a cutting of the tree to nearby Lane’s Nursery, who named it Lane’s Prince Albert after Prince Albert and Queen Victoria had commented on the tree when they were passing through Berkhamsted.

The tree was planted in 2018, the year the Meeting House celebrated its bicentenary. A sign at the tree says, ‘Do help yourself to the fruit.’

Berkhamsted Baptist Church was built in the Gothic Revival style in 1864 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

I have been visiting a number of churches in Berkhamsted in recent weeks, including Saint Peter’s Church, the Church of England parish church on High Street, All Saints’ Church, an Anglican-Methodist Local Ecumenical Partnership, the Church of the Sacred Heart on Park Street, and its predecessor on Park View Road.

Berkhamsted has had a variety of other churches and chapels over the years, including Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, Plymouth Brethren and independent evangelicals.

At the other end of the town from the Quaker Meeting House, Berkhamsted Baptist Church stands on the north side and east end of High Street. The Grade II Gothic Revival style church and Sunday school were built in 1864, with minor alterations in the 20th century. It is built of yellow-grey stock brick with red brick banding and ashlar limestone dressings, and a tower at the south-west corner with a narrow octagonal spire. The triple pointed arched entry in the south gable has a five-light window with flamboyant tracery above, and there is an apsidal porch at the south-east corner.

The church was designed by The architect, Joseph Neale (1835-1877) of Bristol. It retains some building materials from a much older Baptist chapel that stood in Water Lane. Inside the interior is fully galleried, and there are contemporary furnishings and fittings. While the new church was being built the Baptists held their services in the Town Hall, then only five years old.

The former Congregational Church in Berkhamsted was demolished in 1974

The architect Joseph Neale (1835-1877) also designed the Congregational Church, which gives its name to Chapel Street. The original church was built in 1834, on ground formerly part of Pilkington Manor. It was replaced by a much larger church in 1867.

During World War II, the Congregational church hall was used occasionally in the 1940s by the short-lived Jewish community in Berkhamsted. The church was demolished in 1974. The graveyard of the former Congregational Church fronts onto Castle Street.

A Wesleyan Methodist church, Prospect Place Chapel, was built at 29-31 Highfield Road in 1854. But it was only used for two years and it was later converted into two residential houses.

The former Wesleyan Methodist Church on Cowper Road was built in 1923. The chapel started in a galvanised iron building brought from Hemel Hempstead in 1887. The church was sold to the Christian Scientist Church in 1953.

King’s Road Church started as a Plymouth Brethren hall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

King’s Road Church is an independent evangelical church in the former Hope Hall, originally built in 1875 as a worship hall for the Plymouth Brethren by Samuel Alexander.

The Plymouth Brethren in Berkhamsted date back to the 1860s, when members met in private houses for worship. They began a house church in a cottage in Castle Street, and as their numbers grew, they began to use Prospect Place Wesleyan Chapel on Highfield Road, while their larger meetings were held place in Berkhamsted Town Hall.

Samuel Alexander led the Brethren congregation from 1870. He was an inspirational preacher, and under his leadership they built their own meeting hall on King’s Road, the Hope Hall.

The Brethren sold Hope Hall in 1969, but it continues as a place of Christian worship under the name of the King’s Road Evangelical Church or King’s Road Church.

Old Quaker gravestones in the garden of Friends’ Meeting House in Berkhamsted (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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