The Friends’ objective is to use its funds (the Trust Fund) for the preservation, repair, maintenance, restoration, improvement and ornamentation of the fabric of the Parish Church of Great Berkhamsted and of the Churchyards occupied by or belonging to the Church. The charity is based and focused in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire which is an ancient market town with a long and important history. Pivotal to the town’s history is both St Peter’s Church and the associated churchyards.
St Peter's Church is a medieval building full of historical and architectural interest which lies at the heart of Berkhamsted. In the eight hundred years of the church's history, we can trace the fortunes of our town. Townspeople, school children and visitors can find in St Peter's a rich heritage of local and architectural history.
The Friends launched the Rectory Lane Cemetery Project in 2014. They secured grants from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for an ambitious three-year transformation project to rescue it from neglect and safeguard it for future generations to enjoy. The mission of the Rectory Lane Cemetery Project is not just to conserve the fabric of the cemetery – although we have done that; mending more than 60 memorials, the leaning gate-piers and memorial arch, walls, railings and gates – and enhanced it with a landscape programme that has created accessible paths and attractive seating and wildlife havens, and a new Garden of Remembrance. It’s also to promote it to the local community and visitors to the town as a special place they can access, learn and care about – in short, to turn it ‘from a dead space to a living place’. The vision is a bold one: 'to change perceptions of cemeteries as “dead spaces”, transforming ours into a vibrant and diverse contemporary garden of commemoration, a pivotal heritage asset and an environmental haven by making connections, promoting health and wellbeing and welcoming all.’
The Friends host social and fundraising events. The Rectory Lane Cemetery Project has hosted a wide range of activities over the last three years, co-ordinated by our Community Engagement Officer. Volunteers are vital to achieving our ongoing mission: undertaking genealogical research to uncover the stories of those buried in the cemetery, hosting tours and performances which bring the stories to life, gardening, managing the trees and grassland, looking after our bees, developing resources for schools, welcoming visitors, giving talks, raising awareness and funds to sustain the cemetery.