Berkhamsted’s past in focus as history group publishes a new book

A new book charts the past of Berkhamsted through a treasure trove of photographs that have been collected by historians since 1950.

Berkhamsted Through Time has been produced by the Berkhamsted Local History and Museum Society and contains 180 of the group’s images, which are stored behind Berkhamsted Civic Centre.

The open-air swimming pool in Canal Fields in 1923. A new sports centre was built in 1990 on the playing fields at Gossoms End on land that once belonged to Lagley House. The facility in Canal Fields was bulldozed into the pool and the area was grassed over. A skateboard park has now been built in its place.

The open-air swimming pool in Canal Fields in 1923. A new sports centre was built in 1990 on the playing fields at Gossoms End on land that once belonged to Lagley House. The facility in Canal Fields was bulldozed into the pool and the area was grassed over. A skateboard park has now been built in its place.

The society, which was founded by Percy Charles Birtchnell and others in 1950, longs to open its own Berkhamsted Museum where its collection can be displayed to the public.

Mr Birtchnell – featured in the new book – owned popular menswear shop P C Birtchnell on the corner of the town’s Elm Grove and High Street. He died in 1986.

The shop collapsed on Sunday, January 30, 2011, less than a year after it was sold to a new owner.

Images in the book show the shop as it looks now, as it looked as Birtchnell’s, and as the unit looked when it was home to Sharland’s draper’s shop before the Second World War.

The book also offers an insight into the popularity of the Canal Fields swimming pool in 1923 – the site is now home to the Berkhamsted Skate Park.

Scores of swimmers are pictured using the facility, which was grassed over after the construction of Berkhamsted Sportspace on fields that once belonged to Lagley House.

Also pictured in the book is H. E. West’s boot and shoe shop – a thriving business at the turn of the 20th century but long since replaced by Berko’s Cafe.

The Berkhamsted Local History and Museum Society is now chaired by Jenny Sherwood, and member Ken Wallis played a key role in the production of the new publication.

Mrs Sherwood said: “We spend a lot of time answering research queries from all over the world, so I spend a lot of time working on the history of Berkhamsted.

“We produce The Chronicle magazine every year, which entails research.

“It took quite a bit of time getting the book together, but it was nothing out of the ordinary for us.”

The society’s full collection, which includes postcards and artefacts, is held in store at the Dacorum Heritage Trust store in Charles Street.

It can be viewed only by appointment and for research purposes only by phoning 01442 879525 in advance.

You can learn more by visiting at www.dacorumheritage.org.uk