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.
Berkhamsted's history goes back beyond Saxon times and 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, where substantial ruins of the Castle still remain.
The hymnist and poet, William Cowper, was born in the Rectory, 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 is where Clementine Hozier lived and attended the Girls' School, now part of Berkhamsted School. She became the wife of Sir Winston Churchill.
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 Duke of Bridgewater, who inspired the canal system in England, had his home up on the hill at Ashridge.
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