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Restored Rectory Lane Cemetery is place of ‘inspiration and reflection’

Conservation and innovative design underpins Hugo Hardy Architect’s MacEwen-shortlisted restoration and transformation of Rectory Lane Cemetery in Berkhamsted

The volunteer hut at Rectory Lane Cemetery was built by the volunteers.
The volunteer hut at Rectory Lane Cemetery was built by the volunteers.

Building: Rectory Lane Cemetery

Location: Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

Architect:  Rectory Lane Cemetery Team including Hugo Hardy Architect

 

This is a three-year, £1 million National Lottery Heritage-funded project to conserve and landscape a neglected 1.2ha cemetery by the volunteer Friends of St Peter’s Berkhamsted.

A unifying design by the landscape architect created three zones, with accessible paths and parking and estate fencing. There’s a performance canopy, Celebration of Life wall, repurposed Sexton’s Hut, a willow-woven ‘sofa’ and Volunteer’s Retreat in the wildlife area – built by volunteers. There were different bespoke seating designs by Alder Brisco and Andrew Ingham of Denizen Works.

The judges were impressed with the ‘intelligent’ and ‘subtle’ spatial interventions. ‘It turns around a space that normally feels daunting,’ said judge Beth Bourrelly of BDP.

 

  • Events brought people into the cemetery.
    Events brought people into the cemetery. Credit: Colin Drake
  • Garden of remembrance.
    Garden of remembrance. Credit: Siobhan Doran
  • Interventions and events have made the cemetery more accessible. This is the sexton’s hut on a Heritage Open Day.
    Interventions and events have made the cemetery more accessible. This is the sexton’s hut on a Heritage Open Day.
  • Sculpture and performance space.
    Sculpture and performance space. Credit: Colin Drake
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Conservation and innovative design has underpinned the transformation of this dead space. Events have been developed including ‘The Graveyard Shift’ and ‘Seeing the Light’. The space is now used by more than 60,000 members of the community.

It as a resource, a living place: a place of pilgrimage, for interring ashes or adding beautiful glass tiles to the Wall to commemorate loved ones. People can connect with nature to restore health and well-being, exercise dogs, do Pilates or enjoy views and wildlife. The project weaves public participation, enjoyment and celebration with a restored sense of personal space, dignity and sanctuary.

One user wrote: ‘You have created a very special place for our community ... each time I come here I’ve seen all sorts of people, from the youngest to the oldest and all in between, connecting with the beautiful surroundings as well as each other. A perfect combination of inspiration and reflection’.

MacEwen highlighted the importance of the cemetery as model public space: ‘Local spaces have become really important in the last year. There are 30,000 struggling cemeteries and there’s significance in seeing the potential of a cemetery, especially now we need to claw back all the public space we can.’


See more MacEwen shortlisted projects here

Credits

Client Friends of St Peters, Berkhamsted (Client)

Architect Hugo Hardy Architect

Landscape Architecture Above Zero, William Jackson Design

Additional architects Alder Brisco + Andrew Ingham, Denizen Works

Engineer Ian Stephenson 

Willow art Hazel Godfrey

Glass Jessica Ecott

Engineering blacksmith Stokes of England

Ironmongery SDS

 

In numbers

Cost £1,250,000

Area 1.2ha (whole cemetery)

Cost per m2 £103

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