Lower Kings Road was built by public subscription in 1885 to join Kings Road and the High Street to the station. A steam mill was built on the north side of the canal in 1895 by J G Knowles & Son (now Castle Mill). Sportsground with tennis courts in the background (now Broadwater).
A Courageous Act:
“As a boat, in which were a man, his wife, and child, was passing along the canal in the parish of Berkhamstead, the child accidentally fell overboard, and the mother, without a moment’s hesitation, and unmindful of the depth of the water and the fact that she could not swim, plunged in after it, intent only on saving her child. But this she was unable to do, and her husband being unable to swim, was powerless to help her, and nothing seemed to remain to him but to see his wife and child die. Just as they were sinking the third time, a young man names William Lowe came along, and, seeing the state of affairs, immediately plunged into the water, and succeeded in rescuing mother and child, both of whom were in a very exhausted state.” (Bucks Herald, 25 Jun 1870).
Around the corner from Lower Kings Road is the Station, opposite The Moor, location of the Upper Mill.
“Smacking whips” were carried by boaters or bargees on the inland waterways, at least until the mid-1930s, by men and women (especially younger men), almost like a badge of office. Used not only for driving horses or mules but to make warning signals by smacking or cracking. When not in use the thong of the whip was threaded through the waist belt and hung down by the side of the leg. Some were of raw hide but the majority were of plaited cord (D. Smith, The Horse on the Cut, 1982, p.115).
The whip was cracked against a lock entrance stone to announce your arrival at locks or bridges, giving you the right to enter the lock or go under the bridge first.
Upper Mill for our daily bread:
“Next to the ‘Edward VI,’ on an island created by two arms of the Bulbourne, stood the watermill – a black wooden building which leaned against the miller’s quaint old cottage. One of the ‘two mills of 20s, rent by the year’ mentioned in the Domesday Book, it was known as the Castle or Upper Mill to distinguish it from the Lower or Bank Mill. Here, within the memory of old residents, Mr. George Cook and his son kept alive an ancient industry and a grand tradition. Corn arrived by the wagon-load and sometimes in small sacks brought by gleaners, who, by paying the miller a few pence, obtained sufficient flour to provide bread for their families throughout the year. A quarter of a century ago the mill was pulled down, and five courts were built on the miller’s garden. The bed of the millstream is now dry, and the mighty millstones have been given an honourable resting place in the forecourt of the Music School. On the opposite side of the street, as a memorial to the mill, a low, half-circular wall bears a tablet with an inscription in Latin. It is a pity English was not used to commemorate a typically English institution. Prizes were once offered for a translation, and one of the successful entries was as follows:-
Here for a thousand years the old Mill stood
And gave us bread;
Here now our School in rival Motherhood
Feeds minds instead.”
(Beorcham, Berkhamsted Review, Jan 1950).
An attack of the vapours:
In 1875, the standard of hygiene in the town was not very high, particularly “the Castle-street stream. For years and years have the inhabitants in mid-town inhaled its reeking breath. Great complaints are now made by those who live near the river of the pestilential vapours which rise therefrom, it being little better than an open sewer. When is the mill-dam to be done away with and the stream allowed to run free?” (Beorcham, Berkhamsted Review, Nov 1952 writing about a letter from a ratepayer to the Berkhamsted Times).
Castle Street canal bridge 141, Footbridge 140D:
“Most townspeople, I imagine, know that the little bridge served a very special purpose in the days of horse-drawn boats. At Castle Street, as at some other places where the towpath changes from one side of the canal to the other, the horse was led over the little bridge while the boats, temporarily lacking one-horse-power, continued to glide along with no serious loss of speed. It wasn’t really necessary to lead some of the horses; they knew the way and enjoyed a minute’s freedom from towing.” (Birtchnell, Berkhamsted Review, Feb 1965).
Rescue of a child:
“Mr. Joseph West, landlord of the Railway Tavern, jumped into the canal and rescued a child named Noah, who had fallen in under the Castle-street Bridge. A man who was present before Mr. West called for a line prop.” (Bucks Herald, Mar 1884).
The Railway Tavern in Castle Street “opened in 1838 with the coming of the railway as The Steam Coach, owned by John Tompkins and kept by James Sewell; called The Engine Inn about 1850. In 1864 it was kept by William Harrison as The Railway Tavern and later by William Rolfe in 1897. It closed in 1966 and was demolished shortly afterwards to extend Alford’s Timber-yard and [was] where the Totem Pole stands.” (Mary Casserley, Chronicle v.XIII, p.30).
The Key to Canadian timber:
William Key started his timber business in the High Street Berkhamsted. He then moved to the wharf and coal yard that used to belong to John Hatton the boat builder, beside the bridge over the canal in George Street. His son, also William Key, continued to run the business with 22 employees after William senior’s death in 1854. The Canadian totem pole installed by a later owner of the timber yard (J. Alsford) is not the only connection with Canada. William’s sister Ann married Henry Norris and their son Thomas Henry was clerk foreman in the timber yard in George Street in 1881-1891. Two of their children were born in Canada, another in Portland USA and five in Berkhamsted. In 1906, the family had emigrated to Calgary Alberta. By 1916 Thomas Henry was farming there with his son Thomas Sydney Key Norris, who joined the Canadian Infantry and died in the trenches west of Lens in France in 1917; a son of Berkhamsted whose loss was not recorded on the War Memorial beside St Peter’s church.
Thunderbird totem pole:
“Stand by for another DECADE of wet summers”, say Met Office meteorologists in 2013. Has someone ruffled the feathers of the thunderbird atop our totem pole? According to legend, the bird winks during storms and sends flashes of lightning from its eye. Who would have thought that the totem pole from Vancouver that J Alsford Ltd installed in the timber yard at Castle Wharf would still be standing 43 years later?