300-year cottage and former soup kitchen on Berkhamsted Castle grounds makes it on Historic England list

The 17th-century cottage acts as a time capsule
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Historic England has revealed the 47 historic places in the east of the country that have been added to the National Heritage List during 2022, including a gem in Berkhamsted.

The list features a Grade II listed cottage and former soup kitchen on the grounds of Berkhamsted Castle.

The 17th-century building shows the changes over time including an extension to create a Victorian soup kitchen for the poor

Cottage and former soup kitchen view from south. Credit: The Historic England ArchiveCottage and former soup kitchen view from south. Credit: The Historic England Archive
Cottage and former soup kitchen view from south. Credit: The Historic England Archive

The 300-year-old cottage tells the story of centuries of change in its structure.

It may have started as a stable and a brewhouse in the 16th century, according to records. A floor and stairs were inserted to create an upper storey in the early 19th century. A scrapbook belonging to the wife of the owner, Lady Marian Alford, indicates that a small extension and veranda were added in 1865, and the staircase was moved.

Around the same time, another extension was added - linking the cottage to a new building that was set up as a soup kitchen for the poor. On January 26 1867, The Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News refers to “the soup-house at the Castle grounds”. Later, a veranda was added to form a covered walkway for people to queue beneath as they waited to receive food at the kitchen door.

The extensions to the building show the social changes in Victorian England. In the 19th century, help for poor people was provided by charities supported by the wealthy classes.

Tony Calladine, East of England Regional Director, Historic England, said: “Places like this help to make us proud of, and feel a part of, where we live. Listing recognises their value so they are protected for the future and everyone can continue to enjoy them.”

He added: “As the challenges from the climate crisis grow, listing helps to encourage keeping historic buildings in use, which avoids the massive amounts of extra carbon emissions associated with building new.”

Tony also mentions that Historic England is inviting people to ‘enrich the list’ by sharing their knowledge, memories and pictures of listed places to help expand the shared understanding and hopefully unlock secrets of the past.