Past unearthed at cemetery thanks to conservation project

Dave Allen with the cross made for his grandfather Horace Allen's grave
Dave Allen with the cross made for his grandfather Horace Allen's grave
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A project launched at Rectory Lane Cemetery to revamp the space has uncovered some fascinating history behind the people buried there.

The Graveyard Shift project has been launched by the Friends of St Peter’s to transform the cemetery into an attractive open space for recreation and in turn has offered exposure to the history of the cemetery and its residents.

One in particular was commemorated in the Gazette in 1929 as an ordinary citizen of the town, of whom many would pass by without a second thought, when in fact he paid the ultimate price for his service in the First World War.

Horace Fred Allen born in Chapel Street in 1893 was just 21 years old when he was called up to fight for his country in France.

Horace was the son of William Allen a carpenter and left behind his job as a presser at the Mantle Factory where Waitrose now stands, to fight in the war. His wife Annie Mills, a local girl to Berkhamsted remained at their cottage on Back Lane throughout the war.

Shortly before the ceasefire, Horace who served for the Royal West Kent Regiment was critically injured when shrapnel from an exploded shell nearby entered his head.

Despite returning home to his wife, Horace never fully recovered from the injury and the shrapnel embedded in his head caused him much pain for the rest of his life.

Horace endured several periods in hospital and wore a leather patch to hide the entry wound, but he was never able to return to full time work due to his injury.

Horace instead did odd-jobs at Berkhamsted Town Football Club. One of his proudest moments was when footballer Stanley Rous, whose name adorns a stand at the Watford Football Club, visited his home in Back Lane as part of a post-match delegation from the club.

He died aged 36 leaving behind his wife and four children. His eldest son Leslie, aged 14, made his father a military style wooden cross to mark his grave at the top end of the Rectory Lane cemetery.

On November 23 1929, the Gazette described Horace Allen as: ‘Just a private soldier, just a plain citizen, just a lover, just a true husband, just a good father, just Horace Allen, of Back Lane, Berkhamsted’.