Berkhamsted Castle | The Deer Park

Berkhamsted Castle

The Deer Park

To the north of Berkhamsted Castle is an extensive area of countryside which was once a deer park. Around 1280, Richard, Earl of Cornwall enclosed common land, and the area was emparked (officially designated as a new deer park). For centuries, kings and nobles would hunt deer here, providing sport for royalty and venison for the Castle larders.

Today, Berkhamsted’s deer park is divided up into many fields and wooded areas. Berkhamsted Castle Trust is looking at potential opportunities to bring out the story of the landscape, and celebrate the rich historic and cultural heritage of the deer park linked to Berkhamsted Castle.

Background: Historical development

historical map of the deer park showing woodlands

Historical deer park features transcribed from Norden’s 1612 map, overlaid on a modern aerial map

Berkhamsted Castle deer park was a critical part of the historic landscape for nearly 400 years until it was disemparked in the late 17th century. Its distinctive layout is still preserved today in the line of field boundaries to the north of the town. Although intrinsically linked with the castle, the deer park was so much more than a playground for the rich, it was a carefully managed sustainable resource providing timber, meat, fuel, and revenue to the royal household.

A deer park was a hunting ground, timber source and status symbol of wealthy aristocrats who had the privilege to enclose land for private use. The park was a carefully managed landscape and was surrounded by a ‘park pale’; a sizeable fence to keep deer in and poachers out.

Deer park timeline
c.1066
Berkhamsted Castle built by Robert of Mortain.
c.1280
The Earl of Cornwall encloses former common land to create a new deer park.
1337
Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince, expands the deer park.
1495
Castle is abandoned after the death of the Duchess of York. The deer park is retained for hunting and as a resource for timber.
1580
Sir Edward Carey leases the park from Elizabeth | for the price of a rose. He builds Berkhamsted Place at Castle Hill, using stone from the castle.
1612
Charles Stuart (later King Charles I) encloses an area north of the park, known as the Coldharbour Enclosure. This is met with fierce opposition from local people, who hold commoners’ rights to the land. The park reaches its full size at just over 522ha.
1628
Charles turns most of the park over to farming, leaving just 151ha of the inner park.
1862
The Duchy of Cornwall sells the Berkhamsted estate (except the castle) to Lord Brownlow for the sum of £144,546. Brownlow also owns Ashridge by this period. He rents the castle from the Duchy and uses the bailey to host local events.
1914-1919
During WWI, the Inns of Court Officers’ Training Corps establish a training camp at Berkhamsted. Practice trenches are dug to the north of what is now the cricket club.
1921
On the death of the 3rd Lord Brownlow the estate is sold off. The former parkland is divided into lots and sold to individual owners, although the castle remains part of the Duchy Estates.
1929
Berkhamsted Castle passes into the guardianship of the state.
2017
Berkhamsted Castle Trust set up to promote and engage people in the history and protection of the castle and parkland. The Trust works alongside English Heritage as custodians of the site.
2024
Deer park study and consultation launched

Disemparkment

map of the phases of disemparkment in the 16th and 17th centuries

Modern aerial map showing the phases of disemparkment in the 16th and 17th centuries

Deer parks were a prominent feature of the British landscape until they were either broken up and converted into agricultural land or incorporated into post-medieval country estates.

Starting in the reign of King Charles I, the Berkhamsted deer park was progressively turned over to farming.

A number of ancient deer parks survive today, such as Richmond Park or Knebworth House, but today, most of Berkhamsted’s former deer park is a patchwork of farmland and woodland, held by many different private landowners.

 

Ideas and aspirations

Berkhamsted Castle Trust has been exploring ideas for enhancing the public realm around the ancient deer park. Today this area is divided into many privately owned fields, but we have been looking into possible ways to mark this historical boundary along the existing public footpaths and enhance the visitor experience in the area around the Castle.
We recognise that some ideas are aspirational, given that the landscape beyond the immediate surroundings of Berkhamsted Castle has multiple owners, and varying site considerations and constraints.

Examples of potential opportunities

  • historic site interpretation board
    Potential historic site or point of interest
  • sculpture and seating
    Potential enhanced arrival experience
  • landscape interpretation board
    Potential viewpoint interpretation
  • wooden signpost
    Potential consolidated and improved wayfinding

Similar examples from elsewhere

  • bench and interpretation
    Dartington Hall, South Devon
  • joggers on paths in a park
    Sowerby Park and Sports Village, North Yorkshire
  • paths and picnic area in grassed area
    Bucklers Forest, Crowthorne, Berkshire

 

Re-Connecting Berkhamsted Castle

The key objectives for the project are:

  • Protection: Raising the profile of Berkhamsted Castle and securing its future
  • Public access: Providing additional and alternative publicly accessible green space in Berkhamsted whilst steering movement away from the Special Area of Conservation at Ashridge Estate
  • Outdoor provision: Rationalising and improving access, signage and existing furniture
  • Education: Promoting the site’s history including its use as a former deer park
  • Engagement: Working with land owners, key stakeholders and members of the public to understand the feasibility of the park

Consultation

castle trust market stall

In early 2024, Berkhamsted Castle Trust ran a public consultation with award-winning environmental consultancy LUC using an online survey. This consultation included a public engagement stall on Berkhamsted High Street Market, a gazebo in the Castle grounds, with information boards, maps and flyers, and various communications on social media.

The online survey has now closed, but if you wish to submit comments or ask any questions, you are welcome to get in touch:

Contact us

What happens next?

The ideas presented above have not been agreed or funded but following the consultation, we hope to develop these ideas further with:

  • a detailed Statement of Significance document, setting out the history and significance of the park area
  • a final report from LUC on the overall Feasibility Study, setting out and assessing the various options.

 

 

Related documents

Discover More


 

External Links

 

 Opening hours

Daily 10:00—16:00
Closed now Open tomorrow at 10:00

Berkhamsted Castle Trust

Berkhamsted Castle Trust manages the Berkhamsted Castle site in partnership with English Heritage under a Local Management Agreement. Our volunteers rely on the generosity of the public.
 
 Donate today