A Seat To Remember

Please visit our ‘Competition Entries’ page to vote, open to 31st January 2017.

The competition is to design new seating that will be part of our improvement project at the Rectory Lane Cemetery. Eight new benches will be located in different areas around the Cemetery. Applicants may either design an individual bench (sympathetic to the proposed location of the bench) or design a composite scheme for all the benches. This competition is being run by the Friends of St Peter’s, Great Berkhamsted (‘The Promoter’) See www.stpetersberkhamstedfriends.org.uk for further information.

There will be three prizes of £1,000, £500 and £250 for the best individual seat designs
One prize of £2,000 in the event of a winning composite scheme.

This competition is part of a ‘Parks for People’ Project. A joint initiative of the Big Lottery Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund. It has been inspired by the restoration of the Seat of Remembrance, located by the Memorial Arch in the centre of the Cemetery – a splendid stone and timber bench erected in 1934 by Lucy Foot in memory of her late husband Brigadier General Richard Mildmay Foot. This whole project has been made possible by a generous grant of £8,000 from Tesco’s ‘Bags of Help’ Scheme

This project aims to encourage sensitive new approaches to Cemetery seating. The seating should become part of the attraction of the Cemetery, elevating its sense of being a ‘special place’ and contributing to the orientation of visitors.

The Rectory Lane Cemetery (also known as Three Close Lane Cemetery) is located in the town of Berkhamsted in the County of Hertfordshire, England. (Easting 499400/Northing 207560). The cemetery lies within the Berkhamsted conservation area.

The Rectory Lane Cemetery Project was established in 2014. Its vision is:

  • To change perceptions of cemeteries as ‘dead spaces’
  • Transforming ours into a vibrant and diverse contemporary garden of commemoration
  • To create a pivotal heritage asset and an environmental haven
  • To help make connections, promoting health and wellbeing and welcoming all

The project will celebrate the historical connections of the Cemetery with the town of Berkhamsted through families interred here. Their lives are a source of interest to people in Britain and overseas researching their family histories.

The Cemetery itself has three distinct areas. The first was opened in 1842 as a detached churchyard to replace the original burial ground of the town at St Peter’s Church. The land was given by Charlotte Catharine Anne, Countess of Bridgewater. The Cemetery was further extended in 1894 and 1921 and now covers 3.275 acres. The 1842 part was closed in 1976. This area is managed by Dacorum Borough Council, the Parochial Church Council remaining responsible for the two extensions. The Town Council also retains a keen interest in the Cemetery. The churchyard is effectively full, although family graves are occasionally reopened for additional interments of bodies or cremated remains. The whole cemetery remains under the control of the incumbent of St Peter’s church.

The Project has been successful in securing Round 1 Development Phase funding through the Parks for People Grant Scheme run by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund. The overall aim is to secure full funding to carry out repairs to the existing fabric and monuments and to encourage greater appreciation and use of the Cemetery by diverse audiences. Events and trails will be introduced to highlight the history of the site, the symbolism of the graves and key characters buried here, all of which act as a rich educational resource and will be used to develop skills, interpretation and activities to deepen understanding of our heritage.

In addition to the Lottery Parks for People support and funding for bench replacement, the aim of the organisers is to publicise the competition to a wide group of sponsors – either individuals, organisations or businesses – in order that the winning entries can be installed and with the aim that all of the eight bench sites with a co-ordinated thematic experience would be realised.

Cemetery seating tends to be un-coordinated, either as a result of phased introduction/degradation or through the influence/wishes of individual sponsors of benches. The resulting distribution often consists of a mix of either wooden slatted or metal ‘park’ benches with memorial plaques on the rear rail, or heavy masonry seats with names carved into them. Rectory Lane Cemetery has suffered particularly from inappropriate choices of bench – reinforced by the fact that the three benches in the lower cemetery were ‘left-overs’ from a railway station seating renewal programme.

It is expected that the benches will be beautiful and well considered designs. The Competition organizers will be pleased to consider a variety of design styles, and will also give special attention to the sensitivity and rigour of the design process. Winning entries will need to be realistically affordable, built to last, designed in such a way as to ensure the practicality of their construction and the longevity of the installation. The cemetery is open 24hrs a day so their use during different times of day and at different seasons of the year needs to be considered. Entrants should take into account resistance to climatic damage from waterpooling, freeze thaw, roots and tree penetration etc.

There are locally-available materials to choose from – brick, flint and timber The use of new technologies and materials is also encouraged. The benches also need to be:

  • entirely safe
  • in scale and proportion to the surrounding context and landscape
  • comfortable!

There are 12 benches proposed in total in the cemetery (one involves the repair of the existing Seat of Remembrance and three form part of the Garden of Remembrance design. These four do not form part of the competition). For the 8 benches forming part of this competition, entries may either focus on

  • Individual Bench Design – select one bench
  • Composite Theme – provide an overall scheme

Individual Bench
Competitors will be judged on the quality of their individual design response so if any particular bench site is over subscribed this will not have a bearing on the choice of winning entries.

Composite Theme
Alternatively, entrants may like to consider a composite scheme for all eight benches, with each bench linking together to ‘tell a story’, and possibly providing an integrated ‘trail’. This story could focus on such ideas as are listed below or some other original idea in order for the bench designs to form part of a larger meaning. The “story” should be flexible enough to accommodate variation within the bench designs themselves.

The story of Berkhamsted from 1842 -1946, linking those buried in the Cemetery with the development of the town, including its place in a wider context

A themed approach picking up on key characteristics of the Cemetery, including responding to the different phases of its development, habitats etc.

Each seat tailored for different audiences (eg young children, picknickers, a ‘reading’ bench’, a family seat, a dogwalker’s seat, for those visiting relatives here etc.)
The jurors will focus particularly on innovative ideas and the success of how these disparate bench positions can be connected visually, emotively, or physically through such ideas as planting, sensitive marking, lighting or materiality etc.