In 2015, the National Trust celebrated the 150th anniversary of the great battle to save Berkhamsted Common in Hertfordshire. The common was freed from enclosure on the night of 6 March 1866.
The National Trust staged an exhibition and commemorative walk on its Ashridge Estate. An exhibition was set up on Saturday 10 October 2015 at the Visitor Centre and ran until 31 March 2016, admission free.
The Open Spaces Society, then known as the Commons Preservation Society, had been founded only the year before Lord Brownlow erected three miles of iron fencing, six feet high, around part of Berkhamsted Common. The society organised a trainload of navvies (tough men) to walk from Tring Station to the common in the middle of the night to fell the fencing.
The common was never enclosed again and, 60 years later in 1926, it was acquired by the National Trust, which had been founded by the society in 1895. The National Trust’s exhibition told the story of the moonlight raid to rescue the common from enclosure and privatisation.
The lovely Berkhamsted Common and Ashridge Estate are a fine model of the achievements of the National Trust over the years. But their histories are intertwined: after the society founded the National Trust enough money was raised to buy threatened land and give it to the Trust to own and manage.
The National Trust’s Ashridge Estate commemorations included:
A Temporary Exhibition at the Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre telling the story of Berkhamsted Common from ancient times to the present day. It was open every day from 10 October 2015 to 31 March 2016, admission free
A Special way-marked commemorative walk was established from Dick’s Camp car park on the B4506 (just south of the Aldbury turning) following the route of Lord Brownlow’s enclosure attempt.
A Celebratory guided walk was led by National Trust Ranger Emily Smith and archaeologist Gary Marshall with the Open Spaces Society on Sunday 6 March 2016.