Scroll down or click on the items below to see previous “objects of the month”
- Two long-case clocks
- Amersham Martyrs “lightbox”
- The Faden map
- Amersham Toys and Hugmee bears
- Our cockatoo hero
- A Tudor cloth merchant
- The restored privy
- Amersham Station sign
- Two Windsor chairs
- Amersham Bus Garage model
- Weller’s Brewery sale prospectus
- Goya – perfumes made in a old brewery
- London Transport posters
- Window frame from the King’s Arms
- Jubilee decorations in 1935
- Gumdrop books
- Regent Cinema model
- Dinky toy collection
- Witch Marks
- Bagatelle boards
- Town Band Christmas Leaflets
- Ogilby Map
- The Metropolitan Railway and Amersham Station
- Visitors’ Book, Griffin Hotel
- Metropolitan Line Wall Chart
Two long-case clocks made by one family in Amersham
The grandmother clock on the right was made by James Rogers of Amersham, born around 1729. This 30 hour clock was probably made in Amersham around 1760 -1770 when many clocks still only had an hour hand. The case is made of oak and the dial of brass that has been silvered.
The clock was a very generous gift in 2010 from the family of Andrew Macdonald, who used to run an antique shop in Whielden Street. The Friends of the Museum kindly paid for its restoration.
Joseph Rogers, born 1760, probably the son of James, is believed to be the maker of the grandfather clock. A more advanced design about 30 years later, it has a minute hand. The painted dial was probably mass-produced by Wilson of Birmingham and then signed by our local clockmaker. The case is much taller and grander and has a “pagoda” style top.
The clock was purchased in 2009 by the Friends of the Museum. Both clocks have been skilfully restored by Geoff Mansfield.
This is another example of a clock made by James Rogers which is privately owned. It has a very ornate and elegant face with both a second hand and a date. (Photograph by kind permission of the owner, John Nash)
Amersham Martyrs “lightbox”
This multi-plane painting on glass was created by the artist Simon Dray. It shows the death of one of the Amersham Martyrs in the 1500s. The Amersham Martyrs were Lollards. Lollards believed that people should be allowed to read the Bible in English instead of Latin. They denounced the wealth of the Church and wanted freedom to worship in their own way. Lollards were tried as heretics in the religious courts. Seven people were found guilty in Amersham over 10 years and were burnt at the stake.
In the light box you can see some buildings that are still standing in Amersham. In the middle you can see Church House or School House, which was the home of the Fraternity of St. Katherine during the early 1500s. It later became the first site of Dr. Challoner’s Grammar School. There are a number of wall paintings in this building, the largest shows Hercules. Some doodles from the 1600s have also been found on the wall of the attic. The building has now been divided into several shops and restaurants.
2011 was the 500th anniversary of the death of the first Amersham Martyr. To commemorate this the Amersham Martyrs Community Play took place in March 2011. To find out more about the play or the story of the Amersham Martyrs click here. [This object is no longer on display.]
What’s in a map?
Quite a lot in reality; apart from odd place names and obscure signs there can be a great deal of history and almost a life story of the person, always a man in those times, who surveyed, engraved or published that map.
In Amersham Museum there is a large framed map, of which only the title and a small part is shown here. It was created by W. Faden, Geogr. to His Majesty and to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales 1800. William Faden (1750 – 1836) took over the business of Thomas Jefferys in the late C18th, himself a noted engraver and map publisher, a man known for developing “hachuring”, a system of fine shading that indicated relief qualitatively not quantitatively. If you scan quickly over Faden’s map you can easily see the assorted lumps and bumps that indicate the hills all over this north western sector of the London region, most of them are part of our Chiltern Hills. Our map is only the north western sector of the whole map. The other three quarters cover the rest of the London region. According to the title in the cartouche in the corner the purpose of the map was to show, in orange, “The extent of the PENNY POST”. The years have faded the orange but from Greenford in the south to Totteridge and Southgate there is a faint dot dash line which shows that Penny Post only extended about eight miles from Westminster.
The cartouche also gives the scale “One inch to one mile” which will no doubt bring back memories for many people as it was the standard scale from the early C19th until the 1960s for all the popular Ordnance Survey maps. This is important information as William Faden engraved and published the first OS county map for Kent at that scale. Kent was chosen as the first map because the government thought that the French might invade at any moment. Faden was chosen because he had demonstrated with his 300 or more published maps and atlases that he was a highly skilled engraver. Not only did he use the picturesque hachuring but he could engrave names of places, geographical features and people in a vast variety of fonts and sizes. Locally we can find W. Drake Esq. of Shardeloes, Lord G.H. Cavendish at Latimer and Skottowe Esq. for Lowndes all in minute but clear letters. From there there are named heaths, rivers, canals, estates and towns all labelled in their distinctive clear and sharp fonts. But remember that there was no typesetting then. W. Faden Esq. was an engraver and each letter and feature was cut into a soft sheet of copper by a hand held scribing tool called a burin. This is certainly very skilled work but also remember the amazing complication that everything was engraved as a mirror image ready for the ink to be pressed into the grooves and then transferred to paper to make a map like this. Look at the map again and we realise why William Faden was and is regarded as one of the great craftsmen in the history of map making.
The Penny Post map is also an intriguing social document recording the beginning of the huge expansion of London. Those towns and villages that we use or pass through almost daily were then deep in the countryside: Hampstead isolated on its hilltop, Edgware and Stanmore no more than villages on or near to the Great North Road, Watford a small town along both sides of a main road but no more than that.
This map is certainly worth more than a second look! Click to return to the index at the top
Have you heard of Amersham Toys and Hugmee bears?
As far back as 1908, a German toymaker, Joseph Eisenmann started a new branch to make toys at Bellingdon Road, Chesham, initially making dolls but later adding a range of Teddies to their range. The factory was inherited in 1919 on Joseph’s death by his son-in-law, Leon Rees, who then moved the factory to Waterside in Chesham, going into partnership with Harry Stone. It was here in 1923 that they started making the very popular Hugmee bears, which remained in production until 1967.
After a break in toy-making during the war, the Chesham factory moved from Waterside to the Amersham works on Moor Road in Chesham. At the time our pastry set was produced, the factory was staffed almost entirely by single young ladies.
In our display we also have a doll’s house, one of the many wooden items they produced, such as doll’s house furniture, blackboards and easels, and a range of sports goods. At one time the factory employed 120 people and despatched some 600 tennis rackets each week. They also produced a range of wheeled toys, such as dolls’ pushchairs, pedal cars, wheelbarrows and stuffed animals on wheels.
It was, however, for the ‘Hugmee’ bears that the company was most famous. When a new factory was opened in Tottenham, a ‘Silky Teddy’ was brought out, and then a ‘Chubby’ bear complete with voice box, and a fawn plush ‘Cubby’ bear. Later the design of bears evolved, with longer shaved muzzles, and a variety of coloured fur – blue and pink. Later bears were provided with a growling noise, or squeakers or bellows-style music boxes. We should love to meet any Hugmee bears in your possession!
In the British Industries Fair in 1947, the company was listed as manufacturers of ”Chiltern” Toys, “Hugmee” Teddy Bears and Plush Animals. “Panurge Pets” and animals on Wheels, Sheepskin Toys and Cuddly Dolls and in 1960, the company featured in Good Housekeeping.
When Leon Rees died in 1963 the factory was taken over by another group, which in 1967 became a subsidiary of Chad Valley.
It is interesting to note that there were several toymakers long before this, including Chesham Wooden Toy Works and the Happy Day Toy Company in Severalls Avenue (off the Berkhamsted Road) .
A local hero
This Sulphur Crested Cockatoo was a local hero. In December 1935, the Crown Hotel was nearly destroyed in a dangerous fire. The bird squawked loudly and alerted the staff and guests to the danger so that they were all able to escape. The only casualties were two cats, including the Persian cat which was the cockatoo’s companion. When the cockatoo died in the following year, said to be at an age of 118 years, a local taxidermist preserved him and for many years he was on display in the Crown Hotel bar.
The small figure of Henry Tenter sits in the room at the top of the stairs, next to some examples of Tudor clothing for children to try on. He was designed as a welcoming personality for children to learn about Tudor clothing and to make friends with. One small girl took him into the garden and had her photo taken and another, in a friendly gesture, tried to feed Henry grapes.
Henry’s name comes from “Tenter hooks” an important part of a cloth merchant’s trade. Tenter hooks were hooks mounted on vertical poles and as the washed and possibly dyed cloth was drying it was stretched onto the hooks to prevent the cloth from shrinking; hence the saying for a stressful situation “being on tenterhooks”. The field on the hill behind the cemetery on the north side of Amersham Old Town is called “tenter field “in old documents. Maps of Elizabethan London show many such tenter fields, one large one is now the site of Liverpool Street station.
Henry Tenter’s clothes were researched using three main books: The Tudor Tailor by N. Mikaila and J. Malcolm-Davies, Elizabeth’s London by Liza Picard and In search of Shakespeare by M. Wood. The main problem was that most pictures and comments dealt with court dress and not the clothing of “common people”. The climate of the time was cooler than the present day so many layers were worn and, of course, fashion played a large part in any design, if you could afford it. Henry’s linen shirt and ruff are made from an old linen tablecloth. His velvet doublet and breeches are some upholstery material. His woollen hose are knitted wool and to be fashionable needed to be tight fitting to show off the shape of his legs. A very prosperous man would have worn silk hose to display his legs better. The scrip or purse at his waist was made from a pair of kid gloves and his dark brown hair was originally the cuffs of a winter coat. His felt hat is possibly too down market for his status and it will be changed for a worsted cap, possibly with a feather in it as a further sign of his prosperity.
The Tudors had a variety of signs in their clothing styles to show wealth and rank. If your shirt had a collar and cuffs attached permanently you were definitely a worker; upper class people wore detachable ones. The sleeves of your doublet were tacked on after you were dressed as the fitting tended to be very tight and so difficult to put on.
Do go and introduce yourself to Henry and then try on the Tudor style clothes in the corner box. All these were developed for Amersham’s famous “Martyrs Play”, this year commemorating the 500th anniversary of the burning of Henry Tylesworth for reading the Bible in English – a terrible death for his devotion to his beliefs.
Henry Tenter was made by Shirley Sherlock, Volunteer Steward at the Museum
It was a dark, cold and windy night in the late 1800s. In front of a fire on the hearth in the old Tudor Hall House, which later became 49 High Street in Amersham, sat the family. An old, bushy eye-browed man was telling tales of ghosts, mysterious noises and evil landowners to his grandchildren as the storm whistled through the cracks around the doors and windows. As he finished there was silence from the children until the smallest whispered: “I need to go to the little house and I’m scared.”
Did the story happen? Maybe not, but a similar scene must have happened in most houses along the High Street, certainly in Victorian times and into the 20th century and definitely back to Tudor times at least. Amazingly in the late 16th century a flushing toilet had been invented but there was no sewerage system to link it to. So what is the story of the privy at the end of the garden of number 49?
When No. 49 became the home of Amersham Museum, some 25 years ago, the brick and tiled privy at the end of the garden was in a very poor state. The seat was worm-ridden and the rest of the space was dirty and full of rubbish. The privy was cleared out and the rotten wood was burned and for the next few years it was used as a garden shed, as was its semi-detached neighbour at the end of the garden of No.51. When it was discussed by the Museum team it was generally assumed to be a two holer with the second hole, smaller and lower, presumably for a child. Privies with more than one hole were not uncommon. Six-holers are known and the Roman legions on Hadrian’s Wall had multiple seated facilities.
After many years of neglect a privy resuscitation plan was devised. The building was cleared and it was established that it must have been a single hole provision – there was not enough room for anyone else. Another idea was also corrected. It had been assumed that the privy emptied into the River Misbourne which flows immediately behind the back wall but this wall shows no sign of any vent. There is no irregularity in the brick work and, as most Amersham people know, the river is not reliable. Sometimes the bed is dry for months at a time so it would be useless as a disposal system. Walking along the river behind the High Street houses, many have bridges and the remains of similar privies. There must have been a system of “Night soil men” who crossed the river and emptied the buckets under each hole at regular intervals. This manure, mixed with wood ash by the householders, was passed onto farmers and large scale gardeners as fertiliser, a system still used in rural parts of Asia. Some house-holders would have composted the waste for use in their own gardens.
Once the privy building was clear and an old photo was found (see Buckinghamshire Privies by M Andrew, 1998) reconstruction was started in the winter 2009-2010. Suitable old timber planks and red floor tiles were found in a reclamation centre near Stokenchurch. A skilled carpenter and his mate rebuilt the seating and a bucket was installed plus another bucket with ash and a shovel for covering the waste. An old style rag rug, based on a genuine potato sack, was pegged and placed on the floor. And on a nail in the wall a torn up copy of a pre-war Daily Telegraph was hung on a piece of string. Across the doorway an information board provides a brief history of privies and a huge selection of euphemisms for what we call the privy – some are rude, some scatological and some distinctly political. And for the formal opening the well known historian, Lady Lucinda Lambton cut the ribbon to reveal the new and varnished seat, the rug, the scouring powder and scrubbing brush and essential fly paper hanging from the roof.
Do come and see a Victorian privy in all its glory. You will not have to walk the 50 metre length of the garden in all weathers – we do have a fully functional modern provision.
London Transport Underground Station sign
The story of how the sign came to be there goes back to 1990 when London Regional Transport, and its operating companies, reverted to the original name of London Transport. At that time the well-established roundel was redesigned with some relatively small modifications and used as a unifying symbol throughout the company. With the new signage in place the old signs were sold to a dealer who used a facility in Wiltshire to store the half acre of pallets containing the old signage. Some of the more desirable and iconic signs were subsequently sold at auction but at a time of recession, and with no online auction sites, a large quantity were left.
In 1992 the signs were about to be scrapped when a farmer acquired some of them to decorate the inside walls of his newly erected barn, and there they hung for many years until one of our volunteers visited the farm and spotted the AMERSHAM sign high up on the wall. The owners of the barn readily agreed to a request for it to be permanently displayed at the Museum.
This sign differs from the current Amersham station sign only in the size of letters on the cross member of the roundel. The typeface was designed by Edward Johnston in 1913 at the request of Frank Pick of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London. The font family was originally called Underground but later became known as Johnston. This typeface is an important part of the instantly recognisable and much loved symbol for public transport in London.
Two Windsor chairs
In the Museum we have two Windsor chairs bought in memory of Jean Archer, who was Amersham’s first Lady Mayor. She lived in the town all her life, gave very amusing talks about local history and wrote many books about the history of the town and about local people. She was also responsible for re-starting the Town Band and helped to found both the Amersham Society and the Museum.
Both chairs have arms which we thought would be helpful for those visiting the museum who may need to sit down sometimes – one is upstairs in the second room and one downstairs near the hearth.
This one was donated by Amersham Town Council and is a high hoop and spindle back chair made locally of elm and beech in the mid 19th century.
Another chair was bought with donations made at Jean Archer’s funeral by individuals and local organisations with which she was associated. It is of a North East Midlands design, also mid 19th century. It is made of beech, ash and elm and has been bleached. It has a low hoop and spindle back and ring-turned legs, united by a “crinoline stretcher”.
Amersham Bus Garage model
Amersham Museum is proud to have added to the display a scale model of the Amersham Bus Garage, in particular because it was made by a local man, Mark Adlington. (If you have been to the London Transport museum, you will have seen the magnificent model of the London Transport Headquarters at 55 Broadway, also made by Mark.)
Older residents will remember the garage which stood at the foot of Gore Hill, part of which remains as B & M. Motors today. However, in its heyday the garage was an extensive building, with space for 54 buses and extensive offices and staff facilities at one side. Much effort went into preserving it (and it is believed that Prince Charles was keen to see it remain) but when the new Tesco site was planned, the bus garage made way for the petrol station.
The Amersham & District Omnibus and Carriage Company was formed in 1919, running two buses between Chesham and High Wycombe from the yard of the Griffin Hotel. After expansion into other local routes, a garage was built on the Broadway in old Amersham and in the 1930s the company was taken over by London Transport.
This model has been recently acquired by Amersham Museum from the London Transport Museum, to whom it was left by relatives of the late Mark Adlington. Mark had an amazing talent for creating exact replicas without using any form of measuring to scale. His patience and ability to construct the smallest of detail were quite remarkable. For a time he worked as a bus conductor and then driver at Amersham Garage, and later bought his own bus, a red RF, which he used to run for Open Days and to transport disabled people on days out. He was interested in London Transport buses and trains from an early age and by the time of his death had a large collection of memorabilia. He is remembered by family and friends as a true gentleman, who took delight in the perfection in the models he made for others to enjoy.
Weller’s Brewery sale prospectus
The prospectus on the sale by auction on 25 September 1929 of “The very valuable Freehold Property known as Messrs W & G Weller’s Amersham Brewery together with licensed properties and sundry cottages, parcels of land and other property” has been added to the museum collection of documents. [This object is not currently on display.]
The prospectus contains two maps, one relating to properties and land for sale in Amersham. The other shows the location of tied houses in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire and Middlesex. The map of the properties shows the location of the brewery, the Malting House, the mews and other properties associated directly with the brewery, mostly to the north of the Misbourne, on either side of Church Street. Properties in Church Street included Rumsey’s and Three Gables.
The second map shows the location of 143 licensed properties, 133 freehold and 10 leasehold although the front cover of the prospectus refers to 142 licensed properties. Much of the prospectus is taken up with details of names, locations and descriptions of individual tied houses, some of which were more than 20 miles from Amersham, ranging from Cranford in Middlesex to Quainton north of Aylesbury, and from Hambleden near Henley to Markyate near Luton. (To the right is The Queen’s Head in Whielden Lane in about 1890)
History of the Brewery
Prior to the mid-eighteenth Century, brewing was largely a household occupation, with individual families, farmers and publicans brewing primarily for their own private consumption. Monastic foundations also brewed beer and it has been suggested that the first large-scale brewing enterprise was undertaken by monks affiliated to St. Mary’s Church. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support the existence of such a brewery, or, for that matter, a monastic foundation.
The 1929 auction sale prospectus states that Weller’s “was started in High Wycombe a few years previous to 1771 at which date the “Old Church Brewery” at Amersham (as to the origin of which there is no authentic record) was purchased.” Other sources indicate that the Wellers were maltsters in High Wycombe rather than brewers and that they leased the Amersham brewery from the Hunt family in 1775 rather than purchased it.
Another source states that “The first authentic reference to the Amersham Brewery occurs in an entry for the 17 April 1735 in the Court Baron Rolls for the Manor of Amersham Rectory. In this entry Sir William Drake is recorded as having been fined 5 shillings for having illegally erected a brewhouse on ye Lord’s waste over ye River from St. Mary’s Church. The site of this illegal brewery was on that of the present building, and the brewhouse was probably nothing more than the reconstruction of an existing sixteenth-century building – possibly the Malt Mill recorded in 1504 – already in existence on the site.” The Weller family leased the brewery from the Hunt family from 1775 until 1818, when they purchased the freehold. (The picture shows the Brewery in 1890.)
Goya – perfumes made in an old brewery
Goya was first established in 1946 and was situated at the Badminton Court Factory just off the High Street in Old Amersham which used to be Weller’s Brewery. The studio was situated here and the perfumery research and concentrates were made here. On the main filling floors at Badminton Court, some two hundred women and girls filled, packed and inspected the perfumes and colognes. The perfume was made in the Organ Room.
D.R Collins Chief Perfumer and Chairman of Goya and Fields describes the process of making a perfume as , ‘like a tune in the imagination… results are not achieved ‘by long periods of scientific research’- they are achieved by long periods of confused trial and error, or by occasional pieces of luck’. He describes the shortest time spent making a perfume as three weeks and for this reason it was not a very good one. One of their most famous perfumes the Black Rose took four and a half years to produce. Black Rose is a very sophisticated perfume described as ‘very long lasting, but with a French rose top-note.’ When the perfume had finally been formulated in the organ room, the formula was scaled up for manufacturing by Ernest Joyner in the specially built compounding laboratories situated in the garden behind Badminton Court. Here the concentrated perfumes, known as compounds, are prepared for shipment to the factories. Goya perfumes were packed entirely by hand which is said to give the best possible finish.
Perfume was not the only product made by Goya. About a mile away from Badminton Court in Old Amersham, the Raans Road Factory was built in 1952. The Raans Road factory had manufacturing sections for heavier items such as talcum powder, bath salts and cubes, creams and lotions, hair creams and men’s preparations. In the powder and bath salts bays blending, grinding, mixing and sifting took place. Powders and colours were ground in exceptionally high speed precision mills. After manufacture, the powders were filled by vacuum machines operating automatically, the filled containers were transferred to conveyor belts on which they were inspected, inspected, sealed, polished and packed, ready for transfer to the warehouses.
The Goya factory in Old Amersham closed in the 1980s and was converted into offices.
London Transport posters
In 2011 London Transport Museum decided to give duplicate posters from their vast collection to other museums around the country. As part of this project Amersham Museum was able to acquire two posters relating to the history of London Underground in the Amersham area. One poster was Away by Metropolitan by Graham Sutherland [1903 – 1980], published in 1936 and the second The Country Now by Clare Leighton [1898 – 1989] in 1938. Both are on display in the Museum.
Clare Leighton was an artist, wood-block engraver, book illustrator and writer who lived in the Chilterns. She also engraved an image of Bury Farm, Amersham, as the frontispiece for Mabel Brailsford’s book The Making of William Penn which is shown in the Museum’s 2012 ‘Arts in Amersham’ display. She had a lengthy relationship with the left-wing radical journalist H N Brailsford, Mabel’s brother.
For more information about London Transport Museum’s collection of posters, click here.
Window frame from the King’s Arms
This window frame was moved from its original location in the King’s Arms pub around eighty years ago. The house that it was built for, across the street from the museum, was a Tudor hall house on the High Street, similar to this building. The timber window frame was designed to be part of an external wall, however it was moved inside as an internal screen, possibly explaining to why the window frame is in such a well preserved condition. The existence of this timber-framed window suggests that there were good quality hall houses on both sides of the High Street during Tudor times and that Amersham had flourished by the late 15th century.
(The frame has kindly been lent by Buckinghamshire County Museum.)
The King’s Arms pub was originally a small country inn with adjacent cottages of 15th and 16th century origin. It was one of the many pubs that the Weller family owned during the 18th and 19th centuries. Two centuries ago, the roofline was altered and the front rebuilt and rendered to give it the plain appearance in the postcards of about 1900 (see picture on right). The King’s Arms was given the fake timbering seen today in 1930, as were many other public houses throughout the nation. The adjoining timber-framed house was added to the building in 1936 and the original inn’s frontage was rebuilt to match, with additional gables.
1935 Jubilee decorations in Hill Avenue, Amersham
One of the highlights of the museum’s new jubilee exhibition was a collection of over 50 linen flags used to celebrate George V’s silver jubilee in 1935. The flags and strings of bunting decorated the window of the shop of A. W. Pope. Pope’s was a corn, coal and seed merchant in Hill Avenue, Amersham-on-the-Hill. (see below). They were used again for George VI’s coronation celebrations in 1937 and VE Day in 1945. They were given to the museum by Mr Pope’s daughter.
The flags are mostly union jacks but there are also some British dominion flags. One flag includes the Star of India, the arms of Australia, Canada and the Union of South Africa, with white stars to represent New Zealand (see image below).
Shop windows and streets throughout Amersham and Amersham-on-the-Hill were decorated for George V’s jubilee. This followed a tradition which continues today. The museum has images and objects from Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in1887 through to the current Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.
A selection of the flags and bunting were in the Museum’s Jubilee exhibition in June.
Gumdrop is the name of an Austin Clifton Heavy Twelve-Four made in 1926, which was the title character of a series of books written and illustrated by Val Biro (pronounced Beer-oh), who used to live in Old Amersham with the real Gumdrop. The Museum recently bought six of his books which Val Biro wrote from the late 1960s to the 1980s.
The stories revolve around the car and his owner, who for most of the series was Mr Oldcastle, and his dog, Horace. The plots often involved the search for replacement parts for Gumdrop. This is the real Gumdrop.
Model of the Regent Cinema, by Richard Proctor
The Regent Cinema was on Sycamore Road, Amersham-on-the-Hill. Opened in November 1928 the cinema had seats for 700 people. The cinema was popular during wartime but in the 1950s audiences began to dwindle and it was closed and demolished in the early 1960s. The last film shown was Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It was later replaced by Maypole and then Liptons, both supermarkets. The site of the Regent is currently occupied by Iceland, a frozen food supermarket.
This model of the Regent Cinema has been kindly loaned to the museum by Richard Proctor. He made the model and is currently working on models of all the shops and facilities on Sycamore Road in the early 1960s. The model is currently on loan as part of the museum’s Arts in Amersham display. It will be on display until the end of October.
Below: Regent Programme of current and forthcoming films, September 1931.
Dinky Toys from Mr Butler’s Toy Shop
In 2007 Amersham Museum was given a collection of over 50 dinky toys and Hornby trains, all purchased in Amersham in the 1940S and 1950s. The toys were bought for Chris Salaman by his mother at Mr Butler’s Toy Shop. The shop stood on the corner of Broadway and Church Street. Once a month a new Dinky toy would be issued, advertised in advance in the Meccano magazine. Chris would visit Mr Butler’s shop with his mother and two brothers and each child would be allowed a new toy.
Chris carefully preserved his collection of trains, cars, lorries, vans, buses, agricultural and army vehicles. Many of the toys are now on display in the museum.
Images from top:
Mr Butler’s toy shop on right-hand side, c. 1960.
Mr Butler’s toy shop, c. 1970.
Dinky Leyland Comet, with hinged tailboard.
Dinky Leyland Dunlop double deck bus.
Hornby ‘O’ guage railway McAlpine beige sided hopper truck, c.1960
You might miss these unusual marks on your first visit to Amersham Museum. They are carved on to the upper parts of the timber frame of the fifteenth century hall house. The marks are situated directly above the central hearth. They are known as witch marks or apotropaeic marks and were designed to prevent evil from entering the house through the smoke hole.
One of the most popular attractions in the museum this summer was the newly acquired Amersham Toys bagatelle. Visitors, young and old, have been competing to achieve the highest score on this highly addictive game.
Bagatelle derives from billiards. The development of bagatelle came from France around the end of the 17th century. Sticks and balls were used to target pins at one end of the table. The word bagatelle is French and means ‘trifle’, an unimportant thing.
Different versions of the game were developed across Europe and North America in the 19th century. Early 19th century versions have tables with cue sticks and ivory balls. The stick was later replaced with a spring bolt and metal balls. Pinball derives from bagatelle. Click here for more information.
The museum is fortunate enough to display a more unusual version of bagatelle. The Amersham Toys Pin Cricket encourages the player to score runs and avoid their ball from being caught or hitting the wicket!
Amersham Toys was a toy factory based in Chesham. Established by a German toymaker in 1908 in Bellingdon Road, the factory moved to Waterside in Chesham in 1919. The company was particularly famous for its ‘Hugmee’ bears. On the death of the owner in 1963 it was taken over and sold to a subsidiary of Chad Valley in 1967.
Amersham Town Band Christmas Leaflets
December 2012’s objects of the month are two Christmas leaflets produced by the Amersham Town Band in 1892 and 1897. The band was formed in 1890 under the sponsorship of the ‘Sons of Temperance – Amersham Division’. Local photographer, George Ward, was the band’s first secretary, treasurer and bandmaster.
The 1892 leaflet details that the band will celebrate Christmas in the usual manner by playing through the Town on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. The leaflet notes that the Band has dropped ‘Temperance’ from its title. Presumably the band members found it difficult to stick to the pledge!
The 1897 leaflet details the Christmas programme for the band including some of the music that was to be played. It is noted that funds are being raised for a uniform for the band members. They were obviously successful because Ward later took a photograph of the Band in their uniform.
John Ogilby was one of the leading map makers of his time, mid to late 1600s. Ogilby was a man of many parts – dancing master, actor, book seller, poet and a translator but his greatest achievement was to map 40,000 miles of roads in Britain.
His equipment was basic but variations can still be seen in use along our roads today by surveyors, especially those of the utility companies. His wheel on a stick, a “Way wiser”, measured the distance by using a known circumference and counting the number of revolutions.
His route maps, like the one above, were published in “Britannia” in 1675 and are favourites for collectors as they are so decorative. Their style and content were copied by many later map makers and many will remember the holiday routes that could be ordered from the AA in the late 40s and 50s which used the same principles. Click here to see the London to Buckingham map via Agmondesham/Amersham.
Whilst not in the museum’s collection this map will feature in the talk about Buckinghamshire Maps given by Geoffrey Sherlock on 10th January 2013. Click here for details.
The museum has recently received a large collection of more recent maps and plans of Amersham which are being catalogued and will be available to view by appointment in 2013.
The Metropolitan Railway and Amersham Station
In 2013 Amersham Museum is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Metropolitan Railway. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund the museum is researching and interpreting the story of the railway coming to Amersham and the development of Amersham-on-the-Hill.
These photographs were taken by local photographer George Ward. The first shows the gang working on the construction of the railway line to Amersham in 1891. The second photograph depicts the men working on the construction of Amersham Station. The station was officially opened on 1 September 1892 as part of the 16 mile stretch from Chalfont Road (now Little Chalfont) to Aylesbury. Local dignitaries celebrated with a dinner at the Griffin in the old town.
There were several plans for a railway through Amersham in the 19th century. Obstructions from local property owners and a lack of funding prevented these plans from being realised. The Tyrwhitt-Drakes, local landowners and lords of the Manor, opposed the line passing too closely to their family home at Shardeloes.
The visionary Chairman of the Metropolitan Railway, Sir Edward Watkin, hoped for a railway line from the north-west, across the continent to Paris. Extending the Metropolitan Railway from London to Harrow and then beyond to the Chilterns, was a step towards achieving his plans. The route through Amersham to Aylesbury was achieved once the Drakes agreed to a route, away from Shardeloes, through farmland on the hill at Amersham Common.
Visitors’ Book, The Griffin Hotel
March’s object of the month is the visitors’ book for The Griffin hotel, Broadway, Amersham. The book illustrates Amersham’s long established role as a stopover point for coach travellers just before the town’s fortunes changed with the arrival of the railway in 1892.
The book covers the period 1883 to 1892, but was probably not completed by every guest who stayed at the hotel. The book is only partially full and, sadly, ceased to be used just before the railway arrived at Amersham in September 1892. The last entry, dated 20th January 1892, from Mr F. Bright, is written in shorthand with a translation beside it. The entry is in the form of a ditty declaring The Griffin’s hospitality to be the best in Amersham.
Most entries, however, show Amersham as a stopover between London and towns like Oxford. For instance, Ernest Andrews stayed at The Griffin on route to Malvern via Oxford and probably arrived via coach. In 1884 a guest, who was travelling from London to Bishop’s Stortford, had walked from Rickmansworth to Amersham in the rain!
An interesting comment, in 1890, comes from Thomas Neeler, a Metropolitan Railway inspector, who had ‘called here on 28th September (13 days after Chalfont Road station was burnt down‘. The Morning Bulletin newspaper reported that the fire started when a paraffin lamp was overturned in the porter’s room (paraffin probably provided heat and light to such rooms in this era).
Mr Neeler was also scathing about The Griffin’s hospitality. He notes that he had tea ‘after a terrific struggle with the officers in charge – never again love – cheap certainly but decidedly inferior.’
His comments are swiftly countered on the following page by a visitor who declares the Griffin to offer consistently good service!
Ian Arthurton will be giving a talk about the Metropolitan Railway on Wednesday April 10th in the Barn Hall. Doors open at 7.30pm and tickets are £5. For booking please contact Gary Gotch on 01494 727409 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Metropolitan Line Wall Chart, 1961
April’s object of the month is a wall chart, produced by London Underground in 1961, when the Metropolitan Line from Rickmansworth to Amersham was converted from steam-hauled trains to an electrically-powered service. The chart details the history of each of the stations and the expansion of the line since the Metropolitan Railway’s first service in January 1863.
The UK’s railway network had been slow to use electric and diesel trains. As late as the 1950s, steam was still being used on many main lines. On the Metropolitan Line, while electrification had reached Rickmansworth in 1925, stations beyond this point – Chorleywood, Chalfont & Latimer, Amersham and Chesham – had been serviced by steam trains. The electrical ‘engine’ would be uncoupled at Rickmansworth and a steam engine attached in its place. Rickmansworth railway linesmen prided themselves on being able to achieve the changeover in three to four minutes!
The Metropolitan Railway, from the construction of the Chalfont to Aylesbury extension in 1892, had terminated in Aylesbury. However, with the electrification of the line in 1961, the service beyond Amersham was handed over to the London Midland region of British Railways. Amersham became the terminus for the Metropolitan Line and the new electric trains were named ‘A’ stock after Amersham.
Much of the information produced by London Underground in 1961 details how passenger services would change with the electrification. This wall chart is unusual because it also celebrates and details the history of the Metropolitan Line.
The chart will feature in the museum’s forthcoming exhibition, Metro-land: the birth of Amersham-on-the-Hill, in May. The exhibition in 63 Hill Avenue, Amersham-on-the-Hill, runs from Tuesday 14th May – Saturday 1st June. The exhibition is open 10am-4pm every day except 19th and 20th May.
There is also a programme of talks to support the exhibition.