(pronounced traditionally and locally "Chess-am" or "Chezz-um, although "Chesh-am" has become more common in usage) is a market town
in the Chiltern Hills
. It is located 11 miles south-east of the county town of Aylesbury
. Chesham is also a civil parish
designated a town council
within Chiltern district
. It is situated in the Chess Valley
and surrounded by farmland, as well as being bordered on one side by Amersham
and Chesham Bois
. The earliest records of Chesham as a settlement are from the second half of the tenth century although there is archeological evidence of people in the area from around 8000 BC.
The town is known for its four B's:- Baptists - The town experienced considerable unrest being a seat of religious nonconformity. During the English Civil War the townspeople sided with the Parliamentarians. Beer, Boots and Brushes. Chesham's prosperity grew significantly during the 18th and 19th centuries with the development of manufacturing industry.
In the face of fierce competition from both home and abroad all these traditional industries rapidly declined. The ready availability of skilled labour encouraged new industries to the town both before and after the end of the Second World War. Today employment in the town is is provided by mainly small business engaged in light industry, technology and professional services.
From the early part of the 20th century onwards there has been a considerable expansion of the town with new housing developments and civic infrastructure. Increasingly Chesham has also become a commuter town with improved connection to London via the Underground and road networks. The town centre has been progressively redeveloped since the 1960s and was pedestrianised in the 1990s. The population of the town has increased to slightly over 20,000 but further grown has been restricted through the application of Green belt policies.
There is archeological evidence of the earliest settlement during the Mesolithic
period around 8000 BC and the earliest farming evidence from the Neolithic
era around 2500 BC. Bronze Age
tribes settled in the valley around 1800 BC and they were succeeded by Iron Age Belgic
people of the Catuvellauni
tribe around 500 BC. Between 150-400 AD there is evidence of Romano-British
farming and nearby at Latimer
there is archaeological
evidence of a Roman villa
and the planting of grapevines. However the area was then deserted until the Saxon
period around the 7th century'.
The first recorded reference to Chesham, was as Caesteleshamm Anglo-Saxon for "the river-meadow at the pile of stones" around 970 in the will of Lady Æfgyfu (or Elgiva), an Anglo-Saxon Queen who received it on the annulment of her marriage to Edwy King of England in 955 and subsequently bequeathed her estates to Abingdon Abbey although it was returned to the Crown soon after. Contrary to popular belief, the town is not named after the river; rather, the river is named after the town. In 1086 there were three adjacent estates which comprised Caestreham which are briefly recorded in the Domesday Book as being of 1½, 4 and 8½ hides, having four mills. The most important of these manors was held by Queen Edith, the widow of Edward the Confessor. One of the two others would later become Chesham Bois parish. The earliest habitation was in the area close by the present St Mary's Church in an area called The Nap where are found remaining the oldest buildings of the present-day town in Queen St.
The land owners of Chesham
granted the town a royal charter for a weekly market in 1257. During the 13th and 14th centuries the manor
of Great Chesham was a part of the lands held by the Earls of Oxford
. During the 16th century it was owned by the Seymour family
who disposed of it to the Cavendish family the Earls and later Dukes of Devonshire
who held it into the first part of the 19th century. Meanwhile adjacent land in and around the town was owned by the Lowndes family. William Lowndes
was an influential politician and Secretary to the Treasury
during the reign of William III
and Queen Anne
. He had the original Bury and manor house
of Great Chesham, rebuilt in 1712. The Lowndes family settled in Chesham and over the next 200 years became equally influential both nationally through politics and the law and locally within the town as its principle benefactors. Another family, the Scottowes, also controlled estate lands within and outside the town and later on, the Duke of Bedford
Religious dissent and nonconformity
Chesham is noted for the religious unrest which dominated the town from the 1500s. In 1532 Thomas Harding
was burnt at the stake in the town for being a Lollard
. From the 17th century Chesham experienced a surge in nonconformity
and was a focus for those dissenting from mainstream religion
. In 1620 two local families sailed to Massachusetts
on the Mayflower
. 2000 more puritans followed during the following ten years, including the Chase family whose descendants went on to found the Chase Manhattan Bank
. In 1678 Quakers
had built a meeting house. The first Baptists
meeting dates back to about 1640 and regular services started in 1706. The first chapel was opened in 1712, one of six to be built for the various baptist groups during the 18th and 19th centuries. John Wesley preached in Chesham in the 1760s and a Methodist society used to meet at the Congregational Church. In more recent time a Methodist Wesleyan Chapel
was opened in 1897. In 1890 the Christian Brethren opened a Gospel Hall..
The primary industries of the town in Medieval
times were flour production, woodworking and weaving of wool. There were four mills built along the Chess which was diverted to generate sufficient power. Surplus flour was supplied to London. The number of clothworkers, including spinners and those associated with dying (fullers
), grew rapidly between 1530 and 1730 and became the major industry in the town prior to a period of rapid decline in the face of competition from the large-scale, mechanised mills of Yorkshire
. Between 1740 to 1798 mills were converted to produce paper (pulp) responding to London
's insatiable demand for paper. However, technological developments in paper-making elsewhere rendered the mills unprofitable and they reverted to flour production in the 1850s.
New industries emerged from the 16th century onwards. A small-scale woodenware industry begun around 1538 but grew following the planting of beechwoods between 17th and 19th centuries. Lace-making developed in 16th century as a cottage industry and was valued for its quality until fashions changed and decline set in around 1850. Between 1838 and 1864 silk-spinning, powered by steam-driven mills was started to make use of unemployed lace workers. This trend was relatively short-lived as changes in fashion and the growth of the railways resulted in competition from elsewhere for the valuable London markets. However one exception was the firm of George Tutill, which specialised in high-quality banners and was responsible for three-quarters of those made for Trades Unions. The firm is still a going concern still specailising in flags and banners.
Straw plaiting was seen as home-based work for the wives and daughters of labourers from the 18th century. Straw was imported to produce plait for the Luton and Dunstable hat trade and remained the major cottage industry and employment for women and girls until 1860. Brush making was introduced around 1829 to make use of the off-cuts from woodworking. Tanneries opened around 1792 supplying leather for saddle, glove and bootmaking thrived in small workshops. By the mid 1800s both brushmaking and footwear manufacture became major industries in the town with production now concentrated in larger factories. Both would see a similar decline at the start of the 20th century.. These traditional industries were succeeded by smaller but more commercial enterprises which took advantage of the available skilled labour. For example in 1908 the Chiltern Toy Works was opened by Joseph Eisenmann on Bellingdon Road, later moving to the 'new' industrial estate in Waterside, making high quality Teddy Bears. The works finially closed in 1960. Post Second World War industry has ranged from the manufacture of glue (Industrial Adhesives) to aluminium-based packaging (Alcan) and balloons (B-Loony).
The town in times of war
William the Conqueror
paused at nearby Berkhamsted
in 1066 en route
to London. Henry VIII
imposed a tax on the town to pay for his wars against Scotland
In common with the majority of communities in Buckinghamshire, Chesham's lollard heritage and puritan traditions ensured it would vehemently resist King Charles I demand for Ship Money a tax on tradesmen and landowners. In 1635 the townsfolk of Chesham protested to the Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, Sir Peter Temple who was reluctantly enforcing a writ requiring payment of a levy to the King. Not surprisingly given the local allegiances to John Hampden the towns' people largely sided with the Parliamentarians at the outbreak of the English Civil War. There is evidence of skirmishes in the area and Influential Parliamentarians such as John Pym were headquartered along with large numbers of troops for a period.
The records of the Posse Comitatus for Chesham in 1798 recorded over 800 men between the ages of 16-60 enrolled in a militia to defend the town in the event of invasion by Napoleon I or to deal with civil unrest. Less than 50 years later, in 1846 a similar register of 22 able-bodied men had been assembled to form the Chesham troop of the Royal Buckinghamshire Yeomanry which coincided with the billeting of troops from the Queen's Own 7th Hussars passing through the town on their way to Ireland.
During the First World War 188 servicemen from Chesham lost their lives (see Landmarks). Alfred Burt a corporal in the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment from Chesham received the Victoria Cross for his actions in September 1915. The town were temporary quarters for several regiments including the Kings Royal Rifles and the Royal Engineers honed their bridge building skills in local parks. Over the duration of the Second World War 80 servicemen lost their lives. Air raid shelters were built by the Council in 1940 although the official view was that the not being a strategic location the town was unlikely to be targeted. In fact at the end of the war it was estimated that 45 bombs fell in the Chesham area and it is known that nine people were killed.
A Chesham workhouse
for 90 paupers was operating in Germain Street as early as 1777. New legislation transferred the control of the Chesham institution to Amersham Poor Law Union
in 1835. However there were long-standing rivalries between the locals of both towns and in July that year violence broke out when an order was given to remove the paupers to Amersham. The Riot Act
was read out to an angry crowd of 500 and arrests followed.
Publicly-funded education started with the opening of a British School in 1825 followed by a National School in 1845, an Infants' School in 1851 and the first Elementary School for girls in 1864. Chesham Building Society, the oldest such society in the world opened for business in 1845. Other public institutions also started at this time with the Fire Brigade coming in 1846, the first cemetery in 1858 and the Police Station built in 1861.
Chesham cottage hospital, built for £865 17s 11d on land provided by Lord Chesham, opened in October 1869 and just ahead of an outbreak of typhoid in 1871. (Despite a local campaign to save the hospital its closure was announced in September 2004). The Council commissioned a waterworks to be built in 1875 in Alma Road and mains drainage in the town and a sewage works was opened adjacent to the Chess, downstream in 1887. A gasworks was constructed on the northern part of the town in 1847.
Transport connections have always come late to the town. The Metropolitan railway eventually reached Chesham in July 1889. Electrification was not to come until the 1960s. Between the two world wars and in the 1950s and 60s there was much expansion in the town with new public housing developments along the Missenden Road, at Pond Park and at Botley.
The town is located in the Chess Valley and is 11 miles south-east of the county town of Aylesbury
and is situated 25 miles (40 km) north west of central London
. It is the fifth largest town in the ceremonial county
of Buckinghamshire, with a population
of some 20,300 people behind Milton Keynes
with 184,500, High Wycombe
with 118,200, Aylesbury
with 69,200 and Amersham
the nearest town with 21,400.
Topography and geology
Chesham is located in the Chiltern Hills
and from its lowest point of 295 feet above sea level rises up valley sides. It lies at the confluence of four dry valleys formed by the meltwater
at the end of the last ice age
which deposited onto the bed rock of chalk, alluvial
gravels, silts, on which the town now sits. Subsequent periods of subsidence and submergence deposited clays and flints. The River Chess
is a chalk-stream which rises from three springs; to the north-west along the Pednor Vale at Frogmoor, at Higham Mead to the north of the town, and to the west near the Amersham Road which converge in the town near to East Street. Prior to the 19th century the Chess was known as the Isene relating to the iron-charged spring waters feeding it. Today the streams are culverted
and conducted below street level before emerging at Waterside and flowing in a south easterly direction towards Latimer. From there it flows to the north of Chenies
and on towards Rickmansworth
after which it joins the River Colne
Built environment and social geography
Until the second half of the 19th century the town centre was located to the south-eastern end of the present High Street. The 'old town' particularly Church St and Germain St have been well-preserved and has become a conservation area which includes a number of impressive residential, institutional and commercial buildings that survive to the present such as the 12th century St Mary's Church, 'The Bury', a Queen Anne town house
and the old workhouse
The population more than doubled from 4000 to 9000 during the 19th century. As a consequence the centre of the town shifted to the east as shops, workshops and cottages sprung up
along the High Street and Berkhampsted Road. In the period after the Second World War the town centre was progressively redeveloped. In the 1960s St Mary's Way was constructed, rerouting the A416 around the congested High Street which avoided the need to widen the street, conserved its character and allowed for its pedestrianisation during the 1990s. Industrial development became centred on two areas. At the southern end of the town at Waterside which was the site of the first mills and factories in the 18th and 19th centuries there is a mixture of original and newly constructed industrial units and at the northern end along the Asheridge Vale there is a further development of generally small commercial business units.
Expansion in housing has occurred in several phases mainly to the east of the old town where artisan's housing sprung up along Berkhamsted Road and subsequently along the many steep valley sides. Initially this development was as a consequence of the extension of the railway to the town in the 1880s, subsequently the promotion of Metroland during the 1920s and the electrification of the Metropolitan Line in the 1960s. Pond Park estate was build in the 1930s. The population grew fast after the Second World War as workers followed employers who moved out from London. The population in 1951 was 11,500 leading to the building of the Chessmount and Hilltop estates by speculative developers in the 1950s and 60s. By 1971 the population had reached 20,000 since when it has only increased slightly. The growing popularity of the Chilterns as a place to live from the latter part of the 20th century onwards led to restrictions on housing and industrial development in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has sustained the demand for further house building in the town. Today an increasing number of those in employment find work outside the town, commuting by car or train as well as an increasing number who are home or office-based using technology to make a living.
A clock tower
constructed in 1992 stands in Market Square on the site of Chesham’s 18th Century Town Hall demolished in 1965. The turret is a reconstruction of the one built onto the original town hall in the 19th century and features the original glass-dialled clock face and clock mechanism from the mid 19th century. (see info box).
Chesham war memorial
stands in a landscaped garden in The Broadway. It depicts an infantryman with his rifle inverted and commemorates those who fell during the first and second World Wars. it was unveiled in 1921. The inscription reads:- To The Glorious Memory Of The Men Of The Town Who Gave Their Lives And To Honour: All Who Served Or Suffered In Cause Of God King And Country Their Deeds Live After Them Faithful Unto Death
Until the 1700s the economic activity of Chesham had remained largely unchanged since the granting of its town charter in 1257. The commercial planting of beechwoods
established Chesham as one of a number local centres in the Chilterns for the production of turned furniture
components and other wooden items often called bodging
, in local workshops. Mills along the Chess concerned with papermaking
and silk weaving
continued to operate until the middle of the 19th century as did 'outworkers' engaged in lace making
and straw plaiting
whose employment was impacted on by changes in fashion mechanization
and cheaper imports from the continent. The mineral-laden unpolluted water of the Chess made it ideal for growing watercress
and this industry flourished in Chesham in the Victorian era
and beds extended along the Chess towards Latimer
, which continued in operation until after the Second World War
The development of a cottage industry
items producing boots and shoes also started in the 18th century. Home-based leather trade workers moved to a newly opened Barnes Boot factory and the Britannia Boot and Shoe Works towards the end of the 19th century by which time there were eight major manufacturers and may small workshops.
In 1829 Beechwoods brushmaking
factory was opened. At its height there were around 12 factories specialising in all types of brushes using locally grown beech with bristles imported mainly from across Asia
. The adoption of nylon
for brushes was the cause of the downturn with only one manufacturer remaining today. Russell's Brushes still make brushes in Chesham.
The brewing of beer was the other major industry in the town during the 19th century. Nash's Chesham Brewery opened in the High Street in 1841. Two other notable rivals were Darvell's Brewery and Sarah Howe and Sons. Competition led to amalgamations around the turn of the 20th century although brewing continued at Chesham Brewery until the 1950s.
Today Chesham has a diverse economic base comprising many typically small-medim sized enterprises representing all business sectors. Within the two industrial parks light engineering and fabrication industry is to be found alongside printers and graphic designers or other technology-based firms, wholesalers, distribution and courier businesses. As elsewhere there has been an expansion of professional business services and consultancies. The pedestrianised High Street retains some of the character of the old market town with some long-established traditional family retailers and also features a street market
on Wednesdays and Saturdays and a now defunct monthly 'farmer's market
'. This individuality was recognised in a survey of town 'high streets' which gave Chesham good marks for its distinctiveness. There are two of the 'big five' supermarkets present however the town's retail outlets have to compete against other town centres nearby at Amersham, Berkhamsted
as well as the large shopping centres in High Wycombe
and Milton Keynes.
From 1950 to 1974 the town was part of South Buckinghamshire
constituency; since boundary changes for the February 1974 general election
it has been in the Chesham & Amersham
constituency. Both constituencies have been solidly Conservative
, and have never returned a non-Tory candidate. The current MP is Cheryl Gillan
. The Conservative Party won the constituency in the 2005 general election
with 54% of the vote; the next most popular party were the Liberal Democrats
, represented by John Ford, with 25% of the vote and Labour
, R.E.Huq 14%. Local turnout at the last election was 68%.
From 1884 Local Government
was administered via Chesham Sanitary district
, which was succeeded in 1894 by Chesham Urban District
under the Local Government Act 1894
. When the Local Government Act 1972
came into effect on April 1, 1974 the urban district was abolished in favour of the Chiltern district
and Chesham then became a civil parish
with a town council
. At town council level, Chesham is divided into 9 electoral wards and 19 constituencies. The political composition of the council as at May 2008 was: Liberal Democrat 12; Conservative 5; and Independent 2. A town mayor is elected by the council on an annual basis.
The oldest church building in Chesham is St. Mary's church, which dates from the 12th century. Chesham has a long history of religious dissent, such as the persecuted Lollards, followers of the John Wycliffe tradition. One of them Thomas Harding was martyred on White Hill, near Dungrove Farm, in 1532. There is a memorial to local Lollards in Amersham, and memorials to Thomas Harding the churchyard and on White Hill. The 17th, 18th and 19th centuries saw the rapid growth of non-conformism especially Baptists. Broadway Baptist Church dates back to 1706 and had its 300th anniversary celebrations in Chesham in 2006. Its roots are in the Chesham and Berkhamsted Baptist Church which dates back to 1640.
In the present day, Chesham has three Baptist churches (Broadway Baptist, Trinity Baptist and Newtown Baptist) and three Anglican churches (St Mary's, Christ Church in Waterside and Emmanuel in Newtown). There is a United Reformed Church (URC), a Brethren Gospel Hall, a Roman Catholic church, a Methodist chapel, a Salvation Army Citadel, a Free Church (at Hiving's Hill) an historic Quaker Friends Meeting House in Bellingdon Road, King's Church and Chesham Spiritualist Church in Higham Road. The Churches of Chesham work very well together in the Churches Together for Chesham (CTC) group. There are also churches in the outlying villages near Chesham town.
The post-war era saw the establishment of Jewish and Muslim communities. The first purpose-built mosque in the town was completed in 2005. During the Second World War the Jewish community used to meet at the cricket pavilion but now meet at Chesham High School.
|| Total |
| 1971 †
Demographics based on 2001 census for the population of Chesham
- Population of town in 2001 comprised 9,920 male and 10,438 female
- Status = 55.5% Married, 9.5% Co-habiting, 35% Single (incl widowed, divorced etc)
- Housing = 72.1% owner occ'd, 0.6% shared ownership, 20.3% rented (pub) 7% rented (private)
- Car ownership = 83% of households in the town own a car.
- Work/studying = 57% employed, 10.6% self-employed, 2.3% Studying,
- Not working = 12.4% retired, 2.0% unemployed, 7.1% caring for family, 5.9% = unable to work
- Travel to work = 73% car, 9.5% train, 1.9% bus, 1.6% bicycle, 0.8% on foot, 11.5% at home.
† prior to boundary changes in 1974 reducing size of Chesham Town area
In contrast to other towns in south Buckinghamshire, Chesham historically was not well served by road transport links. the stage coach
bypassed the town. unlike Amersham there were no turnpikes and consequently roads were poorly maintained. Significant change occurred in the post Second World War period with the opening of the M1 motorway
. The A416 which run through the town from Amersham to Berkhamsted
and connects the town to the more recently upgraded A41
has continued this trend following its diversion around the High Street and later dualing but although enabling more through traffic has also contributed to increasing traffic congestion. meanwhile Chesham's High Street was pedestrianised
in 1990 - the benefits to the High Street have been felt ever since. Whilst some of the previous bustle has been lost, the impact of pedestrianisation has generally been positive.
The town has a tube station near the town centre, which is the last station on the spur off the Metropolitan Line, of the London Underground. The original plan involved the extension of the line from the station to the LNWR at Berkhamsted, but the idea was abandoned as the Metropolitan Line reached Amersham and from thence Aylesbury. There were some sizeable goods yards beyond the station, which were closed and now function as Waitrose's car park except for one portion, which still functions as a coal merchants. In 1959 and electrification of the Metropolitan Line to Chesham at last provided reliable connection to London and the Midlands.
The station originally had two platforms; a short bay platform and a longer main platform (the one currently in use now). This arrangement allowed for far more frequent running of trains. The bay platform has closed, becoming an award winning garden. To reach the station, most passengers need to change trains at Chalfont & Latimer and catch a shuttle train. At peak times, some trains run directly from London to Chesham and back again, made possible by switching work at Chalfont. Since the abolition of London Underground services to Aylesbury in 1961 Chesham has been the furthest Tube station from central London in terms both of distance and of travelling time (Ongar on the Central Line held this honour until its closure in 1994). The stretch between Chalfont & Latimer and Chesham is the longest stretch of Underground line not to contain a station. It is the least used station on the line with trains arriving every half-hour.
The nearest National Rail connections are Amersham station, although the LU line also connects directly to Chalfont & Latimer station, which is a National Rail station. There is also access to London via Berkhamsted railway station on the West Coast Main Line.
Bus and coach services
run several services running from and to the town and nearby villages and towns. Carousel Buses
connect Chesham with towns slightly further afield including Beaconsfield
, High Wycombe and Watford
. National Express
runs a regular service between Oxford
and Stansted Airport
via the town.
The Bovingdon stack
is directly above the town, and Luton airport
is 15 miles away and Heathrow airport
22 miles from Chesham.
Between 1960s and the mid 1990s Primary education
provision in Chesham as elsewhere in the county was organised into First
(ages 4-8) and Middle
(ages 8 - 12) with some Combined
Schools taking pupils across the whole age range (4 -12). In 1996 the arrangements were modified and the age of transfer to Secondary education
was changed to age 11. Today, the schools still retain some elements of the previous arrangement reflected also in their names. There are six Primary Schools
within Chesham with catchment areas based on post codes: - Elmtree First School, Newtown Infant School, Brushwood Junior School, Thomas Harding Junior School, Little Spring Primary School, Waterside Combined School. Attendance by Chesham children at some of the village schools close to the town is also popular.
At secondary level Buckinghamshire continues to operate a system of selective education
with pupils sitting the eleven plus exam
to determine entry to either a Grammar School
or Secondary Modern School
(also known locally as an Upper School). Two Secondary Schools
are located in the town: - Chesham Park Community College
, a co-educational secondary modern school (formed from the merger of Lowndes School and Cestreham School) and Chesham High School
, a co-educational grammar school. Chesham also falls within the catchment areas of two further grammar schools, Dr Challoner's Grammar School
for boys' in Amersham and Dr Challoner's High School
for girls in Little Chalfont
In the Chiltern and South Bucks area around Chesham and over the county boarder in Hertfordshire
there are also a number of independent
fee-paying schools providing education between ages 4-13 and up to age 18. Chesham Preparatory School is an Independent school
which opened in 1938 in the town and shortly after relocated to the outskirts of Chesham, at Orchard Leigh
providing fee-paying and scholarship supported education.
Special, further and adult education provision
Chesham is the location of a nationally renowned Special school
, Heritage House School which first opened in April 1968 and caters for pupils between the ages of 2 to 19 with severe learning difficulties.
A Further education
college Amersham & Wycombe College
was founded in 1973 and has one of its four campuses in the town on the former Cestreham Senior Boys School at Lycrome Road. The collage caters for a range of student cohorts with 2000 students on full-time courses and 5000 on a part-time bases.
comprising a range of provision including academic
courses, is provided a four sites in the town. Chesham Adult Learning Centre in Charteridge Lane, ElmTree School, ElmTree Hill, The Douglas McMinn Centre in East Street and The White Hill Centre White Hill.
The Chiltern branch of the University of the Third Age
(U3A) thrives in the area and meets in nearby Amersham.
Culture and recreation
The Elgiva Hall opened on its original location in 1976. It was rebuilt on its current site in 1998 having made way for an enlarged supermarket development. The New Elgiva, as it is sometimes called, is a 300 seat theatre and community facility run independently by trustees and provides a wide-ranging programme of professional and amateur theatre productions, musicals, dance, one night shows and concerts, pantomimes, films, exhibitions and other public and private events by both professional and community organisations. The Little Theatre by the Park is a facility owned by the Town Council and leased to the Little Theatre Trustees. It is the home to the Chesham Bois Catholic Players and used by other local theatre companies and is used for dance and exercise groups.
Chesham Museum is a newly established small museum currently to be found behind the Gamekeeper's Lodge Pub in Bellingdon Road. it opened in 2003 having first been conceived back in 1981 but due to its growing popularity and success in acquiring artifacts it is currently seeking to relocate more centrally to the Town's High Street.. There is also an annual Schools of Chesham carnival, Beer festival and bi-annual Chesham festival
Chesham Library opened in Chesham in 1923 in a room at Cemetery Lodge on Berkhamsted Road. In 1927, it moved into new premises at 33 High Street on the Broadway which it shared with Chesham Urban District Council. After the war it expanded. A children's section was added in 1952. In 1971 the library moved to Elgiva Lane, a site it shared with the Elgive Theatre prior to the latter's relocation to new premises. Since then it has been updated to provide better access and improved internal facilities including the evolution of the reference library into a Study Centre. It also houses a special collection of Victorian era children's books including some previously owned by Florence Nightingale.
Opposite the town centre is Lowndes Park, a large park with playgrounds and formerly an open air paddling pool. There is a large pond in the park, known as Skottowe's Pond. Lowndes Park was donated to the town of Chesham in 1953. Prior to this it was part of the garden that belonged to the Lowndes family. The Moor, originally an island created by the diversion of the Chess to power mills is today an open space used for recreation and the location for traveling fairs which moved from their traditional location in the town centre in 1938. There are two public swimming pools in the town: a heated open air pool in Waterside (Chesham Moor - Gym & Swim: Outdoor swimming pool and fitness centre), and a roofed pool (and leisure centre) next to Chesham High School at the top of White Hill.
Chesham United F.C.
is the local football club which plays in the Southern League
. It was formed in 1917 through the merger of Chesham Generals (a Baptist Church team) and Chesham Town FC, a founding member of the Southern League which started out in 1894 as Chesham FC. The club's most successful period was during the 1967-68 season when it reached the final of the FA Amateur Cup
but lost out to Leytonstone F.C.
1-0 in front of a crowd of 54,000. The club has struggled financially and performance-wise over recent years but has recently had a cash injection from a new financial backer. Chesham Cricket
Club was founded in 1848 and is one of the oldest clubs in the Thames Valley Cricket League
. Its home ground is The Meadow in Amy Lane. In addition to four senior Xi's and a team of rising stars, it also runs a women's and junior sides. Chesham Rugby union
Club (The Stags), founded in 1980, play their rugby at Chesham Park Community College. The club fields three men's teams, a women's team and a number of mini and junior sides.
Town twinning and cultural exchanges
Chesham has twinned
with three towns in other countries. It is organised by the Chesham Town Twinning Association. The first link-up was in 1980 with Friedrichsdorf
, at the foot of the Taunus
Hills near Frankfurt
. Next followed the association with Houilles
in 1986 and thirdly, in 1995 a tie-up with Archena
, in the Murcia
region of Spain
Emmanuel Church is linked with a church in Prague, Czech Republic and the British Legion is linked with its Canadian equivalent in Buckingham, Quebec.
Media, communications and filmography
The local Chesham newspaper
is the Buckinghamshire Examiner which has an office in Germain Street. Another popular paper that covers Chesham is the Bucks Free Press.
TV and mobile phone signals
Due to its position in a fold in the hill, TV
reception in Chesham can be poor and the town now has its own TV mast. In the 1970s, Chesham was one of the last towns in the south east to receive BBC2
, and parts of it still cannot receive Channel 5
. Houses taking their TV reception from the Chesham transmitter have vertically polarised aerials, whilst those in a good enough position receive their signal from the Crystal Palace Transmitter
in London with horizontally polarised aerials - they always could receive BBC2 (and indeed Channel 4 & Channel 5). Digital terrestrial television
coverage is patchy for much the same reason. Mobile phone
reception can be poor in the steeper parts of Chesham and outlying villages.
The following TV series and episodes were filmed in Chesham's Old Town and pedestrianised High Street:
- Aneurin "Nye" Bevan, Labour politician and father of the National Health Service moved to Asheridge Farm near Chesham, where he died July 6, 1960.
- Lewis Carroll is supposed to have based his "Mad Hatter" character from "Alice in Wonderland" on Roger Crab, who lived in what is now The Drawingroom Art Gallery and Restaurant, in Francis Yard.
- Stephen Fry spent part of his childhood in Chesham, attending Chesham Prep School as detailed in his autobiography 'Moab is my Washpot'. He lived in Stanley Avenue.
- Thomas Harding, 16th-century English religious dissident. He was from Chesham and was executed as a Lollard in 1532. He fought for the right to read the scriptures in English. He was accused of heresy and interrogated in Chesham parish church. He was found guilty and was burnt at the stake in 1532, at Chesham in the Pell, near Botley.
- D. H. Lawrence, (1885-1930) the novelist and poet rented a cottage at Cholesbury near Chesham, while he was working on "The Rainbow" from 1914-1915.
- Arthur Lasenby Liberty, founder of the famous Liberty store in London lived in a house next to the George & Dragon in the High Street.
- William Lowndes (1652 - 1724) British Politician and Secretary to the Treasury who built and lived at Bury House as did many of his relatives and descendants
- Margaret Mee, (1909 - 1988) born in the town and attended Dr Challoner's Grammar School, Amersham. Studied art, and with her husband, Greville Mee moved to Brazil where she taught art and became a renowned botanical artist, particularly the flora of the Amazon rainforest.
- Earl Mountbatten of Burma used to stay, as a child, with his family for summer holidays in Germains House in Fullers Hill.
- Arthur T. F. Reynolds (1909 - 2001) was born in the town and later became a Protestant missionary in China and Japan. he was the author or translator of a number of books.
- Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leading Islamic intellectual and community leader. Founder and director of the Muslim Institute and of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain. Lives in Chesham. Dr Siddiqui is a leading Islamic intellectual and community leader.
- Francis Wilson, TV weatherman. Used to live in Chesham.
- Guy Siner who starred in 'Allo 'Allo! currently resides in Chesham.
- Baines, Arnold &, Birch, Clive (1994). Chesham Century. England: Quotes Limited.
- Branigan, Keith The distribution and development of Romano-British occupation in the Chess Valley.
- Hay, David and Joan (1994). Hilltop Villages of the Chilterns. England: Phillimore & Co Ltd.
- Hepple, Leslie &, Doggett, Alison (1971). The Chilterns. England: Phillimore & Co Ltd.
- Hunt, Julian (1977). Chesham A Pictorial History. England: Phillimore & Co Ltd.
- Piggin, George Tales of Old Chesham. England: Highgate Publications (Beverley) Ltd.
- Rance, Eva Eva's Story, Chesham Since the Turn of the Century. England: The Book Castle.
- Seabright, Colin J Chesham Images of England. England: Gardners Books.