As some of you may be aware I live in a place called Chesham in Buckinghamshire, UK. I arrived here just before Christmas 2013 so I am almost part of the furniture I suppose. Given I have explored the town and a considerable proportion of the surrounding area, I would like to regale you with a quick tour of the town that I call home.
Chesham appears in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Cestreham and seems to have been split between 4 Lords or Overlords who all had their own share of the land, people and the agriculture. The total population was 59 households and 15 Geld units. Through the ages the town has grown somewhat and now stands with a population of some 22,000 people. It was known in the more recent past for the 4 B’s – Brushes, Boots, Baptists and Beer. The trade of brush making was rife in the town from around 1829 until it fell away due to cheaper markets overseas. Bootmakers abounded too in the early to mid 1800’s with the tanned leather being moved up from London to be worked on in small workshops. Again the boot makers trade fell away due to cheaper manufacturing methods. The Baptist movement arose around 1640 and a number of places of worship remain to this day. We have even had a person burned at the stake for being a heretic (Thomas Harding in 1532). Moving on to the Beer, I have seen that in 1937 there were 53 pubs, beer houses and off-licences serving a population of 14,000 (A pub for every 264 people). Now there are 8 pubs in Chesham itself (A pub for every 2,750 people). I am basing my research on book called The Pubs & Inns of Chesham & villages (see below) which didn’t include the Black Cat or the Hen & Chickens, both of them being located close by and which are also still open.
Chesham is now a town mainly of small independent businesses some of which have survived through many generations. Our local bakery is run by the Darvell family, who also ran a brewery in the 1800’s. The bakery was opened in 1838 so some 180 years ago and it is still going strong. The hardware store of Pearces was started in 1937 and still thrives to this day. The town is full of smaller shops, mixed in with a few of the High Street names people know better such as W.H. Smith, Cafe Nero, Costa, Waterstones and the supermarkets of Sainsbury’s & Waitrose.
Surrounding the town is a belt of green and pleasant lands. The majority of the town lies in a valley leading out on all sides by hills all accessible by lanes and roads. The nearby areas of Chartridge, The Vale, Ashleigh Hill, White Hill, Waterside and Chesham Bois are all well served. I have been lucky enough to stroll around the entire town in my time here and it is wonderful that there is access to much of the fields, moor, farmland, lanes and byways. The many paths and bridleways allow walkers, riders and cyclists to be out in the countryside, yet be within minutes of the town centre. We live in the lee of the Chiltern Hills so we have access to them, along with The Ridgeway, fairly close by.
If you want a good walk, in the countryside and in easy reach of London, come and see what it’s like around here. I think you will enjoy it.
- ISBN-13: 978-0955470745 – Pubs & Inns of Chesham & villages