Section V of the booklet “50 years of the Amersham Society” covers the following chapters:The Newsletter and other communications to members · Traffic, litter and Licensing · Meetings, lectures and visits · Membership · 50th Anniversary · Summary · The Chairman writes · Acknowledgements.
The Newsletter and other communications to members
The Society is very conscious of the impact of technology on our communication with members and has been fortunate to have Matthew Jones’ willing collection of information about Amersham on his web site. Increasingly frequently, members are commenting on issues and sending viewpoints to the Society by e-mail. However, members continue to rely on, and appreciate, our Newsletter which has appeared in September, January and May each year since 1995, giving current news of both the Society and the Museum. Whilst Christine Standring has put the newsletter together, it is a tribute to members that so many interesting articles are submitted for inclusion, in particular the historic research carried out by Dr. Michael Brooks. His study of the bells of St. Mary’s Church, the historic charitable institutions of Amersham and the Fraternity of St. Katherine have been particularly memorable.
Over the years, the Society has supported the provision of a Tourist Information Office in Amersham, and although funding was not found for the purchase of premises next to the Museum (to our shared benefit), the office did operate in the unlikely surroundings of the Tesco car park with active Society support until its closure in 2002. We redesigned, produced and installed the Tourist Information Board, with co-operation from the Amersham Town Council and the Old Town Business Association, and continue to distribute brochures, leaflets, etc. to pubs, hotels, restaurants and shops in the area, to ensure that visitors to the district know what Amersham has to offer.
Traffic, litter and Licensing
The longest running saga for the Society has been to date, and will continue to be for some time, the control of traffic and parking arrangements in the High Street, the Broadway and Whielden Street. Since 1999 various studies of the pattern of parking have been undertaken by volunteers, and a most useful report was produced by Patrick Ferral. Chiltern District Council launched the Special Parking Area, taking over responsibility from Thames Valley Police on the 1st September 2005, and declared that no changes would be made for the first year. Whilst the advent of traffic wardens has made some changes in the patterns of parking, on the unregulated areas, residents and visitors are still frustrated by all-day parking of office and shop staff. Residents are anxious that any changes made reflect the desire to limit obtrusive street furniture spoiling the town’s appearance, while respecting the needs of residents and the town’s businesses.
Allied to this has been a drive to keep the gutters clean and repeated requests have been made for the County Council to impose temporary parking restrictions to allow for thorough gutter and drain cleaning. This has been in addition to the pursuance of improved cleanliness of the paths and more regular emptying of litter bins, exacerbated by the weekend revels of those who frequent the local hostelries.
Much time was spent by Committee members and others in making representation to the Chiltern District Council when the new Licensing Laws were put into effect. Whilst initially, considerable success was achieved in providing safeguards for the well-being of residents (such as restrictions on the use of outdoor areas and supervision at the entrance) despite longer opening hours, it was particularly disappointing that the holders of the Licence were successful in reversing these safeguards on appeal to Aylesbury Magistrates, when members could not have representation and when these changes were not supported by Chiltern District Council. Vandalism and rowdy behaviour continue to have a deleterious effect on the quality of life in the Old Town, especially during school and university vacation times.
Meetings, lectures and visits
Over many years, members have enjoyed a wide range of meetings and visits, initially under the aegis of Jim Olney, Joan Stratfull and Nora Chisholm, and later devised by Jean Johnson, Elizabeth Sainsbury and Christine Standring. Members will all have vivid memories of lively meetings, such as Annie Hamilton-Pike’s talk about the Brazil Family, Howard Horn – the Chiltern Shepherd and Alison Doggett’s description of the Chilterns as Ancient Countryside, in particular. Even on the coldest, wettest evenings, attendance at meetings has been good. A glass of wine and an interesting speaker has ensured that even the Annual General Meeting in the autumn has been well-attended.
Over recent years, members have enjoyed visits linked with background information from previous talks, adding considerably to our knowledge and enjoyment. Most memorable were perhaps the Wartime Reminiscences of members and the talk prior to our visit to Bletchley Park, where members offered first-hand experience of the work of decoding. Our visit to the House of Commons was preceded by a visit from our local MP, Mrs. Cheryl Gillan, and our visit to Kelmscott, the home of William Morris, followed the fascinating talk given by Dorothy Wise, one of the guides. We have enjoyed a visit to the current home of the Tyrwhitt-Drake family at Bereleigh in Hampshire, and seen for ourselves many of the memorabilia from their time at the original family seat at Shardeloes.
Some four years ago, despite a sound financial footing, it was decided to raise the membership fee for the Society to £8 for two adults living at the same address or £5 for an individual, to enable the use of Standing orders for subscriptions well into the future, without revising the subscription fee. There can be few ways in which local residents can enjoy such a range of talks, visits and newsletters for such a modest fee. We are proud that, although the population is smaller than that of many towns with Societies affiliated to the Civic Trust, we boast a substantial membership and a core of willing volunteers.
We concluded our 50th Anniversary summer with three special events – a Garden Party; a recording of Gardeners’ Question Time and a Cheese and Wine evening in the barn at Glory Farm in Winchmore Hill. The celebratory Garden Party in the grounds of Hinton House, the home of Judith and Charles Goodwyn on the 2nd July, was an opportunity to welcome many members and potential members to celebrate with us in beautiful surroundings; our local MP, the Rt. Hon. Cheryl Gillan spoke appreciatively of the role the Society has played in local life. The following evening, thanks to the excellent organisation of Christine Standring, saw us attending closely to the advice of the Gardeners’ Question Time team, recording the much-loved Radio 4 programme for Society members in the hall of Dr. Challoners’ Grammar School. We hope that this weekend raised the profile of the Society and made everyone even more aware of the charm of the town in which we live. On the 9th August, we gathered in the idyllic surroundings of the barn of Glory Farm at Winchmore Hill, the home of Robert and Roz Bennett, and were entertained to hear Robert’s research into the farm’s history in the company of good friends.
In 2006 the Amersham Society celebrated its 50th Anniversary. The founders would surely be pleased to know what has been achieved over the years and the townspeople can be justly proud of the efforts of so many to realise the dreams and aspirations of those founders.
The Amersham Society will continue to work to preserve the character and amenities of the town, promote standards of architecture, conservation, planning and design and continue to hold regular lectures and meetings to ensure that Amersham remains a good place in which to live, work and shop, as well as an interesting place to visit but does not become a historic backwater as we move through the 21st century.
The town has its fine Museum established on a firm financial footing and supported by a Friends organisation and an enthusiastic band of volunteers, thanks to the hard work of the Society in the past.
The Chairman writes:
It has been my privilege to be the Society Chairman during its 50th Anniversary year and whether you are a long-standing resident, new to Amersham, or indeed just interested in our lovely town, I hope you enjoy this History and that it contributes to your understanding of how Amersham evolved in recent years.
In nearly all the significant developments in the last 50 years, a time of enormous social, economic and cultural change, the Amersham Society has sought to promote interest in local history and culture, as well as to influence progressive conservation, in line with our affiliation to the Civic Trust.
At our Jubilee, we have a strong membership of 465, the Amersham Museum is now established as a separate charitable foundation and we believe that the town is passed on to the next generation in good order, both in its built environment and its vibrancy and prosperity.
On behalf of the Committee of the Society, my thanks go to Dr. Michael Brooks who has written most of the history and to Christine Standring and Barbara Webber who have brought the booklet to fruition.
Martin Brooks Chairman,
The Amersham Society
In preparation of this booklet the following sources have been consulted:
- The Minute Books and Account Books of the Amersham Society.
- The Minute Book of the Amersham Historic Buildings Trust (Amersham Museum).
- Unpublished previous histories written by Frank Peers and Peter Leder.
- Personal recollections by Anthony del Tufo, Philip Plumbly and Brian Fuller.
- The Amersham Society Newsletters from 1974.
Dr Michael Brooks,
Christine Standring and