The Drake Family in Amersham

One of our guests, that we welcomed at the Society Recruitment Party on Wednesday, was Barney Tyrwhitt-Drake. He had previously given two well remembered talks to the Amersham Society back in 2000 and 2001 on the history of the Drake family.

Nearly 20 years ago this was a rare opportunity to hear a member of the Drake family talking about his family and the town. The first talk generated a lot of interest and turn out exceeded all expectations and capacity of the Market Hall. So arrangements were made for the second talk in St Mary’s Church.

Below are the reports of these events written by the Society Chairs of the time.

Shardeloes House
Shardeloes House


No family could have been more closely tied up to the history of Amersham then the Drakes, Lords of the Manor for some 400 years, living at Shardeloes, representing the Borough in Parliament and owning lands and property in the area. Richard Drake had been an Equerry to Elizabeth I.

On the 26th January last, Barney Drake gave a fascinating talk on the history of his family in Amersham, and it turned out to be one of the most popular talks ever. The Market Hall was packed and it is much regretted by this Society that, due to the limited capacity of the Hall, people had to be turned away. Needless to say, we resolved to have a repeat performance at the first opportunity.

The Drake personalities over the centuries were presented and described in an interesting cavalcade. Sir William Drake was created a Baronet in 1641 by King Charles I. After building the Almshouses in the High Street in 1657, they then built the Market Hall in 1682.

The present Shardeloes House was erected in the 18th century and enhanced by the development of the beautiful parkland surrounds. In the early part of the 19th century, the route of the London to Birmingham Railway was planned to come through the Town, but Squire Drake, together with other landowners, vociferously resisted this and the Railway planners were forced to withdraw, thus preserving the Old Town. It was not until the latter part of that century that the Metropolitan Line came through Amersham Common (1892) eventually creating Amersham on the Hill.

In 1928, at an auction held in the Market Hall, the Drakes sold off many of their properties in the High Street, some of the houses going for just a few hundred pounds!

During the last War, Shardeloes was leased to a Maternity Hospital and many a baby was born there.

In the 1950’s, Shardeloes House was converted into luxury apartments and at much the same time, the Amersham Society was starting, under the leadership of John Camp.

One thing is for sure – at Barney Drake’s next performance, I shall be sitting in the front row.

Jean Archer
April 2000 Newsletter

Originally the second talk was scheduled for 26 May 2000. Unfortunately due to Barney’s serious illness the return visit took place almost year and half later on 23 Nov 2001.


Playbills for theatrical events sometimes lead with the words – “By popular demand” – whenever a performer makes a return appearance. This would be very apposite in the case of Barney Tyrwhitt-Drake, who very kindly visited the Society again in November once more to present to an appreciative audience the history of his family.

On his first visit some 18 months ago, the Market Hall was just too small to accommodate all who wished to hear Barney speak and we had to turn away many disappointed members and their guests. We were thus extremely grateful when the Rector, Tim Harper, suggested that on this occasion we might like to hold the lecture in St. Mary’s Church. Given this opportunity, we decided that we would combine the event with an additional mini-tour and talk on the Drake Chapel by Michael Andrews-Reading. To round off the evening, a glass of wine was offered to all attending – this appeared to be received well!

To all who helped to make the evening the success it was, raising useful contributions to Barney’s nominated charity and the Museum in the process, we are very grateful –

  • to those manning the doors and the bar
  • to Julian Hunt for the use of his large projection screen
  • to Michael for his talk on the Drake Chapel and his several tours
  • to the Rector for the use of St. Mary’s as the perfect setting

and of course

  • to Barney Tyrwhitt-Drake himself for so readily agreeing to address us again and satisfy all of those who could not hear him last time.

Harry Morton
January 2002 Newsletter