The First Society Exhibition

In Jan 1998 Newsletter Jean Archer recalled the first Society exhibition. It became an annual event which ran for seventeen years.

Letter from the Chairman

The first exhibition of the newly-formed Amersham Society took place in the Market Hall in 1957 and proved to be a success well beyond the expectations of the Committee.

Leslie Elgar Pike, the local historian and estate agent, appointed Society Archivist had, from the very outset, received many articles relating to the history of the town from people who had lovingly preserved them for years. These people were delighted at the prospect of the formation of such a Society for Amersham, and were considerably relieved to be able to pass their treasured articles into the safekeeping of a responsible body. The Committee, therefore decided, for the first time in the history of the town, to hold an exhibition for everyone to enjoy.

Publicity was in the hands of Squadron Leader Frank Thompson (author of ‘Destination Washington’) and during tho course of the week before the great day he was interviewed twice on television to give details of the Society and the forthcoming exhibition.

By this time, members of the Committee had scurried around the town collecting even more items of interest, and by the Friday evening before the exhibition, larger items had all been lugged and hauled up the steep stairs of the hall.

At last the great day dawned and, as I rose in the morning ready to be at the hall early with Pam Appleby, the announcer’s voice after the eight o’clock news added that hundreds of people were expected to pass through Amersham’s 17th century Market Hall at the first Exhibition of the Amersham Society. Frank had clearly performed his task well.

We were soon busy laying out items and descriptions – old photographs were plentiful, but most had not been seen before. Reg Mason laid out a gigantic copy of his 1876 field map of Amersham, so that people could identify where they lived at the present time. The Shardeloes staff accounts going back a couple of centuries were there, an old Amersham Town Band uniform, samples of the old Bucks lace together with bone bobbins, ribbon threaders and cotton waxers, apprentice articles, labels from King’s the Chemist, one showing that Ebenezer King had concocted a perfume for Queen Victoria to celebrate her Jubilee and so on and so on…

But it didn’t end there; during the course of the day people were coming in bearing even more items! One little lady from the Alms Houses came in with an oil painting of the first Shardeloes House and Laurie Haddon (Chemist) brought his father’s tooth extractor. (Albert Haddon had at one time been the only dentist in the town and took teeth out in Chapel Yard at the side of his shop.)

All this time Miss Hilda Chilton (Auntie Hilda) had been making tea in order to refresh a busy Committee. More than two thousand people came through the hall, so the radio had certainly not been wrong. Old Amersham people came who had not been out for years and conversations were both animated and excited. It ended up being a warm intimate exhibition of an Amersham which at that time was not so far away.

At the end of a busy day, Pam and I wearily locked the doors of the Market Hall and started to wend our way across Coleshill fields. We felt great satisfaction as we looked back at Amersham and the Hall, but to our consternation the lights were still on. We had certainly neglected to turn them off, but we looked at one another and both said ‘Auntie Hilda’! We hurried back, but all was well, even though a tired Auntie Hilda had made her way home earlier,

Jean Archer
January 1998 Newsletter