I stayed with the boys the other weekend. I’m staying there about once a month at the moment, they live close to the place I go for my Accelerator Days for my coaching course with the Coaching Academy. (It’s a great course, and a subject for another post.) They live in Chesham, near to a lovely little place called Old Amersham.
I went to “school” on the Saturday and we went out for dinner at a Thai restaurant in Chesham called the Jasmine Kitchen
It was an absolutely excellent meal at a really reasonable price. I’ll be honest, I was tired, I don’t remember the exact details of what we ate, except to say that one of the boys and I had the same. Paulie had a masaman curry. The food was high quality and well cooked. We had a couple of bottles of wine to boot, so I am double impressed with the price. The boys loved the meal so we were all very happy when we left, and had a little walk around the town before going home.
Chesham is a quaint little town, dating back until at least the 10th century, but probably earlier. Historically, Chesham is known for the four Bs – boots, beer, brushes and Baptists. Strange, thought I? The boys hadn’t mentioned this to me. Boots and shoes apparently started in the area as a cottage industry and expanded when tanneries opened locally.
Brewing (beer) started in the nineteenth century, presumably as a result of the Beerhouse Act of 1830 which allowed anyone to brew and sell beer, whether from a public house or their homes for a fairly cheap licence. (Previously brewers had to have a licence from a JP, which was more expensive and a longer process. More like the system in place now.). I suppose this accounts for the number of old, local breweries there used to be, most of which went out of business in the 1970s when they started to be subsumed into the bigger breweries – Whitbread, Watney Mann although that’s all changed since then.
Brush making was introduced to the area in the nineteenth century so that the off-cuts for wood working were used – back in the day, there was much less waste, most things were recycled.
The Baptists relate to the religious dissent which was prevalent in the town and surrounding area in the 16th century, starting in 1532 when religious dissident Thomas Harding was burnt at the stake for being a religious heretic.
The next day, we had a trip to Old Amersham, which is a couple of miles away. It’s an old market town, dating back to before Anglo-Saxon times. (And it’s distinct from Amersham-on-the-Hill, which grew up around the railway station around the start of the twentieth century.
Amersham is also famous for its martyrs. In 1512, seven Lollard dissenters were burned at the stake in Amersham. The Lollards were part of a movement started off by John Wycliffe. Wycliffe was a noted theologian in the fourteenth century, but he was dismissed from Oxford University because he criticised the church. In general terms, the Lollards wanted reform in the English Church. (If only they’d waited 24 years or so, Henry VIII would have done it all for them!) These seven chaps (well, six men and a woman) were executed for the heinous crime of reading the bible in English. There is a plaque in the town to commemorate the executions and there is also information about them in the local museum. There have even been community plays about them, performed in St Mary’s Church.
The boys told me an interesting story about Amersham – in 1200 AD, Geoffrey, Earl of Essex was granted a Royal Charter permitting him to hold a Friday market and fair on 7 and 8 September every year. In 1613 the market day was changed, by charter, to Tuesday. Even during the World Wars, some livestock were taken to the market square on the charter day, to keep it going, otherwise, the charter would have become nullified.
Some people moved to the area, in a house overlooking the market square. Apparently, the newcomers did not know about the charter. Much to their surprise, they woke up to find a modern day fair and market outside their house! Outraged, they tried to get the law changed, without success. They have to put up with the market once a year. The moral of this story is check out your local area prior to moving.
© Susan Shirley 2016