A closer look at Amersham and Chesham
PUBLISHED: 15:01 27 January 2016 | UPDATED: 15:01 27 January 2016
Amersham and Chesham are undoubtedly 'stand out' Chiltern towns with superb independent shopping, great pubs, cafes and restaurants
Under three miles apart, and with just the village of Chesham Bois between them, it’s remarkable that these two market towns have retained their separate identities, but they have achieved this feat and the plaudits must go to both local communities for their upkeep and generations of care for truly local heritage.
Don’t get us wrong, there isn’t a rivalry – indeed the neighbours have a lot in common and same shared history. However, when you consider how much both towns have grown, particularly during the last century and with the London commuter effect, it is some achievement that neither has succumbed to ‘clone town’ disease or that one has swallowed up the other in the Metropolitan Green Belt.
It can be a surprise to learn that Chesham, population wise, is the larger of the two, Amersham at around 15,000 is two-thirds in number of ‘next door’. This is probably because Amersham is essentially split between the historic Old Town and a climb up the hill to the New Town.
These are not insular towns, they’ve shifted and adjusted over time as agricultural life gave way to mills and small-scale industry (Chesham was once renowned for boot-making, while brewing helped build Amersham’s fortunes). Woven into their history is a shared interest that you often find in Buckinghamshire’s towns and villages, a willingness to be different, what we might call ‘the awkward squad’ who stand up to be counted, or ‘quirky’.
Nearly 500 years ago seven Lollard dissenters, those following the religious and political teachings of John Wycliff were burned at the stake in Amersham. They finally got a memorial in 1931 which records ‘seven Protestants, six men and one woman were burned to death at the stake. They died for the principles of religious liberty, for the right to read and interpret the Holy Scriptures and to worship God according to their consciences as revealed through God’s Holy Word.’
Meanwhile in Chesham another man was burnt for being a heretic, but by the 18th century the town was known for its dissent from the more mainstream forms of Christianity, with a notable community of Baptists, meetings of Quakers and Wesleyan Methodists.
Floral delights of two beautiful towns
One thing the two sets of townspeople happily have in common today is a real appreciation of their good fortune to live in this lovely, leafy part of Buckinghamshire, and they make the most of the scenery and historic settings in national competitions. Visit either (particularly in summer) and you’ll find yourself in a floral and green fiesta.
2015 saw Chesham awarded a prestigious Gold in the Thames & Chilterns in Bloom regional competition for the second year in a row and declared Best Large Town for the fourth consecutive year. Lowndes Park, the town’s 36 acres of open space with play areas (see www.lowndespark.org.uk), was entered for the first time in the regional parks section and picked up a Silver Gilt.
Chesham in Bloom’s own local awards are always hotly contested, with prizes for the like of best front garden, hanging baskets and displays by local businesses. The 2016 Photographic Competition for Chesham in Bloom has been launched and entries forms can be found at www.chesham.gov.uk.
In Amersham the Town Council was delighted when 2015 saw the town receive Gold in the Britain in Bloom Awards for the second year running. The town also took Gold in the Thames and Chiltern in Bloom awards for conservation and wildlife and the Memorial Gardens display.
Volunteers to help keep the town beautiful, even if you only have the odd half an hour to spare are always welcome, contact the Town Council or email Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amersham also recently received the inaugural ‘Best Play Initiative’ at the year’s Fields in Trust Awards held at Lords Cricket Ground. A major factor here was the impressive refurbishment of the King George V Playing Field’s infant playground.
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