King's Arms Hotel, Amersham Old Town
|Population||14,384 (2011 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||HP6, HP7|
Amersham (// AM-ər-shəm) is a market town and civil parish within the unitary authority of Buckinghamshire, England, in the Chiltern Hills, 27 miles (43 km) northwest of central London, 15 miles (24 km) from Aylesbury and 9 miles (14 km) from High Wycombe. Amersham is part of the London commuter belt.
There are two distinct areas:
- Old Amersham, set in the valley of the River Misbourne, containing the 13th-century parish church of St. Mary's and several old pubs and coaching inns
- Amersham-on-the-Hill, which grew in the early 20th century around Amersham, which was served by the Metropolitan Railway, now the Metropolitan line, and the Great Central Railway.
Old Amersham occupies the valley floor of the River Misbourne. This is a chalk stream which dries up periodically. The river occupies a valley much larger than it is possible for a river the size of the present River Misbourne to cut, which makes it a misfit stream. The valley floor is at around 100 m (330 ft) OD, and the valley top is at around 165 m (541 ft) OD. It is likely that the valley was formed under conditions akin to those required to form a dry valley. Amersham-on-the-Hill is built on the north side of the Misbourne valley on a small plateau that forms the watershed between the Misbourne and the neighbouring River Chess.
Records date back to pre-Anglo-Saxon times when it was known as Agmodesham, and by the time that the Domesday Book was written, around 1086, it had become known as Elmodesham. Further spelling variations are seen in 1460 as Agmondysham and Amytysham 
The Domesday entry is:
- Geoffrey de Mandeville holds Amersham. It answers for 7+1⁄2 hides. Land for 16 ploughs; in lordship 2 hides; 3 ploughs there. 14 villagers with 4 smallholders have 9 ploughs; a further 4 possible. 7 slaves; meadow for 16 ploughs; woodland 400 pigs. The total value is and was £9; before 1066 £16. Queen Edith held this manor.
Queen Edith was the wife of Edward the Confessor and sister of King Harold, and after her death in 1075, the land passed to William the Conqueror, who granted it to Geoffrey de Mandeville (died c. 1100).
In 1200, his descendant Geoffrey de Mandeville (who became the Earl of Essex in 1213) obtained a charter for Amersham allowing him to hold a Friday market and a fair on 7 and 8 September. In 1613, another charter was granted to Edward, Earl of Bedford, changing the market day to Tuesday, and establishing a statute fair on 19 September.
In 1521, seven Lollard dissenters (William Tylsworth, John Scrivener, Thomas Barnard, James Morden, Robert Rave, Thomas Holmes and Joan Norman) were burned at the stake in Amersham. A memorial to them was built in 1931 and is inscribed as follows: "In the shallow of depression at a spot 100 yards left of this monument 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". The Universal Magazine for September 1749 (p. 139) quotes that 'William Tylesworth' was in fact burnt in 1506, and that Thomas Bernard and James Morden (a labourer), were burnt about two years later.
The population in 1841 was 3,098.
Amersham sent two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the unreformed House of Commons from 1625, and was considered a rotten borough until the Reform Act 1832 stripped it of its representation. The town was then part of the county constituency of Buckinghamshire. From 1885 it was in the Aylesbury constituency, in 1950 it formed part of the South Buckinghamshire seat and in 1974 the current Chesham and Amersham constituency was created. Since then Ian Gilmour (1974–1992) and then Cheryl Gillan (1992–2021) have represented the constituency on behalf of the Conservative party. In the 2019 General Election Ms Gillan was returned with 55.4% of the vote. After her death on 4 April 2021, the seat went to the Liberal Democrats for the first time since its creation when Sarah Green won the ensuing by-election on 17 June 2021.
There are two tiers of local government in Amersham, at parish (town) and county level: Amersham Town Council and Buckinghamshire Council. The town council is based at Flint Barn Court on Church Street in the old town.
From 1894 until local government reorganisation in 1974 the area was administered by Amersham Rural District Council, which was based at the Amersham Union Workhouse on Whielden Road until 1931 and at Elmodesham House at 42 High Street from 1931 to 1974. Amersham Parish Council was also established in 1894 and initially met at Amersham Market Hall, a prominent neoclassical style structure in the High Street. In 1974 Amersham Rural District Council merged with Chesham Urban District Council to form Chiltern District Council, whilst Amersham Parish Council became Amersham Town Council. Chiltern District Council was abolished in 2020, merging with Buckinghamshire County Council and the other Buckinghamshire district councils to form a new unitary authority called Buckinghamshire Council.
The area of the town now known as Amersham-on-the-Hill was referred to as Amersham Common until after the arrival of the railway in 1892. After this date the growth of the new area of the town gradually accelerated, with much work being done by the architect John Kennard. It is now known as "Amersham-on-the-Hill", "Amersham Town" or the "New Town". Amersham station is a terminus of the Metropolitan line. Much of this route is shared with the mainline railway from Marylebone to Aylesbury. Before electrification, the Metropolitan line ran via Aylesbury to Verney Junction and Brill. London Transport abandoned plans to electrify beyond Amersham and the stations and line were sold to British Railways on 11 September 1961. To this day, these Chiltern Railways stations display a characteristic Metropolitan line architecture.
The town features in the 1973 John Betjeman documentary Metro-land about the growth of suburban London in the 20th century. The construction of the railway line was controversial and objections from local landowners prevented its construction until 1892. The station was built a mile to the north of the old market town and has provided the focus of Amersham-on-the-Hill ever since. Chiltern Railways share the railway track with London Underground and run services from Marylebone to Aylesbury Vale Parkway.
In March 2010, the Government announced the route of HS2, the proposed high-speed railway from London to Birmingham. The line will cross the Colne Valley and the M25 motorway on a viaduct, and then through a 10-mile (16 km) tunnel under the Chiltern Hills to emerge near South Heath, northwest of Amersham. The route runs roughly parallel to the A413 and the London to Aylesbury Line. A campaign of opposition is co-ordinated by a protest group, Amersham Action Group, which with other protest groups is part of the HS2 Action Alliance.
Early trade at Amersham Market was in local grain, much of which was sold to London merchants. During the 17th century and 18th century a key industry in the town was brewing. Giles Watkins (died 1636) built a brewery near St Mary's church in 1634. His brother Henry Watkins was a royal servant, a page of the robes to Anne of Denmark. William Weller of High Wycombe purchased a brewery in 1775. He, and his heirs, expanded the business by buying a number of local public houses during the next 150 years. In 1929 Gerrard Weller sold the brewery and 133 tied public houses to Benskins of Watford for £360,000, a move that led to the end of brewing in Amersham.
In addition to brewing, tanning, lace manufacture and brickmaking all had a prominent place in the manufacturing past of the town. During the Second World War, the Radiochemical Centre, a scientific research establishment, arrived in the town. This became Amersham International, then Amersham plc, and now, after a number of changes of ownership and name, is part of GE Healthcare. Halma, specialists in hazard and life protection products and headquartered in Old Amersham, is now a member of the FTSE 100 index.
Places of worship
In Old Amersham stands the Grade I listed Church of England St Mary's Church, a 13th-century building that has been altered over the years. The present exterior is largely Victorian but the building contains a 14th-century font, 17th century glass from Lamer Manor in Hertfordshire, and monuments in the chancel and in the Drake Chapel to 17th and 18th century notables.
Also in the town there is the Grade II* listed Amersham Meeting House (a Quaker meeting house), two Methodist churches, St John's in Woodside Road and another in the High Street, and King's Church Amersham, a free church.
There are two secondary schools located in Amersham: Dr Challoner's Grammar School for boys, and Amersham School, a non selective co-educational academy. Additionally, Amersham is included in the catchment areas of both Dr Challoner's High School, a girls' grammar school in Little Chalfont, and Chesham Grammar School, a co-educational grammar school in Chesham.
The Dr Challoner's schools share a common foundation dating back to 1624 when the grammar school (then for boys only) started in Old Amersham. Dr Challoner's Grammar School moved to its present site in Amersham-on-the-Hill in 1905 when it became co-educational. In 1937 the school was incorporated into the state system. After rapid growth it was decided to establish Dr Challoner's High School for Girls in nearby Little Chalfont in 1962 and Dr Challoner's Grammar School reverted to being for boys only. In 2015 Dr Challoner's Grammar School once again welcomed girls into its Sixth Form.
Amersham School opened on its current site in 1964 as the Brudenell County Secondary School (for girls). Following the closure of the Raans County Secondary School (for boys) in 1988, Brudenell became co-educational and was renamed Amersham School.
Amersham is served by several primary schools, including Our Lady's Roman Catholic Primary, Chestnut Lane School, Elangeni School, Chesham Bois Church of England School, St. Mary's Church of England Primary School, St. George's Church of England Infant School and Woodside Junior School.
There are two private preparatory schools: The Beacon School (boys) and Heatherton House (girls).
The Henry Allen Nursery School is Amersham's only state maintained nursery school.
Sport and recreation
Amersham has a King George's Field in memorial to King George V. Near the playing field is the "Chiltern Pools", one of the five venues used by the Amersham Swimming Club. The Chiltern Pools complex also contains the Climb, an indoor climbing wall, unique to the region. Chiltern Pools consists of three swimming pools, including a 25-metre main pool, a fun pool with three water slides and a diving pool with a moveable floor to allow all ages to progress in swimming ability. Chiltern Pools also includes a large gym facility with cardiovascular and weights equipment. Since 2007 a third generation muga with synthetic grass allows all year play.[clarification needed]
Situated also at the Barn Meadow site, (School Lane, Old Amersham) is the 61 Judo Club, a family-orientated, successful and competitive judo club catering for serious and social players alike. It has currently (2020) around 90 active members, and has provided several members of recent British Junior, Senior and Masters squads.
Hervines Park and Barn Meadow host some cricket in the summer, but the main cricket clubs in the town are Amersham Cricket Club, which play in the grounds of Shardeloes, and Amersham Hill Cricket Club. Amersham and Chiltern Rugby Football Club play rugby union at Weedon Lane in Amersham-on-the-Hill. The Chiltern Harriers Athletics Club is the local athletics club. Amersham and Chalfont Hockey Club is the local hockey club with its own playing facility on the Amersham Campus of the Buckinghamshire College Group (formerly Amersham & Wycombe College). The club has around 600 playing members, including one of the largest junior sections in the country.
Media, communications and filmography
Local news media
The local newspaper covering Amersham and the surrounding area was the Buckinghamshire Examiner founded in 1889. Another Buckinghamshire newspaper with a circulation area covering Amerham is the Bucks Free Press.
TV and mobile phone signals
Due to its position in a fold in the hill, TV and radio reception in Amersham can be poor and the town now has its own TV mast (at Chesham Bois). In the 1970s, Amersham was one of the last towns in the south east to receive BBC2, and parts of it still cannot receive Channel 5. Houses taking their TV reception from the Chesham Bois transmitter have vertically polarised aerials, whilst those in a good enough position receive their signal from the Crystal Palace Transmitter in London with horizontally polarised aerials – they always could receive BBC2 (and indeed Channel 4 & Channel 5). Digital terrestrial television coverage is patchy for much the same reason. Mobile phone reception can be poor in the steeper parts of Chesham and outlying villages.
In popular culture
The town has been used in a number of films, including:
- The Duke Wore Jeans (1958)
- Carve Her Name with Pride (1958)
- Circus of Horrors (1960)
- Murder at the Gallop (1963)
- The Jigsaw Man (1983)
- The Shooting Party (1985)
- Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) – Featured one of the suites in the Crown Hotel
- Metroland (1997)
- Katy Brand, actress/comedian/writer, born and brought up in Amersham
- Simon Church, Wales international footballer, born in Amersham and attended Amersham School
- Giles Cooper, entertainment producer, born in Amersham. Best known as Chairman of the Royal Variety Performance
- Ruth Ellis, last woman hanged in England, buried in St Mary's Cemetery
- Paul Foot, comedian, born and raised in Amersham
- Cindy Gallop, advertising chief turned adult industry entrepreneur, born in Amersham
- Walter Goehr conductor, and his wife, photographer Laelia Goehr, lived at 17, Batchelors Way at the start of World War II.
- Allan Gray (real name Josef Zmigrod), émigré composer best known for his film scores in the 1940s, lived in Bois Lane
- Eddie Howe, Newcastle United manager, born in Amersham
- Damien Lovelock, Australian musician, lead singer of The Celibate Rifles, born in Amersham
- Arthur Machen, resident in Amersham, buried in St Mary's Cemetery
- Bill Pertwee, actor, best known as Warden Hodges in the sitcom Dad's Army, born in Amersham
- Eileen Ramsay, photographer, brought up in Amersham
- Tim Rice, born in Amersham
- Jennifer Worth, nurse and author of The Midwife Trilogy, raised in Amersham
Amersham is twinned with:
- Neighbourhood Statistics 2011 Census Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Accessed 1 February 2013
- Field, John (1980). Place-names of Great Britain and Ireland. Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles. p. 24. ISBN 0389201545. OCLC 6964610.
- http://aalt.law.uh.edu/AALT1/H6/CP40no798/bCP40no798dorses/IMG_0983.htm ; third entry from the bottom
- Hunt, J (2001). A History of Amersham. Phillimore. ISBN 1-86077-187-4.
- But see: S. McSheffrey Gender and heresy: women and men in Lollard communities, 1420–1530, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995), pp.97, 215.
- The National Cyclopaedia of Useful Knowledge, Vol.III, (1847), London, Charles Knight, p.898.
- Welch, Adrian (4 May 2014). "High & Over, Amersham House, Buckinghamshire". e-architect.
- "On Location with Poirot – The King of Clubs". www.tvlocations.net.
- "Dame Cheryl Gillan, Welsh Secretary under David Cameron and staunch opponent of HS2 – obituary". The Telegraph. 5 April 2021. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
- "Chesham and Amersham by-election won by Lib Dems". BBC News. 18 June 2021. Archived from the original on 18 June 2021. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
- "Amersham Town Council". Retrieved 4 June 2022.
- "40-44 High Street". Amersham Museum. Retrieved 6 June 2021.
- Historic England. "Market Hall (1221420)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 6 June 2021.
- "The Buckinghamshire (Structural Changes) Order 2019". Legislation.co.uk. Retrieved 6 June 2021.
- Coppock, JT (1962). The Chilterns. The Geographical Association.
- High Speed Rail Department of Transport, Retrieved 25 November 2010
- Table HS2 Action Alliance Affiliated Groups, Retrieved 25 November 2010
- Julian Hunt, History of Amersham (Stroud, 2019), p. 41.
- Britain's richest towns: 10 – 1 Telegraph online 19 April 2008 Retrieved, 10 July 2009
- "St. Mary's Church & new Rectory". Amersham Museum. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
- Historic England. "Church of St Mary (1124855)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
- "Amersham Quakers". Chiltern Quakers. Archived from the original on 21 November 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
- "Amersham Methodist Circuit". Amersham Circuit. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
- King's Church Amersham: https://www.kca.church/our-history
- "Raans Secondary School - GOV.UK".
- “Amersham Golf Club”, "Golf's Missing Links".
- "Amersham Swimming Club". Archived from the original on 27 December 2013.
- "Buckinghamshire Examiner". Archived from the original on 25 May 2009. Retrieved 19 May 2009.
- Bucks Free Press Archived 22 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- Chiltern Voice
- Chesham transmitter Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- Shalam, Sally (13 March 2010). "The Crown, Amersham, Buckinghamshire". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
- Dessau, Bruce (19 October 2007). "Is Katy Brand the new Catherine Tate?". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
- "Simon Church: Wales striker leaves MK Dons for Roda JC". BBC Sport. 24 August 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- Charity, Royal Variety. "Giles Cooper – biography | Royal Variety Charity". www.royalvarietycharity.org.
- Soodin, Vince (11 December 2003). "Time to put Ruth Ellis murder case to rest". Bucks Free Press. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
- Hay, Malcolm (25 September 2006). "Paul Foot: Interview". Time Out London. Time Out Group. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
- "Cindy Gallop Make Love Not Porn founder on destigmatising sex and why Emma Watson is wrong".
- Bucks Free Press
- Allan Gray biography, Amersham Museum
- Geldard, Suzanne (24 May 2011). "The Eddie Howe story: Part two". Lancashire Telegraph. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
- Cannane, Steve (3 August 2019). "Singer, soccer commentator, yoga teacher: Celibate Rifles frontman Damien Lovelock dies". ABC News. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
- Stanley, Richard (30 October 2004). "Pan's people". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
- Barker, Dennis (27 May 2013). "Bill Pertwee obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- Pickthall, Barry (21 February 2017). "Eileen Ramsay obituary". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 26 August 2022. Retrieved 26 August 2022.
- "Sir Tim Rice – English lyricist". britannica.com. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- "Sir Tim Rice – The Theatre Workshop". www.thetheatreworkshop.com. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- "Obituary: Jennifer Worth". The Daily Telegraph. 29 July 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2012.