History of the Amersham Area

89-95 High St

The Elephant & Castle (No 97) on the left and Wisteria Cotttage (No 89) the white building on the right.  The photo was taken early in the morning after the annual Fair, hence the welcome absence of cars in the street.

No. 89 (Wisteria Cottage) is where Roald Dahl lived from 1948 to the beginning of 1951 when he went to the USA.  His mother stayed for a few more years.   It is a listed building grade II with an elaborate Georgian-style doorcase and hood.

The census shows owners of the house were mostly of independent means: Sophia Marshall born 1788, Annuitant, recorded in 1851 and 1861. John Marshall born 1831, owner of house property and land, recorded in 1871 and 1881. Living with him in the house in 1871 were his wife Eliza Victoria aged 34 and a servant Ann Wallington 21. Living in the house in 1881 were his wife, and children John 9, Eliza 7, Charles 5 and Edward 3 with a servant Sarah Holt aged 24.  Living in the house in 1891 were his son, Edward 13 and a general domestic servant, aged 71 called Mary Gould. John M Colley 43 Baptist minister recorded in 1901. Abel Dumbarton, 60 Independent recorded in 1911.

No. 91 is where Mr Alfred Bizzell (see photo below) had his grocer’s shop from about 1895. His son had taken over the shop by 1935.  (It is said that Alfred Bizzell, who was responsible for re-opening the Baptist Chapel at the top of The Platt (now Chapel House), would go there with his family and friends at times when Mr Bizzell had calculated that the world would end!)  The shop was later Collectors’  Treasures, specialising in maps.  In 2012 it re-opened as The Grocer at 91, having previously been a shoe and handbag shop.

Nos.91, 93 and 95 with the three large box dormers are a listed buildings grade II.

No. 95, next to the pub,was the home of the Brazil family and the site of the family’s butcher’s shop.  They went on to set up a large sausage and pie factory, which was where Tesco is today.  The house was later occupied by Val Biro, an author who wrote many children’s books about a car called Gumdrop (see article below).  He died in 2014.

Click on any of the photographs below to enlarge it and to see the description.  Then click on forward or back arrows at the foot of each photograph.  To close the pictures, just click on one.

Val Biro and Gumdrop

This article was written by Rodney Fox for a model car club newsletter


Val Biro ( pronounced beer – oh ) is a Hungarian born Artist & Author and “ Gumdrop “ is the name of his car.          

Val Biro at work in Amersham (PHO3301)

Val Biro at work in Amersham (PHO3301)

        

Gumdrop at Amberley Car Rally October 2012

I first met Val at a Classic Car Rally in Chesham, Bucks in the early 1960’s, where he had his 1926 Austin 12/4 ‘Clifton’ Tourer on display.  In front of the car was a table with various childrens books on it all having “ Gumdrop “ in the title.  He wrote and illustrated 39 Gumdrop books in all.

He moved from Hungary in 1939 to study art at The London Art College and soon after received commissions for book cover illustrations, he did some 4,000 in all, he also had a 21 year period with the Radio Times doing at least one illustration per week.

There is now a superb 1/43rd. scale model of “ Gumdrop “ made by Oxford Die-cast, all the detail is correct i.e the well cast artillary type wheels, the Brass plated radiator., a bulb horn mounted on the windscreen pillar, a wooden tool box on the off-side running board and a ‘Pratts’ Motor Oil can on the near-side running board.  One minor comment I would have is that the canvas hood is in semi-gloss black, wich is probably the colour it was when new but now it is a matt light grey, nothing that a repaint would not put right.

Austin Heavy 12/4 "Clifton" Toureer (1/43rd)

Austin Heavy 12/4 “Clifton” Tourer (1/43rd)

Austin Heavy 2