History of the Amersham Area

The Cheese family

This article was written by Dr Michael Brooks for the Amersham Society newsletter and is reproduced with his permission.

John Cheese (1834-1906) had three sons, the second of whom was a Doctor of Medicine [and three daughters – see below] . The eldest Clement McMichael Cheese was a London solicitor who bought up many of the properties in Amersham from the Tyrwhitt-Drake family at the time when they were beginning to relinquish their hold on the town. Included in his purchases was the King’s Arms which had become very dilapidated. He was responsible for rebuilding what was then part garage, part hotel and part tea-rooms into its present form. This is sometimes criticised as “Brewer’s Tudor” but is none-the-less a most attractive feature of the High Street. Much of the timber is original, dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. Clement Cheese also purchased Weller’s Brewery in Church Street, ripping out the beer vats. This was later to become the Goya perfume factory in 1946. When that closed in 1985 the building was restored as the Badminton Court offices.

Clement “Mac” Cheese was something of an eccentric. He wore a long black cloak in summer and winter and a straw hat. On Christmas Day he would walk about the High Street giving a gold sovereign to everyone he met.  He provided Alms Houses in Whielden Street for the use of tramps who had nowhere else to go between Uxbridge and Aylesbury when they could not be accommodated at the Amersham Workhouse. There is a nice story that the Bishop performing the opening of the Alms Houses took him for an inmate and gave him a silver shilling. (“Mac” Cheese was born in 1872 and died in 1945.)

The Cheese family went on holiday in style. A railway coach was made available for them at High Wycombe and the whole family, together with staff and all their belongings, journeyed there by horse-drawn vehicles over the hill from Amersham. All was then loaded into the coach with an ample supply of food and drink to sustain them on the journey. The following day the coach would be joined to a train from Paddington and off they went to the West country.

The family moved from Amersham to Dorchester, taking with them cuttings from a magnificent fig tree which flourished in the courtyard of Elmodesham House from the 18th century. This disappeared during the Council’s tenure, but during restoration of the courtyard cuttings were recovered from the Cheese’s tree – one of these now flourishes in the ancestral home and is now producing figs.

The Museum doesn’t have any photos of John Cheese or “Mac” Cheese.  Does anyone reading this article have a photo they could lend us to scan for the Museum’s collection?

Although we still don’t have any photos of John or “Mac”, we have heard from Lauren Gessler, an American descendant of a brother of John Cheese, William Edward Cheese. William’s grand-daughter, Mildred Jenny White was brought up in Bicester, married an American fighting for the Canadian forces during WWI and emigrated to Canada and the United States. Lauren is Mildred’s grand-daughter.

Gertrude Jane Lane Hanbury Wilkinson (née Cheese), sister of "Mac" Chhese

Gertrude Jane Lane Hanbury Wilkinson (née Cheese), sister of “Mac” Cheese (PHO3632)

Her research has produced some interesting information about the Amersham branch of the Cheese family and she has provided some photos.  When Clement MacMichael Cheese died in 1945, his very large estate of £68,500 pounds (the equivalent of  £2.6 million in 2015) was left to his sister Gertrude Jane Lane Wilkinson. 

Sarh Lane Hunt (née Cheese), sister of "Mac" Cheese (PHO3634)

Sarah Lane Hunt (née Cheese), sister of “Mac” Cheese

As shown in John’s obituary notice below, Clement had three sisters including Gertrude to whom he left his estate, Sarah and Mary Harriet.  Photos of the first two are shown here.  Clement’s mother, Mary Jane MacMichael, who was born in 1829, was the daughter of Dr. William MacMichael (1783-1839), who was Physician to King George IV and King William IV, and Mary Jane Freer. 

 

John Cheese’s obituary

It is with much regret that we record the death Mr. John Cheese, one of the best known and most respected inhabitants of the town, which occurred at his residence, Woodville House, on Saturday, at the age of 72 years. Mr. Cheese will be much missed in the parish for his benevolence to the poor and for his readiness to assist Liberally in any good work. By his good deeds he had earned the respect of all with whom he had come in contact, and his advice was sought in times of difficulty by rich and poor. He was ever ready to promote goodwill among the townsmen with whom he was associated on so many occasions. There are still many who can remember the pleasant evenings spent at Woodville House and the entertainments provided for them by the deceased and the late Mrs. Cheese during the Christmas season. During his long and useful life, he had filled many public offices, and always carried out the duties in able manner, giving careful attention all the details. Among the offices which he filled so efficiently may be mentioned those of churchwarden, which he held for over 25 years, and vice-chairman of the Amersham Board of Guardians, of which body he was member for upwards of 20 years, also chairman and director of the Amersham Gas Company for many years. He was a well-known Freemason in the counties of Bucks and Herefordshire, being one of the founders of the Carrington Lodge. He was vice-president or an honorary member of all the leading local institutions, and many years ago was an active supporter of the local Philharmonic Society. Until a few years ago he regularly, with Mrs. Cheese, assisted at concerts in aid of local Clubs, acting in the capacity of chairman. During the last few years Mr. Cheese had not taken any active part in public affairs, and for the past two years had been confined to his house. His decease was not unexpected, and he passed peacefully away in his 73rd year. The deceased was a native of Aylesbury, but left that town as a boy, and after living at Shrewsbury for some years, came to Amersham in 1866 and practised as a solicitor. He ceased active practice some years ago. The deceased leaves three sons and three daughters to mourn their loss. The mortal remains of the deceased gentleman were interred on Tuesday last in the Amersham Cemetery, and the mournful ceremony was performed in the presence of very large number of the residents. The funeral procession was met at the Church gates by the Rector (Rev. C. E. Briggs) by whom the opening sentences of the burial service were read as the mourners entered the church. After the service the procession was re-formed, and the interment took place in the grave which the deceased’s wife was laid to rest some two years ago. The coffin consisted of an elm shell, with oak casket; the fittings and breast-plate being of solid brass. The latter bore the inscription “John Cheese, died April 28th, 1906, aged 72 years.”

The mourners were Mrs. Holcombe, Mrs. Hunt Mrs. Hanbury (daughters), Mr. R. L. F. Cheese, Mr. J. W. Cheese, Mr. C. M. Cheese (sons), Mrs. J. W. Cheese (daughter-in-law), Mr. Hunt (son-in-law), and Mr. J. D. Mc Balfour (brother-in-law). The Amersham Board of Guardians were represented by Mr. W. Gurney (chairman) Messrs. T. A. Howland. J. F. Elliott. F. Read. F. Nash, H. J. Palmer, W. Webb, J. Hayes, and G. Beal; the Carrington Lodge of Freemasons by Mr. G. Darlington and Mr. R. H. Rushforth; the Foresters’ Society Bros. J. J. Gray, T. Gilbert W. Line, and J. A. Tunks; the Oddfellows’ Society Bros. T. Williams, W. T. Wingrave, jun.. E. Elburn. C. Sabatini, and J. Williams. Among others present were Messrs. R. Grist H. Fuller. A. H. Haddon, W. H. Dumbarton, T. Winfield. H. D. W. Andrews, and the house servants. The beautiful floral tributes included the following:—”From Harriet, Dick, and Mac. with great love:””From Jannie and Sar, loving memory;” ” From Gertie and Jack, with fond love;” “In ever-loving remembrance, from little Sar;” from the servants; Mrs. C. H. Statham; Mr. G.W. Statham. etc. The coffin was made and the funeral arrangements carried out by Mr. G. Darlington, of Amersham. Bucks Herald 5 May 1906.

 

Clement Cheese’s obituary

We much regret to announce the death, on Thursday last, of Mr. Clement Macmichael Cheese, which took place at his residence, 57 High Street, Amersham, after an illness which lasted just a month.  In the passing of Mr. Cheese, Amersham loses one of its best-known characters, who will be much missed by the local community.  He was the youngest child of John and Mary Jane Cheese, of  Woodville House, Amersham (now known as Elmodesham House, the present home of the District Council), who came to the town in 1866 and continued to live there until 1890.  His mother was Miss Macmichael, daughter of Dr. Macmichael, doctor-in-waiting of King William IV.  His father was a member of a well-known Aylesbury family.

Mr. Cheese was born at Woodville House on April 11th, 1871 – thus we was, at his death, in his 75th year.  He was educated at Hereford Cathedral School, and was articled to his uncle, Mr. Clement Cheese, of Messrs. Cheese & Green, solicitors, of Pall Mall, London, and later became an excellent conveyancing solicitor.  In the year 1903, after the death of his mother, Mr. Cheese conceived the idea of providing a smaller house for himself and his father.  Next to “Sherwood”, one of three villas which he was responsible for building adjacent to Woodville House, lived Mr. Thomas Ayres, father of the present Cllr. Ayres, and, his cottage becoming vacant, Mr. Cheese bought the property, demolished it and built the residence known as 57, High-street, where he went to live in 1906.  But by then Mr. Cheese’s father was in his declining years and never left Woodville House, but died before the smaller residence was completed.

In the years following, Mr. Cheese built many noted houses in Amersham.  He became the fast friend of the late Mr. Jack Drake, eldest son of Mr. William Tyrwhitt Drake, Squire of Amersham, and when the former joined ‘the Forces’ in 1914 – shortly afterwards going overseas – Mr. Cheese, by instructions of Mr. Drake, prepared Mr. Jack Drake’s will, which reached him at Wimereau (Northern France) Hospital, where he lay seriously ill, only an hour or two before he died.  He was, however, able to sign the will which brought his brother Edward into possession of the Drake estate, and was later the instrument by which the present squire succeeded.  In 1928, when the Drake’s cottage property in Amersham was sold, Mr. Cheese bought much of it, including the premises when Mr. Slade, the local blacksmith, lived, now part of the present King’s Arms Hotel.  These premises, situated on the west side of the gateway, were restored and the original old over-hanging front uncovered.  This building is probably the oldest in Amersham, and it was with the assistance of expert opinion that the ancient features of the building were restored.

Later he purchased the Old Malt House, Broadway, which he had restored, and modelled the cottage into the present Old Malt Tea House.  He also bought the Old Brewery (formerly known as Rumsey House, Church-street), and the Badminton House Hotel.  He was the owner of much other property in the town, and due to his natural gift for the remodelling of antique cottages he has done more than anyone for the preservation of old Amersham during modern years.

It was a few days after returning from a holiday at his beloved West Malvern that he had a severe stroke which was, a month later, the cause of his death.  An able solicitor and an astute man of business, Mr. Cheese was also a genial companion and generous friend.  He had, too, a whimsical wit and keen sense of humour, the cause perhaps of his allegiance to the old straw ‘boater’, without which he was seldom seen.

The funeral, which was largely attended and at which the Rector (the Rev. C. E. Briggs) officiated was at the Parish Church on Monday, interment being in the family grave in the churchyard.  The family mourners were:  Mr. and Mrs. B. J. Wilkinson (sister and brother-in-law); Mr. and Mrs. J. Anderson (niece and husband); Mrs. Duggan (niece); Mr. and Mrs. F Cheese (cousin); Miss Cheese (cousin); Mrs. J. Cheese (sister-in law); and Gladys, her daughter, with her husband; Mr. H. G. Keen; Mr. and Mrs. H.W. Andrews: Mr. and Mrs. Olney; Dr. T. Hunt and Mr. W. Hunt (nephews); Mr. Gaevett, and Mr. Saunders.  Others present included Mrs. Edwards, Mr. W. Stevens and daughter, and Messrs. J. P. Robinson, Norris Bazzard, Harvey Ellis, J. Boughton, G. Brazil, Francis, J. Gascoyne; C. Gascoyne, J. Dobson, A. J. L. Ferguson, G. Ward, F. Fuller, E. Mason, T. Prince (Bucks County Council), Mr. Graham Mold, K.C. and Mr. Rance. The funeral arrangements were by G. Darlington, Ltd., Amersham.  Bucks Examiner, October 1945