The mystery of the Amersfoort stone
This article was written by Anthony del Tufo based on research and photos provide by Bart Beeftink who lives in Amersfoort and uncovered this mystery. It has been updated with information provided in August 2015 by Sally Succony, the daughter of Reg Woolacott, who fonded the Amersfoort and Amersham Association.
This is the stone in Amersfoort in Holland, which in the 1970s was twinned with Amersham. On the side of the stone in the “Boulder Garden” it says:
THIS GRANITE FORMED PART OF OLD LONDON BRIDGE, LONDON, ENGLAND AND WAS PRESENTED TO THIS CITY OF AMERSFOORT BY THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERSHAM AND AMERSFOORT AND PLACED HERE ON AUGUST 21st 1971 AS A PERMANENT REMINDER TO THE CITIZENS OF AMERSFOORT OF THE ESTEEM HELD FOR THEM BY THE PEOPLE OF THEIR LINK TOWN AMERSHAM, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, ENGLAND.
This raised a number of questions which Bart Beeftink asked if Amersham Museum could help to answer. Was this piece of stone from the old London Bridge, which was built by John Rennie in 1831? However Rennie’s bridge was sold to the USA in 1968. The bridge was taken apart, each piece was meticulously numbered; the blocks were then shipped overseas through the Panama Canal to California and trucked from Long Beach to Arizona.
Or was it an even older piece of stone, before Rennie’s bridge? That Old London Bridge was built in 1209 and was the first stone bridge ever built in the world. The Old London Bridge stood proudly for over 600 years until it was finally demolished in 1831. When it was demolished, the Victorians decided to sell parts of the stonework to various locations across London, where they have remained ever since. Had Amersham donated a part from this bridge to the city Amersfoort
Bart was much more successful at answering these questions than the Museum! He discovered that there is a similar stone in London which shows the Amersfoort stone is from the Rennie bridge. It is placed near London Bridge and the 12th century church of St Magnus the Martyr in London together with some pieces of the old London Bridge which was replaced by Rennie’s bridge. His other discovery is that there had been cricket tours in England and Holland which involved both the Amersham Fencibles Cricket Club (formed in WWII by the Home Guard, playing in Little Chalfont, but disbanded by the 1980s) and the Amersfoort Hockey and Cricket Club.
These two photos show the stone being taken through the streets in Amersfoort in 1971 and being unveiled by Amersfoort’s Mayor Troostwijk (on the right) with Sir James Miller, the former Lord Mayor of London and Lord Provost of Edinburgh.
The Association of Amersfoort and Amersham
When this page was first published in late 2014, there were a number of questions outstanding which were listed in the hope that somebody might know more than we did. Fortunately, we have been contacted in 2015 by Sally Succony, the daughter of Reg Woolacott, the Chairman of The Association of Amersfoort and Amersham which was set up in 1958 and finally closed in 1979. She has given Amersham Museum his papers and photos which explain that the 4 ton stone was indeed part of the Rennie bridge and was given by John Mowlem, the company which had constructed the new London Bridge. Reg Woolacott was a director of Percy Bilton Ltd, a construction company in Slough, and at one time was president of the National Federation of Building Trades Employers, so he attended many dinners in London and it probably would have been at that time that he met the Lord Mayor of London, Sir James Miller. The stone was described as “a piece of stone shaped like a little house – in other words – a cube of stone with a gable on it taken off the balustrade of London Bridge” (see drawing to left).
The Association was set up as a result of a visit by Reg Woolacott to Holland in 1957 when he saw a sign to a town with a very similar name to Amersham and went to visit it. In 1958, 22 teenagers and 3 adults visited Amersham from Amersfoort and a similarly sized party made the reverse journey.
The following year 36 adults visited Amersfoort to celebrate the 700th year since it was granted its Charter and an English oak shield with the Coat of Arms of Amersham was presented to the Burgomaster.
Visits were made in both directions throughout the 1960s. Amersham gave some beech trees to Amersfoort and Amersfoort presented a large number of bulbs for planting in the Memorial Gardens. The Amersfoort Accordion Club visited Amersham and Raans County Secondary School’s Brass band gave a concert in Amersfoort.
In 1970, 1971 and 1972, the Amersfoort and the Fencibles Cricket Club went on tour in each other’s countries. The Amersfoort city trumpeters took part in the 1972 Amersham Carnival.
We don’t know what activities happened after 1972, but by 1979 interest seems to have died away, so the Association was wound up