The Year the Railway Arrived
1892 in Amersham
Wendy Tibbitts wrote this article about a year in the life of the town based on local newspaper reports. An edited version appeared in the Amersham Society/Amersham Museum newsletter in 2013. The photographs were all taken by George Ward and are from Amersham Museum’s collection.
This year the Amersham Museum has been celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the opening of the Metropolitan Railway line. The railway reached Amersham in 1892 and when the station opened in September it was the start of big changes for the rural area that surrounded it. Prior to the opening of the station the life of the townspeople centred around the old town and local newspaper reports give us a flavour of what Amersham-life was like at that time.
1 January 1892 South Bucks Free Press: The Temperance Band. This band played round the town on Christmas Eve, and on Saturday made several points at “boxing”. The consensus of opinion is that the members have lately made considerable progress and that Mr Ward deserves great credit for the thorough manner in which he has worked to make the band a success. The financial receipts far exceeded the most sanguine anticipations.
2 January 1892 The Bucks Herald: Fire: On Christmas-eve, about 11.20pm, considerable excitement was caused by an alarm of fire and the ringing of the fire-bell. The members of the Fire Brigade promptly turned out, and, assisted by willing helpers, soon had the engine out and were quickly on the road to the scene of the fire, which turned out to be at the grocery shop formerly kept by Mr. H. Toovey, and now occupied by Mrs Clark, who has only had possession for about a month. A cask of petroleum was found to be in full flame in a yard at the back of the warehouse. The windows and doors of the sitting-room and bedroom above were destroyed, and the flames swept through the warehouse into the street on the doors being burst open. Meanwhile the engine was taken round Church-street and across Pondwicks to the river and soon put in working order, a short delay being caused by the valves being frozen. Captain Darlington was busy at the seat of the fire, and managed to keep the flames in check till water could be got through the engine, when the fire, which had just caught the roof, was speedily extinguished. Unfortunately the stock and furniture were not insured, and much sympathy is felt for the proprietress.
8 January 1892 South Bucks Free Press: Christmas Charity: Mrs T.W.T. Drake has again shown her sympathy with the aged poor of the town by distributing good warm cloaks to the inmates of Sir William Drake’s almshouses, and likewise to those of Day’s almshouses and the Church houses.
16 January 1892 The Bucks Herald: Freemasonry: It is stated on good authority that a lodge of Freemasons will shortly be opened at the Crown Hotel here, and no doubt it will be a success, the nearest lodges to this district at the present time being High Wycombe and Berkhamsted.
Shooting: On Thursday and Friday in last week the Squire of Shardeloes had a shooting party, when the coverts of Whitley Wood and the plantation and the Rough Park were shot over. The party consisted of the Squire, Capt. J.T. Drake, Capt. T.H. T Drake, Rev. E.T. Drake, Mr. G.P.T Drake, Colonel Willis, and Colonel Logan. Over 200 Head of pheasants were bagged, besides numerous hares and rabbits.
The Primrose Van: This van visited Amersham on Saturday, and in the evening Mr Crabb gave his usual address in the Town Hall, when Mr. Clement Cheese presided. Mr Aver, of London, gave a good account of the proceedings of the party, but the chief interest was centred in the magic lantern, which highly amused the juveniles, of who the audience mainly consisted. A vote of thanks to the chairman concluded the meeting. [What was the Primrose van? Has anyone any knowledge of this?]
Obituary: We regret to have to record the death of a well-known and highly respected transman [we do not know what this meant in 1892, certainly not what it means now!] of this town, Mr Robert Phillips, of the Swan Inn, which took place on Friday, January 8, after but a short illness. Mr Phillips was a native of Chesham, but served his apprenticeship at Amersham, where he settled. The deceased was always an ardent support of Friendly Societies. The funeral took place on Tuesday afternoon, when Odd Fellows and Foresters attended, and the usual formalities of the orders were observed. The Rev. E.T. Drake officiated, and the lady choir in church sang “Now the labourer’s task is o’er.”
Dinner: At the Griffin Hotel, on Friday evening, Jan. 8, a tradesman’s Christmas dinner took place under favourable circumstances. Between thirty and forty sat down, and a most enjoyable evening was spent. By the kindness of Messrs.Weller, a good supply of wine was placed upon the table.
20 February 1892 The Bucks Herald: Concert: The annual concert in connection with the Literary Institute was given in the Town Hall on Thursday, the 11th inst. The room was crowded, and a large number of persons at the back were obliged to stand all the time. The platform had been nicely decorated with flowers, ferns, etc., and formed a pleasing contrast with the dingy appearance of the other part of the Hall.
12 March 1892 Bucks Herald: Entertainment at the Workhouse: Mr Joseph Lacey attended the meeting and asked leave for the Negro Jubilee Singers to come and relieve the monotony of the poor people in the House by giving them an entertainment on Wednesday afternoon next. The Board granted the required permission.
2 April 1892 The Bucks Herald: Accident: A very sad accident happened on Saturday to Mr. A. Grover, of Loudhams Farm, Amersham Common. He was engaged working with his steam chaff-cutting machine, when one of his arms was caught in the gear. Fortunately one of his employees was near, and as quickly as possible he was extricated from his perilous position. An examination proved that the injuries received were very serious. Surgical aid was quickly rendered, and it was feared amputation of the limb would be necessary, but up to the present it has not been.
9 April 1892 The Bucks Herald: Ambulance Classes: The first series of these classes in Amersham was finished on Monday. Dr Norton, of 101, Harley Street, London was the examiner. Out of a class of nineteen ladies fourteen appear for examination; the male class numbered twenty-six, and there were twenty-one members for the examination. The percentage of passes will, so far as I can hear, be good. The charges at Amersham are lower than we ever heard of before – 2s 6d for the course of five lectures. Of course this is not nearly sufficient to pay expenses, unless a good committee carries on the work, and the doctor who lectures gives them free. Drs. Turner and Moore haven given these lectures, and are willing to start two more classes on the same terms. Can anything be more beneficial to a town or village? Amersham must testify their appreciation of the doctors’ kindness.
4 June 1892 The Bucks Herald: Technical Education: The series of lessons in wood-carving which have taken place in the Town Hall under the auspices of the County Council has just terminated, and the result is in all respects most satisfactory. Encouraged by this fact the local executive have arranged for a second course of thirteen lessons the first of which will take place on June 15th.
9 July 1892 The Bucks Herald: Volunteer Fire Brigade: The members and friends of the Volunteer Fire Brigade held their annual outing on Thursday, 30th ult. The river Thames was again selected; and after a pleasant drive to Bourne End, the party (numbering about 30) embarked on board the Mayflower, and proceeded to Reading and back. Upwards of eight hours was thus spent on the river; and the day being fine and warm, the trip was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
23 July 1892 The Bucks Herald: Epidemic of Measles: Owing to the prevalence of an epidemic of measles the National Schools of Amersham and Amersham Common were on Friday last closed for a month by order of the authorities.
A Convivial Evening: The local representatives of the trades of Butchers and Bakers, who recently played a game at cricket in Barn Meadow, met together round the social board of the Griffin Hotel on Wednesday in last week, and enjoyed a first-class spread, got up by Mr. Berry. The company numbered about twenty, and Mr. George Cooper president, being ably supported by Mr. Joseph Hearn. After the removal of the cloth, conviviality was the rule observed, some good humorous songs being rendered by various members of the company. The healths of the respective donors to the cost of the feast were proposed and drunk with musical honours.
Accident at Sunday School Treat: Whilst the scholars of the Lower Baptist Sunday School were enjoying their annual treat on the 12th inst., at Bendrose Farm, Amersham Common, a sad accident occurred. Some swing boats were erected in the meadow and were in full operation when a party of juveniles, in chase of a football, had the misfortune to run among the boats. A boy named Lawrence Carter, aged eleven years, was knocked down, and his face severely injured, presenting a fearful spectacle. He was immediately taken to Amersham, where Drs. Turner and Moore attended and stitched up the lacerated flesh, and under their care the poor little fellow is making good progress.
Gallant rescue form drowning: On Monday several boys were standing fishing with rod and line close to the sluice at Mr Sibley’s mill pond, when a son of Mr. John Stacey from some unexpected cause fell into the water. The boy being only nine or ten years old was unable to swim, and the other boys on the bank became bewildered, and apparently incapable of rendering any help, when just in time, Master F.J. Rylance (son of Mr T Rylance, of this town) came along and without any demur dived into the water and caught the drowning boy as he was sinking for the third time. Assistance was quickly rendered, and the boy Stacey was taken home, where he received every attention, and is now none the worse for his immersion. The gallant act of young Rylance is deserving of the highest praise.
Bucks Herald, August 27, 1892 (Petty Sessions, Monday, August 22):
Fruit stealing: William Hall, Charles Cox, Charles Matthews, and Charles Lawrence, all of Amersham Common, were summoned by Henry Smith for having stolen a quantity of growing cherries, value 1s., on June 29. Mr Smith said that he did not wish to press the case, but wanted the boys to be taught to know what was their own what was not. The boys pleaded guilty, and their mothers stated that they had already been flogged. The Magistrates refrained from convicting them on the present occasion, but ordered them to pay 3s.9d. costs each.
Riding asleep: Isaac Williams, of Little Kingshill, was summoned for riding asleep. P.C. Keep said that on July 29th, about half-past eleven at night, he saw a cart drawn by one horse on the road leading from Chalfont Road Station to Amersham. Not seeing anyone in charge of the cart he stopped it. He then saw the defendant and another man sitting down at the bottom of the cart, both fast asleep, and with sacks over them. Witness awoke them, and in reply to his questions, the defendant said that he was in charge of the horse and cart. The defendant, who said he was not asleep, was fined 2s. 6d., and 4s. costs.
1 October 1892 The Bucks Herald: Sunday School Treat: On Friday, Sept. 23rd, Miss Drake, of Little Shardeloes, gave a treat to the first class girls connected with St. Mary’s Sunday School. Several old people were also invited. About four o’clock tea was provided in the coach-house at Little Shardeloes. On leaving the tea-table each old man received a packet of tobacco, and each child a present in the shape of a toy. They then had the privilege of walking round the garden or playing in the meadow until dusk. Refreshments were again provided and a start made for home, all having thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Harvest Home Festivities: On Friday afternoon, Sept 23rd, Captain Drake entertained all his employees, together with their wives and families, at Little Shardeloes, in celebration of harvest home. The company numbered nearly fifty, and they were regaled with a substantial meat tea, which was highly appreciated. Sports in the grounds adjoining were also entered into with much zest, and in the evening the men all sat down to a good supper, when the gallant Captain’s health was drunk with enthusiasm, and several capital songs rendered by members of the company. On leaving each man had a glass of wine and a lump of cake. The greatest goodwill was manifested between Captain Drake and his men.
10 December 1892 The Bucks Herald: Neglecting to Cut Hedges: Mr. John Hailey Morten of Chesham Bois, was summoned for not cutting and trimming his hedges. John Birch, surveyor, said that for a distance of 700 yards along Bois Lane the hedges on both sides were uncut and untrimmed. As a result of this the wind and sun were excluded, and the road was always in a wet state, and could not be repaired. The defendant’s son appeared, and said he did not think it necessary to cut the hedges. The Bench held that is was, and made an order for the work to be done in ten days, and defendant to pay 4s. costs.
Entertainment: On Thursday evening, 1st inst., the children attending the Lower Baptist Chapel Sunday School gave an entertainment in the old British Schoolroom consisting of the cantata entitled, “The river singers.” A good audience assembled and the rendering of the piece gave great satisfaction. The proceeds were devoted to the school funds.
Metropolitan Railway: On Friday evening, Dec. 2, about six o’clock, an accident happened to a goods train which was following an up passenger train, at Amersham Common, on the main line between Amersham and Chalfont Road Stations. It appears that an axle-tree of a wheel and the coupling of a Midland truck broke, causing a stoppage of the afterpart of the train and damaging the line. With commendable promptitude a gang of navvies were quickly at work on the spot, and in about three hours traffic was able to be carried on as usual. The stoppage did not of course affect the Chesham traffic, but the Amersham bus had to ply from Chalfont Road instead of Amersham, and passengers from places lower down were delayed in consequence.
31 December 1892, The Bucks Herald: The Frost: The severe weather has been felt in all its intensity in this neighbourhood over the past week. The ponds have been frozen over, and skating and sliding indulged in ad.lib. The ice on Shardeloes Pond is in splendid condition, and hundreds are availing themselves of the opportunities afforded for skating and sliding.
New perspective: From a distance of 120 years it is difficult to imagine how life was without the technological advances that we enjoy today. However these newspaper reports, just by the style of writing, give us a glimpse of the attitudes and morals of the time. The writing shows obvious deference to those of higher rank, the need to keep children in their place, the requirement that social functions are reported in great detail with full lists of names, songs sung and music played (which have been edited to save space). Above all the general optimistic tone of the reporting of events makes an interesting comparison with the doom and gloom in today’s newspapers.
Extracts from newspapers articles have been taken from: Amersham Newspaper Reports 1847-1970, transcribed and compiled by Dr Nicholas Salmon 1996 and the British Library newspaper archive.