History of the Amersham Area

Fox’s Outdoor

This page was written by John Clutterbuck with help from Kevin Fox

Fox’s Outdoor, which now sells an extensive range of clothing and equipment for outdoor pursuits, has been operating at 1 London Road Amersham next to Tesco since 1 December 1992. The Fox family business in Amersham goes back much further, to 1945 when Arthur Fox established the Chiltern Driving School, operating from his home in London Road. Arthur was succeeded by his son John. In turn, John’s son Kevin succeeded him and is the Managing Director of Fox’s Outdoor.

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Arthur Fox and his wife Ivy came to Amersham from Bagshot in Surrey after the end of the Second World War. Arthur had a background in vehicle engineering and maintenance. Many people wished to learn to drive in the post-war period. The Chiltern Driving School expanded to meet this demand and by the 1950s there were a dozen vehicles in its fleet.

The 1957 price list

The Suez crisis of 1956 brought petrol shortages and rationing. This caused difficulties for the driving school, forcing the Fox family to seek other opportunities. With Ivy Fox’s background in retailing in mind, the family decided to open a men’s outfitters shop. Much of the stock came from government surplus, including some army tents. When the tents sold readily and repeat demand mounted up, the Fox family business became involved with the move into the camping era.

After the difficulties of the 1950s, the motoring school resumed its growth, becoming the second largest in southern England. Arthur and Ivy Fox’s son John joined the family business in 1958. The driving school and the camping and clothing retail business operated side by side. In 1967, John Fox opened a footwear shop next to the clothing and camping shop.

In the 1960s, the Queen came to Amersham. Her car passed by Fox’s premises

Arthur Fox, second from left, with driving instructor George Banning on the left and Eric and John Fox on the right

Fox’s old shop demolished when Tesco was built (PHO3294)

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Following the death of Arthur Fox in 1980, the driving school was closed. The family concentrated on operating the clothing and footwear shops next to the bus garage. Fox’s leisure wear and shoe shops were separate in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Kevin, son of John Fox, joined the family business in 1985. In the late 1980s, the Fox’s shop was visited by an extraordinary vehicle, which was touring the country to promote the Ordnance Survey. The picture below shows a young Kevin Fox in the car.

 

John Fox, with his two sons Kevin and David, in the 1980s

Mrs Ivy Fox, with her son John and her grandson Kevin in the 1980s

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In 1992, a new custom designed store, which combined the clothing and footwear shops, was opened by Chris Bonnington in the current site near to Amersham Tesco. After the opening, Chis Bonnington had a successful book signing session, which he described as his “best ever”.

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Fox’s participated in Dickensian and Victorian themed shopping events which were held in Amersham in the 1990s

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When undertaking charity expeditions to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and to hike the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. These experiences enabled Kevin Fox to appreciate at first hand his own advice that “the choice of the right equipment can make the difference between life and death”.

Kevin in Tanzania

Kevin in Nepal

Over the years, Fox’s have had their share of celebrity customers, including Harold Wilson, David Cameron, Geoffrey Palmer, Graham Taylor, Ozzy Osbourne and Leo Sayer. Harold Wilson bought a dinghy from Fox’s, which inadvertently featured in the national press in the 1970s. When Wilson was on holiday in the Scilly Isles, the dinghy capsized when he was attempting to rescue his dog from the sea. The dog did not need to be rescued, but Harold Wilson did.

Fox’s has been in business for over sixty years. It is a respected family owned firm with a high reputation, servicing the market for outdoor footwear, clothing and equipment with a client base across the local region, including London. The outdoor footwear department is one of the biggest in the country with a wide range of boots and shoes suitable for many different outdoor pursuits. The company has been developing its online service.