A Sense of Place

by Lola Gudsell

A town in the Chiltern Hills where “Four Weddings and a Funeral” was filmed alongside many episodes of “Midsommer Murders” is my special place.  This town is my birthplace and where I grew up.

During the war years the manor house belonging to Squire Drake was turned over as a maternity hospital for evacuee mothers.  My two older sisters had the measles which meant that my mother could not go to the local hospital, but to Shardeloes. a grand Georgian house overlooking its own lake and the Misbourne Valley.  However my mother had to be isolated in one of the kitted out stables because of the measles.  Yes, I was born in a stable.

My secondary school was first built in the old town of Amersham in 1624.  Now of course it has modern buildings and is situated in Amersham-on-the-Hill.  When the railways were built they had to be a mile from the town, and as you can expect a town grew up around the railway station, and so Amersham has two townships. It is the old town that is so remarkable having been mentioned in William the Conqueror’s Doomsday Book as Agmodesham.

Amersham was also the sanctuary of the Lollards who followed John Wycliffe, the 14th century priest who translated the Bible from Latin into English so the common people could read and understand it..  The local Lollards were also known as the Amersham Martyrs who were burned at the stake in the early 1500’s.  They may have hidden in the town hall which juts out into the High Street and was once the town jail.  Half way along Station Road is a memorial for these six men and one woman who died. I used to walk past this place to and from school, and read the inscription that told of the martyrs’ children having to light the fagots.  Their only crime was to read the Bible in English

In September every year a fair comes to town and totally fills the High Street in Old Amersham.  This fair was first documented in 1200 under King John It lasts for two days and tradition says that if for one year the fair is not held it can never be held again.

I learnt to ride in stables once part of the old Rectory.  I would ride through Rectory Woods, find pieces of chalk. and write on the roads with these huge lumps.  The Chiltern Hills consist of chalk, and the water that flows from the pipes is grey, but so good for our bones and teeth.

I feel I know every part of Amersham.  We lived in three different places, one was in a village outside Amersham, one in Amersham-on-the-Hill and one in the old town.  Here my parents bought a little shop that had windows, that bowed from side to side and from top to bottom revealing shelves holding large jars of sweets filling the windows. It was built as a bakery and the beams showed signs of this. 

This town is my special place that I love to visit even now. If you haven’t heard of Amersham before, you have now.  I am truly an Amersham girl.

27 July 2023

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