Fieldwalking by the Chess Valley Archaeological and Historical Society has recovered evidence of prehistoric activity in Amersham parish. Neolithic to Bronze Age flint scatters have been found at Raans Farm, at Bury End, at 27 Chenies Avenue, and north of Wheatley Wood. There is also a strong earlier tradition of activity in the Mesolithic with flint tools of this date found in the gardens of Woolstone on Chestnut Close, and 4 Grimsdell’s Lane and a small Mesolithic collection from the mainly Neolithic assemblage found at Model Farm. A couple of stray Neolithic axe-heads have also been found, such as one flint example found at Chestnut Lane First School by one of the pupils and a granite one (probably from Cornwall) found in the garden of the Pheasant Inn. Three Palaeolithic flint flakes were found during the investigations for the Amersham bypass.
There are two Roman roads thought to pass through this parish, so it is not surprising that there are a few possible villas as well. The best investigated Roman site is Mantles Green Meadow. Fieldwalking finds of pottery and tile led to an excavation when the site was threatened by the construction of the Amersham bypass. A couple of buildings were found, which may be the agricultural buildings of a larger complex, and metalworking debris suggests an industrial side to the occupation here. Metal-detecting finds at this site also uncovered mounts and personal accessories, such as a cosmetic pestle in the shape of an ox head. Excavations along the rest of the bypass uncovered a ‘corn-drying’ kiln (examples of these may actually be for malting), a pit and a ditch along with associated Roman pottery. This may be associated with the Mantles Green Meadow site.
Another possible villa exists at Bury Farm. Walls and pits associated with pottery, tile, painted wall plaster, brick and tesserae were found in a sewer trench and a pipeline trench. A villa was the explanation of a find of Roman coins and mosaic floor found during the digging of Shardeloes Lake, but a mausoleum may be another explanation. The mosaic found in Pasture Field on Chiltern Avenue might even be Victorian, so little is known about it, and the Victorians liked to emulate the Romans. Roman pottery has also been found elsewhere, for instance west of London Road East, south of London Road, at Stanley Hill cemetery and north of Wheatley Wood, suggesting more widespread Roman settlement.
Amersham was divided into several manors in the medieval period. These include Shardeloes Manor, recorded from the 14th to the 18th centuries and based somewhere on the estate of the later country house; Raans Manor, recorded from the 13th to the 16th century and the farmhouse is of the latter date; Amersham Manor based at Bury Farm and recorded from the 11th century; Wedon Hill Manor, recorded from the 12th to the 16th century; and Tomlyn Manor based at Quarrendon Farm and recorded from the 13th century. Woodrow High House Manor is a late addition, only recorded from the 16th century onwards. Most manors seem to have had at least one mill, as well. Town/Lords Mill and Bury/Lower Mill may have both belonged to Amersham Manor. Tomlyn Manor probably owned Quarrendon Mill and Tomlyn’s Manor Mill, and the Bishop of Bayeux’s mill mentioned in Domesday was probably at Shardeloes.
Some medieval remains have been found as archaeological deposits. These include the house platforms and building material of a medieval farmstead found in Bray’s Wood. Medieval floor tiles were found during the demolition of an outbuilding at 64 Whielden Street. A 15th century or earlier hearth, floor surfaces and walls were found in excavations at the back of what is now Amersham Museum, which itself is of 15th century origins. Medieval pottery was found in a pit to the rear of the King’s Arms in trial trenching during redevelopment.
Medieval to post-medieval woodland management has been recorded in Ostler’s Wood, Ash Grove and Weedon Hill Wood. This takes the form of woodland boundary banks, coppicing, saw-pits, tracks and quarries recorded in woodland survey.
Several buildings dating to the medieval period do survive in Amersham. The oldest is, of course, St Mary’s church. It was built in the 13th century and has some 19th century restoration. 47 High Street, which dates back to the 15th century, was incorporated into the King’s Arms Hotel, most of which is actually 16th century. 1-9 High Street was Dr Challoner’s Grammar School. It is a 15th to 16th century building, though it is refaced in 19th century brick, and was used as a school from 1625. 15 High Street is also 15th century.
The 16th and 17th centuries were a busy period of rebuilding in Amersham old town and much of the historic town centre is listed, for instance 9-21 Broadway. The 18th century saw several country houses built, such as Shardeloes, Little Shardeloes, as well as non-conformist chapels, such as the Upper Meeting House and Lower Meeting House of the General and Particular Baptists although the Friends Meeting House was built first, in the 17th century. It was first used as a Quaker meeting house from 1660, then was taken over by Wesleyan Methodists in the 19th century and is now back in the hands of the Friends.
The 19th century saw a rash of brickworks in the parish, such as on Copperkins Lane, Coldharbour Farm, Frog Hall Kiln and Amersham Common. The 17th century Market Hall was used as a school in the 19th century. Roman brewing seemed to carry on in the form of the 16th/17th century Old Malthouse that is now a tea shop, the 16th century brewery on Broadway and the 19th century malthouse at what is now Amersham Print Ltd. Drake’s Almshouses were set up in the 17th century while Miss Day set up another almshouse in the 19th century. 111 High Street was formerly used as a school in the 19th century. Little Summeries used to be a chair factory. Amersham Hospital started out life as a workhouse and hospital in the 19th century. There was also an infectious diseases hospital on Gore Hill but it was demolished in the ‘60s or ‘70s. Several buildings contain 16th century wall paintings. These are Dr Challoner’s, Selby House on Broadway, 56-60 High Street (which used to be all one house) and the Crown Hotel.
20th century monuments recorded on the database include the international modern style houses of High and Over and Sun Houses; the use of the brickworks on Copperkins Lane as a store for army vehicles during the Second World War until 1950; a possible firing range at Jay’s Hatch; the 1939 creation of the Amersham Garden of Remembrance; and the post-war pre-fabs on Finch Lane, one of which is now in the Chiltern Open Air Museum.
Want to find out more? Read the detailed historic town report for Amersham (below).