The Chesham Society: Celebrating 65 Years

The Old Town Hall

In the early 1960s opinion was deeply divided over the future of the old Town Hall in Market Square. The southern pedimented section of the building dated from the mid-18th century and it was surmounted by a turret and clock – the one we see today in Market Square. There had been an extension built in 1856 which was considered less attractive. There was an open arcade at street level and, above this, there was a room used occasionally for meetings. Whilst perhaps not as picturesque as its counterpart in Old Amersham it had a charm of its own.

Following the formation of the Society, Chairman Peter Walker alerted The Bucks Examiner to the Town Hall’s neglect which, at the time of writing, was unused and unloved. The newspaper’s subsequent poll led to a restoration fund. Arnold Baines tried to have its listing upgraded to Grade II and the Society paid £21.0.0 for a survey of the building. In the end the County Council purchased it though it was widely suspected that it wanted to demolish it for its road-widening scheme.

The debate in the local press divided public opinion: some could see no justification in keeping the Town Hall citing the likely cost of restoration, dubious architectural merit, and its obstructive location.

By 1964 the poor old Town Hall was in a sorry state, then disaster struck – some tiles fell from the roof. Nobody was hurt but the very next day it was declared a Public Danger, the only circumstance by which a Listed Building could be demolished without permission from the Government. It was demolished immediately.

Chesham Society banner in front of the Chesham Clock Tower

The only consolation was that the original clock was preserved and retained by the demolition contractor, Greeham’s, for a possible future use. In 1992 the present clock tower was built using local materials and is similar in appearance to the 19th century turret that had been added to the old Town Hall. The original clock mechanism was restored by the Town Council in collaboration with Chesham Museum and the bell was finally reinstated in 2014.