Amersham in 1939: migration and growth
We have presented the museum’s collection around five key dates, that reflect particular and important moments in the town’s history. For each of those dates we have considered what the town looked like, who lived in the town and related that to objects in our collection.
The new town of Amersham-on-the-Hill, begins to expand after WWI. In the 1920s and 1930s shops and houses are developed around the station, Now, with the outbreak of WWII in September 1939, the town grows even more. Many people migrate to Amersham to escape from danger in London and in Europe.
Who would I meet in 1939?
Local artist Caroline Richardson lives with her sister, Josephine, in the Tithe Barn, Bois Lane. Caroline and Josephine are active members of the community, including the Chiltern Club of Arts and Handicrafts. They run Red Cross working parties from their home during WWI and WWII. Caroline is a talented watercolourist and paints many views of Amersham and the surrounding area.
Where might I live in 1939?
Along the Metropolitan Line the Metropolitan Railway Country Estates developed homes, to encourage people to move to the area and use the railway for work and for leisure. In Amersham the Metro-land development was the ‘Weller Estate’. Plans were released in the early 1930s for 535 houses and 51 shops (only some of the estate was built).
Around the new town, and in nearby villages, new roads are laid out in the 1920s and 1930s and new houses developed by local builders, including Alfred Woodley, Robin Brazil and George Darlington.
What’s new in 1939?
Shardeloes House is requisitioned as a maternity hospital. Over the next nine years over 5,200 babies are born here. Evacuees start arriving in Amersham. 83 children are officially billeted to the town, with a further 125 arriving in 1940.
In the 1930s Amersham Prints, a fabric manufacturer, moves to the old maltings buildings from Perivale. With the outbreak of war, the company changes production to barrage balloons and dinghies.
In 1936 The Playhouse Theatre opens at the top of Station Road. Many famous actors perform here over the next 20 years. Local people now have a theatre and a cinema; the Regent Cinema opened on Sycamore Road in 1928, with seating for 700 people.
A retail development, Chiltern Parade, opens on Sycamore Road in 1937. It is financed by Sainsbury’s and their shop is located in the middle of the nine shops.
Population: 6,121 people
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