This Grade II* listed building was built in 1682 by Sir William Drake as a gift for the townsfolk and is decorated with his arms and the initials WD. It was intended for the upper floor to be used for meetings, such as those for traders’ guilds, and the ground floor as a market.
It is of brick construction with stone dressings and consists of an upper storey of red and blue bricks supported on semi-circular arches, surmounted by an octagonal wooden bell turret and clock. The lower storey forms a covered area and the upper consists of a large hall and western dais. The bell in the turret is inscribed ‘C. H. [Christopher Hudson] made me 1682’ and was used as the fire bell and to announce market days.
The woodwork in the turret was renovated in 1894 and the whole building was restored in 1911 by William Wykeham Tyrrwhitt-Drake. The ground floor is an open arcaded building, still used for markets. The first floor has a large room used by many local groups for meetings and exhibitions. It has an old tiled roof and an octagonal wooden cupola with a clock face. The article below shows that in 1904 it was used to house the fire-engine.
It also has the old town lock-up with the notice “COMMIT NO NUISANCE” above the entrance. Also on the East wall is an ancient water pump dated 1785. This was a gift from a local benefactor. Before the days of piped water many houses did not have their own wells and the provision of this central pump must have been a great asset. Water mains did not reach Amersham until 1910.
On the South wall are the arms of the Drake family – they display a hand holding a bloody axe. There are various stories as to the origin. One version: a cabin boy was killed by Sir Francis Drake the Elizabethan seaman when in a fit of rage. Elizabeth I decreed that the crest be surmounted by a blood stained axe. Although the Amersham Drakes are not related to the seaman Sir Francis Drake, there may have been some remote connection or ‘desire’ to be connected.
There is a plaque on the North wall erected by the Amersham Society – see it below in the photo gallery together with the Domesday plaque erected to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the Domesday Book.
It is said that the strange semi-circular supports in the corners of the ground floor were installed to stop vagrants sleeping there! The article below suggests that there was no clock face facing Weller’s brewery because the Wellers thought it would encourage the brewery workers to clock-watch.
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