This page was written by Richard Ayres, great-grandson of Joseph Hatch. It first appeared on the Amersham Socety website.
To those living in Amersham in the 1920s and 1930s. Joe Hatch was a familiar figure as he drove the horse and trap from Woodrow to Amersham station, his long white beard blowing in the breeze.
From 1900 to 1938 Joe was a tenant farmer on the Shardeloes Estate, first at Woodrow Farm, then at nearby Childs farm, but he was also the owner of the Windsor chair factory at Whielden Gate, which he had inherited from his father David. The factory was established some time before 1850, and was situated on the lane to Winchmore Hill, just past the Queen’s Head on the site of the present picnic area Joe was born in an old house (‘Hollandesdean’) that used to stand in the factory yard, and lived there until he moved to Woodrow Farm.
Joe ran the factory with his sons, Joseph David, Fred, Archer and William. At its peak of production it employed about 30 people, not counting the ‘outworkers’ in surrounding villages to whom Joe used to deliver wood and cane for turning and weaving. Older residents may remember that both sides of the Wycombe Road were used to store timber. Joe’s youngest son Thomas used to live in the old Toll House that stood opposite The Queen’s Head until it was demolished for road widening in 1929.
Joe was renowned for being tight with his money and firm but fair to his workers. When in 1913 the chairmaking employers in High Wycombe locked out their workers who were demanding higher wages, a deputation was sent to Joe to persuade him to join the lockout, but he refused. His daughter-in-law’s mother, Emma Pursey, landlady of the The Plough in Winchmore Hill in the 1920s and 30s overheard Joe’s workers in the bar – “That Joe ‘atch ‘e may be ‘ard but ‘e’s a just b******!”
As Joe prospered, he acquired and built many houses in Winchmore Hill and Hazlemere. He ‘looked after the pennies’ to such an extent that his children were not aware of his wealth until he died. He was a sterm father, but had a soft spot for his 26 grandchildren, to whom he sometimes gave the gift of one penny, but he knew exactly how many apples he had stored in his loft, and woe betide any child who stole one! He was very musical and taught himself to play the violin which he played at the Wesleyan Chapel in Winchmore Hill.
His wife Hannah died in 1906 and he was then looked after by his unmarried daughter, Henrietta. He set up his sons-in-law in business – Mary’s husband William Snell had the baker’s shop in Whielden Street (older inhabitants may remember his sons, Gerald and Stuart, delivering the bread) and Elsie’s husband, Tom Parslow, farmed at Mop End. Joe continued to farm at Childs Farm until he was 88, retiring every evening at 7.00 p.m. in order to rise early for the milking.
In 1938 he retired and moved to a new house at the crossroads in Hazlemere (the house is now a dental practice); Joe used to call the house ‘my prison’ and was never reconciled to being away from the farm. He died in November 1943, a few weeks before his 94th birthday at his son Archer’s house (‘The Cottage’) in Woodrow.
He had passed the chair factory to his eldest son, Joseph David, in the 1930s, who continued to run it until after the second World War. Growing competition from the large chairmakers in Wycombe forced a sale of the premises to timber merchants, the Dunsmore Brothers, and the factory was burned to the ground in the early 1950s.
Read more about chair-making in the Chilterns