History of the museum
A town and museum rich with history
Chesham Museum was founded in 2004. It is a community organisation, conceived and run by local volunteers, with funding mainly through the efforts of its supporters with the support of local businesses, schools and the wider population.
Its first home was in the former stables of a public house ‘The Gamekeeper’s Lodge’ in Bellingdon Rd, and it relocated, in 2009, to 15 Market Square, Chesham until June 2017 when a change in circumstances meant it was forced to close its doors.
Since then the museum has maintained a strong online presence through its website and social media channels, helping to provide a connection to its audiences and users both local, visitors and researchers from across the world. Most recently its has worked hard to raise funds and volunteer support to develop this new website to bring the best of its exhibitions, collections, events and opportunities to enjoy and engage with the town’s rich history.
The museum aims to educate visitors about the rich history of Chesham and its past inhabitants. Its collection primarily deal with things that are associated with Chesham, but also the outer-lying areas: Asheridge, Ashley Green, Ballinger, Bellingdon, Chartridge, Hyde Heath, Latimer, Lee Common and Ley Hill. It offers insights into a unique history of social reform and industry in Buckinghamshire, the fourth largest town.
Chesham Museum is a registered charity. You can read the museum’s constitution here.
The people who made it happen
Dr Arnold Baines
The man who inspired the idea of a town museum was Dr Arnold Baines, a distinguished local historian and former Town Mayor. The project was initially launched as the Francis Trust, set up to restore and maintain the Town Picture, which can still be viewed today in the Chesham Library.
As well as promoting the idea of a museum, between 1992 and 2022, supporters mounted many displays in the library featuring many of Chesham’s past industries such as ‘Boots and Shoemakers’, ‘Woodworking’, ‘Brush Making’, ‘Lace Making’, and ‘Brewing’. The famous five Bs
Early displays also featured the town’s many non-conformist churches and chapels, local charities, together with prominent family names such as Liberty and Lowndes.
In 2003 the museum closed but was once again rescued by the then landlord of the Gamekeeper’s Lodge, Shay Comaskey, who stepped in with an offer to use part of the premises as a museum.
A committee was soon formed by the town’s former mayor Mora Walker, and with the help and support once again of the museum’s supporters, local businesses and the staff and customers of the Gamekeeper’s Lodge, The Stables opened in August 2004 and became a registered charity and the museum’s new home.
At the time of creating the permanent museum a committee was formed under the leadership of former Town Mayor Mora Walker, who had always been a great supporter of the museum project. Under Mora leadership the museum continued to grow and in 2009 moved to a new home, 15 Market Square, the former Chapter One bookshop.
Closure and Covid-19
Chesham Museum ran for many successful years in its high street home until rental prices and changes in its landlord meant it was forced to close its doors temporarily. Following closure, the collection was moved into local commercial storage facilities. Whilst this is far from ideal it allowed the museum to focus on a programme of short-term displays, both in the library, The Elgiva and elsewhere around the town ensuring the museum remain available to all our communities, visitors and families world wide.
The museum was closed when Covid-19 struck this had no immediate effect on the care of the collection itself, but it has disrupted the actions being taken to keep public awareness of the museum, limiting its fund-raising activities to our monthly market stall where we sell locally produced items for the benefit of the museum, and to aid in publicity.
As we emerge from the pandemic’s clutches we are walking forward into a new world and with new energy, new volunteers and new determination to set the museum, once again, in its place at the heart of the town.