Over the past 100 years, there have been at least 18 independent butcher’s shops in Chesham. Today we have just two. We focus on a butchers which existed in Chesham for 70 years – from 1920 until 1990.
Brazils, 5 Red Lion Street/17 Market Square
George Brazil was born the third son of Thomas Brazil in Oxford in 1865. He moved to London in his teens and worked as a pork butcher in Spitalfields.
It was his habit at weekends to cycle out into the countryside, and it was on a visit to Chesham, that he met Annie Priest, the daughter of Samuel Priest, landlord of The Black Horse, Waterside, Chesham.
Despite the age difference (he was 28, she was 17) they married in 1893 and he took her back to London. Poor Annie was desperately unhappy in the city and wrote to tell her father how much she missed Chesham, so Samuel set off in his pony and trap and brought her back to the countryside.
George realised that if he wanted to live with his bride, he would have to move to Chesham as well and the couple set up home at 75 Berkhamsted Road, with George opening a butcher’s shop at 5 Red Lion Street, pictured below.
It was ideally placed, because the local cattle market was held less than one hundred yards away in the meadow at the Nags Head public house and the majority of butchers at this time had beasts delivered alive and slaughtered them themselves.
By 1901, George’s family had moved to 52 High Street, Amersham and George opened a second butcher’s shop at this address, which ultimately came to be the famous Brazils pork pie factory (site now Tesco). He sent for his brother William to come to Chesham to manage 5 Red Lion Street.
In the mid 1930s, however, numbers 5 to 11 Red Lion Street were demolished in order to widen the road and at some time before this occurred, Brazils closed down and reappeared at No 17 Market Square, where they were to stay until the 1990s – a combined 70 years in existence.
As time went by, William was joined in the business by his son Geoffrey and Geoff in his turn, by his son Stuart. The shop closed in 1998 when Geoff retired. When the butchers closed, the shop became the Crystal Goddess – selling new age products (and famous for appearing in an episode of Midsomer Murders!) and then as tea rooms known as Sweet Memories. Although very popular, this did not last too long due to the owner’s illness and the premises is now known as Brazils Kitchen, ideal for a quick lunch or a leisurely evening dining experience.
View more shops on Chesham’s High Street
Thank you to the following authors for their contribution:
A History of Chesham Shops: Gwyneth Bradley, Anne Crabbe, Tony Eustace, Keith Fletcher, Pat Kent, Frank Pearce, Eleanor Phillips and Vanessa Worship
A History of Chesham Shops Volume 2: Anne Crabbe, Tony Eustace, Keith Fletcher, Pat Kent, Eleanor Phillips and Vanessa Worship
Pubs of Chesham & Villages: Ray East, Keith Fletcher and Peter Hawkes
Chesham – the Origin of the Town’s Services: Eleanor Phillips and Keith Fletcher
More Tales of Old Chesham: George Piggin
The Story of John Brazil: Jean Archer
Photographs: courtesy of Chesham Heritage.