In this context, the word “haberdashers” refers to any shop which supplied articles of clothing. Over the past 100 years, there have been a staggering 70 establishments in Chesham which have done so. Some of them only lasted a few years, but at least 15 of them were in existence for 30 years or more. I have chosen to feature one which was here for 50 years and was extremely popular when it was trading.
Trees / House of Trees, 48-50 High Street
This establishment was opened at 50 High Street by John Tree in 1910. He lived locally and up until this time had been a travelling draper. The premises had been built by Joseph Birch who had a boot making business employing 40 to 50 men and John bought it from him. John Tree died in 1917 and his son, Arthur Tree (who was then 28 years old) took over the running of the business until his own death in 1955.
But Arthur was much more than a shop keeper. He was probably the most outstanding athlete at that time that Chesham had ever produced. He was (in 1917) the current holder of the AAA Championship Standard Time Medal for 800 yards; and was Berks, Bucks & Oxon 1000 yards Champion for 1911, 1912 & 1913; Bucks & West Middx District 1 mile Champion for 1912, 1913 & 1914 and winner of numerous other races throughout the country.
Arthur was a mainstay in organising outings for older people and also active in many of the sports clubs in the town. After his death his widow carried on running the shop and in 1956, bought the freehold of the shop next door (No 48) from Ainley Taylor, an antiques and interior design business.
This was a Victorian brick built three storey building which until the 1950s, had been lived in by doctors. Firstly, by Dr John Foot Churchill who came to Chesham in 1866. He was assistant to Dr Faithorn who lived in Germain Street, and married his daughter Grace Faithorn and moved to the High Street in 1873.
As can be seen from the photograph further above, there was a small front garden surrounded by iron railings, a wisteria draping the building, and the rear garden which contained an orchard, stretched down to Skottowes Pond in Lowndes Park. Dr. Churchill retired in 1927 and Dr Frederick Cunningham lived in the house in the 1930s and 1940s. It was then acquired by Ainley Taylor in the 1950s and became part of the House of Tree in 1956.
In the 1960s, the two properties were sold and Waitrose were granted planning permission to demolish these two old and attractive buildings despite massive opposition. When Waitrose moved to The Backs, M&Co took over the shop but are now on the point of closing down, leaving The Broadway looking very much like part of a ghost town.
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.