There were six hardware stores in 1920 and over the past one hundred years, a total of at least 13 have existed in the town. Today we only have one – Pearces – although other outlets (such as Circle 7) sell hardware items amongst other merchandise.

Hampshires, 81 High Street

Map showing the location of 81 High Street

J. E. Hampshire & Co occupied 81 High Street from the 1920s until the 1970s. The business was started by John Ernest Hampshire who was born in Wimbledon in 1881. He lived with his wife and family on the business premises and prior to World War 2, served as a Councillor on Chesham Urban District Council. By the time he retired, John Hampshire had shops in Wendover and Hemel Hempstead as well.

Photo of Chesham High Street with various buildings either side of a road.

In 1934, Hampshires were just one of a number of local businesses which were defrauded by a German con artist known as Christine Kurth. Posing as “Countess Telfner”, Miss Kurth obtained goods from Hampshires which were never paid for as she kept telling local tradespeople that she was married to an Italian named Count Telfner who would pay for everything when he arrived in England. She was found guilty, served a term in prison and was then deported.

After Hampshires closed down, the premises were taken over for a time by the Co-op Hardware shop, then they became one of the first Indian restaurants in the area known as the “Taste of India”.

Black and white photo of some shop fronts, one of which is Co-operative Chemists

The premises then became a shop known as the Rosel Stores, which incorporated the main post office in the town for a time. When Rosel Stores closed, the post office found itself homeless and Chesham was forced to make do without one for some considerable time.

Meanwhile, 81 High Street did a stint as a charity shop for an animal charity and then became the branch of W.H. Smith that is still there today. This is the second W.H. Smith in the town, the first one was in the premises currently occupied by Caffé Nero.

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.