From the river to the railway exhibition at the Good Earth gallery September 2022

A postcard of Duck Alley in Chesham

Chesham Museum’s temporary exhibition From the River to the Railway took place in the Good Earth Gallery in September 2022.

Funded by Arts Council England and the Chesham & Villages Community Board, the exhibition explored the impact of the River Chess and the Metropolitan Railway, on people’s lives in the past and today. 

Visitors could see historic images, maps, excerpts from personal stories and objects, that explored how the river shaped early life in the town, providing power for mills, a place for tanning and a source of clean water. Later, the river was used extensively for growing watercress. 

The arrival of the Metropolitan Railway in 1889 connected the town’s thriving local industries – boots, bottles, brushes, beer – with the metropolis. From the 20th century to today it has fuelled migration, with people moving out of London to the beauty of ‘Metro-land’. The exhibition was hands-on and family friendly with a range of handling items and costumes related to life in the 1890s when the railway arrived. 

The exhibition opened with a private view on Thursday 1st September. Volunteers who had helped put the exhibition together, celebrated the opening, along with Friends of the museum and our supporters, including our Member of Parliament, Sarah Green. Over the course of the month we welcomed many visitors, with over 600 people visiting by the time we closed on 1st October. 

We had planned some extra activities for the exhibition on Heritage Day, Sunday 11th September. However, these plans were revised in light of the death of Queen Elizabeth II. We did still open the gallery and over 100 people visited, but our programme of special events was postponed until Saturday 1st October.  On that day we offered a number of Victorian attractions including skipping games, quoits and dressing up. Visitors were welcomed to the exhibition by the wonderful performers of Cue34 Theatre Company, who took on the roles of local residents in 1889, when the railway came to Chesham. 

Here are just some of our visitor comments from the exhibition:

‘A perfect snapshot of times gone by. Very well displayed and I especially found the film interesting to watch.’ ‘Very well done and wonderful memories’ 

‘A fantastic exhibition. Well done!’

The exhibition is part of the Chesham Museum – A Future for Chesham’s Past Project supported by Arts Council, England and the Chesham & Villages Community Board.  The project is connecting local people with their local history.  We look forward to staging other pop-up exhibitions in town in the future. For a future project we want to hear your migration stories and celebrate the diversity of our town. Please get in touch with us via social media or the website. 

If you missed the exhibition, you can view the graphics online or at The Elgiva Theatre in Chesham over the winter. 

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