The History of Amersham
There is some evidence to suggest a Roman presence in the area that is now Amersham, the remains of a villa are now believed buried under Shardeloes Lane. After the Romans abandoned Britain in the 5th Century the Saxons soon resettled the area and a village began to grow up. By the time the Normans defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 the settlement had grown enough to warrant a mention in the Domesday Book of 1086. The entry for Amersham, then known as Elmodesham notes:
“Queen Edith held this manor.” The ownership of the manor recorded here is significant. Queen Edith was the wife of Edward the Confessor and sister of King Harold of England, who was killed by William at the Battle of Hastings. When she died in 1075 her lands, and Amersham with them, passed to WIlliam the Conqueror himself. William, The Duke of Normandy and now King of England, passed the properties to his cohort Geoffrey de Mandeville who owned them at the time of the Domesday Book.
Amersham was granted a charter to hold a Friday market and an annual fair in 1200. This was modified in 1613 when a new charter moved the market day to Tuesday. Amersham was the host to some ugly scenes in 1521 when seven ‘religious dissenters’ were burnt at the stake. The seven were early Protestants. Amersham spent much of its history as a coaching town, being conveniently located on the road from London to Aylesbury . The coming of the Metropolitan Line to Amersham in 1892 transformed the town causing an acceleration of development there. Having such a direct link to London gave Amersham the then enviable status of a suburban commuter town. Local land owners petitioned against the rail link, delaying its opening until 1892 which was relatively late in comparison to most Victorian towns. The area formerly known as Amersham Common saw most of this new building work, it gradually became known as Amersham on the Hill. The town is the final stop on the Metropolitan Line, part of the London Underground service. The Metropolitan Line shares much of the track with the mainline railway service running from Marylebone to Aylesbury via Amersham. The town features in the 1973 John Betjeman documentary Metroland about the growth of suburban London in the 20th century.
After World War I Amersham benefited from a massive housing boom. Architect John Kennard designed Elm Close, a brand new development about 50 yards from the station, in the form of a group of houses centred around a village green. Other developers started to build houses, many of which helped to give Amersham on the Hill some character. The growth of Amersham on the Hill was different to that of
many towns fuelled by the railways. The late arrival of the railway, and the open space they arrived into, meant that the part of Amersham laid out around the railway station is quite different to the crowded, Victorian environment you’ll find in most towns.
Modern Amersham developed into a relatively wealthy commuter town almost exclusively because of the railway. The Metropolitan Railway realised it could encourage the suburban spread by using the large amount of land it owned along its route and by buying up more land. It started to develop its own housing, promoting the area along the line as ‘Metro-land’ and ran a campaign to attract people to live in
‘London's nearest countryside’. The modern day suburbs of north west London owe their existence to projects like this. In Amersham, The Metropolitan Railway Estates Company (MRCE) used its land and land it bought from local landowners to build the Weller Estate.