Dusty room unlocks town’s history
MOST towns have a museum, or a central place where you can visit to find out who your great great aunt was, or what grandpa’s role was in the war, or even to look up an old copy of a newspaper.
But for Beaconsfield this has not been possible until now.
With no proper place to store documents relating to its history, people living in the town are perhaps largely unaware of the wealth of historical artefacts hidden in a small dusty room in the town hall, in Penn Road, tucked away upstairs above the council chamber.
But it wasn’t until last week that I ventured up the rickety stairs to explore a room that no one but members get to see.
Clare Bull, a member of the Beaconsfield and District Historical Society, met me, with husband and wife, Margaret and Michael Grace and Debbie Marsden.
The room was lined with maps rolled up, heavy looking leather-bound books weighed down wooden shelves, and creaking open metal cupboards revealed boxes and boxes of old copies of newspapers and parish magazines.
A copy of the Doomsday book balanced on top of a bookcase.
Clare handed me an auctioneer packet. “John [the former chairman] got them at auction last year,” she said.
The packet holds tiny brass tokens. Each has an image and the year, 1669.
They were made purely to be used in Beaconsfield when small change was scarce.
It is strange to think the coins in my hand, were handled by Beaconsfield people all those years ago, as they bought their milk, a pint or a candle from the then A.H. Tripp and Son, now a removals, then a wax maker.
Backed against the next wall were heavy duty metal drawers, packed full of photo albums.
Opening one Margaret showed me the titles, one was Beaconsfield at war – soldiers in uniform, children playing while wearing the gas masks.
Others showed the beginning of the railway, captions deftly written in underneath saying the first train had pulled in to the railway station in 1906.
Flicking through the neighbouring albums, I paused, thinking I saw a familiar face.
“That’s the Queen Mother,” Margaret tells me.
There surrounded by soldiers at Butlers Court, on October 27, 1941, the caption tells us, is the Queen Mother with General de Gaulle.
Beaconsfield had a medical station in the war, which she visited.
I flicked further back nd there were pages of hotographs, women in niform, nurses smiling ack at me, faded images men in army being nded to. The captions explained rther, simply stating, rench sailors were at utlers Court’ to ‘TB fferers were in a house Grove Road’, nursing ff in Grove Ash and ctors and head nurses e in Westmoreland, in rkes Road. t all comes to life as I d the simple scribbles, pecially as the information has clearly been gathered through people’s memories.
Neatly in brackets, someone has written ‘This information from Mrs Biestro, Whitehourse Crescent, who met her husband at Butlers Court’.
This is a pattern that I continue to come across, the stories behind the collection are often just as fascinating as the items themselves.
“We were relying on people giving us their old photos, maps or documents, often when someone has died,” Margaret says. “We didn’t often go looking for things because we just didn’t have the space.”
BIG EVENT: (Above) The Queen Mother visits Beaconsfield in 1941, with French leader General de Gaulle; (right) Debbie Marsden, Clare Bull, Margaret and Michael Grace in the Town Hall, where the Beaconsfield and District Historical Society Archives are kept