Dusty room un­locks town’s his­tory

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

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.

memo­rial ded­i­ca­tion

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.”



Pho­tos by Jo-Anne Rowney

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


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