Self sufficient in many ways
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
Well of course it wasn't exactly a shopping mall, but there was a time not so long ago when the village had its own parade of shops catering for most of the day to day needs of its residents. As we begin 2022, we can still happily socialize and meet for food and drinks at The Green Man, The Swan, Da Remo and The Falcon. These businesses are still very much part of our village life, but most of the other shops and other businesses have closed and their premises have been converted into cottage residences.
But they are not lost from memory. This month our contributors, many of them the third generation at least of village families, recall the traders who served the needs of residents and those whose businesses had wider impact.
The Hospitality Business
The Swan has been in business continuously since sometime in the 1600s but it is not only for hospitality that The Swan has made its contribution to village life. In the 1860s Lewis Bampton took over the licence of The Swan when his predecessor Henry Harman moved on. Lewis had a varied career before he arrived at The Swan. He was born in Harefield in 1824 but spent some time working as a groom in Warwickshire in the 1850s and then turned up in Fulham in 1861 working then as a steward in what the Victorians called a "lunatic asylum". No doubt he was delighted to return to Denham - though despite holding a publican's licence at The Swan in 1871 he then described himself as a butcher.
Lewis and Mary's family of three daughters and a son became well known Denham villagers. Lewis remained in charge at The Swan for nigh on 40 years until his death at the age of 84 in 1908. Even then the licence remained in the family as it was taken over by Lewis' son-in-law Robert Taylor who ran the inn with Mary his wife and Lewis’ eldest daughter.
That was far from the end of the Bampton name in village businesses. An article in the Uxbridge & W. Drayton Gazette from Friday 03 March 1944 records the death of a member of "a well-known Denham family". It was Emily Bampton. She had never married.
Emily Bampton, formerly of Wisteria Cottages, next to the Swan, died in hospital on Monday. Miss Bampton, who was 79 years of age, for many years had a newsagent's business in the village. During her long residence in the village. Miss Bampton took a great interest in the parish church’s activities.
Emily's address in 1921 was simply given as "The Village", but we must assume that her newspaper shop was the one later run by the Evans family (see below) on the premises known now as The Spinning Wheel. By 1939 The Swan was under the management of Sidney Johnson. The Bampton name had disappeared from the village records.
It wasn’t only people that were recognised at The Swan over the years. Throughout the 19th century gardening was a business widely practised amongst villagers - hardly surprising given that there were several large gardens to be tended including those at Denham Place and Denham Court. Amongst so many professional gardeners The Swan had to look its best. Again, from the Uxbridge & W. Drayton Gazette, this item from Friday 29 August 1941 acknowledged what we all still appreciate: “And Still Going Strong: A gardener from Kew Gardens who came down to Denham recently stated that the wisteria that grows so magnificently outside the Swan is at least 230 years old.”
Now in 2022, that plant is over 300 years old and blooms gloriously each spring. The Swan's blossoms continue to attract attention over 50 years on from 1941. On Wednesday 25 August 1999 the Amersham Advertiser included a photo of Ian and Jean Duncan with a background full of blooming flowers in the garden of the Swan pub with the headline “The Swan Pub blooms into prize”. After competing against 130 others in a best garden competition, The Swan was awarded a second-place plaque and £150.
We encountered George Harman earlier this month when telling "Publican's Tales" of The Green Man. It was George who came to the aid of Green Man landlord William Flitney when the lord of the manor, Benjamin Way tried to obstruct the renewal of Mr. Flitney's licence for the benefit of his own premises. Defeating Way's opposition to the licence renewal was as much in George's interest since he had purchased The Green Man and the adjoining property in 1842 as a business proposition.
Another member of the Harman family, Henry Henrick Harman was predecessor to Lewis Bampton at The Swan. As they were obviously well known in Denham, the Harmans were certainly well known in Uxbridge as the owners of Harman's Uxbridge Brewery Ltd. Clearly this was the family which in one way or another supplied refreshment to the village through much of the 19th century.
But that was not the limit of their enterprise for the Harmans were also gardeners and most significantly the local florists or "flowerist" as Henry Harman described himself when he established a business on the Oxford Road after leaving The Swan in the capable hands of Lewis Bampton and before moving to return to gardening in Kent.
Da Remo - Perfect Place for Rendezvous
The hospitality business in Denham village is not of course confined to The Green Man, The Swan and the The Falcon. Denham also has Da Remo, since 1988 the popular and internationally renowned Italian restaurant of Mr. Remo Di Lellio offering excellent Italian cuisine and fine wines with professional service.
But Remo is not the first to be providing restaurant service in Denham. The predecessor to his restaurant was The Tudor Lounge, subsequently just The Tudor Restaurant. In August 1988 the Hayes and Harlington Gazette was fulsome in its praise of The Tudor Restaurant obviously not anticipating that shortly afterwards Remo would be taking over.
“With the nearby M 25 busily threading traffic in all directions…it is nice to know of a get-away-from-it -all place where sanity can be restored and business deals talked through in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. That place is in fact, the Tudor Restaurant in one of the prettiest villages of South Bucks run by partners Bob Sherman and Kip Frankson”.
Nonetheless the Tudor Restaurant was clearly no short-lived establishment in the village. It is not easy to trace exactly when it opened but as The Tudor Lounge tea room it was certainly there in 1937 when the proprietors advertised, with a curt brevity that saved a few pennies in advertising costs, for:
"Lady, young, over 16, Confectionery, Tea rooms, sleep in or out - Tudor Lounge, Denham Village."
Ann Collins remembers the Tudor Lounge – known she recalls, "by a lovely sign outside containing a Tudor Rose. The lady who owned it was always very cross! My cousin had her wedding reception there and I was a bridesmaid". Could the ill-tempered lady have been Elsie Thorold. She was certainly running The Tudor Lounge with her husband Robert in 1939
Ann also remembers that the Tudor Lounge had a little known neighbour - yet another tea room. This was the Crocus Cottage Tea Room where one of the Spinning Wheel cottages now stands. That was the business of Eleanor Stratford but by September 1939 it was a business she had abandoned, perhaps unable to compete with the Tudor Lounge.
The Crocus Cottage is also perhaps notable for its name demonstrating the fondness of villagers of the past for naming their homes after flowers - as of course might be expected in a village with so many gardeners.
It seems that the The Tudor Lounge's business flourished despite the privations of the second world war years. It was frequently the venue for wedding receptions. In April 1943 for example the restaurant packed in nearly 70 guests for the wedding reception of Gordon Grant and Jean Moffitt.
The Tudor Lounge's popularity as a tea room perhaps also reflected the village's reputation as a home, both permanent and temporary, for film stars and others involved in the movie business working at the London Film Studios or at Pinewood -and indeed for their fans eager to rub shoulders with the glamorous and famous. However, the village was obviously attractive to visitors long before Alexander Korda brought his studio to Denham. Photographs from as early as 1904 clearly show that teas were being served at The Swan, The Green Man and at the shops which faced these pubs on the south side of Village Road.
Remo has kept up his connections with the film industry. Sir John and Lady Mills were lunchtime regulars and the restaurant has even provided location facilities. The Amersham Advertiser reported in April 1999, that Carlton Television had chosen the Da Remo restaurant to represent a bar in Germany so that actors John Thaw and Zara Turner could film a flashback scene for the post cold war drama “Waiting Time” scheduled to be shown on ITV later that year. More recently two of the main contributors to this website had experience of Da Remo as a film location, on notice of five minutes, when their son, also a film maker asked them to be "extras" in a short film he was shooting in there. On arriving they found Remo pacing outside morosely but with typical good humour complaining that the film makers would not allow him into his own restaurant.
The Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments dates the original construction of Da Remo’s building to the late 17th century. The double bowed shop front that appears on the building now was added in the days of The Tudor Lounge and the single storey building at the side of the main building, now called Stone’s Throw, has been modernised along with refurbishment of the upper floors.
The Tailor and the Post Office
The importance to the village of Da Remo's building has not only been as a restaurant. A 1910 Valuation Survey of 1910 records it as being the Denham Post Office, a house, and tailor’s shop and that was its purpose for much of the 19th century.
The 1910 report shows that the building was owned by a member of the Way family, (lords of the manor) and was occupied by Edwin Wiggins. It was described as being a brick and tile building with two attics, three bedrooms, a sitting room, parlour and scullery with a shed adjoining. It had a gross value of £250. A later document notes that Way had sold the property to Edwin Wiggins for £450 on 12 July 1918.
Edwin Wiggins was born in Burford in Oxfordshire in 1836. His father was a shoemaker, but young Edwin was placed with a near neighbour, a Mr. Higgins to learn the tailoring craft. When Edwin arrived in Denham in the 1860s he was already a Master Tailor. By 1881 he was installed in what became the Post Office with a flourishing business as a tailor and draper. In his business, Edwin Wiggins built up a large connection of relationships. He was mostly employed in making liveries – special uniforms worn by the servants - employed in the many large houses in the Denham neighbourhoods. In 1865 Edwin had married Sarah Ann.
They had five children, two sons and three daughters, one of whom Ada, born in 1873, proved to be a remarkable innovator who connected Denham to the outside world using the most up to date technology.
Postal services in England and Wales date from the time of Henry VIII in the early 16th century but it was not until 1840 that the foundations of the modern postal service were laid and post offices did not reach rural areas for some time after that. Services available at post offices did however expand after Parliament passed the Telegraph Act of 1863. By 1887, Denham village was “on-line” for its postal patrons to send telegrams. In 1891 the Wiggins’ eldest son Albert Edward had become the "letter carrier" and the 18 year old Ada Wiggins was the village telegraphist. The building we know as Da Remo had become the Post Office. Edwin nonetheless continued a very successful tailor’s business in the community that helped them celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in 1915
Edwin had been forced by ill health into retirement in 1913. His eldest daughter, Edith took over the post office and the tailoring business passed to Albert Edward. Albert carried on the tailoring business for several years, later becoming the village newsagent at Roseneath. Sadly he died unexpectedly from pneumonia whilst on holiday in Sheerness in 1937. He was just 67. In reporting on his funeral The Uxbridge & W Drayton Gazette, described him as "one of the best known and most popular residents of Denham.”
The article noted that Albert “was proud of the fact that he received his initial education in the Old Bowyer School situated in the churchyard, which was closed when the schools in Cheapside were erected. On leaving school Mr. Wiggins followed in his father's trade, and carried on the business of a tailor until a few years ago, when he became the local newsagent. He was closely associated with the political and social life of the village, being a member of the old Reading Room. Denham Rifle Club. Denham Cycling and Cricket Clubs, secretary of the " Green Man " slate club for many years, and a member of the committee of the Conservative Association."
The Gazette article also revealed that Albert had been something of a journalist. He had lived at Roseneath for over 40 years and "for the major part of that time had also acted as correspondent to this journal".
Albert's popularity was clearly illustrated by the attendance at his funeral which included Lady Vansittart and most of the well known residents of the village in his times.
Denham builder's yard
One of the oldest and still active businesses in the village, Cherry Woodworkers Limited, lies behind the gate next to The Green Man, though the history of the builder's yard behind the gate extends beyond the expert wordworking business established by Alan Richins. Several entrepreneurs have been in business in this yard. Hilary Richins is very familiar with the yard, although not with any previous name, if any. The 1835 tithe map just shows the land on the property. However, “the Cherry family must have bought the land at some point, and I presume they built the workshops to rent out as a means of income”, said Hilary.
Hilary is right. Herbert Cherry was born and raised in Hitchin. He married Rose Ann Taylor in 1904 and sometime soon after their marriage they moved to Denham. In 1911 Herbert identified himself as a carpenter working on "the estate", presumably Denham Place. And they had a lodger, none other than Emily Bampton displaced from The Swan which was by 1911 under the management of Emily's sister Mary and her husband Robert Taylor. By 1921 Herbert was in business on his own account as a builder. Herbert and Rose's son Bruce had taken on the business of carpentry. The Cherry family had visitors on census day 1921, the sisters Amy and Nellie Pollexfen daughters of a carpenter from Mile End in London. In 1939 Herbert and Bruce were still in a thriving business in Denham still as builder and carpenter respectively. This were the premises acquired by Alan and Hilary Richins for their specialist wordworking business. Hilary writes:
“Alan trained at Willesden Tech, then attended Hammersmith School of Design as an apprentice. He was a talented and creative craftsman. Alan’s father and family were living in Ruislip and after Alan’s training, his father talked him into starting his own business. After looking for space, and inquiring at the pubs what might be available, he rented a space in the Builders’ Yard in Denham Village. There were already four other businesses operating out of the Yard. At the bottom end (now an area next to the golf course) was a market garden or nursery flower garden but that was no longer there when Alan and I moved here in 1974. A metalworks shop was in business in the Yard, as was a shopfitter who built units for exhibitions; some of which were for the film industry here. Joe Sims and his son John had a workshop for his builders/carpenters too. At the time, Joe Sims also managed the Yard and dealt with the tenants of the companies operating there”.
Hilary recalls how whilst Alan was renting space in the yard on the Cherry property, he had named his business Cherry Woodworkers Ltd. when it became a limited company in 1969. "Cherry is a type of timber as well and we sold cherry pellets. So it was a combination of the two histories of our business,"
“Some years later, we began advertising in the local newspapers as Alan F. Richins, Precision Woodturning and Woodcrafts indicating the specialities of the business. So that customers could easily locate the business, we also added Alan F. Richins to the entrance gates but Cherry Woodworkers Ltd. is still visible on the original entrance sign to the Yard.
When Mrs. Cherry informed tenants that the property was to be sold, we bought the land and buildings in 1978. Even after we bought the Yard, the metalworks and shopfitter continued as tenants for some years. Joe Sims had retired by then.
As Alan was working in Denham and socialising in the pubs, he heard that No. 2 Rose Cottage was for sale. It was part of Denham Place Estate then owned by Lady Vansittart and No. 1 and No 2 Rose Cottages became available for sale by auction. That is when we bought No. 2 Rose Cottage.
In the very busy 1980s, it was not unusual for Alan to employ 8-10 other craftsmen in his shop. They were busy creating spindles, handrails, banisters and other components of balustrades, especially in period homes. His company also did work for the film industry. If there were a sketch, a drawing, or a photo of what was needed for the film, Alan and his staff could make it!
At one time …for 4-5 years… he and his company made thousands of tiny wooden spoons that were attached to and sold with the jars filled with Colman’s Mustard. Colman’s Mustard began making its tangy mustard sauce in the early 1800s. In 1855, Colman's introduced its distinctive yellow packaging and bull’s head logo. In 1866 Colman's was granted the Royal Warrant as manufacturers of mustard to Queen Victoria. Her Majesty’s household still uses Colman’s today. "
Hilary continued: "I remember the time too when Alan was supplying bungs for the Cutty Sark, the 1869 tea-clipper that had been built in Scotland and was moved to the East India Dock in London in December 1954. When it was damaged by fire in 2007, a £50 million restoration project was begun, and Alan’s company was one of many involved in saving the iconic ship. The Cutty Sark was 150 years old in December 2019 and is a famous attraction in Greenwich."
John Hawkins remembers Sidney Stevens' butcher's shop in "Forsters" that we know now as Antiquities. John writes: “When I was a teenager in the 1950s and lived in Denham, I managed to get a Saturday job working for the butcher to help with the meat order deliveries that were ordered for the weekends. I had a delivery bike with a large metal tray bolted to the front for the meat orders to sit in. I did the local orders in the morning and after lunch went out to help on the afternoon trips in Morris Minor delivery van. One order was to a well-known (at that time) Hollywood firm actress and recording star - Rosemary Clooney, who was over here working at Denham Film studios and had rented a house in Tilehouse Lane. I knocked on the door and she answered it! I handed the order over and she paid me. She was very pleasant and polite and seemed to me very ordinary, but in a nice way”.
John “I also had a paper round, every morning before school, cycling to New Denham to collect the papers then cycling back to deliver all. Sunday was the worst day when the papers were twice the size and most had magazines in them. I also had to collect the money that was owed so the delivery took up most of the morning”.
Sidney Stevens was a member of a family of butchers who in 1938 claimed to have been in the business for at least 120 years from when Cornelius Stevens opened a shop in Primrose Hill in 1818. Sidney himself had shops in Aylesbury and Great Missenden as well as the business managed for him by Mr. Ash in Denham. We find him Sidney Stevens first in the newspaper records in 1933 inviting locals to purchase from his shop their Christmas turkeys at "a price lower than for years".
Sidney was clearly also well known and popular in Denham as a regular donor of prizes for competitive events in the village. However in 1947 he got caught out by the tight post war restrictions on food sales when he was prosecuted and fined for selling meat in Harefield without cancelling off his customers' ration coupons. It seems that Mr. Stevens may have been carrying the can for his delivery drivers, but of course he had to take responsibility and no doubt he should have been checking. His defences might cause a wry smile amongst followers of current news when it was suggested that the regulations did not require that the coupons must be cancelled at each delivery rather ignoring the facts that six weeks had elapsed since the last cancellation. Customer and Denham villager Mrs. Peverill attempted to persuade the magistrates that she did not always offer her ration book for cancellations because the delivery driver's hands were often bloody and she didn't want to get the book dirty.
Mr. Stevens was fined £120 and ordered to pay two guineas in costs - but he kept his job and continued to serve the community for many more years. The business was subsequently taken over by Mr. Ash and Mac recalls "I worked for Mr. Ash as a Saturday job, taking his outlying customers their orders on home delivery in 1968/69. His shop was next to Valerie Evans at Roseneath. Previously he had operated the butcher section in a previous incarnation of The Old Store. The butcher part in The Old Store was on the left as you walked in, the grocery and sweets were on the right, and the Post Office was at the back."
The Old Store Mac mentions is well named. It was the grocery store of Sidney Williams. It also served as the village post office when Edith Wiggins moved away and the Tudor Lounge was opened in what had been Edwin Wiggins post office. Christine Webb remembers as a wartime child being sent by her mother to Sidney's village grocery shop to get the rations. "I remember the blue sugar bags plus a lady working the butter into pats for customers”.
Like his namesake the butcher, the grocer Sidney Williams was obviously well known in the community. Though the threat of German invasion had waned by March 1941, local residents were no doubt still trying to put the war out of their minds as they gathered for a charity whist drive for the blind in the bowls pavilion that spring evening and Miss Bronsdon was no doubt very grateful for the prizes supplied by Mr. Williams. The local press often reported on thanks given to Sidney Williams for his support of several local charities and he was also acknowledged as having provided refreshments for village events.
Sidney's other wartime role as the village postmaster was to manage the allocation of rations to villagers. The Uxbridge and West Drayton Gazette of 7th November 1941 carried the important and much needed notification to villagers:“You can obtain your Points Book by presenting your main Ration Book at Sidney Williams’ Store, from Monday, November 10 and 11, 2 p.m to 5 p.m."
Earlier though in 1938 Mr. Williams had suffered a double misfortune - his shop was burgled twice. In July 1938 Mr. G.F. Evans, the local newsagent, witnessed an early morning robbery that included a number of large packets of cigarettes being passed from the roof of the shop to a car waiting below. Mr. Evans is reported as having dutifully notified the police before continuing his early morning journey to Denham Station to get his supply of papers.
Then, just a couple of months later, in September 1938, "the premises of Sidney Williams, grocers and Post Office in Denham Village were burgled on a Sunday evening. No cash or other items were missing although three inner doors had been forced open as well as the entry at the rear of the shop."
The High Street
Though it does not seem ever to have been official, there is evidence that since there was much trading in this village, Village Road was thought of as the High Street. It was even called that on a few census returns. What is certainly the case is that the problems of traffic in the village are not new. Views of the village without cars as in the photo here, date from the 1890s and early 1900s when bicycles became affordable and practical. That was when men and women began to use bicycles to travel to and from work, often travelling long distances. It was before cars took over.
The Buckinghamshire Examiner Friday 16 October 1925 reported on a prosecution for speeding. "Stanley Harold Evans of the Old Bakery, who was a witness to the offense of “driving a motor car in a manner dangerous to the public” explained that he was opposite the Falcon Inn when a car came over the Misbourne Bridge at a very fast rate, and as it went to take the bend, the back of the car swerved to the left and scattered pedestrians to each side of the road. After the driver saw the Police Constable, he applied his brakes, causing the car to spin toward the pedestrians, then stop.”
Twenty-four years later, July, 1949: Mr. J. Moir of The Old Bakery. Denham. writing about the parking problem at Denham warned local electors, "On nearly every Saturday or Sunday some of us can barely get into our own houses. A number of the local residents cannot put their own cars away because of the lack of consideration of visiting motorists who take no notice of the numerous "No Parking" signs outside houses in the village. If something isn't done to stop the continual nuisance, the amenities of Denham village will be ruined. If you mean to vote at the next election make sure that your name is on the new Register of Electors. It will be available for you to check up between now and the end of July at your town, borough or village hall."
Nonetheless the coming of the motor car was of benefit to at least one village business, the garage services and petrol station at the bridge over the Misbourne. But more of that later this month, together with the story of Valerie Evans the newsagent, Mr. Horney selling vegetables from his horse drawn cart, bakers, blacksmiths and more.
2021 Cathy Soughton Bucks Research, www.bucksresearch.co.uk
The Buckinghamshire Historic Towns Project, Denham Historic Town Assessment, 2010