George Ward the talented Amersham photographer was a man of many parts: he was the first manager of the Amersham Gasworks, he set up the town’s first cycle and car repair business, was a town councillor and the founder of Amersham Town Band.

His glass plate negatives and photographic record of Amersham from Victorian times to WWI and the 1930s are an important part of Amersham Museum’s collection.

The story of the changes that the railway brought to the small market town and the new development at the top of the hill is now told in a new book Amersham 1880 to 1930 through the lens of George Ward.

George Ward was one of eight children. His father moved to a house on London Road, Amersham in the late 1850s and became the Foreman Carpenter at Weller’s Brewery.

George started his working life as a delivery boy for the Bucks Advertiser, which was printed in Amersham at King’s Chemist in the Market Square.

The son of the proprietor had a camera, and he taught George to take some early portrait photographs. By the 1880’s, George had become a painter and glazier at Weller’s Brewery, but he was also recording daily life in the town and restoration of the church with his own camera.

He took a number of photographs of Elmodesham House for the Cheese family including one of their maids, Bessie Eagles, whom he married in 1886 at Chenies Baptist Church. After their marriage, George and Bessie, lived in Tan Yard, when he became the first Manager of the newly expanded Gas Works.

His duties included lighting all the gas lamps in the Old Town every evening. During this time, his interest in photography and engineering grew and he became known as a watch and cycle repairer.

In 1890, he handed over the role of manager of the Gas Works to his brother Fred and set up a shop where Bessie sold crockery and toys, and he built a new photographic studio. In his spare time, George played the violin at chapels in the area and was a strong supporter of the Temperance Movement.

He founded the ‘Amersham Sons of Temperance Band’ in 1890, acting as bandmaster, secretary and treasurer. It is said that he was able to play all the musical instruments himself and tutored the other members of the band.

By 1892 the band had been renamed the Amersham Town Band as various members had broken their pledge!

By 1896 he moved to larger premises opposite the Market Hall where Bessie expanded her shop to sell tea, coffee and tobacco.

In the spacious yard behind the shop, George manufactured the ‘Wizard’ bicycle and had a repair workshop, which sold spare parts.1902 George was registered as a car repairer and soon purchased his own car called the ‘Orient Express’.

This is one of the first motor cars in Amersham. He took many photos of cars and bicycles, an interest his sons George and Cornelius (Corrie) shared.

They took over running the Garage and Cycle works in 1909.

George and Bessie were married for 50 years and through George’s photos and records, Amersham has been left a memorable legacy of life 100 years ago with George recording key events in the town such as the remodelling of St Mary’s church, the laying of the railway tracks, the first recorded car accident and a biplane landing in a local field.

He also left memorable portraits of the townsfolk and a record of their work and their clothes and their entertainment from dancing bears in the High Street to the annual Charter Fair.

The book is available at Amersham Museum. Do come and see us this weekend when we will be launching our new Mobile Museum.

By Emily Toettcher of Amersham Museum