Amersham had a professional theatre for 20 years from 1936 to 1956. The theatre building still exists as the Amersham Auction Rooms, adjoining the lovely Arts and Crafts Station Parade at the top of Station Road.

The front elevation was rebuilt but the theatre layout is still intact, with the original stage used by the auctioneer at the dramatic weekly sales.

Although the next auction isn’t until 6th February as a new floor is being installed!

The building was constructed as a warehouse for the neighbouring grocery shop, International Stores but it was never used for this.

By 1907 it was known as Bijoux Hall and was used as a community centre for the then small population of Amersham-on-the-Hill. Entertainments were held such as dancing, lectures and concerts by the Bijoux Hall Choral Society. Alfred Ellis held religious services here before founding the Amersham Free Church.

In 1922 it was opened as The Pavilion Cinema by Walter Collins, a composer and pianist.

The first film shown was the silent movie Forbidden Fruit by Cecil B DeMille, accompanied by Walter on the piano. Walter’s wife opened a small cafe in the basement and a 3d ticket entitled you to a seat and a cup of tea or a bag of sweets for children.

The Pavilion closed in 1929 after Walter opened the Regent Cinema in Sycamore Road with local builder, Alfred Woodley.

In 1931 a local amateur dramatic group, The Mid Bucks players rented the building and opened with the Ghost Train.

Now known as The Playbox Theatre, there was a new auditorium of 220 seats, a trapdoor and dressing rooms in the basement where the café had been.

Despite the difficulty of selling seats, it was relaunched as a professional theatre, The Amersham Playhouse in 1936.

Sally Latimer, a talented actor and director founded a new company here, the Amersham Repertory Players.

Caryl Jenner, who went on to establish the Unicorn Theatre, joined her in 1938 and they continued, relatively successfully over 25 seasons until March 1949 with a different production every week.

Many well-known actors started their careers in Amersham. Denholm Elliott went on to have a successful film career and won a BAFTA for his role in Room with a View.

Glyn Houston’s TV credits included Doctor Who, Minder and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.

Mary Wimbush joined Amersham Rep straight out of drama school and went on to have a long TV and stage career before becoming best known as Julia Pargetter in The Archers.

Anna Wing also had a long and varied career before playing matriarch, Lou Beale in Eastenders.

Nevertheless, the most famous is still film star Dirk Bogarde who was known as Derek Bogaerde when he trod the boards of the Playhouse in 1940 at the beginning of his career.

Despite being described as the hardest working theatre venture in the country, audiences dwindled in the post-war years when Amersham’s population shrank considerably as many temporary residents moved back to London.

Sally Latimer and Caryl Jenner reluctantly closed the theatre in March 1949.

However, it reopened just six months later thanks to the husband and wife team of Rosa de Leon and John Ferris, who sold their house and sunk all their capital into buying the Playhouse.

After more than 300 productions and 2,500 performances the theatre finally closed at the very beginning of 1956 with the pantomime Babes in the Wood.

This final production was written by Margery Mason, actress, writer and the theatre manager at Amersham for several years.

She had one of the longest-running careers ever achieved by an actor.

She was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and her work included the award-winning 1960s BBC drama Talking to a Stranger, with Judy Dench, the 1980s Hollywood hit The Princess Bride and a cameo role in Love Actually.

Incredibly, age 92 she was the Trolley Witch, pushing the sweet trolley, the Honeydukes Express, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

As part of their programming for 2020 Amersham Museum will be commemorating VE day with an exhibition on Amersham and the surrounding area in 1945 and would love to hear from you.

If you have any photos or memories to share with us please email