Chesham’s Greatest Day

On August 5, 1919 great peace celebrations were held in Chesham Park, which the local newspaper claimed was the greatest event ever held in Chesham. A great procession passed through the town, ending in the park where there was a great party, with a fete, competitions, amusements including a Punch and Judy show, a show of living marionettes and a ventriloquist. A big children’s party was organised with all the town’s Sunday Schools when 1,700 children were fed. Events were held all day and into the night with fireworks. The last people left at nearly midnight. Other events were held around the town including a party of the staff and patients at Chesham Cottage Hospital.

The Report

In a side note to the report of the events the newspaper reported “During the afternoon two victory oaks were planted in the Park, near the bowling green, and the ceremony was a brief but attractive one, every detail being well-thought out.”


For this ceremony a group of dignitaries were invited to gather on the edge of the park. Mr Frank Howard, Chesham’s auctioneer, and former President of the Bucks Baptist Association, introduced the group. They were invited to plant two oak trees as war memorials which they called the “Victory Oaks”. The oak has long been a symbol of England because of its strength, beauty and powers of survival.

Thomas J. Miller, manager of Carlton Press lined up the group for a photograph and gave spades to Mrs Lowndes and to Lady Chesham to hold. He was known as the “Grand Old Snapper” and took many photographs of Chesham events which ended up in the newspapers. He was also the founder of Chesham Bowls Club, which since 1912 had used the lawn of the former Skottowes House, said to be the only flat part of the park. It was near to that bowling green that the group stood, with St Mary’s Church in view behind then.

First Oak

The first oak tree was planted by Margot Cavendish, Lady Chesham of Latimer House, and Major Lionel de Rothschild. Rothschild was M.P. for Aylesbury from 1910 to 1923, when that constituency included most of mid-Bucks including Chesham. He had served as a Major in the Royal Buckinghamshire Yeomanry.

Second Oak

The group walked a bit further down the hill to plant the second tree, formally planted by Mr. and Mrs. Lowndes, and Mrs and Mrs Byrne.

William F. Lowndes Esq, playing as William Frederick Frith, had been a distinguished cricketer and had played for Buckinghamshire from 1908 to 1913. He and his wife Ethel Maude Lowndes lived at The Bury. They owned the park until they gave it to the people of Chesham in 1953.

Mr. and Mrs. Byrne lived in Amy Lane, Chesham. Mr Henry Algenon Veney Byrne was the chairman of Chesham Urban District Council and chief brewer at the Chesham Brewery, later becoming its Managing Director. Mr Byrne was actually Irish and had been born in County Tipperary. They were part of Our Lady’s Catholic Church at Chesham Bois. Mr Byrne had been involved in selecting the design for Chesham War Memorial and was involved in many community groups.

Representatives of the Allies

After the trees were planted various people who lived locally, representing the different Allied nations, formally helped to complete the planting of each tree with a shovel of earth.

Madame Marie Chomette, represented France. She was married to Paul Chomette. They had lived at Bois Villa, Bois Lane, Chesham Bois since about 1906, and ran a business importing fine French china and other goods. They were also active members of Our Lady’s Catholic Church at Chesham Bois.

Next there was an attractive looking Polish lady representing Poland, but her name was not recorded.

Lady Constance Sydney Swettenham came after her in 1878 she had married Sir Franck Swettenham, Governor of Straits Settlements in Malaya but returned to England, not liking the heat. She expected her husband to join her but he never did. In 1903 she went to New York where she enjoyed high society parties. She later returned to England. Although not American, she was representing the U.S.A. because she had lived there.

The last lady was Madam Alice Elizabeth Del Monaco. She was representing Italy. She was in fact English, but was married to Signor Don Ireneo del Monaco and they lived at Combe Lodge in Chesham Bois. Her husband died in 1912 and she is in widow’s clothes in the photo.

Then two clergymen came. The Rev Percy Vincent Boyes, Anglican Vicar of St Mary’s Parish Church represented Great Britain and the Colonies. He was in army uniform having been recalled from India to serve in the forces as an army chaplain in 1915. He then served as curate in Letchworth before becoming vicar in Chesham.

Then Father Mortimer Joseph Flanagan joined. He was the new Catholic priest from Our Lady’s in Chesham Bois. He was born in England, but his family were Irish and he represented Ireland in the ceremony. He had also served as a Captain in the Army, He remained the Catholic parish priest until 1934

At the end the newspaper reported “A cordial vote of thanks was accorded Lady Chesham and Major Rothschild upon the proposition of Mr. Byrne and Major Rothschild replied,” He said “that he had seldom, if ever, seen a happier set of people”, and he “pictured the children’s children of those present playing under grand old oaks”. The National Anthem then concluded the ceremony.

The Victory Oaks today

Today the 2 oak trees remain in the park, now over a hundred years old. Chesham Bowls Club bought their ground in 1947, which included the first tree as shown in the photograph.. The second one is bit further down the hill.

Today many people pass them but few know of their significance. Near one oak tree grown adults play bowls and under the other children play or take rest in the shade as Major Rothschild had imagined.


If you know any more about the Victory Oaks please contact me on 01494 258328 or