Tim Yates reminded me that this year is the 150th anniversary of the death of the respected Rev Frederick Aylward, who played an important part in the history of Chesham.

Frederick Aylward

Adolphus Frederick Aylward (known as Frederick) was born in Hampshire in 1821. He studied at Oxford and entered the ministry in the Church of England. In 1844 he was appointed curate at the parish church in Bovingdon. It was in Bovingdon that he met and married Miss Julia Morton, who was working as a governess.

Coming to Chesham

In 1847 they moved 5 miles to St Mary’s, parish church of Chesham, where Frederick became vicar. They lived at the Vicarage in Church Street (which recently saw fame as a location for the 2014 film the Imitation Game about Alan Turing). It was there that their three daughters were born: Julia in 1847, Gertrude in 1848 and Edith in 1851. Their house was busy and they were often joined by relatives. Frederick’s brother Henry Aylward, who was a surgeon, died in Chesham aged 31 in 1850, and their father Anthony Aylward died aged 64 in 1852. They are buried together in St Mary’s churchyard. In 1862 the Aylwards lost their daughter Julia, age 15, and in 1869 a small stained glass window, positioned behind the organ, of Jairus’s daughter was dedicated to her. Her grave was planted with a blanket of snowdrops.

Christian Faith

Frederick and Julia Aylward both had a strong Christian faith that made them concerned for local people, especially the poor. During 25 years of ministry, they took an active part in many of Chesham’s organisations and activities, sometimes working with non-conformist ministers. In 1850 Rev Frederick Aylward helped to establish Germain’s School, which is now called Thomas Harding School. In 1856 Mrs Aylward started a soup kitchen to help feed Chesham’s poor. In 1866 he started meetings to establish a hospital in Chesham, along with the town doctors: Dr George Faithorn, and his assistant Dr John Foot Churchill. It opened in 1869 and Rev Frederick Aylward then served on the hospital committee as its secretary.

Church planting

At this time Chesham was one of the biggest ecclesiastical parishes in the country, with many hamlets. For centuries Chesham had had two Anglican churches – the parish church in the town and the one at Latimer, but Rev Frederick Aylward aimed to establish Anglican services in each hamlet. In 1862 a new church building was commissioned to be built at Waterside, then an expanding part of Chesham. It was opened in 1864 and was named Christ Church, and Aylward became its first vicar. It became a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1867, with a vicarage up Trapps’s Lane.

Improving St Mary’s

In 1867 Rev Frederick Aylward started a major restoration project of the parish church building. The work was commissioned from Sir George Gilbert Scott, who had strong local connections. The work strengthened the tower, rebuilt the chancel and added a new east window, as well as making many repairs. They removed the old box pews and high pulpit and made the building more suitable for evangelical low Anglican worship. From September 1868, during the restoration work, services were held in the schoolroom (now the church rooms) and the boys’ Sunday School was held at the Quakers Meeting House. The restored St Mary’s Church was re-opened on December 9, 1869.

St George’s Church

His next project was a chapel-of-ease at Tyler’s Hill connected to Christ Church. Trapps Lane was a road which led directly from Christ Church to Botley and Tyler’s Hill, although today it is just a country trackway. The foundation stone for Saint George’s church was laid on July 27, 1871 and it was dedicated on November 2, 1871. Rev Frederick Aylward was expected to be there and speak, but he could not make it because he had fallen ill with typhoid.

Death in 1871

Typhoid fever had struck Chesham in 1871. It broke out in buildings near the Vicarage, and spread through Chesham in areas of poor sanitation. Rev Frederick Aylward often visited the sick at Chesham Hospital and at their homes, and eventually caught typhoid himself. After ten days of illness he died in the Vicarage on November 12, 1871.

His funeral was said to be the biggest that Chesham ever saw. All Chesham’s shops closed in respect. He was buried in the new town cemetery in Bellingdon Road. A local newspaper wrote “The amiable, kind-hearted, genial vicar of Chesham, has fallen a martyr to his sense of duty”. He is buried near fellow workers of his church who also died battling typhoid: Dr George Faithorn, and two London nurses Sister Jane Field and Sister Emma Jennings.

There are other memorials to him too. In 1875 a brass plaque was put up in his honour behind the lectern in St Mary’s church, which says “He rejoiced to see this Church restored, Christ Church and St George’s built and then in the faithful discharge of his duties he was stricken with fever…” In the 1950s a road called Aylward Gardens off Penn Avenue, was named in his memory.

His daughters

After Aylward’s death, his widow and two surviving daughters continued to live in Chesham. On December 10, 1872 their daughters were married at a grand double wedding at St Mary’s Church, Chesham. Hundreds of well-wishers came from Chesham to see the event. Gertrude Aylward married Dr Churchill, and they had two children who lived in Chesham. Edith Aylward married James Weller, from the Amersham brewery company. They had ten children and lived in Amersham. Four of their sons went on to become Anglican vicars.


Mrs Julia Aylward died age 89 in 1897, and is buried with her husband. Today the gravestone for Frederick and Julia Aylward is in poor condition. There are ideas to restore it for the 150th anniversary of his death later this year. If you are interested in the project please contact Neil Rees on nwrees@gmail.com and he can connect you.