The Welsh Language

Over a thousand years ago after the Angles and Saxons invaded and settled the Chilterns, it became part of the kingdom of Mercia. The original British people are today known as the Celts. Over time the Anglo-Saxon language displaced the native British Celtic language. Welsh is the modern form of the original British Celtic language, which is still spoken in Wales, and the modern form of the Anglo-Saxon language is English.

Local placenames of Celtic origin

Only a few remnants of the original British language still remain in the Chilterns. The village of Penn comes from the word for top of a hill (modern Welsh pen). The word combe for a valley, as in Combe Hill near Wendover, is basically the same in modern Welsh (cwm). Wendover probably comes from the Celtic for white water, and the word Chiltern itself may well be of Celtic origin. King Offa of Mercia built a dyke to separate the English from the Welsh, which is still approximately the English-Welsh border.

The Welsh in England

In 1485, when the Welsh nobleman Henry Tudor became King Henry VII, many Welsh nobles came to live in London. Especially since Tudor times, there has always been a Welsh community in London known as the London Welsh, who have their own Welsh speaking churches and choirs, and the London Welsh football and rugby teams.

Richard Davies

Bishop Richard Davies, from north Wales, is one of the most important people in the history of Welsh literature. He was first a vicar in Buckinghamshire. From 1549 he was at Maids Moreton in north Bucks, and then from 1550 at Burnham in south Bucks, before becoming a bishop in Wales in 1560. He then oversaw the translation of the New Testament into Welsh, completing parts of it himself. The Bible translation into Welsh was a significant factor in the language’s survival.

Welsh Drovers

Over the centuries, men called drovers brought large herds of cattle, and other animals, from the rich pasture lands in Wales to markets in and around London. Old drovers’ lanes criss-cross Buckinghamshire. These drovers used Welsh names for large market towns such as Llundain for London, Rhydychen for Oxford, and Rhydwely for Bedford. Some Welsh families rented fields or bought farms in Buckinghamshire, where they fattened the animals before they were sent to market in London.

Economic migrants

In 1936 the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) toured south Wales to see the hardships caused by the Depression. He was upset by what the stories people told him. He was reported to have said, ‘Something must be done.’ As a result the Ministry of Labour set up a scheme to offer apprenticeships to unemployed Welshmen in places where new light industries were starting. This led to an influx of Welsh people, many being former coal miners from the valleys of south Wales, into places like Acton, Slough and Watford. Even today in Slough there is a Welsh-speaking church congregation called Capel-y-Lôn founded in 1938.

Aneurin Bevan

One of the most famous Welshmen of modern times is Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan, who set up the National Health Service. From 1954 he lived at Ashridge Farm near Chesham (see BFP Nostalgia May 24, 2020). Bevan Hill in Chesham is named after him.

Local MPs

The two most recent MPs for Chesham and Amersham have had Welsh links. Dame Cheryl Gillan was born in south Wales, and served as Secretary for Wales from 2010-12. The new MP Sarah Green is from north Wales. She gave her oath to the House of Commons in both English and Welsh.

Chiltern Welsh Society

In 2021, the Chiltern District Welsh Society celebrates its 21st anniversary. The society has over 100 members and provides a meeting place for the local Welsh community. The society was founded in 2000, by Ann Evans, after she made it her New Year’s resolution to form it. She mentioned the idea to some Welsh friends who responded enthusiastically and they met for a meal. The first organised event was a barbecue held in August 2000 for people to meet and get to know each other. The next meeting was a formal dinner at the Saracen’s Head in Amersham when Lord Ifor Richards was the speaker.


Chiltern Welsh Society is one of many hundreds of Welsh Societies across the world, made up of expatriates and people of Welsh heritage. Members come from around Chesham and Amersham, and across the Chilterns. Membership is open to those who are Welsh, their spouses and family, and those who have close Welsh connections, or who have Welsh heritage, or just an interest in Wales and Welsh matters. About a quarter of the members can speak Welsh, and enjoy the opportunity to use their mother tongue to talk each other.


Each year the Society organises a programme with an event most months. Events include country walks, talks with visiting speakers, visits to other Welsh Societies, concerts, and social events like theatre trips and golf. Annual events include a St David’s Day dinner, a summer garden lunch, and a trip to Wales.

National Day Dinners

The national day of Wales is St David’s Day on March 1st, and an annual St David’s Day dinner has included famous Welsh speakers such as Huw Edwards the BBC broadcaster, and Dr Rowan Williams the former Archbishop of Canterbury. Sometimes it has had a musical event including harpists, and up and coming Welsh singers.

Holidays to Wales

The Welsh holidays have been very popular, with a coach-load visiting different parts of Wales each year to see gardens, stately homes and museums, to climb Snowdon by foot or train, and using informed and entertaining guides.

Meeting during the pandemic

COVID restrictions have meant that many events in 2020 and 2021 were held on-line by Zoom. When restrictions were eased, some outdoor socially-distanced events were held such as walks and golf.

The Society is very friendly and welcoming and keeps in touch with newsletters and with a website Anyone interested in joining can contact Ann Lawrence on 01494 727207.