By Neil Rees 

A local artist has been surprised by the popularity of his drawings of Chesham’s historic shopfronts.

This is the story of shops of Chesham. 

Chesham town centre boasts a fine array of shops.

You can walk from Market Square, down the High Street, and along Broad Street to Berkhampstead Road and pass many distinct shops.

Other small stores are tucked away up old quaint cobbled yards, which have survived the modernisation of much of the town.

Some have been in the town for decades or generations, some are new and others are brands which you might find elsewhere in other towns.

Specialist Stores However, Chesham has some unique and specialist stores, housed in buildings which date from the 1600s onwards.

Whether you need a specialist bakery, butcher, greengrocer, hardware store, pet shop, music shop, camera shop, jewellery shop or bookstore you can find a shop run by local people, who happily help customers with their expertise.

Chesham also has its local produce market, and twice-weekly street market, a tradition that has continued since the town was granted its charter in 1257.

As well as its historic pubs, Chesham now has many charity shops and cafes, a testimony to changing times Local artists over the years Over the years Chesham’s historic buildings have inspired local people.

Local photographers Augustus Writer photographed much of the town, which are now reproduced in the book “Augustus Writer’s Chesham into the 1920s”.

Later the artist George Bridges painted many of the scenes, which are now reproduced in the book “Old Chesham – Paintings & stories by George Bridges”.

Another artist Val Biro drew many Chesham scenes, and some appear in his Gumdrop books. (These have been featured in previous Nostalgia articles.)

Mr Gavin Darvell


Now following in that tradition, one local artist has been inspired by these historic buildings to draw some of their shopfronts.

Gavin Darvell grew up in Botley near Ley Hill, and has also lived in many places such as Dunstable, the Czech Republic, London, Japan, Chorleywood, Bovingdon and Aylesbury.

However, it is the old buildings of Chesham which really inspire him. He says that he loves Chesham and the Chesham area, and he often goes to watch Chesham United.

He says that there “are some beautiful places in the town” and “I love the surrounding countryside”.

Drawing Shopfronts


It was a friend who suggested that he should draw scenes of Chesham, with new shops in old buildings.

Many parts of the town have been drawn and painted, but he said “I felt that shopfronts haven’t really been done before, so I thought, let’s give it a try”.

The first of Chesham’s shops he drew was Collectors’ Paradise at 42 High Street as “it’s a shop with so much interest in the windows!”

Bucks Free Press: The Tavern on The BroadwayThe Tavern on The Broadway (Image: Gavin Darvell)

He then drew Blue Haze Arts and Crafts shop at 2 Church Street in its quirky old building on the corner of Market Square.

He said that he “loved the building”, which has been many things in its time including at one time a Christian bookstore.

After that, he drew The Good Earth Gallery, tucked down at number 2, Lacey’s Yard. Then he drew The Tavern, at 96, The Broadway, which until 2010 was the Cock Tavern Inn, one of Chesham’s many pubs.

His drawing brings out the early nineteenth century architecture, including slate roof and finials. His plan is to now draw other old shop buildings.

Interest in Art


Gavin Darvell says that his father and all his family are quite artistic and musical, so the creative juices flow through his family.

In fact, his family have local roots going back centuries.

Gavin went to school at Ley Hill, and then to Cestreham School, the former boys’ school in Chesham which closed in 1988 when it combined with Lowndes Girls’ School to form Chesham Park School.

It was there that he had an amazing art teacher called Mr Ablett, who worked there from 1972.

He claims that he was the best teacher in Bucks. Gavin Darvell said that “Mr Ablett was amazing, always encouraging and helpful”, and he helped him to do his A-level Art two years early.

Since then Gavin says he has always sketched.



Growing up Gavin Darvell loved the Giles cartoons, in fact he was his favourite artist. He also liked local artist Val Biro’s Gumdrop books, and in fact his grandfather featured in one of the books.

More recently Gavin says he was also motivated by the work of the Swedish artist Mattis Adolfsson, whose lessons made a massive difference to him.

Local people may know Gavin Darvell for his radio show.

For three years he hosted The Monday Night Music Club on Chiltern Voice, which got listeners from around the world. He said “I love music and it was a wonderful experience playing tunes I loved”.

Gavin has also had a go at writing and illustrating his own children’s books. At one time he wrote the John Wilson books, retelling tales of the reputed history of Ley Hill.

Recently he wrote “A Night with Elvis” which showcases some of his more recent works and cartoons.

Where to buy them


Gavin Darvell says that he has had a really positive response to his artwork.

His illustrations have been made into cards, which have brought an appreciation of Chesham’s historic shops to a wider audience.

The cards, which can also be used as postcards are £1 each from JPS Stationers at 7 Market Square.

Gavin also has greetings cards are priced at £2.50 each or £10 for the set, with posters coming too. Gavin Darvell also does commissions.

He is about to move overseas to Japan, but he quips “but I’ll still be drawing the Chesham shopfronts”.

Anyone interested can email him on And Gavin Darvell’s word of advice for people in Chesham? “Have a look up folks. See the buildings, they hold many tales and have so much character.”

Images courtesy of Gavin Darvell