THE shop in question is 69 Broadway which has sadly stood empty now for around two years. Number 69 is one of the very few remaining original untouched cottages in this part of Chesham and is believed to date back to the 17th and possibly even the 16th century. It is a Grade II listed building and it is tragic to see the slow deterioration of such an important piece of the town’s past.

History for the property is very sketchy until the government started holding regular 10 year census returns and the first of these was in 1841. It is therefore possible to look at these census returns and build up a picture of who occupied 69 Broadway from this time onwards.

To start with, the property was residential but after the arrival of the railway in 1889, more and more properties in the Broadway were turned into shops so that railway passengers did not need to walk to the town centre (which was then in Church Street) for their needs.

1851 Census;

In 1851, number 69 was the home of John Dove aged 48 who was a carver. He lived with his wife Mary aged 40 and their two children Elizabeth aged 9 and Walter aged 8. John was born in Ripon, Yorkshire so he had travelled a long way from his birthplace. His wife Mary on the other hand, was born in Chesham. We can assume from the fact that Chesham was becoming famous for woodenware goods that John was a wood carver.

1861 Census:

The next census in 1861 tells us that number 69 was now occupied by Ephraim Painter aged 40 who was a brush hawker (travelling salesman selling brushes). He lived there with his wife Sophia also aged 40 who had been a schoolmistress before their marriage but now described herself as a greengrocer. This is the first hint that the dwelling has become a shop. At the time of this census, they had five children – William aged 16, Sarah aged 12, Elizabeth aged 9, Edward aged 7 and Clara who was less than a year old. The family had moved to 69 Broadway from Collins Alley, which was roughly where the entrance to Sainsburys from the upper High Street is today. Ephraim and daughter Sarah both died in 1869.

1871 Census:

Sophia had been widowed at the age of 48 with four surviving children to care for. She had two choices – either struggle on trying to support the family as best she could or go into the Union Workhouse in Amersham, which would mean the family being split up. Sophia decided to stay where she was but life was very hard for the family, because as well as running her greengrocery business she was also taking in washing and on subsequent census returns described herself as a shopkeeper and washerwoman. She was also taking in lodgers. By the time of the 1871 census, William had left home. Elizabeth was working as a straw plaiter whilst Emma and Clara were both at school (education had been made compulsory for all children up to the age of 12 in 1870). Edward was a woodenware worker.

1881 Census:

Edward had left home by the time this census was held and daughters Clara and Emma were working as brush drawers.

A brush drawer fixed the bristles into the brush handle using lengths of wire to hold each bunch of bristles in place.

The nearest place the girls could have worked was on the opposite side of the Broadway (now Caffe Nero) where Webbs had a large brush factory. At one time people worked in their own homes, but mechanisation and the opening of larger and larger factories meant that this practice gradually died out.

1891 Census:

Daughter Emma had married a Richard Saunders aged 27 who was a boot rivetter, and the couple were living with Sophia.

Clara had married a William Lacey in 1889 and they had a son Arthur James in 1894 who was born in Bath.

1901 Census:

Although Sophia was still living at 69 Broadway at the time of this census, Emma had taken over running the business and has diversified by starting to sell confectionery as well as fruit and veg.

Sophia died later in 1901 at the age of 80. She had been living at number 69 and running her business for over 40 years.

1911 Census:

By the time of this census, Richard had given up working for a boot maker and was running the shop along with his wife Emma. Nephew Arthur Lacey served in the Merchant Navy in WW1 and was decorated more than once with Gallantry and Campaign Medals.

1930s to 1970s:

In 1929, Richard and Emma gave up the shop and it was taken over by their nephew Arthur Lacey who ran it as a confectioners and tobacconists. In 1950, his son Ken joined him as a partner in the business.

Arthur died suddenly in 1975 at the age of 83. He had been working in the shop just two weeks earlier.

Ken decided to retire and closed the business in 1977. It was taken over by father and son Norman and Dave Filby as the Broadway Newsagents.

So ended an era of four generations of the same family owning and running a business at 69 Broadway for over 100 years – from Ephraim and Sophia Painter, via their daughter Emma and her husband Richard Saunders, to Emma’s nephew Arthur Lacey and then his son Ken.