CHESHAM, in the hundred and deanery of Burnham, is about 29 miles from London: it has had a market on Wednesdays from time immemorial: the fairs are, April 21, July 22, and Sep. 28.
A manufacture of coarse wooden ware is carried on in this town, to a considerable extent; a great number of hands are employed in making shoes for the London warehouses; the female poor are for the most part lace-makers. The town of Chesham, according to the returns made to parliament, under the population act in 1801, contained 370 houses, and 1910 inhabitants; of these 887 were stated to be males, and 1023 females; 49 persons only appear to have been employed chiefly in agriculture, and 656 in trade, manufactures, and handicraft.
The manor Great-Chesham was parcel of the barony of Bulbec, and passed by a female heir to the Veres. The Earl of Oxford sold it, about the year 1550, to the Seymours: it was afterwards in the family of the Sandys, from whom it passed by purchase to that of Cavendish. The present proprietor of this manor, to which the manors of Chesham-Higham and Chesham-Bury seem to have been annexed from an early period, is the Right Hon. Lord George Cavendish, only brother of the Duke of Devonshire, who has a seat in this parish at Latimers.
The manor of Grove, in this parish, was for many generations in the family of Cheyne. After some intermediate alienations, it was purchased in 1704 by Wm. Lowndes esq. secretary to the treasury, and is now the property of his descendant of the same name. Mr. Lowndes has also the manor of Hundridge in this parish. The site of the manor-house of Grove lies about half-way between Berkhampsted and Chesham. The Cheynes had anciently a seat there, which appears to have been a place of considerable strength: part of the great hall was remaining in 1750; there was a chapel adjoining the house. Mr. Lowndes, the purchaser of this estate, built a house adjoining the church-yard at Chesham, now the seat of his descendant above-mentioned.
The parish church is a large Gothic structure: in the chancel are several monuments of the family of Skottowe, among which is one from an elegant design by Bacon, for Nicholas Skottowe esq. who died in 1798. In the south aisle is the monument of Sir John Cavendish K.B. (younger son of the first Earl of Devonshire) who died without issue in 1618, and that of Mary, the first wife of Sir Francis Whichcote bart.
The impropriation of the great tithes was formerly divided between the monastries of Leicester and Woburn, each of which appointed a vicar. The rectorial manor of Chesham-Woburn, with the advowson of one mediety of the vicarage, was granted to the Russel family in 1553. The late Duke of Bedford sold the manor to the Rev. Mr. Hubbard, but retained the advowson. The tithes of most of the estates within the manor have been purchased by the several proprietors. The two medieties of the vicarage were consolidated by act of parliament in the year 1767: the Duke of Bedford being the patron of both, built the present vicarage house, and pulled down the two houses which had belonged to the portionists. The rectorial manor of Chesham-Leicester, together with the advowson of a mediety of the vicarage, belonged in the year 1609 to the family of Ashfield, who sold it to the Whichcotes about the year 1650. The rectory-house near the church-yard was for some time one of the residences of that family, whose chief seat is in Lincolnshire. About the year 1730, they sold this estate to the Skottowes, excepting the advowson which was purchased by the Duke of Bedford. This manor has lately been sold piece-meal; the tithes were for the most part purchased by the proprietors of the several estates, and the rectory-house by Mr. Lowndes.
Thomas Wedon, who died in 1624, founded an alms-house in this parish for four poor persons, and endowed it with 35 l. per annum.
Hundridge, where was formerly a chapel of ease, Chartridge and Ashridge, Ashley-Green and Billingdon, Botley, Water-side and Latimers, are hamlets of this parish. These hamlets contained, in 1801, according to the returns then made to parliament under the population act, 424 houses, 23 of which were uninhabited. The number of inhabitants was 2059, which, added to those in the town of Chesham, makes the total number of inhabitants in the parish amount to 3967, and that of houses to 803: it being nearly as populous as the parish of High-Wycombe, and, excepting that, the most populous in the county.
The ancient name of Latimers was Isenhampsted or Iselhamsted. It seems to have been formerly considered as a distinct parish. The benefice, which has been sometimes called a rectory, but which is more properly a donative endowed with tithes, is distinct from Chesham, being in the patronage of the Cavendish family; but as the births and burials are all registered at Chesham, and it is assessed jointly to the poor-rate and other parochial taxes, it can now only be considered as a hamlet of that parish. King Edward III. in the year 1324, granted the manor of Iselhampsted, which had belonged to Hugh Le Despencer, to Sir Simon de Bereford, and two years afterwards to William Latimer, from whose family it derived its present name, being called Iselhampsted or Isenhampsted-Latimers, to distinguish it from the neighbouring village of Isenhampstead-Cheynies. From the Latimers this manor passed to the Grevilles, who sold it to Sir Edwyn Sandys. Hester, the daughter of Miles Sandys esq. who was born at Latimers and baptized at Chesham in 1569, is the lady celebrated by Fuller in his Worthies, as the parent stock of a posterity of seven hundred persons, whom she lived to see descended from her to the fourth generation: her own children were thirteen in number. The author assures us that he speaks within compass, having bought the truth by a wager which he lost on the subject. This lady married Sir Thomas Temple of Stowe, and died in 1656, at the age of 87. From the family of Sandys, Latimers passed by purchase to that of Cavendish. When King Charles I. was carried about in triumph by the parliamentary army, he was brought for a few days to Latimers, which was then inhabited by Christian, Countess of Devonshire, and her son the earl. It may be supposed that the captive monarch experienced all the attention which his illustrious rank and misfortunes claimed, from that celebrated lady, whose zeal and loyalty on a subsequent occasion exposed her life to hazard. Latimers is now the property and seat of the Right Hon. Lord George Augustus Henry Cavendish.
In the chapel belonging to this hamlet, which is situated near the mansion, is the monument of a young actress, of the name of Campion (put up by George Duke of Devonshire) with the following inscription ;- on one side: "Requiescit hic pars mortalis Mæ. Cn. Obiit 19 Maii Ao. 1706, Ætatis 19: quod superest ex alterâ parte quoere." - On the other side. - "Formam egregiam & miris illecebris ornatam virtutes animi superârunt: plebeium genus sed honestum nobilitate morum decoravit. Suprâ ætatem sagax; suprâ sortem præsertim egenis benigna; inter scenicos ludos in quibus aliquandiu versata est, verecunda et intemerata. Post quatuor mensium languorem a febri hecticâ correpta intempestivam mortem forti pectore et Christianâ pietate subivit. Humanitate præditis si quid mentem mortalia tangunt flebilis, amicis heu flebilior: dilectissimis reliquiis sacrum lapidem hunc poni curavit, G.D.D."