The Coleshill History Group was inaugurated in January 2010. The group was formed to continue and expand the work of the Coleshill History Project which produced the book A History of Coleshill published in November 2009.
The group exists to encourage the study of all branches of local history, paying special attention to the collection, preservation, and compilation of records relating to the history of Coleshill and its surroundings.
The group holds meetings six times a year with occasional guest speakers. All villagers are members of the History Group. Do ask for details if you are interested.
News - Winter 2018
Visit to Penn House
Our summer visit was to Penn House, graciously hosted by Earl and Countess Howe, on a beautiful summer evening in August. We were entertained to drinks in the garden and Lord Howe explained the connections between the Penns, the Curzons and the Howes. We commenced our tour of the house in the hall with the magnificent Gainsborough portrait of Admiral Lord Howe, who was made Admiral of the Fleet and raised to the peerage as 1st Earl Howe after his naval victory over the French in the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794.
There are many naval pictures in Penn House and Lord Howe also showed us a very interesting collection of historical artefacts including Admiral Howe’s ship’s log and diary with beautifully written entries concerning the weather and the state of the sea as they approached the battle, a medicine cabinet with bottles labelled with all sorts of unguents and medicaments, and a magnificent diamond-encrusted sword presented to him by George III. Unfortunately the diamonds had been removed by one family member to make some personal jewellery and replaced with paste! Lady Howe also showed us the pearl necklace she was wearing which had been a present by Henry VIII to Sarah Penn, who was nursemaid to Edward VI . The estate was gifted to the Penn family by Henry VIII in recognition of her service.
The present house was built in 1760, after a previous Tudor building had been knocked down, and has Victorian extensions. There are wonderful specimen trees in the garden and the mile-long banked drive was built by the 5th Earl who was a prominent racing driver and used it to practise his driving. Then, for the ten years after WW2, the house was occupied by two boys' schools. Unfortunately, the boys inflicted damage to the moulded plaster ceiling in the dining room. This is now hidden by a stretched canvas ceiling that gives the room a fittingly nautical air.
The Howes were very generous hosts and, at the end of a fascinating visit, answered many questions, some obviously related to their present political life.
(Thank you to Jane McNeilly and Helen and Steve Hitchen for these notes and to Steve Hitchen for the photos)
At our September meeting, we enjoyed a return visit from Pam Appleby, who was born (in 1930) and grew up in the village. Her memory is vast and vivid and her delivery was fast and humorous, so she kept us on the edge of our seats!
She started by describing the big houses and the huge number of people who would be working in them. For instance, Coleshill House had four houses for servants to live in – Greys Cottage used to house four servants – and rooms in the roof for “the girls”. Six live-in maids were employed. She mused that one had to wonder what they all did and whether they didn’t wait on each other! We heard tales of polite calls from the bank to tell Sir Richard Powell at The Larches (now Chalk Pit House) that his wife had overdrawn again, of the squire in his self-driven wheelchair turning it over when he’d a few too many drinks, of seeing (from Red Lion Cottages) the Crystal Palace burning, and of two coaches of evacuees arriving when no one knew they were coming (half were housed overnight in the village hall and half in the windmill).
Pam encouraged us to use the old names for roads and paths – like Sampsons for the road to Winchmore Hill – and not to change the names of our houses, so that village history can be preserved.
Another return visit was in November, from Peter and Marian Borrows, who came to tell us about the process of investigating the history of their home, Troye House, in Whielden Street, Old Amersham. As they said, it is “an ordinary house”, but it was fascinating to hear what they’d discovered about it from censuses, wills, maps and indentures, and also to learn more about the town’s history.
On January 17th Julian Hunt will be coming to talk about Railways in Buckinghamshire. Meetings start at 8pm, in the Small Hall, and are FREE! You can just turn up on the night but you can also get your name on the History Group mailing list by contacting Chris Wege (