The Trust’s first project was to secure the purchase of 49 High Street Amersham and allow for its transformation by the Amersham Society into a local museum. The second was a more ambitious scheme to purchase and fully restore Birds Cottage in Milton Keynes Village.
In subsequent years the Trust pursued a strategy of using investment income to grant-aid repair works and pump-prime schemes by other organisations. These grants, and the associated moral support, were particularly valuable in prompting and enabling action to save a range of modest but “friendless” historic structures that would otherwise have been lost. Trustees were concerned, however, that they did not address the more serious problems of major buildings suffering long-term disuse and neglect. In 2013 we resolved to remodel the operation of the Trust and seek a major project to tackle on a more independent basis. After an extensive county-wide sift we are vigorously pursuing the current project at the former Wheatsheaf Inn, High Wycombe (see Current Project).
For more information on projects, see this account of The First Thirty Years compiled by Roger Evans, former Trustee and County Historic Buildings Officer:
The Trust’s first major project. In 1980 the owner died intestate, leaving the building in disuse and disrepair, and entangled in legal difficulties. Its early character had been partially concealed by an unappealing shop extension, but the interior showed it to have been a 15th century hall house with chimney and upper storey inserted c.1600. The Amersham Society was interested in the building as a museum, but lacked the wherewithal to acquire and repair it.
Repair works to the late 16th century dormer window
The Trust was able to help by facilitating the purchase, funding a major part of the purchase price and securing a loan from the Architectural Heritage Fund. With these measures in place Amersham International generously offered to make up the rest, and the purchase was completed in 1984.
In due course the Trust passed the building to a dedicated museum trust, recouping its funds in the process, and helped to grant-aid some of the repair works.
The Museum has been a highly successful venture, and is recently extended, with a glass front of 2017 revealing more of the historic structure.
Our second major project was Birds Cottage in Milton Keynes village. The house was an ancient hidden gem. Although it was originally considered unprepossessing, a local archaeologist working for Milton Keynes Development Corporation recognised a medieval hall house behind the Victorian façade, with a rare base cruck construction probably dating from the 14th century. Its importance was immediately acknowledged with a high II* listing, opening up the possibility of grant aid from English Heritage.
After repairs by the Trust in 1994
The house was empty and dilapidated, and had been left to rot by an absentee owner. The Corporation undertook emergency repair works and discussed a back-to-back deal with the Trust in the event of compulsory purchase. This possibility prompted a willingness to sell, and the Trust became the proud owners. We employed a specialist architect and craftsmen to restore the building, and funded the work with significant aid from the Corporation and grants from the Architectural Heritage Fund and English Heritage. The condition of the building turned out to be poorer than expected, and the repair standards for a II* building were high. The project therefore resulted in a small loss overall but secured the future of the building.
The Trust visiting Birds Cottage in 1993
The George Winslow
The George Winslow – grant for balcony repairs 2006
Thatched shelter or ‘The Mushroom Tree’ at East Claydon 2013
Chiltern Open Air Museum – Witchert house from Haddenham, in 2009 and 2013
New Inn Stowe
The Trust contributed to the full recording of the building and the site. It has now been fully restored by the National Trust as a Visitor Centre for Stowe Landscape Gardens