Memories of Little Missenden

At the turn of the century in Little Missenden, William Folliott cared for the pastoral needs of his flock. This well loved cleric of Irish descent was a familiar figure as he walked his Parish, a never-ending supply of peppermints in his pocket to be shared with children and grown-ups alike. He also dispensed his church's charities to his poor parishioners—lengths of flannel to make warm petticoats, and coal for the needy. Six loaves of bread were distributed by the clerk to deserving parishioners attending morning serrvice. These loaves, decorating the font top, existed until a few years ago, the number getting gradually less as the price of bread increased until this present day when the Bird's Charity money only provides one harvest loaf. When King Edward VII came to stay at Earl Howe's home at Penn, the children were given a holiday from school and walked to Penn to see King Edward. The Reverend Folliott died at the vicarage opposite the Church, and with many a quaking knee the school children filed past his coffin to pay their it respects.
The village school, now one of the smallest in Buckinghamshire, took in large numbers of children from the villages around. The schoolmistress of those days was a real martinet. A favourite punishment was to make a dullard stand in front of his fellow pupils holding as many as twelve slates on his head. What as considered even more cruel was the administering  'the cat of nine tails' to a young boy at this time, He had stolen farthings from one of the village shops to buy some food. His mother had spent the family housekeeping on that 'Demon Drink'!
The village up to the First World War boasted four shops, four farms, two inns, a bakery, a mill, a smithy and a post office. At Smithy Cottage one of the two old fire insurance plaques can be seen. This was the only cottage that would have the services of the fire engine of that time, before the days of the National Fire Service.
The village green was first laid with turves brought from Mr Pembroke Stephens' former home near Durham. A lamp was installed to light the green, but a village row broke out as to who should pay for the paraffin, and so the lamp went unlit and during the hours of darkness wheels, hooves and feet encroached on the green and spoilt its former beauty.
The Misboume was a fast flowing stream in those days, turning the mill wheel. The Sibleys kept the mill here and as well as others along the Misbourne, and their Christian charity is still spoken of. The remains of their breakfasts were always taken over to the occupants of the Mill End Cottages.
Life was hard for most of the villagers of those days. Many village women tried to help out a meagre existence by straw plaiting, roller blind making or stone picking and breaking. This latter employment brought them 6d per yard.
The Berkeley Coach travelling between Wendover— the Missendens—the Chalfonts and Uxbridge could be boarded, but the fare was between five and six shillings. The first motor car to break the rural peace of the village was driven by the much loved medico, Dr Gardener, who, resplendent in top hat and morning coat and with his buttonhole of Parma violets, always dispensed his physics and good advice in equal portions to his admiring patients.
Dr Bates resided at the Manor. He is remembered as belonging to the notorious 'Hell Fire Club' of West Wycombe. The Manor is a beautiful part-Tudor building with spacious grounds through which the Misbourne flows. One of the owners produced so many daughters that the two front pews were needed to house them for Sunday services. Latterly Lady Alice Ashley and Brigadier Roger Peake, both with histories of service to our Royal Family, have given a lead to village life.
The church's most famous possession is the St Christopher Mural, which came to light during the 1930's, when the Reverend William Henry Davis, scratching away with a penknife at the plastered walls, uncovered some of the most perfect examples medieval wall paintings not only of St Christopher St Catherine and the Wheel and a Crucifixion scene as well.

Joan Smith, Little Missenden

Extracted from 'A Pattern of Hundreds'(1975) with the kind permission of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes