Medmenham

The picturesque village of Medmenham nestles in the lee of Wooded Hill to the north and is principally a street of brick and flint cottages which straggles from the now discontinued ferry on the river Thames to its junction with the main Henley-Marlow road half a mile away.
The cottages and houses were built for the servants of the nearby large houses and estates such as Medmenham Abbey, Danesfield, Wittington, Kingswood and Harleyford Manor. In the past fifty years many of these large houses have taken on new roles. Some have been sub-divided into smaller houses or apartments, while others have become offices. In the village the cottages have been modernised, sometimes two combined to make larger properties and few modern houses erected. Fortunately no new estates have marred the beauty of the area.

The employment pattern has changed too and most of the residents now work far from their homes. The village itself has escaped serious industrial development, only the Water Research Centre has intruded upon the scene and it is screened from the river and village by trees.

At the junction of Ferry Lane and the main road is the ancient parish church of St Peter and St Paul, the road here is very narrow* and opposite is the cosy 14th century inn, the Dog and Badger.

Danesfield House, an imposing residence built in 1900 on a cliff overlooking the river Thames, was occupied by the Royal Air Force until 1977, when a Ministry of Defence Police Training Unit took over the buildings in the grounds and Carnation Milk bought the house. The original Danesfield House was built in 1750 on a site previously occupied by Medlicotts, during the Middle Ages. A tradition had grown up locally associating the prehistoric earthworks in the grounds with the Danes who were known to have penetrated the Thames valley as far as Reading, some 15 miles further up-stream. In 1896 the Medmenham Abbey Estate was acquired by Mr Robert Hudson, reputed to have made his fortune with 'Hudson's soap'.

At the foot of Ferry Lane stands Medmenham Abbey, founded as St Mary's Abbey by the Cistercian Order in the 13th century. It later became derelict. However, in the 18th century Sir Francis Dashwood restored the Abbey and it is said to have been used by his 'Hell Fire Club' for orgiastic rites. It is now a fine residence overlooking a pretty reach of the river.

Article written by members of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes for the publication "The Buckinghamshire Village Book" (1987) and reproduced here with their permission