Monks Risborough

The village of Monks Risborough derives its name from the scrub or 'hris', which once covered the hills, and the prefix from the Monks of Dorchester on Thames to whom the land was given in 993 AD by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in repayment of a loan. Ninety years previously this estate, then known as East Risborough, had its boundaries outlined in a Saxon Charter. Many of these boundary hedges exist today, notably the Black Hedge which stretches from Waldridge, in the valley, to a point on the Lower Icknield Way. Recently it has been studied by a group of naturalists, who conclude that it had already been growing for 200 years before it was mentioned in the charter of 903 AD.

The old village is built in a rough rectangle at the foot of the Chilterns. Some of the cottages date from the 16th century, and to the joy of artists and photographers, many are still thatched. Among them is the old saddler's house where skins were tanned for working. The straight walk down the garden was used for stretching and twisting ropes, and the present owner still remembers, in her youth, helping with the stuffing of pillows for traditional lace making.

A pathway alongside one of the cottages leads to the 12th century church, dedicated to St Dunstan. Above the outer door of the porch is portrayed a pair of blacksmith's tongs converging on a face roughly carved in wood, illustrating how St Dunstan was reputed to have overcome the devil. This story is also reflected in a lead and fibreglass sculpture, complete with genuine Irish tinker-tongs, on the south aisle wall, made by a local sculptor in 1971.

Beyond the church, in a field which is now a children's playing field, there is a square stone dovecot, whose existence gave rise to the popular legend that an Abbey once stood here, but no evidence has been found to substantiate this.
In the Domesday Book there is a record of a watermill at Monks Risborough; and now, though the water-wheel has long since disappeared and the millponds are filled, a millhouse still exists on the site where the original mill must once have stood.

The parish boundaries enclose four other villages; Whiteleaf, Askett, Meadle and Cadsden. Whiteleaf, or Whitecliff, contains several Tudor cottages and straggles along a metalled stretch of the Upper Icknield Way. Its name derives from the cliffrlike appearance of the large cross cut in the chalk face of the escarpment. The first mention of this cross seems to have been made in the early 19th century in one of the Enclosure Acts, when it was referred to as 'This Ancient Landmark'.
Near the village centre is the Whitecross hall which forms a link between all five villages. It was erected in 1924 by the Monks Risborough W.I. on land given to them by a local property owner.

Cherry pie feast is an annual celebration at the Plough Inn in Lower Cadsden. It was first established to commemorate the death of John Hampden, who lived not far away, and died of his wounds at Thame in 1643, during the Civil War.
For the rest; the villagers entertain themselves, or are entertained at a variety of fetes, rummage sales, classes, bazaars and socials; or simply by walking over the valley and hills along the beautiful footpaths, with which Monks Risborough is so bountifully provided.

Meadle is now a hamlet home mainly to commuters who want to enjoy the countryside. There are several old cottages, some thatched by a local man, in an area which was a thriving farming community. Aylesbury ducks were bred for sale in the London markets.

Long ago Meadle was associated with the Quakers when a Friends Meeting Place was established in the 15 th century known as the House of John White.


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

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