Princes Risborough

Princes Risborough lies at the foot of the westward escarpment of the Chiltern Hills, in the Vale of Aylesbury. In 1086 it was called Ris(e)Berg, by 1130 altered to Risenberg, then Risebergh or Rysenberg, before the present day spelling. It is recorded that the manor of Princes Risborough was held by Earl Harold, who became the last Saxon King, killed at the Battle of Hastings. Edward III granted the manor to his son the Black Prince, rumoured as having a palace near St Mary's church, thus adding the 'Princes' to its name. Behind the church there still remains a small water-filled section of a moat. On the hillside beyond is the figure of the Whiteleaf Cross, cut into the turf and showing the chalk beneath.
The present 17th century Manor House is a tenanted National Trust property, with a Jacobean staircase. The earliest record of a dwelling on the site is of a Hall, in 1200. The house, first mentioned in 1589 and at that time called Brooke House, was given by Elizabeth I to Thomas Crompton, together with the whole manor of Risborough. Later it reverted to the Crown. In 1628 Charles I gave the manor and house to the City of London to pay his debts. The house was owned by Sir Peter Lely, the artist, in 1671, and eventually it came into the possession of the Rothschild family who gave it to the National Trust in 1925. The Literary Institute in the High Street, was also owned by the Rothschilds and given to the village in 1891.

Close by the Manor is the former old vicarage, a 16th century cottage with a massive chimney, called Monks Staithe, once the home of Amy Johnson, the aviator, and also of the authoress, Denise Robins..

The Market House, built on brick arches and wooden pillars, topped by a turret, clock and weather-vane, was built in 1824 — a little War Memorial is situated beneath the overhanging ground floor roof. On Saturdays a market stall displays fruit and vegetables and on Thursday mornings from Easter to Christmas the W.I. Market have craft and produce stalls. The Royal charter of Henry VIII entitled a weekly market and two annual fairs, in May and October to be held, which are still held in the Market Square and Church Street. A roundabout, big wheel and stalls crowd the area on fair days.

The picturesque old library in Church Street is a 16th century Wealden house, listed as one of the county's buildings of historic and architectural interest, with black and white timbering to the jettied upper storey, and brick ground floor. Protected by a glass panel inside, a section of the wattle and daub construction is on view. A new brick library is built at the opposite end of the High Street.
The original Norman church founded in the 11th century on the site of St Mary's parish church was completely rebuilt in the 13th, and much altered in Tudor times. During Victorian restoration the new font was installed, and sadly the old font was used as a horse trough and eventually lost.

St Teresa's Roman Catholic church was built in 1937 in modern Byzantine style, in a trefoil shape, with a central dome surmounted by a cross. Attached to the church is the Ker-Maria Convent and home for the aged. The Baptists formed into a church in Risborough in 1701, the present building dates from 1814, modern rooms being added later. The Methodist church was built in 1869 and modernised in recent years.

Until recently there was one main road through the village, but a new layout with roundabouts by-passes the High Street, and takes through traffic from High Wycombe to Aylesbury and Thame.

In recent years there have been many private houses built, the population exceeds 9,000, but many old thatched, timbered and brick and flint houses remain, and whilst cows are no longer driven down the main street, a farm still exists in the village centre behind the Market Square.

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