Downley

 

Green fields, cart tracks and beech trees, that was Downley in the old days, long before new roads and housing estates took over. A cart track past Kiln Pond led from the village through the woods down a sunken lane to West Wycombe at the Pedestal. The local burial ground was on the hill at the church of St Lawrence and so funeral processions would make their way down this bumpy track, the coffins sometimes being carried, should they fall off the cart.

 

 

The other way from the village was down Plomer Hill down the Pitch to join up with West Wycombe Road and so on to Wycombe for shopping. There were no buses until 1927. In 1928, a Mr Holland of the Pioneer Bus Company ran the first bus service. The bus waited at the Pond, opposite where the Downley Donkey now stands, until all the regular customers arrived. One bus left High Wycombe for Downley at mid-day and returned at 12.50 p.m. so that people who worked at Frogmore could go home for dinner, there being no canteens in those days.

There is a cottage in Littleworth Road called Peter's Cottage, named after Peter Smith; his father was nicknamed Jimmy Two-bits. Tradition has it that he acquired this name when sitting over the fire one Sunday morning watching the dinner cooking. His wife called to him and said 'How's the meat cooking?' He lifted the lid and replied 'Which bit?' His wife told him that there was only one bit, but James said 'No, there's two!' On inspection it turned out that a frog had been put in with the water from the well!

Mr Dicky Gray was one of the village characters, with his long grey beard, a sacking apron tied round his middle with a piece of string and a cap with ear flaps stuck on his head. His string of donkeys would plod behind him as he set off down Plomer Green Lane shouting out 'Whoa Parker, hurry along Jenny'.

The Common was widely used; horses, sheep, goats grazed there and sometimes geese.

In the middle of the village there was a furniture factory built of wood and owned by Mr Bridgewater Spriggs. Mines and West's offices now stand on that site. Most of the timber was brought from the saw mills in High Wycombe by horse and cart, but the first commercial motor transport in Downley was a motor-cycle and side-car.

There have been many changes in Downley since those days. Only a part of Downley Village remains unchanged. The rest is joined up with High Wycombe. We have still the Memorial Hall which serves many organisations but now we have also the Church Hall and the Pastures Methodist Hall.

St James Church serves both the Church of England and the Church of Rome. There are Methodist Chapels on Sunny Bank and in the Pastures. There is also a Baptist Chapel.

There are many organisations to cater for different tastes and meet the demands of young and old.

Fortunately the furniture industry continues to thrive and Mines and West specialise in hand made furniture.

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