West Wycombe

Mentioned in the Domesday Book, the Manor of Wicumbe (West Wycombe) was held by Wakelin, Bishop of Winchester and was and is for the supplies of the monks of the Church of Winchester. There were 27 villagers, 8 smallholders and 7 slaves! There were also 3 mills on the river Wye which passes through the village, a fishery with a thousand eels and a thousand pigs kept.
The village has remained unspoilt because until the early part of this century it formed part of the West Wycombe Estate which was purchased by the Dashwood family in 1698. Sir Francis Dash-wood was created Premier Baronet of Great Britain in 1707 and thus forged the links with the family and village which continue to the present day. The present Baronet, another Sir Francis, is the eleventh holder of the title. In the middle of the 18 th century, the second Baronet undertook the re-building of his country home, following the Italian Palladian style of architecture, bringing painters from Italy to carry out this work. He also re-built and enlarged the ancient parish church on the hill opposite his House in the same style and the church tower was topped with the Golden Ball - a copy of a similar one to be found on the Customs Building at Venice.

In 1929 a large portion of the village was purchased by the Royal Society of Arts which repaired and modernised the houses which date from the 16th and 18th centuries. Later, in 1934, the National Trust acquired these properties from the Royal Society and has continued to maintain the village in its present state.

Older residents remember many incidents of their childhood in the village. Mrs Potter recalls when her family spent many happy times sledging, exploring the caves and climbing on the hill. 'We used to go in the caves and paid one penny for a candle. On one occasion some boys were hiding there and blew our candles out. We were scared, but fortunately we were not too far from the entrance, so soon got out! We often climbed the hill and some brave ones even climbed the church tower. We used to have Sunday School treats on the hill'.

Mrs Fryer remembers choosing a few cheap sweets from Katy Rippington's shop. She was so precise that it is said that she would cut a sweet in half to get the weight exactly right! Mrs Carter's bay window offered further delights. Here, for a halfpenny or even a farthing, Mrs Carter would brush off the flies and wasps from the sweetie boxes and drop a few coveted suckers into a hand-twisted paper cone.

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