Wingrave

Wingrave is a hilltop village 5 miles north east of Aylesbury. It was first mentioned in the 9th century when a chapel was built at Withun's Grove (Withun's Wood). The main part of the original village surrounds the church on top of the hill where there is a pleasant green, a village pond and recreation ground with a splendid view of the Chilterns. The recreation ground was given to the village in 1922 by Lord Dalmeny, afterwards the 6th Lord Rosebery, of nearby Mentmore.
The population is about 1200, including a fair proportion of children. The inhabitants work in Aylesbury or Leighton Buzzard, with a few commuting daily to London, while the main employer in the village itself is the Maclntyre School, an establishment for mentally retarded children.

The parish church of SS. Peter and Paul stands on top of the hill and is easily visible from the surrounding vale. The present building dates from the 13 th century and has some medieval wall-paintings hidden in a narrow passage off the chancel. The church has a peal of six bells and there is an ancient 15 th century bell standing at the base of the tower, near the font which dates from 1190 and is the oldest item in the church.

The most famous local family connected with Wingrave are the Rothschilds, originally residing at Mentmore Towers and including Wingrave in the estate. In 1876 Hannah Rothschild built about 25 houses for farm workers in Wingrave, each bearing her insignia 'H de R' and the date. These are now all privately owned. In the 1860s she built Wingrave its very first school, later known as the Church Rooms and now divided into private dwellings. Mentmore Towers later passed into the hands of the Rosebery family and is now the British HQ of the Transcendental Meditation Movement.

In Victorian times the Stewart-Freeman family were well-known in the county and lived in the manor house of Wingrave. In 1905 there was a great scandal locally when the eldest Stewart-Freeman daughter eloped with the 8th Earl of Essex. The son born to them, Reginald, eventually became the 9th Earl of Essex, and lived with his wife at Floyds Farm, Wingrave, for some years. During the Second World War the manor house was occupied by the exiled Czech Government under Dr Eduard Benes. In gratitude for the hospitality they had received, the Czech Government built the bus shelter at the crossroads for the benefit of travellers. The manor house is today the Maclntyre School.

In the 1880s a Wingrave musician, George Griffin, composed an oratorio called Samuel and many hymn tunes. He was also the local postmaster and village baker. Earlier, in 1786, a wealthy Wingrave lady became famous when, lost in a storm between Wingrave and Rowsham, she was directed safely home by the ringing of the church bells. In thankfulness she directed that hay from her two fields should be spread on the church floor for the benefit of the congregation every year at the Patronal Festival on 29th June. This custom has been faithfully maintained every year since then, 1986 being the 200th anniversary.


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