Notes on High Wycombe


HIGH WYCOMB is also called Chipping Wycomb, from cwm, a British word for valley. It is a large town, consisting of one great street, branching out into divers small ones It is full of good houses and inns, being a great thoroughfare from London to Oxford. It is twelve miles from Aylesbury, fourteen from Uxbridge, and thirtv three from London ; and has a market on Fridays which is plentifully supplied with fish, flesh, and other provisions. Fair 25th September. It is seated on a small river which fall into the Thames, in a fine valley.

The church is a large structure, with a steeple not ill built, and the town has a free grammar school, and two alms houses. There are several paper and corn mills near the town

In July 1724, in a meadow in the neighbourhood, was discovered a curious piece of Roman antiquity, a pavement of about nine feet square, with stones of various colours, wrought with exquisite art, the biggest no broader than the square of a die.

High Wycomb sends two members to parliament ; it is governed by a mayor, recorder, twelve aldermen, a town clerk etc. Although this borough is one of the largest towns in Buckinghamshire, the right of election is in the corporation only, and which consists of less than fifty members, the greatest part of whom are non-resident. The patronage had, for above a century been possessed by Edmund Waller Esq ( a near descendent of Waller, the celebrated poet) of Hallbarn, near Beaconsfield: but the marquis of Lansdown, who has a seat in the neighbourhood, and whose family receive from this town the title of baron, has, for nearly thirty years, possessed the influence of returning one member and at the last general election he had the address to secure the whole. An opposition was however made by the eldest son of Sir John Dashwood, Bart, upon Mr. Waller's interest: but the interest of the marquis prevailed; the numbers upon the poll being,

For Earl Wycomb, 34
Sir John Jervis, 26
Mr. Dashwood, 11

This borough has returned to parliament ever since 28 Edward I. The returning officers are the mayor and bailiffs.

The three following resolutions are inserted, to shew to what mean artifices corruption and influence will descend, in order to obtain a majority in such venal boroughs:

March 17, 1715. Resolved, nem. con. That it appears to this house, that in an entry of burgesses made at the borough of Cheping VVycomb in the county of Bucks, dated the 10th of May, 1717, there has been an erazure lately made, and the name of Capt. Paget inserted without any legal authority.

Resolved, nem. con. That it appears to this house, that, in an Entry of burgesses made at the borough of Cheping Wycomb, dated the 16th of September, 1713, an erazure has been lately made, whereby .the name of David Shilsore, a burgess of the said borough, is erazed.

Refolved, nem. con. That Sampson Tresly and John Widiner, who were admitted to vote at the late election of a burgess to serve in this present parliament for the said borough of Cheping Wycomb, (having no pretence to be burgesses of the said borough, but under a charter of James II. which was never accepted or enrolled,) have no right of voting in elections of burgesses to serve in parliament for the said borough.

The post office shuts every night at ten o'clock. Postage of letters to and from London, three-pence.

The Shrewsbury mail-coach goes through this town on its way to London every morning about three or four o'clock and returns about twelve o'clock at night. Inside fare to London, 10s 6d.—The Birmingham post-coach passes through on its way to London; it stops at the Red Lion inn in this town,
every day to breakfast, about nine o'clock; returns about nine o'clock in the evening to the Antelope inn. Fare to town, insides 8s.—The Worcester coach breakfasts going up at the Three Tuns, everyday at eight o'clock (Thursday excepted; returns every evening at five o'clock to the Antelope. Fare 7s.
The Gloucester coach breakfasts every day going up, at the Red Lion, and returns at five o'clock in the evening. Inside fare, 7s. The Oxford coach and diligence go through here to town, every day (Sunday excepted), about noon. The coach dines, coming down, at the Red Lion inn, at which place it arrives about one o'lock. Fare, by the coach, 7s. Diligence, 9s. William Dancer's waggon goes to London every Monday and Thursday.


I was born at High Wycombe and until I was about eight we lived at Vine Cottage on London Road. I remember being taken by my parents to my father's office, which was on the main road near Sweetlands, the photographer, to wave a Union Jack and to watch the procession celebrating the coronation of King George V.

I attended Sunday School in a little chapel on the main road towards Loudwater; a bridge went over the stream leading to it.

We used to walk to Keep Hill, the Rye and the Duke, across the fields over a stream near a public house to Loudwater village, to a viaduct on the London Road near which was in later years the Transport Garage. This viaduct sent back a marvellous echo.

An uncle always took me to a sweetshop in White Hart Street to buy chocolate butterflies.

My grandfather lived in the Queen's Head, Frog-more and the Orange Tree public houses during part of his lifetime; he also had a greengrocer's shop. We visited various friends and relatives, among them were Mrs Busby at the Railway Arms, Bristows the Chemist in Crendon Street, Worleys the Carriers where the smell of horses, hay and furniture were outstanding, Nurse Drake who lived somewhere along the London Road opposite the Rye, and an old lady who lived in an almshouse opposite the Technical School—a cake was always taken to her.

On Sunday mornings fresh-picked mushrooms were brought to people's houses, for sale, so that mushrooms were always a Sunday breakfast treat.

One Christmas we spent with relatives who lived in Hughenden Road. My father and uncle went along with a sucking pig in the baking tin to the local baker who cooked it and we collected it later.

C. Smith, Denham

Extracted from 'A Pattern Hundreds' (1975) and reproduced with the kind permission of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes


Description of High Wycombe from Sheahan, 1861.

High Wycombe or Wyckham, called also Chipping of Cheping Wycombe, is a parliamentary and municipal borough and market town, situated, as its name implies, in the valley of the Wyck, Wyke, or Wye rivulet.  It lies 29 miles on the road from London to Oxford, 25 miles S.W. from the latter city, and 31 miles S.S.W from Buckingham. The parish comprises 6,318 acres, including 830 acres of woodland. The municipal borough is not co-extensive with the parish, being almost confined to the town of Wycombe: its area is 128 acres. The rateable value of the borough is £7,098: and that of the remainder of the parish is £12,459. The population of the borough is at present (1861) 4,222; and other parts of the parish 4,153 souls. Total, 8,375, viz. 4,170 males, and 4,205 females. The number of the population of the whole parish in 1851 was 7,179. The parish comprises three districts: the town, the manufacturing, and the agricultural portion. The manufacturing district is on the banks of the Wye river and the Dyke stream - the former running through the town, the latter rising near it. The agricultural part extends over 4,000 acres, and has been termed Wycombe Foreigns.

The mayor for the present year (1860-61) is Robert Wheeler, Esq. The Aldermen are Messrs. R. Wheeler, Harman, Turner, and Tuck. Since the passing of the Municipal Act the Borough has had no separate Court of Quarter Sessions, and consequently the office of Recorder is in abeyance. Mr. J. Hardman is the Town Clerk. There are four Borough Magistrates, besides the mayor and late mayor, who Petty Sessions in the town hall, every Saturday, for cases within the jurisdiction of the borough. The Magistrates at present are the mayor, R.H. Crewe, W. Rose, C.T. Grove, C. Fowler, and W.J. Gregory, Esqrs. J. Parker, Esq., is the Magistrates' Clerk.

For parliamentary purposes the Borough of Wycombe was made co-extensive with the parish be the Reform Act of 1832. Willis states, for above 300 years, this was the only town in Buckinghamshire that sent burgesses to Parliament. The borough first exercised the elective franchise in the reign in the reign of Edward I. (in 1295), since which time it has continued to return two members to Parliament. The right of election was formerly vested in the Corporation, and the burgesses of the municipal borough; but in 1832 it was extended to the £10 householders of the entire parish. The mayor is the returning officer. The present M.P.'s are Sir George Henry Dashwood, Bart., and Martin Tucker Smith, Esq.

The town of High Wycombe, which is moderately sized, and surrounded by beech-covered hills, is considered to be the handsomest in the county of Buckingham; and its situation in a deep valley (through which runs the Wye) is very picturesque.

The High Street, and Easton Street, which is a continuation of it, form the longest, widest, and finest street in Buckinghamshire; and in the middle of, or rather at the junction of the two streets stands the Town Hall. There are also several other small narrow streets. The houses in the principle streets are in general well built, and many of them are spacious and handsome. There are several good shops, etc., and the town, altogether,has a prepossessing appearance of cheerfulness and respectability. The approaches are by level roads on the east and west sides, but on the north and south the hills are very steep and the roads almost precipitous.

There is a branch of the Great Western Railway extending from Maidenhead to High Wycombe; and the Wycombe Station is close to the town. The Wycombe Railway Act obtained Royal assent on the 27th July 1847. The Wycombe Railway Amendment Act passed in 1852; and the Wycombe Railway Extension Act obtained the sanction of Parliament in 1857. The bill to extend the railway to Aylesbury and Oxford, has been obtained. In the month of December 1859, five workmen were killed by a land-slip in the Bell Field cutting on the Thame Extension Line; while a sixth man very narrowly and providentially escaped with his life.

Chair making is carried on at Wycombe and its neighbourhoods to a great extent - raw material, "the Buckinghamshire weed," being conveniently contiguous in the neighbouring beech woods.


Flackwell Heath, three miles from High Wycombe, stretching out in a long line of closely built houses on a spur of the Chiltern Hills, is now reputed to be the largest village in England. Yet it wasn't inhabited at all until the end of the 18 th century and then by a few hardy folk prepared to scratch a living from the stony soil, and ladle water from the small fresh-water springs that bubbled from the hillside.

In the strips of woodland that surrounded the heathland in those early days grew many wild cherry trees and, on these wild trees the village folk grafted good cherry stock from the famous Kent Orchards, and from the spindly cherries vast orchards soon grew.

Strange to think that, not so long ago, we had more cherry trees on the heath than inhabitants and that to-day's vast housing estates were once large cherry orchards. Every cherry-picking season it became a tradition for the men from the Heath to leave their regular jobs in factories and mills and spend several weeks in the orchards harvesting the cherries.

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


Chipping Wycombe or High Wycombe Borough and Parish (Pop. 6,299)

Five Daily Schools, one of which is endowed for 30 boys between the age of 9 and 14, who are taught reading, writing and arithmetic; and as many in addition (whose parents belong to the Corporation) as choose to attend, are instructed in the Latin language

Two Lancasterian Schools, one of which contains 130 males, supported by
subscription, in aid of which each scholar pays twopence per week ; the other from 115 to 120 females, wholly supported by voluntary contributions (the girls being profitably employed in lace-making, this School is only open three days in each week); in the other two Schools are 6 males and 25 females, whose instruction is paid for by their parents.--Seven Day and Boarding Schools, in which about 70 males and 102 females are educated at the expense of their parents.

Four Sunday Schools, all supported by voluntary contributions ; one of which appertaining to Wesleyan Methodists (having a lending Library attached), consists of 140 males and 162 females; one to the Baptist denomination, of 47 males and 38 females; the other two to Independent Dissenters, one of 91 males and 100 females; the other (commenced 1820), of 47 males and 34 females.