Great Hampden


Great Hampden is one of those places where it is said nothing ever happens but once upon a time it did.

Most villages have their Big House, and Great Hampden is no exception. The large dwelling that stands on top of the hill overlooking the valley between the two Hampdens, was once the home of John Hampden, cousin of Oliver Cromwell. A man of great integrity, it was he who, took a stand against his king in opposition to the crippling 'Ship Tax', which ultimately triggered the Civil War in England. He died at Thame after being wounded at the Battle of Chalgrove Field. He was brought home to be buried at Great Hampden. His memorial cross stands, like a sentinel, on the road from Prestwood.

The last Earl of Buckinghamshire to live in his ancestral home was, like his ancestor, a much respected man. Affectionately known as 'The Squire', he knew most of the villagers by name. In 1950, it was he who organised the laying of the cricket field, and when he died, his memorial was an extension to the village hall, incorporating committee room, entrance, and pavilion. The much envied, immaculately maintained field, where for generations sons have followed fathers in the team, still provides a venue for them and their families.

A staunch supporter of the cricket team for many years was the Rev. P. Hill. The love of the game was one of his reasons for taking the living, and when he died in 1985 a great sense of loss was felt by the community. Hampden House, once the ancestral home of the Earls of Buckinghamshire, was taken over as a girls school at the outbreak of the Second World War, and it subsequently took on the role of a film studio, the perfect setting for historical dramas, and macabre films.

When a project to re-discover a village pond was taken up, an enthusiastic band of W.I. members and their families hacked away small trees, shrubs and undergrowth and cleared the site of Blakemore Pond. Water is back, plants are growing, frogs abound, and ducks have been seen. The work of maintaining this small oasis will, it is hoped, continue.

The Chiltern woodland integrating the 50 homes that comprise the village of Great Hampden has, over the years, provided timber for the local furniture industry. At one time the 'bodgers' (chair-leg makers, who worked in the woods) worked there and the last man to ply his trade was a local man, Mr Dean.

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


Description of Great Hampden from J. J. Sheahan, 1861.

The parish of Great Hampden, or Hampden Magna, contains 1,720 acres and 266 inhabitants. It is situated amongst extensive beech woods, on the high table of the Chiltern Hills. There is neither a river or brook in the parish, and the supply of water is at all times meagre. The springs that exist are very deep and pure. The houses in general are supplied with tanks for holding rain water, and the cattle are watered at ponds. The soil; but here are also very fine limes, balm of gilead firs, and cedars of uncommon size and great beauty. There are no assemblage of houses which could properly be denominated a village. Nearly all the farmsteads and cottages lie scattered on the side of a large common, and are known as Hampden Row. This place is distant from Wendover 5 miles E.S.E., and from Great Missenden 3 miles W.N.W. The females are partly engaged in lace making.



Great Hampden Parish (Pop. 286)

One small Daily School, in which 3 males and 3 females are instructed at the expense of their parents.

One Day and Sunday School, attended by 12 males and 18 females daily, and 25 males and 31 females on Sundays; supported by the Earl of Buckingham, who allows a weekly salary of twelve shillings to the mistress, small payments being also made by the children, which are appropriated in purchasing requisites for the furnishing of the School.