The Lee


The Lee (from the Old English place name 'leah' - a clearing) is situated high amongst beechwoods on the scarp of the Chilterns.


Very much an enclosed village before the advent of the motor car, when agriculture and allied pursuits, such as straw-plaiting, were the means of existence, many things changed when the Liberty family bought the Manor and the greater part of the land between Great Missenden and St Leonards, during the latter part of the 19th century.

The original parish was tiny, and centred on the small 12th century church, served only by visiting priests, first from Missenden Abbey, and then very occasionally after the Reformation. Consequently the village became strongly non-conformist and there were three chapels (Methodist, Baptist, and self-governing Emmanuel). The Methodist chapel and Emmanuel still thrive.
Until 1867 most villagers had to travel to Wendover for 'marrying and burying'. In that year the new church was built, and a chancel added shortly after, through the generosity of the Liberty family, with oak linenfold panelling made in the Liberty workshops, and interesting art-nouveau lamp holders for the whole church.

Today the village has become a haven for commuters and for those who can work at home. Proximity to London is so advantageous that the price of property has rocketed, and cottages are frequently extended in size, but many of the old dwellings show the traditional brick and flint construction that is a feature of Chiltern buildings. The centre of The Lee is a Conservation Area and the whole is contained in the Chiltern Area of Natural Beauty, so that development has been contained.

Items of interest include the Jubilee Well of 1901. This illustrates the difficulty of water supplies at that time, and until recently. Before the well was sunk cottagers relied on ponds for watering animals, and on rainwater collected in underground tanks, for their own use, when roofs were tiled. When piped water was eventually brought to the village, one farmer, with a herd of Jersey T.T. cows, had water laid on for his precious animals, but did not see any necessity to have a supply of water laid on in his own house!

Another historic landmark is the ship's figurehead at the entrance to Pipers, the home of Mr and Mrs Arthur Stewart-Liberty. This is of Admiral Earl Howe, and was taken from the last of the 'Wooden Walls of England', when it was bought for the timber, and used in the building of the Liberty store in Regent Street, London.

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



1861 description of The Lee from J.J. Sheahan.

Lee is a small Parish of 500 acres and 116 souls. Its rateable value is £622. The soil is loamy with strong clay; and the surface is level but considerably elevated. The last of the common land was enclosed in 1854. The village is small but interesting and neat - the houses being generally of a good class. About the centre of it is a handsome residence with a campanile tower, and well laid out pleasure grounds and gardens. It is 3 miles S.W. from Wendover. The females are chiefly employed in straw plaiting.