West Wycombe

"The Parish of West Wycombe lies on the western verge of Bucks, adjoining Oxfordshire. Its area is 6340 acres, of which upwards of 400 acres are wood land. Rateable value, £5730; population, 2161 souls. The soil is chiefly chalk. There are 33 miles of high road to be kept in repair by the parishioners. The Village, pleasantly situated at the foot of a hill, on the London and Oxford road, 2 1/2 miles N.W. by W. from High Wycombe, consists of one long street running east and west, and presents an air of quietude and neatness. Many of the houses are of ancient date, with the upper overhanging the lowers stories. At its eastern end is an edifice of remarkably ancient appearance, called "The Loft." It is constructed chiefly of wood and plaster, the upper story overhanging the lower one. The lower part is let in tenements, and the upper room is used as a Sunday School. Divine Service is sometimes performed in this room during very inclement weather, and parish meetings are also held in it. The gateway of the building forms the entrance to the thoroughfare called Church Lane, which leads to the church; and a turret rising from the building contains a clock and bell - the dial of the clock projecting into the street, over the gateway, so that the hour may be distinguished by persons in the street on either side of it. One of the wooden posts of the gateway has a cross indented in it, and another has the old handcuffs of the village "stocks" nailed to it. Until recently, a room on the ground floor was used as a "lock-up." This curious old house looks as if it belonged in "days of yore" to some religious Guild. The trade here is almost exclusively chair-making. One manufacturer alone (Mr. Benjamin North) employs about 100 workmen. Mr. North has registered the pattern of the chairs called the "Wellington," the "Raglan," and the "Napoleon." Here too was made the first "American Rocking Chair," and also the "Smoking Chair." In fact about 400 different patterns of chairs are manufactured in this one establishment alone" [History and Topography of Buckinghamshire, by James Joseph Sheahan, 1862]

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Bibliography

The following reference sources have been used in the construction of this page, and may be referred to for further detail. Most if not all of these volumes are available in the Reference section of the County Library in Aylesbury.

"Buckinghamshire Returns of the Census of Religious Worship 1851", Legg E. ed., 1991, ISBN 0 901198 27 7.
"History and Topography of Buckinghamshire", Sheahan, James Joseph, 1862
"Magna Britannia: Buckinghamshire", Lysons S. and Lysons D., 1806.
"The Place-Names of Buckinghamshire", Mawer A. and Stenton F.M., 1925.
"The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Buckinghamshire", Page W. ed., 1905-1928
"War Memorials and War Graves: High Wycombe and area, Volume 11", Peter Quick.

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Cemeteries

The following Monumental Inscriptions are available as publications or as part of a Society library:

* = material held in a Society library is generally available for loan to all members either via post, or by collection at a meeting

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Census

In 1798 the Posse Comitatus listed 250 men between the ages of 16 and 60 in West Wycombe.

In the earliest government census of 1801, there were 1330 inhabitants in 269 families living in 257 houses recorded in West Wycombe.

Census Year Population of West Wycombe
1801* 1330
1811* 1362
1821* 1545
1831* 1901
1841 2002
1851 2000
1861 2161
1871 2343
1881 2390
1891 2599
1901 3466

* = No names were recorded in census documents from 1801 to 1831.
** = Census documents from 1911 to 2001 are only available in summary form. Names are witheld under the 100 year rule.

Microfilm copies of all census enumerators' notebooks for 1841 to 1891 are held at the Local Studies Libraries at Aylesbury and Milton Keynes, as well as centrally at the PRO. A table of 19th century census headcount by parish is printed in the VCH of Bucks, Vol.2, pp 96-101.

Availability of census transcripts and indexes.

  • 1851 - Full transcripts and indexes for Buckinghamshire are available on CD-ROM, hard copy and microfiche from the Buckinghamshire Family History Society.
  • 1861 - Available on CD-ROM with advanced search and mapping capabilities etc. from the Buckinghamshire Genealogical Society.
  • 1881
    • Available on CD-ROM from the Church of the Latter Day Saints, as part of the National 1881 Census Index.
    • Available on CD-ROM for Buckinghamshire, with advanced search and mapping capabilities etc. from Drake Software.
  • 1891 - Available on CD-ROM with advanced search and mapping capabilities etc. from the Buckinghamshire Genealogical Society.

Churches

You can also perform a more selective search for churches in the West Wycombe area or see them printed on a map.

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Church History

Details of the stained glass in the church can be found on the following web sites (the site includes many photos):

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Church Records

The original copies of the parish registers for St Lawrence, West Wycombe have been deposited in the Buckinghamshire Record Office in Aylesbury, and they hold the following years:

Event Dates covered
Christenings 1663 - 1963
Marriages 1663 - 1983
Burials 1663 - 1961

Copies or indexes to the parish registers are available from societies as follows:

Event
Society Library*
Dates covered
Society
Marriages
1602 - 1837
Buckinghamshire Genealogical Society

* = material held in a Society library is generally available for loan to all members either via post, or by collection at a meeting

An ecclesiastical census was carried out throughout England on 30 March 1851 to record the attendance at all places of worship. These returns are in the Buckinghamshire Record Office and have been published by the Buckinghamshire Record Society (vol 27). The returns for West Wycombe showed the following numbers:

Church Attendance
West Wycombe,
St Lawrence
65 - Morning General Congregation
75 - Morning Sunday Scholars
140 - Morning Total

118 - Afternoon General Congregation
75 - Afternoon Sunday Scholars
193 - Afternoon Total

West Wycombe,
Independent
30 - Morning General Congregation
38 - Morning Sunday Scholars
68 - Morning Total

50 - Evening General Congregation
20 - Evening Sunday Scholars
70 - Evening Total

West Wycombe,
Wesleyan Chapel
30 - Morning

50 - Afternoon

69 - Evening

West Wycombe,
Wesleyan Chapel
Booker Common
38 - Morning Sunday Scholars

75 - Afternoon General Congregation

40 - Evening General Congregation

West Wycombe,
Wesleyan Chapel
Chapel Lane End
92 - Morning General Congregation
69 - Morning Sunday Scholars
161 - Morning Total

50 - Afternoon General Congregation
70 - Afternoon Sunday Scholars
120 - Afternoon Total

135 - Evening Total

West Wycombe,
Wesleyan Society Chapel
Downley
83 - Morning Sunday Scholars

110 - Afternoon General Congregation
70 - Afternoon Sunday Scholars
193 [sic] - Afternoon Total

85 - Evening General Congregation

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Description and Travel

You can see pictures of West Wycombe which are provided by:

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Gazetteers

Ask for a calculation of the distance from West Wycombe to another place.

Click here for a list of nearby places.

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Historical Geography

You can see the administrative areas in which West Wycombe has been placed at times in the past. Select one to see a link to a map of that particular area.

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History

West Wycombe was described in 1806 in "Magna Britannia" as follows:

WEST-WYCOMBE, in the hundred of Desborough and deanery of Wycombe, lies about two miles from High-Wycombe on the road to Oxford: it was anciently called Haveringdon, or Haningdon. The manor was from ancient times in the see of Winchester, and its profits were allotted for the support of the monks of that convent. Bishop Poynet having surrendered this manor to the crown in exchange, it was given by King Edward VI. to the Protector Somerset: Queen Mary restored it to the see of Winchester; but on the deprivation of Bishop White, it was resumed by the crown, and given in 1602 to Sir Robert Dormer, whose family had long been tenants to the bishops of Winchester, and had resided at West-Wycombe, before they became possessed of the manors of Wing and Ethorp. Charles Dormer, the last Earl of Carnarvon, sold this manor in 1670, together with the park, called Widenden Park, in West-Wycombe, to Thomas Lewes, Alderman of London, who, in 1698, conveyed it to his brother-in-law, Sir Samuel Dashwood esq, and Francis Dashwood esq.: it soon afterwards became vested solely in the latter, who was created a baronet in 1707. His son Sir Francis, in 1763, became, in right of his mother, Baron Le Despencer: on his decease in 1781, the baronetage and manor of West-Wycombe, descended to his half-brother, Sir John Dashwood King, whose son and namesake is the present proprietor. Copy-hold lands in this manor descend to the eldest male, or in default of males, to the eldest female heir, being never divided among coheiresses. The wife of a copy-holder has a right to enjoy her husband's lands so long as she preserves a pure and chaste widowhood.

West-Wycombe house, the seat of Sir John Dashwood King, which was built by Sir Francis Dashwood, was much enlarged, and finished with a profusion of ornaments by his son, Lord Le Despencer. It contains a large collection of pictures, most of which are copies from the old masters: there are several copies also of antique statues. The gardens, which were designed by Lord Le Despencer, have the advantage of a beautiful situation, and their disposition did credit to the taste of their noble owner; but they are too much crowded with temples, statues, and vases: many of these have been of late removed, and the grounds have been improved by Repton. The small river which rises in this parish, winds through the park and gardens, and supplies a lake which was designed by Lord Le Despencer.

The manor of Toweridge, in this parish, was from time immemorial, till within a few years, the property and seat of the Darrells. Thomas Darrell esq. the last heir male of the family, was sherrif of the county of Buckingham in 1771, but falling into misfortunes, he died in great poverty. The manor was purchased not long after his death (in 1794) by Sir John Dashwood King.

The parish church stands on the summit of a steep hill, at a small distance from the village, within the site of an ancient circular entrenchment. It was rebuilt in 1763, (excepting the tower and chancel, which are part of a more ancient structure,) by Lord Le Despencer, who fitted it up in the Grecian style: the ceiling is painted with mosaic ornaments. There are fixed forms in lieu of pews; two arm chairs of mahogany, with small desks in front, serve for the pulpit and reading desk. In the chancel are monuments of Sir Francis Dashwood, and one of the Darrell family. Near the east end of the church is an hexagonal building, without a roof, erected by Lord Le Despencer. One side of this building is inscribed to the memory of John Earl of Westmorland; another to George Doddington, Baron of Melcombe-Regis, whose legacy to Lord Le Despencer for the purpose of erecting a monument to his memory, was the cause of his lordship's building this singular mausoleum. Withinside are several recesses for monuments, and small niches for the reception of urns and busts. The only monuments as yet put up within this mausoleum, are those of Lady Mary Fane, and Mary King, second and third wives of Sir Francis Dashwood bart. Sarah Baroness Le Despencer, who died in 1769, and her husband, Lord Le Despencer the founder, who died in 1781. In one of the recesses is the bust of Thomas Thompson M.D. to whom Whitehead addressed the poetical epistle, printed in his works, and in another a small urn, containing the heart of Paul Whitehead, the poet, who bequeathed it as a legacy to his noble friend, Lord Le Despencer. It was deposited in the mausoleum with much solemnity, on the 16th of August 1775, several months after Mr. Whitehead's death; the urn is thus inscribed :

 

" Paul Whitehead esq. of Twickenham, Obiit Decemb. 30, 1774.

"Unhallowed hands this urn forbear;
No gems nor orient spoil
Lie hear conceal'd, but what's more rare,
A heart that knew no guile."

The rectory of West-Wycombe was appropriated to the abbot and convent of Bisham, under whom it was held on lease for many years by the family of East, who were afterwards tenants under the crown. There are some ancient memorials for this family on brass plates in the church: Hugh East died at the age of 103, as appears by the parish register. King James, in 1607 granted the rectory of West-Wycombe in fee to the Andersons: it was afterwards in the Dormers, from whom it passed with the manor to Alderman Lewes, and the Dashwoods. The vicarage was in the gift of the crown till 1723, when the Dashwoods procured a grant of the advowson in exchange: Sir John Dashwood King is the present patron. The vicarage has been augmented by Queen Anne's bounty: the vicarage house was rebuilt with flint, in the Italian style, by Lord Le Despencer.

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Names, Geographical

The name Wycombe is believed to derive from the old english word wicum, and means '(Place) at the dwellings or settlements'. It is most likely that the river Wye, took its name from the place. The name West is used as a distinguishing affix.