GREAT-MISSENDEN, in the hundred of Aylesbury and deanery of Wendover, lies about half-way between Wendover and Amersham, on the road to London. At this place was an abbey of black canons, the history of the foundation of which is involved in some uncertainty. An inquisition taken on oath, in the year 1331, states that it was founded in 1293, by Sir William de Missenden; although it might be supposed that there could be a little doubt of the authority of so solemn a record of a fact, then so recent,, yet there is good reason for supposing that the abbey existed at an earlier period. An old register of the convent dates its foundation in 1133. An ancient court-book of the manor says that it was founded by the Doyleys, and augmented by the Missendens, pursuant to a vow, made on escaping from shipwreck. It is probable therefore that the benefactions of Sir William de Missenden, in 1293, were of such importance, and the former income of the convent so small, that it was looked upon as a second foundation, and that he was even in his own time called and deemed the founder, as bishop Rotheram is even now called the second founder of Lincoln College, in Oxford. Sir William de Missenden, among other benefactions, gave the manor of this place to the abbey, and his family were its patrons. The patronage was afterwards in the Brudenells. The revenues of Missenden abbey were estimated, in 1534, at 261 l. 14s. 6 1/4d. clear yearly value. It appears that John Otewell, the last abbot, upon quitting the monastic life, renounced the state of celibacy, for by his last will, bearing date 1558, he makes his wife margaret Otewell, alias Westwick, sole executrix, and bequeaths legacies to his son Samuel, and his daughter Lettice. The abbot had a pension of 50 l. per annum assigned him, at the dissolution of the monastery; Thomas Barnard, one of the monks, had the vicarage of Missenden given him in lieu of a pension; John Slythurst had a pension of 8 l. per annum, on condition of undertaking to officiate at the chapel of the Lee. The site of Missenden abbey, with the manor of Missenden and other lands, were granted on lease to Richard Greneway, and afterwards to Richard Hampden esq. clerk of the king's kitchen. In 1553, the fee was granted to John Duke of Northumberland, and in 1573, (having reverted to the crown by the duke's attainder) to Robert Earl of Leicester. Not long afterwards, this estate was purchased by Sir William Fleetwood, recorder of London, an antiquary and historian, who made Missenden abbey his residence. It continued in his male descendants till the beginning of the last century, after which, it passed by female heirs to the families of Ansell and Goostrey. After the death of the late Thomas Goostrey esq. it was purchased under a decree of chancery, in the year 1787, by the present proprietor, J. Oldham Oldham esq. by whom the house has been modernized, and nearly rebuilt. Browne Willis mentions some arches belonging to the conventual buildings, which appeared to have been part of the Chapter-house. These arches, or a part of them, have been used in forming a recess at each end of a green-house. They have groined roofs, with rich ornaments in the center. The pillars have scalloped capitals.
Peterley-House, in this parish, an ancient seat of the Dormer family, is still the property of Lord Dormer, but has not been inhabited by the family for many years. It is now occupied as an academy. Lord Dormer gives a deputation for his lands in Peterley and Stone. Mr. Oldham also gives a deputation for the manor of Peterley and Stone, which belonged to Missenden abbey, and for the manors of Netherbury and Overbury, which were also part of their possessions. Netherbury was granted to the abbey in 1383.
The parish church of Missenden is a handsome Gothic building. On the north side of the chancel, about seven feet from the ground, is a row of pointed arches, with small pillars, detached from the wall. There are several monuments of the family of Boys, one of which exhibits a bust of the deceased, under a circular arch, composed of books. Among some ancient brass plates, which in 1801 had been removed, during the repairs of the chancel, was, one of Thomas Clement, Woolman, and Butcher, 1445. Mr. Oldham is impropriator of the great tithes, which belonged to Missenden abbey, and patron of the vicarage.
John Randal, an eminent divine in the reign of James I. was a native of this place.