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.