The village name is Anglo Saxon in origin, and means 'Priest-wood'. There is evidence of settlement in Prestwood from the Middle Ages, when the area of the village was covered in oak, beech and ash trees. the village is located on a broad plateau. The height above sea level is 633 feet, more than 200 feet higher than Great Missenden, the village 1.5 miles away which gives its name to the civil parish. The steepness of the hill in between the villages has tended to make them independent of the other.
By the middle of the 19th century, much of the woodland in the centre of the village had been cleared to make way for agriculture and common land. Around the common approximately 100 houses existed. Many villagers worked in cottage industries such as lace making in addition to providing labour on local farms. Some families owned their own cow or pig which grazed on the common land and were watered from one or more of the 70 ponds spread around the village. The village had a wheelwright and a blacksmith.
In the 1841 and 1851 censuses the people of Prestwood were enumerated in one of three enumeration districts/parishes: Great Missenden, Hughenden, and Stoke Mandeville. The Stoke Mandeville portion was a detached piece of Stoke Mandeville parish based on the hamlet of Hotley Bottom on the edge of Prestwood. This was sepatated from the rest of Stoke Mandeville by the parished of despite the presence of Great Hampden and Ellesborough. By 1861 the registration districts had been adjusted so that Prestwood was entirely within the civil parish of Great Missenden.
Prestwood came into being as an ecclesiastical parish in 1849, when the Holy Trinity Church was constructed. Its cemetery contains memorials to many people in the village. A school was soon built adjacent to the church. Shortly after 1900 a Methodist church was built on the High Street (no cemetery) and a Baptist chapel on Kiln Road (cemetery across the road from the church).
Agriculture and agriculturally-based industries—a dairy (still in existence as a milk-delivery business), a butcher with his own slaughterhouse and meat pie-baking facilities, a bakery making its own bread and cakes—all flourished until the latter half of the twentieth century. In addition, orchards--particularly cherry orchards--were created and much of the fruit sold to traders in London, and a gamebird hatchery was established on one of the local farms. This provided pheasant chicks and eggs to shoots throughout the country. Non-agricultural industries included a brickworks making use of the heavy clay soil found in the northwest part of the village, and a ironmongery business initially finding its clientele on the farms and later, when it switched to hardware, garden supplies and a nursery, amongst the houseowners of the village. Most recently farms on the edge of the village formerly producing arable crops have been sold and replaced by livery stables. Wood turners or "bodgers" who provided stocks of chair legs to the furniture industry in High Wycombe were not as prevalent in Prestwood as in other local villages.
In 1850 the common land began to be sold off for agricultural and residential development. By 1900, only a small amount of common land remained. Today, Prestwood Common on Nairdwood Lane is one of the few pieces of common land still present in the village.
Prestwood continued to grow in area and population throughout the most of the 20th century. Home ownership gradually replaced cottage tenancies. A village hall was opened in 1928. The arrival of the railway in Great Missenden improved access to central London, leading to Prestwood becoming a commuter village. Two schools, serving children from age 5 to 10 are now present in the village. The nearest secondary school is in Great Missenden.
As the rise in the commuter-based population grew, the self-sufficient village on which it had been built became a thing of the past. Only the milk delivery business and that of the hardware and garden equipment provider remain out of the variety in existence in the early part of the 20th century. The population of Prestwood in the 21st century is about 10,000 people.
Birth, marriage and death certificates can now be ordered online from Buckinghamshire County Council. The full postal address is Buckinghamshire Register Office, County Hall, Walton Street, Aylesbury, HP20 1YU.
The Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies (County Hall, Walton Street, Aylesbury, HP20 1UU) holds
In Buckinghamshire, as with other counties in England and Wales, the location of offices where Births, Marriages and Deaths were registered has altered with other changes in local government. A list of the location of Registration Offices since civil registration began in 1837 has been prepared by GENUKI (Genealogy: United Kingdom and Ireland). The table also gives details of when each Registration Office was in existence. In the case of Buckinghamshire, the same registration offices were used for the censuses since 1851.
Nineteenth Century Local Administration
English Jurisdictions is a webpage provided by FamilySearch which analyses every ecclesiastical parish in England at the year 1851. It provides, with the aid of outline maps, the date at which parish records and bishops transcripts begin, non-conformist denominations with a chapel within the parish, the names of the jurisdictions in charge: county, civil registration district, probate court, diocese, rural deanery, poor law union, hundred, church province; and links to FamilySearch historical records, FamilySearch Catalog and the FamilySearch Wiki. Two limitations: only England, and at the year 1851.
During the 19th century two bodies, the Poor Law Union and the Sanitary District, had responsibility for governmental functions at a level immediately above that covered by the civil parish. In 1894 these were replace by Rural and Urban Districts. These were elected bodies, responsible for setting local property assessments and taxes as well as for carrying out their specified duties. Thses districts continued in operation until 1974. Urban districts for larger municipalities were called "Municipal Boroughs" and had additional powers and obligations.
Poor Law Unions, established nationally in 1834, combined parishes together for the purpose of providing relief for the needy who had no family support. This led to the building of '"union poorhouses" or "workhouses" funded by all the parishes in the union. The geographical boundaries established for the individual Poor Law Unions were employed again when Registration Districts were formed three years later. In 1875 Sanitary Districts were formed to provide services such as clean water supply, sewage systems, street cleaning, and the clearance of slum housing. These also tended to follow the same geographical boundaries, although there were local alterations caused by changes in population distribution.
Online Historical References