Place:High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England

Watchers
NameHigh Wycombe
Alt namesChepping Wycombesource: Wikipedia
Chipping Wycombesource: Wikipedia
Wycombesource: Wikipedia, common parlance
Wicumbesource: Domesday Book (1985) p 43
TypeTown, Civil parish, Urban district
Coordinates51.633°N 0.767°W
Located inBuckinghamshire, England
See alsoWycombe Rural, Buckinghamshire, Englanddistrict council covering civil parishes outside the bounds of High Wycombe borough 1894-1974
Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, Englanddistrict government merging High Wycombe with Wycombe Rural District Council in 1974
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog


the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

High Wycombe, often referred to as Wycombe, is a large town in Buckinghamshire, England. It is west north west of Charing Cross in London; this information is also engraved on the Corn Market building in the centre of the town. It is also south-south-east of the county town of Aylesbury, southeast of Oxford, north east of Reading and north of Maidenhead. According to the ONS official estimates for 2016, High Wycombe has a population of 125,257 and it is the second largest town in the county of Buckinghamshire after Milton Keynes. High Wycombe Urban Area, the conurbation of which the town is the largest component, has a population of 133,204.

High Wycombe is mostly an unparished area in the Wycombe district. Part of the urban area constitutes the civil parish of Chepping Wycombe, which had a population of 14,455 according to the 2001 census – this parish represents that part of the ancient parish of Chepping Wycombe which was outside the former municipal borough of Wycombe. Wycombe is a combination of industrial and market town, with a traditional emphasis on furniture production. There has been a market held in the High Street since at least the Middle Ages.

As an "urban district" or "borough", High Wycombe comprises a number of suburbs including Booker, Bowerdean, Castlefield, Cressex, Daws Hill, Green Street, Holmers Farm, Micklefield, Sands, Terriers, Totteridge and Wycombe Marsh, as well as the nearby villages of Downley, and Hazlemere.

Contents

History

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Early history

The name Wycombe appears to come from the river Wye and the old English word for a wooded valley, combe, but according to the Oxford English Dictionary of Place-Names the name, which was first recorded in 799-802 as 'Wichama', is more likely to be Old English 'wic' and the plural of Old English 'ham', and probably means 'dwellings'; the name of the river was a late back-formation. Wycombe appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 and was noted for having six mills. The town once featured a Roman villa (built 150–170 AD) which has been excavated three times, most recently in 1954. Mosaics and a bathhouse were unearthed at the site on what is now the Rye parkland. High Wycombe was the home of 19th-century Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

The existence of a settlement at High Wycombe was first documented as 'Wicumun' in 970. The parish church was consecrated by Wulfstan, the visiting Bishop of Worcester, in 1086. The town received market borough status in 1222, and built its first moot hall in 1226, with a market hall being built later in 1476.

Feudal Barony

The Barony of Wycombe is one of the few titles in history that's so closely associated with negotiations that influence the rights of individuals that even today that it's hard to dismiss. The men who held the title played such a meaningful supporting role in the signing of one of the most important documents on record – the Magna Carta – that anyone connected with it is touching living history. For not only has it shaped the British rule of law, but also the American Constitution.

The manor and Lordship of Wycombe was originally given to a member of the Basset family, Thomas Gilbert, in 1171. A fitting offering for the man who was, at that time, the Sheriff of Oxfordshire. But from this fairly standard start for a title, being only a lordship, within thirty odd years it was to be closely allied with the King. Passing through a small number of Bassets as they died, by 1215 Wycombe was resting with Alan Basset... as a Barony. When this upgrade occurred is not clear. But the fact that Alan Basset was one of but a handful of barons who accompanied King John to Runnymede on 15 June for the signing of Magna Carta means he'd become an individual of influence. Listed as a King's counsellor, through Alan Basset the Barony of Wycombe had begun its parallel wanderings with The Great Charter and the throne. When John died in 1216, the title's association with both remained strong. Henry III took the crown and Alan Basset was, again, a witness to a reworked version of Magna Carta on 11 November.

The Basset family remained closely allied with the King over the next few years, and upon Alan's demise in 1232 his son Gilbert became 2nd Baron of Wycombe. It's at this point, though, that things started to get a little rocky. It would seem that despite being in the good favour of Henry III, Gilbert joined a political group headed by Richard, Earl Marshall. He was summoned, with other barons, to meet Henry's foreign relations... but he refused to attend. As any child discovers, petulant behaviour tends to elicit a punishment. Henry took back one of Gilbert's manors. When he tried to reclaim it, the King announced him to be a traitor and threatened him with hanging unless he left the court. Further peevish behaviour then saw him outlawed by the King, and orders were sent out to destroy all towns, castles and parks that belonged to him, and his associates. However, as was often the case in this turbulent medieval era, the pendulum swung back the following year when the Earl Marshal died. Gilbert was asked to take his place, and his estates were returned. What prompted Henry's change of heart is unclear... but the politics of the time were far from straightforward.

Sadly for Gilbert, in 1241 he suffered a hunting accident and was paralysed. He never recovered and his son soon inherited the title. But he too was short-lived, and within the same year Gilbert's brother, Fulk – Dean of York – inherited the barony and he became the 4th Baron of Wycombe.

It appears that Fulk, too, was destined to clash with the King. Later that year he was elected Bishop of London, much to Henry's disgruntlement, who'd wanted the Bishop of Hereford to get the role. Within five years, however, he'd redeemed himself in the eyes of the King, only to displease Pope Innocent IV instead. The Pope had decided all beneficed clergy should give him up to half their income for three years, and he'd entrusted Fulk to see this was enacted. Henry forbade it, though, and Fulk sided with the King on this. It was a dispute that would rumble for a number of years and finally saw Fulk at first excommunicated... before then being absolved from excommunication the following year. You know how it is... Again, it's unclear why, but it is of great significance that Fulk was named when a grant was agreed by the Pope that a tenth of the Churches’ revenue be given to Henry. Interestingly, Fulk had originally opposed this grant, but his leanings then changed in return for the King confirming Magna Carta in April. But as the pendulum would ever continue to swing, so did Fulk's relationship with the crown. In 1255, having been made Head of the English Church (a role that had been vacant for some time) Fulk and Henry fell out again. This time the King threatened him with the Pope's displeasure, and Fulk made his famous retort, “The Pope and the King may indeed take away my bishopric, for they are stronger than I; let them take away my mitre, and my helmet will remain…”.

They must have reconciled their differences, though, for by 1258 when Henry was forced by the barons to grant their requests, Fulk was sword adviser to the King and stayed out of the action. In fact, Fulk's name appears consistently by the side of Henry until his death in 1259. At this point, because Fulk had no children, the Barony of Wycombe naturally passed to his younger brother, Philip. The new baron, who had actually opposed his brother's views with regard to the barons’ requests for some time, upon inheriting the title switched to supporting the King. The currency of the time was castles, and he got Oxford and Bristol in return. He then proceeded to build quite a collection, for he was appointed Sheriff to four counties and entrusted with two further castles – Corfe and Sherburne. The same year, 1261, he was then made Justiciary of England and left in charge of the kingdom whilst Henry travelled to France. Opposition swiftly grew, however, and he just as quickly lost his justiciarship. The consolation for his pain was... castles; Henry granted him Devizes Castle and the counties of Somerset and Dorset as a salve. As can be seen, the bond Philip had developed with the King by now was significant. Later that year, he played his part in supporting Henry in an attempted coup de main on Dover. And was also listed as a surety for the King in the Mise of Amiens in a bid to avert civil war.

Philip's loyalty to Henry remained unstinting during the Second Barons’ War. He headed up the storm and capture of Northampton; fought at Lewes; and was taken prisoner in Dover Castle. With a royalist victory at Evesham, he was freed. And then proceeded to act as a mediator on the surrender of Ely. He acted as an arbitrator when the ‘Dictum of Kenilworth’ was drawn up. And then once again found himself appointed as Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset, and Constable of Devizes. When Philip died in 1271, the legacy of the Barony of Wycombe shifted to his daughter, Aline who married Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk.

The Barony of Wycombe's significance earned it a place in global history. Closely aligned with King John, King Henry, and the astonishing force that is still the Magna Carta, the Barony of Wycombe is inextricably connected to many significant historical developments, the rights of individuals and the American Constitution.

Trade and industrial development

High Wycombe remained a mill town through Medieval and Tudor times, manufacturing lace and linen cloth. It was also a stopping point on the way from Oxford to London, with many travellers staying in the town's taverns and inns.[1]

The paper industry was notable in 17th and 18th century High Wycombe. The Wye's waters were rich in chalk, and therefore ideal for bleaching pulp. The paper industry was soon overtaken by the cloth industry.

Wycombe's most famous industry, furniture (particularly Windsor chairs) took hold in the 19th century, with furniture factories setting up all over the town. Many terraced workers' houses were built to the east and west of town to accommodate those working in the furniture factories. In 1875, it was estimated that there were 4,700 chairs made per day in High Wycombe. When Queen Victoria visited the town in 1877, the council organised an arch of chairs to be erected over the High Street, with the words "Long live the Queen" printed boldly across the arch for the Queen to pass under. Wycombe Museum includes many examples of locally made chairs and information on the local furniture and lace industries.

The town's population grew from 13,000 residents in 1881 to 29,000 in 1928. Wycombe was completely dominated socially and economically by the furniture industry and, consequently, there was considerable unemployment and social problems when the industry declined in the 1960s.

20th century

By the 1920s, many of the housing areas of Wycombe had decayed into slums. A slum clearance scheme was initiated by the council in 1932, whereby many areas were completely demolished and the residents rehoused in new estates that sprawled above the town on the valley slopes. Some of the districts demolished were truly decrepit, such as Newland, where most of the houses were condemned as unfit for human habitation, with sewage pouring down the street and people sharing one room in cramped quarters of subdivided flats. However, some areas such as St. Mary's Street contained beautiful old buildings with fine examples of 18th and 19th century architecture.

From 1940 to 1968 High Wycombe was the seat of the RAF Bomber Command. Moreover, during the Second World War, from May 1942 to July 1945, the U.S. Army Air Force's 8th Air Force Bomber Command, codenamed "Pinetree", was based at a former girls' school at High Wycombe. This formally became Headquarters, 8th Air Force, on 22 February 1944.

In the 1960s the town centre was redeveloped. This involved culverting the River Wye under concrete and demolishing most of the old buildings in Wycombe's town centre. Two shopping centres were built along with many new multi-storey car parks, office blocks, flyovers and roundabouts. On the open area known as Frogmoor (or Frogmore) the original cast-iron fountain and some Georgian buildings have been torn down.

Research Tips

Maps

  • An outline map of the current civil parishes of Buckinghamshire (post 1974 and omitting Milton Keynes unitary authority) is provided by the Boundaries Commission.
  • Another map which gives no source, appears to have been drawn to show the county in the late 19th century and labels the parishes directly. However, the map does not show towns and villages (unless they are parishes using the same name) and some parishes have been found to be missing from this map.
  • A map provided by the Open University (a British university based in Milton Keynes) gives the locations of the old civil parishes and the new communities that make up Milton Keynes. It can be expanded to read the labels.

Registration Offices

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

  • Church of England and Nonconformist churches including registers of baptism, marriage and burial.
  • Around 35,000 wills proved by the Archdeaconry of Buckingham.
  • County and District Councils (lists of councillors, minutes of meetings, etc).
  • Quarter and Petty Session courts.
  • Landed estates of families including the Aubrey-Fletchers, Hampdens, Carringtons and Fremantles.
  • Historic maps including OS, tithe and inclosure maps
  • A wide range of local history books, some for loan.
  • Pamphlets and articles of local history interest.
  • Local newspapers
  • Computers for access to family history resources like Ancestry and FreeBMD.
  • Published material is listed in the Library Catalogue.
  • Catalogues to some of our manuscript material is available through Access to Archives, part of The National Archives (TNA). Their database contains catalogues describing archives held locally in England and Wales and dating from the eighth century to the present day.

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

  • GENUKI for Buckinghamshire provides a lot of material on the county history from a variety of aspects. The maps of the hundreds are reproduced from 19th century publications and show the topology as well as the locations of the various parishes. There is also a schematic map covering the whole county. GENUKI does not contain much information about the 20th century and beyond.
  • Local History Online provides a list of local historical organizations. Each of these societies and organizations has its own website.
  • The FamilySearch Wiki on Buckinghamshire explains the jurisdictions relating to civil affairs, parishes and probate (wills and testaments) for each parish in the county and also outlines when these jurisdictions were in existence. The data does not cover the post-1974 period.


This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at High Wycombe. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.