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High Wycombe

High Wycombe parish covers a very wide area in this database (as it is based on the 1974 civil parishes) that includes West Wycombe, Booker, Cressex, Sands, Wycombe Marsh, Micklefield, Totteridge, Terrier and Hazlemere. It is the biggest parish and contains the largest number of records of any parish in the Historic Environment Record.  

Prehistoric

Bronze Age barbed and tanged arrowheads found on Keep HillEarlier prehistoric flint artefacts have mainly been found as stray finds in High Wycombe. These include a Lower to Middle Palaeolithic handaxe found in a garden on Rectory Avenue and in the cutting for the railway; an Upper Palaeolithic to Mesolithic blade found in West Wycombe Park; a Mesolithic blade and Neolithic flake found in test-pits at Wycombe Abbey music school; a Neolithic flint axe-heads found in a field near Cock Lane and in Sands; a Neolithic flint borer, core and axe-head found in the garden of The Coppice on Daws Hill Lane; a Neolithic end scraper found in the garden of 34 Roberts Road; a Late Neolithic to Bronze Age arrowhead near Church Hill in West Wycombe; a Bronze Age arrowhead found near Tower Street in Terriers; and a Bronze Age scraper found digging a pond at 81 Green Hill.

 

A Neolithic flint mine may have been disturbed during the cutting of the railway south-east of the town, but if so, most of the evidence was destroyed at the time and only an antler pick has been found. Neolithic to Bronze Age flint flakes, scrapers and cores have been recovered during systematic fieldwalking at Little Gomm’s Wood and Gomm’s Wood. A Late Neolithic flint scatter was excavated on the grassland over the road from Desborough Castle and it is possible that a Neolithic to Bronze Age long or round barrow has been incorporated into the later monument, but more research needs to be done here. Bronze Age round barrows, possibly covering burials, have been suggested at Castle Hill House (though this is likely to be later garden landscaping) and in West Wycombe Park, though again this may be garden landscaping. A Bronze Age cremation found in the 19th century at Barrow Croft was associated with two urns and an ‘incense cup’ and may once have had a covering barrow mound. A possible Bronze Age cist was also found in 1932 near Gomm’s Wood.

 

The Iron Age may be represented by two hillforts, one on Church Hill, West Wycombe, and one at Desborough Castle. Church Hill has a medieval church and graveyard and an 18th century mausoleum on it, which means it will be very difficult to investigate the Iron Age site any further. Some Iron Age pottery was found in grave-digging and a fragment of rotary quern from Hearnton Wood to the north. Work in the fields around the hillfort have revealed an Iron Age to Roman landscape of fields. Desborough Castle has also not been investigated and so may be a medieval ringwork, though Iron Age pottery has been found as well as medieval, indicating it could have been reused. The possible hillfort at Keep Hill is unlikely, as is the possible Iron Age enclosure near Benjamin’s footpath. An Iron Age pit found in 1863 at Wycombe cemetery was thought to perhaps be associated with a cremation pyre. Other historical records suggest that the mound on the east side of Coningsby Road had two Iron Age inhumations inserted into it, and an Iron Age inhumation cemetery is supposed to exist on The Rye, close to the Roman villa. 

Roman

Late Roman burial excavated before the construction of the Sands estateLots of Roman artefacts have been found by chance in the parish, such as coins found on Desborough Road and Totteridge Road and along the line of the railway. Fieldwalking at Little Gomm’s Wood and Gomm’s Wood has also recovered Roman pottery, tiles and metalwork.

 

Other more substantial remains have been found, for instance at Buenavista in Terriers where a Roman pit containing pottery, burnt flint and animal bone were found during levelling activities in 1929. A possible Roman well, mosaic floor and walls were found in the 19th century at The Priory on Castle Street. Roman building foundations were found during the construction of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. 13 burials orientated NW-SE were found during construction of the Sands housing estate and three others were found at separate times. They seem to date to the 4th century AD. A possible 2nd century farmstead was identified at 67 Melbourne Road in Micklefield. Roman pottery, roof tile, oyster shell and two shetstones were found at Green Hill in Terriers. A ditch filled with Roman pottery and tile was found during trial trenching at Wycombe Marsh.

 

The Rye is the site of a Roman villa that was excavated in the 18th, 19th and early 20th century and most recently in 2002. The first thing to be found was a mosaic floor in the 18th century. The Roman villa building, baths, gatehouse and boundary wall to the complex were all excavated. Some of the roof tile was reused in the nearby medieval St John the Baptist Hospital. The possible villa site extends to Holywell or Halliwell Mead. Tesserae were found in the 18th century and 20th century works such as putting goal posts up and building the swimming pool have disturbed remains such as hypocaust tiles and pits filled with brick and tile.

 

A couple of possible Roman or Saxon inhumation cemeteries were found in the 19th and early 20th centuries at St Paul’s church and 1-2 Church Square

Saxon

Saxon face stud found in High WycombeAs well as these possible inhumation cemeteries, there have also been other possible burials of this date, such as the 5th to 7th century inhumation found in the grounds of Castle Hill House in 1901 and described as a ‘giant burial’ found in the 18th century.

 

Saxon metalwork has been found around the parish, such as a coin found in Tinker’s Wood, a dress hook found in Sunter’s Wood and a buckle found in the garden of a house on Micklefield Road. An 8th century coin of Offa, king of Mercia, was found in West Wycombe Park in the 19th century.

 

Several monuments are known because they are recorded in Domesday. These include several mills; Lords, Bridge and Burne Mills. A fishery is also recorded near West Wycombe and All Saints church is also noted, though the current building was constructed in the 13th century. 

Medieval

Reconstruction of St John's Hospital as it would have been in the 13th centuryAll Saints’ church is not the oldest standing building in the parish. There are references to three chantry chapels in the grounds of the church as well, but these have since disappeared. St Lawrence’s church in West Wycombe was also built in the 13th century, though it was much altered in the 18th. Parts of St John the Baptist Hospital are still standing and this was built in the 12th century. They can be seen on Easton Street, though only a few internal arches now survive. It became the Royal Grammar School in 1562 but this has long since moved to another site. There was also St Margaret’s and St Giles’ hospitals. St Margaret’s was founded in the 13th century and was to the west of town, but no longer survives. The Church Loft in West Wycombe dates back to the 15th century and may have been the church office.

 

Church Loft, West WycombeCastle Hill House is so named because it was thought that the mound in the garden was a medieval motte (or even older – see above), but it is probably garden landscaping as no evidence has been found for a medieval date in the course of several investigations. Desborough Castle may be a medieval ringwork, but this also needs further work.

 

Many mills operated along the River Wye and if not mentioned in Domesday, they were established in the centuries afterwards, such as Marsh Mill, West Wycombe mill, Bassetsbury Mill, Francis Mill and Friers Mill. Domesday and later medieval records also note the manors in High Wycombe. These include Temple Manor, which belonged to the Knights Templar and then the Knights Hospitaller, and was probably based at Temple Manor Farm. Bassetsbury Manor is close to the millhouse. Loakes Manor seems to have been incorporated into Wycombe Abbey School.

 

Medieval industry has been identified in the form of tanning and horn processing under the old bus station at Frogmore and the Union Baptist Church on Easton Street. 14th to 15th century pottery kilns have also been identified in fieldwalking finds of pottery at Little Gomm’s Wood. Possible medieval farmsteads have been found on Priory Road next to the Methodist Church and near All Saints’ Church. Less substantial sites have been recognised on Conegra Road, where a possible medieval pillow mound once existed; pits containing 12th to 13th century pottery found at the Old Vicarage on Castle Street and there are records of a 14th century deer park in West Wycombe called Widdenton Park

Post-medieval

Gomme's furniture factoryMilling continued to be important and in the post-medieval period paper making took over as the dominant industry in High Wycombe. Of course, in the 19th and 20th centuries, furniture making became the dominant industry in High Wycombe and a recent study has identified many of the surviving buildings, which include Glenisters, Gomme’s, Kitchener Works, Jubilee Works and, of course, Ercol, though it was Gomme’s who produced the famous G-plan furniture of the post-war years.

 

The GuildhallThe town became prosperous and built the Little Market House and Guildhall in the 17th and 18th centuries. Many of the other town centre buildings date to this period, such as the Red Lion, where Disraeli and Churchill both addressed crowds whilst standing next to the striking red lion statue. The country house at West Wycombe was first built in the 17th century by Francis Dashwood, but the 18th century saw the extension of the house, the landscaping of the gardens and building of the mausoleum, as well as the excavation of the famous caves to give the unemployed of Wycombe something useful to do and to give the Hell-Fire Club somewhere to meet for their parties.

 

The roads to High Wycombe were improved by toll trusts from the 18th century. There is a toll-house still surviving in Terriers and on the A40 towards Loudwater and many milestones were put up in this period. The railway was introduced in the 19th century and stopped the viability of charging for the roads.

 

Schools became important in the post-medieval period, too. The Royal Grammar School, as mentioned above, was given its royal charter in 1562. It moved to Amersham Road in 1914. Daws Hill House has been used as a school since 1928. Hospitals were also built. An 18th to 19th century pest-house and workhouse was established in Spring Gardens.