History of the Parish
The Parish Council takes its name from the village of Hughenden Valley, which is in the centre of the Civil Parish. The Parish is made up of eight villages (or parts of villages): Naphill, Walters Ash, North Dean, Bryants Bottom, Hughenden Valley,Cryers Hill, Great Kingshill, and Widmer End.
The number of households is in the region of 3,500 and it has a population of just over 9,000 people.
The Parish Council began in 1894, with the inaugural meeting being chaired by Coningsby Disraeli (nephew to Benjamin). At the present time, it is made up of 15 Councillors, serving four wards, namely Naphill, Hughenden Valley, Great Kingshill and Widmer End. Each term of office lasts for four years and the elections are run in conjunction with the elections for the District Council, which reduces the cost to the electorate.
A Chairman and Vice-Chairman are elected at the start of each administrative year, but these may serve for as many years as they are elected to the post.
Naphill & Walters Ash
The Naphill electoral ward contains two villages; Naphill and Walters Ash.
Each of the villages has a population of about 1500 people and thus the ward comprises two rural settlements.
The two villages think of themselves as one community, looking to the village hall and playing field (The Crick) in Naphill for their social and recreational activities, with the local primary school in Walters Ash.
Naphill and Walters Ash are ridge villages within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and surrounded by the Green Belt. Enclosure gave the villages their present overall shape.
Post 1945 housing development had a major impact on the villages, two thirds of today’s housing being built since then.
The village of Naphill includes a considerable part of Naphill Common, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, of both National and European importance, within West Wycombe Estate and overviewed by English Nature. A few of the houses abutting the Common retain their ‘commoners’ rights’, being able to graze some animals and to use fallen branches for fuel. This glorious woodland was a well known stop on the drovers’ route when cattle and sheep were driven from Wales to London via St. Albans. The drovers turned off at Bradenham, along Ladies Mile, to allow their stock to recuperate on the sweet grass of the Common.
The beech trees of Naphill Common and Bradenham Woods were grown to supply wood for Wycombe’s chair trade. Bodgers lived and worked in the woods for weeks at a time, cutting suitable wood to fashion chair legs on pole lathes. Evidence of this activity can still be seen.
Huge sandstones have been found in the deep pits from which brickmakers’ clay had been extracted, some 35 feet down; sometimes stone blocks were found at depths of 60 feet by probing the ground. Chalk mining was another local industry, centred around where Forge Road is now and up towards the Bradenham turn. Men worked 60 feet down in tunnels radiating like the spokes of a wheel. The old tunnels have occasionally caused subsidence problems.
The allotments in Louches Lane were registered as a prehistoric site after hand-worked flints were found there in 1987, a further indication of a settlement on the site of the village 4000 years ago.
In recent centuries, many people worked within their own village, which, for Naphill and Walters Ash, meant working in agriculture. There were other rural professions, such as the fruit trade, lace making, sewing, brick making, stone cutting and masonry as well as chalk mining. Unlike their predecessors, the majority of today’s residents now commute to work outside the village.
Today, Naphill has a thriving local community and the village hall hosts many events, including an annual fete, where residents for miles around meet and join in the festivities. There is a local shop and off licence, two pubs, two churches and a post office, all of which are highly utilised.
The nearest surrounding villages are Bradenham, Lacey Green, North Dean and Hughenden Valley, with Princes Risborough being the nearest small town and High Wycombe being the nearest major town, some 5 miles away.
Although, as already mentioned, they are two separate villages, Walters Ash and Naphill do combine on many things to make one community, looking to one village hall and playing field for their local social and recreational activities, and reading the Naphill & Walters Ash Gazette to see what their neighbours are up to. Their inhabitants travelling down the Main Road pass signs to mark where they cross from one to the other.
Although Naphill Common is mostly contained within Naphill it does cross over into Walters Ash. Predominantly a beech wood, there is within it visible evidence of a scheduled ancient monument called Grimm’s Ditch. This may be a tribal boundary, the western boundary of Catuvellaunian territory.
1938 saw the arrival of Bomber Command (now RAF Strike Command) and many people living in Walters Ash today work for the RAF in one way or another. The RAF are also very supportive of events in the village and many of their personnel get involved in the community.
Naphill and Walters Ash Primary School is situated in Walters Ash, on the site of the old brickyards where thousands of bricks at a time were made and kiln fired. The school serves both villages, and pupils also come from the nearby valleys. Some of the school population is transient because the children’s parents serve in the RAF and are regularly posted to different areas.
There have been some major changes to the property ownership in the village recently, with the RAF selling some of its stock to private owners, and this helps to ensure the continuance of the village as a whole.
The residents of Walters Ash are very keen allotment holders. One or two of the present tenants have had allotments in the village since the 1970’s. Walters Ash tenants regularly feature in the top three allotments for the whole Parish.
Walters Ash is served by several local shops, as well as a number of small businesses, including two garages and a petrol station.
North Dean is a small hamlet situated at the western end of the Parish and is part of the Hughenden Valley ward. It consists of approximately 79 dwellings and has 165 adult inhabitants.
North Dean has had a relatively small amount of development over the last hundred years, due in latter years to being completely in the Green Belt and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the centre of the village is now a conservation area.
There is not much evidence of North Dean until the mid 1800’s, when it consisted of about 25 dwellings, one of which was a beer house, later known as the Sportsman’s Arms, and this remained part of village life until it closed in the 1950’s.
A village hall was built for use by the residents in 1921 and this was purchased by a resident in 1929 and given to the village in trust. It became the centre of village life, together with the pub until that closed.
In the early years most of the village was connected to farming, there being four farms in the village, mostly labour intensive. Today, the village supports one farm, part of which is concerned with producing ice cream. Most people now commute to work or work from home.
Children from the village attended school in Naphill, but with the advent of a bus service, most people began to attend Speen School, using the bus only in inclement weather.
In the early 1930’s North Dean had its own shop selling essentials and sweets. It was also served by deliveries of bread, groceries, meat, milk and paraffin. Apart from milk, this has now all gone, including the bus, which now only runs a token service.
North Dean has one allotment garden, on its present site since the 1960’s. This is provided by the Parish Council and is generally in full use. Early records show that a Chapel existed in Lower North Dean, but no evidence has been found as to its exact location.
The village has always had close contacts with the Parish Council and is proud to have provided one of the founder members as well as having almost continuously had a representative as a Council member.
North Dean has a number of listed buildings, mainly in the village centre, and although most of them have been modernised, they have mostly retained the character of the original village.
Piggotts is a small community sitting on top of the hill overlooking North Dean and forms part of the village. In 1963 a Music Centre was set up by Dr Wheeler Robinson and this is still run by his son, Nick, and their concerts are enjoyed by all who attend. The Annual Fete benefits from their music each year.
Bryants Bottom forms part of the Hughenden Valley ward. It is in the Green belt and is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Bryants Bottom Road turns left off Warrendene Road and is surrounded by farmland for a mile, until it reaches the village of Bryants Bottom. The first landmark is the Gate public house on the right - this is probably the heart of the community since the Chapel closed. This family-run pub is also the meeting place for the village.
Bryants Bottom is a stable community, which only has speeding traffic to blight its existence. All year round the public footpaths are well used. The Gate features as a popular watering hole for ramblers, who also appreciate the two wooden seats in the village, which were provided by the Parish Council.
As you would expect from such a rural area, equine pursuits figure highly amongst its inhabitants and the surrounding fields provide grazing for horses, cattle and sheep, giving Bryants Bottom its special and specific charm.
A settlement has existed along Hughenden Valley since at least Roman times, evidenced by the coins and pottery from the period found in the grounds of Hughenden Manor.
The village lies virtually in the centre of the Chilterns and forms part of one of the Chiltern Hundreds. Its name has had many spellings over the centuries, but one -Hitchenden - (Hitchenden Farm still exists) suggests Celtic origins, the word hitchen being Celtic for a dried-up stream.
Hughenden Manor is featured in the Doomsday Book, but is now known mainly as the home of Benjamin Disraeli. He fell in love with the estate, and acquired it as his home when he became leader of the Conservative party. His grave is a notable feature of the Parish churchyard.
The village comprises National Trust, AONB, SSSI and Green Belt land, and has managed to retain its rural atmosphere and much of its tranquillity, despite the growth in housing which took place in the 1960’s.
It is the home of an amazing range of flora (including a wide variety of orchids, rare grasses and ancient woodland plants) and fauna (including, when the river is high, swans, kingfishers and herons). On one notable occasion, some four thousand house martins gathered in a field by the pub; finding a muntjac deer in the garden is not unusual.
The village includes a number of businesses, including a garage and a builders’ merchant, as well as various farms.
The village hall is in the centre of the village, both physically and metaphorically, and there is always something to do, whether it be painting or working on the allotment. There is a children’s playground attached to the village hall and this is being maintained by the Parish Council.
Hughenden Valley has a Primary school for the local children, which will mean the local children will be able to attend the same school through to secondary age.
Cryers Hill lies almost central to the Parish of Hughenden and consists of a school (formally known as Great Kingshill Combined School), a Methodist Chapel and the Parish Council-owned Garden of Rest. There is also a number of small business and farms as well as a post office cum village shop and a pub.
Cryers Hill forms part of the Kingshill ward of the Parish and has just over 100 households, although some residents feel closer to Hughenden Valley than to Great Kingshill.
Apart from the public house, the largest properties in the village are Ravensmere, Cryers Hill Farm and Sladmore Farm and the land around these helps to keep the rural feel of the village, which is valued highly by the local residents.
Many of the village children attend Great Kingshill school, where children from a
wide surrounding area also vie for the right to be admitted, as it has such a good reputation.
The village of Great Kingshill is situated in the north of Hughenden Parish, bounded by the villages of Cryers Hill to the south, Widmer End to the east and Bryants Bottom to the west. Although the surrounding area is steeped in history going back to the Doomsday Book, the old Buckinghamshire maps make no mention of the village of Great Kingshill until the early 18th century.
The majority of the inhabitants of the village during that time were mainly engaged in farming. Details from the 1851 census indicate that there were 69 dwellings with a population of 340, equally divided between male (171) and female (169). Of the 110 males of working age there were 4 farmers,60 farm labourers, 8 blacksmiths and 18 involved in the timber industry such as sawyers, wood turners, carpenters and wheelwrights. There were a few individual professions which have long since disappeared such as baker, cordwainer, saddletree maker, drover and hawker. Of the females, 70 were listed as lace makers who made a significant contribution to the family income.
In the early 20th century the village saw the emergence of the chair making industry in High Wycombe and, with the increasing use of new farming equipment and methods which required less labour, many farm labourers decided to transfer to the chair making industry and became bodgers (a name given to those who make the legs & back supports for chairs).
Great Kingshill has maintained a flourishing cricket club since the first game was played on the Common in 1890 and, over the years, has won many trophies, including the Wycombe League in 1951. The club celebrated its centenary in 1990 and still plays matches on the village Common.
Today village life is flourishing;the Village Hall is virtually booked to capacity on a daily basis; the SPAR shop has recently surpassed all previous records on the number of customers. The local schools, namely the private Pipers Corner girls school, and the nearby Great Kingshill Combined school, are well attended with ever longer waiting lists.
Widmer End lies in the east of the Parish of Hughenden on the Chiltern Hills to the north of High Wycombe. The southern and highest part of the village is between 174 and 187 metres above sea level and the lower part to the north is around 162 metres. This compares with the highest point of the Chilterns, Coombe Hill, at 260 metres.
There is an ancient thoroughfare known as Ladies Mile which runs near to Grange Farm and is thought to be an ancient British track that could have been used by the Romans to travel between their villas at Wycombe and Amersham.
The original village was made up of a few farmsteads and houses grouped around a crossroads situated on the southern edge of the wild and desolate Wycombe Heath. There was an ancient settlement, known as Pirenore, less than one kilometre from the crossroads which disappeared many years ago, possibly due to the inhabitants being wiped out by plague. Curiously, Widmer End, as a village, survived.
Another separate settlement was Four Ashes and it was here that Robert the son of Simon de Montfort, the first dictator of England, settled after his father was killed by Henry III and his son Edward at the battle of Evesham. The population of the village remained small as the new land was only sparsely populated until the early to mid 20th century, when the estates of Brands House and Uplands, both to the south of the village, began to break up and more new houses appeared and cottages were extended.
The centre of the village remained the crossroads until the end of World War II when the building of ‘White’s Estate’ on the northern boundary of the village more than doubled the population. This development has affected the population balance of the village and the inhabitants of Widmer End have fought ever since, to prevent further large developments.
The village today is served by many shops and small businesses and has many people working from home. Widmer End School remains in the centre of the community and many of the local children attend. The village hall provides a playground area and plenty of land for recreation.
There has been a cricket club here for many years and it, together with the football and tennis clubs, keep many residents and their children fit and healthy.