The heritage interests of members of the High Wycombe Society are as diverse as the assets they care about! For that reason, you will find our members volunteering for a wide range of heritage organisations at local, county and national levels, as well as enjoying themselves at Pann Mill Open Days.
Back in 2011 a number of us worked together on a project to celebrate the centenary of a stained glass window in the Town Hall. A new video version of some of the material is on the horizon in 2016. We researched the lives of those honoured in the window for their contribution to the town. We held an exhibition and published a book “Wycombe Pioneers of Progress”. Copies are still available from the Society for £12 (+p&p if applicable). Please contact: Ann Simone, 7 Richmond Court, Conegra Road, High Wycombe, HP13 6DZ, telephone 01494 448773.
Two members of that project team: Denise Lindsay and Christine Clark are seen below manning a stall at a Bucks Local History Network event (run by the Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society) in 2012.
The theme of the day was “Women in Buckinghamshire” so we prepared a display for this event featuring Hannah Ball, the local founder of Sunday Schools and Dame Frances Dove, founder of Wycombe Abbey School, not to mention all the women honoured in the “Dove Window” at All Saints’ church, High Wycombe. Did you know that there’s a very small picture of Amy Johnson’s plane in the sky near St Hilda?
In 2014 at a conference entitled “Defining Buckinghamshire” we contributed a display entitled “Defining Wycombe”, a good excuse to study early maps of the old borough boundary, and the traditional means by which it was maintained. We also explored the origins and changes to the definitions of civil parish boundaries in the vicinity of Wycombe since their introduction up until the current day.
In 2015 we helped research and encouraged restoration of a set of historic railings in the corner of The Rye. We were delighted when Wycombe Abbey School decided to carry out the restoration and replace the War Office Gates. The original gates had been removed and contributed to the war effort during the Second World War.
WHAT next? The Society was invited to participate in the formation of the Wycombe Heritage and Arts Trust (WHAT) and has a close interest in the future of Wycombe museum which is planned to transfer to trust status in 2016.
A number of us are frequent users of the Local Studies Centre in High Wycombe library, and the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies in Aylesbury where many High Wycombe-related archives are held, including a copy of all the minutes of our predecessor organisation: the Rye Protection Society. The Society also has some archive material of its own. We were proud to contribute to the SWOP online collection of historical photographs available here. More recently we have scanned a number of negatives from our archives relating to Wycombe in the 1960s – work in progress can be viewed here.
There is never a shortage of potential heritage project ideas, nor of opportunities for sharing our discoveries by giving talks, doing guided walks or contributing newsletter articles. But volunteer hours are finite. We are always pleased to hear from people willing to help or, better still, run a heritage project. We would like to improve our range of publications. We would also like to be more proactive in preserving our heritage.
Meanwhile, a steady stream of ad hoc inquiries flow in to us from afar. We try to answer them when we can, but sometimes we have to admit defeat.
If you know of any interesting information about who and what travelled from and to West Wycombe station between 1862 (when it opened as part of the extension of the line to Thame), and 1958 (when the station closed), please get in touch.
Another enquirer would like to know whether the pavilions known as the pepper boxes on the Pepper Box bridge on Chapel Lane have ever served any function.
Inquiries we have been more successful at answering in the recent past include:
What was High Wycombe like in 1967? A Pink Floyd fan from California wanted to know. (A clue to his interest lies in the question).
What equipment was installed in the first power station in High Wycombe? A correspondent from Wales wanted to know. (A report in the BFP of its official opening gave him the answer he was looking for).
Where exactly was the Rope Walk in High Wycombe? (Yes, we did have one – it’s very clearly to be seen on an 1875 map of the town).
What was the newly-built building I saw on a hillside in High Wycombe as a child in 1938? My teacher said it was a mosque but it couldn’t have been. (The inquirer’s teacher wasn’t the only one to mistake the byzantine-style church of St Mary and St George for a mosque, but was delighted to receive our response)
Why did my ancestor from High Wycombe choose to emigrate to Australia in 1912? (Living conditions in Newlands at that time compared to the rosy advertisements for assisted passages to Australia might have provided the answer, but it was a lot more complicated than that!).
There will always be more to learn about our town.