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West Wycombe Village Vernacular Buildings Synthesis Study

Gill, Jonathan and Brady, Kate and Warner, Angela West Wycombe Village Vernacular Buildings Synthesis Study. [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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West Wycombe is a small, highly picturesque village in the Chilterns with a remarkably
well preserved historical character whose form has evolved through numerous factors over
a long period. Many of the buildings are now owned by the National Trust and a major
refurbishment of the properties has allowed an investigation into the surviving historic
There is evidence of Romano British settlement in the general vicinity but the overall layout
and form of the current village suggests that it may have been a planned medieval township
with regular burgage plots either side of the High Street. The earliest of the surviving
village buildings date from the second half of the 15th century and it is clear that there
was a major period of building works in the early to mid 16th century from which many
structures survive.
The village is located immediately outside the landscaped grounds of West Wycombe Park,
the important 18th-century seat of the Dashwood Family and within a stone’s throw of the
main house itself. It forms the estate village and it appears that the Dashwood’s undertook a
substantial programme of upgrading works, particularly refacing many of the timber framed
largely 16th-century buildings in brick to give the village a more fashionable character.
The prosperity of the village in the 18th and 19th centuries was largely reliant on the coaching
trade and the chair making industry. West Wycombe was located at a convenient location
on the main road between London and Oxford and numerous inns were established in the
village to provide accommodation, stabling and provisions for this passing trade. The village
also formed part of a wider area known as the chair-making capital of the world and census
returns in the 19th century illustrate the extent to which this dominated local employment.
The history and interest of the village has often been overshadowed by that of the Dashwood’s
West Wycombe House, with the village barely mentioned in some histories of the
house and it does not appear that the Dashwoods took a close interest in the village.
The late 19th century and early 20th century was a period of economic difficulties for the
Dashwoods and there was little money available for maintaining the parkland, let alone
the buildings of the village whose condition had become very poor.
In 1929 the Dashwoods decided to sell the village and from this came the remarkable story
of the conservation of West Wycombe. The bulk of the village was purchased by The Royal
Society of Arts (RSA) as part of campaign to preserve cottage architecture which must have
been controversial at the time but which had high profile backers in government. The buildings
were bought through a public fund-raising campaign in an effort to preserve the village
as a whole and stimulated by fears for the loss of rural England by the pace of urbanisation.
The RSA undertook a substantial programme of conservation repair works in the village
and then passed the buildings to the National Trust in the early 1930s.
The National Trust have recently undertaken another substantial programme of refurbishment
works on many of the village buildings and as part of this Oxford Archaeology has
conducted investigations to record previously hidden parts of the buildings’ historic fabric.
The main works have focused on roof structures which have been uncovered to allow the
insertion of insulation and this has provided the opportunity for a close examination of the historic timber structures.
Individual reports have been produced detailing the investigations of individual buildings
while the current document is intended to be a synthesis study, drawings together
the findings of the overall work and providing a summary of the evolution of the village.
The project has also been informed by a series of dendrochronology samples taken from
targeted buildings during the works.

Item Type: Client Report
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > Buckinghamshire
Period > UK Periods > Medieval 1066 - 1540 AD
Period > UK Periods > Modern 1901 - present
Period > UK Periods > Post Medieval 1540 - 1901 AD
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology South > Buildings
Depositing User: Scott
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2022 09:07
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2022 09:07
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/6442

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