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High Wycombe ( ), (previously Chepping Wycombe or Chipping Wycombe as late as 1911) is a large town in Buckinghamshire, England. It is west-north-west of Charing Cross in London; this figure is engraved on the Corn Market building in the centre of the town. According to the 2001 census High Wycombe had a population of 92,300, making it the largest town in the non-metropolitan county of Buckinghamshire now that Milton Keynesmarker is a unitary authority area, and the second largest in the ceremonial county. The High Wycombe Urban Areamarker, the conurbation of which the town is the largest component has a population of 118,219.

High Wycombe is mostly an unparished area in the Wycombemarker district. Part of the urban area constitutes a 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 Medieval times. The town has always had a presence of industry, which in the 17th century exceeded the market town and now Wycombe remains more industrial in character.

An interesting and individual custom of High Wycombe is that it is the only place in the world that weighs its Mayors.


A map of High Wycombe from 1945
The name Wycombe comes from the river Wye, and the old English word for a wooded valley, combe. Wycombe appears in the Domesday Book and was noted for having six mills. The town once featured a Roman Villa (2 A.D) which was excavated three times, most recently in 1954. Mosaics and a bathhouse were uncovered at the site on what is now the Rye parkland. High Wycombe was the site of a minor English Civil War battle featuring John Hampden, and the home of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

The existence of a settlement at High Wycombe was first documented in 970, as Wicumun. The Parish church was consecrated by the visiting Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester in 1086. The town received market borough status in 1237, although the market has featured in the town since early in the 12th century.

High Wycombe remained a mill town through Medieval and Tudor times, with the manufacture of lace and linen cloth. It was also used as a stopping point on the way from Oxford to London, with many travellers staying in the town's taverns and inns. The paper industry was the most notable in 17th and 18th century High Wycombe. The Wye's waters were rich in chalk, and therefore ideal for bleaching the pulp. The paper industry had soon overtaken from cloth.

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

By the 1920s, many of the housing areas of Wycombe had decayed into slum conditions. A slum clearance scheme was produced by the council, whereby many areas were completely demolished and the residents were re-housed in new estates, that sprawled above the town on the valley slopes. Some of the districts demolished were truly decrepit, such as Newlands, where most of the houses were condemned unfit for human habitation, with sewage pouring down the street and people sharing one room in cramped courtyards 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, which was a terrible shame and an injustice to the town.

From 1940 to 1968 High Wycombe was the seat of the RAF Bomber Command. Add to this, during World War II, from May 1942 to July 1945, the U.S. Army Air Force's 8th Air Force Bomber Command was based at a former girls' school at High Wycombe. This became formally Headquarters, 8th Air Force, on 22 February 1944. Since 1968 all commands of the Royal Air Force are housed in High Wycombe.

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. Areas of cottages and period buildings have been replaced with a town centre which looked like any other built in the aesthetically challenged decade of the 1960s. On the open area known as Frogmoor the original cast iron fountain and some Georgian buildings have gone. A recent town centre regeneration project (the 'Eden Project') was originally going to uncover the Wye, however in a change of plan the new shopping centre has been built over the whole area, right up to the road which runs parallel with the river.

Modern Day High Wycombe

High Wycombe comprises a number of suburbs including Bookermarker, Bowerdean, Castlefield - CFM, Cressexmarker, Daws Hill, Downleymarker, Green Street, Holmers Farm, Micklefield, Sands, Terriers, Totteridge and Wycombe Marsh, as well as four former nearby villages: Hazlemeremarker and Tylers Greenmarker.

Although situated in the county of Buckinghamshire which is one of the most affluent parts of the country Wycombe contains some considerably deprived areas. In 2007, a GMB Union survey ranked the Wycombe district as the 4th dirtiest in the South East and the 26th dirtiest in the whole UK. The survey found litter on 28.5% of streets and highways. Data for the survey was taken from the Government's 2005/06 Audit Commission.

The town is currently undergoing a large redevelopment of the centre, including the development of the town's existing shopping centre and the completion of the new Eden Shopping centremarker and the redevelopment of the Buckinghamshire New Universitymarker with a large student village and new building on Queen Alexandra road.

These two developments have brought new life to the town and caused an influx of interest in the town , with larger apartment buildings and a new multi-million pound hotel being built in the centreand a new Sainsbury'smarker store on the Oxfordmarker road next to the Eden shopping centre and bus station.

Weighing the Mayor

A traditional ceremony of the town since the medieval period is the weighing of the mayor, where at the beginning and end of the mayor's serving year, they are weighed in full view of the public to see whether or not they have gained weight at the taxpayers' expense. This custom is still in use, and the same weighing apparatus is used as in the 19th century. The Town Crier announces "And no more!" if the Mayor has not put weight on or "And some more!" if they have. The actual weight of the Mayor is not declared.


High Wycombe's population figure differs due to the varying definitions of the town's area. The town proper (that is with none of the suburbs) is 77,178. However Hazlemeremarker is now regarded as a suburb of Wycombe and so the population of High Wycombe town is 92,300. The High Wycombe urban area (with some surrounding settlements) population is 118,229.

High Wycombe Urban Area
Place Population
Bourne Endmarker/Flackwell Heathmarker 12,795
Cookhammarker 5,304
Great Kingshillmarker 2,452
Hazlemeremarker/Tylers Greenmarker 20,500
High Wycombe 77,178
TOTAL 118,229


Wycombe's politicalmarker history spans back to 1295. The Wycombe constituency is currently Conservative voting. The constituency contains strong Conservative areas outside High Wycombe town, and the town itself where the Liberal Democrats gain some support, as well as the Conservatives. Over the years it has been a mix of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats.

High Wycombe has been home to two Prime Ministers; the Earl of Shelburne lived at what is now Wycombe Abbeymarker (and was also MP for the town), and Benjamin Disraeli, who was defeated as an independent candidate in 1832. Disraeli made his first political speech in Wycombe, from the portico over the door of the Red Lion Hotel on the High Street (now Woolworths/Maven Management).


Buckinghamshire is one of the few counties that still has a selective educational system. Students in their last year of middle school take what is commonly known as the 11+ exam (consisting of verbal reasoning). Their score in this exam determines whether they are accepted into a state grammar or a secondary modern school. Therefore, Wycombe contains some grammar schools that do very well in league tables, and in contrast, secondary modern schools, some of which have faced problems . Local grammar schools include Wycombe High Schoolmarker, John Hampden Grammar Schoolmarker and the Royal Grammar Schoolmarker. The Wycombe Abbey Schoolmarker is an exclusive private single-sex (girls) school, for day pupils, and boarders.

High Wycombe is also home to the former RAF Daws Hillmarker (an ex-USAF base) and the American School, London Central Elementary High Schoolmarker, formerly of Bushy Parkmarker.

High Wycombe is home to the main campus of Buckinghamshire New Universitymarker (BNU). The university college had plans for expansion in the Hughenden area of High Wycombe, and while these plans fell through, there are now plans to enlarge the main campus which will provide more up to date facilities. The university has now achieved full university status, (summer, 07) and it is now called Buckinghamshire New University / Bucks New Uni for short.

Schools in High Wycombe

For ages 5-11

  • Ash Hill Primary School
  • Beechview School
  • Booker Hill School
  • Castlefield School
  • Cedar Park School
  • Chepping View Primary School
  • Godstowe Preparatory School
  • Great Kingshill Combined School
  • Hamilton Primary School
  • Hannah Ball Infant School
  • High Wycombe Church of England Combined School
  • Highworth Combined School and Nursery
  • Kings Wood School
  • Loudwater Combined School
  • Marsh School
  • Millbrook Combined School
  • Oakridge School
  • St Augustine's Catholic Primary School
  • The Disraeli School
  • The Downley School

For ages 11-18


High Wycombe has featured in the national media in recent history for a number of different reasons including seasonal coverage of the local library's refusal to display a Christmas carol service poster and more serious stories such as the triple shooting of three young Asian men; a small-scale riot between feuding families and gangs in which knives, metal poles, and an axe were used, whilst a gunman sprayed bullets; and the shooting and murder of Natasha Derby at point-blank range in the middle of a busy dancefloor at town centre venue.

The town made national and international media after anti-terrorism raids were carried out across the town on 10 August 2006, as part of the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot. Five arrests were made from three different houses in the Totteridge and Micklefield areas of the town. A small number of houses in High Wycombe were evacuated in Walton Drive, which is thought to be because one of the houses raided contained dangerous liquid chemicals.

A three mile no-flight zone was issued over the town. Other raids and arrests were also made in East London and Birminghammarker.

King's Wood to the north of the town was cordoned off for four months to be searched by police, and many suspicious items have allegedly been found including explosives, detonators, weapons and hate tapes. Other woodlands in the Bookermarker area of the town, the M40 at High Wycombe and nearby woods were also under observation. Explosive officers were called to the motorway as were forensic officers. A lane of the motorway was closed as a precaution.

Famous residents (past and present)



The town's nearest motorway is the M40 which has two junctions serving Wycombe- junction 3 for Loudwatermarker and High Wycombe (east) and junction 4 at Handy Cross roundaboutmarker, for central Wycombe, Marlowmarker and the surrounding area. Junction 4 is a major interchange between the M40 and A404 trunk road. It suffered from heavy congestion but was improved by the Highways Agency in 2006. Junction 3 is restricted, only traffic going towards and coming from London can join and exit respectively. The M25marker and M4 are also fairly close.Other roads include the A404 towards Marlowmarker and Amershammarker, the A4010 towards Aylesburymarker and the A40 towards Beaconsfieldmarker and Oxfordmarker.


The town has a new central bus station attached to the Eden Shopping Centremarker with services operated by Carousel Buses and Arriva. Major destinations include Readingmarker, Sloughmarker, Aylesburymarker, Heathrow Airportmarker, Hemel Hempsteadmarker and most recently a new service going to Watfordmarker.

Bus routes in the local areaBus routes in the wider area.

High Wycombe is served by one of Buckinghamshire's Rainbow Routes network of services. Originally piloted in Aylesburymarker, it's success led to a network being set up in the town. Rainbow Routes is a partnership between the County Council and local operators Arriva and Carousel Buses. They provide regular services within the town and it's suburbs, and this network includes:

The town also has a Park and Ride facility located in Cressex, near J4 of the M40. Services run to the town centre, passing the railway stationmarker.


High Wycombe railway stationmarker is the only railway station in the town and is on the Chiltern Main Line with services to London Marylebonemarker and Birmingham Snow Hillmarker as well as services to Aylesburymarker via Princes Risboroughmarker. The station is the busiest in South Buckinghamshire. It is possible to reach Londonmarker in 30 minutes on faster trains, slower ones can take up to 45 minutes.The Wycombe Railway ran from High Wycombe to Maidenhead, through Loudwatermarker and Bourne Endmarker. However this was the victim of the Beeching Axe with the Wycombe to Bourne End section closed in the 1970s. The southern section remains open as part of the Marlow Branch Linemarker.


Heathrow Airportmarker is the nearest international airport, located just outside Buckinghamshire in Hillingdonmarker. Wycombe Air Parkmarker on the southern edge of the town is popular with learning pilots and gliders.RAF High Wycombemarker (site of RAF Air Command), a station without a runway, is located near the village of Walters Ashmarker near High Wycombe. Close by, RAF Daws Hill(now closed) is between Flackwell Heathmarker and High Wycombe centre.

Facilities and places of interest

High Wycombe Guildhall
There are two shopping centres: the Eden Centremarker which spreads from the High Street under the Abbey Way flyover to the south of the A40, and the Chilterns Centre, which is located between Queen's Square and Frogmoor to the north.The High Street (pedestrianised in the early nineties) has a number of 18th and 19th century buildings, and ends at the colonnaded Guildhall that was built in 1757 by Henry Keene and renovated in 1859. The small octagonal shaped Cornmarket opposite known locally as the Pepper Pot was rebuilt to designs by Robert Adam in 1761. The large parish church of All Saints was founded in 1086 but enlarged in the 18th century and extensively restored in 1889. There is a large well-equipped theatre, the Wycombe Swanmarker, which hosts many acts and shows prior to or following the West Endmarker.
High Wycombe Town Centre covered by snow in Feb 2007
High Wycombe, Holywell Mead swimming pool, closed 2009
In March 2008, a new development in the town centre was completed. This included the demolition and relocation of the bus station. The main feature of the development was the brand new Eden Shopping Centremarker, with 107 shops, new restaurants, a large bowling alley and cinema and new housing. The old Octagon shopping centre was connected to the new development. The complex is seen an a major milestone in the regeneration of the town, and is one of the largest in the country.

There are out-of-town retail outlets in the suburbs of Cressex (including John Lewis, Asda, and TGI Fridays), and Wycombe Marsh, where there is small reatail park of shops and restaurants. Shops include Comet, PC World, Pets At Home, Homebase, M&S Simply Food.. Desborough Road provides a secondary shopping area, with more independent traders, and a number of takeaways,

The Dyke, with the Rye beyond
To the east of the town centre is the extensive Rye park (and the river) and dyke. The park has an open-air swimming pool (closed in 2009) and the River Wye winds through the green space, which is particularly attractive during the summer. Wycombes yearly Asian Mela takes place on the Rye, and is popular locally and nationally. There is a museum on Priory Avenue in the town centre situated in its own grounds which include a Norman Castle mound. The theme of the museum is the history of Wycombe, but the main focus is the chair industry.

Wycombe town centre is home to many public houses and bars especially in the Frogmoor area, there is a recently refurbished nightclub called Pure & Obsession (previously Time, previously Eden), which has attracted some very famous urban British acts such as Lethal B, Kano, Heartless Crew, Soundboy, Shola Ama, Artful Dodger, and Gemma Fox. Additionally there is another town centre nightclub, The Garden.

The university students union has seen many celebrities from The Killers, to several Big Brother stars to Vernon Kaye and former England volleyball player Paul Galbraith.

The pub the White Horse appeared on 'Britain's toughest pubs'. They include free strip shows during the day. There is also a nightclub called the Blue Room in the suburb of Hazlemere.

The town features the old Wycombe Summitmarker, (formerly the largest dry ski slope in England, before it was destroyed in a fire). It was announced that this would be re-built to become Englands third and largest indoor real snow ski centre, however nothing has materialised to date, and it is unknown what will happen to the site.

Town centre bars and pubs include:

  • The Antelope
  • The Bell
  • Butlers (was once called the Toad)
  • The Falcon (JD Wetherspoons)
  • Scorpios (formerly Finn McCoul's)
  • The Flint Cottage (pub made entirely from flints pieced together)
  • The Glasshouse
  • The Hobgoblin
  • The Iron Duke
  • Legends Bar
  • Litten Tree
  • Lloyds No1 Bar (formerly the Hogshead)
  • Obsession Bar (connected to Pure nightclub)
  • O'Neills
  • The Nags Head (live music venue hosting bands of all different genres)
  • The Roundabout
  • The White Horse (doubles as a strip club and a source for alternative music)

Hughenden Manormarker borders the northern urban fringe of High Wycombe, approximately 2 miles from the centre of town. Built in the Regency period, the architecturally appealing house was also home to Benjamin Disraeli for three decades in the mid-19th century. The three floor mansion is situated in its own extensive grounds with beautifully landscaped gardens which back into the attractive Chiltern countryside. It is open to the public all year round as an historical attraction.

The local council attempts to maintain two locally beloved landmarks – the statue of a red lion (above the Woolworths store on the High Street.) and the replacement fountain in Frogmoor Square (the cast iron original was removed in WW2). The red lion's significance dates back to when the building was the Red Lion Hotel. Since its installation, the lion has been replaced several times and has had to undergo extensive repair due to damage from both the elements and from human interference. Another notable landmark is the ruins of the Hospital of St John the Baptistmarker, which is located on Easton street, just east of the town centre opposite the Rye parkland and dates back to the 12th century. The stone structure is one of the very oldest in Wycombe, and is said in part to contain stone used from the Roman villa on the Rye.

The site of the ancient Desborough Castlemarker is situated between the Desborough and Castlefield suburbs of the town (hence their names), and appears some what out of place due to the surroundings (though some might argue it's the surroundings that are out of place).


Wycombe was once renowned for furniture making (the town's football team is nicknamed the 'Chairboys') and furniture design remains an important element of the town's university, Buckinghamshire New Universitymarker. Among the best known furniture companies were Ercol and E Gomme. The River Wye runs through the valley, where beech trees were cut down by the furniture industry, forming the town centre (circa 1700), with housing along the slopes (some areas still surrounded by woods). More recent industries in the town include the production of paper, precision instruments, clothing and plastics. Many of these are situated in an industrial area of the Cressex district, to the south west of the town centre. The two largest sites are those belonging to the companies Swan (tobacco papers, filters and matches) and Verco (office furniture) who until 2004 sponsored the local football team, Wycombe Wanderers.

Local attractions


There is a gliding club and two flying schools at Wycombe Air Parkmarker, the modern name for Booker Airfield, to the south of the M40 motorway on the western edge of the town. Many of the replica aircraft used in the film industry, for example in films such as Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, Aces High and The Blue Max were built and flown there. There is a restaurant (The Pad) with outdoor picnic tables that is open to visitors beneath the control tower. Wycombe Air Park is one of the busiest general aviation airfields in the UK. The Air Park is also home to Buckinghamshire Squash and Racketball Club.

There is also a large leisure centre to the south of town at the top of Marlow Hill. Many sporting activities take place here and there is an Olympic-sized swimming pool, the pool having can be split into two 25 metre pools with a raising and lowering wall. The leisure centre was designed by renowned architect John Attenborough. The council are currently finalising plans for the new centre, its location still not public knowledge.


A new experimental scheme to knock down old council flats in Micklefield and replace them with housing association properties was approved by John Prescott in 2003 after overwhelming approval by council residents. There are many different housing areas within the town, some of which such as the Castlefield district have gained a bad reputation for crime and drug related problems. Castlefield is also noted for being the most deprived estate in the county, with the highest level of child poverty in the whole of the Thames Valley.

The town is a diverse mixture of large council estates built in the 1930s, 1950s and 1960s which sprawl up the valley sides, compact Victorian terraces in the bottom of the valley to the east and west of town, and desirable areas for wealthy commuters. The Amersham Hill area is noted for its large period properties, and leafy streets. Recent developments are showing a tendency towards blocks of flats, and developers are mainly making use of brownfield sites.


The town's football team, Wycombe Wanderers F.C., play at Adams Parkmarker, named after Frank Adams who donated the old Loakes Park ground to the club. Wycombe will start the 2009-10 season in Football League One, where they have been promoted to for the first time since 2004 when they were relegated. In 2001 they reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup under Lawrie Sanchez, with Keith Ryan scoring in a 2–1 defeat to Liverpool at Villa Park. They have also reached the last four of the 2006-07 Football League Cup, meeting former Premiership champions Chelsea F.C. in the two leg semi-final, in which they attracted media attention from the world over after holding the Premiership champions to a 1-1 draw in the home leg before being defeated away 4-0 in the fortress which is Stamford Bridge. However, their most prolific era was in the early '90s under the management of Martin O'Neill, who took the club from non-league status to Division Two (now League One). O'Neill then went on to Leicester City, Celtic and Aston Villa football clubs. Wycombe are now managed by ex England manager Peter Taylor. London Waspsmarker rugby union team have also played at Adams Parkmarker for home games since the 2002-03 season, during the club's most successful spell. Nicola Sanders, a female athlete who is current European Indoor Champion and World outdoor silver medalist on 400 metres, and also current world bronze on outdoor 4x400 metres relay, is an High Wycombe native. High Wycombe Amateur Boxing Club is located on Leigh Street.

Twin towns

High Wycombe is twinned with:

External links


  1. 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
  2. S. Roud The English Year: A month-by-month guide to the Nation's customs and festivals from May Day to Mischief Night. Penguin (2006).
  4. Indices of Multiple Deprivation
  5. Report on deprivation from Wycombe District Council
  6. Bucks Free Press Article
  7. GMB Survey Results
  10. All Saints parish church website
  11. Wycombe Summit

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