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Red kite




Red kite


by Madeleine Cleaver

20th Century

On this Page

  • The Original Domesday Book
  • 1985 Project Update
  • Introduction
  • The Chilterns
  • RAF Walters Ash
  • National Trust
  • Working the Land
  • Schools
  • Village Life
  • Clubs & Groups
  • Village Hall
  • Churches
  • Windmill
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Industry
  • Commerce
  • Tradesmen
  • Housing
  • Social Services
  • Transport
  • Tourism
  • Local Politics


    The Original Domesday Book

    At Christmas 1085 William the Conqueror commissioned a great survey to discover the resources and taxable values of all the boroughs and manors in England. He wanted to discover who owned what, how much it was worth, and how much was owed to him as King.

    There is no mention of the local villages in the original Domesday Book.

    Princes Risborough was called Riseberge or Risenberga.

    Domesday Book and Guide is kept in the National Archives. It has been translated from Latin and available on-line.



    1985 Domesday Project - Update.

    In 1986 the technology of the day quickly became obsolete and data recovery has seen several projects come and go since, but in 2024 we can now see most of it at Domesday 1995




    The BBC first requested schools, civic societies and similar organisations to assist in writing a modern day Domesday Book - a type of inventory of all that an area contains - and when they received insufficient response to cover all areas, they extended the date they had in mind and asked other organisations to take part.

    The Loosley Row & Lacey Green Women's Institute received a request in summer, 1985 and Kathleen Turner and I volunteered. Had we known just what it would entail we might not have done but we thought two of us could handle it and it would be easier than co-ordinating the work of several.

    The booklet and form came, with the grid reference for our square of the map and we went out to do a survey of primary, secondary, tertiary use of land: - farming, forestry, factories, that sort of thing. Our area included Loosley Row, Lacey Green and bits of Speen, Walter's Ash and Saunderton. We had charts to fill in as to numbers of schools, churches, food stores and so on but as the lists covered all parts of the country. Town or country we had nil entries for some categories - no theatres, dance halls, studios etc. but our village hall covered all this and more. Public houses had to be listed, 'bus services, doctors, dentists, even if showing nil in our area and the charts themselves were pretty informative.

    When it came to expanding on different subjects we could choose particular headings which had to include key words as the whole entry had to have cross references. Although we were aware that we had to write one TV "page" for each subject and not run over, and although we knew we had so many lines of so many characters, it was still very hard to write economically and still make the subject sound interesting and not like a list itself.

    Even this sounds easier than it was with instructions not being clear and we had to check on a number of things as we went along. "Characters", for instance, covered every letter, punctuation mark and spaces between.

    We tried to write briefly to fill the available space but no more. Although when it is a question of reducing by a few words, after editing and re-editing, it becomes harder not to alter the essentials. Even after we had altered and then altered again we found the title was counted, so words had still to be eliminated yet leave the meaning the same. We were allowed to reflect people's attitudes - easier said than done.

    A certain amount of research was necessary and at one time we read out some of our pages at a W.I. meeting and members made comments and suggestions which we endeavoured to incorporate.

    Letters and telephone calls, local and to London, were necessary and we went around the area surveying and asking questions which was interesting and often surprising but also very time consuming. We composed the introductory text together, then each took the subjects we felt we could expand on and wrote them on our own, meeting only for checking and discussions in between.

    Most people were helpful although not all and it was not easy to obtain information on the building of the underground communications centre at Strike Command, as you might imagine. As I remember one or two subjects were jointly written and it was easier for Kathleen to come to me so that I typed out and changed what we composed as we went along.

    The big day came to put it all on to the "floppy disc" and we were lucky enough to be able to use Adrian Cave's computer and have him nearby at the ready to see we did the right things. At first we could do nothing. We followed the instructions sent to us but could not "enter" and both knowing nothing of computers and security we tried everything we could think of, as did Adrian, checking information and reference numbers, dashing home to see if any information had been overlooked and left there. Then I went round to see Miss Juliette Drage who taught at the Secondary School in Princes Risborough, where they had joined in the project and covered their own grid square. She kindly telephoned a colleague and arranged to meet us with all information sent to them. It was found that we had not been sent an essential booklet with a code word without which we could not open up the disc.

    After that, some days later, we were able to proceed. We continued to edit as we went along and it all took quite a time putting the information onto the disc but it was the part we most enjoyed really, in a way, apart from a fright we had when we thought we had accidentally "wiped" the disc, knowing so little about computers.

    We could decide which names and phrases should stand out by being colour highlighted on the screen but this did not reproduce in the same way. In those days it was all black and white in print and dot and matrix also, not to mention being on one long continuous folder of paper with a type of bracket where colour had "highlighted".

    We were asked to send four pictures, colour transparencies of the area and asked my son, Jeffrey, to take one film from which we could choose those we thought suitable. He and I often walked round the area and we went on walks with an eye to deciding from where to take pictures, sometimes looking through the camera viewer. Then his father took him in the car with a ladder to decide again before finally taking the actual pictures during the summer vacation of 1985. We took first choice from the full film to show W.I. members for them to choose the final ones to be sent, signed away our copyright to photographs and material and just about made it to the deadline.

    Like the meal which takes hours to prepare and cook, looks simple and takes half an hour to eat, reading this and the copy we have of the Domesday entry does not give a true indication of the time it took but we were glad to be involved.

    The completed Domesday Book is on two discs which would take someone 7 years, viewing 24 hours of the day to complete we are told. Apart from receiving thanks, no further direct information about the project was received from the BBC and no one hears about it these days, certainly no libraries locally appear to have had a copy. No other similar project has been mooted since.


    Extracts from The New Domesday book

    - Chiltern Hills
    We cover part of an area of outstanding natural beauty high in the Chiltern hills between High Wycombe and Princes Risborough. This survey covers the villages of Lacey Green and Loosley Row and Parts of Speen, Saunderton and Walters Ash. They all began as small farming settlements in ancient times although today they have expanded considerably into dormitory areas including official married quarters for service personnel. The principal land use is agriculture but most people have other occupations. Some work in local industry or RAF Walters Ash but many travel out of the area to work. The estimated population of what we will refer to as Lacey Green is not more than 4000.


    - RAF High Wycombe Lacey Green
    Despite its name this large RAF station is in the village of Walters Ash. The station contains the headquarters of strike command which controls all the U.K. front line aircraft world wide except for those in Germany. It is an essential part of the NATO organisation. The domestic part of the station is like a medium-sized village. There are more than five hundred married quarters for officers and men and accommodation for single personnel both male and female. There are two churches, Anglican and Roman Catholic, a NAAFI shop, a community centre and the Chiltern 100 club which is open to all ranks. The station is almost self-contained and the families of personnel do not seem to mix with the rest of the villagers.


    - NATO Bunker - Lacey Green
    In 1983 the Ministry of Defence leased 11 acres of land adjoining RAF High Wycombe from the National Trust Bradenham estate. It was for the construction of an underground communications centre to replace the outdated system at present in use in Strike Command HQ. There was an outcry from many members of both the National Trust and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament who disapproved of the use to which the centre would be put in a nuclear war. Despite the fuss, construction has gone ahead and the bunker will be completed in 1986. It is not a bolt hole for the Air Marshals in time of war and we are assured that it is pure coincidence that a reservoir is being built right next to it.


    - National Trust, Lacey Green
    All the National Trust land in our block is part of Bradenham estate which was left to the Trust in 1956 by Mr. E. E. Cook. The estate of 1211 acres is made up of 700 acres of farm land and 380 acres of woodland, the village itself and some small areas of nature reserve. The woodland is mainly managed for landscape conservation with commercial considerations secondary. Most of the trees are about 100 to 150 years old and a process of clear felling and replanting in small blocks throughout the woods continues. All of the woodland has been designated a site of special scientific interest and several rare flowers are found there including the Chiltern Gentian and orchids. Small Dean meadow has very fine cowslips and primroses among other species.


    - Working The Land, Lacey Green
    Agriculture and forestry are the main land uses in this area, although only about fifty people are employed in these industries. There are three dairy herds in Lacey Green totalling about 300 cows. The milk is collected daily by bulk tanker and is taken to a dairy in London. The rest of farming is given over to arable crops, wheat, barley and oats with oil-seed rape, as a break crop. There is no large scale growing of vegetables as the soil is too stony. At Saunderton there is a stud where haflinger and race horses are bred. There are two plant nurseries, one near pound farm which grows seedlings for the trade and the other at Dean Farm which is also a garden centre much patronised by local enthusiasts. Large scale forestry is not practised in this area nowadays.


    - Schools - Lacey Green
    Children attend school from 9 to 3.30 pm, 5 days a week with 14 weeks holiday. First schools take children from 5 to 8 years, middle schools children 8 to 12. Speen has a first school, Walters Ash a middle school and Lacey Green a combined school. Speen and Lacey Green began as church schools and are still partly governed by the Church of England. Places at secondary schools are offered on the results of tests taken in the last year of middle school, children thereafter attending either a grammar or secondary modern school in High Wycombe. Not every parent agrees with the system, some preferring comprehensive schools and even more dissatisfaction is felt at the impending closure of the secondary modern school to which most children go.


    - Village Life, Lacey Green
    Many activities are enjoyed involving churches, schools, sports club and village hall, some growing from the need to raise money. Organisations support each other and people belong to more than one, so contribute greatly to village life. Two shops provide much of the daily requirements of people but the sub-post office is vital as, while many people can drive, elderly people and young mothers still need to shop locally and obtain pensions and child allowance in cash. Both shops advertise local functions, articles wanted or for sale and local jobs available. Shops in a village are a social centre affording an exchange of information and seeing that no-one is neglected. This aspect is also covered by the churches and other organisations.


    - Clubs / Groups, Lacey Green
    Many clubs and groups are based at the village halls, like Womens Institutes in Speen and Lacey Green. The sports club has its own ground and pavilion in Lacey Green, with tennis, cricket and football sections. Women's and youth groups are attached to the churches. Cubs and scouts have their own building but the nursery classes, play group and toddlers club are in the village hall as are keep fit, yoga, karate and archery. A Derby & Joan club for the elderly meets once a month and the horticultural society meets bi-monthly. The community choir rehearses in school once a week and Lacey Green Productions holds theatre workshops in the village hall producing a show at Stocken Farm barn in alternate years. These all join to organise fetes or village days.


    - Village Hall - Lacey Green
    The village hall is the focal point of the village. It is an adapted army hut which has been enlarged and much improved and is used by most organisations at some time but also by outside groups and for private functions like wedding receptions. It can be divided and let in two or three units and has excellent facilities. Serving as theatre, concert hall, clubroom, disco indoor sports centre and many more, it serves both Lacey Green and Loosley Row as a social centre. Cutlery and crockery can be hired so that catering is easy; there is staging and a piano for entertainment and ample parking. The hall is run by an elected committee which organises money raising events to cover improvements and maintenance. Social life in both villages would be poorer without it.


    - Churches - Lacey Green
    The Church of St John, built 1825, is the parish church for Lacey Green, Speen and Loosley Row. There is a methodist church in Lacey Green, Baptist churches in Loosley Row and Speen while on the domestic site of the RAF station are Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. Each church has sunday school classes for children. There is a resident priest-in-charge at St. John's, an RAF chaplain at St. Mark's RAF church and the other churches have visiting preachers, lay and ordained. There are well supported services at the RAF churches but some service families who live in the villages worship there. The village churches have grave yards, voluntarily maintained, although there are many cremations rather than burials today.


    - Windmill - Lacey Green
    The windmill at Lacey Green is probably the oldest surviving smock mill and third oldest windmill in the U.K. Built at Chesham in 1650, it was moved to its present site in 1821 and worked last in 1917. Chiltern society members have worked voluntarily for years to restore it, with help from local firms and a Wycombe college; it is almost complete. The mill will be working eventually as the machinery, thought to be original, has also been restored and it is open to the public on Sundays and bank holidays from spring to autumn. Members of the Chiltern Society warden it, explaining its workings and the way it has been restored; a small charge goes towards cost of restoration. The actor Bernard Miles raised money for restoration by giving shows in a local barn.


    - Arts & Crafts - Lacey Green
    Arts and crafts are practised by many as a hobby or for a living. Benedict Rubbra, painter, son of Edmund, composer, lives near Speen and his wife is a potter. Nearby Jo Dudley produces batik work while Joyce Colman spins and weaves wool and silk and there has been a revival of lace making in the area. In Loosley Row Gomme's Forge produces decorative wrought iron and casts artifacts for house and garden in traditional designs. Marquetry, other woodwork and upholstery are encouraged by local association with furniture production. The Women's Institute fosters arts and crafts with classes, competitions and exhibitions and courses are available at adult education centres. Festivals give scope to flower arrangers while less common is glass engraving.


    - Industry - Lacey Green
    There are several factories in our area. The largest, employing 1200, is D. W. Molins who make machines for the tobacco industry and train 12 apprentices a year, both sexes, in multiple engineering skills. Nearby is Austin Hoy who makes cutting elements for mining machinery. The company began in Lacey Green in about 1947 and moved to Saunderton in 1953. They employ 150 people, some from the beginning. They trained 6 apprentices a year but a down-turn in mining and the year-long miners' strike reduced it to 2. Across the A4010, employing 140, is Orthocilag Pharmaceuticals who make a range of medical products including contraceptives and anti-inflammatory drugs. There is a 10 acre industrial area in Loosley Row with diverse small manufacturing companies.


    - Commerce - Lacey Green
    There are three wholesale firms in this block. In Lacey Green Palmer and Harvey, sundries men, employ 60 people mostly women. In Loosley Row there is Christmas Meats with considerable cold storage and a company selling beers, wines and soft drinks. Retail are the post office in Loosley Row, Hickmans Stores in Lacey Green and the NAAFI shop in the RAF camp. There is no butcher in the village; fresh meat can be bought in Princes Risborough or Naphill. The village shops can supply most people's needs but are more expensive than supermarkets in nearby towns, a large loaf of bread costs 52p and 250gms butter is 54p. Many families stock up weekly or monthly at a supermarket only using the village shop for oddments but for the elderly the village shop is a lifeline.


    - Tradesmen - Lacey Green
    There are many small tradesmen in the area and it is possible to get almost anything fixed, from a T.V. to a leaking roof. In the locality are several small family building firms who are constantly busy with new houses and extensions. There are three plumbers/heating engineers, electricians, a window cleaner, joiners, an oddjob man, a T.V. repair man, a tree surgeon and a number of gardeners. The forge at Loosley Row will repair farm machinery and braze and weld, while those employed in the furniture trade can often oblige with restoration. In fact there are not many household jobs which cannot be dealt with by local tradesmen. Indeed more unusual problems can be solved. Not far away is a stained glass expert who recently restored a window in the parish church.


    - Housing - Lacey Green
    There are houses two to three hundred years old in the area, mostly brick and flint; many are more modern and much development has taken place in the last 20 years. Most houses are privately owned but there are council houses - a number purely for the old. There are also many houses for RAF families. The cost of housing is high and while new people move into the area, young villagers as they marry move away to areas of cheaper housing. At present there is much infilling as, being an area of outstanding natural beauty, much land is designated green belt and building is not permitted. Even so, expansion is continual, requests for planning permission, sometimes controversial, regularly appearing. A 3 bedroomed house is currently being offered at £96,000.


    - Social Services, Lacey Green
    There are no doctors' surgeries in the villages but group practices in Princes Risborough and Hughenden Valley are accessible by bus. District nurses work from these making home visits, as do doctors but not as readily as heretofore. There are sufficient dentists and also a chiropody service for older people. Hospitals can be reached without difficulty in Aylesbury, Thame and High Wycombe. Princes Risborough has a council home for the aged and sheltered housing for the more capable elderly, while Thame Hospital will care for old people for short periods to relieve families caring for them. A former sanatorium at Saunderton is now used to house homeless people for up to 3 months while more permanent accommodation is sought.


    - Transport - Lacey Green
    Many people own cars but there are good bus services through the villages To High Wycombe and Princes Risborough, thence to Aylesbury and on. Fares are not subsidised and so higher than some areas but there is a scheme to enable older people to travel more cheaply. Some children travel free to school on the normal service buses while others have a special school coach. Local factories run vehicles to pick up employees and it is possible for hospitals to arrange transport for patients where this is difficult. There is a railway station at Saunderton and some trains stop there on the way to and from london, but most people travel to Princes Risborough or High Wycombe to take the train, unless they live near the local station. It is possible to park at both stations.


    - Tourism - Lacey Green
    The Chiltern area attracts tourists and in Lacey Green and surrounds there is much to interest them. The beech-woods are beautiful in spring and autumn; the windmill is open in the summer months. On the edge of Speen is the Home of Rest for Horses, a popular place for family visits throughout the year. Run as a charity, it has many horses and some donkeys including famous animals used by royalty and involved in terrorist attacks! The forge at Loosley Row is an interesting place to visit. Many footpaths are marked and walkers make good use of them. They can stay overnight at a youth hostel in nearby Bradenham. There are also bridle paths for the many horseriders. Well spread around the district are 5 public houses, all serving meals as well as drinks.


    - Local Politics, Lacey Green
    This ward of Wycombe District Council used to return a Labour or Independent councillor but has become a Tory stronghold and Labour candidates no longer stand. There will be a District Council byelection here soon with Conservative and Alliance candidates. This is the first contested election for several years and is creating much interest as both are well known. In contrast, the Parish Council is almost apolitical in its makeup. Parish councillors are elected because they are well liked. Many people think that they do not have effective powers to guard local interests. Because the parish covers three separate villages, there are conflicts of interest.

    Produced by: Madeline Cleaver, Kathleen Turner, Jeffrey Cleaver & Adrian Cave