This week we continue our occasional series of articles looking at the history of the villages around High Wycombe and take a look at Bradenham.

Bradenham is the archetypal English village. Now more of a hamlet than a village, it nestles in the Saunderton valley mid-way between Princes Risborough and High Wycombe.

It boasts a large manor house, which is adjacent to the parish church. Both buildings appear to preside over the village houses, which mostly border the village green.

Dating from Saxon times Bradenham probably derives its name from ‘Brada’s homestead’. The village was well-established at the time of the Domesday survey in 1086, Lewin of Newenham being the landowner.

The earliest part of the parish church of St. Botolph is the nave, dating from 1100. The southern doorway, of the same date, protected by a modern porch, is reputedly the oldest church doorway in Buckinghamshire. In the medieval tower hang two of the oldest bells in England, dating from c.1300.

To the south of the Church stands the grand red brick Manor House, with its large gardens, overlooking the Village Green.

The present building, of red brick, tall sash windows, steep tiled roofs with small dormer windows and a row of slender brick chimneys, dates from the mid seventeenth century.

This house is thought to include elements of an older building of 1540, but there has been a house on the site since at least the 13th century when the property belonged to the Earl of Warwick.

Queen Elizabeth I visited the Manor House in 1566 and was entertained by Lord Windsor.

The seventeenth century rebuilding was probably undertaken by Sir Edmund Pye and his wife Catherine, whose coat of arms appear inside the house.

In 1847 the estate was settled on the Hicks family, remaining with John Hicks Tempest and his wife from 1854 to 1947.

For many years the Manor House has been leased out, and probably the best known of these tenants was Isaac Disraeli, the father of Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister for 10 months in 1868, and from 1874 to 1880.

Isaac, the author of a number of notable works including “Curiosities of Literature”, came to Bradenham in 1829.

He is said to have enlarged and modernized the house. His son Benjamin lived there in the early years of his life. In the later Victorian era, the house was turned into a boarding school for local young gentlemen.

In 1947 the estate was bought by Ernest Cook, the grandson of Thomas Cook, the travel entrepreneur. The Ernest Cook Trust donated the entire estate to the National Trust in 1956.

Bradenham Manor is currently leased to Grant Thornton UK LLP as the firm’s National Training Centre. It is well known for its gardens but is not open to the public.

There has been a village school in Bradenham since at least the early 1860s, when a report appeared in the Bucks Free Press stating that “the annual treat for the schoolchildren had been given by the Rev. J Graves on Thursday August 3”.

In a “large apartment at the Manor House” they had enjoyed a “plentiful repast rice, plum pudding, bread and butter, and tea”. They then “adjourned to the beautiful grass terraces on the pleasure grounds where they raced and chased for a number of toys”. Rain then intervened !

In April 1866 an advertisement appeared in the local newspapers in April stating “A plan and specifications for Bradenham School may be seen at the Manor House”.

One of the children who attended Bradenham school was Sarah Wooster. She had been born in the village on October 8, 1870, the daughter of chair-maker Henry Wooster and his wife Sarah nee Marshall.

Her School Book records that she attended the school from 1876/77 to 1881/82, and gives the number of days she attended in each of the school years.

The book is signed by Elizabeth Farmer, the school-mistress of Bradenham Certified Efficient School.

The School Book is a formal printed document which specifies on the front page ‘’This book, on the child’s admission to a Certified Efficient School, is to be given to the Teacher, who will keep it, and, at the end of every year, make an entry of the child’s attendances (after 5 years of age), and progress (after 7) during the year.

The Book will be given back, duly made up, when the Child leaves the School; and the Child may claim the use of it, for reasonable time, when qualified, and seeking, Half-time employment.’’ The back cover of the Book specifies the Conditions of Employment, as related to the standard of proficiency reached by the child.

The decline in the population of Bradenham village began in the last two or three decades of the 19th century, being around 180 in 1881 and about 150 in 1901.

As with all villages in south Buckinghamshire Bradenham was to see its fair share of young men leave the village to fight in the Great War. Around twenty went from the village and six were to perish and are remembered on the war memorial.

This is a much higher ratio than the national average of one in six/seven, probably reflecting the close knit community. Those serving included 2 with the surname Plumridge, 4 Smiths, and 3 Woosters.

Those who were killed included two brothers, Albert and Douglas Stephens, both were Captains and died of their wounds within the first two months of the war. However their connection with Bradenham is unclear.

To be continued, when we will consider the recent history of Bradenham.