This article has been penned by Neil Rees, who contributes regularly to the Nostalgia pages in the Amersham & Chesham edition of the Bucks Free Press. A similar version of the article appeared there last Friday and Neil has now amended it specifically for readers of the High Wycombe edition. Neil writes:

We all like to think that our county of Bucks is unique. However across the Atlantic Ocean in Pennsylvania lies another Bucks County, and even another Wycombe. It’s no coincidence. This is the story...

Sir William Penn

During the English Civil War, Sir William Penn was a Navy Admiral. About 1668 Sir William Penn’s son, William Penn junior, had a Christian conversion experience and joined the Society of Friends, known as the Quakers (because they were said to quake or tremble at the Word of the Lord). Sir William Penn died in 1670 and his son inherited a debt of £16,000 (today worth a few million) owed to his father by the Crown.

William Penn Junior

About 1670 William Penn junior came to South Bucks. He worshipped regularly with other local Quakers - including George Fox, founder of the Quaker movement - at Jordans Farm, near Chalfont St Giles. Penn met leading Quakers at High Wycombe, West Wycombe and Beaconsfield.

He courted his future wife Gulielma Springett, whose home was at at Amersham. They married at Chorleywood in 1672 and set up home at Basing House, (now 46 High Street) in Rickmansworth, although they moved to Sussex in 1677.

William Penn later contributed to the cost of the Friends Meeting House which was built at Jordans in 1688. Gulielma Penn died in Chalfont in 1692 and is buried in the grounds of Jordans Meeting House.


Meanwhile the Crown had offered William Penn a grant of 8,000 acres of forested land beyond the River Delaware in North America in lieu of money loaned by his father. William Penn accepted, and proposed to call the land “Sylvania”, from the Latin for forest. The Privy Council chose to prefix this with “Penn” to honour his father, the late Admiral Penn. So it was named Pennsylvania. The royal charter was signed in 1681. William Penn used this land for what he called the “Holy Experiment”, which was a place where Quakers could live according to their biblical principles.


William Penn mapped out a new city to be the capital of Pennsylvania, and he named it Philadelphia. This means “brotherly love” in Greek and is also the name of a city with a church mentioned in Revelation in the New Testament.

Bucks County

Neighbouring the new city was a new county, which William Penn named Bucks County. He mapped out tracts of land for people to buy, and then he and about 100 settlers set sail in a ship called “the Welcome”. They left Deal in Kent on August 31 1682, arriving in Pennsylvania on October 28 1682. “The Welcome” was one of about 20 ships to take settlers that year.

When they arrived they found the land already inhabited by the native Lenape tribe, and Penn fostered good relations with them, bought the land from them and (for a while at least) they lived in peace together.

Some of the early settlers were Quakers from the Chilterns and North Bucks.

Today Pennsylvanians take pride when they can trace their ancestors back to a person on “The Welcome”. Having established the colony William Penn returned to England in August 1684. The colony continued to develop in his absence. Some years later he returned to Pennsylvania with his second wife Hannah, arriving in December 1699. Their son John was the only one of his children born in Pennsylvania, this was in 1700.

Visiting Bucks County

I was privileged to visit the other Bucks County after a business trip to Philadelphia.

I hired a car and visited the Bucks County Visitor Center which promotes tourism in the area.

I then visited Newtown, founded in 1683, which Penn had assigned as the new county town. Here I found a pub called the “Bird in Hand”, also founded in 1683.

I also visited Fallsington near where Penn built himself a house called Pennsbury Manor (now reconstructed), and where he worshipped at the Quaker Meeting House, dating from 1683.


Buckingham is in the centre of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Nearby is also a village called Solebury named after Soulbury in north Bucks. Buckingham and Solebury have historical Quaker Meeting Houses partly founded by settlers from North Bucks.


Just 5 miles south of Buckingham in Bucks County, Pennsylvania I visited a village called Wycombe. There is a Baptist chapel, a post office, an inn, an old stone bridge and a disused railway station.

When I was there the locals expressed pride in the bridge, and the station was being restored in the hope that it would be brought back into operation. Along one road called Township Lines Road, as it rose up a hill I found a house called High Wycombe.


Just 12 miles west of Wycombe in Pennsylvania, lies Chalfont. It is a large town with Chalfont railway station, similar to the one at Chalfont & Latimer. Many of the houses are Victorian. Chalfont Borough even has its own police service.

Back in England

William Penn never actually spent very long in Pennsylvania. He went twice, first from 1682 to 1684. After he went again in late 1699, he and his family returned back to England in November 1701. He died in Berkshire in 1718 aged 73. He is buried in the grounds of the Jordans Meeting House, next to his wife and some children who predeceased him.

Local Memorials

Every year many Pennsylvanians come to Jordans to visit Penn’s grave. In Rickmansworth, where there is a commemorative plaque at Basing House where William Penn lived, there is also a leisure centre named after him, and a pub called “The Pennsylvanian”. In High Wycombe he is also remembered amongst the “Bucks Worthies” who have a stained glass window in the Oak Room at the Town Hall.


If you know of any more local links with William Penn I would be pleased to hear from you. Please contact me on