A Brief History of Stokenchurch

Stokenchurch first appears in manorial records in the thirteenth century. In 1279 the manor of Aston Rowant included the hamlet of Stokenchurch. The name is believed to have been derived from Anglo Saxon meaning 'church in the woods'. Certainly parts of the Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul date from the twelfth century.

In the middle ages the area was wooded, with oak and ash trees as well as the native beech. Fields were gradually cleared from the woodland around the village with crop rotation depending on individual fields.

For centuries the existence of the villagers remained unchanged. The main source of fuel in the towns and cities was wood and vast quantities of faggots - bundles of twiggy wood for burning - were shipped down the Thames to London. This was used for domestic purposes and for firing furnaces, brick and glassmaking.

Colliers Lane, in the valley to the north of Stokenchurch, had long been used as a drovers' road. The track was prone to flooding and, as a drier alternative, a new path over the hills through Stokenchurch developed. This became the main road to Oxford and ran through the village, down the Chiltern's escarpment on what is now the bridle track to Aston Rowant at Westway Farm, and on through Church Lane to Copcourt and Tetsworth.

By the middle of the eighteenth century, Stokenchurch, at the highest part of the Chilterns became a natural place to change the horses of stage coaches after the long haul up from High Wycombe and the much steeper pitch up Aston Hill. This in turn led to the establishment of many of the pubs and inns in the village.

In 1824 the gradient of the road from Stokenchurch to Aston Rowant was made far less by diverting its route to the west, following the line of what is now the A40. The presence of a road system meant that, in addition to firewood, locally built furniture could now be shipped direct to London. In the nineteenth century chair making and lace making were the local industries.

When the common was enclosed in 1861, under the General Inclosure Acts, its use was reserved for the annual pleasure and horse fair on 10 and 11 July, to which great droves of Welsh ponies and Irish horses were formerly brought. In the latter decades of the nineteenth century New Road was laid out, allotments for 'the labouring poor' were created as was Marlow Road cemetery. A Board School was opened on the site of what is now Old School Close.

At the start of the twentieth century the population of Stokenchurch had risen to around 1500. With the coming of the motor car links with High Wycombe and London steadily improved and the furniture and chair making businesses flourished.

In 1951, a far-sighted parish council was able to buy the commons outright, thus guaranteeing open space in the village in perpetuity. In the second half of the century the traditional trade of chair making slowly declined as the industry became less reliant on locally sourced wood. The building of the M40, initially to Oxford and latterly to Birmingham, created significant areas land available for development. As a result the village grew quickly in size. Stokenchurch became highly accessible with both London and Birmingham no more than an hour away.

Now, in the early years of the twenty-first century, the population has risen to around 5000. Despite this growth an abundance of green spaces still exists both within and around the village.