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Local History

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 The pattern of historic developments is  traditionally one of small villages and hamlets scattered across the Chiltern  Hills, along the River Thames in the south, and in the north across the flat  clay lands of the Vale of Aylesbury. The three historic towns of the District  have very contrasting natures, the smallest being Princes Risborough on the  Chiltern scarp, Marlow on the River Thames and High Wycombe. The latter two have  Victorian and Edwardian expansions of considerable historic interest.

Wycombes industrial  heritage is based on the wooded Chilterns, which provided timber, and the River  Wye, which provided water for its numerous watermills. This led to, in  particular the furniture industry, and paper making. The architectural evidence  for this remains, and some, such as the cane and rush works in High Wycombe, are  still in use. 

The bulk of the District is covered by the  Chiltern range of chalk hills, which rise to over 250 metres at Coombe Hill. The  Vale of Aylesbury to the north is flat clay lands. The Chilterns provide much of  the local vernacular building materials that characterise the District. The  relatively limited palette of traditional and vernacular materials adds to the  historic architectural character of the District. Red brick, until recently  locally produced, flint from the chalk, and timber framing with rendered or  brick infill panels are the predominant building materials, while roofs are  thatched or plain clay tiles. Slate was extensively used from the mid 19th  century onwards, while stone, including locally quarried Denner Hill and chalk  stone, and imported limestones such a Bath or Ham Hill is found. Churches are  usually small and in local materials such as flint with imported freestone or  local chalk stone dressings. Larger houses and churches tend to be in higher  quality imported stone and often have lead roofs. This range of materials  contributes greatly to establishing local character.

The Districts towns  and villages character largely derives from the surviving mixture of historic  buildings. In the countryside historic farm groupings retain links with  settlement patterns dating back many centuries while country houses are  important elements in our social and economic history.

Chair Arch History

The Arch Tradition
Many towns in Victorian Britain constructed  arches to mark special occasions, often composed of objects which symbolised the  town, like High Wycombes chairs. However, the origins of this tradition are  unknown. None is earlier than the mid 1800s, so it may be that towns around the  country got the idea when Londons Marble Arch was moved from Buckingham Palace  to Hyde Park Corner in 1850-51.

Chair Arches in High Wycombe
The first known chair arch was put up in 1877 to mark a visit Queen Victoria  paid to Disraeli at Hughenden Manor. The idea originated with the Council, who  deputed one of its members, Walter Skull, to organise it through the Chair  Manufacturers Association. He assembled a Committee which included some of the  towns most notable chair masters, including Benjamin Howland and Thomas  Glenister.At the bottom were common Windsor and cane-seated chairs, rising  with the ascent of the arch through drawing-room, lounge, library, reading,  rocking and other seats, to the State chair of the Mayor, covered with red  velvet and bearing the gilded crest of the Borough¦This arch attracted great  admiration from Her Majesty as she returned from Hughenden, and had the coach  stopped to enable her to carefully examine it. (The Cabinet Maker &  Complete House Furnisher, Nov 6 1915).

 


The largest chair arch  contained about 400 chairs, and was erected at the Guildhall in 1884 to mark the  visit of the Prince of Wales.

West Wycombe Chair makers put up an arch  across the High Street outside the George & Dragon in 1889 to celebrate the  return of Sir Edwin Dashwood from New Zealand.

 



There is no evidence of any other full-scale chair arches being  erected. Several other commemorative arches were built in and around High  Wycombe in the 1800s and early 1900s but these did not include chairs.

However there was an arch of modern chairs put up inside the Town Hall  for the visit of the Queen in 1962.


Arch Tribute To Furniture Makers
Hundreds of people celebrated  a historic event recently in High Wycombe with the official opening of the  Millennium Chair arch. Built as a tribute to the town's famous furniture  industry, this modern chair arch recreated the structure built for a royal visit  110 years ago. Spanning the end of the High Street near the Guildhall, the arch  was made up of over 200 chairs and is more than 9.5m tall.

 

 

 



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210 West Wycombe Road,
High Wycombe,
Buckinghamshire,HP12 3AR
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