Artefacts have been found suggesting habitation in Penn and Tylers Green since the Stone Age. Since those scattered and sparse populations, there have been several key stages in the development of the two parishes. Penn is not named in the Domesday Book because it shared a lord of the manor with Taplow and was included in its return, but it already had about 100 inhabitants.
The building of Holy Trinity Church in the late 12th century marked the emergence of Penn as a separate parish. The earliest written record of Penn is to Hugh Clerk of Penn in 1183. In Old English, penn means “enclosure or pen”. The “penn” relates to Penn and Common Wood which was the enclosure or pen to keep deer for hunting by the citizens of London. The Normans translated the name as La Penne or La Penna because Saxons pronounced the second “n” as a separate syllable. By the 14th century, Penn was famous for its tiling industry.
Tylers Green developed with the growth of the chair-making industry in High Wycombe, leading to building on the common. In the 18th century the owners of Tylers Green House (since demolished) created a park in front of the house and planted trees. It was the presence of those trees and the mansion that prevented 19th century encroachment on that part of Tylers Green Common, leaving the delightful aspect seen today.
Until the middle of the 19th century, Tylers Green was part of Wycombe Heath, a 4000 acre common of heath and woodland stretching over 7 separate parishes and it had yet to emerge as a separate parish. The arrival of Sir Philip Rose and the building of his mansion at Rayners brought fundamental changes to the community including the building of St Margaret’s Church and the establishment of its parish. The arrival of the Beaconsfield railway in 1906 encouraged house-building for commuters, which perhaps led to John Betjeman’s description of Penn as the “Chelsea of the Chilterns”.
Quite a few well-known people have been associated with Penn and Tylers Green including the 18th century Parliamentarian Edmund Burke, Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan) and Donald Maclean the spy.
A single Conservation Area now crosses the district boundary covering areas of special architectural and historic interest in both Penn and Tylers Green. The combined area covers about 85 acres with some 329 properties, 50 of which are listed. Penn is the more rural settlement, lying both within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Green Belt.
The inspiration for this historical walk through Penn and Tylers Green came from the book called Mansions and Mud Houses by Miles Green. The book gives detailed and illustrated information about the history of the two villages and is available priced £2 from the Cottage Bookshop in Penn.
On the B474 between Hazlemere and Knotty Green, east of High Wycombe
Please note that many of the buildings mentioned along the walk are private and can only be viewed from the road.