Penn, Tylers Green & Hughenden
Some Local History

As related to, compiled and written by, AlanT, when researching his family's ancestry upwards from the marriage of William Dennis Tilbury and Rosetta Weedon in 1888 - my thanks, Caroline (site holder).

William & Rose were both born in the village of Penn, in southern Buckinghamshire. It was a place in which - or within a dozen miles of which - most of their ancestors had lived for generations.

In the second part of the 19th century England stood at the threshold of the modern age. Nevertheless much of life in this part of the country was nearer to what it had been for centuries past than what it has become today.


The name Penn is probably derived from the British 'pen' (meaning hill or headland). Consistent with this probability is the fact that the village is set on a wooded headland on some of the highest ground in the Chiltern Hills. Part of ten other counties can, it is said, be seen from the tower of the parish church. A mid-19th century guide described the area as "remarkably beautiful" (as much of it still is) and nearly a third of the parish's six square miles consisted of woods and plantations, mostly beech with some oak. Hazlemere Road, where the Weedon family built their new house in the 1860s, was said to run through a beautiful beech wood with extensive cherry orchards on one side.

The parish of Penn is part of Burnham Hundred, one of the famous Chiltern Hundreds. (Hundreds, which have history going back to the 10th century, were used for many years for local judicial and administrative purposes.) Within the parish was the ancient home of the Penns of Penn, reputedly the family of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. However, by the time of which we write the Penn Estate, which owned a very high proportion of the land in the parish, had passed to the Lords Howe, immensely rich aristocrats with properties all over England.

Penn village (also known as Penn Church), was described at the time as "small but scattered, presenting a picturesque appearance, with some cottages of 17th-century date refaced with later brickwork". At its centre was the prominent 12th century church dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and among the buildings facing the church were the new Girls' Working School, "The Crown" alehouse (in a building dating from 1577), a pound for stray animals and the newly redundant village stocks. (Stocks mostly went out of use in England in the middle of the 19th century.)

(Frank Tilbury, bricklayer of Penn, was listed as victualler at the "Crown" in Trade Directories of 1853-54, 1864.)

In 1851 there were no less than four Joseph Tilburys living in the immediate vicinity of the church. The eldest, a 51-year old "bricklayer with two labourers", and his wife Ann, who were the parents of the Sarah Tilbury who was to become Rose's mother, were living with their youngest daughter Ruth close to the church, on its south-east side. On the opposite side of the church was their son Joseph, a "bricklayer journeyman", with his wife Elizabeth and two young sons; and next-door to them was Joseph Tilbury, the gardener, and his wife Jane (Dennis), who were William's future parents. Living with them was their first child Henry, and an 18-year old son of Joseph's first marriage, yet another Joseph.

The congregation at the Sunday morning service at Holy Trinity must have included a good proportion of the villagers and many who lived elsewhere in the parish. In 1851 the average attendance at the service was 102 adults and 117 "Sunday Scholars". The total population of the village must have been very small. For the parish as a whole, which included three neighbouring hamlets, several large estates, some households in what was to become the village of Tylers Green, and isolated farms, the 1851 census registered a total of 1,254 inhabitants, the highest level it reached in the 19th century.

Although there were no tarred (or concrete) roads anywhere in England, the Penn roads were said to be particularly abominable. They were still repaired, as they had been for many years, with stones gathered from the fields by women and children. There was no piped water supply - villagers who did not have their own wells had to obtain water from one or other of the village ponds. (In times of drought villagers were allowed to take water from a deep well sunk by Sir Philip Rose at Rayners.) There was no main sewage, let alone gas or electricity. Although the age of railways was dawning in some parts of Britain, no railway line came anywhere near Penn - until the London Marylebone to Beaconsfield line opened in 1906, Beaconsfield being about 22 miles from London. There were of course no motor vehicles. A miscellany of horse-drawn vehicles (including stage coaches) provided a transport service to and from London and most of the market towns in Buckinghamshire. Recent improvements in the design and construction of stage coaches enabled journeys to the Metropolis to be completed in greater comfort than previously and at the astonishing average speed of nearly 10 miles an hour (see "The Bucks Herald" of 2 June 1838).

Its high position was said to render Penn remarkably healthy - it had a centuries-old reputation as such. It is recorded that Elizabethan and Stuart Londoners used to send their "nurse children" to Penn to escape the regular epidemics in the capital; and as late as 1911 the Vicar of Penn wrote that the death rate was almost the lowest in the kingdom.

With this reputation, and its convenient nearness to London, it is not surprising that the area had more than its fair share of famous visitors and residents. It would, nevertheless, have astonished William and Rose (and doubtless their children) to know that by the beginning of the 21st century parts of the area would have become so sought after by celebrities and the wealthy that a newspaper article would advise would-be buyers not to expect anything much for 2 million! ("The Observer" of 12 August 2001.)

The land enclosures of the late 18th century had bankrupted small farmers throughout the county, and a significant proportion of the male population of the parish were landless labourers. Some of the men (including the Weedons), worked in the beech woods as sawyers, cutting up felled trees into manageable pieces for the manufacture of chairs, an important local cottage industry, but one which was gradually superseded by the furniture factories in High Wycombe. William's father, Joseph, was a gardener. Many of the women were lacemakers - the manufacture of Buckinghamshire Lace being another local cottage industry, which had originated in the 16th century. In the middle of the 19th century there were forty-six lacemakers and three lace dealers in the parish of Penn alone, and it is said that Queen Adelaide had ordered some of the Penn lace when she visited Penn in 1833. There was a lace school for children in the Old Parish Room, near Penn Church.

The only resemblance to a regular police force in the parish was a non-uniformed village constable, who dealt with minor offences.

A new school, initially called the Girls' Working School, had been built in Penn in 1839, opposite the church. Boys then went to a separate school at Church Knowl, on the north-east of the village. Interestingly for us, the only person enumerated at the Penn school house on the night of the 1851 census in addition to the schoolmistress - a 30-year old spinster called Jane Shaffery - was 17-year old Sarah Tilbury, who, as Mrs. Sarah Weedon, was later to become Rose's mother. She is listed as a visitor and her occupation given as lacemaker, so she was not a school assistant. Perhaps she was the instructor at the nearby lace school, or just a friend of Jane Shaffery.

A row of almshouses had been built in Penn in 1831. This was to prove helpful to William's parents, Joseph and Jane, as in 1881 (when Joseph was in his late 70s) the census shows them living in one of these. They presumably continued to do so for the rest of their lives. The building of the almshouses had been financed by Earl Howe and Thomas Grove (another resident of Penn) not entirely as a matter of disinterested charity, the work having been put in hand immediately after a labourers' revolt and severe rioting in a neighbouring parish.

The "Crown" is still in Witheridge Lane, Penn, and is described today as a "wonderful creeper-clad 17th century inn built by the Penn family, the landowners of the area; the multi-roomed "Crown" is supposedly haunted, possibly due to the fact that the inn was also formerly used by a coffin-maker".

Tylers Green

Within Penn parish, to the north-west of Penn village, was the small hamlet of Tylers Green; part of this area also lay within Wycombe Marsh, in the neighbouring parish of Wycombe. Tylers Green was destined to outgrow the village of Penn, but in 1854 it was possible for Sir Philip Rose to write that "within living memory Tylers Green was an open common without house or building upon it". He added that it was growing fast as a result of illegal enclosures on the Wycombe side of the parish boundary. A solicitor by profession, Sir Philip held numerous local offices including those of Squire, Sheriff, and magistrate. In 1855 he erected a church in Tylers Green - dedicated to St. Margaret - and set up a separate ecclesiastical parish.

The growth of Tylers Green was given a great stimulus, and extended into the parish of Penn, by the passing in the same year of an Act authorising the enclosure of Wycombe Heath and Penn Wood, and the subsequent acquisition by private owners of individual plots on the former heathland.

(According to an article published in "The South Bucks Standard" of 12 August 1910, these developments had "raised the peasantry of the district to a condition of resentful fury").

During the 1860s the Weedon family, who had been living in the hamlet of Penn Street, north of Penn village, in an area charmingly known as Dead Man's Dean, built a new house, called "Yew Trees", in Hazlemere Road, which ran along one side of Tylers Green. Their plot could well have been one of those newly created under the 1855 Act.

In 1875 Sir Philip laid the foundation stone for the Tylers Green Board School. He was also the owner of "Rayners", a large estate bordering Tylers Green on the west of Penn Village (and where William Dennis Tilbury may have worked before going to London).


Hughenden parish lies immediately to the north-west of Penn parish. It is centred on one of the major valleys of the Chiltern Hills - named after the little Hughenden (also known as the Hitchin) brook, which runs along the bottom of the valley. In the mid-19th century there was no actual village called Hughenden, but in the Valley itself was Hughenden Manor house, a structure dating from the 16th century but with predecessors going back to Anglo-Saxon times. One of the earliest Lords of the Manor had been Leofric, Earl of Mercia (perhaps better known as the husband of Lady Godiva).

Hughenden parish church, dedicated to St. Michael and All Angels, was situated within the Manor park (a charming location, if not all that convenient for most of the parishioners). There were some almshouses near the church, and one or two scattered hamlets and buildings dotted about in the Valley and on the higher ground around it. Nevertheless, a significant number of Tilbury ancestors lived in the parish over the years, and were christened or married in the church. They include William's father, Joseph, who (although living in Penn in the 1850s) was christened in Hughenden church on 6 May 1804, and his grandfather, Esau Tilbury, a butcher, who married Esther Hussey there on 6 July 1801.

The Hughenden Valley's best known resident was Benjamin Disraeli, later the Earl of Beaconsfield, the great Victorian novelist, statesman and Prime Minister. He had for many years admired the Manor house and its surroundings, and in 1848 he managed to borrow the 35,000 needed to buy the Estate from a friend. He thus became Lord of the Manor and Squire of Hughenden. While staying there he attended church regularly - along no doubt with some of our ancestors. After his death he was buried in the churchyard. Inside the church is a memorial to him by Queen Victoria - said to be the only example of a memorial in an English parish church erected by a reigning sovereign to one of her subjects.

The three maps above are courtesy of
The Hughenden Dragon & the old Manor House of Rockhalls
William & Rose
Tilburys from Penn
' Tilberia '

The personal elements on this page (photos, family history) are the Intellectual Property of the Tilbury and other families mentioned and may not be reproduced without written permission from their owners and descendants, nor used in any way for commercial purposes - November 2004.