The history below was compiled by Rick Spurway and includes the early beginnings of Seer Green, life in the 19th century, and then the 20th century to the present.
We also have a set of photographs contributed by Chris Lofty showing his family’s involvement in supplying bread and later groceries to the village. You can see them here.
In 1753 the common or waste of Sere Green belonged to Francis Godolphin and at that time the village consisted of only about 16 houses. The present name was applied sometime before the end of the 18th century, since there is a map in the British Museum dated 1793 entitled “The Hamlet of Seer Green”. Hall Place is considered to be one of the oldest buildings in Seer Green. It is reputed to have been a hunting lodge for The Black prince, at a time when the village was still surrounded by forest. Until the end of WWII, the building consisted of five cottages. There was a pond at the front and rear, which were used by villagers for skating in winter. Farming has always been important in Seer Green, and especially at the old Manor Farm – now the site of the Manor Farm Estate which created valuable jobs for many village folk. An old map shows many of the Manor Farm field names – Great Barrard, Coatwicks, and Dell Lees. Corn cockle seems to have grown in the fields in great quantity. This red-flowered plant was very common in cornfields. Colliers, in School Lane, was originally thatched and known as Colliers Farm. The first village general store opened in the left-hand side of the present house. Later there was a grocer’s shop at the site of HBM’s offices in the Chalfont Road opposite.
The area at the junction of Orchard Road and Chalfont Road on the corner of Manor Farm Way by Rose Cottage was formerly know as the “Wide Place”. It was where many village folk gathered. Children played with their hoops and tops, and enjoyed skipping, marbles and leap-frog.
For hundreds of years the men and boys of Seer Green were mainly employed in agriculture – which meant hard labouring in the fields. Boys spent time at the village sawpit watching trees being sawn up for the Seer Green chair factory near Pondstiles.
Chair legs were produced on a lathe in a shed next to Eddystone in the Chalfont Road. These were sent to the Wycombe furniture factories.
Many village women were occupied in lace-making, and their daughters frequently worked as servants for the more wealthy in the surrounding area. Mrs Boddy was a grand lady lace-maker who lived in a cottage that stood on the corner of Manor Farm Way.
Potkiln Lane is named after one of the last kilns in the county to produce hand-made pottery. It was owned by Mr Saunders at the location of the present builders merchants.
Moss Court was built on the site of a row of cottages with long gardens, which are possibly the subject of this poem written by Kathleen Hughes, a former resident of Seer Green…
In Seer Green long ago,
They built a humble little row
Of workmen’s houses, simple, plain
Facing the narrow country lane.
Long gardens stretched behind, before,
In them was grown a goodly store –
Potatoes, onions, carrots, pease,
Old-fashioned flowers mixed with these
Seer Green originally contained a huge cherry orchard – which gives Orchard Road its name. People came from all over Buckinghamshire to see the cherry blossoms of Seer Green – which became known as Cherry Pie Village – on account of the pies baked by Mr Lofty in his shop on the corner of Orchard and Wynnswick Road. Most of the cherries were sent to Covent Garden Market. Baker Lofty baked his bread in an old-fashioned coal oven, and delivered to several local villages. People used to take him their joint on Sunday morning, and collect it after Chapel. Fifty years ago the area of the present village shops including part of New Long Grove was all part of the cherry orchard.
A lot more detail of life in Seer Green was recorded on the 19th century. Over a hundred years ago Seer Green had three pubs.
Apart from the Jolly Cricketers and The Three Horseshoes there was also The Yew Tree in Orchard Road (now Yew Tree Cottage) which closed in 1909. The tree itself stood at the side of the house and was “accidentally” knocked down during the construction of Raeside Close. At one time The Jolly Cricketers faced directly onto the village green, since Holy Trinity had not yet been built there. Its name almost certainly comes from the games of cricket that were originally played at the centre of the village.
Seer Green water has not always arrived through the taps. In 1887 the Jubilee Well was built on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. The 140-foot public well was constructed at the “Wide Place” for the use of the entire village. Except on Sunday, when it was kept locked. The well became an important focal point for Seer Green. Many village houses had private wells – including the three pubs, Hall Place, and the Manor Farm. The first village post box was situated next to the Jubilee Well.
Some of the first Christians to establish themselves in Seer Green were a group of Baptists who held their meetings in private homes. They called these gatherings “Cottage Meetings”. Then in 1843 they formed a Church which met in the present Parish Church Hall, which had been constructed in 1829 alongside “The Wide Place” to house a lace-making school. The founder members consisted of 10 people who had already been baptised and 10 from other churches. In 1857 the Baptists purchased the building for £100. A gallery was created for the musicians and the choir. At that time people sat down to sing, and stood up to pray.
Frederick Saunders, the owner of the potkiln in Potkiln Lane, was very active in the Baptist Church. He founded “The Band of Hope” in 1888 for the young people of the church. This group sent gifts to Dr Barnardo’s and other homes for the elderly and the disabled. They also organised musical evenings, country rambles, and trips to the seaside.
The Anglican church was constructed on a site at the centre of the triangular village green. It was a tight squeeze to fit it in. The church opened in 1846. Then the village school was built at a cost of £500, and took its first pupils in 1859. Miss Emma Downes of Truro became the first headmistress. The original school room is still in use today. An entry of 1896 in the school log informs us that “the children do not attend very well as they are engaged in carrying meals to the men who are gathering fruit.” Presumably these were Seer Green cherries!
In 1893, at the Golden Jubilee of the founding of their Church, the Baptists decided to launch a fund for a new building. They needed to raise £800, which equates with around £40,000 today. It seemed an awesome task. The foundation stone was laid on 15th August 1899, and one of the stonelayers was Halford Mills – the father of Bertram Mills, a famous circus operator. On Easter Monday 1900, the new chapel opened. People came from throughout the region by horse or gig, and the serveice was conducted by the Revd John Wilson of Woolwich. With no electricity in the village, lighting was provided by paraffin oil lamps suspended from the ceiling. The old chapel building became the church Schoolroom.
The first village Post Office was situated next door to the Baptist Chapel, and just sold stamps. Mail was posted through a slit in the front door and collected by a postman who walked from Beaconsfield and back. The Post office has moved several times since then, including 40 years in a general store on Church Road.
The 20th Century to the Present
Up to the early 1900s communications in Seer Green were almost non-existent. There was no telephone system and no public transport. If you needed to see a doctor, you would have to walk to Gold Hill, or ride in someone’s horsedrawn cart. This could be avoided by visiting a Seer Green woman, Ann Picton, who concocted her own ointments and pills. Journeys to Beaconsfield or Chalfont St Giles meant long walks for housewives who needed provisions and those with jobs outside the village. The census of 1911 reveals some longstanding village names such as Worley, Payne, Child, Watson, Boddy, Goodall, Harding and of course the local bakers, Lofty.
The railway only came to Seer Green in 1917. It was constructed by navvies who had previously built the national canal system. Until that time villagers used Chalfont & Latimer Station, or Wooburn Station, which was located on the old railway line built in 1854 between High Wycombe and Maidenhead. This linked with mainline trains to London. The new railway cut right through the estate and golf course of Colonel William du Pre, who lived in Wilton House (now contained in the Ministry of Defence Wilton Park.) Luckily for us today, Colonel du Pre arranged for a Railway Halt to be constructed at Seer Green together with a new golf clubhouse. The Halt was originally designed to serve the Golf Club, not Seer Green villagers. At first there were two trains a day. Then, Jordans was only just being constructed, along with many other new communities which began to spring up along the newly opened railway line to London.
For a map of the village (OS 6 inch Revision date 1942 to 1952) click here and zoom in for detail.
Several houses in Seer Green have interesting histories.
After WWI, Seer Green House (now demolished) in Longbottom was extended and became a finishing school for debutantes – including Princess Margarethe of Sweden.
During WWII the house became a convalescent home for wounded soldiers.
The poet Herbert Read built the thatched Broom House at the corner of Longbottom and Bottom Lane.
He was living there in 1943 when he wrote his poem “A World Within A War”…
Sixteen years ago I built this house
By an oak on an acre of wild land
Its walls white against the beechwood
Its roof of Norfolk reeds and sedge.
The mossy turf I levelled for a lawn
But for the most part left the acre wild
Knowing I could never live
From its stony soil.
My work within between three stacks of books.
My window looks out on a long line of elms…
Read was knighted for his services to the Arts, and he acknowledged that Broom House was the place “where, if anywhere, the honour was earned.”
TS Eliot often came to visit Broom House, and his collection of poems “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” was dedicated to Miss Susanna Morley who lived in Seer Green. These cat poems became the basis of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s highly successful musical “Cats”.
One of the biggest changes to the village came when the Old Manor Farm was demolished for a new estate. Many of the old field names were used to name the roads. Once again, the Baptists had another vision of enlargement, and took the opportunity to fund-raise for a new Church at the heart of the proposed housing estate.
A deal was struck with the developer of the site, and the present-day Baptist Church was constructed – together with its distinctive glass spire. The original chapel building is still standing, and has been converted into a family home
In 1974 a tin box was found in the chimney of an old house in Seer Green. Inside was the following recipe for Cherry Pie…
“For pastrie, use flour saved from the cleanings, and lard from the fresh killed pig.
Roll out verie thickly so as to contain the cherry juice, and give boddie to the turnover.
Gather a hatful of black cherries by moonlight.
Those high up are better in taste.
Let them be ripe enough to contain the juice when gentlie prest.
Put a double layer in the pastrie with flour atop, and seal with fresh drawn water from the well.
Cook gently on a fire of faggots.
Gather round, and when the pastrie is cool enough not to scorch the fingers, break off one end and drink the juice.
Repeat… and yet again….then again.
Ah, life is sweet”
THE END (of this history)
Now it’s up to you