Great Missenden

Coordinates: 51°42′15″N 00°42′28″W / 51.70417°N 0.70778°W / 51.70417; -0.70778
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Great Missenden
Church of St Peter and St Paul, Great Missenden
Great Missenden is located in Buckinghamshire
Great Missenden
Great Missenden
Location within Buckinghamshire
Population10,138 (Census 2011.Civil Parish)[1]
OS grid referenceSP8901
• London38 miles (61 km)
Civil parish
  • Great Missenden
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townGreat Missenden
Postcode districtHP16
Dialling code01494
PoliceThames Valley
AmbulanceSouth Central
UK Parliament
WebsiteGreat Missenden Parish Council
List of places
51°42′15″N 00°42′28″W / 51.70417°N 0.70778°W / 51.70417; -0.70778

Great Missenden is an affluent village and civil parish in the Misbourne Valley in the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire, England, situated between the towns of Amersham and Wendover. It adjoins the village of Little Kingshill, and is a mile from Little Missenden and the village of Prestwood.

The narrow and historic High Street is bypassed by the main A413 London to Aylesbury Road. It is located in the centre of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.[2] The source of the Misbourne is to be found just north of the village, although the upper reach of the river runs only in winter and the perennial head is in Little Missenden. The village is now best known as home to the late Roald Dahl, the world-famous adult and children's author.[3]


The name Missenden is first attested in the Domesday Book as Missedene, with other early attestations including the spellings Messedena and Musindone.[4][5] The -den element probably comes from Old English denu, meaning 'valley', but the etymology of the first element is uncertain. It is thought to occur in the name of the River Misbourne, which rises in Great Missenden, and also in the Hertfordshire place-name Miswell. Frank Stenton and Allen Mawer guessed that it came from a hypothetical Anglo-Saxon personal name Myrsa, which they also supposed to be found in the name of Mursley.[6]

Eilert Ekwall suggested that the name Missenden came from a lost Old English word related to English moss, and to Danish mysse and Swedish missne (which denote plants of the genus Calla, such as water arum).[7] Recent researchers have tentatively preferred Ekwall's guess, in which case the name Missenden would once have meant something like 'valley where water-plants/marsh-plants grow'.[4][8]


Great Missenden lay on a major route between the Midlands and London. Several coaching inns, particularly the Red Lion (now an estate agency) and The George (with new owners), provided rest and refreshment for travellers and their horses. The first railway line in the area was, however, routed alongside the Grand Union Canal to the east. Once the coaches stopped running Great Missenden declined in importance and prosperity, becoming an agricultural town. Following the arrival of the Metropolitan Railway, (later the London Underground's Metropolitan line) in 1892. Great Missenden became a village where writers, entertainers and even Prime Ministers resided. Great Missenden railway station is now on the Chiltern Railways line and offers fast connecting services running into London Marylebone; it is the first station on the line that does not fall into a London Zone.

The village is overlooked by the medieval Church of England parish church, the Church of St Peter and St Paul, whereas the High Street itself is home to the Catholic Church of The Immaculate Heart of Mary,[9] one of the largest Catholic churches in the Chiltern District. The position of the parish church away from the town centre suggests an earlier settlement around the church with a move of the village's heart to its present location in the early Middle Ages. In the twelfth century Great Missenden was granted a charter allowing it to hold an annual Fair in August. Missenden Abbey, founded in 1133 as an Augustinian monastery, was ruined following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the remains were incorporated into a Georgian mansion which is now a conference centre.

Gipsy House in Great Missenden was the home of author Roald Dahl from 1954 until his death in 1990, and still remains in the family,[3] and many local scenes and characters are reflected in his work.[citation needed] Dahl is buried at St. Peter and St. Paul's Church and children still leave toys and flowers at his grave.[10] In June 2005 the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre opened in Great Missenden to honour the work of Dahl.[11]

Robert Louis Stevenson, the writer of famous works such as Treasure Island and the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, stayed a night at The Red Lion, now 62 High Street, in Great Missenden in October 1874, which he wrote in an essay called "An Autumn Effect".

The espionage novelist David Cornwell, who wrote as John le Carré, noted in a posthumously published introduction to a 2021 reissue of his first novel, Call for the Dead, that "I lived in Great Missenden in those days and commuted to Marylebone station".[12]

The village is home to the private Gateway School,[13] Great Missenden Combined School and The Misbourne secondary school. Many children attend the local grammar schools in nearby Amersham, Chesham, Little Chalfont and High Wycombe, as well as leading local preparatory schools such as Chesham Prep,[14] which consistently makes The Tatler list of Best Prep Schools in the UK.[15][14]

Given its quaint and historic high street, the village has been used extensively as a filming location for TV drama Midsomer Murders.[16] During 1980, Hammer Film Productions filmed a small series of horror films for television, many of them filmed in and around Great Missenden. Of note is the episode "Rude Awakening" starring Denholm Elliott who plays an Estate Agent trapped in a recurring nightmare.


Great Missenden compared
2001 UK Census Great Missenden ward Chiltern borough England
Population 2,192 89,228 49,138,831
Foreign born 9.4% 9.3% 9.2%
White 98.1% 95.5% 90.9%
Asian 0.5% 2.8% 4.6%
Black 0.5% 0.3% 2.3%
Christian 77.7% 74.7% 71.7%
Muslim 0.1% 1.9% 3.1%
Hindu 0.2% 0.5% 1.1%
No religion 14.2% 15% 14.6%
Unemployed 1.9% 1.7% 3.3%
Retired 19% 14.6% 13.5%

At the 2001 UK census, the Great Missenden electoral ward had a population of 2,192. The ethnicity was 98.1% white, 0.7% mixed race, 0.5% Asian, 0.5% black and 0.2% other. The place of birth of residents was 90.6% United Kingdom, 1.5% Republic of Ireland, 2.8% other Western European countries, and 5.1% elsewhere. Religion was recorded as 77.7% Christian, 0% Buddhist, 0.2% Hindu, 0.1% Sikh, 0% Jewish, and 0.1% Muslim. 14.2% were recorded as having no religion, 0.3% had an alternative religion and 7.4% did not state their religion.[17]

The economic activity of residents aged 16–74 was 35.7% in full-time employment, 11.3% in part-time employment, 14.9% self-employed, 1.9% unemployed, 1.9% students with jobs, 3.8% students without jobs, 19% retired, 8% looking after home or family, 2% permanently sick or disabled and 1.6% economically inactive for other reasons. The industry of employment of residents was 13.3% retail, 11.6% manufacturing, 5.5% construction, 24.1% real estate, 9.7% health and social work, 8.8% education, 4.7% transport and communications, 3.6% public administration, 4.2% hotels and restaurants, 4.3% finance, 1.9% agriculture and 8.3% other. Compared with national figures, the ward had a relatively high proportion of workers in agriculture and real estate. There were a relatively low proportion in public administration, transport and communications. Of the ward's residents aged 16–74, 35.8% had a higher education qualification or the equivalent, compared with 19.9% nationwide.[17]

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, located at 81–83 High Street, Great Missenden


  • Ballinger, located northeast of Great Missenden, between Lee Common and Ballinger Common
  • Ballinger Bottom, located northeast of Great Missenden, near South Heath
  • Ballinger Common, located northeast of Great Missenden, near Ballinger
  • Bryant's Bottom, located west of Prestwood, near Speen
  • Frith-hill, located east of Great Missenden
  • Heath End, located near the border with Hughenden parish, near Great Kingshill
  • Hotley Bottom, located north of Prestwood
  • Hyde End, located between South Heath and Hyde Heath
  • Hyde Heath, located near Little Missenden
  • Little Wood Corner, located south of South Heath
  • Mobwell, located in Great Missenden
  • Prestwood, large village west of Great Missenden
  • South Heath, located northeast of Great Missenden


There are two tiers of local government covering Great Missenden, at parish and unitary authority level: Great Missenden Parish Council and Buckinghamshire Council.

Great Missenden is within the Chesham and Amersham parliamentary constituency, represented since 2020 by Sarah Green, (Liberal Democrat).

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "Area: Great Missenden CP (Parish)". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  2. ^ "The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty".
  3. ^ a b Lynn F. Pearson Discovering Famous Graves Osprey Publishing, 2008
  4. ^ a b A. D. Mills, A Dictionary of English Place Names (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 330.
  5. ^ Page, WH, ed. (1908). "Little Missenden". A History of the County of Buckingham. Victoria County History. Vol. II. London: Archibald Constable & Co. pp. 354–360..
  6. ^ A. Mawer and F. M. Stenton, The Place-Names of Buckinghamshire, English Place-Name Society, 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1925).
  7. ^ Eilert Ekwall, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names, 4th edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960), p. 328 (s.v. Misbourne).
  8. ^ Hough, Carole, 'Place-Name Evidence for Anglo-Saxon Plant-Names', in From Earth to Art, the Many Aspects of the Plant-world in Anglo-Saxon England: Proceedings of the First ASPNS Symposium, University of Glasgow, 5–7 April 2000, ed. by Carole Hough, Costerus New Series, 148 (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2003), pp. 41-78 (pp. 54-55).
  9. ^ "The Catholic community of Great Missenden". The Catholic community of Great Missenden.
  10. ^ "A giant peach of a property in Dahl country". The Times. 14 July 2015.
  11. ^ Clarie Heald (11 June 2005) Chocolate doors thrown open to Dahl BBC News
  12. ^ "John le Carré on the real characters behind George Smiley". The Sunday Times. 2 May 2021.
  13. ^ "Gateway School".
  14. ^ a b "Chesham Preparatory School". Chesham Preparatory School.
  15. ^ "Chesham Prep". Tatler. 16 October 2020.
  16. ^ "Bridget Jones film crew moved on after chaos in town car park". Bucks Free Press.
  17. ^ a b "Neighbourhood Statistics". Retrieved 20 April 2008.
  18. ^ a b "Great Missenden".
  19. ^ "BBC Four - Mark Lawson Talks To..., John le Carré". Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  20. ^ "Museum in Great Missenden, England, devoted to Matilda writer Roald Dahl is aimed squarely at children".
  21. ^ Sheth Trivedi, Shruti (6 November 2020). "Looking back at James Bond and TV star Geoffrey Palmer's time in Bucks". Bucks Free Press. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  22. ^ "Chiltern Hills - Robert Louis Stevenson". Robert Louis Stevenson. Retrieved 25 April 2016.

External links[edit]

Media related to Great Missenden at Wikimedia Commons