Penn, Buckinghamshire

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Penn Street Church.JPG
Holy Trinity parish church, Penn Street
Penn is located in Buckinghamshire
Location within Buckinghamshire
Population3,961 (2011 Census including Tylers Green)[1]
OS grid referenceSU912935
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townHigh Wycombe
Postcode districtHP10
Dialling code01494
PoliceThames Valley
AmbulanceSouth Central
EU ParliamentSouth East England
UK Parliament
List of places
51°37′59″N 0°40′52″W / 51.633°N 0.681°W / 51.633; -0.681Coordinates: 51°37′59″N 0°40′52″W / 51.633°N 0.681°W / 51.633; -0.681

Penn is an English village and civil parish in the Chiltern district of Buckinghamshire. It lies about 3 miles (4.8 km) north-west of Beaconsfield and 4 miles (6.4 km) east of High Wycombe. The parish, containing Penn village and the hamlets of Beacon Hill, Penn Street, Knotty Green and Forty Green, plus Winchmore Hill, covers 3,991 acres (1615 ha).[2]


The name is Brythonic in origin and comparable with the modern Welsh typonym pen, which may be translated as hill top or end. The village stands on a well-defined promontory of the Chiltern Hills. From the tower of Holy Trinity Parish Church, it is supposed to be possible to see into eight other counties. The parish also contains a beacon hill with a signal post on it.

Segraves Manor, the principal seat in Penn, belonged to the Penn family. Sybil Penn, wife of David, was dry nurse and foster mother to King Edward VI and Lady of the Bed Chamber to his sister, Queen Elizabeth I. William Penn (after whose father, Admiral Sir William Penn, Pennsylvania is named) erroneously believed himself to be a descendant of this family. However, in 1735 the manor passed from the unmarried Roger Penn to his sole heir and sister, who was married to the 3rd Baronet Scarsdale, an ancestor of the Lords Curzon. Penbury Grove House was built in 1902 by the American engineer Horace Field Parshall, as a replica of Pennsbury Manor, William Penn's house in Pennsylvania. The legendary piano accompanist, Gerald Moore (1899–1987) lived and died in Penn.

Penn is reputedly haunted by the ghost of an 18th-century farm labourer, who appears, laughing, on a phantom horse.[3]

Penn Street, Knotty Green and Forty Green[edit]

Penn Street, Knotty Green and Forty Green are hamlets of the parish, each within a mile of the main village. Penn Street and Knotty Green have village commons, where Penn Street Cricket Club and Knotty Green Cricket Club play in summer.[4] The local pubs, The Squirrel in Penn Street and The Red Lion in Knotty Green, face their respective commons.

Penn today[edit]

The area is part of the Chiltern Hills and popular with people who work in London due to its proximity to road (junction 3 of the M40 motorway at Loudwater) and rail (Mainline rail at Beaconsfield and London Underground at Amersham) links into the city.

Penn remains home to Earl Howe of the Penn-Curzon-Howe dynasty, which gained more wealth through the Inclosure Acts, which changed legal property rights to land previously in communal use. In 1855, ownership of Common Wood and Penn Wood passed to the 1st Earl Howe, forcing many local people and their livestock off the land. Naturally this caused a general mood of unrest and rebellion within the outraged community. For centuries, villagers had sustained themselves by grazing their animals on the common and gathering what they could from the land.

When the woods became private property, many of these people were plunged further into poverty. Unsurprisingly, years of unlawful protest followed where poaching was rife and fences were flagrantly pulled down as the local people tried to take back what they deemed to be legitimately theirs.[5] Much of this history is forgotten.

Penn Street churchyard contains items from Gopsall, Lord Howe's other country house in Leicestershire. The lychgate and Countess Howe memorial were moved from Congerstone in 1919, when the family sold the Gopsall Estate.

The Cottage Bookshop in Penn was one of the locations for A Tale of Two Hamlets, an episode of the ITV television programme, Midsomer Murders. In addition, it was used to film an episode called "Bookshop Chuckles" in the children's television show ChuckleVision. The three-acre set for Nanny McPhee was also constructed there.

Penn has a non-League football club, Penn & Tylers Green F.C., which plays at Elm Road.

Notable persons[edit]

The novelist Elizabeth Taylor died in Penn in 1975. Medical pioneers Dr Louisa Garrett Anderson and Dr Flora Murray and the children's writer Alison Uttley, author of the Little Grey Rabbit stories, are buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity.[citation needed] In 1983, the ashes of the British spy Donald Maclean were scattered in the churchyard. Canadian author Margaret Laurence (1926–1987) lived on Beacon Hill, Penn between 1963 and 1973, in the house previously owned by the politician Sir Donald Maclean and Lady Maclean (parents of British spy Donald Maclean). Ernest Saunders, one of the four men involved in the Guinness share-trading fraud, was also a resident. The actor and singer Stanley Holloway lived in Penn with his wife and son for many years during the 1950s and 1960s.[6] Violinist Peter Tanfield was born there. The art historian Sir Oliver Millar lived in the village for over fifty years.[citation needed] Chef and television personality Mary Berry and the actress Pauline Quirke also live in Penn. The philosopher Professor Sir Karl Popper lived in Manor Road for many years. Gabby Logan the TV presenter and her husband Kenny Logan, a former Scotland rugby union international, live in the village. The countertenor Michael Chance was born in the village. The renowned Scots preacher Alexander Whyte spent his last months in the village and preached his last sermon at the Free Methodist Chapel on Church Road. Thomas Horder, 1st Baron Horder, physician to the Royal Family (as was Bertrand Dawson, 1st Viscount Dawson of Penn,who chose the village for the territorial designation of his peerage) lived in the village for a number of years.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Neighbourhood Statistics 2011 Census, accessed 2 February 2013
  2. ^
  3. ^ Ash, Russell (1973). Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. Reader's Digest Association Limited. p. 274. ISBN 9780340165973.
  4. ^ Penn Street Cricket Club and [1]
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ Holloway, Stanley; Richards, Dick (1967). Wiv a little bit o’ luck: The life story of Stanley Holloway. London: Frewin. ASIN B0000CNLM5. OCLC 3647363. page 322

External links[edit]