Haunted West Wycombe



West Wycombe:  A little bit of History

Under Edward the Confessor WEST WYCOMBE MANOR, was assessed at 19 hides, it was held by Stigand, who was then Bishop of Winchester,  and it remained with the Bishops of Winchester until 1551.  In this year Bishop Poynet surrendered West Wycombe Manor and other property to the Crown in return for lands elsewhere.  A royal grant was made in the same year to Sir Henry Seymour.  

 Sir Robert Dormer appears as his tenant here in 1552.  In 1558 the name of West Wycombe appears in a list of manors restored by Philip and Mary to the see of Winchester.  However,  the grant was never carried into effect as far as this manor was concerned, and the Seymours continued to hold  their tenants being the Dormer family, who for long had held the land under the Bishops of Winchester.

In 1598 Sir John Seymour and Susan his wife transferred West Wycombe to Thomas Flemynge, solicitor-general,  and in 1600 he again alienated it to Robert Dormer. His grandson Robert Dormer was created Earl of Carnarvon in 1628,  and his family continued to hold West Wycombe until the year 1670.  In that year Charles Earl of Carnarvon transferred the estate to Thomas Lewis,  an alderman of London, who married Elizabeth daughter of Francis Dashwood, a Turkey merchant.  Thomas Lewis retained it till 1698,  when he alienated it to his brothers in-law Samuel and Francis Dashwood.  In 1706 in return for £15,000 paid to George son of Sir Samuel Dashwood, kt., and 5s. paid to his widow Anna, Francis Dashwood acquired complete control of the manor. 

He was created a baronet in the following year  and built West Wycombe House, where he died in 1724.  He was succeeded by his son Francis, by his second wife Mary eldest daughter of the Earl of Westmorland.  The name of this Francis Dashwood has been handed down as the founder of the Dilettante Club. This club contained several dukes as members and was later joined by Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick, Uvedale Price and Richard Payne Knight, among others.  Dashwood also founded the notorious Hellfire Club suspected of holding a series of blasphemous orgies at The West Wycombe Caves which he had excavated and also at the near by Medmenham Abbey, near Marlow.  He held office under the Bute Ministry in 1762–3 as chancellor of the exchequer and on the death of his maternal uncle John seventh Earl of Westmorland and Lord Le Despenser succeeded to the latter barony.  In the same year he was made lord-lieutenant of the county. He was much in residence at West Wycombe House, which he greatly enlarged and embellished and whose grounds he designed and laid out in the classical style.  He died here in 1763, aged eighty-three, leaving no legitimate issue,  and West Wycombe then descended to his brother and heir male, Sir John Dashwood-King, bart., who was the son of the first baronet by his third wife and had assumed his mother's surname of King by Act of Parliament in 1742.  He died in 1793 and was succeeded by his eldest son Sir John Dashwood-King, bart.,  and West Wycombe has since descended in the male line. 

The Black Death appears to have visited West Wycombe severely, for in 1350 appears a special section in the rental of the manor inscribed 'deficit of rent on account of the pestilence,' under which upwards of forty names occur.  Here as elsewhere the pestilence appears to have effected a permanent loss of rent to the lord, for in 1389 the same reason for a deficit is still recorded.

In 1399 a by-law was passed forbidding the inhabitants to be out after ten o'clock at night on pain of imprisonment unless good cause could be shown.







Another well-known local ghost story is the tale of Sukie, the White Lady. Legend holds that Sukie (an abbreviation of the name Susan) was a teenage maid at the local George and Dragon Inn during the late 18th century or early 19th century. The sixteen year-old girl was apparently by far the most appealing of the serving staff, and many local men vied for the girl's affections. But Sukie had ambitions to marry into society and rejected the advances from all her local admirers. She began dating a local aristocrat, with whom she was very much taken with, and one day a message, purported from her lover, was sent to Sukie at the tavern instructing her to meet him in the caves one night wearing her best white dress as a wedding gown. She arrived, in candlelight and in her white dress as was asked, only to find it was a cruel hoax planted by three village boys. The girl threw stones and rocks in fury at her laughing tormentors, but when one of the boys threw one back, the joke went horribly awry. She was knocked unconscious, and shocked at what they had done, the boys carried her back to her bed in the inn, but she died during the night. The caves and inn are reputed to be haunted by her ghost, and many staff and visitors have reported sighting a girl in a wedding dress wandering the passageways 


Paul Whitehead, a steward and secretary of the Hell Fire Club and close friend to Sir Francis Dashwood, had his heart placed in an elegant marble urn (at the sum of £50) in the Mausoleum by Sir Francis Dashwood, as his will requested. It occasionally was put on display to visitors but was allegedly stolen in 1829 by an Australian soldier. Legend holds that the ghost of Whitehead haunts West Wycombe Caves and Hill, searching for his heart. Numerous visitors and staff have reported seeing a man in alarmingly old-fashioned clothing wandering the passageways. When faced he is said to vanish into thin air.


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