A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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Legh, xiv cent.
Lee (or The Lee) is a small parish, lying on the northern slopes of the Chiltern Hills. It contains 502 acres (fn. 1) of land, which are divided into arable and permanent pasture lands in nearly equal proportions. There are about 14. acres of old woodlands and about 16 acres of more recent plantings. (fn. 2) The land lies mainly between 600 ft. and 700 ft. above the Ordnance datum, the highest point rising to 730 ft. (fn. 3) The subsoil is chalk. (fn. 4) The parish is very secluded, no highway or railway passing through it. Several winding by-roads are the chief thoroughfares; one, starting out from the high road between Wendover and Amersham, forms the northern parish boundary from King's Ash to the hamlet of Lee Gate; King's Lane, in which are some remains of the ancient earthwork known as Grim's Dike, also bounds the parish on the west and south. The village of Lee lies on another by-road, on three sides of a village green, on which is a large glacier-borne sandstone rock dug up in the neighbourhood, and erected on a pedestal by the present lord of the manor. The village contains a small number of picturesque houses, farms, and cottages. The nearest stations are Wendover and Great Missenden, on the Metropolitan Extension Railway, which are 4 and 3 miles away respectively. The official postal address for the village is The-Lee. The population is mainly employed in agriculture. Straw-plaiting was formerly a considerable industry and is still carried on to a limited extent. The manor house, which was restored and enlarged in 1901, is the residence of the lord of the manor, Mr. Arthur Lasenby Liberty.
The manor of LEE is not mentioned in Domesday Book, but from later evidence it seems probable that it was granted by the Conqueror to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, and followed the same descent as Weston Turville, (fn. 5) being held of the honour of Leicester, and later of the Duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 6) In the 12th century it was held by Ralph de Halton, (fn. 7) but it is not clear whether he held it directly from the Earl of Leicester, or from the Turvilles as measne lords. He was succeeded by Geoffrey de Turville, clerk, (fn. 8) the brother of William de Turville, who was lord of Weston Turville (fn. 9) at the close of the 12th century. Geoffrey granted Lee to Missenden Abbey in frankalmoign, (fn. 10) and his grant was confirmed by William de Turville (fn. 11) and Robert, Earl of Leicester. Unfortunately the charters, though they appear in the index of the Missenden Cartulary, are missing in the text, but there are several papal confirmations (fn. 12) of the grant. In 1535 (fn. 13) Lee and Brondes were enumerated amongst the temporalities of the monastery, and were valued at 110s. a year. Brondes was presumably a freehold farm in the neighbourhood of Lee. A reference in the Monasticon records that Ralph Marshall, admitted Abbot of Missenden on 10 July 1356, was convicted of counterfeiting and clipping the king's coin, namely, groats and sterling, at his manor called 'Legh,' near Missenden. (fn. 14) After the dissolution of Missenden Abbey the manor of Lee (fn. 15) remained in the possession of the Crown till Edward VI granted it in 1547 (fn. 16) to Lord Russell. Francis Russell, Earl of Bedford, succeeded him, and was probably holding it in 1583, (fn. 17) when he mortgaged certain land in Lee. How long he retained the manor does not appear, but it is not mentioned in the inquisitions taken on his lands at his death, and at the death of his son. (fn. 18) Its subsequent history is very obscure, but it seems probable that it passed into the hands of the Plaistowe family during the 17th century. William Plaistowe obtained a lease of the tithes in Lee in 1635 (fn. 19) for ninetynine years. In 1641 (fn. 20) his land there was assessed at 50s. annual value, but it is not certain that he also held the manor. His family, however, was obviously established in Lee at this time, though on another supposition the Plaistowes only obtained the manor after the Civil War, during which many of the Russell estates were sequestered.
Before 1665 William Plaistowe had been succeeded by Thomas Plaistowe, who may probably be identified with the Thomas Plaistowe of the Lee, whose monument is in Lee Church. (fn. 21) He died in 1715 at the age of eighty-seven. In a monument in Little Kimble Church he is called Thomas Plaistowe of Amersham, (fn. 22) and this suggests that he was the first of the family to own the manor, and that their chief estate had previously been at Amersham. At Lee he was succeeded by his youngest son William, who married Dorothy the daughter of Richard Plaistowe of Small Deane. (fn. 23) He in turn was succeeded by his son Thomas, persumably the Thomas Plaistowe who died in 1785, (fn. 24) leaving an only daughter and heiress Elizabeth. (fn. 25) She is said to have advertised (fn. 26) for a husband, and by this means married an Irishman named Henry Deering. Mrs. Deering died in 1812, (fn. 27) and her husband held the manor for many years after her death, (fn. 28) Before 1862, however, it reverted to the family of Plaistowe, and in that year John Plaistowe was lord of the manor. (fn. 29) In 1900 Mr. Lasenby Liberty bought the manor from John Plaistowe, and is the present owner of the estate.
The Abbot of Missenden obtained a grant of free warren in his demesne lands at Lee from Edward I in 1287–8, (fn. 30) which grant was confirmed by Henry VI. (fn. 31) The abbot held a view of frankpledge for his tenants at Lee, paying 2s. a year to the Duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 32)
The supposition that Ralph de Halton held Lee of the Turvilles as mesne lords receives corroboration from the fact that he apparently did not hold the whole of Lee. Hence some land remained with the Turvilles, and was not included in Geoffrey de Turville's grant to Missenden Abbey. After the division of the manor of Weston Turville between the three heiresses (fn. 33) of the second William de Turville, the fee that passed to Hugh de Herdebergh included land not only in Weston, but also in Little Broughton, Bedgrove, and Lee, (fn. 34) which all formed one township in 1285. This land in Lee presumably belonged to the manor of Weston Butlers, and afterwards to the united manor of Weston Turville. (fn. 35)
The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST was built in 1868, on a site 100 yds. or so east of the old church, and consists of a nave, chancel, south porch, and north organ chamber. It is constructed of brick in 13th-century style. At the east end of the south wall are a well-designed piscina and sedile of the middle of the 13th century, which were removed from the old church, and reset in their present position. Both have shafted jambs and a scroll label with buckle drips. The head of the piscina is moulded with a roll and a filleted bowtel, and has an inner cinquefoiled head, and there is a shelf, while the drain is old but mutilated. The head of the sedile has a plain hollow-chamfered arch, and in both cases the engaged shafts have circular moulded capitals and bases. There are also a number of wall monuments removed from the old church, one to Elizabeth (Welch) the wife of Thomas Plaistowe, died 1762, of grey and white marble in Adams style, and another, an excellent though somewhat florid piece of work, is in white marble with a rococo cartouche and cupids' heads, to Thomas Plaistowe, died 1715. All the fittings of the church are modern, including the font, which is octagonal.
There is one bell in a small stone bell-cot or gable, at the west end of the church. This bell was removed from the old church, and is of considerable antiquarian interest, only four others by the same founder being known. It is inscribed 'Michael de Wymbis me fecit.' It is not certain when Michael de Wymbis lived, but the style of his bells suggests a date of about 1290. (fn. 36)
The church plate consists of a flagon, chalice, and two patens, all the gift of Mrs. Elizabeth Deering in 1811, and hall-marked for the previous year.
The first book of the registers contains burials between 1679 and 1802, baptisms between 1679 and 1797, and marriages between 1700 and 1799. After this there is a gap, the baptisms being continued in a second book with entries between 1804 and 1812, while the other entries are only continued from 1812.
An extensive rectangular earthwork probably marks the boundary of the old monastic grounds, and there are traces of fishponds on the north.
The OLD CHURCH, now used as a Sunday school room, is built in chalk, and consists of a nave and chancel in one range and a south porch; it is lit on the north by three lancets of 13th-century date, and on the south by two, while the east window is a late 13thcentury one reset with shafted jambs and inserted tracery. There are two doors to the south, a small one near the eastern end, and one at the western end of 15th-century date with a four-centred head, on the rear-arch of which are some traces of colour decoration. The south porch is of early 19th-century construction. There is also a west door, a late insertion with a round head, and traces of a consecration cross on the masonry below. On the west and north interior wall are some indistinct traces of colour decoration and, preserved on shelves, a number of fragments of late 13thcentury date, capitals, portions of mouldings, &c., but the dismantled state of the building makes it impossible to assign these to their places. The font, which was removed when the new church was built, forty years ago, has recently been re-erected in its original position. It is old but of uncertain date. The stained glass in the east window, the gift of the present lord of the manor, contains in the centre light the figure of John Hampden, supported in the two side lights by Oliver Cromwell and Miles Hobart. At the top of the centre light, and occupying its original position in the window, is a very interesting and well-preserved fragment of 13th-century glass.
The chapel of Lee was originally appendant to the church of Weston Turville, (fn. 37) and seems to have been served by the rector of that parish. Ralph de Halton, when he held Lee, (fn. 38) made an agreement with regard to the chapel, by which he was to pay 5s. a year at the altar of Weston Turville on St. Thomas' Day in commutation for all tithes due from his land at Lee. Geoffrey de Turville (fn. 39) confirmed this agreement. He appears to have granted the chapel as well as his manor to the abbey of Missenden, (fn. 40) and various disputes arose as to the payments due from it to the rector of Weston Turville. It was finally agreed however that the abbot and canons were to pay 6s. a year to the mother church, and were to hold the chapel in peace. (fn. 41) The chapel was served by the canons, and the rectory was impropriated. In 1535 (fn. 42) the benefice was described as the rectory of Lee and Brownes and was let at farm, the tenant in 1540 being Thomas Adam. (fn. 43) Lord Russell obtained a grant of the rectory as well as the manor of Lee in 1547 (fn. 44) and no endowment seems to have been left for the chapel. No vicarage appears to have been ordained, (fn. 45) and though there were churchwardens in 1537, (fn. 46) two years earlier, when it was in the hands of the abbot, (fn. 47) it was still called the chapel of Lee. It is not certain whether Lee had become a separate parish at this time, but the extraordinary position of the chapel was apparent as early as 1537. In that year two churchwardens, Richard Westwood and Thomas Newynt(on), appear to have gone round the neighbouring parishes (fn. 48) asking charity for their church. A curious story has been preserved that on going to the house of Francis Fonge of Little Missenden for this purpose, Alice his wife asked them to come in to drink. In the house Westwood saw a book of the gospels in English lying open in the window. He read the opened pages and shortly afterwards accused his hostess, who was thereupon indicted for heresy. (fn. 49) The result unfortunately is not forthcoming. The efforts of the churchwardens to raise money probably enabled them to tide over the difficulty caused by the dissolution of the monastery, and the chapel may very likely have been continuously served by the ex-canon, John Slythurst, to whom an extra pension of £8 a year was granted in 1539 to serve the cure at Lee; (fn. 50) if he refused, the pension was reduced to £5 6s. 8d. How long this arrangement went on does not appear, but probably the lords of the manor were forced to make some reasonable provision for a curate at Lee Chapel. A vicarage is spoken of in the grant of the manor and rectory to Lord Russell, (fn. 51) and possibly some assignment of land had already taken place. The lords of the manor were the patrons and presented to the chapel as a donative. (fn. 52) The living at the present day is a vicarage, the advowson belonging to Mr. Lasenby Liberty.
The Charity of Nicholas Almond, founded by deed 1629, see under Wendover. The poor of this parish receive 10s. a year from this charity.
In 1880 Miss Harriet Day by will proved at London 4 June, left to the vicar and churchwardens £4,000 stock, now represented by £4,045 1s. 9d. Corporation of Croydon 3 per cent. stock, producing yearly £121 7s., to be applied 8s. weekly to each of five poor women, not under the age of sixty years, who should have dwelt for ten years within a radius of 2 miles of Lee parish church and be communicants there; £2 to vicar for making weekly payments aforesaid; residue to said women in coal at midsummer. The widows receive 8s. a week according to the terms of the will.
In 1881 Abraham Watson by will, proved at London 9 May, left to the vicar and churchwardens £200 now represented by £200 consols, dividends to be applied in food and coals at Christmas amongst the poor.
The sums of stock are held by the official trustees.