Saturday, 28 March 2020


 May's Meanderings has changed. Over the past three years we have compiled a list of over 20,000 places to visit in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

We are now producing a weekly newsletter, focusing on Britain or Ireland on a county by county basis.

If anyone would like to see what the newsletter contains, please e-mail

There will be five main categories covered in each newsletter:

Places of Worship - churches, abbeys, temples, cathedrals
Historical Sites - castles, palaces, stately homes, museums, birthplaces, etc.
Nature - wildlife reserves, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, SSSI, woodlands, parks, gardens
Public Attractions - beaches, zoos, theme parks, open farms, steam railways
Picturesque - thatched cottages, windmills, lighthouses, landscape.

MM1 starts with Bedfordshire and includes Bushmeads Priory, Elstow (including Moot Hall and Elstow Abbey), Animal Edge, the Forest Centre & Marston Vales Millenium Country Park, Centre Parcs Woburn, Cardington Sheds and the Octagon Woods.

MM2 covers Berkshire and includes Basildon House & Park, Douia Abbey, Thatcham Reedbeds, Bekonscot Model Village, Caversham Court Gardens, and Sonning Eye.

If you have a specific request, please let us know and we will send you whatever we have.



Hughenden Manor

 The manor can be found nestled in 3000 acres of the beautiful Chilterns on a site that has been occupied for more than 1000 years.

Recorded history at Hughenden began with the Norman Conquest. There was a large farm on the site and this was gifted to Bishop Odo of Bayeux. Eventually it passed to Geoffrey de Clinton and he began to develop the estate, including building what is now the church of St Michael & All Angels, which can be found to the left as you enter the estate from the main road.

A lodge began to grow and this developed into a larger farmhouse. Sir Robert Dormer took over in 1538 and he established the Dormer Estate and included alms houses close to the church.

In 1738 Charles Savage had become the owner and he converted what had become a large Tudor farmhouse into a manor. In 1771 the estate became the possession of the Norris Family and in 1816 John Norris made major changes to the interior, introducing the Gothic style, but outside he gave the manor a Georgian look.

The parkland was established as such in 1820. In 1846 Benjamin Disraeli, who was trying to establish himself, borrowed heavily, but with a determination to make something of Hughenden, and himself. Gradually he began to achieve his various ambitions and in 1862 Mary Anne Disraeli began major alterations, including replacing the white stucco exterior with red bricks. She also established an Italianate garden.

In 1893 Conningby Disraeli began a programme of modernisation, adding plumbing, electricity and the new West Wing.

Benjamin Disraeli had died in 1881. Instead of being buried in Westminster Abbey he was interred at Hughenden.

When the Disraeli family had exhausted their use of Hughenden it was taken over by the Disraeli Society and they created a museum. However, the manor and the estate were requisitioned by the Government and it became a centre for secret mapmaking. When that was over there was seen to be quite a lot of damage to the house, but particularly to the gardens. So in 1947 it was passed to the National Trust, but it wasn’t until 1983 that all restoration work was completed.

Now Hughenden has more to offer that ever before. It is a haven for wildlife, both arboreal and open landscape. It is filled with history and the gardens have been restored to glory.

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 St  Michael’s & All Angels

 Geoffrey de Clinton established the first church on the site and it was commissioned in 1135. He had a small priory built and attached to the church, but that gave way to a small chapel and a bell tower some 100 years later. Gradually the church fell into disuse and disrepair and by 1870 it was practically a ruin.

Canon Blagdon decided to try to reclaim the church and over the next 20 years or so it was rebuilt in the Victorian style. Now re-established there was a determination to keep the new church running so over the period of 1992 to 1994 there were further alterations and restorations effected.

The exterior of the church is flint with a stone dressing. Queen Victoria visited the church after Disraeli’s death. Protocol said she couldn’t attend his funeral, but he was very much a favourite and as soon as she could she visited the church and unveiled a memorial to him.

Outside the church is the plot reserved for the Disraeli family. Disraeli lost his wife in 1872. When he realised that he too was dying some 9 years later, he asked the permission of Queen Victoria for him to be buried with his wife, rather than in Westminster Abbey. That request was granted.

Buried in the same vault as Disraeli and his wife is Sarah Brydges Willyams. She was a close friend and benefactor to Disraeli. She left him a large legacy, sufficient to clear all his debts and to firmly establish Hughenden. Her only request to Disraeli was that she should be buried at Hughenden, and he complied with this willingly.

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Disraeli Memorial

St Lawrence Church – West Wycombe

Sat on top of the West Wycombe Hill, the St Lawrence church, along with the Dashwood Mausoleum,  proclaims its existence to all down in the Wycombe valley. It was originally built to service the needs of the village of Haveringdon, which no longer exists. So that it wouldn’t just fade out of existence, efforts were made to establish it as a magnetic place of worship. During the 14th century the church was enlarged with the addition of a chancel and tower.  In 1750 the tower was raised even further so that it was even more noticeable, and the golden ball was added. This has six seats inside, but there was a tale that ten members of the Hell Fire Club met inside the ball for one of their irregular meetings.

Sir Francis Dashwood made all the most recent alterations and remodelling. There are 8 bells in the church, no two of them from the same source or time of installation. The oldest bell was installed in 1581 and the most recent in 1923.
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 Dashwood Mausoleum

 The Dashwood Mausoleum was built in 1765 from Portland stone and flint. Its purpose was to provide a final resting place for the Dashwood family, although there were others, or at least parts of others, that ended there, in particular the heart of one of the Hell Fire Club members.

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 West Wycombe Park

 The Dashwood family first bought the park in 1698. There was a manor house on the grounds but there was also a determination to replace it. Work on the current building started in 1740 but it took 60 years before the family was convinced that it was finished. It features quite an eclectic mix of styles.

The Dashwoods had a chequered history at the park, sometimes ignoring it and then restoring it. The family still lives there today, but only with agreement with the National Trust. The NT took control in 1943. Today it is a family home for most of the year, but does cater for weddings and such, and it is open to the public during the summer months.

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Hell Fire Club

 The excavation of chalk for the basis of a road intended to make the transport of goods from London took 6 years, from 1748 to 1762. Once those operations had finished, Francis Dashwood looked at the potential the caves offered. He had them moulded into interesting formations, leaning heavily on the influences from his recently completed European Tour. He then began to invite friends and people of interest to join him in the creation of the Hell Fire Club.

He named his group the Knights of St Francis of Wycombe. They had originally met at an old Cistercian Abbey at Medmenham, but Francis saw great potential in the caves. The members were all people of influence and education. Subjects under discussion included the arts and music, but there was a large influence on fun. Ladies were frequently invited, alcohol flowed freely and many dressed in eye striking fashion.

The caves were used for these purposes for a little over ten years.

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West Wycombe

 The village was part of the main estate and as such was the property of the Dashwood Family. However, the Dashwoods suffered almost catastrophically in the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Desperate for money, they put the entire village on the market. Fortunately the plight of the village came to the attention of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Better known as the RSA, these benefactors embarked on a 5 year programme of repairs and restorations, being careful to honour the history of the village. Once complete, in 1934 they handed over the village to the National Trust.

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