Although the first recorded mention of Downley in official documents was in 1207 in the rent rolls of the Bishop of Westminster. Downley grow relatively slowly until the 1960s remaining essentially the little village on the hill above High Wycombe. From then on Downley risked becoming, if the villagers allowed, another relatively unremarkable part of the enlarging market town.
The building of several housing estates filled the farmland to the east- the Pastures estate- to the west the ‘Dashwood Village’, Pheasant Drive and associated roads, to the northwest the Heights estate, Gray’s Lane and associated roads, and in the middle of Downley the Narrow Lane estate. These housing developments more than doubled Downley’s population and probably quadrupled the built-up area of the village. To underline these changes the Narrow Lane development, in the centre of the village on the then existing traditional allotments, resulted in the necessary exchange of land for allotments and sports facilities at Mannings field, taking land from the still viable Downley farm. The farm ceased operating in 1984, the last farm to go in the village.
The Downley people then decided that Downley must be given a stronger, firmer identity, to emphasise the strength of the community, to feel part of Downley as a living, vibrant and forward-thinking village, separate from the town in the valley. Moves were made to provide the village with its own Parish council, (up to then Downley was part of West Wycombe Parish council), and was achieved in 1987. This became the foundation stone of many community projects and associations, and perhaps the beating heart of the community was the establishing for the village the Downley Community Centre in the old Victorian Board School. This now provides accommodation for many local groups, and even a village library, all run by volunteers. The War Memorial Hall, now greatly improved, also provides community accommodation.
The use of the Downley name is seen in Downley Albion Football Club, Downley Dynamos Junior Football Club, Downley Descants Choir, Downley Diggers, Downley Beer and Wine club and many more interest groups. The Downley Common Preservation Society works with the Parish council to care for the 22 hectares of Downley Common, a traditional common of medieval origins, itself part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Downley Community Orchard, established in 2005 provides a peaceful resting place for tired Downley Diggers….
The annual Downley Day Fete, coupled with the Downley Festival brings the whole community together to celebrate the summer, and the lighting of the beacon on the common celebrates the turning of the year, and other special days, for example in 2022 the Queen’s Platinum Anniversary, of course a very special day.
This then is Downley in 2023, a vibrant, creative and energetic community for everyone to enjoy.
The Downley Local History Group (DLHG) website first went live in 2017, and although we* are continually adding items to the website, we would welcome further material, be it photographs that we will scan and return as soon as possible, or perhaps an aspect of Downley that particularly interests you.
If you would like to contribute material to this project, please contact us by clicking on the ‘Contact Us’ link at the top of this page. Also let us know if there is an aspect of Downley history that is of particular interest to you and that you would like to investigate.
Finally, if you spot any mistakes/omissions please let us know using the ‘Contact Us’ link.
* We are Bernie Quinlan, Brian Knott, Colin Keeble, Hilary Brash, Inge Bignell, John Willson, Mike Morgan and Pam Brooks
The photographs on this website have been obtained from a number of sources including The Bucks Free Press, Wycombe Library and Wycombe Museum (all to be found on the website Sharing Wycombe’s Old Photographs, and The Transport Library. If you would like details as to purchasing a SWOP print click here, and then on the submenu (top left).
The two sepia photographs at the top of this page are shown with the permission of the Bucks Free Press.