The history of West Wycombe Park, Village and Hill

The current Temple of Venus at West Wycombe Park, Buckinghamshire

'Fay ce que voudras' is roughly translated as 'Do as you wish'; this Rabelaisian motto inspired many of the controversial activities of the famous Hell-Fire Club. Many stories exist, invariably sensational and frequently inaccurate, but they provide just one facet of the intriguing history of West Wycombe Park and the Dashwood family.

How it came to the Dashwoods

 
From earliest times the manor of West Wycombe belonged to the Bishops of Winchester and it is listed as theirs in the Domesday Book. However, no bishop ever resided at the property and it was let to the Dormer family.
 
Robert Dormer, created Earl of Caernarvon by Charles I in 1628 supported the King during the Civil War but was killed in an ambush shortly after the Battle of Newbury. His son, the 2nd Earl, deeply in debt, sold the estate to Thomas Lewis, a merchant and alderman of the City of London. Lewis married Elizabeth, the daughter of his friend and fellow alderman, Francis Dashwood.
 
As part of a family settlement drawn up in 1698, Lewis transferred the property to his wife's two brothers, Samuel and Francis Dashwood.
 

The Dashwood Baronets of West Wycombe

 
Francis was knighted in 1702 and in 1707 he acquired a baronetcy, the first granted by the crown after the union of England and Scotland - hence the Dashwood's title as the premier baronets of Great Britain.