Village refurbishment project

A close up of a typical West Wycombe village house in Buckinghamshire

One of the National Trust’s most ambitious conservation projects is nearing completion in the ancient Buckinghamshire village of West Wycombe where 59 historic buildings have been repaired and refurbished over the past three years.

What we've achieved

 
The work has improved living standards for tenants and the energy efficiency of the buildings, many of which date back to the mid-16th century. The buildings involved include 52 cottages, 3 pubs and 7 commercial lettings, including the village Post Office and one of the last remaining Chair Factories in the Chilterns.
 

What was involved?

 
The work has involved the replacement of roof tiles, insulating all roofs, repairs to chimneys, gutters and external walls, the modernisation of old kitchens and bathrooms, the overhaul of electrical and plumbing systems and improvements to heating and ventilation systems.
 
The National Trust has worked with its own specialists in historic buildings and archaeology to gain a greater knowledge of the history and fabric of the buildings, as well as the social history of the village and its residents over four centuries.
 

Research

 
“Research is a hugely important part of this project and it means we can create a legacy of knowledge which we will share with wider audiences,” says National Trust general manager Jim Foy. “For example we have discovered that there were once six shoe-makers in the village. We have been able to find out how the village developed over the centuries. There has been lots of guesswork in the past, but this project is giving us actual proof.”
 
The highest conservation standards have been applied to the building work, for example replacing oak with oak, and sourcing local materials and labour as far as possible.
 

Conservation

 
“This has been a very complex project as no two buildings are the same,” says the National Trust’s Project Manager Mark Wells. “The buildings are also people’s homes and businesses, and the village itself is a busy thoroughfare, so worked hard to minimise the disruption and inconvenience as much as possible.”
 
West Wycombe pre-dates nearby High Wycombe, and is a unique example of a village that developed as an important staging post along the old ‘coaching route’ from London to Oxford.
 

History

 
There has been a village at West Wycombe for at least 1000 years and many of the cottages date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Whilst some were altered in the 18th century, they still retain much of their original timber-framed structure. In 1929 the buildings were in extremely poor condition and were saved from demolition by the Royal Arts Society which acquired the major part of the village and undertook an extensive programme of repairs.
 
It was handed to the National Trust in 1934 and was the first village to be acquired by the organisation. over the past three years