A Visitor to Wendover in 1875

  |  Published: Apr 23rd 2015
St Mary's Flower Festival poster

Back in the Autumn of 1875 a young unknown Scottish writer visited Wendover, staying the night at the Red Lion in the High Street. The young Scotsman was unusual for his time in that he wore his hair quite long and was somewhat bohemian in appearance.

The young writer had already published some essays about his travels in Europe and on this occasion was writing about an Autumn walk he was taking from High Wycombe to Tring via Great Missenden and Wendover. Eventually this essay was published under the title of "An Autumn Effect" and is still available free to download on the internet. It is fascinating to read what this visitor has to say about Wendover 140 years ago:

"Wendover, in itself, is a straggling, purposeless sort of place. Everybody seems to have had his own opinion as to how the street should go; or rather, every now and then a man seems to have arisen with a new idea on the subject, and led away a little sect of neighbours to join in his heresy. It would have somewhat the look of an abortive watering-place, such as we may now see them here and there along the coast, but for the age of the houses, the comely quiet design of some of them, and the look of long habitation, of a life that is settled and rooted, and makes it worthwhile to train flowers about the windows, and otherwise shape the dwelling to the humour of the inhabitant."

"The church, which might perhaps have served as rallying-point for these loose houses, and pulled the township into something like intelligible unity, stands some distance off among great trees; but the inn (to take the public buildings in order of importance) is in what I understand to be the principal street: a pleasant old house, with bay-windows, and three peaked gables, and many swallows' nests plastered about the eaves."

The "Autumn Effect" essay also includes a delightful description of the countryside around Wendover and a visit the author made to a farm and to St Mary's church. He was also fascinated by the charming young daughter of the landlord of the Red Lion and her collection of dolls.

This delightful snippet of Wendover's history would have been lost in time except that this young writer went on to try his hand at fiction and in 1883 published a novel about buccaneers and buried treasure under the title of "Treasure Island". His name, of course, was Robert Louis Stevenson, who went on to become one of the premier authors of the nineteenth century.

You can learn more about the visit of Robert Louis Stevenson to Wendover and many other fascinating snippets of Wendover's history if you pay a visit to the St Mary's festival of 800 years since the Magna Carta which is taking place from Saturday 2nd May to Monday 4th May. Further information on this Flowers, Music and History festival is available in a programme which can be purchased at St Mary shop in the High Street for £2. Or just come along to St Mary's on this Early May Bank Holiday weekend and find out.

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