Penn’s oldest pub, The Crown, will close if it can’t extend say its owners

THE OWNERS of Penn’s oldest pub, The Crown, say that if they don’t get planning permission to significantly enlarge and improve the building it will go out of business. 

Brewers Greene King want to  increase the outdoor dining area  at the back, build a new kitchen, a new cellar, staff accommodation, a large separate toilet block, extend the car park and include electric car charging points.

They also want a new children’s play area, better access for disabled people and propose alterations inside the pub to “improve the visitor dining-drinking experience.”

And in a report to council planners they pull no punches.

They say takings at the pub fell by a third from 2006 to 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic. The  subsequent lockdown, despite the furlough scheme, imposed even greater financial strains and changed the way people now want to visit pubs.

“The pandemic highlighted the important contribution beer gardens make to the overall viability of public houses,” says the report.

It adds: “Increasing costs and falling turnover have squeezed the site’s profitability to the point where it is now clear, that without significant changes, the pub will shortly become financially unviable and have to close.

“A significant investment is therefore proposed to reposition the pub, making the pub and its offer more appealing to the customers…it is anticipated that this comparatively large scale investment will secure the pub’s long term future.”

It remains to be seen how councillors, planning officers and local conservation groups react however. The Grade 2 listed pub’s origins are 16th century although it has been consistently rebuilt and added to since then.  It is also in the Green Belt and the Penn and Tylers Green Conservation Area. 

Greene King – who run the pub as a Chef and Brewer outlet – argue that because the changes are needed to save the pub’s future, its expansion falls under “exceptional circumstances” for development in the Green Belt, and therefore should not fall foul of Government planning restrictions. 

Also, as the new developments will be to the rear and one side of The Crown, the  view of the established frontage will be hardly affected, they say.

Buckinghamshire councillors are due to consider the planning application next month.

A pub at the centre of village life and intrigue for nearly 450 years…

Penn’s Home Guard on parade outside The Crown, their base in the village, in 1940

The Crown is thought to have started life as an alehouse in the mid 1570s when Elizabeth 1 was on the throne and  the Spanish Armada was a decade away.

In the English Civil War it was often visited by Roundhead soldiers and the story goes one of them got so sozzled in the pub one night he stopped for a wee on his way home in Long Pond, outside Stonehouse Grange in Church Road, lost his balance, fell in and drowned.

In 1643, the night before the Battle of the Rye, the Roundheads are said to have stayed there before marching down Hammersley Lane to have it out with the defending Royalists.

They failed and some were chased by the Cavaliers up Amersham Hill, leading to another bloody skirmish at what is now Hazlemere golf course. 

Although there are still bits of 16th century brickwork remaining, the pub has been much altered over the years and most of what we see today dates back 200 years.

The Crown in the 1920s

In the 19th and early 20th century it was the gathering point for various hunts, where red coated huntsmen on horses accompanied by scores of hounds, enjoyed a tot before galloping off in pursuit of foxes. 

During that time the Earl Howe of the day often held shooting parties on the Penn estate and put  up ‘beaters’ and other workers at The Crown.

In the 1920s, David Wooster, who lived on neighbouring Pennbury Farm, was friends with Walter Carden, the landlord’s son.  He wrote in his memoir: “The landlord’s mother was quite a character. On the occasion of my tenth birthday she invited me into her little room where I was given a glass of port.”

David recalled that in the 1930s, Lord Dawson of Penn, King George V’s respected physician, was “very fond of a tipple and merry times were had.”

During the Second World War the Penn Home Guard used the pub as their base and they  and others would take it in turns to “fire watch” from the top of the Holy Trinity Church tower opposite. From there they observed the flames of London during the Blitz.

During the 1930s the pub became a hotel for a time and then in the 1970s it began to concentrate more and more on providing food, the owners converting most of the building into a pub/restaurant. 

The Crown dining room in 1979

Coronavirus update

A NUMBER of schools in the area have reported Covid cases amongst their pupils this week but for all it seems the symptoms have been mild.

Nonetheless at Tylers Green Middle School, where three cases were confirmed, extra precautions have been introduced, including the children eating lunch in their classrooms and class assemblies being held remotely.

Pupils aged between 12 and 15 at Sir William Ramsey School in Rose Avenue will be offered a Covid vaccination from Monday.

The number of cases has been rising steadily in our immediate area over the past few weeks, mainly among the young.  In the Penn, Tylers Green and Hazlemere area there were 73 new cases recorded last week compared with 51 the previous week. 

News update

Fuel still short – Fuel supplies continued to be haphazard in our immediate area this week, with the two service stations at Hazlemere Crossroads closed more than they were open.  Earlier in the week the administrators of the Hazlemere Residents and Penn/Tylers Green/Hazlemere Community Facebook pages shut down public comments on the fuel situation because they feared that whenever people posted notices of tankers arriving at the service stations it led to panic buying and extra long queues around Hazlemere Crossroads causing dangerous congestion. 

Jubilee celebrations – Initial plans for celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in Penn and Tylers Green next June are being discussed by a group of residents and are likely to include a big social gathering on the front common. A beacon lighting event is also likely.  Buckinghamshire Council said this week it was planning a major woodland planting campaign as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy campaign and that it would be sending every school in the county a free tree to plant. The parish council is planning to plant a copper beech on the triangle of land opposite Tylers Green Village Hall. 

More yellow lines Local councillor Katrina Wood says applications to increase the amount of double yellow lines around Tylers Green First and Middle Schools have  been submitted because many parents are still ignoring requests to park five minutes away from the schools and walk their children the rest of the way.  However, she said it could be many months before the applications were approved and implemented. 

Wall repairs – St Margaret’s flint wall surrounding the churchyard in Hammersley Lane and Church Road is to be repointed at a cost of around £1,000 after it was noticed some flints had fallen out.

Support group – The Penn and Tylers Green Residents’ Society has launched a Friends of Common Wood group to help support and conserve the Penn woodland.

New deputy – Mr S. Issacs, an assistant head at Millbrook School in High Wycombe has been appointed deputy head of Tylers Green Middle School. 

Info board on the common – An information board explaining the history of Widmer Pond and the Tylers Green common is to be installed alongside the pond on the front common.

Camera, (bright) lights and (noisy) action…

WHILE the new owners work on plans for the future of the Penn School site in Church Road, they are finding themselves on the receiving end of a nice little earners from the film industry.

The former school is proving popular as a base for local filming. Episodes of the current series of Silent Witness and Endeavour feature scenes from the area shot earlier in the summer and this week there’s been some bright lights and bangs as movie makers shot night scenes – to the consternation and annoyance of a number of local residents – for a production called Tinkertown to be released next year. 

It is hardly surprising Penn is popular with movie-makers. There’s a well of freelance film production talent living in and around here who work at established studios at Pinewood, Leavesden and Beaconsfield. And there’s going to be even more if plans to build a major studio complex off the Marlow by-pass and a big expansion of the Dancing on Ice/Masked Singer studios at Bovingdon, the other side of Chesham, are given the go-ahead.

War veteran celebrates his 100th birthday

Ron Johnson celebrating at home with cards from the Queen and the Duchess of Cornwall. Picture:BBC

MANY in the village will be sending congratulations to Ron Johnson, formerly of Finch End, off Wheeler Avenue,Tylers Green, who celebrates his 100th birthday on Sunday 10 October.

Ron was very active in church and village life for many years until he left with his late wife Sybil to be nearer their daughter in Shrivenham, Oxfordshire around 12 years ago.

Aged 22, Ron was a glider pilot who took part in the ill-fated Arnhem campaign in 1944, an attempt to shorten the war by the capture of vital bridges near the Dutch-German border.

He was shot in the leg by a sniper and was sheltered for a few days by a brave Dutch family before the Germans captured him and sent him to a prison camp.  

However, he and another pilot escaped from their prison at Spangenberg Castle in Germany in March 1945 and successfully hid for 10 days before being rescued by American soldiers. 

Ron has kept in touch with the family in Arnhem and regularly visited them and their descendants  until just a few years ago.

He was treated as a hero by the Arnhem community and was always thrilled to be invited to schools in Holland to tell the children about his adventures and to be able to commemorate the memory of his friends and colleagues who never made it.

Among the congratulatory cards he has received is a personal one from Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.  Ron befriended her father, Major Bruce Shand, while they were both prisoners at Spangenberg Castle. 

Boringly impressive…

FARMERS in these parts have always complained about the chunks of flint forever emerging from the ground to blunt and chip the plough blades.

But that’s nothing compared to what’s happening below the surface. There, the giant tunnel boring machines (TBMs) grinding their way through the Chilterns for the HS2 tunnels are ahead of schedule, making the mile mark in their ten mile journey last week.

Most of the time they encounter crumbly chalk which offers no resistance to the relentlessly spinning cutting blades. But occasionally they meet enormous slabs of flint which gives the tunnellers the same problems as the ploughers above, slowing down the whole process. 

One of the thousands of eight and a half ton concrete segments that make up the HS2 tunnel wall begins its journey from the Denham factory

I was able to visit the vast HS2 complex near Denham this week where the southern end of the tunnels emerge, and where, in one direction, the TBMs send back thousands of tons of excavated chalk and flint to be sorted, sifted and processed while, in the other direction, robot controlled machines work 24/7 to send back precise concrete segments to line the tunnels. 

It’s one of the world’s biggest construction works taking part under our feet and looks mightily impressive to the untrained eye.

I agree with HS2 critics who say it’s the wrong project in the wrong place.  It is unlikely to ever economically justify its horrendous expense.  But, as an example of British engineering, it is superb. 

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