News Notebook

Hallelujah! After 250 years a Penn Christmas myth is finally laid to rest

THERE’S an urban myth about Penn which manages to pop up in some form or other every Christmas. 

It’s that the great 18th century composer George Frideric Handel was inspired by and began  to write his Messiah during a visit to Penn House in Penn Street.

Penn House. Picture: the Penn Estate

Next year the myth will be well and truly punctured.

The  London house where  Handl did complete the Messiah, as well as the anthem Zadok the Priest –  most likely to be played at King Charles’ Coronation next May –  will open to the public as a museum. 

So just how did the link between Handel and Penn ever come to pass when there is no evidence that Handel ever visited here?

George Frideric Handel. Picture courtesy Classic FM

Earl Howe, the present incumbent of Penn House and member of the Curzon family, explained a tenuous link in Village Voice 30 years ago. 

The link between the composer and my family is because it was at Gopsall Hall in Leicestershire – for many years the principal seat of successive Earls Howe – that the Messiah had its beginnings.

“In the  mid-18th century Gopsall was the seat of Charles Jennens, one of the country’s richest men and Handel’s foremost patron. It was Jennens who suggested the idea of an oratorio tracing both the life of Christ and the essence of the Christian message, with words drawn from scriptural texts, and it was he who assembled the libretto.

“Unfortunately the Messiah gave rise to a hiatus in the long collaboration between the two men as Jennens was dissatisfied with some of Handel’s music. However, it is known that part of the oratorio was composed at Gopsall.

On Jennen’s death in 1773 Gopsall with its library and magnificent art treasures passed to Assheton Curzon, who was married to Jennen’s niece Esther.  The Curzon family thus inherited  a substantial amount of Handelion memorabilia. 

“All these found their way to Penn House when the fourth Earl Howe sold the Gopsall estate in 1918.”

Virtually all of the memorabilia was also sold privately in later years, some of which has almost certainly been acquired by The Hallelujah Project, a fund raising group set up to restore Handel’s former home (and, by an astounding coincidence, that of Jimi Hendrix some considerable years later) in London’s Mayfair.

Can you help our sporting legend?

AN APPEAL  for help from one of the village’s greatest sporting achievers.

Hugh Culverhouse was 20 and competing in a national championship cross country race in 1971 when he fell, suffering a stress fracture to his left hip.  He had several operations over the next four years but it became obvious he would never be able to use his left leg again. A break in the blood supply to his hip joint caused necrosis.

That didn’t however spell the end of a promising sporting career. In fact it spurred him on to even greater achievements.

Hugh was featured in The Times’ coverage of the 2014 London Marathon

Hugh, whose family home was  Wayside (now the Old Post Office), Penn at the time continued running and cycling – with the help of crutches and sticks for running; and specially adapted bikes for one legged cycling.

His career has been stupendous. He broke the disabled record for cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats (69 hours and nine minutes) and set a record for the fastest  one-legged cycle crossing from the east to the west coast of the USA (2,970 miles in 13 days, 11 hours and one minute).  He represented Britain in the Seoul Olympics in the 50km Paralympic cycle race, finishing eighth.

In addition, he has run several marathons, including the London Marathon,  and 10 years ago ran our own Penn Seven coming 54th out of 372 able-bodied competitors, and winning the over-60s category outright.

Hugh won the over-60s section of the Penn Seven in 2011, defeating all able-bodied runners in the category.

Hugh now lives in Germany but often returns to the village. When here he keeps a couple of his specially adapted bikes in a friend’s garage so he can still ride the Chilterns countryside.

But now, due to a death, he is desperately looking for somewhere in the village to store them.

He writes: “Does anyone in or near the village have some space in a shed or garage? It doesn’t need to be locked. My bikes are old and have little value except to me when I visit England and use them.   Furthermore, as I am disabled, the bikes have only one pedal and no-one else could use them!  

The two bikes concerned are relics from the 80s, and one, now adapted to become a touring bike, was used in Trans-America 1986.  The other was a later addition, purely for time trialling. 

“Both are old fashioned compared to modern TT bikes, but they function for me perfectly. My disability does not allow me to transport a bike by plane should I want to bring one over from  Munich to use in England.

“If anyone could help me I’d be so grateful.”

If you can help please email Hugh at

Survival is going to get tougher for novice MP

SARAH Green, the Liberal Democrat MP  who surprisingly snatched the Chesham and Amersham seat, which includes Penn, from the Conservatives at a by-election last year will have a big job trying to hang on to it at the next general election.  Now that job has got even tougher. 

Sarah Green MP. Picture: the Liberal Democrats

In an attempt to even out changing populations, boundary commissioners are recommending that traditionally true-blue Gerrards Cross becomes part of  Chesham and Amersham constituency, moving from Beaconsfield constituency.  They also  propose moving Hazlemere from the Wycombe constituency into Chesham and Amersham.

Steve Baker MP. Picture the Conservative Party

Tylers Green will stay in the Wycombe constituency, represented by Tory Steve Baker, although he is going to have a tougher fight on his hands at the next election with the adoption of a heavyweight Labour candidate Emma Reynolds (see local news below).

Emma Reynolds campaigning with her new born baby in 2017. Picture: Wolverhampton Express and Star

The changes are expected to be in place by this time next year once consultation on them is completed on 5 December this year.

As we live in an area criss-crossed by boundaries, it is of little surprise the proposed changes are illogical for us. 

The Boundary Commission for Local Government (one set of bureaucrats) recommended rather sensibly this year that Penn and Tylers Green be represented by the same councillors in the same ward on the new Buckinghamshire Council unitary authority.

Such sensibleness has evaded the Boundary Commission for England (another set of bureaucrats) who continue to propose that Penn and Tylers Green remain in different parliamentary constituencies.

The  proposed bizarre boundary means, for instance, that people living on one side of Hazlemere Road will be in Chesham and Amersham constituency whereas people on the other side will be in Wycombe.  In Coppice Farm Road, for instance, people at one end of the road will be represented by the Wycombe MP, while people at the other end by the Chesham and Amersham MP.

Local news in brief

Scouts Christmas post – Penn and Tylers Green scouts will be delivering Christmas cards in Penn, Tylers Green and Manor Farm estate to raise money for Thames Valley Air Ambulance. Simply drop your cards in the post boxes in these six locations until 17 December: Kings Ride Supermarket; Tylers Green Village Hall; JSK Mini Market (formerlyVillage Shop on the Green); John’s barber shop; Joe Gleeson’s butchers and JJ’s delicatessen. There’s no need to buy stamps but you can donate via this Just Giving page

Ministers clashA former Shadow Cabinet member has been selected to fight the Wycombe (and Tylers Green) constituency for Labour against sitting MP Steve Baker.  Mother of two,  Emma Reynolds, who lives in Holmer Green, was a former shadow housing minister, local government minister and foreign affairs minister before losing her Wolverhampton seat in the last election. Mr Baker is a current minister in the Northern Ireland office.

House ransacked – Police are appealing for any relevant CCTV footage taken between 4pm and 9pm on Thursday 17 November in an attempt to catch those responsible for ransackng a house in Wheeler Avenue, Tylers Green after gaining entry by smashing a patio door. Nothing appears to have been stolen. Local police have asked people to ensure the rear of their properties are secure after an increase in burglaries and attempted burglaries.

School’s soaring energy costsTylers Green Middle School is having to increase letting charges for the rooms it hires out in anticipation of up to a six fold increase in its energy bill in the next few months.

Outstanding rating – The two Little Oaks nursery schools in Tylers Green were rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted inspectors who visited last month.

Farewell Ann – Ann Jollye, who was brought up in Penn and Tylers Green in the Second World War (her father, a dentist,  was a leading light in the village’s home guard), has died aged 85 at her home in Watlington. She lived in France for many years, working for a Geneva based international company. When she retired to Watlington she trained and qualified as a carpenter and refurbished her home virtually single-handedly. She was also an accomplished tennis player and acknowledged artist, travelling around the world to paint and photograph exotic locations. 

Church wall ailing The parish council is to pay for repairs to the churchyard wall at St Margaret’s, Tylers Green after a survey found several loose capping stones and tiles. 

Crafty Christmas tree

UPDATE: Visitors voted this tree, prepared by the local Sew Crafty group, as the best decorated at the Holy Trinity Christmas Tree Festival on 3/4 December. The event raised £450 for the One Can Trust plus a number of food donations. Picture: Holy Trinity and St Margaret’s Facebook page.

Hail the litter warriors 

Twenty-eight volunteers (and Rex the dog) spent a crisp November morning collecting litter from the centre of the village and around the commons and woodlands. Picture: Penn and Tylers Green Residents’ Society.

Christmas in Penn and Tylers Green

(To be updated throughout the month, so check back for the latest info)

2 December – Tylers Green Middle School Christmas Fair

3 December – Manor Farm Schools Christmas Fayre 11am to 3pm

3 and 4 December – Christmas Tree Festival at Holy Trinity Penn between 2pm and 6pm.

6 December -Chiltern Ladies Afternoon Singers’ Christmas concert, Holy Trinity Church Hall, Penn 2pm. Free but please pre-book on 01494 713372

8 December – Christmas comedy night at The Potters Arms, Winchmore Hill. Pre booking essential

9 December – Christmas karaoke party at Hazlemere Golf Club

11 December – Annual lessons and carol service, Holy Trinity, Penn, 6pm

11 December – Christingle Service at St Margaret’s, Tylers Green 4pm

15 December – Christmas comedy night at The Potters Arms, Winchmore Hill. Pre booking essential

16 December – Tylers Green First School Christmas Fayre. 3.10pm to 5.15pm

16 December – Bingo at Hazlemere Community Centre, 7.30pm

16 December – Christmas karaoke party at Hazlemere Golf Club

18 December – Candle lit carol service at Holy Trinity, Penn Street, 6pm

18 December – Wycombe Round Table’s Santa Sleigh touring Manor Farm estate between 4pm and 7pm

21 December – Pantomime Dick Whittington at Tylers Green Village Hall, 3pm. Please book at the hall beforehand.

22 December – Carols on the Common, 7.45pm followed by presentation of Fun Run cheque to Bucks Mind in the Sports and Social Club

24 December – Nativity service at St Margaret’s 3pm

                       – Crib service at Holy Trinity, 4pm

24 December – Midnight mass begins at 11.30 at Holy Trinity Penn and St Margaret’s Tylers Green, and at 11pm at Holy Trinity, Penn Street

25 December – Holy Communion at Holy Trinity, 8am

                       – Family worship at St Margaret’s, 10am

                       – Family worship at Holy Trinity, 10am.

– Family service at Tylers Green Methodist Church, 10am

25 December -Regular dog walkers meet up mid morning on the back common.

31 December – New Year’s Eve family party at Hazlemere Youth Centre, Rose Avenue. Contact the centre for tickets.

How a routine check saved John’s life

MENTION in the 1 November blog of Ron Hedley’s charity efforts to raise money for prostate cancer research prompted a response from John and Sally Lewis, who lived in Oaktree  Close, Tylers Green before leaving the village for Northamptonshire some years ago.

Sally writes: “When we lived in Tylers Green John had a routine medical examination with his company as he was over 50.  The company nurse was new and had just returned from working in USA.  She asked John if he would like a PSA test as it was routinely done in USA.   She told him as he had no symptoms at all, it would be fine!

“His PSA came back slightly raised – 4.9  – and the GP referred him to Wycombe General.   He was given the choice of treatments and opted for radical prostatectomy which was done about two months after diagnosis.  

When the prostate biopsy results came back the consultant urologist told us he would have been dead within five years as it was quite aggressive.  

“This was in 2001 – 21 years ago – and he is now 77 years old!  We owe a huge debt of gratitude and thanks to that company nurse for offering John the chance of the PSA test.  The message is for men to get a PSA test from 50 years old (sooner if it runs in the family) in order to catch this horrible disease early.

As a result, John and I do a lot of awareness stands and he has been trained in giving the Prostate Cancer Official Awareness talks to many organisations when asked. 

He has also done the Great North Run twice! Recently our daughter Emma , John and myself did collections at Wycombe Wanderers ‘Memorial’ Match Day for Bill Turnbull.

“We have been blessed with five more grandchildren and one great grandchild since his diagnosis as well!”

Over to you gents. More details on

Remembering Mrs Collier’s class

THANKS to Jane Tapping of The Chase, Tylers Green for pinpointing the date of Mrs Collier’s class at Tylers Green First School mentioned in the 1 November blog. It was 1959/60. Another in the picture, Lynne Rackstraw (nee Jarvis) in Norfolk agrees. She also recognised classmates Pat White and Terry Harris.

Council dips into its reserves

BUCKINGHAMSHIRE Council is struggling to balance its books as it tries to cope with increased costs and more demand for its services, particularly in social care.

Councillors agreed to withdraw £4.4million from the council’s reserves last month after a grim report from finance director Dave Skinner. He said costs for heating council premises like schools and libraries were running at 70 per cent more than originally budgeted for.  There was also considerable extra pressure on the council’s adult social care and children’s services.

Mr Skinner said the council was well placed financially to meet the challenges, but nonetheless urgent reviews are underway to see how the council can cutback spending.

One area may be the suspension or postponement of planned council building and improvement projects although the Ashwells housing development in Tylers Green, where the building of over 100 homes is expected to start next year, is unlikely to be affected.

Crunch time for badgers and birds 

THE Government has given the go ahead for badger culling to take place in 11 new areas of Buckinghamshire without revealing where the areas are.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that between 680 and 922 badgers can be killed in a 252 square kilometre part of the county in an attempt to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis. Culling in other parts of the county has been ongoing since 2014.

BBOWT is calling for vaccination of badgers rather than culling

BBOWT, the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, said the increased culling of badgers in the three counties was “obscene”. It said: “BBOWT has been vaccinating badgers since 2014, which is a much more humane and cheaper way to tackle bovine TB than culling.”

Meanwhile, there is increasing concern about the  dangers of avian flu in the local bird population. The Government introduced severe restrictions on the movement of birds to protect poultry last month and is asking the public to look out for signs of the disease in wild birds.  In Windsor it was estimated that a third of the swans on the town’s section of the Thames  died from bird flu in one week.

Penn and Tylers Green in the second Elizabethan age

Continuing our look at some of the changes in the village, some significant, others less so, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. This month, the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century.


Football Club, Cricket Club and Tennis Club form the Penn and Tylers Green Sports and Social Club 

Peter Coombes retires as head of the Middle School after 18 years. His wife Eirwen was school secretary.

Second ‘great storm’ in three years destroys 800 trees on the Penn Estate and a further 150 in Kingswood, Tylers Green,

The magnificent 145 year old Cedar of Lebanon in Rayners (Penn School) becomes unsafe and has to be cut down

Eirwen and Peter Coombs retire from the Middle School


Scouts launch Christmas card postal service in the village

Census shows 87 per cent of working residents in the village go to work by car


Following the abolition of hot school dinners, the kitchen at the First School becomes a science block and the Middle School kitchen a drama/music studio

First Wheelie bins appear

All Penn telephone numbers become prefixed with 81


Penn and Tylers Green Room in the new Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children opened in the immunology ward by Diana, Princess of Wales

First mobile phone mast appears 


Old Penn Parish records found in a safe last opened in 1958


St Margaret’s Parish Room extension opened

Dog bins placed on the common after years of complaints about dog mess


Housing development on former Agropharm site opposite village hall

St John’s Industrial Estate in St John’s Road  begins to close down

Penn and Tylers Green Football Club celebrates its centenary


First speed camera positioned in Elm Road

The Rev. Carol Williams, our first female vicar

The Rev. Carol Williams, Penn’s first female vicar, installed in an unpaid role


Village vote puts village hall refurbishment as priority for Millennium project

Campaign to save Penn School from closure gets underway

Kite Wood development built on former St John’s Industrial Estate


Pond at Potters Cross restored

Penn Wood bought by Woodland Trust after plan to build golf course rejected by the Government

Quarter peal at Penn Church rung for the first time for 39 years

Forbouys newsagent’s in Elm Road – formerly Barry Wright’s – closes

Penn and Tylers Green FC under-18s win the Berks and Bucks FA Youth County Cup, a remarkable feat for a village side

National Lottery grants £203,000 towards village hall refurbishment

First village website launched by Peter and Andrew Brown, which morphed into today’s blog.


A Village Carnival celebrates a new century

Twelve year old bagpipe player Connor Trendell pipes in the new millennium on the common where hundreds gathered in the rain to enjoy a firework display

Extended village hall reopens after £330,000 refurbishment

Carnival procession through the village to mark the Millennium


An educational trust formed to run Penn School

250 year old elm tree opposite the Crown had to be taken down.  It marked the site of the village stocks in the Middle Ages


Residents vote against street lighting in Tylers Green by 1,746 to 702

Horse and Groom in Elm Road closes after 170 years

The late and lamented Horse and Groom pub


The first vicar of both Penn and Tylers Green is appointed – the Rev Mike Bisset

The first red kite spotted over the village

Katherine Knapp old people’s home in Stretton Close closes

14th to 16th century kilns discovered on building site next to entrance to Sports and Social Club

Residents’ Society acquire Common Wood, with help of funding from the Lottery and Woodlands Trust


Barnes Corner Shop in the 1950s

Barnes Corner grocery/newsagents closes after 100 years

Penn Post Office, in the chemist in Church Road, Tylers Green closed by the Post Office

New Penn Surgery opens on site of the Horse and Groom

Penn and Tylers Green Football club awarded the FA’s Community Club Charter


“Green” waste bins introduced in Tylers Green

Lottery grants a further £129,250 to village hall for stage area improvements 

The new look Tylers Green Village Hall


Kings Wood sealed off for weeks  by police  searching for terrorist equipment

Winters of Penn – the former Shorts Brothers garage – closes its doors

Countess of Wessex opens Penn School’s IT unit


First phase of major Penn School refurbishment completed

Yew tree planted in Cock Lane cemetery in memory of local Royal Marine Joe Windall, killed in Afghanistan


Earthquake tremors felt in village following Lincolnshire quake measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale

Middle School head Bob Milne retires after 18 years


Memorial Tree project revives memorials to village soldiers killed in World War One

Penn and Tylers Green Cricket Club celebrated its centenary.

Season’s greetings to our readers and contributors. You can contact this blog at 

The blog is next due to be fully updated on 1 January.