The small but fascinating old market town of Princes Risborough lies between the Vale of Aylesbury and the western edge of the Chiltern Hills and is regarded by many as the Gateway to the Chilterns. The town is a centre for unique events such as the Kop Hill Climb and a popular area for walking and cycling.
The history of Princes Risborough stretches back to the time of the Doomsday Book and the origins of the name Risborough relate to the ‘brushwood covered hills’, whilst the addition of Princes derives from the time when the manor was taken by the 14th century Black Prince, the son of Edward III.
An unusual feature of unknown early origins and which even today continues to dominate the town is the large chalk hill carving of a cross - known locally as Whiteleaf Cross, it was restored in 2003 and can be readily seen and perhaps best appreciated when you take a trip from Chinnor to Princes Risborough on the heritage railway. To see Whiteleaf Cross from the train window, please sit on the right-hand side of the railway carriage, facing the direction of travel.
Prior to the construction of the railway line from Watlington, via Chinnor to Princes Risborough, the Victorian railway builders first put in a line from Maidenhead to High Wycombe (connecting with London Paddington), and which was soon thereafter extended to Princes Risborough in 1862. The construction of a new direct ‘cut off’ line via Gerrards Cross in 1904 also greatly improved travel opportunities to and from the Metropolis. All of this, together with the more recent commuter service to London Marylebone, that covers the ground in a mere 45 minutes or less, has caused much urban growth.
But despite this - the actual centre of Princes Risborough town has fortunately managed to retain much of its ‘old world’ charm and the central part of the town is designated as a conservation area. The little streets of 17th and 18th century cottages, many of them half-timbered and displaying herringbone brickwork, open out into the Market Square with its Market House and open arcade, where weekly markets and annual fairs are still held.
There is also a pleasing selection of shops, good pubs, old inns, and a choice of restaurants and cafes in the town centre, and all of which are under 1-mile or about 15-20 minutes’ walk from the station. Nearby the High Street is the parish church of St. Mary, which is a handsome building of flint and stone, originally of the 13th century, but with Tudor additions and alterations, and next to the church is Princes Risborough Manor House, a handsome 17th century mellow brick building owned by the National Trust.
Opposite the Manor House, in Church Lane is a very pretty 17th century half-timbered house known as Monks Staithe, from a supposed connection with Notley Abbey. A farm labourer's cottage in the 19th C, it was also briefly occupied by the famous Aviatrix of the 1930s, Amy Johnson.
Walking directions from the railway station to Princes Risborough Market Square and High Street: Take Station Approach to Station Road. Cross, turn right and then left along Manor Park Avenue. Continue ahead into Church Street and on to Market Square. Turn right and into the High Street.