Early Church History

The Cistercian Monks seem to have run a largely self supporting community based around Missenden Abbey for over 400 years. The Chapel and residences at Lee (as it became known) would have been very much integrated into that life. 

The chroniclers of the time were the writers of St Albans and Roger of Wendover, whose work ends in 1235, and his continuator and editor Matthew Parris. Services in the Chapel would have been the Mass, said or sung in Latin to Plainsong, and maybe the monks would have recited the daily offices, such as Prime through to Compline. It was a disciplined life of prayer and work.

As for ordinary folk, the struggle to grow enough to eat and keep out of trouble was paramount. It was a time of struggles – against the domination of the Papal See and against crushing taxation to provide money for the King and his Crusades. Henry III had become King in 1216 – succeeding King John and the Magna Carta (1215). He followed the general line of the Anjou-Plantaganets with qualities of greed, lust and general villainy – all upheld with pride.

As the community at Lee grew, so the first recorded priest was appointed, one Canon John Slythurst, a monk of Missenden. He was paid eight pounds per annum. However, his appointment must also have been the last as the Canon died in the 1550’s, shortly after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1547, when Lee was handed over to the Bedfords.

Lee then continued as a rural ‘hamlet’ in the parish of Great Missenden – that is as a village with its own church, but not forming a parish in its own right. 

In the late 17th century, the Plaistowe family (who still live in the area) became Lords of the Manor that included Lee and in 1832 the first minister was appointed to Lee church with a stipend of fifty pounds, the population had by then grown to 198.  Shortly afterwards, in 1847, the first resident incumbent was appointed.

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