The name Lee is believed to be derived from the old Anglo Saxon word ‘leah’ meaning ‘woodland clearing’ and a small community at Lee is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. At that time the Chiltern hills were largely covered with woodland and the community at Lee would have been closely linked to nearby lowland areas at Great Missenden and Wendover, which had land more suited to crops and grazing. Over the centuries greater areas of woodland were cleared in the Chilterns and these hill-top communities were able to become more self-sufficient.
In the 13th century a chapel was built at Lee. According to Lipscomb’s history of Buckinghamshire, the chapel “… was originally built as a Chapel of Ease to Weston Turville and was granted… by the family of Turville to Missenden Abbey” during the 13th century. The chapel still stands today (known locally as The Old Church) and is now a Grade 1 listed building.
The village, sometimes referred to historically as ‘Lee Chapel’, then remained closely associated with Missenden Abbey until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1547. 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.
Local towns began to grow and ancient rights of way such as the Ridgeway also passed not far from Lee. However, set well away from the main ‘road’, transport to and from the Lee was very limited and the only way for most villagers to get to work was to walk. Over the centuries, the village became increasingly self-sufficient with a number of farms, its own bakery and of course a pub never far away.
Other small farming communities also developed on the high ground to the north of Great Missenden; next to Lee at Lee Common and at Hunts Green; on the road to Wendover at King’s Ash and at Lee Gate; and around the cross-roads at Swan Bottom. Houses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries remain in all of these communities.