The Plaistowe dynasty
In 1635, the then Earl of Bedford, who owned the Lee estate, leased it to a local man, William Plaistowe of Amersham, for 99 years. The exact circumstances of this transfer are obscured in history. Possibly the estate was leased at that time to pay off debts. Later, the land may also have been sequestrated as a consequence of the Bedfords being involved on the wrong side of the English Civil War. It is assumed that the Plaistowes only obtained the freehold to the manor after the Civil War, during which many of the Russell estates were sequestered.
Whatever the exact reason, the mid-17th century saw a shift in control at Lee (as it was then called) from the absent Bedfords to the Plaistowe family, where it would remain for 250 years.
The Plaistowe arms: Gules a lion argent between two bends or
By 1665 William Plaistowe had been succeeded by his son Thomas, whose monument is in The Lee Old Church. By the time he died, in 1715 at the age of eighty-seven, the family was well established in Lee. Thomas was in turn succeeded by his youngest son William and he in turn was succeeded by his son (also Thomas), who died in 1785, leaving an only daughter and heiress Elizabeth.
She is said to have advertised for a husband, and by this means married an Irish drummer named Henry Deering. Elizabeth died in 1812 and her husband held the manor at Lee for many years after her death.
During the 18th and 19th centuries the Plaistowe family cleared great areas of woodland on the manor estate and established farming in the village.
In 1798 the ‘Posse Comitatus’ listed 34 men between the ages of 16 and 60 in the village. The government census of 1801, recorded 150 people living in 30 houses in Lee. By the mid-1800s, the population of the village had risen to nearly two hundred.
The end of an era…
Later in the 19th century, following Henry Deering’s death, the estate reverted again to the Plaistowe family, when John Plaistowe (1818 to 1895) became an ‘absent’ lord of the manor. He lived at Wycombe Marsh, where several members of his family owned paper mills.
In the second half of the 19th century, as mechanisation became more widespread in farming, there was a population movement from the country into nearby towns and cities. This population movement affected Lee – by now a small parish in its own right and once again with an absent landlord – and the population fell back again to less than 120. [It is worth noting here that the parish at this time was much smaller than it is today.]
It wasn’t until the very end of the 19th century that the population of The-Lee (as it was now beginning to be known) started to rise again. This coincided with the arrival in the village of Arthur Liberty. He moved into the Manor House at The Lee in 1890, initially renting it from the absent Plaistowe family, and in 1898 he bought the manor estate from them.
But that, as they say, is another story!