Historic building revamp

A 14th century town centre building in High Wycombe – once the thriving Wheatsheaf Inn on the old London to Oxford road – will be restored, thanks to a £350,000 grant from the Architectural Heritage Fund.

The grant has been made to Buckinghamshire Historic Buildings Trust, which will oversee renovation at the Grade II listed 2/3 High Street, currently in use as a shop. A start will be made next month (August).

The timber-framed building, owned by Buckinghamshire Council and leased by the trust, is the earliest surviving building in High Wycombe apart from the parish church. 

While it served the town as The Wheatsheaf Inn during the 17th century and a coffee house in the 18th, its position close to the church and market-place suggests it may have originally been a guildhall, market house, or connected with the church.

In the early 20th century the shop became The Old Wheatsheaf Pharmacy and later served the historic High Street as a tobacconist (see 1944 picture) and dry cleaner. Today just one half of the ground floor is occupied by Anabelle’s, a fashion jewellery shop.

The trust’s ‘Wheatsheaf Project’ restoration scheme – a nod to its former use – aims to renovate the building for mixed-use as a commercial bar on the ground floor with separately accessible venue and activity spaces on the first and second floors for hire by community groups.

Trust chairman Dr James Moir said the plan was for a flexible adaptation of the upper floors, currently unoccupied, with a platform lift and accessible toilets, to create good scope to host meetings, events and classes.

The project is an important part of the council’s efforts to draw more people to High Wycombe’s historic quarter by breathing new life into heritage buildings, and James said the trust wanted it to play a part in encouraging people to cherish this ‘undervalued’ part of the town.

When finished it is designed to meet the need to improve the town centre’s night time offer to young commuters and students, as well as becoming a busy centre for community users during the day. 

Dr Moir said: ‘This award is the culmination of three years’ hard graft to acquire this gem of a building, establish its significance and secure an anchor tenant sympathetic to our wider vision.

‘We’re excited to be creating a focal community space which will delight in using its heritage as a means of encouraging everyone to linger in and cherish the town’s undervalued historic quarter.’  

James paid tribute to support from Architectural Heritage Fund and ‘hand-holding’ by the council through the long bidding process for the grant.

John Chilver, Buckinghamshire Council Cabinet Member for Property and Assets, said: ‘This is an important preservation milestone on the road to breathing new life into High Wycombe’s historic quarter.

‘I’m delighted that with help from the Architectural Heritage Fund, the partnership between the council and the trust will preserve this important building.’

Two shops at 2-3 High Street, High Wycombe, in 1944.