The Legend

The legend of Wingrave tells of Elizabeth Theed, who lost her way in a storm in 1786. She was only able to find her way home by following the sound of the Wingrave church bells. In gratitude she left land to be used for cutting hay for littering the church on Feast Sunday.

by Alice Vaughan 7

It is certain that an Elizabeth Theed was alive at that time, as several are registered in Wingrave and the surrounding parishes in the 18th Century. One in particular has a memorial tablet in the church and it is recorded that she left the sum of 25 shillings in her will of 1709 to the poor of Wingrave. As a result a charity was set up - which still exists, and land was bought with her bequest. This is situated off the Winslow Road near the site of the new recreation ground.

by Eleanor Kirkup 7

However, the church records, the charity commissioners reports of 1833 and 1897 and newspaper reports in the 19th Century provide no factual basis for this legend. The legend probably grew through oral tradition as a way of explaining what appeared to many as a strange custom.

by Richard Vaughan 8

The Vicar of Wingrave used to read a service on the Feast Sunday. This included two other possible reasons why Elizabeth Theed gave the meadow to the Church for providing hay for strewing. Where these originate from we do not know:

by Claire Biddle 13

1. The place in the Church she frequented had been profaned and not one person seemed to be concerned about the stench, she gave the land so that there would always be fresh covering for the floor in such emergencies.

2. She liked peace and quiet at the Service and the noise of the labourers boots on the stone flags disturbed her devotions. In the year 1785 the kindly local farmer who normally provided what was known as the 'litter' had not cut his hay (the season being so wet) so when the sexton had cleaned the church there was nothing to replace the original covering. Elizabeth gave the field so that it might never happen again.

...and we asked some local children to illustrate the story for us.

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