When Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, visited St Margaret’s Parish Room in Tylers Green on Monday, July 29, 1940, the country was in a state of nervousness. The Battle of Britain was at its height and there was daily talk of invasion.
Yet, although the Queen undoubtedly knew that the future of the country was on a knife· edge at that time, she certainly did not show any tension when she breezed into the village to visit the Penn and Tylers Green Women’s Institute. Instead the legendary charm and wit that has been written and talked about so much in recent weeks was very much to the fore.
The 160 strong branch was one of the 2,000 WI centres in the country whose task was to prepare and can fruit, such as tomatoes, windfall apples and plums. The government proivided extra supplies of rationed sugar so all available fruit could be preserved, and that summer the WI members in Penn and Tylers Green produced a staggering 4,000 lbs of jam. This was sold at cost price to those who supplied the fruit.
Pat Cuthbert, whose mother Nora was controller of the jam making centre in the parish room, later wrote: “The Queen, as a WI member, got to know about the scheme and wished to see it in action. One day my mother received a message from the WI county secretary that on the next jam making day there was to be a special inspector from Windsor coming to see how the system worked. It was to be completely secret and no one was to be told. So she had to spread the word that there would be a lot of fruit that day and all helpers would be needed!”
The Bucks Free Press, which had been tipped off a couple of hours before the visit, reported that the royal car “entered the village to the accompaniment of rousing cheers from schoolchildren who had lined the route.” The Queen was met by the Chief Constable of Buckinghamshire and the Rev. Gerald Hayward, vicar of St Margaret’s (1918-52). Also in the welcome party was Mrs Cuthbert, Mrs Betty Jollye, whose husband was in charge of the Home Guard and Miss Partridge from Tyler Cottage.
The Queen had a good look round, talked to many of the people there, and drank some local raspberry fruit cordial which she found ‘sweet and refreshing’. She accepted a copy of the Bucks WI cookery book, chose a jar of Bucks stoneless cherry jam to take away and said how thrilled she had been with all that she had seen.
Pat Cuthbert later recalled: “The Queen was continuing her trip with a visit to Hyde Heath to see another centre and I suggested to a detective that, rather than drive d own the newly constructed concrete road to Amersham, it would be much more enjoyable for the Queen to go through the country lanes and beechwoods. He said they didn’t know the way so would I pilot them”.
“The outcome was I headed a convoy of four cars through the lanes. Because of petrol rationing cars were fairly infrequent in those days and I caused some consternation to a couple of farm wagons which I had to get out of the road by hooting violently. Through an oversight I was not presented to the Queen at either end of the journey but she sent a special message to the pilot that she had very much enjoyed the drive”.
Later the WI minute book – as well as noting that a 1,000 articles had been made in two months for the war effort and that 40 evacuees bad arrived in the village with many more expected-recorded the Queen’s personal thanks, saying how pleased she had been with the visit.
Many thanks to Edna Viner, Miles Green and Eddie Morton for their assistance in researching this article and photographs. The photographs here and on our front cover are reproduced courtesy of Mrs Liz Tebbutt and Chepping Wycombe Parish Council.
Village Voice, No.91 June/July 2002