Located in the southern English county of Buckinghamshire, some 25 miles west of London, High Wycombe is a manufacturing and market town of 170,000 people. It is the second largest urban area in Buckinghamshire after the city of Milton Keynes.
Often referred to as Wycombe, the town is the centre of the furniture industry in the UK. Starting in the 12th century with simple turnery, furniture production had started in earnest by the 13th century and became a key activity in the area. Furniture education and training subsequently became part and parcel of the town’s heritage, and there is a museum charting the sector’s achievements through the ages. Though the industry has witnessed a period of decline, High Wycombe still houses major furniture makers and a number of smaller firms that have emerged from the university.
In recent years, the centre of the town has undergone significant investment, including work on the existing shopping centre, the completion of a new retail centre and the redevelopment of the Buckinghamshire New University with a large student village and new academic building. The two new developments have brought fresh interest to the town, with larger apartment buildings and a new multi-million pound hotel. The area also boasts nine business parks and is just 20 miles from Heathrow Airport. However, local authorities also face a number of social challenges as employment in the area has contracted since the mid-2000s and three of its neighbourhoods are in the bottom 25% nationally, with significant levels of child poverty.