The past is a for­eign coun­try, so why not ex­plore it?

Why does a small mar­ket town in the south of Bur­ck­ing­hamshire en­gen­der such an in­ter­est? Beer, beech trees and high­way­man all played a part. John Stan­bury ex­plains why

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - PEOPLEANDPLACES - John Stan­bury, chair­man of Bea­cons­field His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, of Burgess Wood Road South, died on Au­gust 17 after a long ill­ness. This ar­ti­cle ap­pears with kind per­mis­sion of his wife Irene Stan­bury.

FIFTY years ago, a man had a dream. Coun­cil­lor O S Puckle, Chair­man of Bea­cons­field Ur­ban Dis­trict Coun­cil sent a let­ter in Oc­to­ber 1960 to those whom he thought might have an in­ter­est in the his­tory of the town.

Such was the re­sponse that an in­au­gu­ral meet­ing was held on Fe­bru­ary 18, 1961 at the old Rec­tory. 84 at­tended and paid the sub­scrip­tion of ten shillings each (50p). The en­thu­si­asm of those found­ing mem­bers pro­duced an ex­hi­bi­tion of some 198 arte­facts held at the Coun­cil Cham­bers in the fol­low­ing Jan­uary and sub­se­quently ev­ery two or three years.

Why does a small mar­ket town in the south of Buck­ing­hamshire en­gen­der such in­ter­est? It is not men­tioned in Domes­day. At that time much of Eng­land was swathed in de­cid­u­ous for­est which was in the process of be­ing cleared for arable farm­ing which in­cluded the Beech trees of this area. Hence the name Bekens­feld and sim­i­lar vari­a­tions oc­curred de­scrib­ing Beech or Beke fields but not pro­nounced Beecons­field.

Prob­a­bly by the early 12th cen­tury the pop­u­la­tion had grown to jus­tify the pres­ence of a chapel. By 1210, a church with a Rec­tor, Wil­liam de Wind­sor, was es­tab­lished.

Mean­while, farm­ing flour­ished in the area.

Bea­cons­field is at the cross roads of the main road from London to Ox­ford, pos­si­bly of Ro­man ori­gin. There was a Ro­man villa on the Rye at High Wy­combe. The other is a road from St Al­bans to Silch­ester. The town is sit­u­ated on a hill with slopes down to Wooburn Green and Loud­wa­ter, so the road through the town would be com­par­a­tively dry in win­ter. By the 17th cen­tury, stage coaches were run­ning to Ox­ford, tak­ing two days. Bea­cons­field was a con­ve­nient half way stage for chang­ing horses and many pas­sen­gers broke their jour­ney here and as a re­sult nu­mer­ous inns were es­tab­lished, at least eight of them. Many were brew­ing their own ale. This in turn at­tracted malt­sters. Not all were within the law, in 1685 Des­mond Browne was sum­moned for keep­ing an un­li­censed ale­house and in 1690 Richard Dell like­wise. The malt­sters were also given to mal­prac­tice, Henry Fel­lows in 1711 was ac­cused of mix­ing wet­ted corn, con­trary to statute.

The roads had to be main­tained and this was achieved by the Church­war­dens pe­ri­od­i­cally lev­el­ling a rate of 6d and by 1689 it was agreed that each fam­ily in the town should pick twelve loads of stones to be used for road re­pair. Sur­vey­ors were re­cruited to en­sure that the work was done. One such was Ed­mund Burke. Those who did not com­ply ap­peared be­fore the Buck­ing­hamshire Ses­sions and were fined.

Roads, inns and tav­erns at­tracted the old­est pro­fes­sion and in 1701, Ann Smith was sum­moned for keep­ing a disor­derly house and for har­bour­ing har­lots.

The in­tro­duc­tion of steel springs in­creased the speed of the coaches, so that Ox­ford could be reached com­fort­ably from London in less than a day and so the num­ber of coaches us­ing the road to Ox­ford and not stop­ping caused the de­cline of trade at the inns.

The joy of travel was not un­al­loyed. On De­cem­ber 12, 1692, John Bartlett’s wagon was robbed of £300 be­tween London and Ox­ford. John was in­jured whilst re­sist­ing the high­way­man called Sav­age. The most no­to­ri­ous was Jack Shrimp­ton, he robbed almost ev­ery coach run­ning be­tween London and Ox­ford usu­ally at Ger­rards Cross Common. He was caught and hung on Septem­ber 4, 1713.

On Jan­uary 21, 1816 the Shrews­bury Mail Coach over­turned at the Mother Red Cap pub­lic house at Loud­wa­ter. All the pas­sen­gers were se­verely in­jured and two of them took weeks to con­va­lesce, at­tract­ing many sym­pa­thetic vis­i­tors it is recorded.

The new book The His­tory of Bea­cons­field is avail­able to pur­chase and will give far more de­tails of the peo­ple and ac­tiv­i­ties that have been out­lined in this ar­ti­cle.

His­tory is im­por­tant. It is not dead and dis­tant. It al­lows one to look back with pride and gives us a deeper un­der­stand­ing of our so­ci­ety and to use the wis­dom in­her­ent in our his­tor­i­cal her­itage to face the fu­ture with con­fi­dence.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Bea­cons­field His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, please con­tact the mem­ber­ship sec­re­tary, Mrs Irene Stan­bury, 01494 673 778.

A 20th cen­tury re­con­struc­tion of a Bea­cons­field coach and be­low, a copy of Cary’s 1787 map of Bea­cons­field and the sur­round­ing area

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.