Lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion – and a busy sta­tion

Bea­cons­field once served Lon­don as a popular retreat. Don­ald Stan­ley re­veals more

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Near­lier times Bea­cons­field’s healthy cli­mate pro­vided a retreat from the cap­i­tal or a stop­ping off place on the way to the Mid­lands or the West Coun­try notwith­stand­ing that own­ers of the es­tates of­ten had com­mer­cial, legal and po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests else­where. Later it at­tracted schools and a con­va­les­cent home. For lawyers there were the stew­ard­ships of the manors and es­tates in the area and Lon­don’s courts were within con­ve­nient reach.

Some in­vested in lo­cal farms and inns con­sol­i­dat­ing arable land into fewer farms and let­ting the bet­ter farm­houses to up­per mid­dle-class fam­i­lies.

One 17th cen­tury at­tor­ney, Richard Gos­nold, owned sev­eral lo­cal farms in­clud­ing Overs and Wattleton, as well as the Swan Inn. The Chars­ley fam­ily, which pro­vided Bea­cons­field with lawyers for about 150 years, ac­quired res­i­den­tial or re­tail prop­er­ties rather than farms or inns. Robert, the first of their line, owned sev­eral shops con­verted from what had pre­vi­ously been the Swan Inn. He also built Wy­combe End House which he leased to a suc­ces­sion of pri­vate res­i­dents; in the 1800s it be­came a pri­vate school.

Although some of the town’s apothe­caries and sur­geons were de­scribed as ‘op­u­lent’ and lived in sub­stan­tial res­i­dences, none are listed as own­ers of farms or inns.

The com­ing of the Great West­ern and Great Cen­tral Joint Rail­way pro­vided a pas­sen­ger ser­vice by which Lon­don could be reached in forty min­utes thus mak­ing it pos­si­ble for those of more mod­est means to work in the cap­i­tal and live in the Chilterns. In an­tic­i­pa­tion, spec­u­la­tors be­gan build­ing on the farm­land of the great es­tates to the North of what be­came known as the Old Town. In­deed, two of the first res­i­den­tial roads, Reynolds Road and Led­bor­ough Lane, were de­vel­oped in about 1903. Nonethe­less, when Bea­cons­field sta­tion opened in 1906 the newly built Rail­way Ho­tel, later re­named the Earl of Bea­cons­field, pro­vided sta­bling and a car­riage house which were made avail­able to vis­i­tors to pri­vate houses in the area.

The early shops in­cluded tem­po­rary huts on the rail­way em­bank­ment ad­join­ing Sta­tion Road, the last one be­ing re­moved in the early 1960s.

The lo­cal firm of Burgess, Holden & Wat­son, de­signed the first pa­rade of shops and oc­cu­pied an of­fice over Lloyds Bank on the gable end of which one of the part­ners carved an an­i­mal which can still be seen. Sir Hugh Cas­son de­signed Waitrose which stands on the site of the Earl of Bea­cons­field.

The Earl of Bea­cons­field pre­vi­ously the Rail­way Ho­tel

Sta­tion taxi – one of the coaches still in ser­vice as late as the 1920s

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