Af­ter their last wills and tes­ta­ments

His­to­rian DON­ALD STAN­LEY uncovers the files on two fam­i­lies whose mem­bers prac­tised law in Beaconsfield for gen­er­a­tions

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NOSTALGIA -

THE clo­sure of one of the New Town’s le­gal prac­tices brings to an end two and a half cen­turies of the pro­fes­sional ser­vices in Beaconsfield of one fam­ily and their suc­ces­sors.

In about 1760 John Chars­ley, a lawyer, ar­rived in Beaconsfield from Amer­sham.

Two of his sons, John and Robert prac­tised law in the town whilst their brother, Nathaniel, be­came a baker.

The younger John pur­chased The Elms, a sub­stan­tial prop­erty in the High Street, now London End, which served as both the firm’s of­fices and home to his 11 chil­dren, two of whom joined the Beaconsfield prac­tice, as did the son of one of them.

A daugh­ter mar­ried his busi­ness part­ner.

Other mem­bers of the fam­ily opened of­fices in Slough and Eton.

Chars­leys served as stew­ards of lo­cal es­tates, and clerks to such bod­ies as the mag­is­trates, the coun­cil and Turn­pike Trust. How­ever, by 1913 the Beaconsfield prac­tice ap­pears to have started to lose ground as it moved out of The Elms and within two years none of the fam­ily lived in Beaconsfield.

The firm had been re­named Chars­leys & Gib­son in 1907 af­ter be­ing joined by James Bai­ley Gib­son who was known gen­er­ally by his last two names.

His wife was a woman in ad­vance of her time hav­ing scored a cen­tury at Trent Bridge for Nottinghamshire Ladies against an all male team, and taught ten­nis to the As­tor fam­ily at Clive­den us­ing as ball boy her son, later a univer­sity Ten­nis Blue be­fore tak­ing over his fa­ther’s prac­tice.

They lived in part of the large bay-win­dowed house op­po­site The Elm which had pre­vi­ously been the Crown Inn.

Bai­ley Gib­son be­gan to prac­tise on his own op­po­site and the Chars­ley firm with­ered away, The Elms ceas­ing to serve as ei­ther the fam­ily home or of­fices.

Ed­mund Al­ston pro­vided a link be­tween the Chars­leys and Gib­son. He joined the Chars­leys in 1873 aged 14. From hold­ing the heads of clients’ horses and liv­ing over their of­fice he ad­vanced to be­com­ing clerk to both prac­tices, sec­re­tary of the town’s gas­works and a man­ager of its schools be­ing awarded the MBE in his nineties.

Af­ter suc­ceed­ing to his fa­ther’s prac­tice, Gib­son’s son, also named James Bai­ley, moved its of­fices in about 1970 to the New Town where suc­ces­sive own­ers re­tained its name un­til the end of 2012 when it took that of B Le­gal who ceased at the end of last year.

Crown­ing glory: Burke Lodge and Burke House in London End, Beaconsfield, was home to the Gib­son fam­ily who prac­tised law in the town, be­fore that the build­ings made up The Crown Inn

Home to Chars­leys so­lic­i­tors: The Elms in Beaconsfield

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