After their last wills and testaments
Historian DONALD STANLEY uncovers the files on two families whose members practised law in Beaconsfield for generations
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