Buckingham (St. Peter and St. Paul)

BUCKINGHAM (St. Peter and St. Paul), a parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred and county of Buckingham, 17 miles (N. W.) from Aylesbury, and 57 (N. W. by W.) from London; comprising the borough and market-town of Buckingham (which has a separate jurisdiction), the chapelry of Gawcott, the hamlets of Bourton, Bourtonhold, and Lenborough, and the precinct of Prebend-End; and containing 4054 inhabitants, of whom 1816 are in the township, or principal district, of Buckingham. This place is of great antiquity, and is supposed to have derived its name from the Saxon Bucca, a "stag" or "buck," ing, a "meadow," and ham, a "village;" being surrounded with extensive forests well stocked with deer. In 915, Edward the Elder fortified both sides of the river, where the town is situated, with high ramparts of earth, to protect the inhabitants from the incursions of the Danes; the remains are still visible. In 941, the Danes perpetrated dreadful outrages in the neighbourhood, and in 1010 took possession of the town as a place of safety. In the reign of Edward III., Buckingham sent three representatives to a council of trade held at Westminster, at which time it was a considerable staple for wool; but upon the removal of that mart to Calais, its prosperity declined, and it finally became one of those decayed towns for which relief was granted by parliament, in 1535. About this period the assizes, formerly held here, were removed to Aylesbury; but in 1758, Lord Cobham obtained an act for holding the summer assizes at Buckingham. In 1644, Charles I. fixed his head-quarters at the place; and Sir William Waller, after the battle of Cropredy-Bridge, and Fairfax, after his defeat at Boarstall House, in this county, took up their stations here. In 1724, the inhabitants suffered severely from an accidental fire, which destroyed several entire streets, and many of the houses have not yet been rebuilt. Her Majesty and Prince Albert visited the town in January, 1845.

Buckingham is pleasantly situated on a peninsula formed by the river Ouse, which nearly encompasses the town and is crossed by three stone bridges, two of them of great antiquity: that on the London road is a neat structure of three arches, erected about the year 1805, by the Marquess of Buckingham. It is divided into three districts, viz., the Borough, Bourton-Hold, and the Prebend-End, the first of which contains the principal streets: the houses in general are built of brick; the streets are paved but not flagged, and are lighted with gas. The trade chiefly consists in the sorting of wool, the tanning of leather, and the manufacture of lace; and before the introduction of that manufacture into Nottingham, where machinery is used, lace-making afforded employment to a large portion of the female inhabitants. In the vicinity are several limestone-quarries, and a quarry of marble of a darkish brown colour and exceedingly hard, but which, as it can neither endure the weather nor retain a polish, is not now worked. The river affords facility of conveyance; and there is a canal, which joins the Grand Junction at Cosgrove: an act was passed in 1846 for the formation of a railway from Brackley, by Buckingham, to the Oxford and Bletchley line. The market is on Saturday, and there is also a very good market, exclusively for calves, every Monday. Fairs, chiefly for the sale of cattle, sheep, and horses, are held on Old New-Year's day, the last Monday in January, March 7th, the second Monday in April, May 6th, Whit-Thursday, July 10th (a wool-fair), September 4th, October 2nd, the Saturday after Old Michaelmas-day (which is also a statute-fair for the hiring of servants), November 8th, and December 13th.

The town was first incorporated by Queen Mary, in 1554, and another charter was granted by Charles II.; but it having been surrendered, the charter of Mary continued to be the governing one, until the passing of the Municipal act, by which the government is vested in a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, assisted by a recorder, town-clerk, and other officers. The jurisdiction extends over the town and parish, and the total number of magistrates is nine. The borough has constantly returned two representatives to parliament since the 36th of Henry VIII.: the right of election, prior to the act of the 2nd of William IV., cap. 45, was vested exclusively in the bailiff and twelve principal burgesses, but, by that act, was extended to the £10 householders of an enlarged district of 18,265 acres. The mayor is returning officer. A court of quartersessions was granted in 1836. There was also, until lately, a court wherein any action might be brought, provided the amount sought to be recovered did not exceed £20; but this court has been superseded by the county debt-court of Buckingham, established in 1847, which has jurisdiction over the registration-districts of Buckingham and Winslow. The town-hall is a spacious and convenient brick building, nearly in the centre of the town. The old borough gaol, a square stone edifice, was built by Lord Cobham, in 1758; it has been lately enlarged, and, by internal improvement, adapted to the system of classification.

The parish comprises by computation 4680 acres: the soil is a good loam, alternated with gravel; the surface is rather hilly, and the surrounding scenery pleasingly varied. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £22; patron, the Duke of Buckingham; impropriators, the landowners: the present net income, £200, is about to be considerably increased by means of the Tithe Commutation act, under which certain ancient payments in lieu of tithes have been found invalid. The old church, having been for many years in a very dilapidated condition, fell down on March 26th, 1776, and the present edifice was erected in 1781, at a cost, it is said, of £7000, in addition to the old materials. It does not occupy the site of the former church, but that of an ancient castle, supposed to have been built by one of the earls of Buckingham subsequently to the Conquest, and the foundations of which are occasionally discovered. The structure has a square embattled tower surmounted by a well-proportioned spire. The interior is handsomely fitted up in the Grecian style: the altar is ornamented with a good copy of Raphael's Transfiguration, over which is a beautifully painted window, presented by the late Duke of Buckingham, on his elevation to the dukedom, and said to have cost £1300; and at the west end is the finest-toned organ in the county. At Gawcott is a separate incumbency. There are places of worship for Independents, the Society of Friends, and Wesleyans. The free grammar school was instituted by Edward VI., who endowed it with the revenue of a dissolved chantry in the town; the master is appointed by the corporation. The schoolroom was the chapel of a chantry founded in 1268, by Matthew Stratton, Archdeacon of Buckingham, and dedicated to St. John the Baptist and Thomas à Becket: the original entrance, a Norman arched doorway, is still remaining; and there are in the chapel some remains of seats put up in the old church in the reign of Edward VI., very curiously carved. The union comprises 29 parishes or places, of which 28 are in the county of Buckingham, and one in the county of Oxford; and contains a population of 14,239. Buckingham gives the titles of Duke and Marquess to the family of Temple, whose magnificent seat is at Stowe, about two miles to the west.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.