Beaconsfield

Beaconsfield
Beaconsfield War Memorial - geograph.org.uk - 1126671.jpg
Memorial Green, the Old Town, Beaconsfield
Beaconsfield is located in Buckinghamshire
Beaconsfield
Beaconsfield
Beaconsfield shown within Buckinghamshire
Area19.66 km2 (7.59 sq mi)
Population12,081 (2011 census)[1]
• Density614/km2 (1,590/sq mi)
OS grid referenceSU9490
Civil parish
  • Beaconsfield
District
Shire county
Region
CountryEngland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townBeaconsfield
Postcode districtHP9
Dialling code01494
PoliceThames Valley
FireBuckinghamshire
AmbulanceSouth Central
EU ParliamentSouth East England
UK Parliament
List of places
UK
England
Buckinghamshire
51°36′03″N 0°38′05″W / 51°36′03″N 0°38′05″W / 51.600873; -0.634682

Beaconsfield (d/ (About this sound listen) BEK-ənz-feeld) is a market town and civil parish within the South Bucks district in Buckinghamshire centred 23.6 miles (38 km) WNW of London[n 1] and 17 miles (27 km) SSE of the county's administrative town, Aylesbury. Four towns are within five miles: Slough, Amersham, Gerrards Cross and High Wycombe.

The town is adjacent to the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has a wide area of Georgian, neo-Georgian and Tudor revival high street architecture, known as the Old Town. It is celebrated for the first model village in the world and, in education, a direction and technical production institute, the National Film and Television School.

History and description

The parish comprises Beaconsfield town and land mainly given over arable land. Some beech forest remains to supply an established beech furniture industry in High Wycombe, the making of modal and various artisan uses.

Beaconsfield is recorded in property returns of 1185 where it is spelt Bekenesfeld, literally beechen field which would less archaically be read as 'clearing in the beeches'.[2] Nearby Burnham Beeches is a forest named after the beech genus.

The parish church at the crossroads of Old Beaconsfield is dedicated to St Mary, it was rebuilt of flint and United Reformed Church in Beaconsfield can trace its roots of non-conformist worship in the town back to 1704.[3] Old Beaconsfield has a number of old coaching inns along a wide street of red brick houses and small shops. It was the first (coach) stopping point on the road between London and Oxford.

An annual fair is traditionally held on 10 May. Its charter, dating from 1269[citation needed],originally allowed for a yearly market for the trading of goods and livestock, but it has now developed into a funfair, erected for one day only on the main roads of the "Old Town". In recent years some residents have opposed the fair as a hindrance to the Old Town, and have called for it to be scrapped[citation needed] even though the fair has been going for over 735 years.

In the Victorian era the town was the home constituency of Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1868 and then again from 1874 until 1880 (in fact his home, Hughenden Manor is in the nearby town of High Wycombe). In 1876 he was made the 1st Earl of Beaconsfield by Queen Victoria with whom he was very popular. It was due to this, that Beaconsfield became a popular road name in industrial cities across the country in the late Victorian era.

It is the burial place of the author G. K. Chesterton, Edmund Burke and the poet Edmund Waller, for whom a tall stone obelisk was erected over the tomb chest in St Mary and All Saints churchyard.[4]

St Mary and All Saints Church, Beaconsfield and the tomb of Edmund Waller

In 1624, Waller's family acquired Wilton Manor and Hall Barn in the town.[2] "The Wallers, who came from Speldhurst, Kent," says the Victoria County history of Buckinghamshire, "were settled at Beaconsfield as early as the 14th century."

Dominic Grieve is the Member of Parliament for Beaconsfield, first elected in 1997, and the former Attorney General. Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom famously contested the seat in a by-election in 1982 and lost to Tim Smith, who with Neil Hamilton took part in the cash-for-questions affair which was the financial part of the Major ministry sleaze uncovered before the United Kingdom general election, 1997.[5]

Beaconsfield is the home of Bekonscot model village, which was the first model village in the world; and Beaconsfield Film Studios becoming the National Film and Television School, where many film directors and technicians have learned their craft. It is the birthplace of Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series of fantasy novels. Several scenes in Brief Encounter, a classic film about a woman in a dull middle class marriage who almost undertakes an affair, were filmed in the town: Station Parade served as Milford High Street and Boots on Burke's Parade was where Alec runs into Laura.[6] The exterior of the Royal Saracens Head Inn can be seen in the James Bond film Thunderball, and the interior shots for the pub in Hot Fuzz were filmed in the Royal Standard pub. The New Town also features in two other postwar colour films, John & Julie and The Fast Lady. Many other parts of the town have been used in films due to the old film studio and nearby Pinewood Studios. More recently it has often been used as a "location" for the TV murder mystery series, Midsomer Murders and the Inspector Morse spinoff Lewis.

The New Town was built 1 mile further to the north, when the railway arrived, at the turn of the 20th century. The railway station is on the Chiltern Main Line out of Marylebone towards High Wycombe it then branches to Aylesbury, and Birmingham Snow Hill. Old Beaconsfield which grew up on the Oxford Road in part to serve the coach traffic, is mirrored by New Beaconsfield which has grown up round the station.

Beaconsfield is also home to the Chiltern Shakespeare Company, which annually holds amateur performances of Shakespeare plays, Beaconsfield Theatre Group (over 60 years old), Beaconsfield Musical & Operatic Society (over 100 years old) and to The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield), a theatre company "run by young people for young people" and winners of the All British Festival of One Act Plays in 2004.

Dr Liam Fox was a GP here before being elected to Parliament.

Local pop band The Hit Parade released their single "On The Road To Beaconsfield", a celebration of Enid Blyton and her life in the town, in 1994.[7]

Beaconsfield was named 'Britain's richest town' (based on an average house price of £684,474) by The Daily Telegraph in 2008.[8] In 2011 the post town had the highest proportion in the UK of £1 million-plus homes for sale (at 47%, compared to 3.5% nationally).[9] In 2011, Burkes Road was named as the second most expensive road in the country outside London.[10]