Brill is a small village at the top of the 600-foot (180 m) high
Brill Hill in the
Aylesbury Vale in northern
Buckinghamshire, 12 miles (19 km) northeast of
Oxford, and 45 miles (72 km) north-west of
London. It was the only population centre in
Bernwood Forest, a forest owned by English monarchs as a hunting ground. Traditionally believed to have been the home of
Brill Palace was a seat of the
Mercian kings, the home of
Edward the Confessor, and an occasional residence of the monarchs of England until at least the reign of
Henry III (1216–1272). Although a centre for manufacture of pottery and bricks, Brill was a long way from major roads or rivers, and separated by hills from Oxford. It remained small and isolated. In the 1861 census it had a population of 1,300.
Wotton House and the Dukes of Buckingham
Richard, Marquess of Chandos, later the 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos
Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, the only son of
Richard Plantagenet Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, was born on 10 September 1823. By the mid-19th century the family was in financial difficulty.
[note 2] The family's estates and their London home at
Buckingham House (No. 91
Pall Mall) were sold and the family seat of
Stowe House seized by bailiffs as security and its contents sold.
 Over 40,000 acres (16,200 ha) of the family's 55,000-acre (22,300 ha) estates were sold to meet debts.
The only property in the control of the Grenville family was the small ancestral home of
Wotton House and its associated lands around
Wotton Underwood near Brill. The Grenvilles looked for ways to maximise profits from their remaining farmland around Wotton, and to seek opportunities in heavy industry and engineering. Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville (titled
Marquess of Chandos following the death of his grandfather
Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos in 1839) was appointed chairman of the
London and North Western Railway (LNWR) on 27 May 1857. After the death of his father on 29 July 1861 he became 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos,
 and resigned from chairmanship of the LNWR, returning to Wotton House to manage the family's estates. His efforts to pay debts incurred by his father earned praise from Prime Minister
 and in 1875 he was appointed
Governor of Madras, serving until 1880.
Early railways in the Aylesbury Vale
On 15 June 1839 entrepreneur and former
Member of Parliament for
Sir Harry Verney, 2nd Baronet, opened the
Aylesbury Railway. Built under the direction of
Robert Stephenson, it connected the
London and Birmingham Railway's
Cheddington railway station on the
West Coast Main Line to
Aylesbury High Street railway station in eastern Aylesbury, the first station in the Aylesbury Vale. On 1 October 1863 the
Wycombe Railway opened a branch from
Princes Risborough railway station to
Aylesbury railway station on the western side of Aylesbury, leaving Aylesbury as the terminus of two small and unconnected branch lines.
Meanwhile, north of Aylesbury the
Buckinghamshire Railway was being built by Sir Harry Verney. The scheme consisted of a line running southwest to northeast from Oxford to
Bletchley and a second southeast from
Buckingham to join the Oxford–Bletchley line halfway along its length. The first section opened on 1 May 1850, and the whole on 20 May 1851. The Buckinghamshire Railway intended to extend the line south to the station at Aylesbury but the extension was not built.
On 6 August 1860 the
Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway, with the 3rd Duke (then still Marquess of Chandos) as chairman and Sir Harry Verney as deputy chairman, was incorporated by Act of Parliament to connect the Buckinghamshire Railway (now operated by the LNWR) to Aylesbury. The 2nd Duke ensured the new route ran via
Quainton, near his estates around Wotton, instead of a more direct route via
Pitchcott. Beset by financial difficulties, the line took over eight years to build, eventually opening on 23 September 1868. The new line was connected to the Wycombe Railway's Aylesbury station, and joined the Buckinghamshire Railway where the Oxford–Bletchley line and the line to Buckingham met. A
junction station was built. With no nearby town after which to name the new station, it was named
Verney Junction railway station after Sir Harry. Aylesbury now had railway lines to the east, north and southwest, but no line southeast towards London and the Channel ports.