BEACONSFIELD, a small market town in the hundred and deanery of Burnham, is distant about 23 miles from London, on the road to Oxford through High Wycombe: the market day is Wednesday, but the market is almost wholly discontinued, the neighbouring towns of Wycombe and Uxbridge having drawn away most of the business: there is a fair on Old Candlemas day, and another on Holy Thursday. Browne Willis calculated the number of inhabitants, about 50 years ago, at 550: their number, in 1801, according to the returns made under the Population Act, was 1149.
The manor of Beaconsfield was anciently an estate of the Windsors, and afterwards became the property of Burnham-Abbey: it now belongs to Edmund Waller esq. of Farmington, in Gloucestershire, in whose family it has been for many years: their ancestor, Edmund Waller, the celebrated poet, was proprietor of this manor and that of Hall-Barns, and resided at Hall-Barns, the ancient family seat, now in the occupation of Mr. Maxwell: among the pictures at this mansion is a portrait of the poet, painted when he was 23 years of age; another, which is supposed to have been intended for him at a more advanced age; and a portrait of a lady, said to be that of Sachariffa, the favourite subject of his muse. Edmund Waller was born, as before mentioned, at Coleshill, in the parish of Amersham, and lies buried in the church-yard at Beaconsfield, where is a monument to his memory, with the following inscription: "Heus Viator, tumulatum vides Edmundum Waller, qui tanti nominis poeta, et idem avitis opibus inter primos spectabilis, musis se dedit & patriæ. Nondum octodecenarius, inter ardua regni tractantes, sedem habuit à burgo de Amersham missus. Hic vitæ cursus, nec oneri defuit senex, vixitque semper populo charus, principibus in deliciis, admiratione omnibus. Hic conditur, tumulo sub eodem, rarâ virtute & multâ prole nobilis uxor Maria ex Brussyorum familiâ, cum Edmundo Waller conjuge charissimo, quem ter & decies lætum fecit patrem 5 filiis & filiabus 8 quos mundo dedit & cælum rediit.
"Edmundi Waller hic jacet id quantum morti cessit; qui inter poetas sui temporis facile princeps, lauream quem meruit adolescens octogenarius haud abdicavit. Huic debet patria lingua, quod credas, si Gracé Latinequé intermitterent musæ loqui, amarent Angelicé. Hoc marmore Edmundo Waller, Mariæque ex secundis nuptiis conjugi, pientissimis parentibus, pientissimé parentavit Edmundus filius. Honores bené merentibus extremos dedit quos ipse fugit E.L.W.I.F.III.G. ex Testamento H.M.P. mense Julii, 1700.
"Edmundus Waller, cui hoc Marmor sacrum est, Colshill nascendi locum habuit, Cantabrigiam studendi, patrem Robertum, ex Hamdená stirpe matrem. Coepit vivere 3 Martii A.D. 1605. Prima Uxor Anna Edwardi Banks filia unica & hæres; ex primá bis pater factus, ex secundá tredecies, cui & duo lustra superstes, Obiit 21 Octob. A.D. 1687."
Gregories, in this parish, which belonged also to the Wallers, has of late years acquired much celebrity, as the seat of Edmund Burke; who, for critical taste and brilliancy of language, will for ever be ranked in the first class of English writers; whose manners were so engaging, whose conversation talents were so facinating, that his company was eagerly fought after by all who could make pretentions to kindred genius; and Gregories was the frequent resort of the most eminent literary and political characters of the age. Mr. Burke died at Gregories, (which is now the seat of his widow) in 1797, and was buried in Beaconsfield church, where a marble tablet has been put up with this short inscription to his memory :- "Near this place lies interred all that was mortal of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, who died on the 9th of July, 1797, aged 68 years." The inscription records also his only son, Richard Burke, who represented the borough of Malton in parliament, and his brother, Richard Burke, recorder of Bristol: they both died in the year 1794.
Wilton Park, in this parish, was for many years a seat of the family of Basill, now of James Dupré esq.
In the parish church are several memorials of the Wallers of Gregories; in a chapel, on the south side of the chancel, is an ancient altar-tomb for one of the Bulstrode family. The advowson of the rectory was purchased by the president and scholars of Magdelen College, in Oxford, about the year 1705.