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Buckingham

The meaning of the name Buckingham is 'the place of Bucca's people hemmed in by water'. Buckingham played an important military role in 914 and was heavily fortified by Bucca, and is outlined in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle which was created or altered during this period. It was vital at that time for all other Southern towns to fortify themselves against the Danes and it was likely that Buckingham was created with the fortification.

By the time of the Norman Conquest, Buckingham had become a royal borough. The Doomsday Book suggests that the town's population exceeded 500 during this time. King William II gave Buckingham to Walter Giffard who became the Earl of Buckingham. He also became the largest landowner in the county. The first Duke of Buckingham was Humphrey Stafford who received the title when the manor of Buckingham was passed to him in the 16th century.

After the death of Edward VI Buckingham was one of the first towns to proclaim Mary Tudor as Queen in 1554. This helped to reinforce the town as royalty status. The town was passed through many hands. Robert Brocas bought it in 1552 and sold the Castle Farm and Mill and in 1573 the manorial rights were leased to the Corporation of Buckingham. At this time Brocas also sold the rights of collection to the Tuesday market and the two yearly fairs to Thomas and Richard Neale. In 1604 these men then sold it to Sir Thomas Temple.

The current Manor House in Buckingham used to be called The Prebendal House and was an extremely grand manor for its time, but it was ruined during the Civil War and demolished by 1654. The Civil War was a time of mixed emotions for the people living in Buckingham. Sir Edmund Verney and Sir Alexander Denton were both royalists, yet there were also Parliamentarians such as Sir Richard Temple and Sir Richard Ingoldsby. Buckingham was vulnerable to attacks from both London which was held by Parliament, and Oxford where the King's Court was established. It is said that at this time in 1643 Oliver Cromwell stayed in Buckingham, and King Charles stayed briefly at Castle House.

The infamous Buckingham fire of 1724 seems inevitable now. Most of the houses were made from timber with plaster, and sometimes brick panels. Most of them were also thatched and uninsured. The wealthier residents or tradesmen were able to insure their houses against fire with firms such as the Sun Fire Office though. The fire began in the Unicorn Inn in the market square and spread down both sides of Castle Street as well as part of Well Street. More than 500 people became homeless when well over 100 houses were destroyed. Houses built of brick were created in Cow Fair for these people.

When Buckingham lost its status of County Town to Aylesbury, it battled very hard to win it back. Lord Cobham built a beautiful gaol on market hill for the popular summer assizes, to try to make it a centre for the county, and these were held here until 1849. In competition though, Aylesbury had erected a new County Hall of enhanced quality for the prisoners, and it advertised its own Act of Parliament and managed to win back the summer assizes.

What used to be the Coaching Inns in the 18th century are still around in Buckingham today. The Cobham Arms, the White Hart and the Swan and Castle still have preserved coach entrances today.

Buckingham's economy improved in 1799 with the introduction of the Grand Union Canal. Cheaper coal and Welsh slate for roofing material were imported. In 1850 the railway line from Bletchley to Banbury was extended to reach Buckingham. It encouraged the building of Chandos Road with its distinctive Victorian houses. The line today is disused but is popular for local walkers.

The current Chantry Chapel used to be a school, but is now owned by the National Trust. The building of many schools in Buckingham was encouraged by the 1902 Education Act. Margaret Thatcher encouraged the building of the University of Buckingham which opened in 1976.

Most of the changes to the structure of the town in the 20th century came about because of the need for more housing, which inevitably lead to more traffic and so more roads were needed to be built.

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