Buckinghamshire (// or /-/), abbreviated Bucks, is a county in South East England which borders Greater London to the south east, Berkshire to the south, Oxfordshire to the west, Northamptonshire to the north, Bedfordshire to the north east and Hertfordshire to the east.
Buckinghamshire is one of the home counties and towns such as High Wycombe, Amersham, Chesham and the Chalfonts in the east and southeast of the county are parts of the London commuter belt, forming some of the most densely populated parts of the county. Development in this region is restricted by the Metropolitan Green Belt. Other large settlements include the county town of Aylesbury, Marlow in the south near the Thames and Princes Risborough in the west near Oxford. Some areas without direct rail links to London, such as around the old county town of Buckingham and near Olney in the northeast, are much less populous. The largest town is Milton Keynes in the northeast, which with the surrounding area is administered as a unitary authority separately to the rest of Buckinghamshire. The remainder of the county is administered by Buckinghamshire County Council as a non-metropolitan county, and four district councils. In national elections, Buckinghamshire is considered a reliable supporter of the Conservative Party.
A large part of the Chiltern Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, runs through the south of the county and attracts many walkers and cyclists from London. In this area older buildings are often made from local flint and red brick. Many parts of the county are quite affluent and like many areas around London this has led to problems with housing costs: several reports have identified the market town of Beaconsfield as having among the highest property prices outside London. Chequers, a mansion estate owned by the government, is the country retreat of the incumbent Prime Minister. To the north of the county lies rolling countryside in the Vale of Aylesbury and around the Great Ouse. The Thames forms part of the county’s southwestern boundary. Notable service amenities in the county are Pinewood Film Studios, Dorney rowing lake and part of Silverstone race track on the Northamptonshire border. Many national companies have offices in Milton Keynes. Heavy industry and quarrying is limited, with agriculture predominating after service industries.
The name Buckinghamshire is Anglo-Saxon in origin and means The district (scire) of Bucca's home. Bucca's home refers to Buckingham in the north of the county, and is named after an Anglo-Saxon landowner. The county has been so named since about the 12th century; however, the county has existed since it was a subdivision of the kingdom of Mercia (585–919).
The history of the area predates the Anglo-Saxon period and the county has a rich history starting from the Celtic and Roman periods, though the Anglo-Saxons perhaps had the greatest impact on Buckinghamshire: the geography of the rural county is largely as it was in the Anglo-Saxon period. Later, Buckinghamshire became an important political arena, with King Henry VIII intervening in local politics in the 16th century and just a century later the English Civil War was reputedly started by John Hampden in mid-Bucks.
Historically, the biggest change to the county came in the 19th century, when a combination of cholera and famine hit the rural county, forcing many to migrate to larger towns to find work. Not only did this alter the local economic situation, it meant a lot of land was going cheap at a time when the rich were more mobile and leafy Bucks became a popular rural idyll: an image it still has today. Buckinghamshire is a popular home for London commuters, leading to greater local affluence; however, some pockets of relative deprivation remain.
The expansion of London and coming of the railways promoted the growth of towns in the south of the county such as Aylesbury, Amersham and High Wycombe, leaving the town Buckingham itself to the north in a relative backwater. As a result, most county institutions are now based in the south of the county or Milton Keynes, rather than in Buckingham.
The county can be split into two sections geographically. The south leads from the River Thames up the gentle slopes of the Chiltern Hills to the more abrupt slopes on the northern side leading to the Vale of Aylesbury, a large flat expanse of land, which includes the path of the River Great Ouse.
The county includes parts of two of the four longest rivers in England. The River Thames forms the southern boundary with Berkshire, which has crept over the border at Eton and Slough so that the river is no longer the sole boundary between the two counties. The River Great Ouse rises just outside the county in Northamptonshire and flows east through Buckingham, Milton Keynes and Olney.
The main branch of the Grand Union Canal passes through the county as do its arms to Slough, Aylesbury, Wendover (disused) and Buckingham (disused). The canal has been incorporated into the landscaping of Milton Keynes.
The southern part of the county is dominated by the Chiltern Hills. The two highest points in Buckinghamshire are Haddington Hill in Wendover Woods (a stone marks its summit) at 267 metres (876 ft) above sea level, and Coombe Hill near Wendover at 260 metres (850 ft).
Quarrying has taken place for chalk, clay for brickmaking and gravel and sand in the river valleys. Flint, also extracted from quarries, was often used to build older local buildings. Several former quarries, now flooded, have become nature reserves.
|District||Main towns||Population (2011)||Area||Population density (2011)||Population projection 2026|
|Aylesbury Vale||Aylesbury, Buckingham||174,137||902.75 km²||193/km²||213,000|
|Wycombe||High Wycombe, Marlow||171,644||324.57 km²||529/km²||165,000|
|Chiltern||Amersham, Chesham||92,635||196.35 km²||472/km²||89,000|
|South Bucks||Beaconsfield, Burnham||66,867||141.28 km²||474/km²||63,800|
|TOTAL Non-Metropolitan||N/A||505,283||1565 km²||323/km²||530,800|
|Borough of Milton Keynes||Milton Keynes, Newport Pagnell||248,821||308.63 km²||806/km²||323,146|
|TOTAL Ceremonial||N/A||754,104||1874 km²||402/km²||853,946|
As can be seen from the table, the Vale of Aylesbury and the Borough of Milton Keynes have been identified as growth areas, with a projected population surge of almost 40,000 in Aylesbury Vale between 2011 and 2026 and 75,000 in Milton Keynes within the same 15 years. The population of the Borough of Milton Keynes is expected to reach almost 350,000 by 2031.
Buckinghamshire is sub-divided into civil parishes.
Today Buckinghamshire is ethnically diverse, particularly in the larger towns. At the end of the 19th century some Welsh drover families settled in north Bucks and, in the last quarter of the 20th century, a large number of Londoners in Milton Keynes. Between 6 and 7% of the population of Aylesbury are of Asian or Asian British origin. Likewise Chesham has a similar-sized Asian community, and High Wycombe is the most ethnically diverse town in the county, with large Asian and Afro-Caribbean populations. During the Second World War there were many Polish settlements in Bucks, Czechs in Aston Abbotts and Wingrave, and Albanians in Frieth. Remnants of these communities remain in the county.
The ceremonial county of Buckinghamshire consists of the area administered by Milton Keynes Borough Council as well as that administered by Buckinghamshire County Council. The ceremonial county has a Lord Lieutenant and a High Sheriff. Currently the Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire is Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher and the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire is Amanda Nicholson. The office of Custos rotulorum has been combined with that of Lord Lieutenant since 1702.
At present, the county has two top-level administrations: Buckinghamshire County Council, which administers about four-fifths of the county (see map above) and the Borough of Milton Keynes, a unitary authority, which administers the remaining fifth. There are four district councils that are subsidiary to the county council: Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe districts.
The county council was founded in 1889 with its base in new municipal buildings in Walton Street, Aylesbury (which are still there). In Buckinghamshire, local administration is run on a two-tier system where public services are split between the county council and a series of district councils.
In 1997 the northernmost part of Buckinghamshire, then Milton Keynes District, was separated to form a unitary authority, the Borough of Milton Keynes; however for ceremonial and some other purposes Milton Keynes is still considered in law to be part of Buckinghamshire.
Buckinghamshire County Council is a large employer in the county and provides a variety of services, including education (schools, adult education and youth services), social services, highways, libraries, County Archives and Record Office, the County Museum and the Roald Dahl Children's Gallery in Aylesbury, consumer services and some aspects of waste disposal and planning.
The coat of arms of Buckinghamshire County Council features a white swan in chains. This dates back to the Anglo-Saxon period, when swans were bred in Buckinghamshire for the king's pleasure. That the swan is in chains illustrates that the swan is bound to the monarch, an ancient law that still applies to wild swans in the UK today. The arms were first borne at the Battle of Agincourt by the Duke of Buckingham.
Above the swan is a gold band, in the centre of which is Whiteleaf Cross, representing the many ancient landmarks of the county. The shield is surmounted by a beech tree, representing the Chiltern Forest that once covered almost half the county. Either side of the shield are a buck, for Buckingham, and a swan, the county symbol.
Buckinghamshire has a modern service-based economy and is part of the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire NUTS-2 region, which was the seventh richest subregion in the European Union in 2002. As well as the highest GDP per capita outside Inner London, Buckinghamshire has the highest quality of life, the highest life expectancy and the best education results in the country. The southern part of the county is a prosperous section of the London commuter belt. The county has fertile agricultural lands, with many landed estates, especially those of the Rothschild banking family of England in the 19th century (see Rothschild properties in England). The county has several annual agricultural shows, with the Bucks County Show established in 1859. Manufacturing industries include furniture-making (traditionally centred at High Wycombe), pharmaceuticals and agricultural processing.
This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Buckinghamshire at current basic prices published by the Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds sterling (except GVA index).
|Year||Regional Gross Value Added||Agriculture||Industry||Services||GVA index per person|
Buckinghamshire is notable for its open countryside and natural features, including the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Stowe Landscaped Gardens near Buckingham, and the River Thames. The Ridgeway Path, a long-distance footpath, passes through the county. The county also has many historic houses. Some of these are opened to the public by the National Trust, such as Waddesdon Manor, West Wycombe Park and Cliveden. Other historic houses are still in use as private homes, such as the Prime Minister's country retreat Chequers.
Claydon House is a National Trust property, situated near the village of Steeple Claydon. Home to the Verney family and was also home to Florence Nightingale for some time.
Buckinghamshire is the home of various notable people in connection with whom tourist attractions have been established: for example the author Roald Dahl who included many local features and characters in his works.
Sports facilities in Buckinghamshire include half of the international Silverstone Circuit which straddles the Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire border, Adams Park in the south and stadium:mk in the north, and the county is also home to the world-famous Pinewood Studios. Dorney Lake, named "Eton Dorney" for the event, was used as the rowing venue for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Buckinghamshire (including Milton Keynes) is served by four motorways, although two are on its borders:
Five important A roads also enter the county (from north to south):
As part of the London commuter belt, Buckinghamshire is well connected to the national rail network, with both local commuter and inter-city services serving some destinations.
Chiltern Railways is a principal train operating company in Buckinghamshire, providing the majority of local commuter services from the centre and south of the county, with trains running into London Marylebone. First Great Western provides commuter services from Taplow and Iver into Paddington. London Midland provides commuter services from Milton Keynes Central into Euston whilst Southern provides services (via the West London Line) from Milton Keynes to Croydon.
For intercity services, Virgin Trains runs services from Milton Keynes Central to Euston, North West England, the West Midlands, the Scottish Central Belt, and North Wales. Meanwhile, First Great Western operates non-stop inter-city services through the south of the county between Paddington and South West England and/or South Wales.
There are four main lines running through the county:
There are the following additional lines:
From 2017, Iver will have Crossrail services. From 2025, East West Rail is to reinstate the route via Winslow between Oxford and Bletchley, enabling services to Milton Keynes Central. The line between Aylesbury and Claydon Junction may also be reinstated in the same programme, enabling services between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes. Finally, the High Speed 2 line may run non-stop through the county at some future date.
|Milton Keynes||229,941||Borough of Milton Keynes||Unitary Authority since 1997. At the 2011 census, the population of the Milton Keynes Urban Area, which includes Newport Pagnell and Woburn Sands was 236,700|
|High Wycombe||120,256||Wycombe||Includes suburbs of Downley and Hazlemere. The High Wycombe Urban Area population is 133,204|
|Aylesbury||71,977||Aylesbury Vale||County town of Buckinghamshire. Population of Aylesbury Urban Area (including Stoke Mandeville and Bierton) is 74,748|
|Amersham||23,086||Chiltern||Part of Amersham/Chesham urban area with a population of 46,122.|
|Chesham||22,356||Chiltern||Part of Amersham/Chesham urban area with a population of 46,122.|
|Gerrards Cross||20,633||Chiltern/South Bucks||Includes Chalfont St Peter. The area lacks town status but is the 5th largest conurbation in the county.|
|Buckingham||12,890||Aylesbury Vale||Historically the county town of Buckinghamshire|
|Olney||6,477||Borough of Milton Keynes||Governed by Milton Keynes Council, not Buckinghamshire County Council|
Education in Buckinghamshire is governed by two Local Education Authorities. Buckinghamshire County Council is one of the few remaining LEAs still using the tripartite system, albeit with some revisions such as the abolition of secondary technical schools. It has a completely selective education system: pupils transfer either to a grammar school or to a secondary modern school or free school depending on how they perform in the Eleven-Plus exam and on their preferences. Pupils who do not take the test can only be allocated places at secondary modern schools or free school. There are 9 independent schools and 34 maintained (state) secondary schools, not including sixth form colleges, in the county council area. There is also the Buckinghamshire University Technical College which offers secondary education from age 14. The unitary authority of Milton Keynes operates a comprehensive education system: there are 8 maintained (state) secondary schools in the borough council area.
Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes are also home to the University of Buckingham, Buckinghamshire New University, the National Film and Television School, the Open University and the University Campus Milton Keynes.
Buckinghamshire is the birthplace and/or final resting place of several notable individuals. St Osyth was born in Quarrendon and was buried in Aylesbury in the 7th century while at about the same time Saint Rumwold was buried in Buckingham. In the medieval period Roger of Wendover was, as the name suggests, from Wendover and Anne Boleyn also owned property in the same town. It is said that King Henry VIII made Aylesbury the county town in preference to Buckingham because Boleyn's father owned property there and was a regular visitor himself. Other medieval residents included Edward the Confessor, who had a palace at Brill, and John Wycliffe who lived in Ludgershall.
Buckinghamshire later became home to some notable literary characters. Edmund Waller was brought up in Beaconsfield and served as Member of Parliament for both Amersham and Wycombe. Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary lived for some time in Marlow, attracted to the town by their friend Thomas Love Peacock who also lived there. John Milton lived in Chalfont St Giles and his cottage can still be visited there and John Wilkes was MP for Aylesbury. Later authors include Jerome K. Jerome who lived at Marlow, T. S. Eliot who also lived at Marlow, Roald Dahl who lived at Great Missenden, Enid Blyton who lived in Beaconsfield and Edgar Wallace who lived at Bourne End and is buried in Little Marlow. Modern-day writers from Bucks include Terry Pratchett who was born in Beaconsfield, Tim Rice who is from Amersham and Andy Riley who is from Aylesbury.
During the Second World War a number of European politicians and statesmen were exiled in England. Many of these settled in Bucks as it is close to London. President Edvard Beneš of Czechoslovakia lived at Aston Abbotts with his family while some of his officials were stationed at nearby Addington and Wingrave. Meanwhile, Władysław Sikorski, military leader of Poland, lived at Iver and King Zog of Albania lived at Frieth. Much earlier, King Louis XVIII of France lived in exile at Hartwell House from 1809 to 1814.
Also on the local political stage Buckinghamshire has been home to Nancy Astor who lived in Cliveden, Frederick, Prince of Wales who also lived in Cliveden, Baron Carrington who lives in Bledlow, Benjamin Disraeli who lived at Hughenden Manor and was made Earl of Beaconsfield, John Hampden who was from Great Hampden and is revered in Aylesbury to this day and Prime Minister Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery who lived at Mentmore. Also worthy of note are William Penn who believed he was descended from the Penn family of Penn and so is buried nearby and the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who has an official residence at Chequers. John Archdale, the colonial governor of North Carolina and South Carolina, was born in Buckinghamshire.
Other notable natives of Buckinghamshire include:
Celebrities living in Bucks include:
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