Parliamentarian, orator and author, one of the most illustrious men of the 18th century. Lived in Beaconsfield for 29 years.
Link with the Chilterns
Lived in Beaconsfield for 29 years
12th January 1729
9th July 1797
Edmund Burke was born in Ireland and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He came to London in the early part of 1750 to study law, and whilst the whole of his life witnesses to his respect for and knowledge of the subject, he was never called to the bar. He occupied his mind with literature, publishing two books in these early years which had little to do with the legal profession. In 1756 he married Jane Nugent of Bath, the daughter of a doctor whom he consulted on his visits to Bristol and Wiltshire. There were two children, Richard born in 1758 and Christopher who died in childhood.
In 1765 Burke was elected to Parliament for the Borough of Wendover. In 1774 he became MP for Bristol. However, his support for free trade with Ireland angered many of his constituents in Bristol, a great trading city, and he subsequently lost his seat. He became MP for Malton and remained so until his retirement in 1794.
In 1768 Burke decided to acquire a country seat and bought a house called Gregories in Beaconsfield. He lived there until his death. The house burnt down in 1813 and the site is now an attractive meadow.
Burke was famous in 18th century politics for his opposition to the French Revolution, which he saw as ‘the greatest threat to ordered liberty and human happiness.’ He also opposed attempts to tax the American colonists and advocated conciliation with them.
At Gregories Burke found peace and rural interests. He farmed the land himself, employing even his coach-horses in cultivation. He produced meat, fruit and vegetables from his own fields and gardens, thus enabling him to raise his standard of living to that of his wealthy neighbours. He applied scientific principles to the cultivation of the land, and personally supervised the drainage of fields and deep ploughing. He was also one of the earliest exponents of the scientific breeding of beef cattle and pigs.
Burke was a local philanthropist, supporting the poor of Beaconsfield. He also founded a school in Penn for destitute French children whose families had suffered in the Revolution. It was established in General Haviland’s old home facing the pond.
Burke died in 1797 and was buried at St Mary’s Church, Beaconsfield.
Page on Burke in BBC’s Historic Figures website.
What you can visit
There is a wall plaque to Burke in St Mary’s Church, Beaconsfield.