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THE following pages contain what to many readers may appear prosaic and tedious details of a purely local character. To some others they will offer an interest, as affording a glance into the inner relations which subsist between the humbler members of the rural population, and the owners of the land which they till. In the picture I have endeavoured to present of the hamlet in question, a general sketch of the past and present condition of the peasantry will be found, together with a view of the general bearings of the relation between rich and poor, and the effects of one or other course of conduct on the part of the former class; I trust with no invidious or prejudiced statements, or partial colouring. Entertaining a deep interest in the welfare of the working people, I have studied their modes of feeling with attention; and feel persuaded that the best forms of beneficence consist in encouraging domestic virtues and wholesome instincts among them, and in fortifying their respect for those who of necessity control their collecI have thought it not an idle employment to trace the mutations of ownership, and the personal history of the place, as well as to depict the moral and social aspects of an obscure district of my county.” Let me hope that some of those who may honour my little work with a perusal, will learn from it to
tive social destiny. In connexion with these views, appreciate the utility, if not the duty, of attending to
“The short and simple annals of the poor.”
H. G. Nov. 1858.
* I say advisedly “my county,” for my ancestors belonged to it two centuries since, residing at Middle Claydon and Steeple Claydon, Bucks, up to the beginning of the present century.
THE HAMLET OF EAST BURNHAM.
THE Hamlet of East Burnham is situated about half-way between Beaconsfield on the north and Slough on the south. The land and houses—the far larger portion, at least—were for centuries the property of one family, the last male member of which died at East Burnham as long ago as the year 1810. Up to a recent period few visitors ever wandered into this hamlet, unless it were now and then a sportsman. The old forest, called “Burnham Beeches,” composed chiefly of aged and hollow-trunked trees, forms a part of the Manor of “Allards” (otherwise East Burnham), in which the scattered hamlet is situated, and a wild open heath, called East Burnham Common, adjoins the same. But a small number of persons seem to have known anything of this picturesque tract, although the poet Gray speaks of it in his letters;* the road communicating between Windsor and Beaconsfield—never much travelled—passing at some distance from it; but after the year 1840, when the railroad came into use, the neighbourhood became somewhat more resorted to, and the “Burnham Beeches,” hitherto almost a sylvan solitude, gradually became the favourite resort of summer pleasureparties from the surrounding districts. Tourists and book-makers likewise began to talk of this singular and picturesque spot, so that now there probably are few persons residing within twenty miles of the
* Mr. Gray used often to ramble into this forest from Stoke Poges, and compose poetry therein. Some of the lines in his
Elegy may fairly be taken as descriptive of the scenery of this
“Burnham Beeches” who have not either visited or
heard of them. The ancient tradition of the locality