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High Wycombe in 1843

HIGH WYCOMBE or, CHIPPING WYCOMBE, a parliamentary and municipal borough in the southern part of Buckinghamshire, 29 miles from London. From the discovery of a Roman tessellated pavement and Roman coins, it is probable that there was a Roman settlement here. Wycombe was a market-town in the time of the Saxons. It was incorporated in the reign of Henry VI (1422-1461). Some authorities state that a charter of incorporation was obtained a century earlier, in the reign of Edward III. The governing charter up to 1835 was granted the 15th year of the reign of Charles II. The ruling body was self-elected. The borough has returned two members to Parliament since the reign of Edward I.

The town principally consists of one wide long street, forming part of the high road from London to Oxford, with smaller streets branching from the main street. The river Wick passes through the town, and falls into the Thames at Great Marlow, about six miles south of Wycombe. A stream called the Rye rises near the town, and, rather more than two miles from it, within the limits of the parish, joins the Wick. There are paper and corn-mills on these two streams. The general appearance of Wycombe is that of a well built market-town. The church is a fine old building of the thirteenth century, with a highly ornamental tower, 108 feet high, of later date. The altar-piece, St. Paul preaching to the Britons, is by Mortimer.

The living is a vicarage valued at £140 per annum. The town-hall, erected in 1757 is supported on thirty-four stone pillars. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, and Methodists. The grammar-school is of ancient foundation, and is partly supported by an endowment made in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

In 1831 the number of inhabitants in the parts of the town beyond the limits of the parliamentary borough was 950. The limits of the municipal borough included the town. By the Reform Act the parliamentary borough was made co-extensive with the parish, which comprises an agricultural district of about 4,000 acres, with a population amounting in 1831 to 973 persons.

The right of voting before this period was in the mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses : the greatest number of burgesses in the preceding thirty years had not exceeded 124 ; and there had not been a contested election during that time. The number of parliamentary electors for the borough was about 400 in 1840. The number of municipal burgesses in 1837 was 235. The governing body of the corporation consists of four aldermen and 12 councillors. The income of the corporation is about £200, and arises from tolls, dues, and rents and fines. The principal item of expenditure is the maintenance of the borough police.

The entire parish and parliamentary borough comprises 6,380 acres, and in 1841 the population was 6,480. The area of the old parliamentary borough was 120 acres, with a population of 3,184 in 1841 ; that of the parish, exclusive of the old borough, was 6,260 acres, and the population in 1841 was 3,296. The hamlets or villages of Wycombe Marshes and Loudwater are in Wycombe parish : the latter is a perpetual curacy, valued at £132 per annum.


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