County of southeast central England.
Area 1,565 sq km/604 sq mi
TownsAylesbury (administrative headquarters), Beaconsfield, Buckingham, High Wycombe, Olney
Physical Chiltern Hills; Vale of Aylesbury
FeaturesChequers (country seat of the prime minister); Burnham Beeches (ancient woods); the church of the poet Thomas Gray's ‘Elegy’ at Stoke Poges; Cliveden, a country house designed by architect Charles Barry (now a hotel; it was once the home of Nancy, Lady Astor); Bletchley Park, home of World War II code-breaking activities, formerly used as a training post for GCHQ (Britain's electronic surveillance centre), now a heritage site and museum; homes of the poets William Cowper at Olney and John Milton at Chalfont St Giles, and of the Tory prime minister Disraeli at Hughenden Valley; grave of William Penn, Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, at Jordans near Chalfont St Giles; Stowe landscape Gardens; Buckinghamshire County Museum, some of the museum buildings date from the 15th century.
Industries engineering; furniture (chiefly beech); paper; printing; railway workshops; motor vehicles
Agriculture about 75% of the land is under cultivation, fertile soil; cereals (barley, wheat, oats); cattle, pigs, poultry, sheep
Population (2001) 479,000
Famous people John Hampden (MP), William Herschel (astronomer), Ben Nicholson (painter), George Gilbert Scott (architect), Edmund Waller (poet)
Topography Buckinghamshire is one of the Home Counties. It is bounded by Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes to the north; Oxfordshire to the west; Wokingham, Windsor, and Maidenhead to the south, where the River Thames forms part of the county boundary; and by Greater London, Hertfordshire, and Bedfordshire to the east. The county is partly a commuter belt for London. Buckinghamshire is divided into eight ‘hundreds’: Ashendon, Aylesbury, Buckingham, Burnham Cottesloe, Desborough, Newport, and Stoke; Burnham, Desborough, and Stoke form the Chiltern Hundreds.
History The refusal of the Buckinghamshire politician John Hampden to pay ship-money in 1636 was instrumental in precipitating the English Civil War; an early skirmish was fought on the outskirts of Aylesbury in 1642.
Economy A decline in manufacturing industries and agriculture has been accompanied by a growth in the service sector. Growth sectors include banking, insurance, software, and administration.
Houses and schools Buckinghamshire contains a number of fine houses, including Claydon House, Waddesdon Manor, and West Wycombe House (home of Francis Dashwood founder of the Hell-Fire Club) with their priceless collections of art treasures. There are lesser houses of interest at Gayhurst (once the home of Everard Digby, one of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators); Nether Winchendon; and Tyringham. Stowe School (1923) occupies the former residence of the duke of Buckinghamshire.
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