Gregories is the name of the 600 acre estate bought for £22,000 by Edmund Burke, the famous politician and orator, when he moved to Beaconsfield in 1768. The name comes from the Gregory family who were active in Beaconsfield from the 13th to the 15th Century. It was later owned by Ralph Butler who gave it its alternative name of Butler’s Court. Subsequently it passed into the ownership of Thomas Waller (1546-1627) prothonotary of the bench, and his descendants. One of these, John Waller (d.1726), asked architect John Milner to design a new house in Palladian style for the estate. This was sited on what is now the corner of Burkes Crescent and Burkes Road and was typical of small country houses of the period being two storeys high and seven bays wide, with two curved colonnades either side of the house leading to domestic quarters on the west and stables in the east. The old house some distance to the north was retained as the Home Farm. Two avenues of trees led northwards towards what is now Beaconsfield New Town and through which the house was approached.
After Burke’s death in 1797 his wife continued to live there until her death in 1812. The house was then sold to James Du Pre of Wilton Park estate, who then leased it to the Rev Smith for the purposes of setting up a school for the sons of local gentry. Unfortunately shortly after the builders moved in April 1813 and started the necessary renovations the house burnt down and was destroyed by fire. It was not rebuilt and the estate fell into decay. The stables of the original house survived the fire and were later converted into one larger house called Burkes Cottage; the existing Burkes Cottage is built on its site.
When Gregories Farm was sold for development in 1907 the farmhouse had been modernised and was owned by A.E.W Charsley, a local solicitor. The remaining parts of the farm were then bought by
James Garvin, editor of the Observer from 1908-1942, Following his death in 1948 the farm was split into four parts, Gregories, the main house; the east wing used by Garvin as his study became Shepherds Corner, the building to the west became The Old Coach House, and the old stables where Garvin had housed the main part of his library, became known as Piebalds. This latter house was redeveloped in the 1990’s.
John Broadbent, a retired architect and noted local historian who died in 1994 produced a short monograph on Gregories and the immediate buildings, which may be viewed in the Society’s archives.
A casual reader of the Beaconsfield Archives could be forgiven for thinking that there is some confusion about the name Gregories. There is a house called Gregories in what is now Gregories Farm Road. It is old and is a listed building but it’s not the Gregories we need to track down (it is in fact the former home of James Garvin, the editor of the Observer between the wars and was itself part of Gregories Farm, during the time when Gregories Estate was blossoming during the latter part of the 18th Century.
No, the house we’re interested in was called Gregories but became Butler’s Court whilst it was owned by Edmund Burke, the famous 18thC politician. (and just in case you’re thinking I know this Butlers Court building, you’d be wrong because the existing Butlers Court is not what we’re referring to!)