Mr Edward North Buxton, Verderer of Epping Forest, was the Foundation's first Vice Chairman and Honorary Treasurer (and benefactor). He resigned as Vice Chairman in 1923 a year before his death.
He was also instrumental in raising the capital funds required for the London Playing Fields Foundation's purchase of Fairlop Oak Playing Field (pictured above) and oversaw the detail of its layout where provision was made for cricket, football, tennis and hockey. This ground is still owned by us and receives 31,000 visits a year.
Edward was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. He married Emily Digby in 1862 and had 3 children, Gerald, Anthony and Tersa. The family home was Knighton, Buchkurst Hill. In professional life, he was a partner in the London brewing firm of Truman, Hanbury & Co. He stood unsuccessfully as a candidate for Parliament in South Essex in 1880 but was successful in 1885, for Walthamstow, as a Liberal, and served for a year. He was also a Justice of the Peace and a Deputy Lieutenant for Essex.
A passion for the protection of Forest lands in Essex
The protection of the Forest lands in Essex was a long standing passion. He had been involved since 1866 with the work of the Commons and Footpaths Preservation Society, keen to assist in resisting the many illegal encroachments then being made.
With his elder brother Thomas Foxwell Buxton, 3rd baronet, he played a key role in fighting the cause of the commoners in Epping Forest, assisted by the City of London Corporation, which led to the passing of the Epping Forest Act in 1878. He was a verderer of Epping Forest from 1880 until his death 44 years later in 1924 and made a significant contribution to preserving and enhancing the Forest as an open, public space, for the benefit of all. He produced a small guide to the Forest in 1884.
Under his guidance, 780 acres of the Forest of Hainault were acquired. This land had been mostly stripped of all its timber after it was disafforested by an Inclosure Act of 1851. In co-operation with the London County Council, a considerable portion of this land was replanted and returned to woodland.
The last of his many generous gifts of open spaces was that of Hatfield Forest, from his deathbed in 1924. Edward had become aware that Hatfield Forest may become available, in 1923. He considered leading a campaign to purchase the Forest by public subscription but regretfully decided not to proceed, on account of his failing health. When he learned later in the year that the Hallingbury Place estate, including Hatfield Forest, was to be sold by auction, he tried to intervene, to purchase. He sent a telegram but it was not received by the appropriate person, and the estate was sold in early December to a timber merchant.
Edward was very upset by this failure. When his son Gerald heard of this, and aware of how much his father had been prepared to contribute to the public subscription, he set about contacting the timber merchant, to see if something could be done. He was able to report on Christmas Eve 1923 that there was on offer 215 acres of the Forest, in the central part and including the lake. This made Edward a very happy man and he spent his remaining days looking at the map he kept in his bedroom, and making plans. The offer was accepted on 1 Jan 1904, Edward North Buxton wrote a cheque, and the deal was completed on 8 Jan 1924. He instructed his children not to stop there. He died on 9 Jan 1924. Edward North Buxton sat on the Council of the National Trust and had intended that the Forest, once purchased, should be donated to the Trust.
The initial gift of 215 acres was then extended, after Edward North Buxton’s death, by two further portions of land. Gerald Buxton, his brother Anthony, and other members of the family felt that they should complete their father’s project, and acquire more of the Forest, to add to the original area. Negotiations with the timber merchant were successful, and the southern end, including Gravelpit Coppice, was added. Elgins Coppice was bought and donated by Major Archer Houblon, making a total area of 350 acres. By October 1924, the Trust had become owner of the whole of the post-enclosure Forest. The only conditions attached to the gift were that the Forest should continue to be accessible to the local hunt and could be used by the Scouts and Guides of Essex.