Historically the status of Burgess was hereditary and the ownership or occupation of a house or a door opening onto the High Street was the original requirement. In 1226 there were 26 Burgesses. Within 20 days of election a Burgess had to deliver a leather bucket for the use of the corporation to be kept in the town hall. The town’s Burgesses acted corporately as the town’s first ‘council’ to make decisions for the common good of the town inhabitants.

Prior to 1974 the borough of High Wycombe had the right, by law, to confer the Honorary Freedom of the Borough on persons deemed to have rendered singular service to the town. This was the highest honour which the town could bestow.

The Local Government Act of 1972, which reorganised Local Government into its present form, created Charter Trustee Towns to preserve the Mayoralty but did not continue the right to grant Honorary Freedoms, although this was bestowed elsewhere. As results of this change several Charter Trustee Towns, including High Wycombe, decided to create their own means of honouring persons of merit, creating Honorary Burgesses. The title of Honorary Burgess is therefore a link with the municipal past and a means of continuing the time honoured desire to honour such persons.

The 2009 Act requires the Charter Trustees to grant Freedom of the Town (rather than Burgess) but no appointments have been made since that date.

The above information is courtesy of The Book of Wycombe by Ivan Sparkes, and Charles E Talbot, Honorary Secretary of the National Association of Charter Trustee Towns and Charter Town Councils.

The following appointments to Honorary Burgess have been made since 1990

Name Date of Resolution
Albert Henry Mcrae 17 May 1990
Mrs Winifred Darby (Deceased) 17 May 1990
Ronald Henry William Gaffney IPEA ACIS 16 May 1991
Frederick G Secker DFC (Deceased) 14 May 1992
Lucian B Ercolani DSO DFC Hon D Des (Deceased) 20 May 1993
Ronald G Thomas (Deceased) 16 May 1996
Mrs Shaukat Amin MBE BA BT (Deceased) 16 May 1996
Basil A Di Mascio (Deceased) 15 May 1997
Mrs Elizabeth M Barratt MBE JP (Deceased) 2 September 1999
Mrs Kathleen M Peatey MBE JP 2 September 1999
Montague Edward Seymour MRPharmS (Deceased) 10 January 2002
David Morris FIBE 16 January 2003
Lawrence B N Dallaglio MBE 12 December 2003
Simon D Shaw MBE 12 December 2003
Stuart R Abbott MBE 12 December 2003
Owen J Lewsey MBE 12 December 2003
Joseph P R Worsley MBE 12 December 2003
Matthew J S Dawson MBE 12 December 2003
Amir Dad Khan Raja MSc 15 January 2004
Jim Tanner 3 November 2004
David Fieldhouse (Deceased) 13 March 2007
Peter Cartwright 13 March 2007
William Pollard 9 May 2009
John Auld Clark (Deceased) 1 September 2009
Frances Alexander 5 November 2013