At Brill on the hill
The wind blows shrill,
The cook no meat can dress…

(Nursery rhyme)

A town well graced with many fair houses and good buildings, and the best yeomen of any one town in the shire, delicately situated upon a fertile, fruitful hill in the midstof the Forest, and blessed with all kinds of commodities, as corn, hay, grass, herbs and roots, wells and springs… And the earth within serving for the best brick and all earthen vessels…

(Description of Brill, written in 1622, being part of a letter written to King James I.)

Welcome to Brill's history pages

The first thing that most people notice about Brill is our situation; perched on top of a steep-sided hill, surrounded by the Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire plain. Our name means 'hill' - twice over. Brill is a modern abbreviation of Bre-hyll. Both syllables of Bre-hyll mean ‘hill’ – the first is Celtic, and the second Anglo-Saxon.

It is fascinating to think about how being on top of a hill has shaped our history.

Brill on the Hill…
It is also rather salutary to consider how Brill would be today if Queen Victoria chosen to visit Dorton Spa rather than Leamington Spa - and if the Duke of Buckingham fulfilled his dream of building a train tunnel through Muswell Hill.

But Brill has not always been an easy place in which to live. In the past, our relative isolation exacerbated the burden of poverty and unemployment. Today's cyclists enjoy the challenge of getting up Brill Hill, but how many stop to think how that same ride must have felt to a villager early this century at the end of a fruitless 20 mile trip to find work? And how many children rolling down the grassy banks of our Common realise that their playground is the result of centuries of back-breaking digging for clay for the making of Brill bricks?

I hope you enjoy your ride along Brill's Timeline. If you are local to Brill, it may make you look at our village with new eyes. If you live away, it may prompt you to find out more about your own area.

This account of Brill's history is based, with permission, on Brill, A Short History by FW Bateson, published by the Brill Society in 1985 (available from local shops, price 95p). I have also made use of other resources, and these are acknowledged at the end of the relevant sections. I am not a professional historian. I have simply used, in good faith, the secondary sources readily available to me.

Your constructive comments and corrections are very welcome! Email

Want to know more about Brill - past and present? Check out the Brillenium Book - or find out about the Brill Society's programme of talks and visits.

Interested in tracing Brill ancestors Visit The Buckinghamshire Genealogical Society's web site for information about local resources.

Visit the TIMELINE page for chronological navigation of this History section. Photos or illustrations needed!

back | home | messageboard | top