Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Chiltern Hills

CHILTERN HILLS, a range of chalk hills in England, extending through part of Oxford, Buckingham, and Bedford, and attaining their highest elevation of 904 feet in the neighbourhood of Wendover. At one time the Chilterns were thickly covered with a forest of beech, and the western district of Bernwood was only cleared by James I. The depredations of the bandits, who found shelter within their recesses, became at an early period so alarming that a special officer, known as the Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds, was appointed for the protection of the inhabitants of the neighbouring districts. The necessity for such an appointment has disappeared long ago, but the three hundreds of Stoke, Burnham, and Desborough in Buckingham are still distinguished by the old name, and a steward is still nominated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with a salary of 20s. and the fees of the office. The sole importance of the sinecure consists in the fact that its acceptance enables a member of the House of Commons to resign his seat, on the plea that he holds a place of honour and profit under the Crown. This appropriation of the post only dates from the middle of the 18th century, and its intrinsic legality has been called in question; but the custom is now completely legitimated by a long line of precedents. An application for the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds was once refused, in 1842.