The manufacture of bone lace was established in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire during the 16th century. Some have ascribed its introduction to Catherine of Aragon, who is said to have taught the craft to the women of Ampthill, where she was resident in 1531. Others have suggested that Protestant refugees from France and Holland brought the skill to this country later in the century. The first evidence of its importance to the local economy comes in 1624 when William Borlase left instructions for his executors to employ a woman to teach bone lace to the poor children of Great Marlow. The term ‘bone lace’ was used either because the bobbins used to keep each thread under tension were made of bone, or because the threads were wound around bone needles pushed through holes in a leather pattern. The local drapers who supplied the linen thread and patterns to their cottage workers became known as lace buyers. Early evidence of local lacebuyers is provided by the tokens issued by Thomas Taylor, a lace buyer and burgess of High Wycombe in 1657, and that of William Statham of Amersham, lace buyer, dated 1653.

The lace buyers attended the Monday lace market at the Bull and Mouth in St Martin's by Aldersgate, or the Tuesday market at the George Inn, Aldersgate Street. Ann Moreton of Amersham, ‘dealer in lace’, evidently kept part of her stock in a London inn, for in 1777, she insured her ‘stock and goods in trust or on commission in her chamber in the George Inn on Snow Hill, for £200. The Universal British Directory, published in 1792, in listing the chief manufactures of Amersham, includes “lace, which is considerably large, chiefly black lace.” The directory lists only one lace merchant, William Morton. In 1823, the compiler of Pigot’s Directory observed that “the women and children are principally employed in the manufacture of lace and straw plait”, but listed only one lace merchant, James Brickwell. His widow, Isabella, is the last lace dealer to appear in a local directory in 1830, but the lace dealer George Withall remained in business in Beaconsfield until the late 19th century. By then the trade was in serious decline, with prices having been driven down by mechanisation of the process, centred on the town of Nottingham. Nevertheless, there were still 71 lace-makers working in Coleshill in 1851.

By 1881, there were still 46 lace makers in Coleshill, but they had been joined by 43 bead workers. These former lace makers were employed in sewing glass beads on to the lace, the end product being sold to high-class dressmakers, mostly in London. This trade was common in neighbouring Beaconsfield and Penn where there were agents acting for the London dressmakers. Ann Oakley, who in 1891 lived in one of the houses backing on to Beaconsfield churchyard, and Elizabeth Myers, who lived in part of the former Kings Head Inn, were agents for these dressmakers.