TOWNS AND VILLAGES - a brief history
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- The village on the eastern side of the 'long ford' has a saxon
name and is on the site of an occupied Roman settlement. Numerous
prehistoric flints and tools have been found there.
- Alderbury's inn the Green Dragon, is generally agreed to be the
Blue Dragon in Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit. Dickens stayed there
while collecting material for the book.
It is the nearest village to the forest of Clarendon.
Located two miles downstream from Alderbury, on the same side
of the river and splendidly situated on a plateau overlooking the
broad valley is Trafalgar House. Built in 1814 in gratitude for
Nelson`s victory and was given to his brother, the first Earl
- Amesbury is a small Wiltshire town. It lies on a meander of the
River Avon, eight miles north of Salisbury, at a point where the
main road from London to Exeter bridges the river. The chalk
downlands of Salisbury Plain surround the town, pocked with the
remains of earlier civilizations.
Until the present century
Amesbury depended largely on agriculture, but now its population of
some 6000 inhabitants looks mostly to the neighbouring defence
establishments or to Salisbury for employment. The nucleus of the
town and its medieval abbey church remain, although the ' great
thoroughfare' which once formed the High street has been channelled
into a modern by-pass. The abbey mansion, the abbey was founded in
979, is now a nursing home, the 18th century houses of the town
centre are interspersed with modern shops, and housing estates have
encroached onto the common fields. Amesbury may not impress the
casual visitor, or even the resident, with a sense of history in the
way that Salisbury (an altogether younger place) does, but there is
plenty in Amesbury's past that deserves to be remembered.
- Avebury (click
here for more information)
- This tiny village is the centre of a wonderful concentration of
prehistoric sites, including;
- Avebury complex, - Massive circular bank and ditch surrounding
settings of stone circles within the village, linked by avenues of
standing stones leading towards West Kennet and the Sanctuary,
- West Kennet Long Barrow - A
stone chambered collective tomb within massive earthern mound 330 ft
- Silbury hill - The huge
earthern mound 130 feet high covering 5.5 acres at its base.
- Everyone's idea of an English Village cluttered around a little
village green with duck pond and stone cross and a splendid old barn
in the background. The church has a good Norman doorway, and Sheldon
manor nearby has a thirteenth century porch attached to a house of
Stuart period construction.
- A hill-top village above a deep combe. It is best known for its
long railway tunnel, the work of Brunel, and for its extensive stone
- It used to have tallow and brewing industries. A villa of the
roman period, with tesselated pavement has been found here, while
another was discovered at Atworth, nearby as recently as 1938.
- Located on a hill on the southern side of the Braydon river and
to the north of Lyneham airfield, it was an important place in
medieval times. - The site of the Augustinian priory of Clack
founded in 1142. Some of its ruins are still to be seen in the
farmstead known as Bradenstoke Abbey, but its great barn and guest
house were taken down and carted away to St Donat's Castle in South
Wales by William Randolph Hearst. The rest of the village is filled
with timber framed buildings with jettied upper stories, tudor style
windows and roofs of thatch.
- Bradford On Avon (click
here for more information)
- Tucked into the western corner of Wiltshire the little town of
Bradford on Avon straddles the river of the southern edge of the
Cotswold Hills only 8 miles from Bath.
- The 'broad ford' across the River Avon was replaced in
medieval times by a sturdy stone bridge, complete with chapel for
the use of the pilgrims. The view from the bridge encompasses the
hill above the town where the old weavers' cottages are situated,
and along the river bank 19th century cloth mills, all built of
- Currently the town centre is going through transition, following
the demolition of the Harris Factory. A new supermarket is under
construction and the intention is that the town centre will be
Historically, Doctor Joseph Priestley
discovered Oxygen while living in Calne from 1772-1779. There is a
memorial to him by the Doctors pond, not far from St Mary's Church.
Walter Goodall George (1858-1943) was born near Calne Town
Hall, and held the World Record for the mile from 1886-1915. A
memorial to this was unveiled by Sydney Wooderson, the next British
runner to achieve the fastest time (in 1935) on the centenary in
Calne also has St Mary's Girls Public school. A
centre for teaching excellence which ranks very highly in the
national schools league tables.
Calne is one of the very
few towns where you can stand in the centre, look up and see hills
around you, towards the White Horse.
- Castle Combe (click
here for more information)
- One of England's most beautiful villages in the wooded Cotswold
valley of 'By Brook'. Streets lined with mellowed limestone
cottages, meet at the village market centre. Other features include
a triple arched bridge, church with 15th century tower, the Dower
House and the White Hart Inn.
- The origins of Castle Combe lie with Castle Hill where there was
a Roman Fort, later after the Danes and the Norman conquest little
remains. The lovely cottages and local history combine to make
Castle Combe a photographer's paradise.
- Alfred the Great is said to have bequeathed Chippenham to his
daughter Elfrida and it is mentioned in the Doomsday book as one of
the manors held by St. Edward.
- Granted its charter in 1554 Chippenham used to be home to a saxon
market place between the forests, Chippenham, Melksham and Braden
and was the favourite hunting grounds of the Wessex Kings.
- It has a mix of historic housing including timber-framed houses
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as well as Georgian
stately homes. The town was the stop off point for coaches
travelling from London to Bath.
- The ancient forest of Clarendon which once stretched to the
eastern outskirts of Salisbury.
- The infant city of Salisbury owed much of its prosperity to the
Palace of Clarendon, a favourite retreat of the Kings of England
from the time of William the Conqueror to the War of the Roses.
- The palace occupied a hill-top site on the eastern scarp of that
hidden valley and commanded a distant view of the cathedral.
- It probably began its career as a hunting lodge in saxon times,
and later as a country home for the Plantagenets.
- An archaeological trench during excavations of 1930 revealed
traces of a building with a different alignment below the Norman
walls. Other finds included the kiln used for making tiles, among
which were some depicting Richard the Lionheart on horseback
fighting Saladin. Other tiles are of dragons, griffins, ramparts and
all show the fleur-de-lys.
- Successive monarchs after William I added to and improved it
until in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries it was one of the
largest and most magnificent residential buildings in England,
second only to the great palace of Westminster. The Palace passed
into obscurity after Henry the Eighth
- It was here that some of the earliest laws relating to the
church and state were drawn up. Henry the Second and Archbishop
Becket met here and agreed on sixteen points regulating the conduct
- Clearbury Camp
- A conspicuous hill (altitude 468 feet) due south of Salisbury
crowned by a towering clump of beeches and encircled by a formidable
- It was generally used as a barometer, if it was shrouded in mists
then rain was imminent.
- Close to the Gloustershire border, and the Fosse Way. A Roman
villa once stood here, and now the village has a superb church tower
crowning a largely twelfth century building. In present times most
of the parish has been taken over by a R.A.F. station.
- Corsham has been home to several armed forces, especially during
the second world war. Prior to that it was a typical West Wiltshire
weaving town, tastefully built of Bath stone. Of which several
quarries were worked in the parish from early times.
- In 1801 it was the eighth most popular town in the county
jealously preserving a number of ancient rights, which included the
right to hold a court leet and have its own coroner. The
parishioners were exempt from jury service and the vicar was
empowered to hold his own consistory court.
- In and around Corsham is a group of several distinguished country
mansions. Hartham Park, Monks Park, Puckeredge House,
seventeenth-centucentuaryry Pickwick Manor, Jaggards and Easton
Manor House (Circa 15th century).
- The finest and most imposing of those in the district is Corsham
- Cricklade (click here for more
- Cricklade is midway between Cirencester and Swindon, just off the
A419 and is the northernmost town in Wiltshire. The site was
occupied by the Romans who diverted Ermin Street along a causeway to
cross the floodplain of the upper river Thames.
- Dauntsey - West Lavington
- Dauntsey named after Alderman William Dauntsey. The village is
made up of several earlier settlements, Swallet Gate, Sodom,
Smithcot, and Idover Desmesne. Present buildings are Victorian but
Henry Danvers (first Earl of Danby) established them initially, his
tomb dominates the family chapel in St James' Church, (adjacent to
- The interior of the church is a museum of the families that owned
Dauntsey estate. Dauntseys, Stradling, Danvers, Mordaunt, Miles and
- The present Dauntsey's School is to the North of the old estate
and its buildings date from 1895.
- Though it almost lies in the centre of Wiltshire, Devizes did not
come into existance until after the Norman Conquest, making it
rather unique among the other Wiltshire market towns.
evident in Devizes was the Castle originally constructed in 1080 by
Bishop Osmund. Rebuilt in stone in 1120 (after a fire) by Bishop
Roger. The castle changed hands twice during the civil war but
originally Empress Matilda (daughter of Henry I ) held the castle
until her death in 1167 where it passed to her son Henry II. The
castle was later dismantled after the battle of Roundway Down. The
present castle was built in the 19th century as a private residence
and is not open to the public.
- Devizes is home to over 500 listed buildings.
In 1810 the Kennet and Avon opened, with its 29 locks that raise
the water 230 feet (70 metres) and trade increased with the
transport of tobacco and Bath stone.
- Kington St Michael
- Kington St Michael is situated approximately 3 miles north of Chippenham.
In the thirteenth century church is a fine heraldic
tombstone in memory of Isaac Lyte, a schoolmaster for 48 years. He
was famed for leaving the fine almesbury houses in the main street
to the old folk of his birthplace.
John Aubrey was Isaac Lyte's grandson and was born at a house
called Easton Pierce in 1626. Aubrey became Wiltshire's first
great naturalist and antiquarian He was the first to investigate
Avebury. Even though Aubrey didn't gain fame at the time his
manuscripts were later published by John Britton (a local scholar
born 150 years after Aubrey) and both Aubrey and Britton are
commemorated by a stained glass window in the church.
- Lacock (click
here for more information)
- Lacock abbey was founded by Lady Ela the Countess of Salisbury in
the reign of King Henry III. Her husband was William Longespee, an
illegitimate son of King Henry II and was one of the Barons who led
the revolt against King John. His participation in the revolt
explains how Lacock came to possess one of the three original copies
of the Magna Carta.
- Another famous resident of Lacock was William Fox Talbot in 1835.
He was one of the pioneers of photography, and discovered how to
make prints from negatives.
- Visitors to Lacock are shown the Oriel window from which he took
his first successful photograph.
- The Village has many architectural designs from the early timber
framework to the georgian pediment. The tithe barn, 14th century
doorways and several old weavers cottages make it a delight to
- Lacock was given to the National Trust in 1944 by Matilda Talbot.
- Longford (Castle)
- It is not a village but a great estate and the home of the Earls
of Radnor, its nucleus is a splendid mansion which looks like a
castle. Longford castle stands on the site of a medieval manor-house
acquired by a country gentleman, Sir Thomas Gorges, in the time of
Elizabeth I. It stands by one of the loveliest reaches of tranquil
river, its eastern walls washed by the water, and long lawns and
formal gardens forming an impressive vista along the bank.
In 1584 Sir Thomas married Helena widow of the marquis of
Northampton and a lady in waiting to the Queen. Prompted by her he
set about updating the manor house the plan is unusual, with that
of a triangular base and a tower at each corner. However in the
middle of the work the money ran out.
- Fortunately one of Sir Thomas's posts was that of governor of
Hurst Castle on the Hampshire coast and during the Spanish armada
one of the Spanish ships was driven aground there.
- Lady Gorges asked the Queen if she could have the wreck, and the
request was granted, What the Queen did not know was that the ship
was one of the Spanish treasure ships laden with silver.
- There was a monastery established here in 640. Today the abbey
dominates the town. The early settlement was on a hill, more of an
island really, formed by the Bristol Avon and one of its
- Note the late fifteenth century market cross at the end of the
High Street, it stands 40 feet (12 metres) high and comprises of a
lantern with figures and arches supporting under a tre-foil headed
- One of the coach stops between the old London to Bath route,
Marlborough has had a varied history since its Roman occupation.
There was a mint there during Norman times and the Kings hunted in
the Savernake forest nearby.
- Marlborough was devastated by fire in 1653, 1679, and 1690. After
these fires thatched roofs were banned in the town by an act of
- Marlborough College (founded 1843) stands on the site of the old
castle. `Maerl's Barrow' is in the grounds and is the legendary
burial place of Merlin.
- Melksham began life as a forest village, it does actually owe its
name to the dairying which soon developed in the rich pastures of
the neighbourhood. Like other towns of West Wiltshire it prospered
as a wool town in medieval times. Melksham at one time aspired to a
spa. Two promising mineral springs were discovered here in 1816, and
all the necessary amenities, including a pump room, hot and cold
baths, a handsome promenade and even crescents like Bath were
quickly provided, but unfortunately the idea never caught on.
- North Bradley
- The charming village of North Bradley looks across the fields
towards the Westbury downs and theWhite
It has a 14th and 15th century church in which
is the tomb of Lady Emma Stafford. Mother of an Archbishop of
Canterbury, her tomb, complete with 72 oak panels and carved moulded
beams for a roof, is set in a panelled and recessed window with her
portrait cut into the stone above.
- In the verdant Vale of Pewsey between Salisbury plain and
Marlborough downs. A white horse
cut into the chalk of Pewsey hill overlooks the town. The small town
grew up around an island settlement, once encircled by the river and
its name is derived form Pevisigge, 'little island'.
Standing at the junction of the three main streets is the statue of
King Alfred who has resided there since 1913. Placed there to
commemorate the coronation of George V in 1911.
- Wilton Windmill, the last complete
working windmill in Wiltshire is found just 7 miles to the east.
(click here for more information)
- The only City in Wiltshire, it is in fact smaller than the
industrial town of Swindon The present City
was founded due to several contributing factors, namely bad weather,
a shortage of water and disputes with the military Authorities. This
forced the old site of Old Sarum to
be abandoned and a new cathedral established in the city.
- There are many old buildings in the city and one must take time
to get to see them all.
- Swindon the largest town in the county. However until the 1840's
it was just a hilltop community which ran a market for cattle, sheep
and horses. Its prosperity grew when the railway works came to the
plains below in 1842. The two distinctive sections of Swindon joined
together in 1900.
- Current Swindon features many distinctive murals and sculpture
which may be seen on several art trails.
- This is a small town with full of interesting old stone buildings
and a few exceptional ones. Of those there are the seventeenth
century almshouses known as Vicar's cottages with an upper storey of
red brick added in 1887, also in Tisbury is the largest medieval
tithe barn in England.
- Trowbridge began life as a settlement on a ridge of stoney
subsoil by the little river Biss. Its growth to urban status started
with the building of a castle by the 'De Bohuns' early in the
twelfth century. The town was well developed when the wool trade
took off, and shared in the general wealth associated with weaving
mills. when the wool trade died out industry was replaced by a
factory making steam engines, some breweries and a bed making
factory. Trowbridge's chief distinction is that it houses
Wiltshire's county offices. For all practical purposes it is the
county town and has been so since 1893. To visitors this may seem a
little strange what with Salisbury being the Cathedral town, Swindon
being the largest, and Devizes being the more central.
reason for this is due to communications, throughout the county
communicating was always a problem because of the Salisbury plain,
all the main railway lines ran east to west in the south of the
county hence Trowbridge was the more accessible from places as it
could be reached by rail.
Visit Trowbridge Museum Home Page
- Warminster is located 400 feet (120 metres) above sea level. It's
local surroundings are well known for several alleged sightings of
Unidentified Flying Objects especially Cley hill to the west.
Warminster used to be a great corn market in the days before motor
vehicles. The carters usually ended up bringing back coal which was
brought to Warminster from Radstock. Sadly Warminster is no longer
considered a market town but it serves as a shopping centre for the
surrounding villages and military establishments, as well as people
stuck on the A36.
The name Warminster remains a
mystery. It should mean 'The minister or monastery church by the
river Ware or Were' but there is no trace of a church and residents
even argue about there being a river of that name.
- Close to the Somerset border, on the western edge of Salisbury
Plain. Westbury currently famed for the closeby White
Horse. It is also home to several other features. It has a
number of georgian buildings and an unusual faceless clock that was
built by a local blacksmith in 1604.
- Whaddon founded by Saxons emerging from Alderburywhen
the saxons were extending their territory around the Clarendon
- The inn at Whaddon the Three Crowns is said to owe its name to
the fact that King Edward III hunting in the forest with the Kings
of France and Scotland, had lunch there.
- Whitsbury whose old Romano-British name was Hall Cynvelly, is a
place of ancient origins. It had a Roman villa and in the sixth
century and a bard by the name of Taliesin was said to have lived in
a cell nearby.
- This historic town was once the capital of Saxon Wessex. Today it
is famous for the manufacture of carpets, which dates back to the
17th century. Wilton Royal Carpets can be toured by visitors. Wilton
house, home of the Earl of Pembroke, is one of England's great
stately homes, containing paintings by Rembrant and Van Dyck.
- The church at Wilton was built in 1844 to a Italian Romanesque