Limpley Stoke lies to the west of Winsley beyond the River Avon. The railway runs parallel to the river and the village of Limpley Stoke is situated on the land rising to the west. Woods exist to the west and north-west from the village. The A36 runs through the parish and smaller roads connect nearby Freshford, Midford and Winsley. Limpley Stoke is almost entirely bounded by Bath & North East Somerset, except on the eastern boundary with Winsley.
Limpley Stoke was part of the hundred of Bradford, as established by the Saxons. It was usual to couple the smaller tithings together as they were so sparsely inhabited, hence the coupling of Limpley Stoke and Winsley. The two were formed into a parish in 1846. In 1894, Limpley Stoke became a part of Bradford Without, which included Holt, South Wraxall, and Winsley.
The word ‘Stoke’ comes from the old English word ‘stoc,’ meaning a place. In Saxon times this would be a stockaded place near a wood, although it does have other meanings such as a monastery or cell. The original name recorded for Limpley Stoke is actually Hanging Stoke or Stook, referred to in 1322, and this was used until the 15th century, with Limpley Stoke first recorded as the name in 1585.
There is early evidence of a fast flowing river running through the wooded valley, and early bone remains of various creatures have been found. Evidence has been found of a Roman road that linked Bath and Poole, via Frome and Wincanton, near Cleeve rocks; and the remains of a Roman settlement in a field known as Money Groves, in Midford Lane, includes the foundation of a Roman villa. Another Roman settlement was based in Limpley Field or Limpley Ground adjacent to the church.
The original Hanging Stoke, a Saxon settlement with a church that had later Norman additions, was situated east and south of the present church of St. Mary’s, almost in Freshford. The village suffered from the Black Death of 1348-49 with the original settlement almost totally wiped out. A new village developed through the 15th century spreading towards the north. This was due to the introduction of cloth weaving with its dependence on the river, and is now known as Middle Stoke. By 1500, a fulling mill was providing employment and weavers’ cottages were built to accommodate the textile workers. It was around this new centre that the Bakery, Inn and Cider House established themselves, followed later by the School and Village Hall.
The Bradford Hundred was given to Shaftesbury Abbey in 1001 AD, by King Aethelred II, and King Alfred’s daughter was the first Abbess there. After the dissolution, Henry VIII took Limpley Stoke from the Abbess of Shaftesbury and granted it to Sir Edward Bellingham and then to the Earl of Pembroke. Elizabeth I gave the Hundred of Bradford to Francis Walsingham; Limpley Stoke was then included in the dowry of Frances Walsingham on her marriage to Sir Philip Sydney in 1584. He later died in battle and she then married Robert Earl of Wessex in 1590, then after his execution the Earl of Clancarde in 1603. By 1610 they had debts and sold Limpley Stoke in 1615.
There is evidence of a large stone building thought to be the Ancient Manor, on early maps of 1742 and 1772. It was situated in the churchyard and was thought to be owned by the Deverells, who are mentioned in the early parish records.
Limpley Stoke was purchased by Richard Dickes in 1615. He married Jane Long, who came from a wealthy Wiltshire family and three of their sons shared the village, one of whom, Thomas, lived at Limpley Stoke Manor until his death in 1703. The Manor was built in the 1590s but was altered in the 18th century and re-fronted in the 20th century. The manor served as a Girls Reformatory School from 1861 to 1900 and then reverted to private use. By the 1920s it was a residential Domestic Science School. Richard Dickes had Stoke Farm, where Limpley Stoke Hotel is now, and his family remained there until 1905. This was also the site of the Hydropathic Health Resort, which included Turkish baths and well tended gardens. It prospered until 1936, when it became a hotel. The grounds are now reduced in size, having been developed for building.
George Dickes owned the major part, Stoke Estate, and was based at Waterhouse. This property is situated on the south side of the village and dates from the 18th century. It was extended in the 20th century and in the late 20th and early 21st centuries was a residential home for the elderly; it has now been converted into offices (2011). The Dickes, being clothiers, encouraged the development of Limpley Stoke towards the river and their Mill.
The Fishers, Dickes and Coopers were the dominant local families who controlled Limpley Stoke and intermarried to retain the wealth of the said families. The Fishers were brewers and had Weir House built in 1783 on the east side of Limpley Stoke. The Coopers originated from Bradford on Avon, married into the Dicke family in 1716, and retained connections with both Limpley Stoke and Freshford until 1960. They lived at Porch House, also known as the Old House.
Captain George Penruddocke who fought in the Napoleonic Wars moved to Avonside, where Emma Hamilton is said to have stayed. Penruddocke was a great friend of Nelson. He owned Lower Hayze and Uplands Farm by 1818. The family remained in Limpley Stoke for most of the 19th century.
Principal landowners were, in 1607 John Shute, in 1773 George Dyke and in 1841, Robert Cooper, and a much respected George Penruddock. The tithes of Limpley Stoke were sold to Thomas Dicke in 1731 for £2.8shillings.
The Hayward family, originating in Lacock, established themselves in Limpley Stoke in 1864, after Frederick Hayward returned from Australia a wealthy man. He named his newly purchased estate ‘Aroona’ after his Australian Station, where he lived until his death in 1912. He also owned Brett Farm and Waterhouse.
In 1833 Limpley Stoke was affected by a cholera epidemic and the 1841 census records 377 residents. By 1861 the figure had dropped slightly to 331 but rose in the latter part of the 19th century. The census at this time, did not take into account the residents of either the Hydropathic establishment or the Girls’ Reformatory. By 1901 the population was recorded as 414 with most people living in rented accommodation owned by the local landowners the population then dropped slightly until 1931, increasing to 520 by 1951 and continuing to rise to 545 by 1971. It has become a desirable place to live with its easy access to Bath and Bristol and this explains the more recent popularity of Limpley Stoke as a favoured location.
A fulling mill was owned by Eleanor Dicke the elder in 1698. The earliest document relating to the fulling mill dates from 1614 when Richard Dicke bought it from Frances Walsingham. It was leased out to different tenants including the Stratton family and a Mr. Perkins, but was advertised ‘For Sale’ in the Bath Chronicle of 1796 and bought by John Newton. Rebuilt as a factory it employed over 200 people by 1816, making it a major employer. It was later bought by Saunders Fanner and Company of Bradford on Avon, who went bankrupt in 1842. The building was damaged by fire in 1853 but revived later when the company that became Avon Rubber Company was started here in 1875, by Giles & Willie Holbrow. They were taken over by Browne and Margetson in 1886, with Willie Holbrow remaining as manager. In 1889 the business expanded and moved to Melksham.
Joseph Daniell, who lived at Limpley Stoke, held a large number of patents; many were for his inventions associated with the textile industry. This included a damp resistant finish for cloth, and a series of spiked rollers for holding cloth at full width while on the loom.
The area has always been noted for its quarrying. The Hayes Wood Quarry in Midford Lane existed until 1940 and re-opened in 1982, although is limited to producing 20,000 tons of stone per year. The movement of stone was aided by the development of the railway and Limpley Stoke Station had two cranes to assist in the loading of the stone. Coal was moved both by the railway and the canal, and the Somerset Coal Canal, the Kennet and Avon Canal and the Camerton and Limpley Stoke Railway met at Claverton Basin.
The attempt to establish a spa in the 18th century was unsuccessful. Only private baths existed. The closest well was situated in Middle Stoke. Some buildings had pumps and wells in their gardens, until mains water arrived in the village in 1935.
Early maps show a bridge crossing the Avon. This was a simple footbridge built of wood and was replaced with a more substantial stone structure finished in 1751. Tolls were collected until 1861 and a wagon would pay one shilling to cross the bridge in 1841 while a pedestrian would be charged one halfpenny. The bridge was altered and widened in 1930 and 1964.
The Kennet & Avon canal came to the valley in 1810 and prospered until 1860 and the growth of the railways. The Dundas Aquaduct was built in 1803 and designed by John Rennie; this is where the Somerset Coal Canal begins.
The main A36 road, originally called the Black Dog Turnpike, incorporates the Midford viaduct, constructed in 1834 and overseen by Robert McAdam. This is constructed of limestone ashlar and is made up of eleven semi-circular arches on square piers and was part of the road improvement re-aligning the Bath to Southampton turnpike. This road originally had toll houses at regular intervals. The Great Western Railway opened in 1840 but did not come to Limpley Stoke until 1857, linking Bathampton and Trowbridge with a single line, adding a second line by 1885. The station closed in 1966.
The Church of St. Mary the Virgin was originally dedicated to St. Edith of Wilton and comprises a nave, chancel, south aisle, west tower and north porch. It dates from pre-conquest times, was rebuilt in the 12th and 13th centuries and the tower was added in the 15th century. The chancel restoration and the re-roofing of the nave occurred in 1870 and in 1921 an aisle and vestry were added.
In 1816 the Baptists established themselves at Limpley Stoke and opened a small chapel which was replaced in 1888 with a new purpose built building. The Methodists are recorded there from 1829 and they opened a new chapel in 1902.
A deed of 1844 conveyed land for a school and a building was erected with a treasury grant of £75. It must have lapsed at some point, as it was reported being ‘re-opened’ in 1856. By 1859 there were 20-30 children attending, although the children of Dissenters favoured the school at Freshford. In 1893 there were 79 on the school roll with an average attendance of 51. However the numbers were gradually reducing by 1910 and the school closed in 1932.
During the 19th century, businesses and trades established themselves to serve the local population and these included the tailor, boot and shoe maker, grocer, brewer, milliner, carpenter and builder, as was typical of most small communities at that time. Occupations specifically associated with Limpley Stoke include the station master and quarry owner and stone supplier, while the pleasure boat proprietress and keeper of refreshment rooms specifically related to the pretty location of Limpley Stoke alongside the River Avon and the fact that it was popular as a place to stay either in a lodging house or at one of the hotels.
The Hop Pole Inn built in the 17th century was altered in the 19th century when the eaves were raised and was originally known as the Monks Wine House. The Rose and Crown, higher up the hill and on the A36 was originally a cider house. The local village shop known as ‘Wilkins’ was reputed to ‘sell everything’ and lasted from 1860 to 1971. It included an ice house and a slaughtering facility and was later converted to flats after its closure.