Mildenhall (pronounced Mynal) is a village and a parish in north-eastern Wiltshire, containing three communities - the village of Mildenhall, and the hamlets of Poulton and Stitchcombe. It lies one and a half miles north-east of Marlborough, and nine and a half miles west of Hungerford. The parish itself is small, and shaped much like a triangle; the soil is mostly chalk - although there is clay under Stitchcombe, and clay-with-flints on the lower slopes of the parish. The land of the parish is mostly low, with the highest point being just 221 metres above sea level on the north-west boundary, and the lowest point being 152 metres, in the south east of the parish. There is a lot of woodland, the parish containing part of the Savernake Forest, and there was a large rabbit warren near the farm of the same name (Warren Farm).
The parish covers roughly 4,180 acres, with the main crops of the area - both in present day, and in the past - being wheat, barley, and turnips. There are two rivers running through the parish - the Og and the Kennet, with the Kennet providing most of the water for the settlements in the parish. Much of the settlement grew up on the gravel valley soils created by the rivers, with several mills being built along the banks of these rivers.
In Roman times, where Mildenhall is today, there was a place called Cunetio, which was a trading centre for the surrounding area, standing at the junction of roads from some of the major cities in the area - Bath, Winchester, Cirencester, maybe even Old Sarum and Silchester. It was surrounded by stone walls, and was split into two sections - maybe even three; Upper Cunetio, Lower Cunetio, and the 'suburb' on Black Field. Upper Cunetio was near where Folly Farm is today, while Lower Cunetio was where Mildenhall itself is today. In the fourth century, Cunetio was probably a marketing centre for a group of villas, possibly even a Mansio (a Roman version of a mansion), and stayed like that all the way into Saxon times. In October 1978, a hoard of coins numbering 54,951 was found, dating from between AD 260 and 275. This was, at the time, the biggest hoard of coins found in Britain; almost half of them came from the independent empire created in Gaul (now France) by Postumus in 260. Coins of that kind are unusual to find, making the Cunetio Treasure, as it is called, very different indeed from most hoards.
The information from the Domesday book is limited, but it does tell us that Poulton and Mildenhall existed at that time. Mildenhall had ten hides, enough land for ten ploughs, with four hides farmed by the lord of the manor, with two ploughs. There were around a 100 to 130 people living there, with another four plough teams between them. In Poulton, there were ten hides, with land for three ploughs. Eight hides were farmed by the land holder (Humfrey de Insula), with two ploughs and two slaves. There were between thirty and fifty people living there at the time, with one plough team between them.
There were, at one point, several manors and large houses around the villages, but there is not much, if anything, of most of these places remaining. One of the most important buildings, and one that survives today in a later form, is Poulton House. Built in 1706, it was made of brick with stone covering, with seven big windows in the front of the house facing south. The original major and minor staircases still exist, as well as an original moulded plaster ceiling, but everything else is from the Victorian era. The other major building, now gone, was Mildenhall Manor, first built sometime around, or before, the early 11th century. In 1541, when it was owned by Henry VIII, it was given to Catherine Howard, and then to Catherine Parr in 1544. In 1547, it was given to Edward Seymour, who was related to Jane Seymour, another of Henry's wives. Great Poulton Manor, another building now long gone, is worth mentioning for the name of the owners between 1670 and 1698: father and son, both named Cornelius Cornwallis.
A rectory house existed in 1671, probably west of the lane leading to the church; this was replaced in 1862 by a large Georgian style building, west of Mildenhall village. This house was sold and a new rectory built north of the church in 1965. There was a substantial amount of glebe land from the 14th century and even in the early 1830s the rector's average annual income of £760 was high. One of the rectors, Charles Francis, was so wealthy he even paid for a school to be built and for the inside of the church to be completely restored. In 1341, the rectory estate had a meadow and a carucate of land (a carucate was the amount of land that could be ploughed with a single plough team of eight oxen in one year)
In Mildenhall, the population was 306 in 1801, rising to 501 in 1871, before falling to 422 in 1901; the population fluctuated in the early 20th century because the boundaries of the parish changed in 1901, and 1934, but the 19th century rise and fall is typical of a rural parish in Wiltshire. There were 426 people in 1911, and 401 in 1931. The population, after the mid 19th century, never fell below four hundred, as more people moved to the farms, or in Mildenhall village itself.
Major trades in the parish, especially around Mildenhall, consisted mostly of farming and milling, with wood cutting and dealing in the woodland areas. There were other miscellaneous jobs, too, ranging from shopkeeper, to blacksmith, to beer retailer, shoemaker, carpenter, dress maker, basket maker, thatcher, dairyman and cowkeeper, and plumber. At one point, in the 1920s, there were eleven farmers in the Mildenhall parish. The post office was opened in the mid 19th century, with the post coming from Marlborough by bicycle. The police station was opened in the early 20th century, and the school was opened in the early 19th century.
The only really important road in the village of Mildenhall is the Marlborough-Ramsbury road, which has been the main road of the village since the mid 18th century. There are a few old houses near this road, including Hawthorn Cottage and Home Farm, surviving from the 18th and early 19th centuries. The Horse Shoe, to the north, was a beer house in the mid 19th century. Many new houses were built in the 1860s, when new people were attracted to the village. In the 1880s, the eastern boundary of Mildenhall was marked by the school, built at the junction of the old Roman road to Cirencester, and the Marlborough - Ramsbury road. This was extended in the 20th century when council houses were built east of the junction, and private houses were built at the west end of the village; Infilling happened in the late 20th century, when council houses were built south of the street, and the village hall - well known for its low walls and steep roof - was built in 1974, north of the street. Mildenhall House, the rectory built in the 1860s, was 400 metres west of the village, and south of the Marlborough - Ramsbury road. Everything - or nearly everything - in the village is, or was, centred near to that road, the major street of the village. Beyond the road, east of the village, are Durnsford Mill and a former farmhouse in Lucky Lane, as well more than a few other older settlement sites
Poulton had a population of 21 in 1841, rising in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when a number of cottages were built by the side of the Poulton-Aldbourne road. In the late 18th century, Poulton had just two farms - Poulton House, and Poulton Farm, at a site where the Og joins the Kennet; Poulton Farm was rebuilt in the 19th century.
The hamlet of Stitchcombe had a population of 127 in 1841, with small settlements in the boundaries of the tithing in the early 18th and 20th centuries; the hamlet itself had was several houses near Werg Mill, and Folly - later known as Forest Hill - Farm. Stitchcombe stands beside a road joining roads from Marlborough on each side of the Kennet. West of this road are the remains of Stitchcombe Mill. South of this mill is Stitchcombe House, a 19th century farmhouse, which contains parts of a former building. In the late 18th century, several houses were built on the lane leading from Mildenhall, and in the 20th century several houses and bungalows were built west and north of the hamlet. Forest Hill Farm had only an 18th century lodge built in the Gothic style, and a 19th century farmstead, within the tithing limits.