Netheravon was one of two important Saxon estates on the river Avon that were given the name Avon, the is Celtic for river. The upper settlement became Upavon and the lower one Netheravon. The estate, and later parish, is on a band of alluvium, 100 to 200 metres broad, with river gravels on a higher terrace, with the chalk above providing the downland pasture. The village is sited under the protective side of Salisbury Plain beside the river. The road along the Avon valley is probably Saxon in origin and provides the main route between Salisbury and the Vale of Pewsey. The village has always had close links with the communities of Haxton and Fittleton, on the eastern bank of the river, especially from the 18th century. The bridge to Haxton has existed from at least the Middle Ages. Until 1855 West Chisenbury was in Netheravon parish but it was transferred to Enford in that year.
Prehistoric settlement in this area has left a long barrow and bowl barrows on Netheravon Down. An Iron Age enclosure lies about one kilometre south of Netheravon House. Roman villas existed on both these sites and a tessellated pavement and coins were found at the Netheravon House site. It is quite possible that Saxon settlement succeeded the Romano-British community without a break. By later Saxon times there was a substantial settlement here and a large religious community up to 1066 that had three estates elsewhere in the county.
The entry in the Domesday Book indicates a large population, with 22 ploughteams working, six of them on land farmed directly by the owner. On this land there were 52 servants, 46 of them serfs. On the tenanted land there were 70 families and this would give a total population of between 400 and 500, probably around 460. There were also three mills, 70 acres of meadowland and a substantial amount of pasture. The church was said to be ruinous but this may only have referred to the nave or chancel. This was a large and important settlement in Saxon and Norman Wiltshire.
By the early 13th century the three main estates had been increased by seven smaller ones taken from the lands of the original three. This was still a fair sized village in the 14th century, although population appears to have decreased as there were 111 poll tax payers (people aged over 14) in 1334. Apart from the church no evidence remains from these early centuries, as the earliest surviving buildings date from the 17th century. It would seem that the medieval village was around the church, now open land, and that it was moved, partly because of its proximity to Netheravon House and partly because of flooding.
It is likely that the High Street was built up in the 18th century and the village centre moved northwards to it over the next 100 years. From 1734 the Dukes of Beaufort based a large sporting estate at Netheravon because of the quantity of game available for coursing and hawking on the downs. When William Cobbett visited the area in c.1808 he was much amazed at a flock of hares that covered an acre. Coppices were planted to provide cover for game and the Beauforts also built Netheravon House as a hunting box. In its grounds is a fine 18th century dovecot. The estate was later purchased by the Beach family who continued to run it as a sporting estate, often leasing it to tenants.
There was much building in and around the village and a grid of lanes developed to the north of the church. The High Street still has much of its 18th century character and the high tiled cob walls of gardens are a notable feature. Two farmhouses were built in this century, Manor farm in the early years and Wexland farm after 1789.
The floated water meadows were very important to farming here and in 1790 covered 214 acres. There were also about 1,252 acres of arable land and about 1,624 acres of downland pasture. The writer and wit, Sydney Smith, was curate here from 1794 to 1797 and he was much struck by the desperate poverty of many of his parishioners. At this time there were around 50 families in the parish. He was too poor himself to do anything to relieve this poverty but he did start an early Sunday school, teaching children to read and write, and a school of industry for girls in the forge of Bendall, the local blacksmith. Here about 20 girls learned to darn, knit and sew.
It is likely that the remaining houses including Kennel Row, on low-lying ground near the church, were abandoned in the early 19th century as they were becoming increasingly damp, and Netheravon Park was extended over this area. When Cobbett revisited the area in 1826 he found that both the village and the estate had deteriorated. Three considerable mansion houses were now all down and their walled gardens had become orchards. Even at Netheravon House the roof on the kennels had fallen in. In 1840 the villagers set up their own friendly benefit society. Established on 29 May at the Fox and Hounds, the Top Hat Club had moved its headquarters to the Dog and Gun by 1844. Members always had to wear a top hat at meetings, otherwise they were fined the large amount of 2/6d (12 1/2 pence). Their feast day was on 29 May, commemorating their founding, and they had a procession through the village, a meal at the Dog and Gun and social and sporting events for the village. Around this time some early cottages in the High Street were encased in brick and c.1846 a new school was built on the eastern side of the High Street.
At the end of the 19th century occurred an event that was to change the village forever. In 1898 the War Department bought the Netheravon estate from Sir Michael Hicks Beach, who had inherited it through his wife, Henrietta Beach. A total of 7,813 acres were purchased for £93,411, a very good price considering the amounts paid to other Wiltshire landowners and there was public disquiet as Sir Michael was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Despite the advent of military activity farming on the downs continued until 1922. Village life also continued unchanged for a while. In the early 20th century the Top Hat Club fete was a holiday for all. A brass band led a procession from the Dog and Gun, there was maypole dancing and members had a cooked meal back at the public house. For the afternoon a fairground had been set up in front of Manor Farm, half way up White Sheet Hill, where there were roundabouts, swings, coconut shies, shooting galleries and other side shows.
In 1904 a Cavalry School was established at Netheravon House, with an indoor riding school. Barracks, houses, villas for officers, and a large villa for the Commanding Officer were built in the grounds, while a War Department estate was built in the triangle of land between the High Street and the Upavon-Salisbury road. A police station had been built in 1903. Throughout most of the 20th century house building has been associated with the military, either for service personnel or civilian workers.
Before the First World War it was decided to site an airfield here and hangars were built in 1912 to 1913. It was on two sites, Upper (the smaller) and Lower (the larger). The first squadron arrived in June 1913 and early in the war Netheravon became an extension of the Central Flying School at Upavon. This lasted until 1915, the year in which mains water was brought to the village. During the war the Cavalry School closed and Netheravon House was used as a convalescent home for Canadian troops. The Cavalry School re-opened in 1919 but closed for good in 1922 when it was amalgamated with the Royal Artillery Riding Establishment in Northamptonshire. The Machine Gun School took over the House.
The presence of military personnel had some beneficial effects on civilian life. In 1920 former mill buildings were turned into an electricity generating station and electricity was available to the village. A sub branch of Lloyd's Bank opened in 1923 and many small businesses thrived with military, as well as civilian, customers in an increasing population. The aerodrome was again active during the Second World War and George VI visited it twice. It closed by the end of 1950 and from 1 December 1950 to 1962 was the RAF Police Dog Training Centre. In 1962 the Lower Airfield Camp became an Army Transit Area, while the Upper Camp fell into disrepair until it was partly taken over in 1963 by the Army Free Fall Parachute. This later became the Joint Services Parachute Centre. In 1964 Netheravon became the HQ of 651 Squadron and later became two Army Aviation HQs.
Building work in the 1960s included cottages on the west side of Mill Road being replaced by council houses and the open drains in the streets were filled in. A sewerage works had been built in 1952, and a cemetery also opened in that year. After a drop in population in the 1970s the village increased in size again during the 1980s. Social events and activities were held, an historical society formed and in 1991 a new Top Hat Club founded. This raises money for the church and village causes and holds a fete the Saturday nearest 29 May, with a breakfast at the Dog and Gun and a pet service in the church. The Fox and Hounds closed in 1995.
Throughout the 20th century fishing has been an important activity here. In the early years of the century the Officers' Fishing Association was formed; it became the Service's Dry Fly Fishing Association in 1975. There are 10 kilometres of river with artificial lakes for fish rearing. Frank Sawyer was river keeper for over 50 years and wrote several books. He pioneered the use of powdered chalk, for cleaning the water and encouraging spawning, and invented other practices that have been widely adopted.