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Wiltshire Community History

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Purton

This page is one of 261 pages covering every community in Wiltshire, and is provided by Wiltshire Council Libraries and Heritage. A project to provide a fuller picture of each community is in progress, working on the larger communities first. When these 261, which are modern civil parishes, are completed we will begin work on a further 180 villages and hamlets to provide comprehensive coverage of Wiltshire communities large and small.

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1773:

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1773


Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham



From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1810:

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1810


Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


This is a corrected and updated edition of the 1773 map that includes the recently built canals.


From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1810:

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1810


Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


This is a corrected and updated edition of the 1773 map that includes the recently built canals.


Map of the Civil Parish of Purton:

Map of the Civil Parish of Purton

1896
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


From the Ordnance Survey 1890s revision of the one inch to one mile map. The modern civil parish has been superimposed.


Thumbnail History:


Purton is in North Wiltshire, halfway between the town of Wootton Bassett (4 miles to the south) and Cricklade (4 miles to the north). As Swindon has developed and grown, the new urban conurbation of West Swindon has moved further into the north Wiltshire countryside, and can now be seen from Purton, just a couple of miles away. The railway station is now closed, but Purton can be reached from junction 16 of the M4 or by leaving the A419 at Cricklade and following the B4553.

Purton sits on the brow of a hill, with views across to Cricklade and the Thames floodplains. Nearby is Bradon Forest which stretches out to Minety in the west. In past times the forest was much larger than it is today, perhaps encompassing 30,000 acres.

The main road which passes through the village from Wootton Bassett to Cricklade runs along the ridge on which much of the village is situated. The road curves in the village as it turns for Cricklade and then heads downwards towards the railway and old station. The village does not have one true centre, being based along this main road. It is probable that at different times during its development, from the early Neolithic settlers, through the Romans and Saxons, different areas of the village were occupied. Later a medieval settlement leading to the pattern of the village we see today came into being.

Like its neighbouring town, Cricklade, Purton boasts its own remarkable landmarks and archaeology. Whereas Cricklade is a Saxon town, Purton can demonstrate much from the Iron Age, and Roman times.

Ringsbury Camp, which has evidence of settlement during the Neolithic period, is actually considered to be an Iron Age hill fort dating from about 50 B.C. England was not a peaceful place at this time as continuing conflict occurred during the two great waves of Celtic invaders at about 1800BC and 600BC. It is a small but strongly defended double-banked fort enclosing about eight acres. The banks are made of limestone rubble. The camp is still visible today, although in recent times the southern bank has become overgrown, and the northern parts grassed over. The interior has been ploughed but has now been seeded back to grass.

It is suggested that the remains of a Roman villa lie under the soil at Pavenhill, on the Braydon side of Purton. The vast number of finds from the area, first coming to light in the 1890s, evidence a Roman settlement. Finds include pottery and coins, part of a destroyed pavement, and an assortment of tiles used in a Roman under floor heating system. Kilns dating back to Roman times were also discovered in the vicinity during the 1970s. Grave goods found together with bodies near The Fox also show that a Saxon cemetery existed in Purton, the burials being from the Pagan period.

Purton's first mention in the historical record was in the year 796 when the Saxon King Ecgfrith gave 35 hides from Purton to Malmesbury Abbey. The Abbot of Malmesbury continued to be the Chief Landlord of Purton throughout Saxon and Norman times, suggesting that an earlier church almost certainly stood at Purton.

During Tudor times, having taken advantage of the opportunities offered by the Enclosure Act, the Maskelyne family were both a significant landlord and landowner in Purton. It is noted that a sense of fairness was displayed to the local poor. Nevil Maskelyne was, in 1765, appointed as the Astronomer Royal, a noteworthy member of this family who were involved in Purton life for over three centuries from the 1500s.

Edward Hyde, who, with his family lived occasionally at College Farm, also led an interesting life. He was a scholar and became MP for Wootton Bassett in the 1630s. During the Civil War he acted for the King as special adviser in Oxford, which earned him a Knighthood and the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer. He later became Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Clarendon, and the Chancellor of Oxford University. His life ended sadly, however, as he became unpopular and was blamed for many problems which beset the nation. In the end the position of Lord Chancellor was given to someone else, and the King advised him to retire to France.

There are still a few shops and pubs in the village, and also a veterinary surgery and Doctor's surgery. The way the village has developed means that there is now not one central focus for shopping. A few shops exist on the main road at the junction with Pavenhill, and a few are around the bend in the road near the Village Hall.

Locals can recall a time, continuing after the Second World War, when a family could be largely self sufficient in Purton, with a range of shops, a Post Office, and banks in the village. Each year now seems to decrease the range of shops available, with the population relying on Wootton Bassett and Swindon. This story is not so different in many villages around the country.

The village also has a library and a museum, situated in the Worker's Institute, which was gifted to the village in 1879 by a Mr Henry Sadler of Lydiard Millicent in memory of his sister in law. This same building also now houses the Parish Council. Thriving schools in the village, including a comprehensive school, mean that the village still has a vibrancy.

There was another notable form of commerce in Purton during the 1900s, which, although not unusual, does provide an interesting tale. The mineral , which bubbled up from a hole in one of the fields of Purton Stoke, had been used for hundreds of years as a medicinal drink by the poor people of the area. Using water drawn from such a spring was not unknown.

The waters of "Purton Spa", or "the Salt Hole" as it became known during the 19th century, were sold commercially during the 1800s and into the 1920s. It would seem that the sale of water from the spa only ceased as free medical treatment for all came about with the founding of the NHS after the Second World War.

Local landowners, gentry, and doctors placed no value on the water, believing it to have no curative powers at all. The owner in the 19th century, Dr. Samuel Champernowne Sadler, J.P. F.R.C.S., drained the area and banked up the spa with soil following a winter flood. He is said to have later changed his opinion of the water after contracting a serious illness, and finding immediate benefit upon trying it. It was this that led to the building of a pump room.

By the 1920s the water was delivered by a Mr Neville who first used a pony and trap, then latterly a car to deliver it around the Swindon area. He originally charged 6d (2.5p) a bottle, raising his prices to 8d (nearly 3.5p).

Chemists who analysed the water and its composition found it to be unique. It was rich in phosphate of lime and had no irritant properties. Whether it had real medical powers in the majority of cases in which it was used is doubtful.

Purton Museum has many letters from all over the country testifying to the water's power.

Concise History: Wiltshire: A History of its Landscape and PeopleThis community has been included in John Chandler's on-going series and the full text is available here.
CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Emailcustomercare@wiltshire.gov.uk
 
Parish CouncilPurton Parish Council
Parish Web Sitewww.purtonparishcouncil.gov.uk
Parish Emailclerk@purtonpc.eclipse.co.uk
 

Churches: Information on both current and disused churches and chapels.

Schools: Information on both current and closed schools.

Population 1801 - 2011

Photographs: If images have been added for this community they are available here.: We hold a collection of over 50,000 photographs of places in Wiltshire in the County Local Studies Library. These may be viewed at this library and copies of out of copyright material may be purchased. We can search for a picture of a building or event if you e-mail us with details.

Historical Sources: A select list of books and articles is listed in 'Printed material'. You may go directly to the actual text from some of these.

Printed Material: This is a select book-list for the community but in the case of a town there may be hundreds more books, pamphlets and journal articles.

The full text of some items is available to view on this site.

The Victoria History of Wiltshire (opens in new window) is a partnership between local authorities and the Institute of Historical Research at London University. The History of Wiltshire is now the largest county history in the country and is still growing. The volumes are divided between general and topographical with Volumes One to Five covering subjects such as prehistory, ecclesiastical, economic and political history. The Volumes from Six onwards are topographical and will ultimately provide a comprehensive and systematic history of every single town and parish in the county.

(opens in new window) Explore Wiltshire's Past web site

Newspapers from 1738: These newspapers covered this community at different times. Newspaper titles in bold text are either the ones you should check first for information about this community.

 

Maps: listed are maps on which you can find this community. All maps are Ordnance Survey maps.

 

Archaeological Sites: A Sites and Monuments Record (opens new window) is maintained by the County Archaeology Service and covers some 20,000 sites. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society was formed in 1853 and have been publishing an annual journal since 1854. The journal contains both substantial articles and shorter notes on archaeological excavations, finds, museum objects, local history, genealogy and natural history.

Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Purton

Folk Biographies from Purton

Folk Plays from Purton

History of Buildings: The collections of the Wiltshire Buildings Record are housed in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.

Listed Buildings: The number of buildings, or groups of buildings, listed as being of architectural or historical importance, is 76. There is one Grade I building, the Church of St. Mary, and 3 Grade II* buildings.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

Local Authors: There could be an author who was born or has lived in this community.

Literary Associations: Some communities have featured in novels or may have been the main setting for a book.

Registration Districts: If you want to obtain a copy of a birth, marriage or death certificate you can contact the local registrar.

 

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Wiltshire & Swindon Archives

Wiltshire Wills Search by name, occupation, or subject for details of a will from this parish held in the Wiltshire & Swindon Record Office.

Genuki Family History - Wiltshire

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