The village lies in the centre of the surrounding towns of Melksham, Devizes and Trowbridge. The name 'Seend' probably refers to the greensand of which the ridge comprises. There have been other spellings of the village name, most notably in the 17th century: Seene (1602 and 1635), Scene (1650), Seend Vulgo (1670) and Seen (1675). Seend is in the Diocese of Salisbury and the Hundred of Melksham. In 1894 it was included in the Bradford and Melksham Rural District until 1934 when it was transferred to the Devizes and Kennet District. Seend also became included in the Deanery of Devizes under the Church of England's arrangement for synodal government, 1969.
Seend was a well developed settlement from the 12th century, as the Norman architectural remains in the Church walls demonstrate. Marshland lies from the railway station eastwards and woodland can be found at Inmoor and the slopes south of Seend Green House. There are distinct settlements in the parish, medieval in origin. The Street, Sells Green and Martinslade, Seend Cleeve, the Stocks (towards Trowbridge), Seend Head (south west) and Inmarsh (southern valley, once called Henmarsh). Seend was once part of the Royal Forest of Melksham or Blackmore. It consisted of tracts of parkland for deer hunting with oak, ash and birch trees, but also contained settlements such as Seend Street and Sells Green. Summerham Brook formed the boundary of the Royal Forest and Moiety Farm was probably once one of the forest lodges. The population of Seend has remained constant from the 19th century with a population of 1,000 in 1981 being only slightly larger than that of 1801.
The Lords of the Manor of Seend in the Middle Ages were Hugh le Despenser (1297) and Edward de Bohun (1331). The nuns of Amesbury Priory held Seend Row with the Manor of Melksham in 1286. Seend Row and Seend were held jointly by the Sharington's after the Dissolution of the monasteries through to the 18th century when the Awdry's claimed Seend Row only. This was everything west of Rusty Lane and the Worton Road. Manor courts sat regularly in the 17th and early 18th centuries. They had little real power and were mainly used for land drainage issues and encroachments on common land. 19th century constables were appointed by the Manor Court until 1842. In 1872 the appointment of constables ended and pounds were no longer required. The pound at Seend Green vanished and that at the Stocks became dilapidated by the 20th century. There was a lock up or blind house at the top of Love Lane. After 1872 it became unused and was demolished in 1880. Seend had a resident professional policeman by 1841. In 1816 two highwaymen robbed a man walking back from Devizes to Seend. They were tried and hanged over Fisherton Gateway in Salisbury. There were duckings for suspected witches in Seend in the 18th and 19th centuries. One such was a 'Mary Jenkins' who lived in a cluster of houses near the chapel in the Cleeve. Village tradition said that she could turn herself into a rabbit, and when another woman became deliriously ill of putrid fever and cried out 'she is pinching me to death', Mary was ducked in the presence of 100 people. This was done at Baldham one Sunday morning when she was tied to the end of a rope and thrown off the bridge, floating 'down the stream like a cork, crying for more rope'. Another woman was punished by a 'Skimmington' in 1820 when she had to carry a hurdle with rough music from her house in Pigslane (Cleeve) through the Street and back. This was because she had 'gone wrong' with a married man. The next night the villagers intended to apprehend the man concerned, but 'hearing that he had barricaded his house and armed himself with a prong, they gave up'!
The roads through Seend were poor in the mid 17th century. Rewstreete Lane was reported as waterlogged and muddy and a proper bridge was required in Rewstreete Lane. Colloway Lane, Somerham Bridge, Cloud Lane (Inmarsh area) and Steane Bridge (Seend Bridge) were also muddy. Waymen were paid to maintain roads from the 17th century. Seend was on the turnpike routes with West Lavington, Devizes, Trowbridge, Melksham and Box in the 18th century. The road from Box was turnpiked and developed because current roads were so windy and miry. There was an old burying road from Seend Church to Church Street in Melksham, used for this purpose before Seend had its own burial yard. In 1780 a new road ran through Self's Green (now Sells Green) to shorten the great Bath Road and avoid steep hills. 1768-9 saw a toll gate, built at the junction with Inmarsh Lane, which still stands. Turnpikes were dissolved in the 1870s. Lots of footpaths have been lost in Seend, some because land owners wanted their privacy! In 1893 objections were raised when the tenant of Ferrum Lodge wanted a diversion in the path to gain privacy. The footpath from Bolland's Hill to the Barge Inn was very controversial in the 19th century, leading to a rowdy meeting and damageto a fence. The issue was taken to court and the land owner had to restore the path.
The section of the canal here was opened in 1798/9 and was built to join the Kennet and Avon navigations. A house was built by the canal company at the foot of Bolland's Hill and new Inns opened in Seend Cleeve after the arrival of the canal and then the railway and iron works. The Barge Inn opened in 1857. In the early 20th century Mrs Rayner, sister of Fred Kempster, the giant (8 ft 2.5 inches), owned the pub. Fred lived there in 1916. The local blacksmith sold postcards picturing him! The canal company suffered by the opening of the GWR mainline in 1841, when its profits fell by twenty two percent and steadily declined thereafter. There has been a continuing battle to stop the canal being closed since 1926, and in WWII it was used as a training ground for the American troops. Work on restoring the canal at Seend was completed in 1980.
Although the mainline opened in 1841, it was not until 1858 that the railway came to Seend. It opened at the foot of Bolland's Hill to be near to the new Iron Works. Like the rest of Brunel's railway, it was of single track and broad gauge design and would take you to Devizes or Trowbridge. The station was enlarged in 1908 to have two platforms with a waiting room on each and a ticket office. In 1909 a halt opened at Sells Green, named Bromham and Rowde. WWII kept the line busy with troop trains and women worked the station signals. Seend lost its stationmaster in 1952 and the station was closed in 1966.
The oldest building in the village is, understandably, the church of the Holy Cross, most present architecture dating from 1450. There is a tower and chancel of 1876. It is built of ashlar with rubble stone. Hill Farm house in the High Street dates from the 15th and 16th centuries with timber framing and a stone slate roof. Dial House has its origins in the 15th century with its ashlar chimney breast, but the rest is 18th century red brick facings. There is a 16th century timber framed and painted brick farmhouse in Spout Lane.
The seventeenth century saw buildings continuing to be erected in the High Street such as Seend Lodge, The Manor house, Bell Hill Cottages and Seend Green House (residence of John Sumner, friend of John Aubrey) with its walled garden, summerhouse, stable block and coach house. Opposite is Horse Pond and Edward Cook's smithy (on the corner of what still is Cook's Lane).Greenhayes House has a 17th century core and may have been the White Hart Inn in 1690. Most of the 17th century houses were re-faced with brick in the 19th century. A Pound in Seend Green had been there since the 17th century, but is not there now.
The eighteenth century saw more building in the High Street with The Manor House being built in 1767. It is made of ashlar with a slate roof. The Bakery Cottage and the Old Bakehouse are also 18th century and of red brick. Seend Lodge c.1700, encased in red brick in the 19th century, was the home of George Newton in 1681. It was later rebuilt for his son and then leased to a Captain I. Schomberg (died 1813), Deputy Controller of the Navy. The Methodist Chapel was opened by John Wesley in 1775 and is of red brick with windows in a 13th century grouped lancet style and an 18th century hood over the door.
The 19th century saw six farmhouses built in Seend: Seend Hill Farm, Turner's Farm, Marsh Farm (Seymour Lodge), Seend Farm/Sumner's (Vicarage), Manor Farm and Malthouse Farm.
In the late 20th century 17 houses were built between Dial House and the school. The quality of the housing in the villages indicates its continued prosperity over many centuries.
Houses on other roads in the village included:-
Spout Lane - Egypt Farmhouse, mid 18th century, red brick, owned by the Duke of Somerset in the 19th century. A pair of 17th century cottages and a 16th century timber framed farmhouse.
Inmarsh Lane: 17th century farmhouse, later 18th century turnpike cottage of red brick. Row Lane - c.1700 house with a thatched roof. Weaver's house and other 17th century farmhouses with 19th century brick front elevations. 18th century timber framed barn with weather boarded ends. The vestry acquired and built almshouses on the site of a ruined cottage adjoining Henmarsh Green (Inmarsh) in 1780.
Seend Cleeve: three houses, one now gone. There is also a 17th century house in Park Lane which became a primitive Methodist chapel, rebuilt in 1849. The Brewery Inn became so-called in 1859.
The Stocks: just east of the turning to Seend Cleeve was an Inn called the Green Man, a turnpike terminal in 1750 but went out of business in the 1840's.
Martinslade: 19th century cottage, later 18th century farmhouse, roughcast on brick.
Seend Head: Seend Head House, late 18th century with red brick frontage. Seend Head Mill is 18th century rubble stone. A mill has been recorded at the site since 1249. The middle wheel was replaced by a turbine in 1935. From the 1700s to 1826 it was used as a dye works.
Sells Green: Three Magpies Inn c.1810, of red brick. It was called the New Inn until 1938.
Trowbridge Road: late 18th century farmhouses of red brick and rubble stone, one a stable. A road bridge over the Semington Brook, mid 18th century and of ashlar stone. It was probably built when the road was turnpiked in 1752.
Worton Road: Early 19th century red brick farmhouse.
Bell Hill: the Bell Inn, 18th century with red brick and a brewhouse at the back c.1855. The Inn was said to have breakfasted Oliver Cromwell as he was advancing his troops from Trowbridge to attack Devizes Castle on 18 September 1645. Mrs Betty Brown ran the pub in 1794-1828 and it is reputed that a London sign board in the 1820s told of 'Betty Brown's best beer sold here'!
Medieval strip farming (ridge and furrow) took place on old common fields, for example, below Turner's Farm and looking south from the Stocks. It is visible on the north slopes either side of Bolland's Hill. In 1283 almost five times the land was used for crops rather than hay. Most of the common land was enclosed from 1650-1700. In 1610 land leased for herbage and pannage was overrun with cattle and the erection of 'unauthorized' cottages. The commons were enclosed at Clears and Blackmore with the common rights villagers given common as freeholders and copyholders. A great deal of the forest land was converted to farm use in the 17th century, for example Pope's plot which adjoined Great Self Meadow. In 1813-14 the Enclosure Act included strips of the common land along some roads. This leaves us with the very narrow lanes we see today! The tithes of 1838 show that seven and a half times as much meadow was farmed as was arable. Farming changed from cheese making (the cheese was taken to Chippenham to be sold) to the marketing of raw milk. This took place before 1914, when milk began to be carried by cart to Devizes and then on the railway to London. During World War I the first hay moving machine appeared, pulled by horses, and during the Second World War tractors arrived.
There was a Mill in Seend from the 13th century and the broad cloth trade was the principle one in the village in the 15th century. Western Wiltshire was one of the main manufacturing areas it the country. Summerham Brook powered the water mills. Other village craftsmen in the 17th century were weavers, fullers, tucker, shearman and tailors, still largely having a connection with the wool trade. The trade began to decline in the early 17th century and lead to a lack of jobs for weavers. Three Seend weavers were prosecuted for rioting when corn was being collected at Seend Green. The villagers saw the grain but couldn't afford to buy any. The weavers were imprisoned in Warminster gaol for a few days, and then put in the stocks for two hours. In 1647 Seend villagers joined others in the locality to make representations at the Quarter Sessions on the 'miserable condition for want of work'. The industry recovered in the late 17th and 18th century. Clothiers became so rich that they began to own property, for example the Somner family. Weavers earned more than farm labourers and in 1797 income was spent on barley flour, yeast, salt, tea, butter, cheese soap, candles, thread, coals and garden vegetables. In 1814 the row of cottages next to the Methodist Chapel were leased and re-built to form workshops for the clothing trade, but by 1841 there were no weavers, finishers or spinners in Seend. Labourers fared poorly; a labourer living in the Melksham area in a house on 'part of the waste' that was in poor condition did not dare to ask the Parish to repair it in case they should claim it. The poor often moved to the Salisbury Plain area for better wages and more constant employment at that time.
Iron ore was quarried and smelted in Seend from the 1850s with three blast furnaces fifty feet high, and employed 300 men. Aubrey wrote that he discovered iron ore as early as 1666 when it rained so much that it washed away the sand from the ore and the later bright sun reflected on it. Due to the high level of deforestation in the 17th century there was not enough wood to smelt it. The arrival of coal in the 19th century made this possible and mining rights were leased just below the Bell Inn in 1856 where 10,000 tons of ore were mined. The site also housed blast furnaces and smelting facilities. By 1876 the iron works seem to be out of use. In 1889 Kelly's Directory stated 'Iron ore is found here in abundance and until recently was largely worked'. The late 19th to early 20th centuries saw intermittent smelting. An influx of men and boys from the outlying area and Ireland and the Black Country occurred. In 1873 'Adam Drewe crawled into a flue pipe to clear a blockage and was pulled out unconscious'. He was revived by the "Staffordshire" mode of resuscitation by putting his head face down in a hole in the ground and burying it in the earth, except for one small hole! In 1884 complaints were received that Pelch Lane was being badly cut up by the constant haulage of iron ore down the narrow lane. During the First World War an overhead cable took ore down in large iron buckets to Seend Station. Boys got free rides up the hill in the empty buckets! After a lull the Second World War created demand and the stone was used to provide iron oxide for paint and coal gas. The site closed in 1946.
Other occupations in the village in the 19th century (and probably earlier) were baker, shopkeeper, blacksmith, butcher, carpenter, cheese factor, clothier, coal merchant, cordwainer and shoemaker, dyer, innkeeper, stone cutter, tailor, 'cow and horse doctor', masons, bricklayers and thatchers. In the mid 19th century 205 men were employed as agricultural labourers and 64 wage earners were in domestic service. The malster brewed behind Badbury House and the brick and tile works were in Sells Green in 1856-1915. The bakery was in the Street in 1740-1967 and the grocer/shopkeeper in Seend Row. The shoemakers were at Chapel Row and Sells Green in the 19th century. A doctor was established in the village in the 20th century and in the late 20th century there stood a Post Office Stores, two builders, a coal merchant, garage and antique business. A blacksmith has lived in Seend since at least the 17th century, when George Newton was well known. His father Richard Newton the blacksmith died in 1625 and left his eldest son George the shop, tools and coal on the provision that he took on his younger brothers as apprentices. George was also left a clock, valued at 40 shillings. George became prosperous and well respected before his death in 1681 and was well known for his clock making in churches as far afield as Salisbury. John Aubrey wrote of him in 1666 'I went to the smythe, George Newton, an ingeniose man, who from blacksmith turned clockmaker and fiddle maker, and he assured me that he has melted of this oare in his forge, which the oare of the Forest of Dene & C. will not do'. George Newton also subscribed to the rebuilding of St Paul's Cathedral in 1678 and, with his son, to a brief for the redemption of slaves from Turkey. He also subscribed for relief for distressed French Protestants in 1681, showing himself to be a compassionate man too.
In 1851 there was a 'Post man' in a house at the top of Bollard's Hill. A Post Office in the house now known as Wesley Cottage was set up in 1861 and began a savings bank in 1880. It housed the telegraph office in 1891 and wall boxes were introduced in Seend Cleeve in 1875, Seend Green and Sells Green in 1899. In 1897 the post office moved to Seend Villa (now Elcot), then into the postman's new wife's home next to the vicarage! The first telegram was sent from Seend in 1891 and the first 'Telephone Express Letter' in 1913. In 1908 there were two daily post deliveries and one on Sunday for the whole parish. In 1913 a public phone box, call office and telephone boxes in the Street were established. This did not occur in Seend Cleeve until 1950 and Sells Green in 1955. Electricity was introduced in 1931. Street lighting had been rejected in 1929 and still considered unnecessary by the Parish Council in 1946. It was finally agreed in 1950 and implemented in 1952 at the Street and Sells Green. The Cleeve became 'illuminated' in 1954, but with only one light!
Water is an important resource in any community. There was 'black well' near the Bell Inn which was once the only supply to the school and Factory Row cottages. There were a series of other wells dotted along the Street. These gush out at several places e.g. by the side of the road in Spout Lane. In 1666 Aubrey tried to get Bath physicians to recommend Seend water but 'though they were satisfied with the excellency of the waters…. they did not care to have company gone from the Bath'. Aubrey told his friend Somner (who had the best well) that it would be a 'prudent way of laying out money, to build a handsome and convenient house of entertainment for the water-drinkers at Seend and to make a fine bowling green there'. The springs contained iron ore and in 1937 a mains water survey showed most were polluted.
The 17th century diarist John Aubrey had a long-standing connection with Seend. His friend, John Somner lived at Seend Green House in 1665. Aubrey made addresses to John's sister Joane Somner. He stayed for over a year and in 1666 obtained a licence to marry her but the engagement was broken off leading two three years of bitter litigation. Joan accused Aubrey of appropriating money she lent him to raise a mortgage on his family home at Easton Pierce. He said she had jilted him like the previous house-mate Dr Jolliff's brother. The Salisbury Court awarded him £600 damages for breach of promise but a later trial reduced this to £300 and legal expenses were costly. He sold his Wiltshire property and lived with various friends until his death in 1697. Joane Somner later married Mr Robert Pope of Wedmore, Somerset, in 1671 but died 9 months later (probably in childbirth).
The first school in Seend (a Charity School) in 1724 had 24 pupils. There was a Sunday school by 1797, but the day school had gone by 1818. Thomas Burgess paid for the erection of a building in the corner of the churchyard in 1832. In 1848 it was a 'neat school house for instruction of poor children', a Sunday school and a day school. In 1863 the school was moved from the churchyard to a site in School Road, the land having been bought by the vicar of Melksham and the Seend churchwardens. Wadham Locke (warden and the owner of Cleeve House) paid for the majority of the move. By 1867 it became the National School. The Seend Pelch School was opened in 1870 in Seend Cleeve for Methodist and other 'dissenter' children. In 1877 Wadham Locke gave the school the use of a hall in Pelch Lane which he funded himself. He had originally built the hall as a reading room for the employees of the Iron Works. The school received a state grant in 1885 but the National School took it over to provide a domestic science centre for older girls. The building was situated at Pelch Farm.
There was a large 'dissenter' population in the village, mainly made up of Methodists. John Wesley himself preached at Seend on 12th March 1749 and Wesleyan's preached at Wesley Cottage in the High Street before the building of the Seend Methodist Chapel opposite at the end of Factory Row, opened by John Wesley on the 4th March 775. Seend Cleeve had a Primitive Methodist Chapel, rebuilt in 1849 and now disused.
An important part of village life is its sense of community, and this was maintained by the arrival of clubs and societies. One of the earliest known clubs operating in the village was the Friendly Society in 1797, for men aged 16 to 35. Members paid subscriptions towards beer and met every six weeks. There was a 'Feast' on Whit Monday when they met at the Bell Inn, had a procession to Church for the Divine Service, and then walked in a 'decent manner with music' back for feasting. Any fighting meant a fine. When they had been a member for two years they got access to a club doctor, sick benefit and £3 for funeral expenses. The forerunner to this was the Seend Revel to which Aubrey attended in 1666. There was an Ancient Order of Foresters with a fete held in July or August. This was combined into a single fete in 1903. In 1914 this consisted of a club procession to a large house and gardens with a band and old country dances like 'Bricks and Mortar'. It was never held again after 1915. The 1870s and 1880s saw clubs emerge such as the Pig Insurance, Maternity and Cricket Clubs, Women's Union, Girl's Friendly Society and Church of England Temperance Society.
Seend Cleeve had a Workmen's reading room in 1881 and a Workmen's Club in 1884. They met in rented premises in The Street. This continued into the early 20th century as a 'Lad's Club' and 'Men's Club and reading room' (in 1922 it was in an ex-army hut in Rusty Lane). In 1973 it became the Social Club, where the main interest was in skittles. In 1980 a larger hall was built on land adjoining the old hut. In 1919/20 the Women's Institute in another ex-army hut in Rusty Lane held lectures, jam making and excursions. In the early years there was a choir.
The Boy Scouts had a club from 1908-1966, with Girl Guides and Brownies becoming established in 1921. There were cricket matches held on Mitchell's Farm in the late 19th century, and football has been played regularly apart from breaks during the two Wars. There was a Tennis Club in the village from 1924 but it became difficult to maintain the grass courts after World War II. A hard court was built in 1977. Village outings were commonplace in the 1920s and took place on 'char-a-banc' buses. In the 1930s twelve buses a day passed through the village from Devizes to Trowbridge and this figure remained constant up to the 1960s when it began to decline.
The village residents mobilised themselves during World War II with the addition of fire watching posts, giving food and shelter to the homeless from the Bath air raids and growing potatoes on their lawns. The Home Guard paraded in the stable yard of Manor House.
In 1973 a sports pavilion was built incorporating a children's playgroup, doctor's surgery, and club meetings such as those of the Gardening Club and Royal British Legion. The Seend 'Fawtly Players' were established in 1980 and gave pantomime shows from the School hall. Due to their success, they moved to the larger Women's Institute Hall and then into the Social Club, where audiences have reached 600. All proceeds are given to good causes.
A large celebration occurred to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee with tree planting in 1887. For her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 the children had teas and the old people were given dinner. Another oak was planted which later died. Celebrations also took place for Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee in 1977 with another tree planting, a meal, sports and a 'beacon' bonfire. These events continue today and help the village of Seend retain its sense of community.