The parish of Alderbury lies about 3 miles south east of Salisbury. It is situated east of the River Avon and bordered by Clarendon Park to the north east and Longford Park to the west. The villages of Alderbury and Whaddon are situated along the old turnpike road on a narrow ridge which drops steeply to the Alderbury Meadows in the river valley to the west. On the lower slopes to the east are the railway and the main A36 road from Salisbury to Southampton. Originally two separate villages, today they have merged into one continuous development, the boundary between them for electoral purposes being that defined on the 1831 parish map. The parish is clay, sand and gravels which have shaped its development as farmland (pasture and arable) and provided the raw materials for the brick-making industry.
Prehistoric artifacts, mainly flint tools, celts (edged implements) and socketed bronze tools found in gravel deposits indicate that the area has been occupied since Mesolithic times. Evidence of the earliest known settlement in Alderbury is at The Lynchets, south west of Treasurer's Dean Wood, and is an enclosed settlement dating to the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age.
A few Roman artifacts have been found in the parish but evidence of major Roman occupation is greater in surrounding parishes and towns. A fairly high status villa was excavated at Grimstead although no visible traces remain.
Evidence of a Saxon settlement and early church is provided by earthworks found near St. Mary's Church in Alderbury and the discovery of the burial remains of a Saxon warrior and artifacts of war at The Lynchets. Finds from a burial ground excavated at Petersfinger in the parish of Clarendon indicate a well established community where trade with Kent, the Midlands and perhaps France was significant. Around 972AD Alderbury was known as Aethelwarebyrig (Awthelweard's fortified place). The name underwent several subsequent changes and the current name, which may derive from Alward the Priest, is mentioned in 1649. The name Whaddon appears in 1316 having undergone many changes from the Old English Hwoetdenu (valley where wheat is grown).
Clarendon Park, which was originally built as a hunting lodge, dates to 1072 when William the Conqueror visited it. A Saxon church and village existed at the time of Domesday (1086). Alderbury gave its name to the Hundred of Alderbury, which stretched from Whiteparish to the Winterbournes. Four land holdings in Alderbury are recorded in the Domesday Book, of which Alward the Priest, who held the manor of Alderbury, had the largest holding of 5 hides of land (approx. 750 acres) supporting 3 plough teams, 10 acres of meadow and 4 furlongs of woodland. The population was probably between 60 and 80 people. Waleran the Hunter held the manor of Whaddon in which Engenulf held the larger of two holdings with 2 hides of land.
Throughout the late 11th and early 12th centuries Clarendon Park gained royal favour and by 1189 was a royal palace. In 1164 the Constitutions of Clarendon were drawn up by the Council which met at Clarendon. Thomas Becket feared they would limit the powers of the church and initially refused to endorse them. Between 1110 and 1122 the church and the dependent chapels at Ivychurch, Farleigh and Whaddon were granted by Henry I to the Bishop of Salisbury, creating the manor of Alderbury Rectory. The remaining land of the manor of Alderbury was granted to the Lord of the manor of West Grimstead which had been held by the Grimstead family since Domesday. The manor of Whaddon was held by Waleran and his descendants until 1328 when it was given to Ivychurch Priory.
Ivychurch Priory (Monasterum Ederosam), an Augustinian Priory, was founded by King Stephen in the late 12th century. In 1341 it was severely affected by the plague when all but one of the 14 clergy died. Following dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 the priory passed to the Crown. Today only ruins remain near the Green Dragon Inn.
In medieval times wool was sent from Salisbury to Southampton for export and the growth of Alderbury, although slow, was centred on the crossroads joining Silver Street, Folly Lane and Clarendon Road to the Salisbury to Southampton road. Sources of population information for this period are few. The poll tax records of 1377 show that Alderbury had 95 tax payers and Whaddon, which was always more sparsely populated, only 16. Whaddon contained fewer than 10 households in 1428. Ownership of the manor of Alderbury descended to the Berkeley family in 1406 until it was forfeited to the crown in 1483. Legend has it that in 1460 Sir Maurice Berkeley slew a dragon at his family seat of Bisterne and this probably gave the name to the Green Dragon Inn which dates from this time.
The ownership of the manor of Alderbury in the late 15th and early 16th century is unclear but in 1534 it was owned by the Priory of Ivychurch. After dissolution the manor was held by lessees of the Bishop of Salisbury including the Earls of Pembroke (1551-1647) and the Earls of Radnor (1757-1801). Longford Castle was built in 1578 by the wife of Sir Thomas Gorges.
The Pepperbox Folly was built in 1606 by Gyles Eyre. Its purpose is unknown but legend has it that it was used as a hide out for highwaymen. Longford Castle was a Royalist garrison in 1644 during the Civil War and men from Alderbury and Whaddon were probably conscripted. Under attack by Cromwell's forces the castle and garrison easily surrendered in 1645. The earliest reference to a forge is 1699.
The manor of Alderbury Rectory had been held by the Bishops of Salisbury since the 12th century. Between 1660 and 1801 it was passed to successive Treasurers of Salisbury Cathedral and Alderbury Parish became a Peculiar.
Parish registers for Alderbury exist only from the early 17th century but are incomplete and suggest that there was still only a small population. In 1611 just 3 baptisms are recorded and this number had only increased to 11 by 1691. The late 17th century saw the establishment of Quaker meetings with meetings initially believed to be held at the Green Dragon Inn. Attendees were often fined for not attending the Parish Church. By 1717 the Alderbury Society of Quakers no longer existed. Work started in 1675 on navigation of the River Avon from Christchurch to Salisbury and was used until 1715.
Longford Park was bought by the Earl of Radnor in 1717 and his descendants have lived there ever since. The Queen's Head in Whaddon is believed to date from the early 18th century but no longer exists. The first recorded reference to the Three Crowns at Whaddon is in 1776 but an earlier inn is recorded in 1686 and may be on the site of the Three Crowns. Trafalgar House was built in 1733 for Sir Peter Vandeput. Clarendon Park, after gradual decline since the late 13th century, had become a ruin and in 1737 a new house was built by Peter Bathurst, the member of Parliament for Salisbury. In 1793 the Salisbury to Southampton road became a turnpike road with a tollgate at Petersfinger. A shop is recorded at Alderbury in 1799.
From 1801 the manor of Alderbury was held by successive Earls of Radnor as was the manor of Ivychurch. In 1809 under the Enclosure Act of 1801 they were reorganised into 3 Manors, Alderbury Rectory, Alderbury and Ivychurch, and Whaddon, and since then have been held by the Earls of Radnor as Lords of the Manor.
The scheme to navigate the Avon was resurrected at the end of the 18th century and plans for the Salisbury and Southampton canal via Alderbury and Whaddon were drawn up. By 1802 the canal was navigable and a wharf had been built at Alderbury but by 1834 it had closed. A Dissenter's meeting house was established in 1802 in Alderbury and one in 1897 in Whaddon for members of the Methodist Church.
Population growth was slow in the 19th century. The censuses for Alderbury show that it had increased from 430 in 1801 to 742 in 1851 and declined to 678 in 1891. Migration to the towns and overseas due to low wages and unemployment were the reason. Most men were employed as agricultural and farm labourers and relied quite heavily on both the Clarendon and Longford estates for employment. Others were skilled workers and craftsmen required to maintain the villages and the estates. Only 22 households are recorded at Whaddon in the 1891 census. At the end of the century Whaddon comprised a few dispersed farms and cottages. Alderbury Common was now under the ownership of the Earl of Radnor and he had sold off small parcels of land along the Clarendon Road as smallholdings. Much of the land on which dwellings today are built once belonged to the Longford estate and many were once estate cottages.
The Green Dragon Inn was the scene of the arrest of 12 leaders of the Swing Riots that took place throughout Wiltshire in the 1830s following the destruction of farm machinery in the area. Charles Dickens is believed to have stayed at the Inn and to have used it as the inspiration for the Blue Dragon in Martin Chuzzlewit.
In 1838 a private police force was formed to deal with theft and sheep stealing and was replaced by a public police force in 1839. By 1839 40 stagecoaches a week traveled along the turnpike road. This traffic ceased in 1847 when the London and South Western Railway from London to Southampton was built to the east of the two villages. No station was built at Alderbury or Whaddon although a there was a halt for railway workers and their families. The local carrier traffic along the turnpike road increased. The parish council was established in 1894.
The 19th century saw the construction of the Methodist Chapel in Folly Lane (1825), Saint Marie's Grange (1835) designed by and built for the architect Pugin and the Post Office in Old Road (1846). Alderbury boasted 5 educational establishments: the schoolroom on School Hill (1838), an elementary school (1851), Ivychurch Academy for young gentlemen (1830-1862), Alderbury Union School (1837) for pauper children and Alderbury School (1832), later Alderbury National School.
The poor were increasingly being cared for with the construction of The Alderbury Union Workhouse at East Harnham which was completed in 1836 and catered for 200 paupers, A Health Insurance Benefit Club was set up with the Earl of Radnor as patron.
In Alderbury the medieval church was demolished in 1857 and St Mary's Church was built in 1856. Designed by the architect Samuel Teulon it is a flint and stone church in the Decorated style with a shingle spire.
The area had been exploited for tiles, bricks and pottery since at least the 14th century and brick-making has been the only industry in the parish. The Hands family was associated with brick-making in the 19th century and in 1904 they established the Whaddon Brickworks on the site of the present by-pass. The business continued to employ 18th century methods of brick-making right up until its closure in 1976. In the early 20th century tobacco was grown around Whaddon for H. Stevens & Co. of Salisbury.
During World War I Alderbury had its own Red Cross unit and Longford Castle housed a Red Cross hospital. Land girls worked on the local farms. Of the 126 men in Alderbury and Whaddon who were called up to serve in the war 26 died. A war memorial was erected on the village green in 1922 bearing their names and a commemorative plaque was installed in St Mary's Church.
The population increased slowly after World War I but it was not until after World War II that the greatest growth took place with the population doubling in 50 years. The 1901 census gives population figure of 650; in 1951 it is 997; and in 1996 it had risen to 2077.
In 1909 the forge was rebuilt around the old forge and enlarged again in 1998. Piped water arrived in 1902 to replace the springs and wells previously in use and a reservoir was built at Ivychurch. To commemorate this event and the Coronation of Edward VII the fountain was built on the village green incorporating stones from Ivy Church cloisters. In 1919 Clarendon Park was purchased by the Christie-Miller family who still own it today.
Improved methods of transport allowed the development of a dormitory village with people commuting to their work elsewhere. Bus services began in 1921 to Salisbury and Southampton and today about 30 buses a day run. Enright's garage was in operation in 1923 in Alderbury and in 1927 Bridge Garage in Whaddon was in operation to serve the growing needs of the motorist. The telephone was introduced in 1920 with the first exchange installed in the Old Post Office in 1928. In 1930 a county police station was built in Whaddon on Southampton Road serving Alderbury, Whaddon, Clarendon and Petersfinger and in 1938 there was a police house in Firs Road. Electricity was available from 1933 and gas streetlights were supplied in the 1930s for a few years only. Public sewers were not completed until 1964.
The area suffered some bombing during World War II. Viscount Montgomery of Alamein used Longford Castle as his headquarters. The Local Defence Volunteers (later known as the Home Guard) were active between 1940 and 1944. 12 local servicemen lost their lives and they too are commemorated on the War Memorial.
A Roman Catholic chapel was in use from 1958-1987. In 1985 St Mary's Church and Whaddon Methodist Church covenanted to share worship. In 1990 the Roman Catholic Chapel moved to the refurbished Whaddon Methodist Chapel.
A Development Plan, drawn up by Wiltshire County Council in the 1960s, designated the parish to be a prime area near Salisbury for development and made provision for 247 dwellings to be built, much of which was infilling. These were completed by 1991 with large developments on Whaddon Common and Oakwood Grove. Further building took place in the 1990s resulting in the current ribbon development along the old turnpike road. A conservation area was proposed in the 1970s for the oldest part of the village between Witherington Road and the old A36. The by-pass was completed in 1978. Today further development is resisted by the villagers. The new Alderbury and West Grimstead Church of England Voluntary Aided School opened in 1993.
Today there are 4 working farms in the parish, 2 pubs - the Green Dragon at Alderbury and the Three Crowns at Whaddon - 2 shops, one housing the Post Office, a forge, a Garden Machinery Centre, a garage, 15 small units on a business park at Whaddon, and a caravan and camping site. The villages are very active socially with over 20 clubs, societies and associations catering for all ages. The social centre of the village since 1959 has been the Village Hall. The parish/village magazine, The Fountain, started in 1964, is still flourishing.