South Wraxall lies on the limestone plateau of north Wiltshire, covers 2,750 acres and is between 200 and 400 feet above sea level with higher land in the west of the parish. There is a small wood in the south west of the parish near Cumberwell. The name comes from old English, ’wrocc’, a possible reference to ‘buzzard’ although it was also used as a personal name. ‘Healh’ refers to an angle or corner or secret place. It is first referred to as ‘Suthwroxhall, distinguishing it from the other Wraxall (North) about six miles to the north, in 1468 and other spellings include ‘wroxhal’ c.1227, and wrokeshal c.1242.
The parish boundary now extends to just north of Norbin (Narbing) Farm and reaches to south of Bradford Leigh. Upper Wraxall is home to the manor house while South Wraxall houses the church and the Longs Arms public house as well as Court Farm.
Lower Wraxall accommodates South Wraxall House as well as Misons Farm and Home Farm. To the south west of the parish is Great Cumberwell.
South Wraxall was included in the manor of Bradford when Athelred granted it to the Abbey of Shaftesbury and it was attached to the Bradford Hundred of which, in 1255, William Wraxall was the bailiff. By 1329 it was acknowledged as the right of Richard Pointz of Bradford who held the land until 1340. It is next referred to in 1411 when it passed to the Long family and was amongst the possessions of Henry Long in 1556. The Longs held property throughout the area including at Whaddon, West Ashton, Freshford, Monkton Farleigh, Semington, Trowbridge and Potterne. They were prominent in the local wool trade and produced no less than seventy three members of Parliament, at one time having eleven in the house at the same time. Walter Hume Long was considered the most successful of these and he was President of the Board of Agriculture and Secretary for Ireland in the early part of the 20th century.
Robert Long had a house at South Wraxall in 1429 and he became known as Robert Long of Wraxall in 1448; the family owed their advancement to the Hungerfords. Sir Walter Long held it in the late 1500s and early 1600s and it passed to his son John after his death and then through the family to Walter Long, son of Richard Godolpin Long of Rood Ashton by the mid 1800s. In 1921 Walter Hume Long, Conservative politician was created Viscount Long of Wraxall, a title now held by Richard Gerard Long, 4th Viscount. In 1919 the majority of the estate was broken up and sold.
Part of the parish was also granted in the 13th century to Monkton Farleigh Priory but in 1227 it was released to the Hundred of Bradford. By 1535, when it was valued at £33. 8 shillings, it was leased by John Bukeley and his wife Margaret; it belonged to the King during the wars with the French in the 14th century. In 1537 lands belonging to Monkton Farleigh were granted to Edward Seymour, later the Duke of Somerset, conveyed to Edward Earl of Hertford in 1582 and then administered by the poet Samuel Daniel by 1608. In 1628 the manor was sold and descended with the Brooke title until it came into the possession of the Longs in 1716.
In 1894 the civil parish of Bradford Without was divided into five new parishes of which South Wraxall was one, the others being Holt, Winsley, Limpley Stoke and Bradford Without. In1934 Bradford Without was abolished and divided between Holt, South Wraxall, Westwood and Wingfield. The modern parish of South Wraxall adjoins Atworth to the west and includes Bradford Leigh and Cumberwell and is bounded in the east by Monkton Farleigh.
There are indications of early settlement around Cats Hill, east and south of Norbin Farm and also to the west of Manor Farm. Romano-British pottery fragments have been found near Potticks House, south east of Norbin Farm, south west of Cherry Orchard, and also some pottery and tile fragments and a coin found west of Little Cumberwell. Evidence also exists of the Roman road from Bath to Speen and this passes through Box, Monkton Farleigh and South Wraxall. An area to the west of Norbin Farm indicates a possible Romano-British villa site although no excavations have taken place.
In 1904 while diverting the road outside the manor and therefore moving soil, a ring was found in a pile of earth which dates from 1450. Its bezel is represented by two oblong panels sloping from a sharp ridge and with concave faces which are engraved with two female figures thought to be St. Anne and the Virgin Mary. The hoop has diagonal flutings and inside is engraved ‘en bon an’.
South Wraxall is not mentioned in Domesday as it was grouped in with Bradford so it is difficult to assess. However, Cumberwell is mentioned as being held by Pagen and tax was paid for 4 hides (about 400 acres). There was enough land for five ploughs and it housed four smallholders. It covered four acres of meadow and five acres of woodland and had a value of £3.
Without doubt the most impressive property in South Wraxall has to be the manor, as featured in the TV programme ‘The Country House Revealed,’ presented by Dan Cruickshank (2011).
Aubrey says ‘This is a very large well built old howse: on the gate is the Marshall’s lock and the stagge’s head caboshed in stone. The Hall is open and high and windowes full of painted glasse.’
The manor house dates from the 15th century and is constructed of stone walls with stone slated roofs; the earliest portion was built in 1429 by Robert Long. The building surrounds three sides of a courtyard with a gatehouse to the south and the hall looks west. Alterations were made in the 15th century by Sir Walter Long and again in the 16th and 17th centuries and in 1700; it was restored in 1900 by A.C. Martin for E. Richardson Cox.
The original hall has a kitchen, parlour and Lords chamber at one end and a guest chamber and buttery at the opposite north end. To this was added the gatehouse with diagonal buttresses, a four centred archway and a fine oriel window. A wing was also added at the south end facing east. The hall is a particularly fine example of its time, incorporating its entrance porch at the south west corner, two and three light windows and a number of gargoyles on the parapet. Linen fold panelling exists in the ‘Raleigh’ room and the over mantel dates from c.1600. There is a story that Sir Walter Raleigh first lit his pipe at South Wraxall manor and smoked tobacco there. Aubrey writes that Sir Walter Long introduced smoking as a fashion in north Wiltshire and he was a friend of Raleigh who was a regular visitor to the Manor, so this could be the origin of such a story.
Alterations made in the early 17th century include an elaborate stone fireplace and some plaster ceilings. Another kitchen was built forming a south east wing and connecting with the hall by a covered arcade. Several rooms have panelling, ceilings and fireplaces of this period. In 1700 a new staircase was installed, the east wing rooms were panelled and more windows and doors inserted, while outside a loggia with Tuscan style pillars was added. From 1820 - 1826 the house was used as a boarding school and run by Dr. Knight. Then it was uninhabited until 1900, being maintained by a series of caretakers one of whom was called Worthy Farr, a carpenter and gamekeeper. However, visitors’ books show that it was open to view, both by local people and tourists. The US Ambassador visited in March 1893 and left his visiting card in the Visitors Book. In the latter part of the 19th century family finances were becoming strained, partly due to agricultural difficulties and taxation changes. Some parts of the estate were sold c.1870, culminating in the sale of the majority of the estate, except the manor house, by 20th May 1919. The sale was handled by Knight, Frank and Rutley and comprised 1,159 acres including dairy farms and fertile land, producing rent of £1,184 p.a. and it achieved a price of £42,000.
In 1900 the manor house was leased by Mr. E Richardson who instigated more alterations and repairs. In 1935 after the death of the tenant, the family returned and it was inhabited by the 2nd Viscount Long who proceeded to do more restoration work. During the Second World War it housed refugees from St. Mary’s Home, Broadstairs, Kent, including the nuns who were in charge of that home and their staff. They described making jam and picking flowers in their newsletters and often catered for extra children sent down from London to regain strength after suffering the difficulties of the wartime conditions. It was then inhabited by the sister in law of the Viscount who was married to Lord Rothermore. The last member of the Long family to live there was the only daughter of the second Viscount, Sara, who was married to local M.P. Charles Morrison. It was finally sold in 1966 along with 830 acres and is now owned by John Taylor of Duran Duran and his wife Gela Nash who bought the manor in 2005.
Pevsner describes it as ‘an outstandingly successful mixture of the 15th century and the later Elizabethan and Jacobean. Moreover what features of both periods remain are outstanding in their own right.’
The manor house in the north of the parish is adjoined by 17th century Manor Farm, an L- shaped building which has the remains of St. Owen’s chapel in its grounds. This was originally a 14th century hospice that was extended in the 17th century. Court Farm to the north of the church is a 16th century rectangular building, added to in the 17th century. Opposite the church is the local hostelry, The Longs Arms which is a 17th century rubble and stone building with a stone slate roof.
Most of the buildings of South Wraxall are of the 17th and 18th centuries relying on local dressed stone or stone rubble construction with stone slates. The oldest building in Lower Wraxall is Misons Farm which is 16th century and contains, both over the doorway and inside the house, inscriptions showing allegiance to Queen Elizabeth; ‘God save our Queen Elizabeth 1575 John Mison and Elen his wife.’ There is a circular stone granary in the garden and a 17th century dovecote. Other notable buildings are Fairfield House, Potticks House at Frankleigh, Frankleigh Farmhouse, Orchard Farmhouse, Home Farmhouse, Brookside, Ford Farmhouse, Church Farmhouse, Court Farmhouse and Lower Court Farmhouse. South Wraxall House and South Wraxall Lodge are located either side of Lower Wraxall. A church institute and reading room was built here in 1903 with finance raised by subscription and was used by men and boys of the village and the congregational chapel built in 1844 holds 100 people. South Wraxall Club is housed in an early 19th century building, originally a house.
In 1334 the taxes raised totalled 48 shillings and in 1377 there were 53 tax payers recorded. In 1821 the population was 435 but by 1831 the population had decreased to 389 owing to Dr. Knight’s school moving elsewhere. In 1871 South Wraxall and Atworth jointly recorded 964 inhabitants. Through the 19th century the population hovered around the mid 300 mark but by 1901 this had dropped to 305 although it increased to 458 by 1951 owing to part of Bradford Without parish being transferred to South Wraxall. In the year 2001, 453 people were resident.
In 1650 a water mill existed in either South Wraxall or Atworth and was settled on John Long while in 1716 a water grist mill comprised part of Brooke Manor in South Wraxall. Local field names that appear on maps of the locality include Barn Furlong, Dun Mead, Ellbridge, Hawkley, Timbridge, Conigre, Innocks, Lippots Hill, Lynch Bottom, Quar Leaze and Rudges.
The main employment and occupations around the area were concentrated on agriculture and included shepherds. However there were also weavers in the early 1800s and some clothworkers by the mid 19th century. The usual trades represented
included a baker, butcher, sawyer, mason, cooper, maltser, and shoemaker. A forge existed in the upper part of the village and quarrymen were employed locally at Norbin Barton farm and on the road towards Holt, as well as at Atworth, Monkton and Corsham. The Longs Arms was the main public house, although there is mention of a ‘Kings Arms’ as well, but this could refer to the same hostelry. In 1911 trades represented in the village included a carpenter, dress maker, a number of farmers, a gamekeeper, and a blacksmith.
The changes since the Second World War in the way that the local farms operated shows a decrease in dairy farming and a change to arable and beef cattle. Much of the land is now worked by farmers living outside the village.
The railway came to the area during the 1840s and 1850s and the nearest stations were Box, Bradford and Holt. Bus services could be picked up at Bradford or even at The Crown at Bathford, quite a long walk from Wraxall. There was a village policeman from the 1840s and there is also one mentioned in 1870 although none kept the job for very long.
Henry Long, who died in 1490, left a bequest of 6s.8d. in his will to St. Margaret’s Hospice in Bradford on Avon and also 20 shillings for church vestments; James Fussell’s deed of 1874 gave £1,000 to be invested and the interest was to provide coal and blankets to the poor of South Wraxall. This was operative from his death in 1872 and in 1906 applied as follows:- 15 shillings to widows, 5 shillings to each household, 1 shilling to every child.
In 1837 the Bradford postmaster had assistants to help and a woman called Priscilla from South Wraxall charged 1d for carrying local letters to their destination. In 1911 there was a sub mistress and a Post Office was run in Lower Wraxall at ‘Mrs. Derrick’s house.’
In 1930 Mrs. Greaves of the Lodge set up the Winsley Nursing Association in South Wraxall which provided the services of the Winsley district nurse. A subscription covered the cost of the heads of the family, their children and any domestic staff, and these ranged in price from 3 shillings (class A) to 7/6d. (class C). A number of free visits were allowed and thereafter their visits were charged. Charges were also incurred for confinement ranging from 21 shillings to 25 shillings.
Mains water came to the village in 1930 and electricity in 1936 and in 2000 drainage was improved with a major drainage project.
In 1831 there was a threat of a cholera epidemic so committees were set up for each tithing. Non compliance meant prosecution so personal cleanliness was enforced, ventilation and white washing of houses was compulsory and all cesspits and
‘middens’ (dung heaps) were cleared. The cholera epidemic was avoided and a day of celebration and thanksgiving was held in January 1833 in South Wraxall.
There are periods of drought recorded in the parish magazine through the 1890s and in 1896 the harvest thanksgiving was held a month early.
The South Wraxall Club is located in a house dating from 1800 that was given c.1900 as a Liberal Club with local businessmen as its trustees. It is run as a social club and is located in Lower Wraxall. The Women’s Institute was founded in 1947 and actively takes part in events organised by that association although it is a relatively small group. The cricket club plays on a pitch near the manor and includes players from outside the village.
South Wraxall has had a designated conservation area since 1981. Modern development includes various bungalows, Churchfields built in the 1950s, and various houses including ‘Cloverlea’ in 1931 and two houses built on part of Orchard Farm in 1986 as well as a large house built on the site of the former laundry.
The school built in 1841 as a National School, closed in 1972 and was bought by a trust for £6,000 to use as a village hall. This replaced the village institute which was a tin building. It housed the Mother’s Union, held whist drives on Saturday nights and was the venue for Sunday school parties and presentations.
The name Cumberwell probably comes from ‘cumbra’s spring’ and ‘Cumbra’ originally referred to a Welshman
Cumberwell was held by Levenot before 1066 and at Domesday by Pagen, of Humphrey de Lisle. It descended with the manor of Castle Combe and in 1444 was held by Sir John Fastolf. However by 1591 it was part of Bradford on Avon. The descendants of Pagen took their name from the manor; Hugh de Cumberwell for example held lands in the 12th and early 13th centuries. It then passed to the Barley family by 1329 and by 1412 some of the land was held by John Blount who also held land in South Wraxall. Descending through the Hussey family via the Stewards, Walkers and Coopers it came into the possession of Edward Baynton-Rolt by 1773 and then passed to the Taunton family and Thomas Clarke by 1862. In 1950 it was owned by Lord Halifax.
The ‘de Cumberwells’ appear as jurors or witnesses in a number of early documents. Richard de Cumberwell was witness to an undated charter of Richard Earl of Cornwall granting freedom to the people of Corsham. There is also mention of the de Cumberwells on local inquests post mortems from 1291 to 1300.
The Manor House was situated at the top of a rise to the north of Great Cumberwell Farm. This area is now part of Cumberwell Golf Club. Foundations of the house have been found although the building is no longer there. There is evidence of an 18th century house built of red brick and faced with dressed and moulded stone and also evidence of a ‘ha-ha.’ This house was on the site of an earlier building and is clearly shown on Andrew and Dury’s map of 1773. Sale particulars exist from 1802 describing the house as a ‘stone-built commodious dwelling house.’ It was ‘exceedingly well fitted up and finished in a neat genteel Manner, and in perfect and compleat repair.’ It comprised an entrance hall, dining room, library, parlour and large drawing room. It had four main bed chambers and ‘excellent Kitchen with proper connected Offices, Servants’ hall, Butler’s Pantry, and very good cellaring.’ There was stabling for eleven horses, a coach house, dovecote and outbuildings and courtyards. The ‘pleasure grounds’ were planted and had shrubberies, a walled kitchen garden, orchards and plantation, fish ponds and amounted to nineteen acres. In the same auction Great Cumberwell farm included a farmhouse and garden, barns, stables, barton, brew house and 156 acres and was sited north west of the main house. Little Cumberwell Farm was situated where the entrance to the Golf Club is now. In the sale of 1802 it is described as containing 100 acres with meadow, pasture and arable land and included a farmhouse and dairy house as well as ox stalls, stables, barton and garden. The annual rent was just over £120. There was also a quarry of tile, paving and wall stone.
G.J. Kidston, of Hazelbury Manor writes in 1949 of visiting the site of the house. He found gate piers in the middle of a field as well as other pieces of masonry in a tangled enclosure. There was a high red brick wall still in existence, with a number of door openings, as well as drainage channels in stone which would suggest a water supply for a large property. He examined the gate piers as he was interested in using them at Hazelbury but they were unsuitable; they are described as having stone balls cupped in acanthus leaves and were actually purchased by Colonel Leopold Jenner and eventually used in the garden of Avebury Manor.
The Quakers were established at Cumberwell and were based near Frankley and Potticks House; they also had a burial ground here. In 1678 they were grouped with the Lavington monthly meeting but by 1694 were joined with Bradford. An account exists of 1660 describing a meeting at Cumberwell which was interrupted by troopers commanded by Lieutenant John Ayers who arrested Robert Star. He was committed to the prison in Salisbury as a ‘dangerous person’ and later discharged, his only crime attending an ‘unlawful meeting.’ There are a number of Quaker marriages recorded at Cumberwell between 1667 and 1746 and over 50 burials between 1702 and 1803.
There is a Chapel of Barley mentioned between 1300 and 1325 but very little is known about this. There is a suggestion that it was sited at Cumberwell. In 1542 a chapel definitely existed at Cumberwell as stated in the grant to the Dean but there was nothing there by 1553 when the survey of church goods in Bradford was made. The Andrew and Dury’s map shows Dr. Daniel Jones established at Frankley, presumably before he moved his school to South Wraxall Manor.