Stanton St. Quinton is one of a group of villages to the north of Chippenham on fairly flat land. The highest point is 118 metres in the west while the lowest is 77 metres in the north-east. The geology is a mixture of Cornbrash and clay of the Forest Marble and Kellaway beds. The exposed Cornbrash has been quarried near the streams as limestone for building, accounting for the numbers of quarry workers, such as the Hickerton family, in the later 18th and 19th centuries. The flatness of the parish made it suitable for the location of a RAF airfield over part of it and neighbouring Hullavington in the 20th Century.
The parish covers 731 hectares (1,807 acres) and now has the M4 as its southern boundary. The major road through the parish is the Chippenham to Malmesbury A429 that runs from south to north. It was called Kingsway from c.1100, was turnpiked in 1756 and disturnpiked in 1874. It effectively divides the two settlements in the parish; Upper Stanton lies to the west and Lower Stanton to the east. These settlements have existed as separate entities from the 13th century and probably from the 11th century or earlier. Both had only a low population until the 20th century.
Finds from the Neolithic period (flint tool, arrowheads and other implements) and Bronze Age (arrowheads) have been found but insufficient to indicate long term settlement. Evidence for this comes from the Roman period with a Romano-British settlement and a villa centred on Stanton Park in the west of the parish. Worked bronze, pottery, building materials and coins have all been recovered from excavations here. There is no evidence for continued occupation into the early Saxon period but, as the Saxons mainly used wood for building and utensils, this is not unusual. Certainly the name is Saxon – stone enclosure or farm in a stony spot and there was a small settlement here at the time of the Norman invasion.
In 1086 the Domesday Book states that half of the manor of 18 hides was farmed by the owner, with two plough teams, while on the remainder, his tenants (12 families) farmed with six plough teams. There was meadowland, pasture and woodland and a total population of about 80 people. The manor was held by Osbern Giffard but by c.1090 it had passed to Richard de St. Quintin (de Sancto Quintino) whose family held it until 1347, and possibly until 1401. Their name was being used as a suffix to the place-name by 1283. A church existed by the 12th century and the farming on the manor was the typical sheep and corn husbandry of the area. By 1223 the names of Stanton (later Upper Stanton) and Nether Stanton were in use.
Various mediaeval earthworks survive in the parish including some to the north of Glebe Farm at Lower Stanton. Also in the east is a late mediaeval moated site of about half acre to the west of Nabal’s Farm. In the west was a late mediaeval deer park at Stanton Park. In 1361 the lord of the manor owned a windmill, presumably in the parish; there would have been insufficient water for a watermill to operate. The poll tax of 1377 listed 49 tax payers, a low number; 31 of these were in Upper Stanton. From1401the Fitzhugh family held the manor – the suffix Fitzhugh was used for the place-name in their time – for just over a century. It passed to Lord Dacre in 1516.
Throughout this time the manor is likely to have been let to tenants and not farmed by the owning family. In 1603 it was sold to Edward Read, whose family later sold it to Edward Hungerford of Corsham. Enclosure of land was taking place from the early 17th century, replacing the three open fields where strips had been farmed by tenants. In the mid 17th century common pasture was enclosed and farm holdings consolidated. Avils Farm House was built in the late 17th century in the north-east of the parish where enclosed land had created a good sized holding. In the mid 17th century John Aubrey saw a fine hermitage set within a moat, possibly the mediaeval moated site. In the later 17th century he said that there were only 23 houses in the parish. In the early 17th century Lower Stanton had been more populous than Upper Stanton and Glebe Farmhouse was built at the former.
In 1719 Upper Stanton comprised the manor house, the rectory, a house and farm buildings, a few cottages and the church; of these only the church remains standing today. Lower Stanton had seven farmsteads and about ten cottages. All this had been sold to the Bouverie family, later Earls of Radnor, in 1718 they remained lords of the manor until 1909. The Earls of Radnor were greatly involved with the local community with two members of the family as rectors in the 19th century and the Earl building the school in 1848.
A notorious crime took place in the parish in 1764. Two sailors had been paid off from H.M.S. Stag, receiving £28 each. One was William Jacques, the ne’er do well son of Henry Jacques, rector of Leigh Delamare on Stanton’s western border. On their way to Bristol, he met up with his fellow, the black sailor George Hartford. After drinking at the Green Dragon and other inns, Jacques accused Hartford of stealing his purse, which he had earlier lost, and began fighting. They were persuaded to leave the town and continued quarrelling on the road south, after Jacques tried to push Hartford into the mill pond. After they separated in Stanton village Hartford continued into Stanton Wood where he fell asleep at Black Pond. After getting food at the village Jacques caught up with Hartford and beat him about the head until he was dead.
Some boys saw the murder, raised the alarm and Jacques was pursued by a group of villagers. He was captured at an ale house in Chippenham, where he was found to have a pocketful of money and he was wearing Hartford’s handkerchief around his neck. He confessed to the murder and at his trial at Salisbury confessed to three other murders and a robbery. Sentenced to death he was hanged on Stanton Common at a public execution with people coming from Malmesbury and Chippenham to watch. Hartford was buried on 26th May 1764 under an elm at the western end of the churchyard; Jacques body remained hanging in chains on the gibbet.
In 1649-50, the church survey had stated that the parsonage at Stanton was valued at £100 and John Aubrey says that the house itself had a fine hall with much painted glass and coats of arms. It is likely to have been early 16th century and from that time most rectors seem to have lived there and taken services themselves. A new rectory, the present Stanton Court, was built in 1780 and occupied by a new rector, the wealthy Samuel Smith, who later tried to start a school in the parish.
In the 1780s farmland in the parish was equally divided between arable and grassland, apart from areas of woodland. By 1783 all arable land had been enclosed. There was little new building, although a house at Upper Stanton is dated ‘1795’. In the early 19th century the number of farms decreased, often taken over by others to increase the size of their holdings. By 1834 there were only four farms in the parish. Many people were impoverished and in 1802 24 adults and 68 children were on poor relief; 46% of the population. This percentage on relief continued until around 1827; in 1834 poor relief was provided to 14 adults and the population had risen from 200 to around 300. At this time five fields in the parish were being used to provide 65 garden allotments for villagers; a provision from earlier enclosure award. These 14 acres were replaced by 50 acres given by the rector, Charles Grey Cotes (1826-67) who was a keen farmer. He also provided seeds and implements for his parishioners and 25 acres of this land was still used as village allotments up to the Second World War.
Lower Stanton remained larger than Upper Stanton and the 1841 census shows twice as many people living there. In 1856 the old manor house at Upper Stanton was demolished and replaced by a farmhouse, the present Stanton Manor Hotel. The old house had been described by John Aubrey in the later 17th century as having a good strong high wall and a gate house, great hall and parlour and within a little green court.
A local diary of events was maintained in the later 19th century and early 20th century that included the following:
1872 Houses beyond the church burned down
1873 Three cottages were built in Lower Stanton
1877 Earl Radnor built five new cottages, three in Lower Stanton by the crossroads and two in Upper Stanton
1878 A very severe winter
1879 A very wet summer – poor harvest, hard time for the villages and trade was depressed.
This was a period of agricultural depression and much arable land was being put down to grass to save costs
1880 A poor woman, Sarah Broome, was hurt in a threshing machine and her leg had to be amputated below the knee. Conditions were wet early in the year but improved later and the harvest was good, as were the crops on the poor peoples’ allotments.
1881 In January a severe snowstorm blocked the roads for one to two weeks and a man from Badminton was overwhelmed by snow and died near the village. There was rain at harvest time and the corn was damaged.
In the 20th century sheep farming declined and dairying increased; the number of farms also increased reversing the trend of the early 19th century. During the First World War out of 43 Stanton men who served their country, four were killed and twelve wounded. For a two year period a large number of Stanton women washed 150 garments a week free of charge for the Chippenham Red Cross.
1920 A reading room in Lower Stanton opened – it reopened in 1953 after a break but was later demolished. In 1920 the manor estate was broken up.
1921 Greenhill Cottages (between Upper Stanton and the Malmesbury road) were put into good repair.
1922 The executors of Mr Meredith Brown gave the Reading Room and the School to the Parish.
1924 The Rectory (now Stanton Court) was sold for £3150; a new west wing was built and the rest modernised by the Hon. Mrs. Cyril Ward.
1925 From around this time there was a garage and petrol station on the main road
1926-7 A new rectory was built and occupied in July 1927.
1928 A great gale on 16th November blew down 16 large elm trees and blew the roofs off many housed and sheds.
1931 In May, Lady Margaret Spicer bought Stanton St. Quentin House (the former rectory)
1932 Main electricity comes to Upper Stanton
1935-6 Five houses built in Blenheim Gardens (Lower Stanton)
1938 The Church hall was built midway between the two Stantons on land given by farmer Worthy Tanner. It was near the rectory and cost £818 to build.
In 1935 the Air Ministry bought Bell Farm and 168 acres to build an aerodrome. By 1936 the main buildings including the Officers’ Mess, Greystones, had been built; most airfield buildings were in the parish of Stanton St. Quintin although the station was named RAF Hullavington. In 1937 good farmland had been commandeered for the runways and the airfield opened in July. 550 servicemen moved onto the station, whose remit was to train pilots and store aircraft. The airfield was camouflaged in 1940, while 2000 yards of four foot by four foot trenches were dug to the west of Stanton Park and 80 old trees felled in the valley bottom to improve the defenders’ field of fire.
Stanton Court was let as a hostel for 100 WAAFs but no evacuees came to the village because of the airfield being a potential target. Between 1940 and 1941 a total of 118 H.E. bombs and many incendiary devices fell within a three mile radius of the church but the village escaped damage. However, in three attacks four men were killed at the airfield. Stanton people served both home and abroad during the war; 18 were in the Armed Forces, 32 in the Home Guard, seven in the ARP, seven in the AFS, and eight at the local First Aid Post. As part of the war effort in 1941 the Women’s Institute also preserved 248lbs of jams and pickles. The War Agricultural Committee ordered grassland to be ploughed to produce more food; 240 acres in the parish had been ploughed by 1941 and 416 acres by 1943.
One advantage of the airfield was that mains water was brought to the area but it also seems likely that the large number of young men in the area was the main reason for the building of a police station near the airfield.
After the war, in 1949, a Youth Club was founded but soon ceased owing to lack of numbers; it was revived for the winter of 1951. The population rose sharply after the building of RAF Hullavington; in 1951 the parish consisted of 1,184 people of whom 1,061 were male. Later houses were built in the villages and fewer people lived at the airfield. In 1950-1 43 houses were built at Valetta Gardens (connected to water mains in 1953) for RAF personnel and ten more houses erected in Blenheim Gardens. In 1954 20 council houses were erected in Newhouse Gardens, Lower Stanton, and there was later infilling in the villages. After 1959 storage of aircraft ceased at the airfield although flying and navigation training continued until 1965.
In the 1980s houses were built between Valetta Gardens and the village and there was more infilling in the late 20th century, barns and other farm buildings were converted into houses in Lower Stanton although most houses here are of the 20th century. The parish is ideal for commuting to London with a junction of the M4 on its borders.