The parish of Yatton Keynell lies in the northern part of Wiltshire, often referred to as the 'Wiltshire Cotswolds' due to its local geology. It can be found 4.5 miles north-west of Chippenham, two miles east of Castle Combe in the Diocese of Gloucester and Bristol. The parish also includes the smaller villages of Giddeahall, West Yatton and Long Dean. The parish encompasses 1,717 acres.
The name of the parish was originally Eaton. Henry Caynell had a holding there in 1242 and the inhabitants commonly called it Yatton. The parish was known as 'Getone' in 1086, 'Yeton' (1247) Yatton(e) Fees (1242) Kaynel (1289), Kaignel (1306), Kynel (1346) Iatton (1258, Jettun (1245), Yetton Caynel (1334), Yettonkenell (1553) Yeatton Keynell (1522), Churcheyatton (1530) Yatton or Eaton Keynell or Churche Eaton (1618). The name is a compound of gate, gap and tun, the gap being the head of the well-marked valley to the west of the village. Giddeahall is 'Giddy Hall' in 1773. It may have begun as a nickname, but it is not known why. Long Dean is le Longdene (1422), meaning long valley and West Yatton is Westyatton (1279).
In the 11th century William of Eu was a major landowner. 'An Englishman holds Getone of William. In the time of King Edward it paid geld for 10 hides. There is land for 7 ploughs. Of this there are in demesne 4 hides and there are 2 ploughs; and there are 10 villeins and 5 bordars with 5 ploughs. There are 20 acres of meadow. The wood(land) is 2 furlongs long and 1 furlong broad. It was worth £6; it is now worth £7'. At this time Yatton Keynell seems to be part of the Thorngrove Hundred, but it had moved to the Chippenham Hundred by 1334. One major landowner in the 16th century was Sir Charles Snell. He sold up his land in Yatton Keynell (amongst others) to invest in the ship 'Angel Gabriel' for the expedition by Raleigh to Guiana in 1595. The family owned 'The Manor House' in West Yatton Lane from the late 17th century.
The limestone grassland found in the parish is very uncharacteristic for Wiltshire and is more often found in the Cotswolds. Aubrey described Yatton Keynell in the 17th century as having clay and stony soil. The area held grazing land for sheep for many centuries and an area is known as "Sheep Slight Down". Scrub was shown on the 1841 Tithe Map which was probably planted to form an enclosed field for sheep at night. The main crops grown in the late 19th century were wheat, barley and oats. Pasture had also become common by the early 20th century. Hammerdown Wood was originally grassland but was later planted with oak and beech in the 1950s. The place name 'Park Farm' to the north may suggest an earlier deer park; it was le Parkmede in 1354. It is possible, however, that the Castle Combe Park once extended out as far as this site.
The majority of the houses in Yatton Keynell and the surrounding villages are constructed of rubble stone with a tile or slate roof:
Brooms Lane- Farmhouse, dated 'F.C 1728' but of 15th century origin. Rubble stone with a Bridgewater tiled roof.
Grittleton Road - Farmhouse, dated 'TSS 1778' but mostly early 19th century. Rubble stone, stone tiled roof. It is now called Park Farmhouse but was once known as 'Small Pox Farm' and was possibly once an isolation house. Another 19th century farmhouse of rubble stone with a stone tiled roof.
Grove Lane - 18th century cottages (stone dated 1786 reset in rear wing), rubble stone, Mansard stone tiled roof.
The Street - School teacher's house and school. Dated 1858, small squared stone, ashlar dressings, tiled roof. 'The Grange', 17th and 18th century, possibly with an earlier core. Roughcast rubble stone. Originally L-shaped in plan with a barn attached to the east. The north front was altered in the 18th and 19th centuries. There is a summerhouse and garden wall dating from the early 19th century. The Rectory on the east side of The Street is of 17th century date but possibly earlier. The north end has two parallel gables to the west front and a Roman Doric ashlar porch. A picture of the porch in c.1780 shows there was a parapet above the porch and it was ramped up to a high centre. There is a rear projecting wing to the left and the south end is set back. There is a bell turret on the roof. The interior holds Regency style doors, fireplaces and plaster mouldings. One rear room at the north end has a complete mid Victorian decoration (as at 1989).
The Bell Inn had 17th century origins and is rendered with rubble stone and a stone tiled roof. It was originally an old farmhouse. Deeds of 1764 from a pub called 'The Old Inn' was otherwise known as 'The Bell' and consisted of outhouses, stables, a brew house, garden and orchard. In 1881 the proprietor was both a publican and a butcher! There was a toll gate situated after the Bell Inn, just before the vicarage ,and it was manned by a toll gate keeper in 1871. Yatton Keynell was on the Tog Hill route, revived in 1751-2 when the road branching from it at the 'Long Stone' went through the village to Sodbury, Gloucestershire.
There is also a house and farmhouse, 18th century with ashlar blocks and two 19th century houses, one painted ashlar and the other of coursed squared stone rubble. After the Bell Inn, but before the Vicarage, there was a toll gate, listed in the 1871 Census returns. The Church of Saint Mary of Antioch is on the West side of the Street. It is Anglican and in the Perpendicular style, 13th and 15th century. It was restored in 1868 by G. E. Street. The fabric of the building is rubble stone and ashlar, with a 19th century red tile roof. There is a four stage tower, the lower part of which is 13th century and there is a 19th century renewed west window, of which the original 15th century glass still remains at the top. Further up on the same side of The Street is the Ebeneezer Independent Chapel. It was also called the Congregational Chapel, built in 1835. The north side of the nave is 15th century. There is an ashlar lean-to vestry of 1868. The interior is a 19th century nave and chancel roof. The East window was completed in 1889. There are lots of 17th and 18th century plaques re-sited in the tower.
'Lion Lodge' was previously the Red Lion Inn in the early 19th century but has now become a house. It is of 17th century rubble stone, formerly roughcast, with a later 18th century mansard roof to the rear wing. There is an outbuilding to the north with 20th century windows. On the west side there is a house of late 18th century date, rendered, with ashlar dressings and a Bridgewater tiled roof. The walls, gates and summerhouse are of early 19th century date, made from rubble stone and ashlar. There is also a barn which has been converted.
The village has a pound, situated in the southern part of the village. It was included in the ordnance survey map of 1900. Brook House has old stone cattle stalls on the roadside.
The 'Old Dairy' on the Chippenham Road still has its stone loading platform. A row of seven houses can be found further out of the village along the Chippenham Road. No one knows why, but they were named 'Tiddley Wink' on the 1891 Census.
West Yatton Lane - The Manor House, dated 1659 with earlier work to the rear wing, is made of rubble stone and ashlar dressings with a stone tiled roof. It has a two storey central porch, dated 'SR 1659'. The interior includes fine 17th century stone fireplaces on the ground floor and first floor to the south. There is an exceptional carved fireplace to the first floor on the north end with 'S & R' carving. The barn is 17th century rubble stone with a stone tiled roof and the summerhouse is 18th century with a pyramidal stone tiled roof. It has a coved plaster ceiling. There is also another house and barn in the lane, dated 1616 and 1742 respectively. Both are of rubble stone with stone tiled roofs and a long house plan; the east end of the barn is apparently mid 18th century. It has a rear cart entry. The barn and house range have a former through passage.
West Yatton - A farmhouse, date stone 'JB 1706', of coursed rubble stone with a steep hipped stone roof. Included is a barn of 18th century, rubble stone, stone tiled roof with dove openings at the west end. There are cottages, late 17th and early 18th century, rubble stone with stone tiled roofs and also cottages which have been converted into a single house (date stone of 'TBB 1764'), rebuilt from an earlier core. They are built of rubble stone with a stone and Bridgewater tiled roof. The interior includes a Tudor-arched flush stone fireplace at the north end. Manor Farmhouse is probably 17th century but has a plaque of 1748 (rebuild). The barn to the rear is 18th century. Again, it is rubble stone with a stone and Bridgewater tiled roof. There is a stone tiled outbuilding with a loft over the stable. A rubble stone barn, part stone tiled with a gabled cart entry and a rear hipped roof cart entry. The wall and railings are 19th century and there is an ashlar gate pier. There are also 17th century cottages, altered, of rubble stone and part rendered with a stone tiled roof. Hogsbush Farmhouse has a late 18th century frontage and 17th century rear and is rendered rubble stone with ashlar dressings. The front range has a coped gabled mansard roof. There is an 18th century privy to the south east of the farmhouse of rubble stone with a pyramidal stone tiled roof, a door to the west side and two small openings to the sides. There is also a dovecote of early 17th century date, rubble stone with a stone tiled roof. It has a wooden louvre. There is a carved armorial panel to the right with a merchant's mark, a 3-bay roof and nesting boxes to all four walls. 'The Granary' is a farmyard court which has been partly converted into a house, late 18th to 19th century, rubble stone with a stone tiled roof. The large courtyard plan is open to the south, single storey with a one and a half storey granary, now converted to a house. The west and part of the north side is a single build with an open stall, stable and pig sty range. The rear is raised on a buttressed rubble stone wall. The large barn beyond is 19th century and slate roofed with a seven bay king post roof.
Giddeahall - Crown Inn, possibly 17th century origins, of rubble stone with a stone tiled roof. It has an L-shaped plan. The rear wing looks of 19th century date and the south end stack, originally internal, has a scratched date of 1643. A licence of 1745-7 was listed for the 'Horse Shoe' in Giddy Hall which may suggest an earlier name for the pub. Also in Giddeahall is a house, early 19th century with a 17th century rear range. Made of ashlar and rubble stone with a slate roof. The roof timbers are thin, suggesting an earlier thatch roof. A 17th century farmhouse, stone with stone tiles. The interior holds a Tudor arch stone fireplace with rosettes. A 19th century farmhouse of rubble stone and a stone tiled roof.
Long Dean - Mill and 18th century cottages in the Combe. The mill house and mill are 18th and early 19th century of rubble stone and concrete tile roofs. The iron mill wheel has a stone arch over it. There are also 18th and 19th century houses, of rubble stone with tiled roofs. A pair of cottages, now one house, is again of 18th century rubble stone but with a 20th century tile roof. The rear incorporates a date stone from a barn at Westrop, Corsham. There is also another row of four cottages, now a house in rubble stone with a stone tiled roof, again of 18th century.
A poster of the late 18th century gives an idea of law enforcement at that time. The villages of Castle Combe, Grittleton, Nettleton, West Kington and Yatton Keynell had an association for the prevention of robberies and thefts, and for the protection of persons and property. Rewards were offered for information on 'Murder, Burglary, Housebreaking, Shoplifting, Highway Robbery, setting fire to any Dwelling House, Barn, or other Outhouse, or to any Mow or Stack of Corn, Grain, Hay, Wood or Fuel'. They met once a year in the Salutation Foss House, in the parish of Castle Combe, on the last Thursday in October. The house is now the 'Salutation Inn' at the Gibb.
Stone was quarried for local houses from the land adjacent to Kent's Bottom. Kent's Bottom is associated with the family of Thomas Kent (1752). The site was later disused. John Aubrey stated "The freestone quarry between Yatton Keynell and Long Dean…does not endure the weather well". A 'tile digger' from Yatton Keynell left a will in 1758, therefore some quarrying must have been taking place at that time. The Ordnance Survey map of 1886 shows old quarries marked to the south of West Yatton. The quarry and plantation to the north of Long Dean was extended by 1921. This map also shows an 'old quarry' at Chapel Wood, south of Long Dean, but it was not there on the map of 1886. In 1900 there was an old quarry next to Kent's Bottom Farm and also to the west of Yatton Keynell. One also occupied land to the west of Giddeahall. The quarries were a major source of employment for local people. In 1851 there was a stone mason living in Yatton Keynell, five stone quarrymen from Giddyhall (also two lodgers from Gloucestershire who were coal heavers), two quarry labourers, one master stone mason from West Yatton and one Journeyman Stone Mason from Long Dean. In 1861 there were six quarrymen, one master mason and two stone masons, all from Yatton Keynell. By 1871 it was only possible to find one stone mason, one stonecutter and quarry man on the Census but four were noted in Yatton Keynell in1881 and after this the numbers remained at around two to three.
The area of the Bybrook valley was home to a large number of weavers using the fulling mills which sprang up along the brook. The area was important for the cloth trade in the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries. Wills dated 1687 and 1735 were made by broad weavers in Yatton Keynell, showing that cloth was woven in the 17th and 18th centuries. Long Dean had two mills, an upper and lower; the upper mill was in the parish of Castle Combe. There was a paper mill at Long Dean in 1635 built by Bristol merchant Thomas Wilde or Wyld. It was said to have manufactured brown paper and Aubrey wrote 'the trough of the paper mill at Long-Deane in the parish of Yatton Keynell, in 1636, was made of oak from Langley Burrell'. In 1809 the mill owner Richard Barrow was declared bankrupt; this also happened to his successor in 1814. Excise letters of 1816-47 refer to the mill as 'Number 16'. The products it produced were paper, pasteboards and millboard. The last reference to the mill was in 1860 when it was producing browns, royal hands and cartridges.
Rack Hill is the site of part of Colham Mill, run by William Haynes who employed a number of weavers, dyers and fullers. Rack Hill most likely got its name from the frames known as tenter-racks upon which broadcloth was stretched taut to dry 'on tenterhooks'. The buildings on the west side of the stream became a farm in the early 21st century. The old Mill house is now a private residence. The earlier mill complex had a man made waterway which was powered by an undershot wheel. It was originally a corn mill and then may have become a fulling or gig mill at a later date. The east side mill was served by a long leat and had three floors. It would have been a large contributor to the woollen trade and was finally destroyed in 1962, although it had ceased production long before this date.
A cotton miller from Long Dean was listed in the Kelly's Directory for 1848, 1855 and 1859, but no mention of any occupation relating to this industry was shown in the 1851 census. In 1861 one 'woolbinder' was noted but it was not until 1871 that two sawyers, letter carvers (lodgers from Grittleton and Slaughterford), a cordwainer, and a 'letter marker at the mill' were found. By 1881 there only were cordwainers but in the Kelly's Directory of 1889 there was a water miller listed and a marked increase in woodworkers, with two master carpenters, three carpenters, one sawyer and one master wheelwright. In 1891 there were paper mill packers, paper sorters, paper finishers, and a carter from the 'paper mill'. Occupations in 1901 included a paper sorter and a furnace stoker at the 'paper mill'. These census returns give some indication of the success of the paper mill over the mid to latter part of the 19th century.
In the trade directory of 1875 Robert Huland was classed as a 'blacksmith, engineer and agricultural machinist'. The census of 1871 shows an engine driver, engineer and machinist, most likely working for him and this is still the case in 1881. The 1891 Census showed a steam engine fitter from Gloucestershire and his apprentice from Bath. By 1901 he had established a business as 'Hulands Robert and Sons, steam roller manufacturers and agricultural engineers', and the census lists a traction engine driver and two steam roller drivers. By 1920 a threshing machine proprietor had set up in the village. There was still a farm machinery sales and service in the village in the 1980s.
In 1848 the parish had a post office, plumber, glazier and baker at Giddy Hall and a blacksmith and corn merchant at Long Dean. Yatton Keynell had a beer retailer, farmer, surgeon, malsters, carpenter and a shopkeeper. A shopkeeper left a will in 1747, and there was a will left by a 'surgeon and apothecary' in 1806. Occupations included a coal merchant in 1881, and a pig dealer from 'Tiddleywink'. In 1898 there was an agent for the White Star Steamship Company (which owned the Titanic). The agent was still there in 1907, along with dressmakers.
The Postmaster in Yatton Keynell in 1851 was John Andrews. His mother Mary was postmistress at Giddy Hall at the same time, but was classed as a 'pauper'. She lived with her daughter, Elizabeth, who was a schoolmistress. John Andrews was still there in 1861 and also in 1871, aged about 79. James Cleverley had taken over by 1881 and he was both a farmer and sub postmaster. By 1891 he was listed as living at 'The Grange' with a lodger and mail driver. There were also two other postmen listed at other addresses. A map of 1900 shows the Post Office below the Rectory, by the road, in front of The Grange.
In 1861 a large number of scholars were marked on the census return due to the opening of the school. There was a Chelsea Pensioner living in Yatton Keynell in 1861. He had been born in the village and was classed as 'blind'. Soldiers who had finished their term of service and had been wounded during it were entitled to pensions. They were named after the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, opened in 1692, but many were 'out-patents' living at home. The navy equivalent was the 'Greenwich' pensioners and 6d a month was taken from seamen's wages for this purpose. In 1871 there was an 'out pensioner of Greenwich' living in the village. In 1871 'The Jolly Sailor' beer house appeared and in 1891 'The Old House at Home' was mentioned for the first time. A chimney sweep was also listed as living in the village! It was noticed that in the 1881 census more farmers seemed to be employing servants and this was particularly noticeable in 1891; maybe the wealth of the local farmers had improved.
It has been said that in World War Two the valley in West Yatton Down was used as a firing range. There was an airfield between Yatton Keynell and Castle Combe which was triangular; the bottom third was situated in the parish. Regular use began in 1941 when it was used as a training school for the No.9 Flying Training School based at Hullavington. When training was undertaken at night the grass runway was illuminated by goose-neck flares. In 1942 it became used as 'advanced' training for British, Commonwealth and Fleet Air Arm pilots. Locals must have seen a great variety of aircraft overhead from Hawker Hurricanes to torpedo and dive bombers! The airfield continued to expand during 1942 with more accommodation and instruction facilities. Some of them were placed on sites a distance from the airfield. In early 1943 water logging initiated necessary improvements including 'Somerfield tracking' runways and a tarmac perimeter but wet conditions continued to cause a problem. On 13 March 1944 a Stirling Bomber force landed at Castle Combe. Its bomb load exploded causing damage to airfield buildings. In May 1945 the airfield became disused but was re-used in July 1946 to June 1948 to house Polish ex-service personnel, finally being disposed of in September 1948.
Oswald S Brakespear, an architect from Pickwick Manor, Corsham, did a great deal of work in the village in the second half of the 20th century. He worked on the church (in 1946-87), the village hall (1942-50), the Rectory and Glebe Cottage (1952-68), Manor House (1965-9) and 'Jubilee' Surgery (1977-9). Yatton Keynell's Conservation Area was designated in May 1991 and encompasses the centre of the village. Modern development is to the north and south and includes a playing field, new school, doctor's surgery and village hall. The By Brook Valley Church of England Primary School opened in 1998. It was an amalgamation of four local primary schools. In the latter part of the 20th century the village had a shop, school, hall, recreation ground, doctor's surgery, toddler and playgroup, Women's Institute, OAP's luncheon club, Church Youth Club, Brownies, Boy's rugby team, football team, and skittles team. Residents could also take part in squash, whist, archery, darts and pantomimes by the amateur dramatics society. Every year in mid June a 'donkey derby' took place on the Jubilee field.
In 2002 an avenue of trees was planted between the village green and the football pitch containing 10 pairs of London Plane, Maples, Cherry, Lime, Alder, Beech, Oak, Tulip and Poplar trees. It was planted to mark for Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee. Also in 2002 an overgrown pond between Biddestone Lane and the football pitch was cleared as a 'millennium project'. As at 2003 there was an embroidered map hanging in the village hall to which villagers contributed work; the community spirit of Yatton Keynell continues into the 21st century.