Concise History: Wiltshire: A History of its Landscape and PeopleThis community has been included in John Chandler's on-going series and the full text is available here.
The name of Allington has evolved from Aldinton, Aldington, and Aldyngton, the preferred form in the 13th century and it is thought the origin is probably from 'Ealda's farm'. Allington lies in the Bourne valley just over seven miles (12km) north-east of Salisbury on the A338. Boscombe was added to the parish in 1934. The parish area originally covered 387 hectares and the Bourne flows through the middle of the parish. The boundary is marked in the north west by mounds which show up on 19th century maps, and the north west and south east boundaries are marked by roads.
Chalk outcrops surround the village and the Bourne has gravel deposits. Local downland is 155m high in the south east and then flat terrain falls steeply to the river. The river is bounded by meadows with open fields on the higher chalkland and then rougher pasture on the downs at either end of the village. Orchards once existed within the village, but trees and woodland in the surrounding area were not planted until the late 19th century, west of the church. The area in the south east has been, and continues to be used for military training.
The settlement on the bank of the Bourne is located where the old road to Salisbury is crossed by the Winterslow road; the ford over the river provided an obvious location for a settlement. South west of this ford was open ground, a green and then west of this is the location of the church with the rectory situated south of the church building. Ancient remains found near Allington include a Bronze Age brooch near Portway (the Roman road) and shards of Romano-British pottery, as well as three ditches across the parish, one in the north west and two in the south east.
The hundred of Amesbury, which included Allington and Boscombe, was held by the royal house of Wessex before the Norman invasion and passed with the crown until the 1140s. The hundred was acquired by the lord of the manor of Amesbury c.1249. This covered an extensive area until the 14th century when some lands were transferred. From 1400 to 1900 it remained unchanged and through this time it included Allington and Boscombe. In 1285 Allington was settled on William of Draycott and his wife, Susan, passing to William Buckland and then to Sir Thomas Hungerford by 1379. In 1428 it passed to Sir John Wallop and descended then by direct line, until the time of the restoration. In 1661 it was granted to the brother in law of Robert Wallop - Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, who sold it in 1666 to William Craven, Earl of Craven, who subsequently sold it in portions in 1680.
The manor was bought by Edward Miller who divided it, giving one third to his son Nicholas, and selling the other two thirds to his grandson who later sold to Henry Hyde. It then came into the possession of John Baker who sold the whole in 1737 to trustees of Joseph Earle. By 1762 the trustees had sold to Edward Hearst who owned other land in the parish. The Hearst estate descended through the family and in 1909 was inherited by Mary, wife of Walter Long. Family names included Wyndham, Campbell, Thornton, King and Pleydell-Bouverie. It seemed common practice to hyphenate the names so as not to lose the Wyndham connection. By 1840 Page's Farm had also been added to the Manor Farm and by 1916 the War Department owned 173 acres and the remainder was sold off in portions from 1923.
Wyndham's Farm was bought by A. A. Curtis and by 1993 was owned by Mr. & Mrs. Snell. William, Earl of Craven, sold what was later known as Child's Farm to William Child and it then passed by descent until it was sold in 1806 to Mr. R. Horne and then later sold in portions by 1895. Thorp's estate descended with the Thorp and Clifford family from the mid 14th century along with East Boscombe manor and was sold in 1598 to John Hatchman. He then sold to John Poncherdon in 1618. By 1705 it belonged to William Hearst passing to his sons and then became part of the manor of Allington. Goodsall descended through the family and was sold to William Hearst by 1721. By 1762 this also was part of the manor of Allington. Thomas Mackerell owned Page's farm and this was later sold by his daughter, coming into the possession of the rector of Cholderton by 1709, and was then owned in 1840 by Jane Mayhew. By 1910 it had also been added to Allington manor. John Miles sold a small farm that was added to an Amesbury charity in 1780. They had sold it by c.1910-1925.
The Amesbury hundred included 25 parishes scattered over the chalklands in the south east of Salisbury Plain. No one landowner was dominant and the largest estates in the Middle Ages were Amesbury and Wilton Abbey; the rest was made up of small villages. Allington was one of these small villages; there were only six farmsteads in the 1840s, three on the green, two in Wyndham Lane and one on the Newton Tony road, east of the crossroads. A farmhouse and two cottages had burnt down in 1788.
Manor farm near the church existed in the 17th century but burnt down in 1860. South east of this was Child's Farm built in the 17th century, a three bayed timber frame thatched house, known as Kea cottage in 1993. 17th century Wyndhams farm was built at the crossroads and also of timber frame construction. It was rebuilt of brick and rubble with a refitted interior in the 18th century and extended to the south and again refitted in the 19th century. Bishop's Cottage in Wyndhams Lane was built of flint with brick quoins and thatch, for Richard Bishop in 1789. North west of Bishops cottage was Page's Farm, demolished sometime after 1961. North west of Newton Tony road lies Charity Farm built c.1780 and then rebuilt in 1893 as a red brick house. A pair of cottages was built on the east side of the green in the 1840s and then later a terrace which included a non-conformist chapel built c.1843. In the 19th century the rectory house was demolished.
A house south of the 'New Inn' may incorporate parts of an earlier house and the 'Flint House' was built on the west side of the road 1840-1875 to the north of the village. Buildings in the village include a farmstead and cottages built north of the junction of Tidworth Road and Wyndham Lane dating from the late 19th and early 20th century. On the east side, three thatched cottages were built c.1899 and 1923 and were then replaced by a commercial garage in the late 20th century. A new rectory was built in 1877 and a new farmstead called 'Cloudlands' was built 1899-1923. Other 20th century building included Allington House, to the east, built of stone and on rising ground, four council houses in 1929 at the north end of the village and four private houses built in the 1930s. South of the village and on the border with Boscombe is an estate of twenty houses, four flats and three bungalows, built c.1948 and called 'Bourne View'. By the 1960s more houses and bungalows were built in the older part of the village. Wyndham Lane also became built up, and some infilling and other building occurred c.1960 around the junction of Wyndham Lane and Tidworth Road.
In 1086 Allington comprised two manors totalling eight hides with land for four plough teams and 13 acres of meadow; there was also a mill and pasture land. There was a population of between 60 and 70 people and by 1377 there were 35 poll tax payers (aged 14 and over) recorded. In 1801 there were 75 inhabitants according to the census of that year. Through the 19th century there were never more than 94 inhabitants counted in any one census but by 1911 the population had risen to 207, almost trebling from 1891. There is no obvious reason for this although there was provision of some new housing by this time which may explain it. In 1931 there were 175 inhabitants and then an increase is shown in the figures after the Second World War as new housing was built, so that by 1991 there were 469 inhabitants in the parish, 75% of whom lived in Allington. The 2011 census records 493 people living in the parish of Allington and Boscombe.
The main markets at Wilton and Salisbury supported the local farming which concentrated on the traditional corn and sheep with large flocks kept until c.1900. Open fields previously existed in each half of the parish, as well as common pasture for the sheep on the nearby downland at either end of the village. Meadow close to the river and one common meadow supported the cattle that were also kept.
In the 18th century 845 acres of arable and upland pasture supported the grazing in the south east and north west of the parish and there were three open fields in each half of the parish. All common land was enclosed by 1795 and there were then seven farms. From 1795 to 1840 all of the north west down was converted to arable. Sheep and corn were dominant until 1900 and then dairy farming began to increase. Manor and Wyndham Farms were the largest farms in the 20th century. However, much of the farmland became part of the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment at nearby Porton Down. A mill existed in 1086 in Allington but no further information exists. Allington farm was built on the south east downs by 1867 and by 1916 was within the military boundary and no longer used for traditional farming; the same was true of Arundel Farm on the north west downs, which was built by the state in 1916. Both of these farms later supported the work at the Porton Down establishment in Idmiston.
The New Inn was built c.1848 on a site of a building that was standing in 1795, at the junction of the new and the old road and the name replaced the earlier name of the 'Roadside Inn' as shown on the 1841 census. The name was changed again to the Old Inn in the late 19th century; it was rebuilt in the 20th century and is still open today.
Portway, the Roman road that ran from Salisbury to Silchester (5 miles north of Basingstoke) crosses the south eastern boundary, while the main Oxford to Salisbury road via Hungerford crossed the north western tip of the parish in the 17th century; this was moved further west by 1773. Allington is on the road linking the Bourne valley villages to Salisbury and this road was turnpiked in 1835 to improve the route from Salisbury to Swindon via Marlborough and a new southern section of road was constructed. Other roads include the Winterslow road which converged with the Newton Tony road and led to Amesbury. The development of the Boscombe Down airfield west of the parish meant that this road was diverted along the 'Allington track' and was then improved in the 1950s. The village was bypassed by the new Swindon to Salisbury road in 1835. In the 20th century the old section south of the village and the new section were called Tidworth road; this resulted in an amount of 19th and 20th century development along this route.
The London and South Western railway opened a route from London to Salisbury in 1857; running south east of the Portway and still a main line. A smaller line existed from 1902 to 1963 running from Grateley in Hampshire to Amesbury, crossing the north west of the parish.
From 1897 the War Department bought up estates on Salisbury Plain for military training purposes, owning 26,000 acres of land in 1994. Many roads closed as ranges were established and rough ground was, and is, used for tank training. In Allington and Boscombe land and buildings of the Chemical and Biological Defence establishment are part of the Porton Down establishment.
Poor relief cost the parish £20 a year in the 1770s and 1780s and in the early 1800s £73 was spent on regular poor relief for five adults and eleven children, plus occasional relief for five other people, and that amounted to about one third of the parish. The parish became part of Amesbury Poor Law Union in 1835. Later, in 1974 it was included in the Salisbury district. From the late 18th century the rector of Allington gave bread, cheese and ale to paupers on Christmas day and Ellen Meyrick's will of 1899 gave the income from investment of £200 to old paupers at Christmas. Two people received £3 each in 1900 and in 1950 the £5 income was shared between five and six people. From 1973 the money was allowed to accumulate.
Village life in the 19th century and general employment followed the pattern of the rest of rural Wiltshire at that time; most of the work was on the land which supported agricultural labourers, shepherds and farmers while other trades, such as the blacksmith, carpenter, thatcher, shopkeeper and post master or mistress, supported the general lifestyle. Today many of the local businesses have closed and the recently adopted Parish Plan 2011-2016, highlights the lack of village amenities. Emphasis is placed on the need for inclusive village projects to sustain the sense of community. The local alliance of parish councils includes Cholderton, Newton Tony, Allington, Boscombe, Idmiston and Winterbourne and meets quarterly. There is a Bourne Valley Historical Society formed in 1948, and the sense of community, as shown on the parish website, is thriving.
The name Boscombe, originally Boscumbe as recorded in Domesday, has had various spellings, including Bescumba, Bascumbe, Borrescumb and Borscumbe.
'Bors' indicates something bristly or spiky; possibly a combe or valley overgrown with bristly plants. Boscombe is in the Bourne valley 6.8 miles north east of Salisbury and covers 683 hectares. It was added to Allington parish in 1934. The river Bourne flows across the middle of the parish following a winding course and the two villages which make up the parish are East Boscombe on the east bank of the Bourne and West Boscombe on the opposite bank. The south eastern boundary follows a ridge and the north eastern boundary follows a series of mounds along the junction with Allington, while other boundaries of the parish cross downland. A dispute on the north western boundary with Allington resulted in a piece of land measuring 36 acres becoming commonable and used jointly by 1726. However by 1866 a straight line divides this plot and this was then adopted as the parish boundary.
The Bourne flows freely through the winter and spring but is often dry in summer; it has a gravel bed and shows deposits of alluvium just south of the church. The parish is surrounded by chalk outcrops with meadow land either side of the river and open fields between the meadow and the downland.Woodland was planted in the 19th century around the village and the surrounding downs have been used for military purposes since the late 19th century.
To the east of the parish are a prehistoric ditch and three bowl barrows. On East Boscombe Down there is evidence of a Bronze Age enclosure, probably for cattle, and also evidence of Iron Age smelting. West Boscombe down reveals a hill fort from the 1st century A.D. and there is also a 3rd or 4th century cemetery. An Iron Age site, east south east of Boscombe church was also the site of a Romano-British villa and this extensive site was excavated in the 1950s revealing five pits containing examples of Iron Age pottery. A well preserved Roman coffin was found to the west of the Boscombe Down Airfield site in 2007, on what is now the 'Archers Gate' development.
Two entries are recorded for Boscombe in the Domesday Book recording 19 households spread between east and west Boscombe. The total value to the Lord of the Manor was about £13 and the land is generally described as meadow and pasture with six plough teams. The population would have numbered between 70 and 80 at that time.In 1086 William of Eu held the majority of land including East Boscombe manor. By 1175 this had descended to Roger Bernard, remaining with that family until it was conveyed to Thomas Hungerford in 1370 before being sold to John Thorp in 1382. It then passed in direct line until being sold to William Kent in 1628. Robert Eyre bought the manor in 1733 and it still belonged to the Eyre-Matcham family in 1889. Like much of the local area it was eventually bought by the Ministry of Defence by 1925.
East Farm was owned by W.C. Thomas and then John Bament in 1924 and still owned by that family in 1993. Members of the Clifford and Kent families lived in East Boscombe House which stood on the site of East Boscombe Manor and this house had been leased at various points in its history. In 1768 it was lived in by a doctor who used it as an inoculation hospital. At that time it contained 18 bedrooms and had a bowling green in the garden. It was demolished in 1770 and the outline of that house is still partly visible. Other land in East Boscombe was sold in 1364 by Thomas Peverel to Sir Thomas Tyrell and held by his family by descent.
West Boscombe was held by Amesbury Abbey in 1086 until the dissolution. It was later sold to Richard Reeves in 1599 and was acquired by Sir Thomas Freke by 1609 and then split into three portions. In 1609 it was sold to Simon Clifford, of East Boscombe manor, passing to William Kent and eventually was reunited with the rest of West Boscombe manor in the 19th century.The rest, including Queen's Farm, in the early 18th century passed to Clifford's son, Simon, and was sold to Stephen Kent in 1641, then to James Harris in 1656 and eventually to Thomas Waters in 1785. Other land descended and came into the possession of George Waters by 1866.
All of West Boscombe manor, called Queen Manor farm, descended with East Boscombe manor from the middle of the mid-19th century. It was sold by George Eyre-Matcham between 1919 and 1922 to R .E. Macan. Queen Manor farm was sold to J. Read by 1955 and remained in that family until 1993. Some of the land was bought by the government in 1925 and 1950 for Boscombe Down airfield. Queen Manor in West Boscombe was brick built in the 18th century and has 19th century extensions and then 20th century alterations. The large garden is enclosed with an 18th century cob wall with brick and flint footings. To the west are farm buildings, some no longer in use, including a large timber framed granary on staddle stones with weather boarding dating from the late 18th century and early 19th century.
An account by Christopher Fawcett, rector of Boscombe from 1830, gives an indication of the type of parish this was in the first half of the 19th century. The rectory was a small house consisting of two living rooms, a kitchen and three bedrooms; 'the living rooms had fine oak beams and wainscoting, bedrooms unceilinged, daylight through roof tiles showed,' as Geoffrey Gibbon notes in his pamphlet on the Fawcett family. Fawcett himself was Oxford educated and had many interests, which he would need, as the living was not too taxing at Boscombe; 'he was a well read man, but strong in French and Italian, and he was a scientific botanist.' He married Sarah Frances Foyle in 1835 and they had five children and a happy life at Boscombe. Fawcett added a new wing to the house providing a drawing room, dining room, staircase and two further bedrooms, 'square and sunny in a Georgian style'. He had a hunting accident and was laid up for six months, his work in the parish taken care of by his neighbour Homas Mozley, vicar of Cholderton, and he was lame for the rest of his life. Boscombe rectory was let as a private residence from 1891 and later sold.
In 1377 there were 46 poll tax payers (aged 14 years and over) recorded but in 1428 there were less than ten households. Between 1801 and 1851 the population rose from 103 to 159, then fell again to 81 by 1921, and rose to 117 in 1931. In 2011 the census records 493 people living in the parish of Allington and Boscombe.
Farming was the main occupation and in 1086 six plough teams were recorded across the parish. By 1362 in East Boscombe there were 240 acres of arable land, half sown each year and by 1446 only six acres used for arable and eight acres for meadow; the rest was downland and there was also a rabbit warren. Between 1577 and 1580 an exchange of land between lord of the manor, tenants and the rector, meant that it was farmed as a single farm. In 1719 it was made up of 300 acres of arable, 700 acres of downland and some pasture near the village. It increased in size by 1840 and a flock of sheep numbering 1,130 was run by a downland farmstead. In the late 19th century much of that arable was converted to pasture on East Boscombe farm and dairy and pig farming increased. By the early 20th century much of the farm was taken for military use and by 1930 East Farm was half arable and half pasture. Beef cattle were reared in the 1990s and only 75 acres were cultivated for the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment, the rest of the land remained as rough grassland. A barn built on East Boscombe down in the late 18th or early 19th century had a farmstead and house added by 1839, although this was removed between 1916 and 1923 when the buildings of the Experimental Station at Porton Down were erected on the same site and land to the east was used for firing ranges.
West Boscombe in the Middle Ages had more arable and less pasture than East Boscombe. In the 16th century there were three open fields called 'Church Hill', 'Brownberry' and 'West' and a common eight acre meadow. Common land also existed on the disputed boundary with Allington, covering 36 acres. By the 18th century the three open fields were called 'Idmiston', Middle', and 'Church Hill' or 'Allington' measuring about 307 acres and being shared between nine holdings; this amount had increased through the 18th century and by 1839 there were 248 strips totalling 414 acres. The land was more neatly organised in West Boscombe than the older arable land in the east of the parish. The four course rotation was then used; two fields were sown with corn, one with grass and one left fallow, common husbandry being practised until about 1866 when all the land was absorbed into one single farm - Queen Manor farm. A flock of sheep numbering about 1,210 was kept in 1840 and much of the land was worked by Thomas Waters from 1780 to 1794, followed by his nephew by 1832. Like East Boscombe, the emphasis moved to dairy and pig farming by the end of the 19th century, and by 1910 Queen Manor farm covered 586 acres. In the 20th century 250 acres were taken for Boscombe Down airfield. By 1991 Queen Manor Farm measured 750 acres and held all the other land in Boscombe. It was by then arable and had 1,000 breeding ewes.
There was a windmill on Boscombe Down recorded in 1773 and 1793 but it was not in use in 1876 and was demolished by 1926. The Earl of Normanton public house is in Little Boscombe and was previously called the Plough Inn on late 19th century maps.
Portway is the Roman road from Silchester in Hampshire to Old Salisbury and this crosses the eastern side of the parish. The Oxford - Hungerford road crossed the west part but became a minor road after 1675. In 1835 the road linking the Bourne valley villages to Salisbury became the last part of the Swindon to Salisbury road via Marlborough to be turnpiked; it was disturnpiked in 1876 but is still the main route between Salisbury and Swindon. A short new section of road was built in 1939 to move traffic away from the church. In the 1950s the Allington to Amesbury road was also improved. The military presence locally did have an impact on some of the established routes as they were sometimes closed off for military training, which must have had an impact on local movement and travel arrangements.
The London to Salisbury railway was built by the London and South Western Railway and followed the route just south east of the Portway; opened in 1857 it is still in us today. The light railway between Amesbury and Grateley in Hampshire travels across the north corner of the parish and was operational from 1902 to 1963. Boscombe Down aerodrome was served by a 530 yard railway siding off the Amesbury military branch; it was built in 1917-18 and removed after the First World War.
The poor cost the parish £54 in 1775 which was high expenditure considering the size of the population; by the 1780s the average was £25. In 1802 £79 was spent on 23 paupers and this represented one quarter of the inhabitants; and between 1812 and 1815 a yearly average of £113 was spent on 12 paupers, this peaked at £157 in 1832. By 1834 Boscombe became part of the Amesbury Poor Law Union and by 1974 was included in the Salisbury District until Wiltshire became a unitary authority in 2009.
John Kent built four one-roomed almshouses for the use of two widows and two widowers and they also received 2s. 4d. per week; by 1833 three of these houses were held by the parish for paupers and one was empty and then later in the 19th century the almshouses could be let by the parish. In 1930 they were sold to the Bourne Valley Nursing Association. The 2s. 4d. was still paid out to the poor in the first half of the 20th century but by 1973 the income had been accumulating.
Boscombe gave its name to Boscombe Down airfield, located in the Amesbury parish but with runways from c.1944 encroaching on the West Boscombe downland. Boscombe Down airfield was opened in 1917 for pilot training and buildings were established by 1919. However the airfield closed by 1920. It was re-opened by 1930, covering 238 acres of land in Amesbury and spreading into the Boscombe and Idmiston area. Until 1939 this airfield was used by bomber squadrons and then the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment moved there; it was known then as RAF Boscombe Down and was an important site for testing aircraft. Significant planes have been tested for the British armed forces since the Second World War such as the English Electric P.1 and the BAC TSR.2.
Runways were made in Boscombe and Idmiston from 1944 and the Evaluation Establishment (formerly the Experimental Establishment) was still based there in the 1990s. The School of Aviation Medicine was also at the site. By 1995 it came under the Defence and Research Agency and while still a government airfield it is now operated by a private company, Qinetiq, on behalf of the Ministry of Defence. It still tests and evaluates military aircraft, both those in use and potential new aircraft for use by the military. The site has two runways, one measuring 3,212m in length and the other 1,914m in length, both constructed of concrete and asphalt. From October 2007 it has been designated as a QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) airfield, providing round the clock fighter coverage for the south and south west airspace, should a threat to the area exist, and in this instance the airfield would accommodate the quick reaction aircraft, if required. The following comment on this status is from the Salisbury Journal:-
'Basing RAF fighters at Boscombe Down to play their part in the defence of air space around the UK will see history complete a full circle as the only Victoria Cross awarded to Fighter Command in World War II was for Flight Lieut. Nicholson, who flew from Boscombe Down to complete an air defence sortie over Southampton.' (Salisbury Journal October 2007)
The partnership that has now resulted between Qinetiq and the MOD, the Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre, plays an important role in the testing of both existing and future military aircraft. It is also home to the Rotary Wing Test Squadron, Fast Jet Test Squadron, Heavy Aircraft Test Squadron, Handling Squadron and the Empire Test Pilots' School, as well as the Southampton University Air Squadron. The airfield was expanded after the Second World War and much building took place. Land in both Amesbury and other parishes was acquired and accommodation in the form of housing was provided for commissioned officers, warrant officers and airmen. Several housing estates were built to the west of the airfield. This area has generally become known as Boscombe Down and had its own church built, however few commercial or social properties exist. Boscombe Down has been associated with rumours concerning top secret U.S. black projects. An incident is reported to have occurred there on 26 September 1994, although evidence is scarce, and both the British and American governments have refused to comment on it. In 1990 Boscombe Down airfield held an air display to mark the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain; this was the first time that the airfield was open for a public event of this kind. A tribute was paid to the pilots and planes that took part in the Battle of Britain and featured an international cast of pilots and various display teams including the Red Arrows. The Empire Test Pilots School became a model for other countries to follow and it trained overseas students from Commonwealth and friendly overseas countries. These included two astronauts, Colonel Al Worden who flew on the Apollo 15 space mission and Colonel Bill Pogue who was a pilot of Skylab in 1973-74, one of the longest manned space missions to date, at just over 84 days long.
The Bourne effectively divided the Boscombe villages and in 1773 it was crossed by a ford while by 1817 two bridges had been built. The south western bridge was rebuilt in the 19th century as a single span bridge and the north eastern bridge was rebuilt in 1930. East Boscombe had buildings on both side of the main road; the church, rectory house, Boscombe House and lodge, a farmhouse now called the Close, with farm buildings either side of the road, two timber framed granaries on staddle stones, a new farm, east farm, and 18th century houses between the close and the rectory, an almshouse and two 18th century cottages near the church.
West Boscombe in the 19th century had Queen Manor farm buildings and a few cottages, a thatched house built in the 19th century near the granary and a 17th century house just south west of the church. There are also groups of 18th century buildings near the main road and parish boundary. Little Boscombe, south of Boscombe, was also known as Lower Boscombe by 1817. It comprised a cob and thatch cottage north west of the road and there were also some buildings south east of the road which were demolished in the 19th century. In the early 20th century the above places were linked by a line of houses including eight council houses and there is social housing built on the boundary with Allington in the 1940s and 1950s. There is a working men's club which opened in 1919 and is still in use and a cemetery, south west of the church and by the main road, established in the 1930s. While the east and west villages through time have tended to their own identities, through the 20th century they are usually known collectively as Boscombe village.