The civil parish of Chippenham Without was created by the Local Government Act of 1894, which divided the ancient parish of Chippenham into the municipal borough of Chippenham (Chippenham Within) and Chippenham Without. Chippenham Without mainly comprised the farmland to the west of the town.
This area contains one small village, Allington, a deserted mediaeval village at Sheldon and three likely manor houses.
In medieval times it was probably much like the rural parts of the adjacent parish of Corsham but in the case of Chippenham, development has taken place only in the town and not in villages around early manors. Many of the buildings in this landscape are 18th century or earlier and today the land does not look too different to what it was a century ago, apart from the disappearance of the elm trees. In the late 20th century the westward expansion of Chippenham in Cepen Park south has created a large population in the eastern extremities of Chippenham Without. Industrial and retail development has also expanded into the parish.
There is evidence of occupation here for over 5,000 years, but there is only evidence for continuous occupation from mediaeval times. Flint tools from the Mesolithic period have been found at Allington, Lan Hill, west of Fowleswick and on the site of Sainsbury’s supermarket. Neolithic tools have been found at Sheldon Corner, Fowleswick Lane, Camp Cottage and Lan Hill, while a storage pit was uncovered on the supermarket site. Much of this may only indicate transient occupation. There is a good scattering of Romano-British material through the parish and it would seem likely that there were houses and farms here and possibly a small settlement at Sheldon Corner. Besides coins, pottery and ornaments, tiles have been found on two sites. A Saxon hut was excavated on the Sainsbury’s supermarket site and there may well have been other occupation, as Chippenham was a royal estate, but this period leaves few visible traces.
There were mediaeval settlements at Chiverlings Farm, Derriads Farm, Pitts Cottages and west of Sheldon Manor House. The latter is a deserted village and will be dealt with under Sheldon. It would seem that the small mediaeval settlements faded away leaving only the manor house, big house or chief farm remaining. This is contrary to the picture at nearby Corsham where the large houses attracted and retained settlement to become the present villages in that large parish. It may be that the after effects of the Black Death caused a sudden abandonment of houses or it could have been a gradual decline with houses falling empty and decaying over a period of time.
Land at Allington was given to the nunnery of Martingny in the upper Rhone valley by King Stephen; in the reign of Edward I they transferred it to the priory of Monkton Farleigh, between Bradford on Avon and Bath. The monks ran the farm here themselves until the dissolution of the priory in 1537, when the value of their premises there was listed. Included in these were:
7 quarters of wheat at 5 shillings a quarter
2 quarters of barley at 2 shillings and 8 pence a quarter
10 quarters of oats at 1 shilling and 4 pence a quarter
1 measure of ale in a vessel valued one shilling
6 oxen at 6 shillings and 8 pence each
They also had a cart or wagon valued at 3 shillings and equipment for it valued at 10 pence. The item of greatest value was their right to one tenth of the value of the standing corn of the lord of the manor - £8. The total value was £13.3.6d
Allington was then granted to Sir Edward Seymour, later the Protector Duke of Somerset. Among the Seymour tenants was Sir Gilbert Prynne, who came from a Bristol family and died at Allington in 1627. All that remains of his house is now a large barn. The only Seymour who lived here for certain was Charles Seymour, who fought in the Royalist army during the Civil War, survived and died at Allington in 1664. In 1749 the estate passed to Sir Charles Wyndham and a century later the Wyndhams sold Allington to the Neelds in 1848.
William Aubrey, writing to his brother John in 1683, said that he had seen a hundred quarterings of the Seymour Arms in the windows of the house. The barn still retains a blocked up window on one side and on the other side a doorway with another blocked window above it. Two fireplaces remain, one on the ground floor and one on the first floor. On the nearby farmhouse, Manor Farm, the Prynne coat of arms from the old house has been built into a wall and the back door has a knocker dated 1612, also probably from the old house.
Bolehyde Manor is named from Thomas de Bolehyde, who was a landowner in the 14th century and presumably held a tenement in Allington. It later came into the possession of the Snell family of Kington St. Michael, probably in the 16th century. The last member of the family Sir Charles Snell sold the tenement to John Cole in 1635 and it remained in the family until at least the late 19th century.
The manor house is a large mid 17th century building of rubble stone with ashlar dressings and stone tiles. Its origins are earlier and the lower rear range is possibly 16th century and there is an original Tudor-arched moulded fireplace at the western end. From the mid 17th century there is a dovecote with a weather vane inscribed ‘C.O. 1657’ and a pair of summer houses. The most noticeable feature of the house is the two storey porch topped by a balustrade with early Georgian life size busts at the front corners. A skirmish between Cornish troops of King Charles and the Roundheads is said to have taken place near here.
Fowleswick Farmhouse was once a substantial mansion on a moated site. Part of the moat remains and the present farmhouse has a date stone of 1679 over the front door and a huge chimney piece. The land and old house once belonged to Malmesbury Abbey. William of Colerne, abbot in the late 13th century built a hall and middle chamber between two chambers at the gable end of the said hall, a cow house and kitchen and two stables covered with stone tiles. William was a great improver of all Abbey property and at Fowleswick he also had a stone wall built around the court, and enclosed the field by Fowleswick Wood with a ditch and hawthorn hedge and a ploughed field called Rowemarsh with a hawthorn hedge.
John Aubrey commented on the moat at Fowleswick when in the 17th century the property was owned by Lord Lucas of Crudwell. One tenant, John Arch died in 1630 and was succeeded by a J. Arch, who was known to Aubrey. It would appear that the old mansion was pulled down in the 1670s and only the chimney piece retained for the new farmhouse. In the 18th century it belonged to the Jacobs of Norton who sold the property to the Neelds of Grittleton.
Allington House itself dates from the 18th century while Foxhill House is later 17th century and became a farmhouse; Manor Farmhouse is mid 18th century and incorporates fragments of the 17th century Manor Farmhouse. The 18th century barn here is a reconstruction of part of the c.1660 manor house while another barn is purely 18th century. The Grange (Beard’s Farm) is 16th century with an 18th century range. With the Cottage (1741) and Ivy Cottage also 18th century there was a great deal of rebuilding at Allington in that century. Much of Allington is included in the Allington Conservation Area, designated in 1998.
The medieval village of Sheldon lies to west of the manor house. It comprises a Holloway running from east to west, with a road leading northwards from it. The house platforms abut the road and there are the common fields to the north. One field still shows traces of ridge and furrow from mediaeval ploughing. The manor of Sheldon was granted to Sir William de Beauvilainin c.1180, in 1195 there were 100 sheep and 24 oxen and it was admitted that a further 100 sheep and two ploughs were missing from this account. As there were normally four pairs of oxen in mediaeval plough team he would seem to have been operating five ploughs.
Sheldon village existed by the early 13th century and in 1287 there were 13 buildings, two of which were probably long houses with accommodation for animals at one end. At this time there were three free tenants, the others being bound to the lord of the manor. The mediaeval road was cambered and the manor house and its forecourt faced onto the road. In the early 16th century an old wood was cut down, presumably to provide more arable or pasture land, and a smaller area of 6½ acres replanted. This was enclosed; it was felled and replanted again in both 1727 and 1905. By 1582 the village had gone, possibly because it was too close to the manor house or the village may just have declined. In 1582 the manor was split into two farms, Upper and Lower, and it is possible that the farm workers moved to live at and around the two farmhouses.
Sheldon Manor House is over 700 years old and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited houses in England. From 1231 it belonged to the de Godarville family and in 1250 it passed to Sir Geoffrey Gascelyn on his marriage to Joan de Godarville. The Gascelyns held it until 1424, although Christina Gascelyn married Edward Holes in 1375. In 1424 the manor was sold to Sir Walter Hungerford and it remained in their family, except for a few years after 1461 when Robert Hungerford, the 3rd Lord was attainted, and again after 1540, until 1684 when it was sold to Sir Richard Kent; on his bankruptcy in 1687 it was bought by Sir Richard Hart, who sold it to William Norris in 1711.
The present manor house is of three dates. The porch in the centre is of 1282 and it seems that the house was extended between 1287 and 1307 by Edmund and Isabella Gascelyn. This may have been on the site of the present west wing, which was rebuilt in 1659. The east wing dates from 1431. The chapel of the house is believed to date from c.1450. For many centuries the manor house was used as the farm house. It is unlikely that any of the owners of the manor farmed the land themselves and the names of many of the tenant farmers are known from the 15th century. Those include Thomas Hille, for whom a chamber was built to the east of the hall of the manor in 1431, and from 1440 Adam Swayne, whose son, also Adam succeeded him. In 1514 Thomas Hulbert became the farmer of the manor and his descendents continued in this role for 150 years, being at both farms after 1582. The house itself probably deteriorated and by 1659, when vacated by the Hulberts, the new tenant, William Forster, was given permission to rebuild and to take what stone was needed. Both farms were sold by Sir Edward Hungerford in 1684.
The Norris family held the manor until 1854 when it was sold to Sir Gabriel Goldney. Tenants were James Young (d. 1756), his son John (d.1802), John Mitchell, his son John (d.1851) and Edmund Parslow for only three years. From 1855 to 1876 the tenants were the Batley family from Suffolk and the latter part of the 19th century saw a succession of tenants. In 1917 the manor was bought by the Gibbs family.
Other Houses in Chippenham Without
Many of the buildings are of the 18th century or early 19th century and are mostly built of stone rubble with a little dressed stone and stone tile roofs.
Wellclose Farmhouse, Lanhill; later 18th century with late 18th century/early 19th century cartshed or stall range
Lanhill Farmhouse and stables; estate farmhouse of c.1848 for J. Neeld of Grittleton. Clustered octagonal chimney shafts, farm buildings and stables also of c.1845 and estate cottages of c.1850
Sheldon Farmhouse; later 18th century with a slate roof, porch dated 1860 but the front door case has a scratched date of 1785.
Middlehill Farmhouse is early 19th century.
Starveall Farmhouse; early 18th century contemporary barn and outbuilding.
Chiverling Farmhouse is mid 18th century.
Derriads Farmhouse is mid 18th century with a mansard roof.
Sparrow Farmhouse of the early and later 18th century.
Until the later 20th century this has been a peaceful rural area lying between the town of Chippenham and the village of Biddestone. There was some excitement during the Civil War in March 1643 after the Battle of Lansdown. The Royalist army had reached Chippenham and offered immediate battle on the flat lands of what is now Chippenham Without to General Waller, who was approaching through Box and Pickwick, along the route of the present A4. Waller refused and both armies remained on guard around Chippenham before moving eastwards. The later 17th century and 18th century were probably fairly prosperous times for farming in this area, as evidenced by many farmhouses being built or rebuilt. Farming was mixed with the emphasis on stock and dairy and with Wiltshire cheese made in the area. The land was enclosed from the mid 17th century, a process that probably led to the building of more farmhouses in the following century.
The original civil parish, set up in 1894 contained part of the town of Chippenham and the parish population in 1911 was 2,465 people. This area, with 1,961 people, was transferred to Chippenham Within (Chippenham urban area) and in 1921 the population fell to 594. The population of 2,606 in 1951 was a result of the aftermath of the Second World War and the figure of 296 people in 1961 reflected the true character of the area. New houses were built and population rose in the 1970s but the substantial development came in the 1990s when the westward expansion of Chippenham, Cepen Park, and retail and industrial development spilled over into the parish. The population in 2001 was 3,687 but most of these would be considered to be part of the town of Chippenham.
One thriving business in the parish is Allington Farm Shop, first opened in 1981 by the Reynolds family. They farm 700 acres at Allington Bar and in October 2008 opened a café attached to the shop.
Off Derriads Lane is Vincent’s Wood and its nature trail, managed by the Wiltshire Trust for Nature Conservation. The wood is managed by traditional means and contains a variety of insects, fungi, birds and flowers.