Christian Malford lies in North Damerham Hundred. Until 1319 the parish lay in Startley Hundred along with Grittleton, Kington St. Michael and Nettleton. In 1319, however, the Abbot of Glastonbury, being chief landowner in the four parishes, arranged for their severance from Startley hundred and their incorporation into a new North Damerham hundred. Christian Malford had been granted by King Edmund to Glastonbury Abbey in the year 940. The new hundred was so named as a result of the considerable holdings of Glastonbury Abbey in and around Damerham in the south of the county. The Bailiff of Damerham subsequently dealt with all business relating to the entirety of the Abbey's land in the county. 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 'Cristemaleford' was recorded in the grant of 940: 'A place by Avon which the common people, by a laudable custom, and with a noble allusion, call Christemal-ford'. The name derives from 'cristel-mael', meaning 'ford by a cross'.
The village of Christian Malford lies six miles north-east of Chippenham. The river Avon forms the western boundary of the parish. A band of alluvium deposit runs alongside the river; in the centre of the parish there is a wide tongue of gravel, around which lie soils of Oxford clay. The church and settlement of Christian Malford grew up on high ground near a ford of the river Avon. During the winter, when the river was in flood, animals were probably moved to this higher ground. As recently as 1968 the village was badly affected by severe flooding and remains vulnerable to it today. However, improved drainage and the construction of level control gates on the river have alleviated the situation considerably.
Christian Malford was one of numerous settlements in the north and north-west of Wiltshire whose waters were claimed to have medicinal and therapeutic qualities in the 18th century; nevertheless its mineral well did not achieve any notable popularity.
A note in Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine (Vol. 28, p.254, 1895) refers to a chalybeate spring with curative properties on land belonging to Sir H.B. Meux, a major landowner of the late 19th century in north and central Wiltshire. The note locates the spring in a meadow between the residence known as "The Comedy" and the road leading to Chippenham. It cites a description of the spring in a work entitled A Tour through the Whole of Great Britain by a Gentleman, published in 1740,
'Tho this place is often overflowed with water, yet there is none good either for brewing or washing or any spring of sweet water. Here is a spring of a chalybeate kind which would turn to good account were it not in such a distant and almost inaccessible part of the country occasioned by bad roads, which were a great protection to the inhabitants in the late Civil Warrs, who were never visited by either party, but injoyed an easy and uninterrupted repose, whilst their neighbours, on all sides, were involved in the calamities of that unnatural war'.
The description incorrectly sites the spring in Dauntsey parish.
The area of the parish was 3,104 acres in 1881 but in 1884 and 1885 sections of the parish were transferred to Bremhilll civil parish. In 1991 Christian Malford civil parish measured 2,686 acres. The north to eastern section of the boundary follows the course of the now dismantled Malmesbury branch of the Great Western Railway. The southern boundary follows a winding course which includes within the parish Melsome Woods and passes Thornend and a number of other farms.
The major road running through the north of the parish is a section of the M4 London to South Wales motorway, which opened in 1971. The major non-motorway road through the parish runs south-west to north-east, from Chippenham to Swindon; this road was turnpiked from 1756 to 1875. Shortly after the entry of this road into the western boundary of the parish a road diverts southwards to the central part of the village settlement and church. East of the village in the 1773 and 1810 editions of the Andrews and Dury maps the major road is named 'Friday Street'; however later maps indicate that this is the name of a minor road leaving the east-west road and heading southwards through the parish, passing the modern Friday Street Farm, and Thornend Farm.
To the south of the major non-motorway road, but taking a similar direction, is a section of the former Great Western Railway. In 1835 an act of Parliament was passed by which the GWR was enabled to build the London to Bristol railway, and this would pass through the parish of Christian Malford. No station was built within Christian Malford parish however, but Dauntsey station lay at the eastern edge of the parish. The station closed in 1965 but the railway itself continues in place as part of the London to Bristol route.
The Wilts & Berks Canal, completed in 1810, passed through the south-east of the parish, entering at Foxham Locks and passing to the west of Melsome Woods. The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is in the extended process of restoring the canal.
In 1801 the population of the parish was 938. This figure remained moderately stable until 1841 when it rose from the 980 it had been in 1831 to 1,179. However, this latter figure reflected the presence of some 150 railway labourers in the parish at the time. The population had declined to 777 in 1881, and substantially further to 586 in 1891 as a result of the transfer of parts of the parish to Bremhill in 1884 and 1885. The decline continued until 1971 but subsequently began to rise again until in 2001 it was 701. This rise is likely to reflect the completion of the M4 motorway in the mid. 1970s. Junction 17 of the motorway lies only some three and a half miles away from the village of Christian Malford and affords possibilities of commuting to Swindon, Bristol, or further afield.
Prehistoric settlement in the parish is evidenced by finds of Neolithic and Mesolithic flint tools and two Bronze Age spearheads. There are also traces of numerous ring ditches which are undated. Evidence of Saxon and medieval settlement has also been found at a number of locations around the parish - the precise sites being noted on the Wiltshire and Swindon Sites and Monument Record.
Of the approximately 800 hides of land in the south west and west of England held by Glastonbury Abbey, some 258 hides lay in Wiltshire and incorporated 11 manors, a number of them the subject of pre-Conquest charters. Christian Malford was described as consisting of 20 hides (approximately 1,450 acres) in the charter by which King Edmund granted it to Dunstan, Abbot of Glastonbury, in 940. This figure was also that recorded in the Domesday Book. At Domesday the population was in the range 135 - 145. In the poll-tax returns of 1379 the presence of 13 weavers and 1 fuller was noted.
Glastonbury Abbey's tenure of Christian Malford and that of its other lands ended with the Dissolution, shortly after which Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford, acquired the manor. In 1575 it was purchased by Sir John Danvers of Dauntsey; it was divided between his sons but ultimately descended to Thomas, 5th Earl of Wharton. His son Philip, by then Duke of Wharton, reputedly lost the manor at the gaming table. In 1733 the manor was owned by Thomas Boucher Esq.
Evidence gathered by the Tithe Commissioners in 1842 shows that the Earl of Caernarvon was the principal landowner in the parish, owning 13 farms (Malford, Beanhill, Dodford, Selstead, Ridgeway, Broadcroft, Friday Street, Mermaid, Thornend, Paradise, Swallett, Bittlesea and Summerhill or Bright's Farm). At this date the Marquis of Lansdown owned one farm (Avon) and Sarah Sealy both owned and ocupied a small farm of 23 acres (Park Farm).
By 1875 Sir Henry Meux, resident at Dauntsey Manor House, had become lord of the manor and principal landowner in the parish. At this date the chief crops of the parish were wheat and beans but there was a preponderance of meadow. Apart from the farming activity there were also present in the parish a brick manufacturer, haulier, three shoemakers, wheelwright, carpenter, builder, tailor, three bakers, butcher, beer retailer, pig dealer, cabinet maker and three shop-keepers.
By 1903 Lady Bruce Meux of Dauntsey Manor House and Theobalds Park, Herts., widow of Sir Henry Meux, was lady of the manor and principal landowner. In 1923 James Strong was noted in Kelly's Directory as principal landowner.
A number of houses in the parish are listed as being of special historic and architectural interest:
The Old Rectory was remodelled on an earlier house in c.1816. Several farmhouses in the parish are of early date: Bright's Farmhouse dates from the 18th and early 19th century; Dodford Farmhouse from the late 17th or early 18th century and altered in the 19th century; Foxham Farmhouse from the late 17th century, possibly built on an earlier core. Thornend Farmhouse was built in the 18th century and remodelled in mid 19th century. Beanhill Farmhouse dates from the late 17th century or early 18th century and Great Ridgeway Farmhouse from c.1700. Swallett House dates from the early 18th century.
Avon Weir is a former mill house of the early 19th century. Other houses of the 18th and 19th centuries in Christian Malford village include those known as The Anchorage and The Wayside, originally one house from 1739. They also include The Old Malt House (1673); The Comedy (early 19th century remodelling of an 18th century house); Malford House (17th century); Apple Tree Cottage (18th century with 19th century modifications) and The Red House, from c.1830-1840.
There are two inns, or public houses, in Christian Malford: the Mermaid, formerly a farmhouse dating from early 18th century and the Rising Sun, also of the 18th century.
In the 21st century a community project is underway to improve the former farmland pasture consisting of 11 acres north of Church Road. The intention of The Friends of Malford Meadow is to regenerate appropriate environmental conditions for wild flowers and animals, and at the same time to improve access and footpaths.