Crudwell is situated north east of Malmesbury. Its name derives from the stream flowing through it or from a mineral spring south east of the church. The Parish also contains the villages of Eastcourt, Chelworth, Murcott, Chedglow and West Crudwell hamlets. The boundary with Oaksey follows the stream in the south and Quallstock Lane in the north. The southern boundary on Windmill Hill used to be common land and was defined by the parliamentary inclosure of Hankerton in 1809. In 1930 the western Parish boundary with Long Newnton and Ashley became a county boundary and those Parishes were transferred to Gloucestershire. Crudwell became part of the North Wiltshire District in 1974.
Crudwell Parish is in the Upper Thames valley. The highest land is to the north and the lowest to the south east. Clay and limestone cover most of the parish but there is cornbrash around Eastcourt. The south east contains the Kellaway and Oxford Clay. Most of the parish includes good arable and pasture land. The north west was previously wooded and the south west still contains woodland. Oolite outcrops and evidence of slight quarrying can be found in the northern part of the Parish.
The Fosse Way was the main Bath to Cirencester road until one through Tetbury was turnpiked in 1743. In 1778 a new road linked Crudwell village and five lanes junction in Charlton (which was turnpiked in 1874). Lanes link Crudwell to Ashley, Long Newnton and Tetbury. Quallstocks Lane, on its present course since 1591, remains only as a path in 1989. The Crudwell to Kemble road was improved in 1937 when the Cirencester to Malmesbury road was diverted through Kemble to avoid the new runway.
Two Neolithic polished stone axeheads have been found .There is a possible Bronze Age bulbarrow at Chedglow. Romano-British remains including skeletons and coins were found at Murcott. A Roman 'Damian Ware' bowl was discovered, possibly at Long Furlong Quarry. Pottery from the 12th to 14th centuries has been found at in Crudwell.
Crudwell was apparently one of the most populous parishes in the hundred in 1377, the majority of residents living in Crudwell and Eastcourt. The parish still remained populous in the 16th and 17th centuries but there was a decrease in the early 19th century. The figures began rising again and by 1841 the majority of the population lived in Crudwell only. Less than half lived in Eastcourt and a quarter in Chedglow and Murcott. By 1861 there were 799 inhabitants but the figure had fallen to 54 in 1931. New homes were built in 1936. By 1981 there were 924 people living in the Parish and it had risen to over 1,000 in 2001.
The first substantial building to be built in the parish was Crudwell Church, built around the mineral spring in the 11th century of rubble and ashlar. There was an unbroken association of the church with Malmesbury Abbey from 681 until the Dissolution. The spring itself was widely known and in the 18th century Aubrey stated "fine walled spring, now called 'Berry-well'. Labourers say that it quenches the thirst better than any other waters, to myself it seemed to have an 'aliquartulum aciditatis' and is probably vitriolate". In 1230 the demesne farmstead consisted of a hall, large fishpond and a chapel to St Laurence. Later settlement, including the school, was built west of the church. Most buildings were built in the 17th century of stone including a few with stone slated roofs. Several houses in The Street/Tuners Lane were built in the late 18th century, including additional houses after The Street became part of the Cirencester to Malmesbury Road. There was a toll house at the junction with Tetbury Lane. The late 18th to mid 19th century saw terraced cottages built, in the 19th century neo-Gothic in design. The new school was built in 1857 and extended in 1880-90 and 1969. The Plough Inn opened in 1841 but the building dates from the later 18th century with 19th extensions. North of this is Crudwell House, built in the early 19th century. It has three stories with an ashlared south front and three bays with a central Doric porch. There is a small green at The Street/Tuners Lane where cottages were situated on the north and west sides; they have mostly been re-built in the 19th century. To the south is an early 19th century town farmhouse. The Wheatsheaf Inn had a full licence as a public house by 1859, it was a beer house in 1851 and 1855, and the 19th century saw other buildings such as the non-conformist chapel, estate and other cottages built in the village. The road was straightened in c.1960-80 which created a small green at the junction with the lane to Chedglow where more houses were built. The east side of Tuners Lane gave way to council houses in the 1930's and 1950's. More private houses were built in the 1980's at Day's Court and The Butts, near Tuner's Lane (named after the enclosure where the development was built) and Tetbury Lane. The walls of the village pound can still be seen in 2005 outside the village on the Malmesbury to Cirencester road. The village became a Conservation Area in 1975.
West Crudwell was a hamlet in 1268. There was further settlement in 1696 and 1773. East and west of Tuner's Lane were three houses, one of which was demolished by 1840. West Crudwell Farm was there in 1879 and Tuner's Lane became its drive. It was rebuilt and extended in the 19th century.
Chedglow got its 12th century name from the Hundred which met there in the early Middle Ages, but has also been called various other names, including Chegghemwllesbroke in 956 which means 'the brook of the Chedglow people'. It was a small village in 1377. It had been called Church Leaze from 1773-1820, which may have been a mistake. Settlement in 1840 was sited either side of the lane linking Tetbury Lane and Fosse Way. It included Chedglow Manor, the 17th century Manor farmhouse, cottages and Oliver House (possibly 18th century).
Chelworth was smaller than Chedglow in 1377, and remained small into the 19th century. It followed three lanes with the junction at its centre and contained 17th century cottages. The 18th century Chelworth Manor was extended in 1920. Lower House and cottages near the church were erected c.1800. The easternmost was enlarged and called Chelworth House c.1936. The Grove was enlarged in the 19th century and re-named Chelworth Farmhouse by 1989. A house, a circular well house on a small green and estate cottages were built in the 19th century. To the west of the hamlet stood Quelfurlong Farm, called Aubrey's House in 1696 and Quelverland in 1773. It became Quelverlong c.1840 and was rebuilt.
Eastcourt had a chapel in the 12th century called St Johns. The village was as large as Crudwell in the 14th century. Cottages were built on waste ground c.1597 at Easterton and near Braydon Brook and Flisteridge Wood but none survive. The settlement was focused around the Crudwell to Minety and Oaksey to Hankerton roads in the 18th century. There was a Malthouse Farm in Eastcourt Lane in the late 17th to early 18th centuries. Opposite was a former malthouse, possibly of the 18th and a kiln. A school was built in the mid 19th century but closed in 1923. Houses included the 17th century Pound Farm and mark the course of the old Minety Road. North of the village centre is the 17th century Oatridge Farm. To the south is Morley Farm (16th century). The dry moat south of the house may mark the site of a former medieval house. Braydon Brook Farm was built in the 17th century. In the 19th century Eastcourt field to the west of the village was developed.
Murcott consisted of a farmstead and a few other buildings on the south side of the Hankerton Road in the late 17th and 18th centuries. Murcott Farm was rebuilt c.1710. Cottages were built on the north side c.1800. The south side contained Murcott Park House in the 19th century. It was still a hamlet in 1989.
Outside these villages and hamlets there was little settlement before the 19th century. A few farmhouses and cottages appear at this time and the Pinnegar works was built in the 20th century. RAF Kemble was opened in 1938 in the northern corner of the Parish. It was part of Maintenance Command and used predominantly for air storage. Several large hangars housed the Red Arrows between 1969 and 1983. The base was taken over by the USAF in 1983 and buildings included the HQ and housing estate. The RAF later moved to Hullavington and Kemble Airfield Management took over. They now use the site for civilian fliers and commercial enterprises. A small part of Long Newnton Airfield is situated in the west corner of the Parish.
Crudwell was once encompassed in the Royal Forest of Braydon, of which the Domesday Survey of 1086 stated 'the wood was two leagues long and as much broad'. In 1086 the Crudwell estate included 40 hides, and covered land at Eastcourt, Murcott and Hankerton. It supported 25 plough teams and had a 24a meadow. 3 hides were held by Ebrard including 9a of meadowland. Land at Chelworth was added to Crudwell Manor in the mid 12th century and 8a of this was meadow in 1086. There were two leagues square of woodland in the Crudwell Estate of Malmesbury Abbey in 1086. Flisteridge Wood became part of Braydon Forest and the late 12th/early13th centuries. Tenants of Oaksey claimed pannage for it for most of the year; it remained a wood in 1989. After the Dissolution Hankerton and Cloatley in Hankerton became separate estates. In 1544 the Crown granted Crudwell Manor and land at Chalworth, Eastcourt and Murcott to John de Vere, earl of Oxford. The estate was sold off in parts from1919.
Crudwell Manor in 1210 consisted of 40 oxon and 2 draught animals. Before this pasture land west of Crudwell village near the Fosse Way was common land. In 1396 the demesne had 5 bondsmen, 20a of common land in Crudmore and common pasture for 200 sheep and 38 other animals, mainly oxen. Some Easterncourt tenants appear to have worked each Monday for their Lord of the Manor. In the 16th century tenants of Crudwell Manor and men of Hankerton claimed right of common on Windmill Hill. Owners of land in Crudwell Parish had rights to feed animals in Braydon Forest and its purlieus until c.1630 when land was allotted to various lords. In 1815 other small areas of common pastures such as Chelworth Lane, Chelworth Green and Braydon Brook moor were inclosed. The recompense award was not made until 1841.
In 871-99 Chelworth and part of the estate of Kemble was given to a theign called Dudig who sold it to Ordaff. In 901 the lands were exchanged with Malmesbury Abbey. In the early Middle Ages there was woodland near Chelworth. Tenants held hides in the 11th century; they were given to the Abbey in the 12th century.
Ernulf of Hesdin held the Chedglow estate in 1086 along with Alfred of Marlborough and Durand of Gloucester. There were four small estates in Chedglow in 1086 with 2 plough teams and 6 oxen. The demesnes had meadow and pasture. Three estates in Chedglow had 1a woodland each. In c.1840 coppices were planted.
Land at Eastcourt was granted to Miles Keay in the 12th/13th centuries. Miles also held Morley in the early 12th century.
By 1840 much more of the Parish contained arable land. In the later 19th century less land was ploughed. By 1936 one sixth of the land was arable which increased to half by 1966. Wheat was the main crop in 1867-1936 and turnips and suedes were grown with other root crops in 1867-1916. Barley became the main cereal in 1946-76. In the late 19th/early 20th centuries new grassland was used for cattle rearing and dairy farming. During 1867-1926 over 1,000 cattle grazed in the Parish. This increased after WWII as sheep farming had been declining since 1930. Pigs were numerous in 1867-1976.
More recently, 1985 saw half the land as pasture (in the east) and half arable (in the north and west). Wheat was the main cereal crop grown. There were 1,150 cows and 3,150 sheep grazing.
Limestone was quarried in the northern part of the Parish in the 18th century or even earlier. There was a quarry at Chedglow in 1774. A limestone kiln stood on the north side of the Oaksey to Culkerton road in the 19th and 20th centuries. A public stone pit was allocated to the Crudwell Parish residents in 1841 on Windmill Hill. The mill at Chelworth and one at Crudwell in the later 13th and early 14th centuries may have included a windmill which was ruinous in 1396. There may have been a watermill on Braydon Brook south east of Eastcourt before 1696.
The industry in the Parish has been many and varied over the years. As well as brewers and bakers a weaver worked in the parish in 1736 and masons have been in Crudwell from the 18th century up to the 1930's. In 1855 a tailor, bootmaker, carpenter, bricklayer, grocer, postmaster and shopkeeper worked within the village. C.1867-1964 Thomas (and then Stephen) Pettifer and Sons Ltd (manufacturers of veterinary chemicals and medicines) were based in Crudwell. Stephen's son, Julian Pettifer is now a television and radio presenter. Mayfield House held the 1911-15 Royal Warrant for Santovin, a sheep worm dip. C.1943 Pinnegar works near the Kemble Airfield manufactured agricultural machinery. It than changed names a couple of times and eventually moved to Chelworth Manor in 1969, where it remained in 1989. The Pinnegar works site was bought by Rigid Containers Ltd who made corrugated paper and fibreboard. J.T Carpenter and Sons (haulage contractors) worked from Crudwell village. Mayfield House became a hotel c.1965 and Crudwell Court, once the Church Rectory and now called the Old Rectory, became a hotel in 1986. Crudwell in the 1980's also had a post office, general store, newsagent and farrier.
Court was held only twice yearly in the 16th to 17th centuries and by 1815 no court had been held for many years. The court leet and baron were revived in 1830 but court was only held when business required it and was discontinued in 1917.
A free school was founded at Crudwell c.1630-49. It may have been the school of industry in 1803. It was described by the Warburton Census of Schools in 1859 as 'substantial stone built schoolhouse, wooden floor, desks at wall, 50-70 scholars, mixed, under mistress (trained).'A new school was built in 1857 and new classrooms were built in the 20th century. Eastcourt also had a school and in 1859 this was described as 'very good stone built schoolroom, wooden floor, desks at wall, teacher's house forming part of building, built 1856. 30 children taught by untrained mistress. School belongs to Mr Mullings MP. A few children attend from Oaksey.' The school closed in 1923.
There was a workhouse situated to the south west of the village. A quarter of Parishioners received poor relief in 1803. It was the 17th century when most small beneficiaries were made to the poor, mostly by the Earle family. In the earlier 19th century income from investments made in 1775 was distributed annually in the spring to the poor by the Rector, although in 1832-4 the aged Rector refused to do so! In 1905 the money was used to buy coal and in 1966 and 1972 it was used to buy the pensioners tea. The income was allowed to accumulate from 1989.
During the Second World War a searchlight and ack-ack gun crew were set up in fields opposite Quelferlong House. An Army Cadet force was established with the Crudwell Platoon of the 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Home Guard in a hut in the May Field behind the Plough Inn. The village hall (built in 1934 on the site of an old meeting house) was the venue for Friday night dances with servicemen from Kemble, Hullavington and the American camp at Charlton Park. Concert parties from the Forces often played there and bingo was also popular. German POWs worked on Chedglow manor farm during and after the war. RAF Kemble maintained Maryland, Wellington and Hudson aircraft, followed by hurricanes and Beauforts. The runway was extended in 1943 to its present length.
A parish revel was held in the 17th century, possibly in August as was done so in 1862. In 1623 playing skittles incurred fines of 10s! Crudwell Church choir not only met to perform at church, they also went on many outings in the 19th century, trips to Portsmouth from Kemble station in 1890 and also to the Isle of Wight and Brighton for sailing. There was also an annual trip to Braydon pool in wagons which included boating. Other annual events were the flower show and fete. A Crudwell Band of Hope was set up in the late 19th century to try to stop drunkedness, particularly in younger people, and by July 1890 40 people had signed the pledge. In 1894 the headquarters of the Working Men's Benefit Club were held in the schoolroom and were offering a savings bank facility. In the early 20th century other clubs in the village included a 'clothing' club, a football team, Gardening Club, Women's Institute and the Crudwell British Legion. The telephone system came to Crudwell in 1924 with a telephone exchange put in at the Post Office and stores. In 1930 a proper exchange was built behind Lime Tree Cottage, which at the time was the village store. Electricity was brought to the village in 1949 and each house was permitted one three point plug and three lights. The old village hall was sold in 1992 after the construction of a new hall in Tetbury Lane. The late 20th century saw the establishment of a handful of other clubs in the village: Cricket, Badminton, Handbell Ringers, Indoor Short Mat Bowling, Ladies, Majorettes and Singers Clubs which has ensured that the village still retains its character into the 21st century.