The parish of Collingbourne Ducis lies with Salisbury Plain to the west and the fringes of the Chute Forest to the east. Marlborough is 17km north and Salisbury 24km south. The river Bourne, that rises a few miles north, winds its way southward through the centre of the parish cutting a shallow gravel valley through the upper chalk of the Plain and providing a focus for settlement. Collingbourne Ducis derives its name from the term 'Collingbourne' which referred to the area surrounding the Bourne River and possibly even the entire upper Bourne valley.
The name is believed to mean 'the stream of Cola's people' with the 'inga' element suggesting early settlement here. At the point of Domesday, Collingbourne Ducis was held by the king. At some point the lands known as Collingbourne and the settlements within them were divided. According to the Victoria County History's manorial history of the parish, the first mention of Collingbourne Kingston (Ducis's northern neighbour) as a separate entity was in a land charter of 903 A.D. However the existence of a pagan Saxon cemetery on the parish boundary along the Cadley Road may indicate, as John Chandler suggests, a boundary between the Collingbournes as far back as the early 6th century, as Saxon burials are often sited on ancient territorial boundaries.
Documentary evidence does not give us the first mention of the southerly lands that would eventually be known as Collingbourne Ducis, until 1256. At this stage they were named Collingbourne Comitis, 'of the earl', as they belonged to the earl of Leicester and potentially had done so since the turn of the 12th century. 'Comitis' was superseded by 'Ducis' and in regular use by the early 15th century after the lands became part of the duchy of Lancaster. In 1536 Collingbourne and its neighbour Everleigh were given to Edward Seymour and were passed down through successive dukes of Somerset until 1671. It was then passed into the hands of the earls of Ailesbury, and after 1821, the marquesses of Ailesbury, until the Savernake estate was broken up in 1929.
Aside from the village of Collingbourne Ducis, only two other settlements lie within the parish; there is the small eastern hamlet of Cadley (covered separately below) and the remote south-eastern Crawlboys Farm. Today's parish boundary also encompasses the hamlet of Sunton, very understandably as it lies just north of Collingbourne Ducis village and the residential development of both settlements has made the boundary between them fairly indistinguishable. This makes the modern parish 3,629 acres large. However, up until 1934 Sunton was part of the parish of Collingbourne Kingston so for purposes of this community history it will be considered with Collingbourne Kingston. This historic parish then covered an area of 3,431 acres.
There is a great deal of evidence of activity in the region long before Cola and his tribespeople settled here and lent their name to the area. The extensive barrow cemeteries and associated artefacts at Snail Down and Cow Down (in the far south west corner of the parish on the border with Collingbourne Kingston) have provided evidence of human occupation from the late Neolithic period onwards. The barrows at Snail Down, opened by Colt Hoare in 1805 and later excavated by Nicolas Thomas in the 1850s, uncovered a Neolithic stone axehead and flint tools, Iron Age and Romano/British pottery sherds as well as cremation remains and grave goods. The 13 barrows at Cow Down, one of which was opened by Colt Hoare in 1805 and the rest excavated by the Rev. W.C. Lukis in the mid 19th century, revealed primarily Bronze Age finds including several skeletons of adults and children interred with grave goods such as an (undated) iron knife, beads and deer antlers as well as cremations and pottery.
Evidence of other early residents is scattered elsewhere in the parish: Bronze Age barrows at a site east of Leckford Bridge; Neolithic flint tools, Bronze Age postholes and pottery, and Iron Age pits at Knoll Plantation; Flint tools and Romano-British pottery at Hazelbury Plantation. Not to mention the various undated enclosures hidden in Collingbourne Woods or at Wick Down, the Bronze Age field systems on the downs or the ditches that remain throughout the parish, some probably related to the significant Iron Age Sidbury Hill just south of the parish in North Tidworth. It is evident that the river valley, downs and woodland of this area proved a most appealing combination for prehistoric communities.
Collingbourne's Anglo-Saxon residents, perhaps descendants of Cola himself, have revealed themselves to us in more recent years. Excavations carried out in 1974 for a housing development (Saxon Way) just off the Cadley Road on the outskirts of the village, uncovered a pagan cemetery from the early Saxon period. Thirty-three graves were found and an array of artefacts such as iron knives, a sword and scabbard, decorated bronze brooches, silver finger rings and glass and amber beads. A later excavation in 2007 by Wessex Archaeology to uncover the extent of the cemetery, prior to further building work, revealed a further 78 graves plus cremation burials, a funerary structure and two possible cenotaphs. This makes the Collingbourne Ducis Anglo-Saxon cemetery the largest ever excavated in Wiltshire and therefore of significant regional importance. The cemetery can be dated from its finds to span between the fifth and seventh centuries AD, though the majority of burials date to the sixth century. The site report reveals that as with the 1974 remains, the 78 graves and artefacts from this excavation suggest a fairly typical Saxon community of this time: 26 adult females, 21 adult males and 25 unsexed infants/children could be identified. Forty percent of adults died before reaching age forty and initial pathology of the skeletons uncovered degenerative joint diseases, traumas and rickets and scurvy in the children. Plus an unusual case of spinal tuberculosis with kyphosis (which causes hunching) to 6 vertebrae in one of the adult skeletons. One particularly rare finding was a bed burial, one of only fourteen in the country. Grave goods of interest beyond the more common weapons, jewellery and pottery, include a garnet disc brooch (produced in East Kent) and a 'face brooch' decorated with animals.
In 1998 another pre-construction excavation further along the Cadley Road between the Last Straw pub and the old railway line, uncovered the dwelling places of the cemetery occupants. Ten sunken featured buildings and one possible post-built structure were uncovered that were radiocarbon dated from early 8th-10th centuries A.D. as (though one building dated from as early as the 5th-7th century A.D.). Finds give a glimpse into the everyday lives of these typical Saxon inhabitants and include pottery, struck flints, a small knife, worked stone, and an unusual pin made of exotic walrus ivory. Faunal remains were particularly well preserved: remains such as wheat, barley and legume were found along with the animal bones of both domesticated animals: primarily sheep seemingly bred for meat rather than wool, cattle, goat, pig, fowl, cat and dog as well as wild animals such as red deer, roe deer, badger, crane and songbirds.
The village of Collingbourne Ducis as it stands today was in the most part settled along the path of the Bourne, the water flowing directly alongside the main village street for some distance. Traffic and development is then mostly diverted away from the Bourne by the church which is situated just west of the stream. For most of the year the Bourne is only a small stream which dries up completely during the summer months. Until relatively recently however, serious flooding during periods of wet weather was a real concern for the villagers who were situated so close to the river's banks. Several small tributaries, including that which connected the eastern hamlet of Cadley, are now virtually dried-up.
It is presumed that the present church stands on the site of a Saxon predecessor, certainly Domesday mentions a church valued at 10 shillings despite it being described as impoverished and dilapidated. Tithes went to the priest Gerald of Wilton. The church was originally dedicated to St. Mary but was changed in 1786 to St. Andrew. Much of the church was restored in the 19th century but it still retains older features dating as far back as the 12th century. One interesting feature is the tower, rebuilt in the 15th century; it was designed to incorporate a large internal dovecote. Originally it featured around 174 nesting boxes built inside the tower. The entrance and landing platform of which, is on the south face of the tower and is still visible.
The vicinity of the church became a subsequent focus for the development of the village. Here the main road (Church Street) widens and many of the village's principal buildings are clustered. Today there is a small green with a war memorial and a bench shaded by mature trees. It is believed that the early manor farm house was sited in this area, where the Hermitage now stands. The Hermitage is a predominantly 18th century building but incorporates parts of an earlier timber-framed building dating from late 16th century. It is believed that a fire destroyed all but the kitchen end of this older building, as charred timbers were found during modern renovations. The house was modified during the 19th century, also as a result of fire. Adjacent is the manor farm, known as Court Farm in 1745. Its current farmhouse was built in the 1850s for the Marquess of Ailesbury. Just west of the church stands the Victorian school building, also built by the Ailesbury estate. South of the church stands the current and former rectories (built in 1964 and 1863 respectively) plus Rectory Cottage, a grade II listed 18th century thatched cottage. Another listed building of note is the Old Limes Farmhouse (east side of the High Street) which dates back to the 16th centuries and has remains of 17th century stencilled floral decorations on the walls. Pretty timber-framed cottages infilled with rubble, flint and brick and dating from 17th and 18th centuries line both sides of the High Street and down the Ludgershall Road. Strips of land stretch out behind the cottages in a traditional medieval layout. Several of these are also listed as of special architectural or historic interest. Cottages situated on the west of the street are accessed by little bridges spanning the Bourne.
The Blue Lion public house is sited in a vitreous brick building with red brick dressings on the east side of the High Street. The pub has been licensed hhere from 1863 although the building itself dates from the early 18th century. There was a New Inn mentioned in the village from 1844 and marked on the 1845 tithe map as situated on Church Street opposite the Hermitage, but is not listed in directories by 1870s. Chandler mentions an 18th century pub called The Lamb situated at no 49/50 High Street. The large set-back timber-framed building that stands at the crossroads of the High Street and Cadley Road, is now also a pub/restaurant and tea rooms.
Sadly the High Street and Church Lane, which host some of the most historic buildings in the village, have now become the busy A338, linking Marlborough and Hungerford to Salisbury. Originally the main Marlborough-Salisbury road took traffic through Everleigh to the west but it fell out of use, perhaps due to disrepair, and so in 1831 after new turnpiking at Burbage, the route was redirected through the two Collingbourne villages. It then headed south initially up Shaw Hill to the Hungerford-Salisbury road, but then almost immediately it changed course, following the Bourne on a more westerly path towards Tidworth. Similarly the Hungerford to Salisbury road once bypassed the village to the east, crossing Cadley where Shears Inn stands and down to cross Shaw Hill (the Ludgershall road) and beyond. However after 1831, travellers joined the Marlborough road at Collingbourne Ducis village and the stretch beyond Shaw Hill was abandoned. This 19th century channelling of traffic was to change the face and atmosphere of the village. Thanks to the ever increasing number of vehicles using this route, traffic fumes, dirt, noise, the division of the village and danger to pedestrians are all issues that prey on the minds of local residents and the parish council.
Just south of the village, the Bourne runs through open water meadows which are still liable to flooding. In the 17th century, the flooding of these fields was controlled by flood gates in order to cultivate early spring grass for the sheep. These enclosed water meadows were parcelled into sections known as 'ropes', the size of which varied but averaged around a quarter of an acre. The river Bourne was widened in these meadows, just south of the church, to form a large pond known as Great Mere. Livestock could be brought here for watering using a ford off the Ludgershall Road. The pond was drained and in-filled in 1969. A map in 1777 also depicts a pond just south of the road by St. Andrews church although this is now also filled in. Child states that there has been some claim that Collingbourne Ducis was the home to the pond at the centre of the Moonraker story, though they are by no means the only Wiltshire community to claim this. Within the meadows south of the village, in an area called Fair Close, the village fairs were often held. Documents show stalls were damaged by water here in 1590. Hill Field was also mentioned as a regular fair site. In 1353 Collingbourne Ducis was first granted the right to hold two annual fairs (over the feasts of St. Barnabas - 11th June and St. Andrew - 30th November) and a weekly market on Mondays. This was reduced to a combined market and fair on the feast of St. Andrews from the mid 16th century onward. The last annual fair was held, in the meadows, in the early 19th century.
It was a presumed native of the Collingbournes, William Collingbourne, that penned the well known saying “The Cat the Rat and Lovel the Dogge, Rule all England under a Hogge” during the unpopular reign of Richard III (2 October 1452 - 22 August 1485). The couplet refers to the chief ministers of the King, Sir William Catsby, Sir Richard Ratcliff and Lord Lovell and the crest of Richard III, a boar. Collingborne, was once the steward of Richard's mother's Wiltshire estates before being ousted to make way for a subject more loyal to the crown. Collingbourne was eventually found guilty of sedition and hung, drawn and quartered for his satirical rhymes that he often flaunted on church doors.
The medieval parish was greatly influenced by its woods, a fact that may seem surprising today when gazing on the fields and downland that encircle the village, with Collingbourne woods merely peeking over the south-eastern horizon. The compilers of the Domesday Book noted that Collingbourne Ducis manor had a wood one league long and wide and also a third of Chute Forest. Collingbourne woods were ultimately considered part of the larger Chute Forest. It became one of several Norman forests in Wiltshire that was, as the VCH notes, “created in well-wooded and sparsely populated parts of Wiltshire where there were extensive royal demesnes” and was subject to a system of forest laws and administration that included appointing wardens and holding courts. At its peak the forest boundary encompassed the whole parish, following a trend of extending the forest lands and its law outside of the king's demesnes, a move that caused resentment among landowning subjects. The name Cadley, as Chandler points out, is a woodland name that occurs in both Savernake and Chute forests. In 1300, a perambulation reduced the limit of the forest boundary back to only the King's demesne of Chute (similar to the modern Chute Forest parish boundary) and by 1331 the Forest of Chute was considered 'almost disafforested'.
During the 15th century Collingbourne woods became a private chase and its management was closely associated with the manor at Crawlboys (named after John Croilboys who was first granted the manor in 1400). Its connection to the woods goes to explain why, despite its remoteness from the village centre, this estate is still linked to Collingbourne Ducis parish rather than Ludgershall. By 1540 Collingbourne woods were recorded as covering 265 acres. Its timber was a valuable asset and allowances of wood were given to the manor farm and other tenants during the 16th century as well as being traded to the sparsely wooded neighbouring parish of Everleigh. Certainly the woods would have made their mark on the employment of the inhabitants of the parish who would have been involved in forest employment such as gathering nuts for sale and coppicing, hewing and cutting wood. The connection between the Crawlboys estate and the custody of the wood ended in the early 17th century with the death of Sir George Philpot. Crawlboys farm as it later became, now consists of a farm house and associated buildings, the earliest dating from the late 17th century. It has always been farmed independently and was not party to the 18th century land inclosures or owned by the Ailesbury family, as were almost all of the other farms in the parish. In more recent years, the Collingbourne woods have been valued for their shooting.
Apart from woodland crafts and the usual trades needed to uphold a community, the economy of the parish has predominantly been based in agriculture, namely arable and sheep rearing. As far back as 1212 the stock of the manor included 1,000 sheep. A class of farmer called Mondaymen were employed to care for the large demesne flocks, which numbered over 1,000 sheep during the 13th-15th centuries. Flocks belonging to the manor and their tenants were grazed on the surrounding downland. The 18th century saw much of the common downland inclosed and converted to arable land. The flock of the manor farm therefore halved to around 650 sheep in the mid 18th century and numbers on surrounding farms also dropped. The only farm independent from the manor, other than Crawlboys, was Collingbourne Farm in the north east of the parish. This was the farm of a separate estate held by the Dowse family, certainly since the early 16th century but possibly since as early as 1326. Throughout the 18th century it passed through the hands of the Cheney family and then the bishop of London, Robert Loath, before being purchased by the Ailesburys in 1810. By this time it measured 387 acres. It was renamed in 1845 as Mount Orleans and a new farmhouse was built after the earlier one was destroyed in a fire, reputedly started by a stable boy setting fire to the barn. Mount Orleans was merged with Church Street Farm once they were both acquired by the Ailesburys. Church Street Farm is situated east of the church and had been farmed since 1751.
The 17th and 18th centuries saw the growth of another substantial farm, eventually known as Hougomont Farm, formed by the accumulation of land leases by the Batt family. William Batt was one of Collingbourne's most notable residents being an 18th century physician and scientist, and became a popular Professor of Chemistry at the University of Genoa from 1774. He was also the last of the Batt family to own Hougomont farm as it too was sold to the Ailesburys in 1774. In the mid 19th century the Ailesburys named the farm Hougoumont Farm and built its farmhouse. This was concurrent with the renaming and rebuilding of the very similar Mount Orleans farmhouse. Both names are taken from Belgian farms on either side of the site of the battle of Waterloo where the Marquis of Ailesbury's two sons were killed. The Ailesburys broke up their estate in 1929 and sold off all of the farms they had purchased in Collingbourne Ducis. They continued to be privately farmed as mixed farms. At the point of sale in 1929, the manor farm, Court Farm, measured around 859 acres, Hougoumont Farm measured 832 acres and Mount Orleans now merged with Church Street Farm measured 592 acres. Some farms were affected when the War Office appropriated land in the west of the parish for military training in 1939.
Windmills in the parish have been mentioned on several occasions throughout history. The manor had one in 1361 and several others were mentioned in the 15/16th century though the locations are not clear. A horse mill is recorded as being leased by the Dowse family of Collingbourne Farm in 1552. The 1773 Andrews and Drury map shows a tower windmill in the south east of the village on Mill Lane. This was built by John Noyes in 1767 and stood until the 1860s or 70s. Interestingly, the house at No. 50 High Street contains a wall painting of an early type of windmill and its miller, though it is unclear if the paintings are still visible today.
In the 1860s a small iron foundry was established by James Rawlings which manufactured agricultural equipment until 1939. It was later acquired by a group of local farmers in order to establish Hosier Farming Systems that manufactured mobile milking machines invented by Arthur Hosier of Wexcombe. These machines revolutionised dairy farming by enabling farmers to milk their herds in the fields without the expense of building or maintaining cattle or milking sheds. They also allowed the herds to be efficiently milked whilst still benefiting from free-range grazing on the downs. They aided the survival of many farms during the agricultural depression of the interwar years by allowing farmers to sell milk at competitive prices. At is peak the company employed around 100 people. The works are now used by a number of small businesses including an engineering firm and a countryside supplier.
Tucked away behind these business units and essentially in Cadley, is evidence of another aspect of Collingbourne Ducis's industrial past, the former station and railway yard. Now closed, the railway has left its mark on the geography of the village by way of the embankment that runs north-south behind the houses and gardens of the east side of the High Street. The line first opened in May 1882 and formed part of the Swindon, Marlborough and Andover Railway. Two platforms and a brick station building with chimneys and canopy were built, reflecting the style of those at Grafton and Burbage further up the line. A small goods shed and signal box were constructed as well as several sidings, that among other types of freight, dealt with the transportation of racehorses to and from Herridge's farm in Sunton where racehorses have been trained since the early 20th century. There was also a station house in which the station master lived; this is now a private house. The railway platforms and building were subsequently demolished after the railway was closed in 1961.
The hamlet of Cadley must not be forgotten in this parish history although few of its original buildings remain today. It is here that evidence of Collingbourne's Anglo-Saxon residents was unearthed (discussed above). Settlement here was focused along the half of the Cadley Road nearest to Collingbourne Ducis village and at the crossroads with the Hungerford-Salisbury Road. In 1777 there were around 14 houses recorded. Twentieth century development has mostly replaced the older houses nearest to Collingbourne Ducis village though a few older residences remain further along where the road bends. In 1604 a licence was petitioned for an inn to provide food and shelter for weary travellers on the downs. The Shears Inn (originally 'Sheers' apparently on account of its uninterrupted views) was sited at the crossroads on the Hungerford-Salisbury Road and features on the 1773 Andrews and Drury map but presumably was in existence before this time. The inn was apparently of such significance that the whole hamlet had been renamed Collingbourne Sheers on this and the later 1810 version of the map. Because the boundary between the Collingbournes runs through the barn by the Sheers Inn, Chandlers recalls this was the location of joint parish meetings with Collingbourne Kingston: Kingston at the northern end and Ducis at the southern end of the property. A Primitive Methodist chapel was built in Cadley in 1849, where on Census Sunday in 1851 around 200 people attended each of the day's three services. The chapel was replaced by a new building in 1880 and is now a private house.
The population of Collingbourne Ducis parish was between 450-500 in the early part of the 19th century before peaking at 564 in 1861. Numbers then dropped to between 350-400 until the 1930s. By the mid 20th century the population of the parish began to increase once more reaching 544 in 1951. In 2001 there were 849 people living in Collingbourne Ducis parish.
Nineteenth and early twentieth century directories list the usual types of trades and occupations (outside of farming) for a village this size: bakers, butchers, blacksmiths, shoe makers, coal merchants, saddlers and several shopkeepers. The woods are still reflected in village occupations by way of wood dealers and hurdle-makers. The wide range of trades does significantly reduce however after World War I. Three 19th century charitable bequests provided coal or blankets to poor women, widows or the elderly of the parish. These charities were still helping villagers during the 20th century. The current village store is still open and is situated at the crossroads of the High Street and Cadley Road. Collingbourne Ducis is still a busy village community retaining several village services, like the pubs and shop, and features a gardening and a cricket club as well as a yearly 'duck race' down the Bourne. A new school building is planned, sited just west of the High Street. In 2002 a detailed conservation plan was drawn up by the local and parish council to evaluate how to best develop and protect the village environment of Collingbourne Ducis for the future.