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Wiltshire Community History

Cricklade Search Results

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This page is one of 261 pages covering every community in Wiltshire, and is provided by Wiltshire Council Libraries and Heritage. A project to provide a fuller picture of each community is in progress, working on the larger communities first. When these 261, which are modern civil parishes, are completed we will begin work on a further 180 villages and hamlets to provide comprehensive coverage of Wiltshire communities large and small.

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1773:

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1773

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1810:

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1810

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

This is a corrected and updated edition of the 1773 map that includes the recently built canals.

Tithe Award Map:

Tithe Award Map

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

A section of the Cricklade St. Sampson tithe award map showing the existence of burgage plots in the town.

Map of the Civil Parish of Cricklade:

Map of the Civil Parish of Cricklade

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

From the Ordnance Survey 1890s revision of the one inch to one mile map. The modern civil parish has been superimposed.

Thumbnail History:

Cricklade has been called “the most intact example of a late Saxon new town in Britain”.  It is also the first town on the River Thames, and is situated in the very north of Wiltshire.  It lies just under 10 miles north west of Swindon, on the A419 between Swindon and Cirencester.  As such it is adjacent to the Cotswolds and lies just south of the gravel pits around South Cerney and Ashton Keynes which, after quarrying ended, became the Cotswold Water Park.  Nearest towns are Malmesbury (12 miles), Wootton Bassett (8 miles), Cirencester (8 miles), and Highworth (8 miles).

One of the earliest events which scholars have agreed must have taken place near Cricklade is the attempt by Saint Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity.  This was said to be successful and paved the way for the authority of the Romans to be accepted.

In Roman times Cricklade lay on Ermin Street, although it had been on the trackways between the territories of early tribes long before that.  The crossing of the Thames took place in or around Cricklade, a site chosen by the Romans for reasons of geography (to avoid the floodplains from which they deviated Ermin Street) and for military reasons.  The geology of the area made it an ideal place to settle: accessible stone for building houses, dry gravelly land, a plentiful water supply from the Thames and other surrounding rivers, and richer soil which was ideal for growing crops.  Indeed, the name Cricklade means “the place by the river crossing”.

There are signs of a minor Romano-British Settlement in the form of two Roman villa farms nearby.  One of these farms was at Kingshill, between the rivers Key and Ray, and the other was at the nearby village of Latton.  It seems likely that with Cirencester (Roman name Corinium) being the second biggest town after London during Roman times, the Thames played an important role in communication through the kingdom.

William Cobbett in his “Rural Rides” had this to say about the town in 1821:  “I passed through that villainous hole Cricklade about two hours ago, and certainly a more rascally looking place I never set my eyes on.  The labourers look very poor; dwellings little better than pigbeds and their food nearly equal to that of a pig.”  The muddy, smelly, streets Cricklade would have exhibited in 1821 may well have clouded his view, but in fact today a passer-by would gain a wholly different impression of the town.  Cobbett’s general malaise as he traveled the south west should also be taken as mitigating circumstance.  Another mitigating circumstance could be Cobbett’s almost certain awareness of Cricklade’s poor reputation in electoral matters.  To a man who published “Parliamentary Debates”, a role which later fell to Hansard, the well known corruption in Cricklade’s elections, apparently poor even by the standards of the time, would not have augured well!

When one considers the historical nature of the town, it is a surprise Cobbett couldn’t find something to make a positive comment about. Cricklade boasts many attractive historical buildings, with High Street buildings typically dating back as far as the 1700s. It is difficult to pick out one building from another as deserving special praise, but the Manor House in Calcutt Street, now Prior Park School, certainly is grand.  Cricklade is certainly a town which boasts its architectural heritage and is worth a walk round.

Sadly the original Saxon ramparts, laid out in a square around the town, are no longer visible.  The original layout of the town – with back streets running parallel with the High Street is still very much evident, however.  Aerial photographs of the town prior to the building of housing in the 1960s show the grid layout of streets to very full effect.  It is estimated that the houses which line the streets of Cricklade have been rebuilt four to six times since Saxon times.  What is interesting is that many still conform to the original dimensions of 33 feet for frontages.

The Town Cross, now situated in St Sampson’s churchyard, originally stood in the market area of the High Street, a clear indication of the regularity of the town’s markets.  Since an early lord of the manor, Baldwin de Reviers, was granted the right to hold a market in 1257 markets had featured as part of Cricklade life.  The last market, by now moved to the railway station yard, was held in 1953.  The Cricklade Show, an annual fat-stock market held on the August Bank Holiday, is still held to this day.

Another notable feature of the High Street is the cast-iron clock on the junction of the High Street and Calcutt Street, which was paid for by public subscription in order to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

Newer housing estates have been built in the last 30 years to the south and south west of the town, bordered by the main road to Malmesbury.  This road lies along what was the course of the railway, obliterating it and all sign of the town’s station which was closed in the mid 1960s.  The High Street remains a focus for the town, and still offers shops which serve the local population, rather than focussing on the passing tourist trade.

The town was served by two parish churches, St Sampson’s and St Mary’s, and, until recent times, residents could only marry in the church in whose parish they lived: a dividing mark being apparent on a house in the High Street.  There were non-conformist churches, the buildings of many of which are still apparent.  These included Wesleyan Methodist, Primitive Methodist, Baptist and Congregational Churches.

Cricklade is probably most famous, not for its arcitechture or history, but for its North Meadow which attracts many visitors every year.  Since 1973 the meadow, originally known as Normead, has been a National Nature Reserve and one of the few places to view the rare snake’s head fritillaries.  It actually holds 80% of the British population of this flower.

As a direct result of the Enclosure Act, the North Meadow has remained the property of the burgesses of Cricklade, and its use was defined in 1815.  This set down a management regime that lasted and this is largely why Cricklade still enjoys the 110-acre meadows and the rare flowers that grow within it.

Like many small towns, Cricklade was largely self sufficient, and this can be seen in historical documents which list employment in the town.  From butchers to bakers to agricultural workers, Cricklade people had a wide and varied employment. Nevertheless there are two main businesses which, during the twentieth century, provided employment for many Cricklade people, both male and female, and offered an alternative to the otherwise likely employment of agriculture (male) or domestic service (female).

Leonard Owen Hammond was one of Cricklade’s entrepreneurs.  He started off before World War 1 as a chauffeur to Mr Butt Miller of the Manor House in Calcutt Street (now Prior Park School).  He then started a business hiring and selling bicycles, and selling accessories for motor cars, when they started coming onto the market.  During the 1920s Hammond went into partnership with Charles Blackwell and they operated a large garage for some time.  Even when the partnership ended, Hammond’s vision and range of activities kept the business active.

Some of the work carried out by Hammonds included supplying neighbouring properties and businesses with electricity from a generator, running a fleet of cars and two limousines, building, plumbing, running the local fire engine, and provding transport to Purton Station.  Hammond employed over 25 people and was even able to field a football team of his employees.

Hammond was remembered fondly, as a benefactor by many people to whom he gave work during the Depression of the 1930s. He would give a job to anyone who needed work, often at his own expense.  One of the streets in Cricklade, just off Calcutt Street, bears his name.

The major industry in Cricklade during the twentieth century involved the production of gloves at the factories of the Ockwell family, and often through home working for married women.  The Ockwell brothers prepared and made gloves throughout most of the twentieth century.  Whilst one brother preferred the cottage-industry approach to working, and sent out stitching to women home workers, the other handed down his side of the business to his daughter and son-in-law who eventually sited their business in the old town hall building at 113 High Street.  Using electricity to power sewing machines, the business flourished and at one time almost a railway lorry of gloves a day was transported away from Cricklade.  Since Ockwell’s ceased to produce gloves in Cricklade in 1994 the building has been converted to house the Town Council, County Branch Library and a Doctor’s surgery. The building opened for its new purpose in 2002.

Notable people who have at some stage been involved with the history of Cricklade include Joseph Pitt who was MP for some time in the early 1800s and who merged the manor of Cricklade with the manor of Chelworth.  Pitt also developed much of the land in the area of Cheltenham known as Pittville. 

Robert Jenner was a goldsmith in London, and was MP for a period in the 1600s.  His philanthropic legacy includes the money to build and maintain a free school in the parish.  This building is today the Parish Hall, and was built in 1660.  The building backs on to St Sampson’s churchyard.  In its time it was used as a school, then as a poorhouse between 1720 until 1824.  It became a school again in 1840 and remained so until 1959.  The change of use was because the endowment left by Jenner was not enough to keep the building in full repair.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilCricklade Town Council
Parish Web Sitewww.cricklade-tc.gov.uk
Parish Emailadmin@cricklade-tc.gov.uk

Churches: Information on both current and disused churches and chapels.

Schools: Information on both current and closed schools.

Population 1801 - 2011

Photographs: If images have been added for this community they are available here.: We hold a collection of over 50,000 photographs of places in Wiltshire in the County Local Studies Library. These may be viewed at this library and copies of out of copyright material may be purchased. We can search for a picture of a building or event if you e-mail us with details.

Historical Sources: A select list of books and articles is listed in 'Printed material'. You may go directly to the actual text from some of these.

Printed Material: This is a select book-list for the community but in the case of a town there may be hundreds more books, pamphlets and journal articles.

The full text of some items is available to view on this site.

The Victoria History of Wiltshire (opens in new window) is a partnership between local authorities and the Institute of Historical Research at London University. The History of Wiltshire is now the largest county history in the country and is still growing. The volumes are divided between general and topographical with Volumes One to Five covering subjects such as prehistory, ecclesiastical, economic and political history. The Volumes from Six onwards are topographical and will ultimately provide a comprehensive and systematic history of every single town and parish in the county.

(opens in new window) Explore Wiltshire's Past web site

Newspapers from 1738: These newspapers covered this community at different times. Newspaper titles in bold text are either the ones you should check first for information about this community.


Maps: listed are maps on which you can find this community. All maps are Ordnance Survey maps.


Archaeological Sites: A Sites and Monuments Record (opens new window) is maintained by the County Archaeology Service and covers some 20,000 sites. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society was formed in 1853 and have been publishing an annual journal since 1854. The journal contains both substantial articles and shorter notes on archaeological excavations, finds, museum objects, local history, genealogy and natural history.

Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Cricklade

Folk Biographies from Cricklade

Folk Plays from Cricklade

History of Buildings: The collections of the Wiltshire Buildings Record are housed in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.

Listed Buildings:

The number of buildings or groups of buildings listed as being of architectural or historical importance is 120. There are 2 Grade I buildings the Church of St. Sampson and a 14th century cross in the churchyard of St. Mary39s and 5 Grade II buildings.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

Local Authors: There could be an author who was born or has lived in this community.

Literary Associations: Some communities have featured in novels or may have been the main setting for a book.

Registration Districts: If you want to obtain a copy of a birth, marriage or death certificate you can contact the local registrar.


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