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Wiltshire Community History

Grafton 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.

Map of the Civil Parish of Grafton:

Map of the Civil Parish of Grafton

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

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

Thumbnail History:

The parish of Grafton is in the central eastern area of the county, 10 km south-east of Marlborough. This civil parish was created in 1895 when Great Bedwyn parish was divided almost in half. In 1987 there were further alterations when parts of Grafton were moved to Burbage and Great Bedwyn. This reduced the size of Grafton from 2,399 hectares to 2,263 hectares. The villages of West Grafton, East Grafton, Wilton, Marten and Wexcombe are all within the civil parish of Grafton. Geologically, the Graftons, Wilton and Marten are all on Upper Greensand and Wexcombe is on Chalk Marl.

The meaning of two of the four place-names is straight forward. Grafton means 'farm by the grove [wood]' and Marten means 'farm at the boundary' (the village is close to the parish boundary). The definition of the other two village names is not so clear. Wexcombe is probably 'wax-valley', suggesting that there were bees in the area. The first element of Wilton is perhaps 'wull' (wool), referring to a farm where wool was prepared or kept.

Many prehistoric remains have been found in the parish. These include a cluster of barrows south of Wexcombe village. One is a long barrow that is 83 feet long, in excellent condition and apparently unopened. South of this cluster, near the parish boundary is a 100 acre Iron Age field system; there is a second slightly larger system to the east of Wilton. The Roman road from Cunetio to Winchester passes through Grafton, following a line from Crofton on the northern parish boundary through Marten and on into Tidcombe.

The five villages in Grafton were also separate manors. The manorial descent is complicated and a detailed history can be found in volume 16 of the Victoria County History of Wiltshire. The Seymour family and later the Brudenell-Bruce family were major land owners in the parish.

The main village of East Grafton (where the parish church is sited) was held by the Seymours from 1621-1750. In 1787 it was sold to the Earl of Ailesbury (the Brudenell-Bruce family). The manor remained in this family until 1929 when it was sold. The manors of West Grafton and Wilton also passed through the same two families and were also sold in 1929. The manor of Marten belonged to the Fanshawe family from 1692 until they sold it in 1920. Wexcombe manor was in the Seymour family from 1545 until 1719. The Hopkins family then held it until 1788, when it was broken up and sold as Upper Farm and Lower Farm.

The parish church at Great Bedwyn originally served all the communities in Grafton, but there were chapels of ease in East Grafton, Marten and Wilton in the 14th century. Primitive Methodist chapels were built at Wexcombe, West Grafton and Wilton. All three are now closed. The parish church of St. Nicholas in East Grafton is also a more recent building, dating from 1844. The church consists of a nave with clerestory, aisles, chancel and apse, and is described by Pevsner as 'thoroughly Norman'. (It is said to be based on Thaon in Normandy).

There are many buildings of interest in this parish, including more than 20 cottages, houses and farmhouses that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Among other listed buildings are the Wilton windmill, the railway station at West Grafton and one of the canal locks.

The Wilton windmill is the only windmill currently working in the Wessex region. It was built in 1821 as a replacement for the watermills lost when the Kennet and Avon Canal was completed and water taken for the canal at this high point. The windmill was used for 100 years, until the arrival of electric and steam powered mills in the 1920s. After lying unused for 50 years it was bought by Wiltshire County Council and leased to the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust who spent five years restoring it. The Wilton Windmill Society is currently responsible for the running and management of the mill. Regular open days are held when visitors can watch the mill in operation.

The Grafton and Burbage railway station, which was on the Midland and South Western Junction Railway, opened in 1882. It was sited at West Grafton on a double-track section of the line. Buildings included a large signal box and a small goods yard. Passenger numbers dropped after World War Two and the line closed in 1961. The station building has been converted into a large house. The space where the railway track used to be is now part of the garden.

The Crofton branch of the Kennet and Avon Canal forms part of the northern parish boundary. There are 20 locks along this section, built in the first decade of the 19th century by John Rennie. Lock no 61 has been given listed building status and is one of an important group of industrial monuments of special interest. Opposite this lock is the Crofton Pumping Station which houses two Cornish steam-driven beam engines. One engine was built in 1812 and is the oldest working beam engine in the world that is still in its original engine house and still doing the job for which it was installed. The second engine was installed in 1846, replacing the original 1809 engine. The Pumping Station is a Grade 1 listed building and is open to the public all summer.

Until the mid 20th century, agriculture was the main source of employment in Grafton. By far the largest farming village was Wexcombe, which in 1851 amounted to 1,885 acres of land giving employment to 73 labourers. Most of the farm is chalk down land and in the Middle Ages more than 700 sheep were kept here. By 1847 1,000 acres were arable land.

In the 20th century the Hosier family developed a new method of dairy farming. Their cows spent the whole year outside on fenced pasture land where they were milked in mobile sheds. The milk was then pumped into churns for immediate transport to London. The Hosiers set up a company to make milking sheds and sell them to other farmers. About 1930 they introduced a folding system for poultry and by 1933 had almost 4,000 laying hens at Wexcombe.

There were also large farms at Wilton and East Grafton. In 1851 Wilton had approximately 1,000 acres of mostly arable land and East Grafton had 1,200 acres. During the 20th century the Wilton farms were worked as mixed farming and East Grafton later concentrated on arable and organic beef.

In 1851 there were shopkeepers at East Grafton, West Grafton and Wilton; West Grafton also had a baker. Wilton offered the most services as it had a shopkeeper, baker, two grocers, a carrier and a shoemaker. There were no shops at Marten or Wexcombe. By 1900 Marten had a carpenter and the Nag's Head public house. The Swan had opened at Wilton, where there was still a boot and shoemaker, miller, grocer and baker, builder and a blacksmith. By 1939 the services offered were just a shop and Post Office at Wilton and East Grafton, the two pubs, and a baker at East Grafton. The shopkeepers would have been unable to compete with the services offered at nearby Great Bedwyn. Some villagers may have used the railway to travel further afield.

The Domesday survey shows seven entries for what is now the modern parish of Grafton. There are three entries for Marten, three for Grafton and one for East Grafton. The total population for these communities is estimated at approximately 70-90 people. The first official population figure is from 1801, but at this time Grafton was still counted as part of Great Bedwyn. The first separate figure for Grafton is 663 people in 1901. From 1911 to 1971 the figure dropped from 684 to 547. By 2001 it had risen again to 604. There were various house building programmes during the mid-late 20th century.

There was a workhouse in Great Bedwyn in the mid 18th century and from 1786 or earlier cottages at Wilton were used as a parish workhouse. When Great Bedwyn joined the Hungerford Poor Law Union in 1835, Grafton's poor were sent across the Wiltshire/Berkshire border to the workhouse in Hungerford.

In 1877 John Miles left in his will £200 to provide gifts of 1 shilling each to 20 widows or widowers of East Grafton, West Grafton, Wexcombe and Wilton and gifts of money or coal to labourers working on Upper Farm, Wexcombe. In 1923, seventeen labourers received 5s 41/2d and twenty widows and widowers received 1 shilling. The charity had been wound up by 1993.

In the mid 20th century several new houses, both private and local authority, were built in Marten, Wilton, Wexcombe and East Grafton. Approximately 50 of these houses and bungalows were in East Grafton, which is the central village in the parish. The presence of a church, school, village hall and village green help to make this the focal point of the community. Neighbouring West Grafton is a quiet hamlet with just nine houses.

There are 70 houses in Wilton. Here also is a pretty pond which flows through village gardens into the eight acre lake and reservoir called Wilton Water. This in turn supplies the Kennet and Avon Canal. A variety of wildlife, both birds and flowers, are attracted to this area.

Wexcombe and Marten are two small hamlets. The former has approximately 20 houses and the latter 14. Marten also has a restaurant called the Windmill. This was formerly known as the Nag's Head public house, changing its name in 2001.

The social focal point of Grafton is the Coronation Hall which was originally built in 1937 to celebrate the coronation of King George VI. In 2006 it was decided that the hall needed to be renovated; the Parish Council successfully applied for grants and the whole village was involved in fund raising. The new hall opened in December 2009. Currently there are lots of activities for residents to join in with. There is a horticultural society, an art club, yoga classes, cricket club and a friendship club, all of which meet in the village hall. To quote the Community News, 'Our vibrant community continues to thrive with the new Coronation Hall at its heart'.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilGrafton Parish Council
Parish Web Sitewww.graftonparish.com
Parish Emailclerk@graftonparish.com

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 Grafton

Folk Biographies from Grafton

Folk Plays from Grafton

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 historic importance is 41. There are no Grade I buildings; and two Grade II* buildings, the Church of St. Nicholas and Wilton Windmill.

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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