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Wiltshire Community History

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Wilsford cum Lake

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 Wilsford cum Lake:

Map of the Civil Parish of Wilsford cum Lake

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:

Wilsford-cum-Lake is an ancient parish on the banks of the river Avon, two and a half miles south of Amesbury. The parish forms a linear settlement along the banks of the river, 200 feet above sea level. The parish is predominantly composed of upper chalk, with deposits of clay with flints to the north of Lake stretching to Normanton, with meadows occupying a narrow strip of alluvium and valley gravel deposited along the meandering course of the river Avon. The west of the parish comprises downland which rises to over 400 feet at Rox Hill.

Wilsford-cum-Lake lies in the Underditch hundred bordering (clockwise from north) Amesbury, Durnford, Woodford, Berwick St James, and Winterbourne Stoke. It comprises three small hamlets of Wilsford, Lake and Normanton.

The ancient parish extended 2.5 miles from east to west, and 1.5 north to south. The area of the ancient parish increased from 1637 acres in 1,878 to an area of 2,294 acres for the civil parish in 1951.

It is an archaeologically rich parish, with Stonehenge lying to the north at the head of the dry valley in neighbouring Amesbury. The area is rich in barrows with more than 120 on the valley downs of Lake, Wilsford and Normanton, indicating settlement in the area around 2000 B.C. Several tracks lined with barrows run through the Lake and Wilsford downs converge on Stonehenge.

Many of the Lake Group of 20-23 barrows, located on a relatively level ridge 350-370 feet above sea level, have been excavated due to imminent ploughing. The round barrows had been excavated previously, mostly by Richard Colt Hoare, producing a range of finds representing every phase of the Bronze Age from beaker times onwards.

There is evidence of an early Iron Age settlement on Rox Hill above Lake, alongside traces of an ancient field system which continues into Woodford parish.

A faithful copy, made by Edward Duke in 1810, of a map of the manor of Lake in Wilsford belonging to Robert Duke Esq. surveyed by William and Henry Doidge, 1752 shows the grounds and gardens of the house, as well as a road supposed to have been made by the Romans. The system of banks and ditches on Wilsford Down were also thought to be similar to others known to be Roman construction.

Two Wilsford estates, each of one hide, are mentioned in the Domesday Book under lands of Earl Hugo at Wivellsforde, one being held by Hamon de Masci of Hugh de Avranches, assumed to be at Lake, and other by Hugh of Robert fitz Gerold, Wilsford.

Wilsford is described as 'one ploughland (taxable amount of land ploughed by a team of eight oxen) with one villager, and three cottagers, six acres of meadow, pasture of a mile and a furlong in length and two furlongs broad'. At the time of Edward the Confessor Wilsford Manor was assessed at one hide, valued at 30 shillings.

Lake is described in the Domesday Book as 'one ploughland which is in demesne with two servants, three cottagers, six acres of meadow and pasture of one mile square'. At the time of Edward the Confessor, it was assessed at one hide, valued at 40 shillings. The total population of both would have been between 30 and 40 people

Census records and estimates based on early figures for tax returns reveal that the number of people in the valley has not changed substantially.

Estimates from 1377 tax returns indicate that there were approximately 53 people in Wilsford and Lake. The 1641-2 list of males over 18, who signed the Protestation Return records 19 in Wilsford and Lake. Numbers in the 19th and 20th centuries generally fluctuate between 100-200 people with an anomalous peak of 512 in 1921 due to the presence of new military camps in the area.
In the eighteenth century 20 families were living in parish, and the number of baptisms rose steadily.
An increase from 140 to 162 between 1861 and 1871 is attributed to erection of new houses. Further changes in population in the 1920s and 1930s were caused by fluctuations in Army and Royal Air Force personnel. The 2011 census recorded 191 people living in Wilsford cum Lake.

The parish supports a mixture of pasture and arable farming with arable forming the majority, chief crops being barley, wheat and oats. The bottom of the dry valley and lower slopes of the downs are pasture with the arable fields occupying the ridge behind Wilsford, Rox Hill above Lake, and the high ground to the south-west of Springbottom and Westfield Farms.

The main long term occupation for the parish has been farming. Tudor enclosures made little impact on the parish, and most of the farming operated in strip systems until the beginning of the nineteenth century. The numbers of landless labourers increased only after holding land by tenure became less common, and the number of landowners fell alongside rising cost of land.

Some record of occupations survives through the parish church registers giving names of farmers, carpenters, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, carriers, and millers. The river would have been economically important for the parish; there would have been more mills than extant today and they would have provided employment for millers, waterman, and through the management of withy beds and water meadows. Besides those employed in farming, domestic servants working at the two principal manor houses would have formed a large proportion of work force.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Catherine Lovibond, daughter of the owner of Lake House, Joseph Lovibond, established a small scale spinning industry, operating out of Lake House and employing local women in the production of cloth.

Today, agriculture is still the dominant form of land use, but due to the mechanisation of farming, only a small proportion of the inhabitants are now employed in the industry.

There is no major main road access to the parish, although the main road from Amesbury-Wincanton runs across north-west tip, and old Salisbury-Devizes turnpike through the extreme west.

Much of the settlement has developed along the road coming north from Salisbury, entering the parish between Upper Woodford and Lake, and dropping down into the valley at Lake. The road winds through connecting Lake and Wilsford, with Lake House sitting between the river and the road. Beyond Lake House lies the 18th century brick and flint Grange (formerly Lake Farm).The farmyard now forms the village green, with the village hall converted from one of the barns in 1932. The road rises again, and falls as it comes towards Wilsford where, above a group of thatched cottages, sits the old school house which used to have its playground on the opposite side of the road. Wilsford Manor, St Michael's Church, and the former farmhouse (Red House) are in trees to the east of the road. To the west of Lake and Wilsford respectively lie Westfield and Springbottom farms. Water was supplied to the parish from a pumping house at Springbottom.

Wilsford cum Lake has not benefitted from the provision of extensive services. There has never been an inn or beerhouse in the parish, and very limited shop provision. There was a post office established in 1880, with John Brock as postmaster and village carrier. By 1911 the postmaster at Lake also kept a shop, and there were two shops in the parish in 1920. The post office continued as part of a village shop until 1942 when it closed. The last postmaster for the parish was Mr John Hazzard. Following the closure of the village shops and post office, in 1956 tradesmen delivered by van from Amesbury and Salisbury.

Electricity reached Wilsford in 1932 but the supply did not extend to Lake until 1948. Water was pumped from wells and was still supplied by the landowner in 1856, with sewage disposal through septic pit.

A three times weekly carrier service to Salisbury was replaced at some point before 1939 by a bus service between Amesbury and Salisbury.

There has been little residential development, the controlling factor of which has been variously attributed to the estate ownership deterring housing growth, the small size of the settlements, the lack of main road access and absence of drainage or sewerage.


The present church of St Michael's dates to around 1330, and is built of stone and flint. The tower is Norman, but has been restored. The church was endowed in Foundation Charter of St Osmund's Cathedral at Old Sarum 1091 but little is known about the original church. There are three bells dated 1572, 1585 and 1601, one of which was cast locally by an itinerant founder.

The church is part of the Prebend of Wilsford and Woodford, the exact date of the founding of which is unknown, but the first reference to Woodford Prebend appears in 1187. The parishes began to share a vicar at some point before the thirteenth century, and in 1599 parishioners complained to the Bishop that they were not receiving proper spiritual attention, claiming that Wilsford was mother church with Woodford a dependent chapel.

The church was restored in 1856 at the expense of Giles Loder, and both the vestry and north transept were added. A licence was granted by the Bishop of Salisbury to hold services in the granary at Wilsford farmyard (which was consecrated for the purpose) during the reconstruction work.


An unendowed day school for 14 children existed 1819, and Sunday school opened 1831 which in 1835 was attended by 17 boys and 15 girls in 1835. Wilsford and Lake Church of England School was built in 1857-8 by Giles Loder, owner of Wilsford manor, and was regularly attended by around 20 pupils. It received its first government grant in 1876. In 1910 it had accommodation for up to 28 children, but the construction of an additional classroom in 1915 increased this to 54. The average attendance between 1876 and 1937 rarely exceeded 30. It became a voluntary aided school under the 1944 Education Act. In 1926 the Local Education Authority had proposed the school should close and the children go to Amesbury, but the school remained open until 1960; after the average attendance dropped to 18 in 1956, and the children were transferred to school at Woodford. The school is now a private residence.

Important houses and families

The two principle houses in the parish are Wilsford Manor and Lake House, with both manors likely referenced in the Domesday book; held by Hamon de Masci of Hugh de Avranches, assumed to be Lake, and other by Hugh of Robert fitz Gerold, Wilsford.
Wilsford Manor:

Wilsford Manor house was built at the beginning of the 20th century, on the site of an older house. It was designed by architect Detmar Blow, who had previously worked on the Lake House restoration, as a reproduction17th century manor house with stone mullioned windows, and stone and flint chequer-work walls.

Before 1247 the Verdun family held the manor of Wilsford, who maintained a taper continually burning at the high altar of Salisbury Cathedral. It continued in the hands of the Verdun family, through service of knight's fee, rental from the Bishop of Salisbury, and again by the service of maintaining a candle. After 1426-8, when it was still held of the Bishop but by unknown means, the overlordship ends. Upon the death of Theobald in 1316, the manor was held by his widow, Elizabeth de Burgh, after which it was transferred to Thomas de Furnival, son of one of Theobald's female heirs. Through marriage the manor came to Thomas de Neville, later Lord Furnival. Their daughter, Maud, married John Talbot, Lord Furnival and later Earl of Shrewsbury. The manor then descended with the Talbot earldom of Shrewsbury throughout the 15th and 16th centuries.

In 1766 the manor was sold to John Pinkney, who along with his successor owned other holdings in the parish, and united the remaining freeholds from the manor. By 1846 the manor was in the hands of Giles Loder until it was subsequently acquired by Arthur Newall in 1890.

From the early 20th century the estate was leased to Sir Edward Priaulx Tennant, who bought the estate after becoming Lord Glenconner in 1911. He also united the manors of Lake and Wilsford in 1918. Glenconner's widow married Viscount of Falloden (Foreign Secretary during the First World War) who lived there until his wife died in 1928. The Tennant family maintained the manor house, and in 1932 it was occupied by the Hon. David Tennant and his wife, actress Hermione Baddeley, and subsequently by the Hon. Stephen Tennant, famous for his decadent lifestyle and association with, amongst others, Greta Garbo, Cecil Beaton, E.M.Foster, Virginia Woolf and Siegfried Sassoon.

The Nobel Peace Prize for Literature winner V.S. Naipaul lived in a cottage in the grounds of Wilsford Manor during Stephen Tennant's ownership. The author spent time walking around Springbottom while staying at Wilsford Manor, and much of his 1987, primarily autobiographical, 'Enigma of Arrival' is set in the Wiltshire landscape.

Lake House

Lake House was built of local flint and stone in a chequer pattern, with five gables and a central projecting porch flanked by two-storied bays. It is described by John Britton in his 'Beauties of Wiltshire' (1825), 'situated in valley on the banks of the Upper Avon, in parish of Wilsford, about four miles north of Salisbury. The house is a truly picturesque edifice, with bay windows, gables and other characteristics of the mode of building which prevailed in the sixteenth century, towards the close of which it was erected. The gardens, with their terraces, yew hedges, etc., were laid out at the same time, and are characteristic of the same period. The laudable attachment of the owner of this estate to the study of our national antiquities has induced him to carefully preserve every vestige of former times connected with the demesne or its vicinity'.

In 1496 the manor was granted to wardens of the fraternity of the guild of St Anne, Croscombe, Somerset. Following the dissolution of the guild by Edward VI, the manor was sold by the crown to two merchant tailors of London who promptly sold it to John Capelyn, who then sold it for 1,000 marks to George Duke (grandson of Michael Duke, a previous tenant farmer). The estate descended with the Duke family for nine generations.

Notable members of the Duke family include John Duke, supporter of the Stuarts, and Sheriff for the county in 1640. Although not a major player in the Civil War, he was part of general underground ferment against the commonwealth which came to a head in the rebellion of 1655, with Duke a major player alongside John Penruddocke, Sir Joseph Wagstaffe, and Hugh Grove. The rebellion failed to arouse significant support, and the agitators fled with 60 prisoners being taken at South Moulton. They were tried at Exeter and Penruddocke, Wagstaffe and Grove were all condemned to death. According to Catherine Lovibond's History of Lake House John Duke was at first accidentally omitted from warrant of execution, then recorded as Robert Duke, and when this mistake pointed out, was finally removed. He lived to see Charles II restored and died aged 94.

Edward Duke, succeeded to Lake in 1805, and lived there for nearly 50 years. He was a friend of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, and collected pre-historic artefacts, forming a small museum at Lake House 'Hoare's Antiquities of Wiltshire'. Edward Duke was a prominent member of the Society of Antiquities, contributed to the Gentleman's Magazine, and was an important figure locally, acting as magistrate and administrator of local business.

Jane, widow of Edward Duke sold the Lake estate to Mr Joseph Lovibond, a Salisbury brewer. Lovibond was a notable scientist working on light and colour, and the scientific instrument makers and colour laboratory (Tintometer Ltd) founded by Lovibond still exists (now Lovibond Tintometer).
The house was repaired by Detmar Blow in 1897 under advisement from the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. It was later to be rebuilt again by Detmar Blow after a fire in 1912.
In an effort to reduce rural depopulation, Lovibond's daughter, Catherine, a trained designer, set up looms and machinery in Lake House and employed local women in spinning and weaving. A small industry was established and in 1912 the Stonehenge Woollen Industry employed 50 women. Wool was bought or exchanged for cloth from local farmers. The industry didn't prove successful at first, but in 1900 cloth produced by the Stonehenge Woollen Company was exhibited at the Albert Hall, a shop was run shop in Salisbury until 1959, and 3 shops in London were maintained to 1960. It has been claimed that some of the fabric produced were facsimiles of fabrics produced a century before. In 1919 a spinning and weaving class in Lake was run for disabled servicemen and another for mentally ill patients.

After Lovibond's death in 1918, the house was bought and united with Wilsford Manor, by Lord Glenconner and occupied by Captain C. King. In 1928, a previous tenant, Colonel F.G. Bailey bought the manor.

In the early 1990s it was purchased by Sting (Gordon Sumner) and Trudi Styler, and has since been run as an organic farm. Styler published The Lake House Cookbook which includes photographs and information about the house, and Sting recorded his album Ten Summoner's Tales at the property.

Parish people

Some of the people of the parish are revealed through the parish register and through wills from individuals. The registers date back to 1681, and record incidental detail such as the death of James Wimpey, head carter to Mr Pinkney of Wilsford, who died when a farm wagon ran over him at Chalkpit Lynch, Upper Woodford.

The only surviving will before the sixteenth century dates to 1393 and is testament to the agricultural history of the parish. It is for a farmer from Wilsford, who donated small sums to the local churches and to the Friars in Salisbury. He particularly wished that 'four sheep ought to be driven before me to the church on the day of my burial', left a cow to the church to pay for a yearly mass to be said for his soul, left two sheep and a quarter of oats to his servant, Matilda. This will brings the true nature of an agricultural parish to life.

Other surviving evidence reveals some of the disputes of the parish with many recorded in the Court Rolls. One case however, went as far as the law courts in London. Amongst others situated on the Woodford side of river, William Bowles created a system of water meadows, which involved diverting the course of the river. However, the rights to half the river, and the east bank belonged to George Duke of Lake (holding Salterton Manor). According to the documents Duke tried 'in a violent and malicious manner' tried to destroy the sluices. Peace was temporarily established through a promise to make a yearly gift of six pairs of gloves to Duke. Duke claimed that this promise was not kept, and the case was taken to Chancery in 1679.

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Population 1801 - 2011

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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 Wilsford cum Lake

Folk Biographies from Wilsford cum Lake

Folk Plays from Wilsford cum Lake

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 of historic importance is 29. There is 1 Grade I building, Lake House; and 2 Grade II*, Church of St. Michael and Wilsford House.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

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