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Wiltshire Community History

Great Cheverell Search Results

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Great Cheverell

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 Great Cheverell:

Map of the Civil Parish of Great Cheverell

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 Great Cheverell lies 4 miles south of Devizes, being a long strip of land running 4 miles north to south and only a mile east to west at its widest point. It is a constituent of the Hundred of Swanborough, to the south it lies on the fringe of the chalk downs which form the western edge of Salisbury Plain and to the north it borders on Cheverell Wood. This is mainly farming land, sitting on a fertile greensand ridge above a clay vale to its north and hills to the south and is well watered by springs and small streams. Its economy has been very much based on sheep farming (200 sheep recorded in 1185) and its associated industries. Records show connections with the woollen industry in the early 16th century, a fulling mill being located at the northern tip of the parish. In 1851, there was a self employed sheepskin dealer in the parish. However, dairy farming in the 19th and early 20th centuries saw the production of cheese at Common Farm, a farm formed from the common land in the north west corner of the parish where it bounds with Erlestoke.

The census of 1801 shows 457 people living in Great Cheverell, rising in 1831 to 576 inhabitants. However, this was followed by a gradual decline due to the depression in the agricultural industry through to the early 20th century. This decline was reversed possibly by the expansion of council housing and certainly by the housing provided for Erlestoke Detention Centre staff, bringing the population back to 415 people in 1971.

The village itself is served by St Peter's Church, a Baptist chapel, the Bell Inn, a school, post office and general store and a garage which all form the centre of the village. The nearest market towns are Devizes (4 miles to the north), Warminster (7 miles to the south east) and Lavington (2 miles to the east). The Great Western Railway line to Westbury, opened in 1900, runs west to east through the parish to the north but with no station within the parish.

The village is named Chevrel in the Doomsday Book and has also carried the names of Chyverel, Cheveroill and Cheverel in other medieval documents; the name possibly being an amalgamation of Celtic origin meaning land to be ploughed in common and a fertile upland region, but could also derive from the Norman-French word Cheverel meaning young goat. The area was most likely settled by the Romans, evidenced by the discovery of an urn full of Roman coins near the village in 1695 and also the finding of a quantity of Roman pottery fragments in Greenlands Wood in 1957 which have been dated between the 2nd and 4th centuries.

The Doomsday survey shows that William the Conquerer gave the manor of Cheverell to his loyal supporter and friend William FitzOsbern. Later as part of an exchange of land, Cheverell became part of the Royal Manor of Amesbury. The manor then passed as a royal grant to Hamelin de Ballon and was eventually split into two estates by the de Ballon family. One of the estates was purchased in 1288 by Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells and was eventually passed on by marriage to John de Haudlo, whose descendants later assumed the name of Burnell, eventually passing once again by marriage into the hands of Walter Hungerford, later to become Lord Hungerford. On this acquisition Walter named the manor Cheverell Burnell, to distinguish it from the other part of the original manor which became known as Cheverell Hales, which Walter also acquired in 1425. Thus Great Cheverell comprises two manors represented by separate houses in the village, Burnell by Manor Farmhouse south east of the church and Hales by the Manor House west of the church.

About 1440, Walter Hungerford decided to found a hospital and almshouse at Heytesbury and that the Cheverell Manors should form an endowment for this. This was not finalised until 1472, after his death, when Lady Hungerford, wife of his son Robert, got consent from King Edward IV. In 1863, the local almshouses were handed over to Lord Heytesbury. As a result of this transfer of ownership, Great Cheverell lost its share of places in the houses. In 1835, the village was incorporated into the Devizes poor law union.

Manorial courts were held twice yearly from the 13th century onwards for both the manors of Burnell and Hales, later to be called Eastcourt and Westcourt respectively. Records from 1719 show that the two courts had been merged. The main purpose of the court was to handle the transfer of holdings and to collect money and fines.

Kelly's Directory of 1848 confirms a thriving community within the village; various trades are listed including a miller, brickmaker, shoemaker, tailor, blacksmith, bellmaker, wheelwright, publican, postmaster, baker and three shopkeepers.
The current shop comprises a post office, off licence and grocery business and is housed in what was two buildings, one dated 1770 and the other a 17th century building where beer was once brewed and sold directly to villagers. The post office has had several locations from a lean-to, to a small shop on the side of 79 High Street, before moving to its current site. A small sweet shop was also run from Rosemary Cottage in the 1920s.

The centre of the village is generally regarded as the junction between High Street and Church Road, to the front of the Bell Inn. The Bell Inn was purpose built in 1740 of brick and tile construction with dormer windows in the roof. The building originally comprised a carriage house and stabling on the lower level with entry to the Inn up the steps in the front of the building. Once part of the Usher's chain of public houses, it is now a free house and restaurant. The frontage of the pub has served as a meeting place for the local hunt and for various activities during the village fete.

The 17th century brick and oak beamed house known as Bell Ville at 21 High Street housed a sheep and cow bell manufacturing business right up to 1915. Previously, the Potter family had been the bell makers in the village but around 1865, Willum Lancaster started to cast bells in a workshop attached to the side of the house. The Potter family eventually sold their business to Willum Lancaster.

Laurel House at 48 High Street has the inscription 'MSS 1843' on its chimney stack. This was once the home of Mark Sawyer a millwright. Mark made machinery in workshops behind the house for the many watermills in the area from 1851 until the early 20th century.

Manor House, which is located just west of the church and is of a Queen Anne design, has within its grounds an old court house. The octagonal room inside, served as the local court and is lined with panels which open to disclose cupboards for the court records. The last record is dated 1908. Under the room is a single cell which was used to imprison the male wrongdoers of the village. Women who were found guilty of misdemeanours were dipped in a trough beside the court house. A yew hedge of considerable age separates the Manor House from the church.

To the north side of Church Street is Glebe House, a building of chequered brick with stone dressings dating from the 18th century. This was originally part of a working farm on the Glebe estate.

In the 18th century, John Mattock owned a dwelling called the Old House, a mill house, malt house and granary. This was passed through John's granddaughter Mary to the Chandlers who retained the business until the early 19th Century when the malthouse was converted into four cottages. Thereafter there is no further mention of the mill house. However, there is an inscription 'J.M. 1770' in contrasting stone on the north west front of the cottages.

Kytes Garage was opened for business by Mr Sidney Kyte at The Croft in the High Street in 1919-20 in a shed below the house. Petrol was provided in cans until the first petrol pump was installed just behind the wall of the garden. The garage moved to its present site, an old pond, in 1929-30. In 1992, the business passed from the Kyte family to the Wilding family who have retained the original garage name.

More recently, most of the new housing in the village has been limited to social housing and housing for the staff at Erlestoke Detention Centre, at Townsend, Garston, Green Lane and Hill Corner.

In 1933 land to the south of the Westbury - Lavington road was acquired by the War Department for military training purposes. In 1973, much of this land was leased back to local farmers with the exception of the firing ranges of which Cheverell Down was part. In 1975 the Great Cheverell Hill Nature Reserve was established, most of the reserve lying within the Salisbury Plain training area owned by the MOD. The reserve has been mainly grazed by cattle since the end of the Second World War. It is scheduled as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, has over 40 different species of flowering plants and is one of the Trust's best downland reserves for butterflies.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilGreat Cheverell Parish council
Parish Web Sitewww.greatcheverell.org
Parish Emailparishcouncil@greatcheverell.org

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 Great Cheverell

Folk Biographies from Great Cheverell

Folk Plays from Great Cheverell

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 30. There is one Grade I listed building, the Church of St. Peter and 1 Grade II* building, the Court House at Manor House.

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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