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Wiltshire Community History

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Grittleton

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 Grittleton:

Map of the Civil Parish of Grittleton

1890s
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:


Since 1934 the civil parish of Grittleton has included the former civil parishes of Littleton Drew and Leigh Delamere


Grittleton

The Parish of Grittleton is situated six and a half miles north west of Chippenham and 8 miles south west of Malmesbury. The Parish is divided by the M4 motorway, but covers an area of around 2,200 acres of loam, over a clay sub-soil. The land is mainly arable and pasture, the main crops are wheat and barley, with some root crops. The northern boundary is defined by the Roman road, The Fosseway. To the east it adjoins the Parish of Hullavington, whilst the Parish of Castle Combe forms the western boundary. Littleton Drew, Sevington and Leigh Delamere, are all now included in the Parish, but were formerly separate parishes. The latter two form the southern boundary of Grittleton. The main village is situated around Grittleton House. Today, houses located in the main street bear such names as Weighbridge House and The Old Laundry, giving clues as to their original purpose. The existence of Lime Kiln Cottage, on the outskirts of the village indicates the existence of industrial activity. In Alderton Road houses still show the original layouts for estate workers cottages; built in pairs, all with ample gardens, each family could be self sufficient in vegetables. One source indicates each house had a pig sty.

Over the centuries the spelling of the name of the Parish has varied. In 900 it was Grutlington, in 940, Gretlington, 1042 Gretlingtone, by 1287 it was Gurtlington and 1324 Grutelyngton. 1331 saw Grittelington and 1398 Gritelton, 1433 Gratlyngton and 1518 Grutelton, 1537 Grettlintonne, 1573 Gritleton and 1619 Grittlyngton.

The first details of Grutlington, from Anglo-Saxon sources, state that 25 manses, (land to support 25 families) was granted to Wilfred, (or Wulfric), by Edmund, the grandson of King Alfred. Wilfred later donated this land to the monks of Glastonbury Abbey, after the death of his wife..

Domesday Book confirms the land was in the hands of the monks of Glastonbury, and at that time it was listed as having 10 villeins, 11 smallholders and two slaves, giving a total population of between 100 and 120. Previous to 1086 it had been taxed on 30 hides, and by 1332, there were 22 tax payers listed. In addition Littleton Drew had six villeins, 5 smallholders and four serfs in 1086 giving an additional 55 to 65 people for the modern civil parish.

When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1537, the estate reverted to the Crown.
In 1544, Giles Gore of Surrendell purchased, from the Crown, the manor of Gruttlyngton. The cost was £591.15s. 7d. (£591.77 1/2 p). According to his will, at this time a further 360 acres in the Parish were owned by Edward Monpesson.

The Gore family remained the main landholders for more than 150 years, until 1601, when the manor was sold to Henry White of Langley Burrell for £2,050. The White family held the manor for over hundred years, but in 1705 it passed, through marriage, to Joseph Houlton of Trowbridge and Farleigh Hungerford.

Accounts for 1678/9 included the expenses for oysters and shrimps, 1/5d., (one shilling and five old pence, equating to seven new pence), 4/6d (22 1/2 p) for tobacco, whilst 5/- (20p) bought five sacks of coal. In 1684 The Duke of Beaufort rented four acres from the estate for the sum of £1 per year. 1675 records show rental was paid for a messuage identified as 'Old Walls'. The Old Walls address still exists in the village at the turn of the 21st century. Records also mention Hester Brokenbrow was paying rent to the estate; this family name was still present in the village in the late 20th century. In 1704 records show a workman on the estate was paid 4/6d, (22 1/2 p.) for six days work and in 1711 Dan Scott was paid only £2.2s.0d. (£2.10p) for “60 days in hay and corn harvest” In 1729 Joseph Houlton left £50 in his will, the interest from this was for the poor of the parish. In 1771, 6/6d (32 1/2 p) was given to the children of one Gingell, who was in jail. In 1799 the poor relief for the year was £7.1s.3d. (£7. 6 1/2 p), this was distributed amongst 17 parishoners.

During the sixteenth century the church played an important part in English history, and this affected Grittleton. Before 1553 there was a Roman Catholic clergyman in charge of the parish, but at that time George Bancroft was installed as Protestant rector. During the reign of Queen Mary he was replaced by a Catholic rector, but the Protestant, Bancroft, was re-installed when Queen Elizabeth came to the throne. At this time the Gore family were sponsoring the occupants of Grittleton rectory.

There were religious differences noted in the village in 1704, when Thomas Tettershall, the parson of the parish, prosecuted William Player, a Quaker. People were required to pay one tenth of their income or farm produce to the Church (known as a tithe); Mr. Player had not paid his tithe. By 1811 the Parish had both Church of England and Baptist ministers; the Baptist Meeting House having been licensed in January 1721.

Traders listed in directories at this time include an inn keeper, three carpenters, a baker, a maltster, a tailor, a collar maker and two shoe makers. The 1848 census shows tradesmen including a saddler, a harness maker, and a blacksmith, emphasising the importance of horses, both for use in agriculture and also as the only method of transport. Hunting was also a pastime of the country gentleman, including Joseph Neeld. People in the village were employed either in agriculture, or working on the Grittleton estate. The 1831 census listed 438 inhabitants, this having declined to 351 ten years later. The population remained fairly stable around this figure during the 19th century, and in 1891 there were 71 inhabited houses in the village, with 2 empty. In 1832 the Guardians of the Poor in the village issued several warrants against village men in respect of the maintenance of bastard children, and by 1835 the poor relief had increased to £8.17.6d. (£8.87 1/2 p) paid to 14 people. At this time a rate of 2 1d.(1p) in the £1 was levied for repairs to the highway, together with 1/- (5p) in the £1 for poor relief.

During the late 18th century a forerunner of Neighbourhood Watch was formed in the Parishes in the North West corner of Wiltshire, including Grittleton. A yearly meeting was held at the Gib and rewards were offered for information regarding various crimes in the area.

Major changes took place after Joseph Neeld purchased the estate in 1828. Neeld, was a London solicitor who had inherited a fortune of £900,000; Grittleton was to become his country seat. At that time the estate was consisted of 1,248 acres within the parish. The Rector, the Rev. William W. Borne (or Borne) held 274 acres whilst Sir John Jacob Buxton, Bart. held 415 acres. The present Grittleon House was built between 1835 and 1856, the architect being James Thomson. Later modifications were overseen by Henry Clutton. The stable complex was to house 50 stud horses, in addition to those used on the farm and the estate horses. Neeld was said to have filled the house with 'works of art'. The earlier house on the site had been a three bay, Jacobean manor dating from 1660.

In 1858 the Rev. Borne, who had been Vicar of the Parish for 54 years, left the sum of £500 in his will, to provide for the building of a new school in the village. The building of the school was overseen by the Rev. Lancaster. The new school opened on the 7th July 1864, 38 pupils using the new building.

Joseph Neeld did not have a son to inherit the estate, it passed to his brother John. John was created a Baronet in 1859, he died in 1899 and was buried at Leigh Delamere. 1880 saw the demolition of the tithe barn in the village, whilst the houses for estate workers, previously mentioned, were erected in Alderton Road.

The welfare of villagers was to the fore in 1895 when a series of lectures on nursing was given in the school-room. These cost 5 old pence (2 1/2 ) per session, or one shilling for the series, and over 80 people attended. By 1902 a resident nurse was present in the village. In the same year the Reading Room was opened. A night school was organised and five boys were attending. In February 1903 a concert was held in the village to clear the outstanding balance owing on the building of the Reading Room; a profit of £8 was made. At this time Walter White was the constable at the village police station and it was said the Red Lion Hotel provided loose boxes and good stabling.

In 1901 a Lighting Committee was formed by villagers with the intent of placing four street lamps in the village and one at Foscote. No lights were forthcoming. Again in 1938 the Parish Council attempted to install street lighting, but parishioners voted against the plan. In the early 21st century the parish does not have street lighting. During 1938 the Parish Council were making preparations should air raids occur.

Between the months of May and September in 1911 the village suffered a “water famine” when many of the village wells ran dry. People in the village depended on the wells so there was little piped water in houses at that time. In contrast, in September 1927 many parish roads were flooded. By 1938 responsibility for water supplies to the village had passed from Grittleton Estate to Calne and Chippenham Rural District Council, but in 1956 parishioners in Clapcot and Crowdown were still complaining of poor water supply.

In July 1918 two airmen were killed when their plane crashed in flames in Grittleton.

In 1934 Littleton Drew and Leigh Delamare were included in the Parish.
During 1945, parish council minutes remark on complaints regarding sewage in ditches in Littleton Drew, and by 1951 plans were afoot for a complete new drainage scheme for the parish, but in 1955 villagers were again complaining of the disgusting sight of sewage in the ditches, together with the stench at Townsend Pool. Plans were discussed to fill in this pool in 1958.

The change of name of the local inn during 1944 from the Red Lion to The Neeld Arms caused protests, including one from a former rector, who had his letter of protest published in the local newspaper. In 2010 it is still the Neeld Arms

Following requirements of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949, the Parish Council organised a survey of Rights of Way, carried out by Mr.R.A. Daniels. 23 rights of way were listed in 1952. At that time the Grittleton Estate provided 38 allotments, covering 10.6 acres, and all were in use by villagers.

During 1954 people living in the village were disturbed by the speed of road traffic passing through the main street, and requested that a 30mph limit be imposed. However, this was denied by the Chief Constable, who said it was not needed because there had been no accident during the past three years. Again, in 1967, further requests for a speed limit to be introduced in the village were made. By 1969 a speed limit had been imposed, but then, complaints were made that construction vehicles, helping build the nearby M4 motorway, were ignoring the speed limit. A public meeting had been held in the parish during 1965 when villagers had expressed concerns regarding the diversions and closure of local roads during the construction of the M4, and the difficulties this would involve. The speeding lorries were just one of the many complaints.

During 1955 the number of pupils at the village school had fallen to just 48, aged between 5 and 11, taught by just one teacher. Almost the whole parish population signed a petition in 1971 rejecting the proposal to close the village school. In 1967 the parish joined the Joint Benefice of Stanton St. Quintin, Grittleton and Littleton Drew, The two later having been amalgamated in 1921.

As the Neeld family had no direct heirs, in 1967 Grittleton House was sold, becoming an independent school.

In 1970 The Green at Littleton Drew was registered as common land, and 1973 saw the closure of the sub-post office in Littleton Drew. Dutch Elm disease arrived in the early 1970s and many trees in the parish were destroyed, but despite this, in 1982, the village won the Best Kept Village award, and with the £35 prize, purchased a seat for installation on the cricket field.

By the 1980s the Reading Room was redundant and sold, the villagers were able to purchase the sports field with the proceeds of this sale, and plans for the new village hall were approved in 1985.


Littleton Drew

This ecclesiastical parish covers some 950 acres. It is situated 8 miles north west of Chippenham, being part of the civil parish of Grittleton; the village of Grittleton lies to the east, and Littleton Drew is marked by the Roman Fosse Way to the north, whilst Castle Combe is to the west, while to the north the county of Gloucestershire borders. The land is mainly to pasture, the sub-soil is clay. The M4 motorway runs through the parish. The Duke of Beaufort is Lord of the Manor, but some land was held by the Neeld family of Grittleton. In 1841 the village had a population of 256, this fell to 217 in 1871 and by 1891 it was only 172. The parish includes two hamlets, The Gib, 1 mile to the south east and West Dunley, 1 mile to the south west. They all became part of Grittleton in 1934. Formerly called Littleton, the Drew was added around 1290, when reference is made to a Walter Dru, Lord of Liteltone.

1841 there were 2 beer retailers, a harness maker, a tailor and a shoe maker in the village, and in 1878 Mrs. Grace Chappell was in charge of the Plough Inn. Kelly's Directory for 1889 lists a butcher, haulier and saddler all trading at the Gib, Gatcombe water mill was in operation, and in addition to several farmers, the village also boasted a boot maker.


During the 19th century, parishes in the area were concerned regarding the number of crimes in the district. A group was formed to try to combat this. Rewards were offered for information received. This group met annually at The Gib, probably in what is now the Salutation Inn

In 1850 the Duke of Beaufort had leased land to the village, that they may build a new school, but because of low standards of education and falling numbers this was closed in 1926. Registers of the parish church date back to 1709, but the church, dedicated to All Souls, was restored in 1856, mainly due to the efforts of the Rev. Gray Lawson.

By 1934, as mentioned, the village had become part of Grittleton Parish, and parish council minutes at that time record problems with sewage in ditches in Littleton Drew. These were still problematic as late as 1955. At that time there were complaints regarding the stench from Townsend Pool, and there were proposals to fill this in.


Leigh Delamere

Leigh Delamere, was initially an independent parish, but in the 21st century became part of the United Benefice of Grittleton with Leigh Delamere. It is situated five miles north west of Chippenham and forms the southern boundary of Grittleton Parish. The hamlet consisted of the original Rectory, the Almshouses, Manor Farm and 2 labourers' cottages, though in late 20th century one of Manor Farm's barns was converted into a dwelling house. The hamlet was built by Joseph Neeld, after he purchased the Grittleton estate in 1828. The M4 motorway runs through the parish, agriculture, livestock and cereals, the sub-soil being clay. The area of the parish is around 1,200 acres. The population in 1871 was 127, but by 1901 this was down to only 88.

In 1303 the hamlet was called Ecclesia Legh, by 1438 it was Ecclesia Lighe Delamare. Kelly's Directory for 1880 states that the land had been sold, prior to 1369, by a knight called Delamere. A further change in name was in 1465 when it was recorded as Ecclesia Lygh juxta Castelcombe. Again, in 1470, a further change when it was called Ecclesia Lygh de la Mere, but by 1484 it was named Eccclesia Legh Delamere and in 1752 the hamlet was named Ecclesia Leigh Delamere. By 1845 it had become the parish of Leigh Delamere together with Sevington. In 1848, together with the farmers and agricultural workers, the hamlet also had a blacksmith and a boot and shoe maker.

The hamlet of Sevington is about half a mile distant from Leigh Delamere, to the west, though the building of the M4 motorway separated the two hamlets. Sevington consists of around a dozen original estate workers cottages, the school, now a working museum, a farm and one other residence, possibly the original estate manager's residence. Again, as in Leigh Delamere, in the late 20th century, barns have been converted into dwellings. West Foscote farm is also within the parish, though a further mile west from Leigh Delamere, beyond Sevington. All the houses have architecture similar to those in Grittleton village, presumably all built under the supervision of the architects who were responsible for Grittleton House, originally Thomson, later Clutton. They are stone built, possibly with stone quarried on the estate.

After the completion of the church in 1847, Joseph Neeld built the alms houses in Leigh Delamere, to house his retired servants. There were six apartments, all with water piped from a well behind the church, but at the time of Neale's death all remained un-occupied. In his will Neeld left £5000, the interests from this were to be used to support the occupiers of these alms houses. Originally the church had been built with an underground heating system, though this never worked successfully, so in 1857 what had been the boiler house for the church heating was converted into 'a washhouse for almshouse inmates'. Though at least one Alms House was occupied in the late 20th century, by the 21st century they have been sold and converted into a single residence.

Further building work by Joseph Neeld was that of the school and school house in Sevington, which opened in 1849 with 22 pupils, though in early 20th century the average attendance was only 10. Miss Squire was the school mistress and she remained there for 60 years. The school finally closed in 1913, the children transferring to Grittleton Church of England School. Miss Squire died in 1928.

By 1941, upon the death of Sir Audley Dallas Neeld, who died without heir, the Neeld family had become extinct. During World War 2 no repairs were carried out to the church building, and the condition of the fabric gradually deteriorated. By 1945 the attendance at services was usually 3 or 4 persons, who could not possibly fund the cost of upkeep, so movements were initiated for the closure of the church. In his application for the closure of the church, the incumbent provided a document listing the residents of the parish together with the frequency of their attendance at services. The church was closed as a regular place of worship in 1992, though occasional services are still held there.

As previously mentioned, Sevington School is now conserved, in the 21st Century, as a 19th Victorian school. School parties visit and the children are encouraged to wear Victorian style costumes, and have lessons as the original pupils would have, with 'Miss Squire' in charge, and work done using slates and chalk.

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Population 1801 - 2011

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Folk Songs from Grittleton

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Folk Plays from Grittleton

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Listed Buildings: The number of buildings, or groups of buildings listed as being of architectural or historic importance is 69. There are no Grade I buildings; and five Grade II* buildings, Grittleton House, Grittleton Baptist Chapel, the Church of St. Mary, Former School and Schoolhouse and the Church of St. Margaret.

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