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Wiltshire Community History

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Ham

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, 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 Ham:

Map of the Civil Parish of Ham

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:



Ham is situated on the eastern boundary of Wiltshire with Berkshire, east of Shalbourne and north and north east of Buttermere. The name ‘Ham,’ ‘Hamme’ or ‘Hame,’ (as it has had various spellings) means an enclosure formed by a fold of land or a ditch. The parish covers 669 hectares (about 1,652 acres) and is four miles south west of Hungerford in Berkshire. The village of Ham is situated in the north west of the parish. Much of the building is centred around a small village green and development follows Spray Road to the east and the Tidcombe and Fosbury road to the south. The north eastern part of the parish is called ‘Spray’ and the southern tip of the parish tails off to the south west. The vale that follows the contour line is made up of greensand and was once wooded at Spray and leads to chalk layers on the downs; this area is used for arable farming. Ham Hill reaches a height of 256m and is a local nature reserve and in the south east of the parish there are clay and flint deposits. There is a stream, a winterbourne, flowing from the south east to the northwest and eventually joining the Kennet.

The uplands show prehistoric and Roman settlement and ditches and bowl barrow cremations have been found. There is also evidence of a Roman foundation at Inwood copse in the north east. The east Wansdyke may once have formed part of Ham’s north eastern boundary. The Saxon charter of 931 includes Wulfgar’s will leaving the manor of Ham to his wife Aeffe and then to the church, and describes the land of that manor in geographic detail; much of the parish boundaries remain the same today.

By the time of Domesday it was evident that some form of settlement existed; prior to this it has been assumed that while it was farmed, there was little habitation. An estate of two hides was recorded, held by William Scudet and this was later known as Ham or East Court Farm. About 50-60 people are recorded as living here in the Domesday survey and this included about 20 working males scattered amongst perhaps 5 houses. As well as the two hides held by William Scudet another 8½ hides were held by St. Swithun’s in Winchester.
Ham was part of the Kinwardstone hundred and in the 15th century was transferred to Elstub and Everleigh hundred; this was known as a ‘ragged’ hundred as it was scattered geographically, perhaps because the manors were owned by St. Swithun’s in Winchester. By 1086 the land had been allocated to the bishop of Winchester and remained in that ownership until the mid 19th century.

The land originally owned by William Scudet was later held in 1249 by John of Ham and by 1287 by William of Ham; it included land at Spray and Moordown in Buttermere. In the early 1300s this same land was granted to Richard Polhampton and his wife and after his death to Walter of Ham, by 1320. By 1362 it was held by Geoffrey Polhampton and his wife and it remained in that family until the 17th century. It then passed through the Brotherton family with William Brotherton owning it from 1780 until the 1820s.

Domesday tells us that the lands were divided into 840 acres for arable, 8 acres for meadow that was usually mown for hay, pasture measuring 3 furlongs by one furlong, and a wood measuring 6 furlongs by 3 furlongs. In the year 1300 both the convent and the estate were granted free warren and the estate retained this until the dissolution. In 1541 the crown granted the manor to the new cathedral chapter of Winchester and this did not change until the 19th century. By 1649 the chapter forfeited the estate and the parliamentary trustees granted it to Henry and Thomas Hunt of Ham. Until 1828 the estate held some land in Buttermere and this was later exchanged with East Court Farm for other land in Ham. In 1839 the manorial estate had a leasehold demesne farm, a copyhold farm and smaller copyholds in the east of the parish, totalling about 917 acres. In 1847 the larger copyhold farm was enfranchised in favour of the tenant. In 1861 the remainder of the chapter’s Ham estate was vested in the ecclesiastical commissioners and six years later re-granted to the chapter as a permanent endowment. This area of land was to the west of the Fosbury road and included Ham Manor as well as the manor and copyhold farms.

Ham Manor was leased by the Hunt family for about 200 years from the end of the 16th century to the mid 18th century. They married into the Watts family in 1676 and the name ‘Hunt’ seems to have disappeared by the time of the 1841 census. Ham Manor was originally a timber framed 16th century building that was enlarged in the 17th century with the addition of cross wings. Brick additions were made to the northern side during the 18th and 19th centuries and interior alterations included a new staircase c.1800. Some of the 17th century panelling was re-used in the hallway and on the first floor. Outside there is an 18th century pigeon house and to the north west of the property the remnants of a formal garden enclosed with box hedges and yew.

Henry Deacon Woodman was the main landowner during the 19th century and a prominent figure in the parish. He gave up farming in the early 1900s and then put Ham Manor up for sale. It was then rented by a military man, Captain Frederick Sadleir Brereton, who had fought in the Boer War, later becoming a published author of boys’ adventure stories, many written while he lived at Ham Manor. The 1928 sale catalogue describes a Queen Anne house with ten bedrooms, a lounge hall and four reception rooms. There was a garage, stabling and farm buildings. The gardens contained topiary, a dovecote, an ancient game larder and a timbered park and pleasure grounds. There were six dairy and mixed farms and lands included part of the village, downlands, allotments and cottages, totalling c.1,350 acres. The estate was later owned by Ralph Brown who is buried in the churchyard. More recent owners include Dudley and Hon Angela Delevingne then Sir William and Lady Beale.

East Court is at the south east corner of the village and is made up of two 17th century ranges forming an ‘L’ shape; the earlier east wing is timber framed and the later wing was re-fronted in the 18th century. The whole house was altered in the 19th century and then extended and refitted c.1965. East Court Manor Farm was owned by Thomas Cowderoy from c.1825 to 1831 and by 1839 it was owned by the Reverend John Bushall and then by 1843 by John Canning. It was later rented by Henry Deacon Woodman and eventually became part of the Ham Spray Estate. East Court was leased by S. Farmer and eventually purchased by him in 1918. It had earlier been known as Cannings and Doves House was also known as ‘The Laurels’ for a while.
Manor Farm House dates from the 18th century and was built as a simple estate cottage with a carpente’rs and wheelwright’s shop attached. Rose and Tudor Cottages are examples of 16th century buildings and Well Cottage was originally three cottages known as ‘Reprieve Cottages’ and dates from the 17th century. Tudor Cottage revealed hidden treasure found in the chimney breast just after the Second World War; a pair of embroidered leather gauntlets, a pipe and a pair of silk shoes amongst other things. The old school house was built on the site of earlier buildings, as was the Crown and Anchor public house. Other 17th century buildings include Forge Cottage opposite East Court and Ham Cross, north of the green. New Buildings are the most southerly buildings in the parish and were built in the 19th century.

Ham Spray Farm, also known as Spray Farm or The Spray was part of a copyhold farm built in the north east of the parish in the 19th century. The farmhouse was built in the 1830s for the Ham Spray estate and in 1847 William Woodman was the tenant of the 482 acres. It was later enlarged by Henry Deacon Woodman in 1850 as his family home and it was enlarged again by the end of the 19th century. It had been owned by Woodman but was sold to Charles Wright during the 1860s, later being re-purchased by Woodman in 1879. During the time it was owned by Charles Wright a white horse was carved on the north face of Ham Hill near Rivar copse, easily viewed from his property. Later it disappeared from view as nature reclaimed the land and turf grew over the horse, but it is marked on the OS 6” map dating from the 1870s and is now considered to be one of the lost Wiltshire white horses. It is remembered by Rev. Butler of Inkpen and recorded in a WAM article of 1922. By the 20th century the farming land and house were owned separately and in 1976 the house was owned by Gerald Brood.

Lower Spray Farm was purchased by Major Geoffrey Huth in 1919 as well as 200 acres of Inkpen estate and then a year later Church Farm. He then bought Ham Spray Farm in 1924 and these properties would eventually become known as Wansdyke Farms. Major Huth took a keen interest in village affairs.

Ham Spray House was built c.1830, of two storeys with a five bay south facing front. It was enlarged in the late 19th century. Lytton Strachey and Ralph Partridge came to live here in 1924 with Dora Carrington, who later married Partridge; they were members of the famous Bloomsbury Group. Strachey paid £2,300 for the property, with a little help from Partridge and the three lived there until Strachey’s death in 1932. Very little of the distinct style of the Bloomsbury set remains; a trompe l’oeil bookcase on a door in the library, a painted ceramic tile of an owl seated on a book, and a fireplace decorated with painted tiles, all done by Carrington. Strachey died in 1932 from stomach cancer and Dora Carrington shot herself at Ham Spray House two months later. Ralph Partridge then married Frances Marshall and they continued to live at Ham Spray House until his death in 1960.Then it was sold by Frances Partridge (nee Marshall) to Major and Mrs Guy Elwes. In 1961 a west bay was added by Guy Elwes and the interior was re-planned and redecorated. Frances had her ‘Pacifist’s War’ published in 1978 and went on to live to be 104 years old, writing more books as well as literary reviews for ‘The Spectator.’ At the age of 99 years she received a CBE for her services to literature.

In 1901 Samuel Farmer took on the leaseholds of the Ham Manor estate and then Doves farm and he also purchased the freehold of the remaining part of the estate owned by the church, ending the ownership of Ham Manor by the church after almost one thousand years. He was a partner of Stratton and Company and a major landowner and supported the local farming industry while living nearby at Little Bedwyn Manor.

By 1928 Farmer’s estates were all owned by Ralph Brown and when sold at auction represented a great deal of the property and farms in the parish. Ham Manor was retained and he and his wife lived there for some time becoming active in the village. Brown also kept Dove’s Farm and sold it ten years later to Frederick Hill who later sold it to Robin (Viscount) Hudson in the 1940s. East Court Farm was bought by Huth and amalgamated with Ham Spray therefore ending its life as a separate farm. The other three farms became part of the Buttermere Manor estate and these were sold again in 1933.

The second rectory was sold when Ham became a united benefice with Shalbourne in 1956 and was bought by Geoffrey Webb and renamed Vale House. He was the script writer for Dick Barton broadcast by the BBC and was also a script writer for The Archers; some of the farming lore of that radio programme is thought to be based on Ham.

In 1332 fifteen taxpayers were recorded in Ham and this number increased to 119 people by 1377; this implies that Ham, a fairly isolated community, was not badly affected by the Black Death that had occurred during this period.
Often it was assessed with another place; for example in 1524 with Henley in Buttermere, and in 1545 with Haxton in Fittleton. By 1576 Ham was assessed on its own. In 1801 the population was 188, rising to 195 in 1811 and dropping to 171 by 1821. By the 1840s there was a rise in agricultural workers in the parish and by 1871 the population numbered 255. The average age towards the end of the 19th century was 37 years old, with many agricultural labourers working into their old age. Ham seemed to manage to employ these workers through the 19th century, a time when many people were leaving the land. In 1921 the population was 160, and in 2011 it was recorded as 180 distributed between 82 households, not so dissimilar from 1801.

Ham as a settlement grew from a forested area that was gradually reclaimed. As the timber was cut and used for building and fuel so the cultivated land was established which in turn provided the food and fodder to sustain a settlement. In 1066 the manor was assessed at £6 and in 1086 there was enough land for seven plough teams. It was usual to move stock and produce between places so wool and cheeses were sent directly to St. Swithun’s and Ham also produced an abundant nut harvest due to the woodland. This exchange of produce was often done with the Hampshire manors of Chilbolton and West Meon. In the 16th century land south of the manor yielded a rent of £7 6s. 0d per year; Edmund Polhampton was the farmer in 1502 and Thomas Faller from 1545 to 1572. The Hunts followed on from them. In 1649 the farm measured 302 acres and this was partly made up of 13 acres of meadow, 52 acres of pasture and 212 acres of arable land. By 1779 the farm covered 400 acres, some enclosed, and some open fields. Pasture land was situated at Ashley Common in the south of the parish and at Spray, and the common was inclosed in the 17th century and completed by 1828. The parish contained areas of woodland considered part of Savernake in the 13th century and timber from the common area was used to repair tenants’ houses. In 1839 Ham contained 113 acres of woodland and the largest coppices were at Spray, Grubbed Mead and Inlands.

S.W. Farmer of Frank Stratton & Co was tenant of much of Woodman’s Ham Spray land, farming 900 acres in the north in 1909. He was probably responsible for introducing dairy herds into the arable farming that was typical of Ham. In 1901 the stock of Ham Spray and Dove’s was sold at auction, soon followed by the stock of Manor Farm and by 1909 Ham Manor had been sold.
A mowing account exists for 1733 and lists the experienced mowers of the time, John and James Aldridge, father and son, John Brookes and Samuel Marchman. The Aldridges held various lands, smallholdings and cottages into the 19th century.
By 1920 and after the sale of the manor only three farms existed in Ham; Manor, Dove’s and East Court. Huth made over Wansdyke Farms to his daughter but continued to farm it until his grandson took over; his other grandson, Charles Flower, has a wildflower seed business at nearby Shalbourne.
In 1976 there were four farms " Manor, Dove’s, Ham Spray and East Court. The last two were farmed together. Dove’s farm was converted to organic farming by Michael Marriage and also began milling as Dove Farm Foods. The farm was mainly arable with some cattle and later sheep; barley and wheat were the main crops.

In 1986 Gerald Boord sold Wansdyke Farms to John and Sandra Lee who also bought Manor Farm and this now covers 1,786 acres. There are now two active farms, Ham Spray and Manor farm combined under Wansdyke Farms Ltd., both separate from the original farmhouse.
East Court Farm had once been rented by Bernard Venables, an artist who had exhibited at the Royal Academy. He is best known for his knowledge and writing of fishing including the daily cartoon strip Mr. Crabtree goes fishing which eventually became a best selling angling book and he was also co-founder of the Angling Times.

Ham was situated at the intersection of two drove roads; one leading from Hungerford to Andover and the other running along the Inkpen ridgeway from Warbury Hill, via Ham Hill and though Collingbourne Kingston to Upavon. There were a number of sunken lanes making Ham appear slightly hidden from view and Church Road which now finishes at the manor just behind the church used to bend further round and join the main road which runs south. Newer development is south of the green as well as north of Spray Road. Most of the 18th and 19th century roads are still used as footpaths so are still visible.
Spray Road runs between embankments overhung by beeches and steep banks enclose the road that runs south from Ham; this was called Ashley Drove in 1877. Field Lane and Pills Lane ran west to Shalbourne and east to Ham Spray House in the 19th century and can still be seen as tracks today. South of the green is newer development as well as 17th and 18th century cottages and council houses of the mid 20th century are located south of Manor Farm. G.E. Huth was responsible for much of the building between the wars.

In 1720 an application by Robert Shuttle to open an ale house was refused. Two other public houses have existed in Ham; the Cross Keys north west of the village and situated on the fork in the road at the junction of Ham Road and Cutting Hill. This was destroyed by fire in the 1880s and a newer house is now on that site. The other public house is the Crown and Anchor, made up of two cottages and in the centre of the village. It is still in use today and incorporates the Indigo Palace Indian restaurant.
Electricity, not always reliable, was installed in the 1930s but was not put into every single property and some people still relied on paraffin and local generators. Manor Farm had a water pumping station that supplied most of the village with water. This had been installed by Henry Deacon Woodman at the end of the 19th century and was driven first by a windmill and later by a Hornsby oil engine. The water was pumped into an underground reservoir but was closed down in 1976 after the water became contaminated by sewage; mains water was then supplied to the village.
A youth club was run in the post war years by Brigadier Edward Stileman and the small green played host to a visiting fair in the post war years.

John Hunt who died in 1590 gave £40 to the ‘mariage of poore maydens’ as well as three houses for ‘poore and impotent people’. These houses were the forerunner of almshouses and there were two parish houses in Ham located south of Manor Farm and sold in the early 19th century. A descendant, also called John Hunt left £20 in 1719 and the interest was to be distributed between the poor of Ham, but no payment was made after 1820 and the charity was considered lost by 1834.
Poor relief was overseen by the Hunt family and then later the Watts family in the 18th century. Ham then came under the Hungerford Poor Law Union after the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 and six Ham residents are recorded in this workhouse between 1866 and 1917.
A public telephone was installed in 1925 with the number Inkpen 7. The parish had promised that it would raise revenue to fund it which initially it failed to do.
A gift was made in 1928 of a plot of land by Ralph Brown for a village hall and by 1930 £118 had been collected for the building and the RDC contributed £83 from the sale of the parish cottages. In 1937 the hall was built at a cost of £150 by Ernest Gibbs and Stanley Tucker. In 1971 it became a registered charity and was used as a location for the filming of the BBC series Mackenzie.

Records of court survive from the 14th to the 19th century with courts held twice a year; they concentrated on manorial and agricultural affairs. Ham had opted to have a Parish Meeting and this remained until 1976 when it had its first Parish Council. Ham accommodated a number of refugees during the Second World War, some stayed at Ham Spray House which also housed troops. Two stray bombs fell near Spray Road and Ham Road, but nobody was injured. However the parish did lose five local men during that conflict and they also had a home guard platoon to which many of the able bodied village men belonged.

Mapping of 1761 shows a detailed field system similar to that of the 19th century, and the 1810 map made for the Dean and Chapter of Winchester are the most accurate. In 1828 the enclosure map shows an enclosed common and a number of large fields; the Down, Great Field, Little Field and Pidget’s for example. The rest of the land is divided into smaller fields and there are some allotments as well. Many of the field names come from the charter of 931 and the name Spray comes from spr"g meaning brushwood.
Building between the war years by Huth included a property in 1925 called Wan’s Dyke End later renamed Wansdyke, at the eastern end of the village on the south side of Spray road but this was pulled down in 2009 and Coombe House replaced it.
Huth also did various property renovations such as converting 3 dilapidated cottages (Reprieve Cottages) into a pair of labourers cottages and then in 1949 into one (Well Cottage) as well as building a number of new cottages up to 1945. Ramsbury RDC had by then built the Severalls, two pairs of council houses and another pair was added in 1954.
In 1933 the rectory was sold and a new rectory, now Vale House was built, this was on the site of the allotment gardens. The former rectory was purchased and renamed the Lodge.
To the north of the village a bungalow called Happy Valley was built by Robert Mander on the Hungerford road in 1936 and a nursery was established on the land behind this bungalow.
Another bungalow was built on the east side of the Fosbury road for a local policeman and this was called Elston Lodge. In 1939 Manor farm cottages were built for Dove’s Farm by Frederick Hill on the opposite side of the Fosbury Road. The 1960s saw the building of a number of bungalows including property along Cutting Hill which had become part of Ham after the 1980 boundary change. In the 1980s planning applications were made for Dove’s farmyard and the centre of the village was designated a conservation area in 1973.

By 1848 Kelly’s directory lists a publican, blacksmith, post office receiver, parochial school mistress, boot and shoemaker, a carpenter and a wheelwright based at Ham. The village also had a policeman and a maltser and by 1861 five carpenters, two basket makers and a number of household servants. Many of the shops that had existed in Ham, such as the baker’s, post office and grocer’s gradually closed during the mid and late 20th century. The school took in pupils from Buttermere School in 1944 after its closure but the numbers attending dropped in 1953 when the older children were sent to Hungerford. In 1980 the school closed and the local children then attended Shalbourne School.

Ham Hill is a nature reserve covering an area of chalk land with a wide variety of wild flowers and insects. It has been managed by the Wiltshire Trust for Nature Conservation since 1983 and is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) with archaeological importance and stunning views. Situated on the steep banks of a sunken trackway across a north facing ridge of chalk downland it leads to high ground above the village and was once known as ‘Hangar Down.’ The area was left ungrazed from the 1930s and is now home to a great variety of wild flowers including early purple orchids and violets, and butterflies such as the chalkhill blue and the rare Duke of Burgundy. Wiltshire Trust for Nature Conservation has been granted a peppercorn rent in order to enable them to manage the reserve and increase the range of habitats. Access is limited.

The village green was designated as such in 2010, previously it had been an area of waste land as shown on the tithe roll but it had become a village green by the end of the 19th century when the centre of the village had drifted north and away from the manor.

Ham changed as the close link with the land faded and agricultural employment disappeared. Like many villages the proximity of the M4 and decent rail links meant that it could become a commuter village. Buildings which once had an agricultural purpose are now simply residential. However there is great attention paid to the maintenance of the village and the conservation statement underlines the importance of preserving the character of the area. On alternate years a hog roast and summer luncheon are held, usually in June and an annual cricket match takes place against Shalbourne " Ham have won the trophy three times " thus illustrating the community spirit.

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Folk Songs from Ham

Folk Biographies from Ham

Folk Plays from Ham

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