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Wiltshire Community History

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Heytesbury

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.

Map of the Civil Parish of Heytesbury:

Map of the Civil Parish of Heytesbury

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.


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.


Thumbnail History:


The village of Heytesbury is in the Wylye Valley with the river running through the centre of the village, from west to east, south of the High Street. This parish is much bigger than its neighbours in the valley; whereas the surrounding parishes are on one side of the river, Heytesbury extends over both, stretching from Imber in the north to Berwick St. Leonard in the south. Its size is probably due to its importance as an ecclesiastical centre in Saxon times. The majority of the parish is downland, the village community being centred on the High Street. The soil here is light, the subsoil chalk and stone. In 1986 the Warminster Bypass opened, taking traffic away from the High Street to the north of the village. The name Heytesbury refers to a burh held by a Saxon woman.

Heytesbury parish is rich in archaeological features, having 111 entries on the Sites and Monuments Record in 2009. The usual pattern of development in Wiltshire is that Roman settlements are found on the high ground and the later medieval settlements are in the valley. There are Roman villages at Wadman's Coppice in the far north of the parish and near Tytherington Hill in the south. Also in the north is Bowl's Barrow, a long barrow measuring 150 feet long which was opened by William Cunnington in 1801. Aided by Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Cunnington excavated twenty barrows and earthworks on the Downs around Heytesbury, producing a fine collection of coins, bones, skeletons, minerals and fossils.

The earliest settlement feature on the site of the village itself is an Iron Age ditch found at Park Street Gates. Further investigations yielded gullies, ditches, post-settings and pottery dating from the 12th to the 15th centuries. Parsonage Farm is on the site of the 12th century Prebend House, while Heytesbury House stands on the site of the medieval East Court. Heytesbury was a fairly insignificant market town and saw little expansion beyond its medieval core until the 19th century.

In 1086 the Manor was held by King William but a priest named Alfward held the church and an estate with perhaps ten families. The manor was granted by Henry II to Robert de Dunstanville of Castle Combe. In 1339 it was divided into three Courts, east, south and west, which were granted to three separate families, but by the 1390s all three were owned by the Hungerford family. The central points of these three manors today are Heytesbury Park for the East Court, Parsonage Farm for the West Court or Borough, while the South Court was somewhere between Heytesbury and Tytherington but there is no longer any trace of it.

Little is known about the early history of Tytherington. Sir Richard Colt Hoare, normally a reliable source concerning manorial descent, says that 'the public records are remarkably silent respecting this place'. By 1476 it was in the hands of the Hungerford family and descended in the same line as Heytesbury.

The Hungerfords were a wealthy and important family who owned property all over the south west of the country, including numerous manors in the Upper Wylye Valley. Heytesbury became the centre of their sheep rearing empire in the 14th and 15th centuries. A lasting memorial to the family is the Hungerford Almshouses, founded in 1442. Today it is known as the Hospital of St. John.

After the Reformation the manor changed hands twice, belonging to the Wheeler and Moore families. In 1641 the Moores sold it to Edward Ashe of London & Halstead. The land was inherited by his granddaughter, who married Pierce A' Court of Ivychurch near Salisbury. The A'Courts continued to hold Heytesbury until the 1920s when the estate was broken up. The House was later acquired by Siegfried Sassoon and much of the land north of the village was bought by the War Department for inclusion in the Imber Range. The A'Court family, who were given the title Lord Heytesbury in 1828, continued to live in the village until 1971 when William, 5th Baron Heytesbury, died.

A Saxon church in Heytesbury was rebuilt during the 12th century, when the Collegiate Church of St. Peter and St. Paul was founded. Cruciform in shape, this fine church is dominated by the low, massive tower at its centre. Inside it has been described as a miniature cathedral, having high pointed arcades of the 13th century, a central crossing tower and an immense single lancet window at the east end. Considerable alterations were made during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. In 1866-7 the church was restored by William Butterfield. The galleries were removed and the chancel, which had been shut off from the nave for many years, was opened up again. Restoration work was also undertaken in 1967 when the nave ceiling was painted pale blue and the church walls lime washed white.

The little church of St. James at Tytherington has changed very little since the 12th century. This single cell church is just 19 feet wide and fifty feet long with thick white plastered walls and tiny windows. It was restored in 1891.

Both communities had their own chapel. A Congregational chapel was built in Heytesbury in 1812 at Chapel Road and remained open until c.1955. Tytherington had a Primitive Methodist church, which in 1902 was the only one in the district.

The two main industries here were sheep and cloth. There was cloth production in Heytesbury, as in many Wylye valley villages, by the 14th century and there was a fulling mill in the 16th century which supplied white broadcloth to a London cloth merchant. It was not until the time of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century that mills were built near the river. The Everetts, a successful mill owning family with a chain of mills in the valley, built a mill at Greenlands to the west of the village and another in Mill Lane to the east. One made broadcloth and the other twilled cloth. These water mills were built to drive the new machinery introduced into the cloth industry. During the 1770s machinery was first introduced at Warminster, provoking riots that involved the Heytesbury workers. Heytesbury was also involved in the riots of 1826-30 after the introduction of threshing machines on farms. Both the Heytesbury factories were major employers in the early 19th century but by 1847 both had closed and Heytesbury's own 'industrial revolution' was over.

The 1851 census shows a broad range of occupations. As well as the expected farm labourers, many people were employed in trade. 1901 shows a similar picture with the addition of the railway as a new employer.

There are many listed buildings in Heytesbury, including nearly thirty 18th century houses and cottages. Apart from the church, the most well known building in the village is the Hospital of St. John, originally known as the Almshouses. It was built in 1442 by Walter, 2nd Lord Hungerford, for twelve poor, unmarried men who were looked after by one woman. There was also a chapel and provision for a schoolmaster. The Hospital was re-founded in 1472 by Lady Margaret Hungerford in honour of her late father-in-law Walter and her husband Robert. It owes its survival to her, as Margaret worked hard to ensure that the Hospital had a reliable income.

In 1765 the Hospital was destroyed by fire and was rebuilt in 1766-7 by the Trowbridge architect Esau Reynolds. The new building cost about £1,600 and was built round three sides of a rectangle with a coach house at the north corner and a clock with bell over the main entrance.

1962 saw the first major development in over 500 years. Flats for married couples were provided at a cost of £38,000 and the coach house was converted into a chapel. In 1969 there was a further building programme on the north side of the Hospital.

Heytesbury House stands on the site of the medieval mansion at East Court. Walter, Lord Hungerford was in the process of repairing and enlarging the house when he was arrested by Henry VIII. The property was seized and fell into disrepair. In the 17th century it was owned by the Ashe family who later rebuilt the house in 1782. It has a fine dining room with a decorative chimney piece brought from Wardour. It remained the property of the Ashe family and the A'Court family until 1926. It was later occupied by Siegfried Sassoon and then his son George until 1994. The house has now been restored and divided into apartments. The grounds and buildings surrounding the main house have also been developed and landscaped. The area is now known as Heytesbury Park.

There are two public houses in the village, The Angel Hotel and The Red Lion Inn. The former was built in the 17th century. Prior to the Reform Bill in 1832 Heytesbury was a 'rotten borough' returning two members of parliament. The two pubs were the headquarters of the two political parties, the Tories met at The Angel and the Whigs at The Red Lion. Voting always took place at The Angel and the last election was held on 22nd May 1831.

138 Park Street was formerly the estate office for the Heytesbury Estate. The archaeologist William Cunnington lived here between 1775 and 1810. There is a memorial to him in the parish church. Several of his archaeological finds were stored in the garden of the house until they were taken to the Salisbury and Devizes Museums.

The village lock-up still survives. Dating from the 18th century, this blind house is one of Wiltshire's Scheduled Ancient Monuments. It is octagonal in shape, built of limestone ashlar with a stone slate pointed roof. The planked, studded door has a small square light over it with iron bars. Inside is a simple fitted wooden bench.

There are four listed farmhouses in the village. Slater's dates back to the 17th century, as does Parsonage. Manor and Mill Farm are 18th century. Mill Farm also has a former water mill attached. This was leased by the Everett family during the early 19th century. It ceased to operate as a woollen mill during the late 19th century and was later used as a corn mill.

In 1765 most of the town was destroyed by a great fire. It started in a house at the west end of the town and spread very quickly, as it was a hot, dry and windy day. In the space of two hours, 65 houses, the hospital and chapel, the free schools and various farm buildings were all destroyed. The cost of the damage was £13,000. Two lives were lost and many families had to live in the church until new homes could be built for them.

The population of Heytesbury at the time of Domesday is estimated at 40-60 people. Colt Hoare, in his early 19th century history of the Heytesbury Hundred, mistakenly records the entries for Hazelbury in Box. (The two spellings can easily be misunderstood). The next available figure is 1,072 in 1801. The peak figure of 1,412 was reached in 1831. After this the population declined gradually until 1931 when there were just 454 people living here. In 1851 the decrease was attributed mainly to a decline in the cloth industry and to emigration. In 1871 it was noted that young people were moving to the towns to work. New housing in the later 20th century and the attraction of a pretty village has seen the population increase again to 701 in 2001.

The 1899 Kelly's trade directory for Wiltshire shows that a variety of trades and services were available in Heytesbury. (Most small villages were fairly self-sufficient until the Second World War). As well as the expected trades and services such as blacksmith, carrier and shopkeeper, there was also a cabinet maker and a coffee tavern. The postal service operated twice daily. A carrier would take you to Warminster every day. The railway station, which opened in 1856, was one of six stations opened in the Wylye valley. In 1903 over 10,000 passengers travelled from Heytesbury, but the figure dropped drastically over the next 30 years and the station closed in 1955.

A waterworks was established in 1894. This consisted of a deep well and a reservoir, with wind engine and pumps to supply the parish with water. There was a similar installation at Tytherington. Electricity was first available in 1907. This was generated at the mill and supplied by the estate to the church and the principal houses. It was more widely available by 1939.

Heytesbury has expanded little beyond its medieval core around the High Street. There has been some scattered growth around the edges and a small amount of 20th century building. Approximately 30 council houses were built between 1948 and 1963 at the western end of the village. The building of the Warminster bypass in 1986 has made a huge difference to the residents. All the traffic travelling between Warminster and Salisbury used to pass along Heytesbury's High Street. The bypass was built to the north of the village, making it a much quieter place to live.

The usual leisure activities found in an average village were also in Heytesbury. The men played cricket and football or had a game of billiards at the Men's Club. In 1905 the village had its own band; the women joined the W.I. In 1926 the Rev. J. Raymond bought an old malt house from the Heytesbury Estate. In 1936 it was presented to the village by his widow for use as a village hall, after which it was known as Raymond Hall. It closed in 1975 when it was declared unsafe and was sold as a private house in 1982.

The parish now covers Heytesbury, Imber, and Knook but there are separate Community History pages for Imber and Knook and so only the old parish of Heyetesbury is written up here.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Emailcustomercare@wiltshire.gov.uk
 
Parish CouncilHeytesbury Imber & Knook Parish Council
Parish Web Sitewww.heytesburyparish.co.uk
Parish Emailjackiekirkby@btinternet.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 Heytesbury

Folk Biographies from Heytesbury

Folk Plays from Heytesbury

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 58. There is one Grade I building, the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, and one Grade II* building, the Church of St. James.

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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