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Wiltshire Community History

Hilperton Search Results

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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 Hilperton:

Map of the Civil Parish of Hilperton

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

From the Ordnance Survey 1890s revision of the one inch to one mile map. The modern civil parish boundary has been superimposed.

Thumbnail History:

Hilperton lies to the north-east of Trowbridge, mostly along a minor road that leaves the Trowbridge-Devizes A301 road at the Lion and Fiddle and proceeds to Staverton. The whole parish is low lying and is mainly on Oxford or Kimmeridge clay. Hilperton Marsh lies 1/2 mile to the north-west of the village, while the ancient settlement of Whaddon lies to the north east. In the late 1990s the A361 was bypassed to the south and a large housing development, Paxcroft Mead, built between the old A361 and the new by-pass, and also to the south of the by-pass. Whaddon was once a separate parish before being added to Semington; it is now part of Hilperton and is included here.

There is no clear evidence for settlement here before the Bronze Age but there are several undated earthworks, ring ditches and enclosures that may be earlier. A Bronze Age settlement has been found in association with a field system, linear ditches and pits. It was probably fairly late in this period matching the date of pottery found, although an early Bronze Age flint thumb scraper has also been found. A large quantity of animal bones was found at the settlement site, indicating a reasonable length of occupation. The site was in the south western part of the parish, close to the Trowbridge boundary.

There is also evidence of Iron Age occupation on a different site, in the eastern part of the mid 20th century development along the old route of the A361. Here a ditched enclosure, pits and pottery fragments have been found. It is not known whether there was continuous settlement through to the Roman period but Romano-British pottery fragments have also been recovered from this site. Substantial quantities of pottery and other debris have been found to the east of the Grange and on another site to the south-east. Linear ditches have been noted south of the old A361. This seems to indicate that there was substantial land usage in this area with, possibly, three Romano-British farmsteads and possibly some industrial activity. There was also a Romano-British field system at Whaddon and it is most likely that at least 75% of the modern parish presented a cultivated and occupied appearance at this time. The remainder is Hilperton Marsh in the north-west and it is likely that this area remained undrained and uncultivated. So far no evidence of occupation earlier than the 14th century has been found for this area.

Until now the settlement sites identified have all been to the south and east of the modern village of Hilperton or near the village of Whaddon. These covered a period of some 1400 years. Unfortunately there is little archaeological evidence for Saxon settlement in this area and certainly nothing to indicate a village of Hilperton. We do know that there was a village of Helperitune and one of Wadone in 1086, that must have existed in Saxon times. Hilperton is mentioned by name (Hulprymor) in a Saxon land charter for Steeple Ashton, West Ashton, North Bradley and Southwick of 964. This would seem to indicate a southern boundary for Hilperton that is very similar to the modern one near the Paxcroft Brook. It is most likely that the other boundaries would have been similar to those that existed until the 19th century. At some point before the 11th century the Saxons must have decided to settle near the present village centre, perhaps influenced by the small stream that flowed nearby. The earlier sites to the south and east were abandoned and a small village of wooden huts will have existed by the 9th or 10th centuries. The Saxons used wood both for building and their utensils and this has meant that they have left little evidence in the archaeological record, other than a possible fragment of late Saxon pottery at Whaddon.

We do know the settlements in 1086, from the Domesday Book, but not their sites. We can however infer them from the Norman churches of Hilperton and Whaddon as the sites of the present churches. There were four estates in Hilperton, the largest two held by two Normans, Ansger the cook and William Corniole. Godwin Clec had a small holding of one virgate and a Saxon, Eldild, whose husband had held the land pre-Conquest, held land sufficient for one plough team. At this time the total population of Hilperton is likely to have been between 40 and 55 people. There was enough land to support 9 plough teams and there was also meadow and pasture land. Whaddon was still held by a Saxon called Alvric and supported two plough teams and also had meadow and pasture. There was a mill probably on the Semington Brook and this would have been used by both Whaddon and Hilperton. At this time Whaddon included Paxcroft, where there is likely to have been a small settlement., and the total population would probably have been between 15 and 25 people.

Thus the medieval settlements were at Hilperton, Whaddon and Paxcroft. The community at Hilperton was close to its church and it is reasonable to suppose that there were cottages along the road to Whaddon as this was the route to the mill. At this time the major route through the village is likely to have been the road between Trowbridge and Melksham that went via Middle Lane, past Hilperton church to Whaddon and then alongside the river Avon to Melksham. Aerial photographs show that there is ridge and furrow to the south of Middle Lane indicating that this was one of the medieval open fields. It is possible that it extended to the north of Middle Lane but evidence of ridge and furrow is more doubtful here. There is however good evidence to the south-east of Church Street and Whaddon Lane and this may have been the second field of the early two field system. These were the west and east fields. There was also a south field, presumably south of the present day Trowbridge to Melksham road.

At Whaddon the two open fields were to the west and south of the church and the settlement seems to have been fairly prosperous. In 1254, on the death of Henry of Whaddon, a survey of the lands he held showed two fields of 35 and 25 acres, which could have been these open fields. Paxcroft is first mentioned as Packelscroft in 1249 and there were three cottages here in the 13th century. Wyke is mentioned in 1252 and it was Hylperton Wyke in 1491. The name would seem to indicate that it was the dairy farm of Hilperton manor, lying to the north west of the open fields. It is unlikely that there was settlement at Hilperton Marsh although in the next century a William atte Marsh is mentioned in 1332 and he must have lived in, or by the side of, the Marsh.

By 1306 there was a fulling mill at Whaddon, presumably this was the corn mill of the Domesday Book. This would seem to indicate that there were likely to be weavers at both Whaddon and Hilperton. Further co-operation between the communities is evidenced by the sharing of common land between their villages. This also happened at Hilperton Marsh where Staverton and Hilperton shared common land. A taxation list of 1332 indicated that both were fairly prosperous and roughly similar in value. The situation was changed by the Black Death in 1349, which seem to have more or less wiped out Whaddon, and possibly the small settlement at Paxcroft, but which probably did not affect Hilperton so badly. In 1377 there were 80 poll tax payers (aged over 14 years) in Hilperton but Whaddon was omitted. It seems probably that the village site to the east of the church was abandoned and new houses built further away. It is also possible that the site of the manor house moved at the same time. By 1428 there were 10 householders again in Whaddon but the community never again approached its former size. It is possible that from this time Paxcroft may have contained only a farmhouse. Weaving did seem to revive and in the late 15th century or early 16th century there was a clothier at Whaddon, which indicates a spinning and weaving cottage industry. The same is doubtless true for Hilperton, which would have supported farmers, farm labourers, weavers and one or more clothiers.

In 1543 part of Hilperton was sold to Thomas Long, a clothier of Trowbridge, beginning the long association of the family with this estate. They also acquired Whaddon and a new mansion was built there in 1575 for the family. This was enlarged in the early 17th century and here Henry Long was also a clothier. The mid 16th century was an extremely prosperous time for weaving and this seems to be reflected in the local economy. There are two part timber-framed cruck cottages in Horse Road of this date, that may have been built for weavers. This is the earliest visual evidence for settlement in Hilperton Marsh, although there could have been earlier dwellings here.

By the early 17th century the farming economy was corn growing and livestock, sheep, cattle and pigs. Cheese and butter were made and beer would have been brewed on the farms. There was also fishing at Whaddon, where farming had probably supplanted weaving as the main economic activity. By 1653 Pound Close existed at Hilperton Marsh, indicating the likelihood of a pound there for straying animals. Pound Farm was built in the 17th century and this farm, some distance from the village may have been built as the result of the enclosure of a great deal of pasture and arable land in the parish by 1663. In 1672 the Rectory or Parsonage House was described as 'new built', near the church, being a substantial house with a buttery and outhouses with lodging rooms built over them. The previous rectory had been smaller, 60 feet by 27 feet, and had a barn, a stable, a hay house, oxstall, a dovecote, with orchard and garden. Most of these buildings would have remained when the new rectory was built.
In the 17th century there were two lanes, former droves, between Trowbridge and Hilperton. These were the early route of Middle Lane and the present main road of the A361. The latter probably grew up in the late 14th century, maybe after the settlement at Whaddon had been badly affected by the plague and there was little reason to visit it. A route between Trowbridge and Melksham, which included the village of Semington would have become more important. Church Street, in Hilperton, would have been extended to join this route and probably became built up in late medieval times. On Ogilby's road map of 1675 it is the road that became the A361 that is shown as the only route between Trowbridge and Melksham.

In the late 17th century numbers 75 Hill Street and 209 and 210 Hill Street were built, perhaps reflecting a move to improve local housing stock as the village became more populous. It is likely that the 18th century blind house, or lock up, had its origins at this time, again perhaps indicating an increasing population giving rise for a means of locking up drunks and local malefactors. Unlike many village blind houses it is not on a major road and would probably not have been used as overnight accommodation for convicted prisoners being moved between courts and gaols. Early in the 18th century both Hilperton House and Oriel House were built.

At this time about three quarters of Hilperton manor was pasture land for dairying, sheep and beef cattle. The tenants of the manor held 574 acres of farmland in 1720 and of this 28% was arable. The manorial farm was 323 acres of which 24% was arable. The chief tenants were John Merewether and the Widow Merewether, while other holds of a reasonable amount of land were Thomas Cogswell, John Foot, Robert Deverell and James Mattravass (Matravers). Weaving was important in the village and Gabriel Still, a prosperous clothier owned much property. Early in the century Edward Capp was a clothier at Paxcroft. Weaving was an industry in many cottages and in the mid 18th century weavers' cottages were built alongside Horse Road in Hilperton Marsh. It is likely that much settlement in this area was by weavers, whose cottages are well set back from the line of the present road. By 1770 there was an ale house here, the Hand and Shears at which cock fighting took place.

Andrews' and Drury's map of 1773 shows a pond outside the Lion and Fiddle, from which a stream runs down the middle of Church Street, continuing northwards past the church. The Lion and Fiddle must have been opened on, or before the turnpiking of the Trowbridge to Seend road, via Semington, in 1752. This completed the effective by-passing of the village that had been evident from Ogilby's map of 1675. In 1783 the glebe lands of the rector were enclosed and from that time we have details of the rectory. At Hilperton the house was 156 feet by 27 feet, of stone, with a small parlour, kitchen, brewhouse, pantry and five bedrooms. There was a barn and stable, with a garden and orchard of one acre. The parsonage house at Whaddon was much smaller, 50 feet by 22 feet, with two parlours, a kitchen, pantry, 3 bedrooms and two garrets. There was a stable, court, gardens and orchard. Both houses were of stone. The manor of Hilperton was sold in 1795 for a price of £31,500 plus the valuation of £1,592 for standing timber. The amount of land was 1,024 acres.

By 1801 most people were employed in the textile industry ,or other manufacturing processes, and the Long family were lords of the manor and chief landowners. Hilperton experienced a surge in population from 748 in 1801 to 1,067 in 1831, after which it fell back a little. Whaddon rose from 36 people in 1801 to 63 in 1821, and then fell. The fall in population of both could have been due to the decline of domestic weaving creating local poverty, forcing people to migrate to Trowbridge and find work in the factories. On the land improvements were made and the remaining waste and common land was enclosed in 1816. It is believed that Whaddon House burned down in 1835 but this is not mentioned in the local newspaper of that year. The 1840s saw a further decline in handloom weaving, causing much distress. Here, unlike in Southwick and North Bradley, people seemed to have moved into Trowbridge rather than remain in the village and walk to the factories there each day.

Despite this there were a reasonable number of businesses in the village including 6 grocers, 2 bakers, 2 smiths, a wheelwright, 2 coal merchants (at the canal wharf), a livestock dealer, 3 shoemakers, a post mistress and a seedsman and florist in 1850. There was a brewery, The Kings Arms, by the canal, the Lion and Fiddle, and the Three Horseshoes, in Church Street, along with six beer retailers. The latter could have been out of work weavers. There were six farmers in the parish and a further three at Whaddon. The effects of the Kennet and Avon canal from 1820 for importation of coal for the Trowbridge factories and the export of farming produce must have had a beneficial economic effect on the village.

By 1867 there were only three beer retailers, although the Prince of Wales was open at Hilperton Marsh, and businesses had increased by the addition of a veterinary surgeon, an accountant, a tea dealer, a plasterer, a builder and a cigar and tobacco dealer. There was however only one baker and fewer grocers. Mains gas was brought to the village in the early 1860s and there were several benefits of being close to the town of Trowbridge. These included jobs, a railway station, access to a wide range of shops, a market and (sometimes) cheaper food. In 1894 Whaddon merged with Semington parish and it was not until the late 20th century that it was united with its more obvious neighbour, Hilperton,

For the first half of the 20th century population rose only slightly. Shops and businesses were lost; in 1939 the only shops were two grocers, a butcher, the post office and a general store at Hilperton Marsh. There was nurseryman and market gardener, businesses which had flourished since the mid 19th century, and a carpenter and two builders. Land was developed for housing in the 1950s and a large number were built, mainly to the north of the main village and in the triangle of land bordered by three roads at Hilperton Marsh, in the 1960s and later. The population more than doubled between 1951 and 1971. To cope with the large numbers of children a new school was built in 1970 and a village hall has also been built on Whaddon Lane. The blind house was restored in 1978.

In the 1990s and early 21st century there has been a development of 1,100 houses at Paxcroft Mead, in the south of the parish and in parts of Trowbridge and Steeple Ashton parishes. The population in 2001 was 4,282 but between 1,500 and 2,000 of these are not really part of Hilperton village.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilHilperton Parish Council
Parish Web Sitewww.hilpertonparishcouncil.org.uk
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Population 1801 - 2011

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Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Hilperton

Folk Biographies from Hilperton

Folk Plays from Hilperton

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Listed Buildings: The number of buildings, or groups of buildings, in the parish listed as being of architectural or historic importance is 30. There is one Grade II* building, Hilperton House.

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