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Wiltshire Community History

Leigh 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 Leigh:

Map of the Civil Parish of Leigh

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:

Leigh is a small parish in the north of Wiltshire, sitting near to the civil parishes of Cricklade, Purton, Ashton Keynes and Braydon. It lies three miles south west of Cricklade and two and half miles east of Minety. Although officially called "Leigh", the village is known locally as "The Leigh". This name is though to derive from the Anglo-Saxon word "leah" which means a clearing in a wood.

The soil is mainly Oxford Clay- known locally as Minety Clay- although there are some gravel deposits to the north (villages to the north such as Ashton Keynes and Somerford Keynes have long been quarried for gravel, creating lakes and water parks which are now nature reserves). Gravel extraction has a long history in the parish; in the 17th and 18th centuries there was a lot of digging near to the Thames. At attempt to re-start this was tried in the 1970s but permission was refused.

The Malmesbury to Cricklade road (the B4040) runs east to west through the south of the parish, but the majority of settlement is in Swan Lane, roughly parallel to the B4040. The road linking Cirencester and Ashton Keynes with Brinkworth and Wootton Bassett runs north to the south through the parish and bisects the B4040, to form a cross roads with traffic lights. There it is thought there was a turnpike up until 1864.

In 1971 the parish consisted of 897 hectares. It stretches south to Leighfield Lodge Farm and north to Waterhay to, the south of Ashton Keynes where the River Thames flows. The Leigh became a civil parish in its own right in 1866, having previously been part of the manor of Ashton Keynes up to 1548 when the separate manor of Leigh was created. Residents of the Leigh had appointed their own chapel wardens from as early as the 16th century, so had already been operating separately from Ashton Keynes for a number of years. The Leigh also relieved its own poor from at least the 17th century, which often led to clashes with Ashton Keynes. When Ashton Keynes became part of the Cricklade and Wootton Bassett poor law union in 1835, The Leigh was of course still part of the parish.

Ashton Keynes belonged to Cranborne Abbey in Dorset in the 11th century and in 1102 passed to Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire. After the Dissolution, Ashton Keynes and the Leigh became Crown property and Edward VI freed The Leigh from its bonds with Ashton Keynes in 1548. The manor of the Leigh was bought by Sir John Hungerford in 1612 and it descended through his family until 1803.
The earliest recorded settlement at The Leigh was in the early 13th century and in the subsequent century population must have increased enough to justify the building of a small chapel at Waterhay. The farm first known as Church Farm, now Upper Waterhay Farm, was built in the 16th century. Most farms and farmsteads emerged in the late 16th and 17th centuries. Settlement in the parish has been limited; before the 20th century the main buildings were these farms and farmsteads scattered across the area.

The school was built in Swan Lane in 1894 and many of the residential settlements in the proceeding years focused on this part of the parish. Other buildings appeared on the Malmesbury Road; in the 1920s Cricklade and Wootton Bassett Rural District Council built six houses there and more across the parish during the rest of the 20th century. For example, in the 1954 there were 16 houses built at Hillside, which is a cul-de-sac near the school on Swan Lane. Population is small and fairly steady, so; in 1991 there were 283 people living at the Leigh, in 1901 there were 291 and in 264 in 1911. The population has always been small, which naturally restricts much of a social history to relate here. However, determined residents have tried their best throughout the years to improve facilities for those living in the parish; the parish council repeatedly attempted to build a village hall, starting from the 1950s, but abandoned plans in 1968 and the small recreation hut was mended instead. This was mainly used by the school.

For such a small parish, the Leigh has a high number of listed buildings.
There are several farmhouses which are Grade II listed, including Upper Waterhay Farmhouse, Grove Farmhouse, Leigh Farmhouse, Brook Farmhouse and Glebe Farmhouse. All Saints' Church on Swan Lane is Grade II*.

The majority of farming in the parish was pastoral with some elements of arable.
Before the inclosure acts animals would roam quite freely in the local area. Farmers also had rights for their animals to graze in Braydon Forest. Leigh Common, to the east of the parish, was used up until the 18th century, when the manor lands were inclosed. The majority of the Leigh's land had been inclosed in 1681.

There is only limited evidence of business and trade in the parish. As with many rural communities, agriculture was the presiding industry. There was once a factory on the Malmesbury Road; Cricklade Bacon Factory came into the parish but it was destroyed by fire in 1927. It was thought that it was deliberately destroyed through arson by the owners. In 1903 all the trades listed in Kelly's Directory of Wiltshire were farmers, apart from a beer retailer, a carpenter and a shopkeeper. There was a shop on the Malmesbury Road in the 1960s and 1970s. A mobile shop also visited the village but by 1991 there was no shop and no mobile shop came. There seems to have only ever been one pub in the parish before the 20th century, The Three Cups (later The Three Horseshoes). This was found to the north of the Malmesbury Road but was shut at the end of the 20th century. The Foresters Arms is the parish's current pub; it too is on the Malmesbury to Cricklade road, and although it is open today, it went through periods of closure and was shut from 1963 and 1966. It was built at some point between the two world wars.

Mains water arrived in the parish in the 1920s; the houses on the Malmesbury Road were the first beneficiaries.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilLeigh Parish Council
Parish Web Site 
Parish Emailleighrjb@tiscali.co.uk

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 Leigh

Folk Biographies from Leigh

Folk Plays from Leigh

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 11. There are no Grade I buildings; and two Grade II* buildings, Leigh All Saints Old Chancel and the Church of All Saints.

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.


Frequently Asked Questions

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Wiltshire & Swindon Archives

Wiltshire Wills Search by name, occupation, or subject for details of a will from this parish held in the Wiltshire & Swindon Record Office.

Genuki Family History - Wiltshire

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