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Wiltshire Community History

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Little Somerford

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 Little Somerford:

Map of the Civil Parish of Little Somerford

Wiltshire & Swidon 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:

Little Somerford is situated 4.5km south east of Malmesbury in a curve of the Bristol river Avon. What is believed to be the old course of the river forms most of the parish boundaries, to the north-west, with Malmesbury and to the south the division is between the parish and Great Somerford. The main Malmesbury to Swindon road forms the northern boundary. Sloping from north to south, the parish consists of Kellaways and Oxford clays with Kellaways sand and extensive alluvium deposited by the river Avon and Brinkworth brook. The parish is rich in meadow and pasture land rather than arable land with little woodland.

In the Middle Ages the parish was known as Somerford Maundit, Maundit being the family name of the lords of the manor. In the 16th century it became Little Somerford, to distinguish the parish from Great Somerford. In the early 1630s men of the village were allotted 204 acres of Somerford Common, an area 6km to the north of the parish, and this area was included into the parish. However, in 1884 this same area was transferred to Brinkworth parish. In 1882 small areas were added to the parish whilst others were removed, and at this time the area of the parish became 1,210 acres.

Between 934 and 939 King Athelstan granted 5 mansae (houses with land) at Somerford to Malmesbury Abbey. In 1066 Alward held the estate by lease of the Abbey, and the area was still part of the abbey lands in 1369. Gunfrid Maundit held the manor of Little Somerford or Somerford Maundit in 1086, when it was also noted that a mill existed. His direct descendents held this land until 1499. It later passed to the Hastings family who became earls of Huntingdon. This family held it until it was purchased by Sir Stephen Fox in 1682. During 1689 Sir Stephen Fox sold the manor in two parts. The manorial rights and most of the copyhold land being bought by John Hill, who by the following year had sold the holding to William White. In 1727 Edmund Estacourt purchased a portion of White's estate. Fox sold the demesne land of Little Somerford manor, Maunditts Park Farm, to Thomas Powell. Bradenstoke Priory also held land in Little Somerford, in 1291 this was worth two shillings a year. At the Dissolution the priory held a house and three acres.

Land which had been inclosed to form the demesne park was enlarged in 1426/7 when it was surrounded by a pale. In 1609 the park was still leased and stocked with 120 deer. A section of the area was ploughed around 1640, and this later became part of Maunditts Park. Meadows along the river Avon were used in common with the parish of Rodbourne until 1281, after this they were used in common by the men of Little Somerford and the lord of Charlton Manor, who was entitled to 7 acres in Little Kingsmead Meadow around 1600. There was common land beside the Swindon to Malmesbury road, known as Little Somerford Down and until around 1630, when it was inclosed, villagers fed their animals in Braydon forest. After disputes with lords of manors nearer the forest, parishioners were allotted 204 acres of purlieu (disafforested land but still under some forest laws) at Somerset Common. This was used as common pasture until 1792 when it was inclosed. In 1847 there were nine or ten farms in the parish, all mainly pasture, by 1876 this covered only 189 acres, which by 1936 was reduced to 13 acres. Cows, sheep and pigs were kept in the mid 19th century, and by the end of the 20th century most farms were for dairy or beef rearing.

The parish consists of several settlements, each along one of the several roads and lanes which converge in the village centre. The earliest of these settlements was possibly along the east-west part of what is now called The Street. Clay Street existed in 1513, and a settlement at the junction of The Street, Clay Street and The Hill existed by 1773. A further area known as Collingbourne Green at the junction of Dauntsey Road and East End Lane was noted in 1773. However there is little evidence of early settlement, though a Bronze Age artefact and a hoard of Romano-British coins have been found locally.

Most large buildings are of stone construction, and few are now earlier than the 20th century. The church originates in the 13th century, whilst the Glebe House to the south west of it is 17th century or possibly earlier. To the north west, a small farmhouse of stone rubble dates from the 17th century; in the early 18th century it was incorporated into a new house built of red brick which is called the Old Rectory. To the east of the church, Mills Farm has origins in early 17th century, but was rebuilt in the mid 19th century to incorporate a mill. On the south side of The Street are three large farmhouses, Church Farm, late 16th to early 17th century, but much altered in the 18th century. Somerford House was built for Richard and Margaret Estcourt in 1609, the date and their initials are incorporated in the building. The west wing was rebuilt in the 19th century. The large cattle yard and sheds are late 19th century. Manor Farm was built in the 17th century, but altered in both 18th and 19th centuries. A stone Station House was built around 1877 at Somerford Station. Eight council houses were built in 1931. The new cemetery was opened to the west of Great Somerford Road in 1892.

A school occupied the site of Church House Farm after 1850, and a turnpike house was built on The Hill around 1809. The King's Head public house opened in 1865 and was closed after 1956, the Three Crowns, to the north of the King's Head was opened before 1895, but by 1988 was re-named The Somerford Arms. Street Farm dates from 17th/18th century and Yew Tree Farm from around 1800. The brick cottages beside the railway are from early 20th century. The settlement in East End Lane rose around a small common by 1773. Malthouse Farm is from around 1800 and East End Farm was built in brick in the 18th century. A thatched house dating from around 1762 was replaced about 1980. A farmstead already stood on the site of Maundits Park Farm in 1773.

The railway to Malmesbury crossed the parish close to the river; it was built in 1877. The station named Somerford was west of the road, nearer to Great Somerford village. A goods depot opened in 1879. In 1903 the Great Western Railway line from Wootton Bassett to south Wales was constructed, following an east-west course to the south of the village. Bridges carried this line over both the Great Somerford Road and the Malmesbury railway, with a viaduct taking the railway across the lower ground near the river Avon. At this time Little Somerford station was opened, to the south of the village and the original Somerford station was re-named Great Somerford station. By 1922 Little Somerford station had become an un-manned halt. In 1933 a new rail link was constructed linking the north-west part of the Malmesbury line to the main London line, and the south-east part of the Malmesbury line was closed, together with the Great Somerford Halt. The Little Somerford to Malmesbury service was closed to passengers in 1951, and closed entirely in 1968.

In addition to the agricultural industries, it is noted that a glover was living in the parish in 1582, and masons are listed in 1841. Malting was an industry between 1847 and 1867, and the family business of auctioneer/cattle dealer had been operated by the Teagle family between 1875 and 1927. Two coal merchants were trading at Little Somerford station in 1903, and the Wiltshire Agricultural Co-operative Society also had a depot in the village. Milling ceased in the village in 1955. The mill had been rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries. Kingsmead mill was owned by David Putnam, the film producer, in the last quarter of the 20th century.

A charity existed in the parish in 1689 when William White gave a house to accommodate paupers. This was still in use in 1834 after which time Little Somerford became part of the Malmesbury Poor Law Union. It was then leased for an annual rent of £5. This rental was used to buy bedding to distribute to paupers each year on December 21st. In 1932 14 people received blankets and blankets were still being distributed in 1945. During the 1980s funds accumulated, grants being made to parishioners from these funds only occasionally. Since 1967 parishioners are entitled to occupy one of the alms houses in Dauntsey.

The population at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 was between 100 and 120. In 1377 the number of poll tax payers (aged over 14 years) was listed as 77, and the 1801 census lists the population as 255. This had increased to 376 by 1831, but had decreased to 337 by 1851, this was said to be due to the lack of housing in the parish. 1961 showed only 232 inhabitants, but new housing in the area caused a rise to 351 villagers by 1971.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilLittle Somerford Parish Council
Parish Web Site 
Parish Emailamurphyclerk@yahoo.co.uk

Churches: Information on both current and disused churches and chapels.

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Population 1801 - 2011

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Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Little Somerford

Folk Biographies from Little Somerford

Folk Plays from Little Somerford

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, of architectural or historic importance is 18. There is one Grade I building, the Church of St. John the Baptist, and there are no grade II* buildings.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

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