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Wiltshire Community History

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Berwick Bassett

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 Berwick Bassett:

Map of the Civil Parish of Berwick Bassett

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

1773
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre



Thumbnail History:


The civil parish of Berwick Bassett comprises 1,391 acres and lies in Calne Hundred some nine miles north west of Marlborough. Long in width and short in length, it has an east-west configuration which is crossed from north to south by a stream of the River Kennet. This stream, as indicated by the names of its neighbouring, similarly shaped and configured, parishes to its north and south, Winterbourne Bassett and Winterbourne Monkton, is a stream whose flow is limited to winter months. The village of Berwick Bassett itself developed to the west of the stream and main road. A small green lies close to the bridge and stream, opposite the Manor, Home Farm and Berwick House Farm. The other main farmstead in the parish's history, formerly The Old Farmhouse and now Manor Farm, is a short distance away from this village nucleus.

A number of prehistoric and later archaeological features have been located in Berwick Bassett parish: On Berwick Bassett Down, in particular, a Palaeolithic flint tool has been discovered, as have Romano-British pottery fragments. Undated cropmarks, enclosures and a round barrow have also been found on the Down. On Hackpen Hill, Palaeolithic and Mesolithic flint implements have been discovered. Elsewhere, at Field Farm in the east of the parish, a medieval farmstead site has been identified. A list of all located sites may be found on Wiltshire Council's Sites and Monuments Record, accessible through the Community History website.

The eastern boundary of the parish follows the north-south course of the ancient Ridgeway along the high ground of Berwick Bassett Down. From the south-easterly point of the parish the boundary turns westwards, past the old Totterdown Brickyard as marked on the 1886 Ordnance Survey map, descends the Down and follows a zig-zag course of old open field furlongs before continuing westwards to the south of the village of Berwick Bassett and crossing the north-south stream. In the south-western corner of the parish the boundary formerly passed the southern edge of the woodland known as Berwick Bassett Gorse, although this area of woodland is no longer in existence. From this point the boundary passes north-westwards to join Yatesbury Lane, which it follows to reach the far north-western corner of the parish. From here the boundary again passes eastwards, between Hampstead Wood and the former site of Hampstead Cottages and past the southern edge of Richardson Wood. This section of the parish boundary may have been determined by an exchange of lands in 1782; it had been described as uncertain in c.1760. Crossing the stream once again, to the north of Berwick Bassett village the boundary continues across the lower ground until it begins to climb, with a number of sharp corners, to reach the far north-eastern point of the parish on the Ridgeway.

Yatesbury Lane, in the north-west of the parish has had this name since 1828; in 1728, 1773 and 1820 it was known as Corten Lane and in c.1760 Whibston Lane. The road linked Broad Hinton and Yatesbury but it has never been tarmacadamed. The stream running through the centre of the parish was bridged at Berwick Bassett village by the early 18th century and a road to the east of the stream led southwards to Avebury. It has been suggested that another road to the west of the river may have led from the village northwards to Richardson in Winterbourne Bassett parish.

Further to the east of Berwick Bassett village another north-south road ran along higher ground. This was linked with the village bridge by a road known in 1728 as Franklyn's Lane. From the intersection of this eastern north-south road and Franklyn's Lane, the latter continued to climb eastwards to Berwick Bassett Down while the former continued southwards, today in the form of a bridleway. In 1769 the upper section of the higher north-south road, together with Franklyn's Lane and the road leading southwards from the village towards Avebury, was turnpiked as part of a Swindon to Devizes route. This sharply bending road remains part of the A4361 road today, having been disturnpiked in 1870.

A road which in the late 18th century led westwards from Berwick Bassett village to Berwick Bassett Common now survives only as a track.
The geological structure of the parish is primarily of chalk, with gravel deposits alongside the stream flowing southwards from Berwick Bassett village. On the highest land at the extreme east of the parish the chalk is overlain with deposits of clay with flints. In the south-east corner of the parish the 1886 Ordnance Survey map shows the presence of Totterdown Brickyard and its kiln, with quarry pits nearby and a clay pit marked beyond the parish boundary at Glory Ann Barn. It may be surmised, therefore, that the clay deposits here were sufficiently dense at this time to support this economic activity. The Brickyard does not appear to be in existence on the 1899 Ordnance Survey map, although a building remains marked at the site.

The name “Berwick”, from “berewic” (“outlying grange or farm”) indicates that a settlement was at this site prior to 1066. The estate is not mentioned in the Domesday Book and it is likely to have been part of the King's estate of Calne at this time. The suffix “Bassett” derives from the name of the lord of the manor, Alan Basset, who held the manor in 1211, along with that of Wootton Bassett. The name “Berewykbasset” appears in 1321. Some fifty years after this date, in 1377, Berwick Bassett is recorded as having 55 poll-tax payers.

Open fields east and west of Berwick Bassett village, perhaps amounting to some 800-900 acres and named, appropriately, East Field and West Field, were the basis of agricultural activity in the parish in the Middle Ages, along with common pastures on Hackpen Hill to the east and the higher downland in the west. The open fields were worked from the farmsteads established in the centre of the village. The two major estates in the parish at this time were Berwick Bassett Manor and an estate which was the origin of Berwick Farm - later Berwick House Farm.

In 1194 Berwick Bassett Manor was granted to John Cranburn, then to Alan Basset who already held another estate at Berwick Bassett granted by his father, Thomas. In the late 13th century the demesne of Berwick Bassett manor comprised some 250 acres of arable, 6 acres of meadow, and pasture for oxen and sheep. The manor descended to Sir Hugh le Despenser, who was earl of Winchester from 1322 and executed in 1326; at this date it was forfeited to the Crown whose right to the manor was challenged by the Abbot of Stanley Abbey. The manor was subsequently divided between the Crown and the Abbey and descended in this division until 1709.

The Crown's section of Berwick Bassett manor eventually passed to the Baynton family in c.1508 and sold out of the family to John Goddard in 1557. In 1708 the estate was conveyed to Caleb Bailey.

In 1675 this section of Berwick Bassett manor comprised a farm with land in the open field - probably 47 acres of arable north of Franklyn's Lane, 96 acres of enclosed pastures, 67 acres of enclosed meadows, and feeding in common for 160 sheep, 16 cattle and 3 horses.

Stanley Abbey's estate passed to the Crown on the dissolution of the Abbey in 1536 and was granted the same year to Edward Seymour (subsequently Duke of Somerset from 1547). On two occasions in the later 16th century the estate passed back to the Crown. In 1588 it was granted to Richard Mompesson who sold it in 1590 to Walter Dunche (d.1594), who also held Avebury Manor. Finally, in 1709 this estate also passed by sale to Caleb Bailey. In 1675 this estate's land lay completely to the east of the village and included pasture land on Hackpen Hill; it also had 200 acres of arable.

By 1675 a considerable amount of land in the parish had been enclosed. In the east, 157 acres had been enclosed; by 1728 there were 15 acres of enclosed meadows between East Field and the stream and 68 acres of enclosed arable north of Franklyn's Lane. At this date, however, there were still 412 acres of land held in common in East field, extending from the stream to Hackpen Hill. To the west of the village there were some 530 acres of enclosed arable and pasture and, to the north and south of the village approximately 100 acres of enclosed land. The remaining common land included 80 acres in West Field, 5 acres which extended north and south of the village along the stream, and 25 acres contained in a widening track leading westwards from the village which is still marked on Ordnance Survey maps as Berwick Bassett Common.

In 1728 the combination of the two estates had 651 acres including Hackpen Hill, 251 acres in East Field, 19 acres in West field plus 50 acres of arable and 82 acres of pasture in closes. Further enclosure subsequently led to the end of common husbandry in 1782. In 1843 the farm comprised some 727 acres, mainly east of the village, and included 390 acres of arable, 156 acres on Hackpen Hill and 155 acres of meadow and pasture. After 1708 the now unified Berwick Bassett manor descended by inheritance and sale to Sir Henry Meux, Bt. who held extensive lands in other parishes of north Wiltshire in the late 19th century. Sir Henry died in 1900 and nine years later his widow sold the land as Manor Farm. In 2012 the estate was in private hands and comprised 760 acres.

In 1728 two farmhouses and four farm cottages stood on the farm. It has been suggested that the Old Farmhouse near the church is likely to have been the principal house on the first of the estates above, and that the Manor is probably the “fair dwelling house” documented on the second of the estates in 1675. In 2012 both the original Old Farmhouse (now Manor Farm) and the Manor are listed. The first is described as being constructed of chalkstone with timber framed upper floor, brick wing and tiled roof. It dates from the late 15th/early 16th century, with late 18th century and 19th century additions. The windows were restored in 1960 with the exception of one original hollow moulded original window. The inner door of the south porch was removed at an unspecified date to Vasterne Manor, Wootton Bassett. The second house, the Manor, is described as dating from the early 17th century and built of sarsen stone with a tiled roof.
It has been suggested that the structure of Home Farm, across the lane from the Manor and opposite the small green, dates from the 19th century. It has also been suggested that it was established as a new demesne farm to the Manor, possibly after a new separation of the farm based at the Old Farmhouse and the Manor itself.

The estate from which Berwick - later Berwick House - Farm originated was held by the Knights Templar; it may have been held by them by 1172. It is presumed that this estate passed with Temple Rockley manor in Preshute to the Knights Hospitallers and that following the Dissolution it passed to the Baynton family. From 1760 to the second half of the nineteenth century Berwick Farm, together with Winterbourne Bassett manor, was amongst the holdings of the Lords Holland. In 1810 Berwick Farm comprised some 400 acres; in 1843 it comprised c. 448 acres, mainly to the west of the village. Some 66 per cent of this land was arable and 33 per cent grassland.

In 1951 the farm, by this time known as Berwick House Farm and comprising 419 acres, together with 155 acres of grassland belonging to Whyr farm in Winterbourne Bassett, was sold. Both were subsequently bought by a private owner in 1964, together with the remainder of Whyr Farm. Berwick House Farm remained in private ownership in 2012. The farmstead stands in close proximity to Home Farm and the Manor in the middle of the village. The possibly 17th century building was greatly extended in brick in the 19th century; the farm buildings are largely of the 20th century.

The only other listed residential building in the village in 2012 is an 18th century cottage built primarily of sarsen and with a thatched roof.

Between 1843 and the end of the 20th century the holdings of both Manor Farm and Berwick House Farm remained little changed, although the balance of arable and pastoral farming altered. In 1906 Manor Farm was mainly down to pasture; in 1994 wheat was grown on some 400 acres and there was a dairy herd of 250 cattle. Berwick House Farm cultivated 260 acres of arable and 130 acres of pasture in 1951, sustaining a Friesian dairy herd. In the late 20th Finally, a farm named Hampstead Farm was recorded in 1728 as being in existence close to the north-west boundary of parish; in 1808 it comprised 121 acres. By 1843 the farm had been converted to a row of three cottages and its 149 acres, including 67 acres of arable, were probably worked as part of Whyr Farm. The cottages were named Hampstead Cottages in 1899 and had been demolished by 1922.

There has been little woodland in the parish in its history: in 1843 there were only 7 acres, 5 acres in Gorse Copse in the west of the parish and Berwick Bassett Clump, a two acre plantation on Hackpen Hill. In the late 20th century there were some 20 acres of woodland including new plantations on Hackpen Hill.

The population of Berwick Bassett parish, from the first 19th century census in 1801 to 1891, remained fairly stable, at 158 in 1801 and 165 in 1891. The most notable fluctuation within this period was in 1851 when the highest population count of 203 was recorded. However, after 1891 the population declined significantly: to 108 in 1901 then 74 in 1911. The lowest count was in 1971, with 40 individuals. In 2001 the figure stood at 57. The neighbouring parishes of Winterbourne Monkton and Winterbourne Bassett did not suffer similar fluctuations. The decline of the population is reflected in the loss of a number of buildings known to have been demolished in the village over the course of the last century; the tithe map of 1839 shows several cottages and closes alongside the trackleading westwards to Berwick Bassett Common. These, however, were demolished in the 20th century and were replaced by one pair of semi-detached houses still in existence in 2012. The village today may more correctly be described as a hamlet.

Reflecting the higher population level in the 19th century, Kelly's Directories of 1848,1875 and 1885 indicate that at those dates traders in the parish included a baker, shopkeeper and beer retailer, and a blacksmith. Thirty years later in the 1915 edition, only a beer retailer is still recorded as present apart from the farmers of the parish; this situation persisted in 1939.

A charity was established for the benefit of the poor amongst the parish population under the will of Sarah Hawkins, proved in 1856. In the late 19th century and early 30th century the fund's income was expended on coal. In 1951 it was distributed in cash. In the 1990s no income was distributed. Annual accounts of the charity between 1901 and 1951 are held at the National Archives and may throw light on the condition of the parish inhabitants during this period of change.

CouncilWiltshire Council
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Parish CouncilBerwick Bassett & Winterbourne Monkton Parish Council
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Population 1801 - 2011

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Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Berwick Bassett

Folk Biographies from Berwick Bassett

Folk Plays from Berwick Bassett

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Listed Buildings: The number of buildings, or groups of buildings listed as being of architectural or historic importance is 6. There are no Grade I buildings; and two Grade II* buildings, the Church of St. Nicholas and Manor Farmhouse.

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