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Wiltshire Community History

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Malmesbury St. Paul Without

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 St. Paul Without:

Map of the Civil Parish of St. Paul Without

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.


Thumbnail History:


When Malmesbury municipal borough was created in 1886 the rural part of Malmesbury parish remained. In 1894 the new civil parish of Saint Paul Malmesbury Without was formed from this area and Westport St. Mary civil parish in 1894. The name comes from the church of St. Paul, so called by 1191, in Malmesbury. By 1542 all that remained of the church was the west tower, which is still standing, but the name has survived. The new parish contained 2,699 hectares.

The parish is very rural with the villages of Corston and Rodbourne in the south with the house of Cole Park, settlements at Burton Hill, Cowbridge and Milbourne in the centre, and an area of farmland in the north. A main road, the A429 from Chippenham to Cirencester runs roughly south to north through the parish; in 1973 a bypass was built around Malmesbury following the parish boundary. The road from Swindon (the B4042) joins this main road at Burton Hill after passing through Cowbridge. The present A429 was turnpiked in 1755-6 with a turnpike gate at Burton Hill.

Corston, meaning 'a turn on the river Corse', is sited on a stream now called the Gauze Brook. The village probably originated around a green, where the road from Rodbourne joins the Chippenham road. The church, dating back to the 12th century is on rising ground in the north-eastern angle of this junction. By the early 18th century there was settlement northwards along the road to Malmesbury as far as the Gauze Brook and Corston Mill, southwards to the farmstead now called Manor Farm, and eastwards along the Rodbourne road to Firs Farm. By 1828 settlement had spread to the north of the Gauze Brook while in the mid and late 19th century it spread along Mill Lane. There has been some infilling and building on the outskirts in the late 20th century. Apart from farming this is mainly a commuter village.

Rodbourne, the name means a reedy stream, is a long narrow tithing in the south east of the parish. The stream was originally called the Rodbourne. The origin appears to be as an estate given to Malmesbury Abbey. Settlement is along a street behind wide verges, opening onto a central green where the church stands; a 14th century cross is further west. The oldest buildings are at the eastern and western ends of the street, and Rodbourne House further east dates from the 17th century. In the late 18th century and early 19th century cottages and farmsteads were built on the south side of the street, although much of the village was rebuilt in the 19th century by the Hungerford Pollen family who owned Rodbourne Manor. Their coat of arms and names appear on several buildings, which have a strong Arts and Crafts influence. Today the village is mainly a farming community with a tree-lined main street and scattered farms.

Malmesbury Abbey claimed that an estate called Cowfold had been given them by King Edwy in 956, but it is likely to have been in their ownership at an earlier date. In the early 13th century it was imparked, and in 1548 granted to Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, after the dissolution of Malmesbury Abbey. The present moated site is probably that of a former lodge of the abbot with a medieval deer park. Between 1653 and 1656 the estate, by then known as Cole Park, was sold to Hugh Audley and from him to descended via his nephew Robert Harvey through the Harvey and Lovell, by marriage, families. Before being bought by Hugh Audley the property had been a Tudor royal stud farm. A detailed history of the house and its owners can be read in 'A History of Cole Park' by Madeleine Mason, and the house, after neglect in the mid 20th century is once again a well cared for family home.

Burton is basically a small suburb of Malmesbury, that probably originated from a community around the late 13th century hospital of St. Mary Magdalene, which seems to have been a leper hospital. Part of this may have survived as St. John's Chapel, which by 1768 was being used as a private house and was demolished in the early 19th century when Canister Hall was built. Burton Hill House was originally built in the early 17th century and in c.1790 Cannop's Mill, on the Avon, was replaced by Burton Hill Mill (later Avon Mill) for the weaving of woollen cloth and later silk. From the late 18th and early 19th centuries there were new terraces of houses built beside the Chippenham road to house the mill workers. By 1822 the Black Horse Inn existed by the turnpike gate. In the mid to late 19th century houses were built or rebuilt for the upper strata of Malmesbury society. Later the hospital was sited here and a police station built to the north of it.

Milbourne was a settlement in the Middle Ages and by the late 17th century there were scattered farmsteads here and the wide roadside verges were common pastureland. The oldest surviving houses are at the western end near the junction of the Street with Moocher's Lane. Parts of Melbourne House date from the late 16th century but most earlier houses are of the 17th and 18th centuries. There was little building here in the 19th century but houses were built in the latter half of the 20th century, including two private estates. When the Malmesbury by-pass was built in 1973 it cut across the western end of the Street and the main route from the west is now via Charlton Road into Moocher's Lane.

The settlement at Cowbridge, on the Swindon road is mainly modern. It grew westwards towards Burton Hill from Cowbridge Mill (of the 13th century or earlier) in the 19th century. In 1939 Cowbridge House (rebuilt in 1853) and the mill were incorporated in a factory, while new workshops and offices were built. Housing for factory workers was erected in the 1940s but this was replaced in the 1970s and 1980s when additional houses were also built.

There is little evidence of early settlement in the parish although there are prehistoric enclosures on Cam's Hill and Iron Age artefacts have been found in the south. As the Fosse Way lies on the other side of Malmesbury it is quite likely that this area was farmed in Romano-British times although little evidence has been found. In Saxon times these lands would have been granted to Malmesbury Abbey and Corston may well have been the 10 hide estate that was given to the Abbey by King Ine in 701. In 1086 Corston was part of the large estate of Brokenborough, owned by the Abbey, and with a mill and a population of about 25.

By the 12th century there were churches at both Corston and Rodbourne and the hospital existed at Burton Hill by the 13th century; it was last recorded in c.1439. In 1344 Corston and Rodbourne were assessed at 56 shillings (£2.80) in taxation, which was above the average for the area. By 1377 there were 46 poll tax payers at Corston (below average) and 69 at Rodbourne (above average). The village cross at Rodbourne dates from the 14th century although the present shaft is of the 19th century, and it stands at the crossing of the pack horse route to Malmesbury. At this time Rodbourne must have been moderately prosperous but apart from these nucleated settlements the rest of the parish must have consisted of estates and scattered farmhouses and cottages. By the late 16th century both Corston and Rodbourne had declined and were below average prosperity for the area. Expansion in the area seems to date from the 17th century. Milbourne House is from c.1600 while Burton Hill House was built in the early 17th century it was rebuilt in 1840 and 1842. Both the Radnor Arms at Corston and Milbourne Farmhouse have 17th century cores and there is a datestone 'JC/1623' on Trinity Farmhouse at Rodbourne. There were two alehouse keepers at Burton Hill in 1620, which indicates the development of a suburb here on the main route into Malmesbury from the south.

In the late 17th or early 18th century the early Rodbourne House was built, although there were extensive additions made in 1859. In the early 18th century the original Rookery was built at Burton Hill as well as Whiteheath House and Cove Cottage at Corston. Expansion and modernisation was continuing and by 1770 all Corston lands were enclosed and new farming practices were being introduced. There were still some of the old open fields in Rodbourne. By the 1790s the Radnor Arms had been built in Corston while The Beeches and Ilex House at Burton Hill date from the turn of the century. At the end of the 19th century there was a revival of the cloth industry in the Malmesbury area. In c.1790 Francis Hill bought Cannop's Mill below Burton Hill and built the water powered Burton Hill Mill on the site. He chose this area as it was well away from the main areas of Wiltshire cloth production and he would be able to introduce new machinery without opposition from existing cloth workers. He introduced spring looms and the mill was enlarged in 1803 and made superfine broadcloth until c.1821 when it closed. It was re-opened in 1833 by the Salter family and steam power was introduced in 1838. Around 1850 it converted to producing silk ribbon working until just after 1900. It was working again between 1923 to c.1950.

The cloth mill led to a boom in population at Burton Hill where terraces of houses were built, mainly for the mill workers. The populations of both Rodbourne and Corston rose in the early 19th century. Rodbourne increased from 108 people in 1801 to a peak of 171 in 1851, but had dropped to 143 in 1881 and the decline continued in the 20th century. Corston population rose rapidly from 127 in 1801 to 171 in 1821 and by 1851 there were 322 people in the village. Both villages had schools by the mid 19th century and these must have been partly filled by the children of incoming families. Apart from farming there was employment in quarrying with a quarry to the north of Corston church by 1834 and one to the north of the village. These had closed by 1899 but two more opened to the north of Corston in 1889 and another to the south of Stanton Brickworks, which itself worked through the latter half of the 19th century.

In the 19th century the Hungerford Pollens lived at Rodbourne House and were a strong influence in both the village and neighbouring Corston. They were close associates of the Pre-Raphaelites and introduced the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement in local buildings. William Thackeray, amongst others, stayed with them. Further north Burton Hill House was burned down in 1846 and rebuilt in the Tudor Gothic style.

The growing difference between Corston and Rodbourne in the 19th century can be seen from a directory of 1889. Rodbourne is still largely agricultural, with six farmers and a brick and tile maker, but although there are 10 farmers at Corston there is also a water mill, one shop, a post office, the Radnor Arms, a beer retailer (The Plough), two shoemakers, a blacksmith and a pig dealer. However by c.1899 Corston Mill had stopped working. The brick and tile works in Rodbourne continued until c.1940 and there was also a quarry and a lime burning industry. In 1903 a railway line was built to the south of Rodbourne but, with no local station, this would have had little local impact other than the disruption caused by its construction.

Changes during the 20th century were those common to many rural areas in England. In 1925 a farmhouse at Burton Hill was used to provide a hospital for Malmesbury and is still open. In 1935 farmland in the south-west was acquired for Hullavington airfield, and Bell Farm (built prior to 1773) was demolished. During the 1940s a hospital at Corston was supported by the Roman Catholic Church, while in 1957 a water tower was built at Rodbourne. From the mid to late 20th century married quarters for RAF Hullavington were built in the south of the parish and both private and council houses in Corston village. Two public houses closed in Corston during the 1960s, The Plough (open in 1865) and Mill Inn (open by 1910). From 1970 Cleeve House at Rodbourne has been used as a children's home. Major work in the parish occurred in 1973 when the Malmesbury by-pass was built along the line of the western parish boundary from Burton Hill in the south to the junction with the Malmesbury to Charlton road. During the latter part of the 20th century there has been new housing, particularly at Corston, Cowbridge and Milbourne while Avon Mills, formerly Burton Hill Mill, has been converted into apartments.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
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Parish CouncilSt. Paul Malmesbury Without Parish Council
Parish Web Site 
Parish Emailjennifer.warner1@tesco.net
 

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Folk Songs from Malmesbury St. Paul Without

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