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Wiltshire Community History

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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, 1810:

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1810

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

This is a corrected and updated edition of the 1773 map of the Nunton and Bodenham part of the modern Odstock civil parish

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.

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1773:

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1773

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

Nunton and Bodenham villages that are now in the modern Odstock civil parish

Map of the Civil Parish of Odstock:

Map of the Civil Parish of Odstock

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:

The civil parish of Odstock, in Cawdon and Cadworth Hundred, lies to the south of Salisbury, the village of Odstock itself being some three miles from the city. In 1934, the tithing of Nunton and Bodenham in Downton parish, and part of Britford parish, were incorporated into Odstock civil parish. Nunton, Bodenham and Britford had been in Downton Hundred to that date.

The name 'Odstock' derives from that recorded in the Domesday survey in 1086, 'Odestoche', of 'Odda's stoc or stocc' (farmhouse or settlement).

The northernmost point of Odstock parish boundary lies to the south of Britford village, running south-eastwards around the boundary of Longford Park. The boundary continues southwards, following the course of the river Avon and passing closely by Bodenham village; it then runs south-westwards, climbing to Clearbury Ring camp. It descends to the far south-west extreme of the parish, turning north again past the small area of woodland known as 'Great Yews', the western boundary (with Coombe Bissett) now climbing Odstock Down, crossing the river Ebble and following its course eastwards until it follows a northerly and north-easterly course again to meet its northernmost point once again.

The village of Odstock itself lies to the north of Odstock Down, by the river Ebble, with Nunton and Bodenham a short distance to its east. The topography of the parish is marked primarily by the west-east course of the river Ebble and its valley. The Ebble was named the 'Chalkbourne' by John Leland c.1540; it rises at Alvediston and flows east to join the river Avon near Bodenham. From the Ebble valley, downland rises to the north and south; the downs reach a height of some 350 feet in the southern section of the parish; north of the Ebble they rise to some 300 feet. Alluvium and gravel deposits lie in the Ebble valley; the downlands are composed of chalk with some deposits of clay with flints.

Small areas of woodland lie on the southern downland - including Great Yews, Little Yews, Odstock Copse, Nunton Copse, Bodenham Plantation and Pheasantry Copse.

In the south of the parish, the ancient Grims Ditch crosses the downs from west to east. This feature is believed to date from the Saxon period.

In the northern part of the parish, development of the road and track network has been heavily influenced by the presence of the river and its associated water meadows, which have formed an important aspect of pastoral farming in the parish. A road along the valley to the south of the Ebble enters from the western boundary with Coombe Bissett parish and proceeds eastwards to Nunton. At Odstock village a bridge across the river was built in the 17th century, and rebuilt in 1782 by the Earl of Radnor.

At Odstock village this west-east road is crossed by a north to south road from Salisbury via East Harnham to Fordingbridge; to the south of Odstock the road proceeds southwards over Odstock Down and passes out of the south-eastern side of the parish into neighbouring Downton parish. This road formation, shown on Andrew and Dury's map of 1773 remains similar in the present day, although once past Odstock Copse the road has become little more than a track.

At Nunton the west-east road meets with another north - south-easterly road from the south of Salisbury to Fordingbridge. This road has been subject to a number of changes in its history: Formerly the road crossed the Ebble near Bodenham by means of a bridge presumed to be named Long Bridge. In 1794 a section of the road was diverted westwards to take it further from New Hall. The original course can be seen on Andrew and Dury's map of 1773. At a later date, in 1840, the Tithe Award map indicates that the section of the road north of Bodenham had been moved westwards from its earlier course alongside the boundary of Longford Park and crossed the Ebble at New (later Nunton) Bridge to the north of Nunton village, from where it took a south-easterly route to approach Bodenham. In 1962 a new dual-carriageway section of the road was built from a point north of the Ebble at Longford Farm to south of New Hall, passing between the villages of Nunton and Bodenham and taking the form of a dual carriageway at this point.

Another minor road runs southwestwards from Nunton to join the north-south road through the parish via Odstock, noted above, at a point south of Odstock copse, from which point it becomes track proceeding in a south-westerly direction over the downs to cross the boundary with Downton parish.

There is considerable archaeological evidence of prehistoric activity in the parish. For example, at the Iron Age fort, Clearbury Ring, a Paleolithic hand axe has been found and to the west of the Ring an undated field system. Romano-British pottery has been found in Pheasantry Copse, north-west of Longford Farm and west of Charlton Furze. Settlements of medieval origin have also been found in the parish. Full details of the archaeological finds are listed on the Wiltshire Council Sites and Monument Record, accessible from this Wiltshire Community History website.

The Domesday survey of 1086 records that at Odstock a Saxon named Brictric held 12 hides (approx. 1,440 acres) of land. Prior to the Conquest Britric's father had also held Odstock and paid geld (tax) for 12 hides. The Domesday survey indicates that there was land for 6 ploughs. In demesne (land farmed for the lord of the manor) there was land for one ploughteam with serfs, villain and cottars totalling some 100-130 individuals. Also in demesne was a mill worth 7s.6d. and 40 acres of meadow. Pasture land in demesne measured approximately 360 acres whilst there were approximately 1,000 acres of woodland.

Britric also held other lands in Wiltshire, including at Oaksey, Trowle, Swallowcliffe, Trowbridge, Coulston, Staverton and Whiteparish.

Richard Colt-Hoare's account of the manorial history of Odstock records that from the final year of the 12th century, in Richard 1st's reign, through the 13th and 14th centuries, Robert Gerberd held two hides (approximately 240 acres in Odstock). References to the Gerberd family holdings continued: in 1282 William Gerberd received a grant of free warren; in 1307 Odstock was included in the inquisition post mortem of Robert Gerberd. The number of poll-tax payers (people aged over 14) in 1377 was 62.

The Gerberd family were patrons of the living from 1299 to the mid-16th century, when the manor and advowson passed to the Webb family, who were successive mayors of Salisbury from 1496. In 1559 John Webb also became MP for Sarum. The Webb family continued to hold the manor until c.1790 it was sold by Sir John Webb to the Earl of Radnor. On the Andrews and Dury map of 1773 Odstock Manor House is shown as occupied by Sir John Webb.

The Domesday survey does not include discrete entries for Nunton and Bodenham; it is assumed that these lands were included in the entries for the Downton estate of the Bishop of Winchester, of which Nunton and Bodenham were part in 1086. Prior to the Conquest the Bishopric had paid geld for 100 hides (approximately 12,000 acres). The earliest reference to the name 'Nunton' was in 1209; it is believed to signify 'Nunna's Farm'. The earliest record of the name 'Bodenham' also dates from 1209 in the form 'Boterham', meaning 'Botta's ham'. Both names were included in the Pipe Roll of the Bishopric of Winchester.

Nunton and Bodenham formed a tithing and chapelry of Downton parish, although there were unsuccessful attempts in the 16th and 17th centuries by their inhabitants to make the chapelry independent of Downton. Nunton's land was larger than that of Bodenham; its lands rose from the village, by the Ebble, southwards to the parish boundary which also formed the Wiltshire-Hampshire border, a distance of some 6 km. Bodenham's land measured only some 325 acres at the north-west of the hill at whose apex is Clearbury Ring.

In the earlier 13th century the demesne and tenant farmsteads of Nunton were grouped around the church; the settlement also included a mill. In 1377 there were 43 poll-tax payers, whilst in Bodenham there were 44.
Andrew and Dury's map of 1773 shows Nunton still as a small settlement around the church. The Tithe Award of 1840 shows that by that date settlement had spread westwards between the church and Upper Farm, along the north side of the road to Odstock village.

In addition to the demesne lands of Nunton and Bodenham, in the earlier 13th century one hide (approximately 120 acres) at Bodenham was held by a William Gimmings. In 1427 a small estate was conveyed to Thomas Ringwood and this is believed to have descended in the Ringwood family until the early 16th century. The small estate subsequently descended by sale and inheritance to Thomas Gay Attwater, who sold its freehold and copyhold lands to Jacob, Viscount Folkestone in 1851. It has since
descended with the Longford estate.

A number of copyhold tenures were in place in the remaining lands of the Bishopric of Winchester lands of Nunton and Bodenham from the later Middle Ages. One copyhold in Nunton, lying north of the road to Odstock and now known as Nunton Farm, was held by members of the Bampton family from the early 16th century. The farm was known as 'Bampton's Farm' until it became Upper Farm in the 19th century. John Bampton (d.1751) was a canon of Salisbury who devised the land to Oxford University in exchange for the preaching of eight sermons annually. In 1805 the lands were exchanged with Jacob, earl of Radnor, for lands at Wing, Buckinghamshire.

A further copyhold in Nunton was held by the Eastman family, whosedescendant founded Eastman Kodak, in 1502 and remained in the family until the mid-17th century by which date it had passed to a John Clarke, who also held land in Bodenham. Both holdings in Nunton and Bodenham subsequently descended through the Clarke family and, as a result of the marriage of Martha Clarke to William Batt in 1715, through the Batt family until 1843, when it passed to a nephew, General Edward Pery Buckley (d.1873). In 1921 part of the estate, Lower Nunton Farm was sold to Jacob, earl of Radnor. The Buckley's tenure finally ended in 1958 when the remainder of the estate was sold to the Radnor family.

Nunton House, attached to Lower Nunton farmhouse, had been the principal residence of this estate until the mid-18th century when it was replaced as the principal residence by New Hall, in Bodenham. Nunton House passed with Lower Nunton Farm to the Longford estate in 1921. The 18th century stable block of New Hall survives but the house itself was burnt down in 1881 and was replaced with a smaller house of red brick with stone dressings, in a mid-Georgian style. New Hall descended with the estate until 1958 when the house and gardens were was sold for £8,000 to John Creasey, writer of some 562 crime novels under his own name and numerous pseudonyms; he died in 1973. In the Second World War the house had been requisitioned for military purposes, along with Longford Castle, and was the European Headquarters of the US General Mark Clark; General Dwight Eisenhower slept at the Hall in 1944 prior to the D-Day landings. In 2012 New Hall functions as a private hospital.

The third, and largest, copyhold in Nunton in the later 16th century was held by members of the Figge family. It was sold out of the family in 1622 and by 1668 had been divided into three farms; one farm was sold to Richard Bampton and subsequently descended with the Bampton estate; another farm was in the possession of Jonathan Clarke by 1690. The third passed to Thomas Eastman who died c.1670 and was subsequently sold to William Batt between 1709 and 1720. The Batt family also acquired, in the mid-18th century, a large part of another copyhold farm, the owners of which were members of a family known variously as Carpenter, Wheeler, or 'Wheeler alias Carpenter', in the course of their tenure from the 15th century to 1724, prior to its acquisition by the Batt family. A further, similar, holding in Nunton was also acquired by the Batt family; this had been held by the Chubb family from the early 16th century but was sold to William Batt between 1720 and 1724.

In Bodenham a small area of copyhold land was acquired by Sir Edward des Bouverie with Longford Castle in 1717. The Radnor estate in Bodenham was subsequently enlarged through the purchase of numerous smallholdings and cottages in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the purchase of the Bampton estate in 1805-1807 and the purchase of the Attwater and New Hall estates. Bodenham House had been built for Thomas Attwater in 1745 and passed with the Attwater land to the Longford estate. A brick house with 5 bays and porch, it was extended to the north in the 19th century. Between 1900 and 1904 it was the residence of Eglantine Pleydell Bouverie and her husband, Sir Augustus Keppel Stephenson, who held the post of Director of Public Prosecutions from 1884 to 1894.

The principal estate in the civil parish, Longford Castle, comprises the manor known in the 16th century as 'Langford' which had been held from 1327 to 1574 by the Cervington family. The last member of the family to hold the manor, John Cervington, lost his fortune through gambling and mortgaged his estate to Sir John Webb, of Odstock manor, who foreclosed on the debt. John Cervington continued to haunt the grounds of Longford manor in his penniless state, as a Longford historian, the Rev. H. Pelate, records,

Poor Mr. John would not be persuaded out of the grounds, but would be still walking like the hosts of such as come, by their apparitions, to disturb others. Thus our unhappily decayed gentleman now began to be looked on not as the good genius of the place (which his ancestors had enlivened for above 200 years) but grew there as importunate as a haunting spectre…'

It has been suggested that a group of buildings on the estate, close to the Castle, and now used as office buildings, incorporates the original manor house of the Cervington family or were built on its site. They are built in alternate bands of brick and flint and stone checks.

There was a medieval settlement called Longford and its earthworks are visible in parkland to the west of Longford castle. It is believed that this was destroyed in 1591 when Sir Thomas Gorges was building Longford Castle.

The manor of Longford was acquired by Thomas Gorges in 1578 (knighted 1586) who held it until 1791. He was responsible for the building of the Castle to designs by the architect John Thorpe which survive at the Soane Museum, London. The building was in a triangular form, with a courtyard between the three wings and a tower at each of the three points. On one front of the present Castle, elements of the original galleried form remains. John Thorpe's notebook indicates that the triangular design of the building related to that of the dedication in medieval heraldry to the Holy Trinity; and the three towers are labelled 'Pater', 'Filius' and 'Sanctus Spiritus'; with, in the centre, the word 'Deus'.

Thomas Gorges died in 1610 and was succeeded by eldest son, subsequently created Lord Gorges of Dundalk, who sold the castle estate in 1641 to Hugh Hare, first Lord Coleraine. Coleraine had received his title in 1625 and was a personal friend of Charles I; however he was not active in the Civil War, possibly due to the fact that his wife was the daughter of the Parliamentary general, the Earl of Manchester. Longford Castle was requisitioned as Royalist cavalry barracks in April 1644 but was subsequently taken by Parliamentary troops. By this time Coleraine had decamped with his family elsewhere but the influence of Lady Coleraine's family resulted in the building not being slighted.

Coleraine returned to the house in 1650 and proceeded to repair the damage caused by the troops. The Longford historian, the Rev. Pelate describes his arrival at Longford:

'His Lordship was saluted with nothing but filthiness and desolation, and, except it were an Infinite Swarme of fleas that pitched upon his white boot hose, there was no other living creature left for him'.

Longford Castle remained in the Coleraine family until 1717 when it was sold by the third Lord Coleraine who was reportedly in a poor financial state to Sir Edward Des Bouveries, for £18,000. Sir Edward was a prosperous silk-merchant of Flemish Huguenot extraction; his forebear, Laurens des Bouveries had fled persecution in the Spanish Netherlands and settled near Canterbury in 1568. Edward's father, William, had been created a baronet in 1714, having served as Governor of the Bank of England. Family tradition has it that Sir Edward saw Longford Castle while riding near Salisbury in 1717 and immediately bought it from Lord Coleraine with the money he had in his saddlebags.

The family name of 'des Bouveries' was altered by Act of Parliament in 1736 to 'Bouverie'. Sir Jacob Bouverie was created Viscount Folkestone in 1747. He was the first President of the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts and Sciences and was responsible for beginning the collection of furnishings and artworks for which the Castle would become notable. The collection was to include portraits by Gainsborough and Reynolds, and Holbein's portrait of Erasmus, currently on loan to the National Gallery. The first catalogue of the art collection at Longford Castle would be produced in two volumes in 1898 by the wife of the 5th Earl of Radnor, Helen Matilda Chaplin, who was born in1845 and died in 1929. This lady was a woman of many parts: During the First World War she conducted her own all-female orchestra and is said to have worn her tiara backwards on these occasions in order that it was visible to the audience!

In 1761 Sir Jacob was succeeded by his son William who in 1748 had married Harriet, the only daughter of Sir Mark Pleydell of Coleshill; in accordance with the terms of the marriage settlement the name of Pleydell was added to that of Bouverie. In 1765 the earldom of Radnor was conferred on the second Lord Folkestone.

The second Lord Folkestone, first earl of Radnor, carried out very substantial additions and alterations to the Castle, as a result of which it lost its original triangular form. The works were eventually completed by the 4th Earl Radnor in 1874, to designs by the architect, Anthony Salvin. The second Lord Folkestone also served as MP for Salisbury. In 1766 he chaired the committee planning Salisbury Infirmary which opened in 1771. The Infirmary has been converted to housing after the transfer of hospital facilities to the Salisbury District General Hospital in 1991; the new hospital incorporated the former Odstock Hospital, which was built in the Second World War for the treatment of US troops and which subsequently developed a pioneering speciality in plastic surgery.

The second Earl Radnor who succeeded to the title in 1776 also financed the building of Salisbury Guildhall following the destruction by fire of the Elizabethan Council House in 1780.

The agricultural activity sustaining the manors and estates described above included both arable cultivation and sheep grazing. At Nunton in the Middle Ages the demesne holdings of the Bishop of Winchester were sizeable but gradually declined until in the 15th and 16th centuries arable and pasture, held in parcels by tenants, and the down, used in common by them, became copyholds. By 1628 some 106 acres of arable land had been enclosed. Approx. 278 acres were cultivated in three common fields. The common fields and downs of Nunton were enclosed by agreement in 1720, leading to holdings of Batts farms of 287 acres and Bapmtons 192 acres.

At Bodenham there was little Episcopal demesne. The common fields and down were enclosed in 1588, although there is evidence of pre-enclosure arrangements. By 1628 only two farms exceeded 50 acres and four farms measured 20 - 50 acres.

The chalk downs sustained cultivation of wheat, barley, oats and turnips and sheep pasture whilst on the chalk and gravel of the river valley some arable farming took place and meadows for the grazing of sheep and the production of hay were created.

Alongside the river in Odstock parish, water meadows constructed in the 17th century, formed part of a comprehensive system on the Avon and its tributaries between Salisbury and Downton. Remains of hatches, which were part of this system, may be seen by the river at Odstock, close to the church; from these hatches a head of water was created which would water the meadows between Longford Farm and Nunton Bridge.

Water mills were present in the parish from the Middle Ages: At Odstock a mill is marked on Andrew and Dury's map of 1773 in the vicinity of Odstock church. At Nunton a mill was in existence by the early 13th century. This is presumed to have been a corn mill although by 17th century it was working as a paper mill. In 1676 the mill was acquired by Lord Coleraine and subsequently descended with the Longford estate; it is believed that it had been demolished by 1762. The site of this mill is presumed to be on the meadow land known as Millmead at the Tithe Award and in the present day.

Another mill was in existence in Bodenham in the early 13th century. As with the Nunton mill it descended with the Longford estate from 1693 but appears to have been a corn mill for the whole of its existence. The mill had been demolished by 1773 but its site is believed to have been located at the confluence of the Avon with the Ebble.

In addition to Longford Castle, New Hall and other buildings described above, the villages of Odstock, Nunton and Bodenham contain a number of notable buildings, many of them listed, for example, Bodenham House, bearing a date stone of 1745, the old Rectory in Odstock Village, built in 1816 with additions dating from 1869. Odstock Manor House itself, dating from the late 17th century with 18th and early 20th century additions and alterations. The Yew Tree Inn at Odstock village was originally a pair of cottages dating from the 18th century. At Nunton, Nunton House was built c.1720 for the Batt family and is now Grade 2* listed.

As a final note in the history of Odstock parish, the village and church of Odstock are known for the story of the 'Odstock curse'. The writer, Ralph Whitlock, in his book Wiltshire, summarises the story: In the early years of the 19th century a gipsy named Joshua Scamp frequently camped with his family nr. Odstock. His son-in-law borrowed his coat on a rainy night when he went to South Newton and stole a horse; he left behind him Scamp's coat and thus incriminated his father in law. Scamp, for his daughter's sake, refused to plead at his trial, was condemned to death and hanged at Salisbury.

The executed Scamp came to be regarded as a martyr by his fellow gipsies, who would gather at Odstock on the anniversary of his death. The church officials decided that the increasingly uproarious proceedings of the anniversary were unacceptable; they pulled up a briar rose planted on Scamp's grave by the gipsies and locked the church door. A number of special constables were enrolled to deal with any ensuing disturbances.

The story describes the gipsies' fury and the curses screamed from the churchyard wall by the Gipsy Queen. These were directed at the parson, the sexton, the churchwardens, a couple of gipsies who had enrolled as special constables - and anyone who locked the door in future.

According to legend, it was believed that a number of the curses were worked out in reality: the curse on the parson that his voice would no longer be heard from the pulpit became a reality when he suffered a stroke which affected his speech. It was predicted that the sexton's death would come swiftly and suddenly - and he was found dead at the roadside one morning.

The Chief churchwarden, a farmer, had his valuable herd of cattle destroyed by anthrax. The prediction relating to him also stated that no son of this would inherit farm; all the farmer's male children died and he eventually emigrated to Australia.

The disloyal gipsies disappeared, and two skeletons in a shallow grave found in the 20th century were believed to be theirs. Also in the 20th century, two individuals who locked the church door both met untimely deaths. After the second death the church key was thrown into the river.

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Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Odstock

Folk Biographies from Odstock

Folk Plays from Odstock

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Listed Buildings: The number of buildings, or groups of buildings, listed as being of architectural of historic importance is 37. There is 1 Grade I building, Longford Castle; and 4 Grade II*, Nunton House, Church of St. Andrew, Church of St. Mary and Odstock Manor House.

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