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Wiltshire Community History

Berwick St. Leonard Search Results

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Berwick St. Leonard

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 Berwick St. Leonard:

Map of the Civil Parish of Berwick St. Leonard

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:

Berwick St. Leonard is a small parish in the south of the county 22 kilometres west of Salisbury. In 1934 the transfer to Hindon of 230 acres in its south-west corner reduced it from 463 hectares to 370 hectares. Until then it was shaped like an hourglass, 3 kilometres from north to south, 1.5 kilometres wide at the north and south ends, with a waist of less than 1 kilometre, a little south of the London to Exeter road. In 1986 the parish was extended southwards when a small part of Fonthill Gifford parish (including Berwick House) was transferred to it.
A tributary of the river Nadder, which after heavy rain rises nearby in Hindon, marked the southern parish boundary until 1986. The northern boundary is the watershed separating the rivers Nadder and Wylye. The soil is light and chalky with a subsoil of chalk and flint. The land falls from over 213 metres on the northern boundary to 107 metres by the stream in the south. The geology of the parish has always favoured arable and sheep farming; not until as recently as 1980 were large numbers of cows kept.

The name Berwick refers to a grange or an outlying part of an estate. St. Leonard is the dedication of the church. From the 16th to the 19th century the village was called alternatively Cold Berwick; the most likely simple explanation being that it was a cold place.
The woodland area in the north of the parish has some interesting archaeology. The boundary is partly marked by Grovely Grim's Ditch, an undated but probably prehistoric ditch. Also near the boundary, in Penning Wood, is an undated, diamond shaped, earthwork enclosure. Just over the boundary is an undated oval enclosure. Chilfinch Hill has yielded some Romano-British pottery fragments associated with a field system discovered by Sir Richard Colt Hoare in the early 1800s. These features all suggest early settlement in Berwick. In the south, Berwick St. Leonard village is the site of a British village with medieval origins; earthworks survive to the east and west of the church.

The manor of Berwick St. Leonard has a long and complicated history dating back to the early 12th century. It was in the gift of Shaftesbury Abbey until it passed to the Crown at the Dissolution. Its detailed history can be read in the Berwick St. Leonard article in volume 13 of the Victoria County History of Wiltshire. The manor did not settle into one family until as recently as 1838 when it was bought by the Morrisons of Fonthill House. It is still held by this family.
The parish church of St Leonard dates back to the 12th century. It is built of flint and limestone rubble with ashlar dressings, and consists of a chancel and a nave with a south porch surmounted by a low tower. The chancel was possibly rebuilt in the early 14th century when the porch and tower were added and new windows put in the nave. In 1861 the chancel was rebuilt and the church was provided with new roofs, windows and interior fittings. There is no chapel in the parish.

There are no listed houses in Berwick St. Leonard; however, two buildings (quite close to each other) have an interesting history. Near the church is Berwick House. This country house was built in the late 18th century and altered in the early 19th. It is a three-storey house built of Flemish and English bond brick. The left side of the house has a very distinctive bow (curved wall) with two blind windows. The house was the farmhouse for Berwick Farm. It was enlarged more than once in the 19th century and was converted into eight flats in 1949.

The Old House at Berwick St. Leonard no longer exists. It is marked on the Andrews and Dury map of 1773, just south of the church and facing onto the main road, as Henry Lee Warner Esq. The house that appears on this map was built in the early 17th century. It was built on the site of a former rectory that probably dated back to the mid-1500s. Two generations of Henry Lee Warners seem to have used the house as a residence, although perhaps not frequently, and the house may have been unoccupied long before the 1820s when it was used as a barn within the Berwick Farm complex. The artist John Buckler painted a watercolour of the house in 1804 when it was still in good condition. His painting names it 'The Old House' but it had also been previously known as The Manor House. This house was demolished between 1902 and 1904; the materials were re-used as the centre part of Little Ridge, later called Fonthill House, in Chilmark parish. This house was in turn demolished in 1972.

From before 1650 until the 19th century, almost the whole parish was one farm. There was only one farmhouse in 1783. This was probably Cold Berwick Farm, which appears on the Andrews and Dury map of 1773 but was demolished by 1822. It was on Cold Berwick Hill, just outside the modern, western parish boundary. An Inclosure Act effective from 1822 created a new 109 acre glebe farm in the south-west corner of the parish, called Berwick Glebe Barn. In 1934 this farm transferred into Hindon following the boundary change.

In the late 19th century the land continued to be used mainly for sheep and corn. Bake Barn was built on Chilfinch Hill before 1886. By 1913 this building was sharing the operation of Berwick Farm with the buildings near the church. In 1980 Berwick Hill Dairy was built to house 350 cows and extensive covered sheep pens were erected at Bake Barn. In 1983 the land in the parish was used for dairy, sheep and arable farming.

Berwick was quite unusual for such a small community in that it had its own fair with a history going back to the late 13th century when the fair was probably held under a grant to an abbess of Shaftesbury. It was held on St. Leonard's day (6th November) in the late 16th century and was still yearly in the early 17th century. In 1822 the fairground was near the site of Cold Berwick Farm and there were permanent buildings for it. In 1824 the fair was said to be worth £22; in 1848 it was a sheep and horse fair and was still held on 6th November but had been discontinued by 1867.

Berwick was not mentioned in the Domesday Book. An assessment of its land in 1086 may have been included in the assessment of Shaftesbury Abbey's Tisbury estate, and Berwick may have passed with Tisbury in the 10th century and earlier. We therefore do not know how many people may have been living there at that time. Tax assessments of the 14th and 16th centuries suggest that Berwick had little wealth or population. As recently as 1801 there were just 36 people living in the village. In the 1860s there was a rise from 40 to 61 due to the migration of several farm labourers' families from Chicklade.

In 1901 there were just 15 households in Berwick with a total of 54 people. The census shows that 60% of the population were born in either Berwick or one of five neighbouring parishes. There was only one family with four children, the rest are all smaller families. There is not a single entry for a 'scholar'; there are just two children of school age but they are both relatives of the head of the household, not their children, so may have been visiting. This all shows that families did not stay in Berwick for long. Perhaps the farmer chose to only employ his labourers for a year at a time, or perhaps the men were soon looking to move on to better prospects and possibly a bigger community with more opportunities. Berwick was a small community but not at all remote, so it was possible to look for another job in one of the many surrounding villages.

All of the men were working at either Berwick Farm or Berwick Glebe Barn (now in Hindon). The skilled jobs were not in the hands of local men. Henry Pope, a 50 year old gamekeeper, was born in Hampshire. William Green was the farmer; aged 44 he was born in Somerset. Edward Whitworth was a Londoner, as was his wife Alice. Aged 35 and 34 respectively, Edward was employed as an electrical engineer, which suggests that the farms had their own generators. It is impossible to imagine a more extreme change of lifestyle from London to this tiny Wiltshire village.

There were no amenities in the village; not even a pub or a shop. The neighbouring parish of Fonthill Bishop, with a population of 141 in 1901, had just a pub, a grocer's and a Post Office. To the west of Berwick was Hindon; with a population of 413, Hindon offered a baker, butcher, tailor and shoemaker, which were all trades you would expect to find in a bigger community. As the 20th century progressed, and people began to look for leisure activities, the villagers in Berwick would again have had to look further afield for a football team or perhaps a Women's Institute.

The population reached its highest figure of 79 in 1921. In 1934 part of Berwick St Leonard parish was transferred to Hindon and by 1951 the population had dropped to 44. It reached its lowest figure of 24 in 1981 but by 2011 had risen again to 47.

Today Berwick St. Leonard is an important part of the Fonthill Estate. Berwick Courtyard has industrial units occupied by a variety of small businesses. The village is an attractive location to both live and work.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilBerwick St. Leonard Parish Meeting
Parish Web Site 
Parish Emailsimon@fonthillfarms.co.uk

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

Schools: Information on both current and closed schools.

Population 1801 - 2011

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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 Berwick St. Leonard

Folk Biographies from Berwick St. Leonard

Folk Plays from Berwick St. Leonard

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 historical interest is 2. There is 1 Grade II* building, The Church of St. Leonard.

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.


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