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Wiltshire Community History

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Pitton & Farley

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 Pitton and Farley:

Map of the Civil Parish Pitton and Farley

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:

The parish of Pitton and Farley is in the south of the county of Wiltshire, approximately seven miles to the east of Salisbury. The parish holds two separate villages that have been brought together to form one ecclesiastical and civil parish. They are about a mile and a half apart; Pitton is to the north and Farley to the south. There is a geological division between the two villages; Pitton lies on chalk and Farley on clay, despite the proximity of the two villages. The two villages came together in 1874 to create the current parish. Prior to this, Pitton had been a chapelry of the parish of Alderbury. The parish lies in a valley, but there are no significant water routes now. In the 2001 census there were 754 people living in the parish, which comprises 2,650 acres.

To the west of the parish lies Clarendon Park; once a royal palace, Clarendon House (or Clarendon Palace) is now in ruins. It is thought building began in 1717. It has not been lived in for 25 years; the Christie-Miller family who owned it until 2006 lived in a refurbished stable block. Pitton in particular looked to Clarendon woods and can be considered a forest village. A well established foot path edges the southern boundary of Clarendon Park and links the parish with Salisbury.

Neither village was mentioned in the Domesday Survey, although there is a mention of Pitton in 841AD in an Anglo-Saxon document. It is thought in the Domesday Survey Pitton was considered as part of the Royal Forest of Clarendon.
A cemetery, believed to be Roman, was excavated in the 1950s. This is thought to be part of a Roman village found a mile north of Pitton. Coins discovered in the graveyard date from AD 340-60 while Roman remains have been found at Farley Farm, to the east of Farley itself. At Clarendon Palace both Iron Age and Roman coins have been found.

The earliest mention of Farley was in the reign of Henry I (the latter 11th century).
In the 14th century the Monastery of Ivychurch at Alderbury owned most of the land at Farley. But after the Dissolution the amount of land was dramatically reduced.
"Farley" is thought to mean "far meadow".Pitton is either derived from the Anglo-Saxon personal name "Pitta" or the word "Putta" meaning Hawk. Local writer Ralph Whitlock propounds a theory that the proximity of Pitton to the forest estate of Clarendon could be relevant and that Clarendon could be where royal hawks were kept.

The Archer family were large property and land owners in Farley in the 13th and 14th centuries. In 1220 a Richard Archer owned Litchwell, Bourne Hills and Adams Mere, which are now nearly all woodland. However, the Archers looked after much of the land for the Crown. The primary family in Pitton were known as the de Pittons. Both families had disappeared by 1450 but prior to this had been the King's Sergeants who looked after the manor for the King.

The most famous resident of Farley was undoubtedly Sir Stephen Fox, born in the village in 1627. He was a politician and founded the famous Royal Hospital, Chelsea (for pensioners). He was part of the Privy Council at the court of Charles II and in 1681 he founded Farley Hospital for the elderly poor people in the village. He holds the distinction of informing Charles II of the death of "that Monster", Oliver Cromwell. The hospital consisted of 12 almshouses and a central wardenry, built by Alexander Fort, who was Sir Christopher Wren's master craftsman. These almshouses are now Grade I listed buildings.

In the 1600s Sir Stephen had Fox bought the parish of Pitton and Farley and from 1665 he was the Member of Parliament for Salisbury. It is thought there are still members of the Fox family living in the area; Sir Stephen was married twice, the second nearly at the age of 80, and had a grand total of 14 children. It was he who brought the world famous architect Sir Christopher Wren to Farley to design All Saints Church; Sir Christopher, who was born at East Knoyle in Wiltshire, designed, amongst other works, St Paul's Cathedral in London. In 1742 a new brewhouse was built for the hospital. 50 years later it had transformed into "The Ilchester Arms".
Sir Stephen Fox rarely visited his hospital despite contributing around £13,000 of his own money, about a third of the total cost.

Sir Stephen Fox took over the lease of the Manor of Pitton and Farley on 18th September 1678. This included some freehold land and the land his hospital was later built upon. The manor later belonged to the Earls of Ilchester, who also owned land in Dorset, the first Earl of Ilchester being Stephen Fox-Strangways, the eldest son of Sir Stephen Fox and his second wife Christiana Hope. Pitton and Farley were sold in 1912. This meant a big change to the tenant farmers as it offered them the opportunity to own their own land. When the sale occurred, many farmers and householders were able to buy their own houses or holdings.

Pitton, lying on chalk, has more open fields than Farley. Farley has expanses of arable land with hedges, woods and copses, creating a closed in effect. In the Middle Ages there were five large common arable fields at Pitton; Park, Middle, North, Ditch and South, these can still be identified. But by the late Middle Ages arable land use had decreased and by 1450 much of the land in the parish became grassland. This meant a decrease in population as fewer people were needed for working the land. In 1819 Pitton and Farley were affected by an enclosure act. Prior to this there were at least two large common fields remaining.

There were many farmers and farmhands living in the two villages, especially in the 19th century. The 1851 census recorded six farmers and 102 farm labourers in Pitton alone and in 1912 there were 11 farmers. A few other occupations did seem to emerge around this time. In 1851 there was also a hurdle maker and brush maker, as well as shoemakers and a cordwainer (who used to make shoes from soft leather). By the early 20th century there were no shoemakers left at Pitton so villagers had to send shoes to Farley to be mended. In the latter part of the 19th century there were two building firms, the Pitts and the Brieants. In Kelly's 1907 Directory of Wiltshire, we can find mentions of a wood dealer, a beer retailer, carriers, the gamekeeper to the Earl of Ilchester and many farmers at Farley.

Houses in the Middle Ages were centred on The Street in Farley and were constructed of timber and wattle and daub. There are a number of listed buildings within the parish; Farley especially has cottages and farmhouses which are listed, including Springfield Cottage and Silver Birch Cottage. In Pitton White Hill Cottage and Webb's Farmhouse are Grade II listed buildings. In 1861 there was a fire in Pitton which destroyed six farmhouses and several cottages.

Until the 1920s many men of the parish found work within the woods at Clarendon.
In the grounds of Clarendon Park are the ruins of Clarendon Palace. It was once a Saxon hunting lodge and in the 14th century it was considered so important that it came second only to the Palace of Westminster. Henry II and Henry III especially made improvements to the palace. It is thought that the Royal connection with Clarendon began from as early as the time of William the Conqueror. Henry VI was confined at the palace when he was declared insane. Queen Elizabeth I is thought to be the last monarch to visit but even then the main house was considered too ruinous and she stayed in temporary housing. Its gradual abandonment took place during the War of the Roses. When Charles II was restored to the throne he gave Clarendon to George Monke, Duke of Albemarle.

Charles II plays another role in the history of the parish; he was close to Sir Stephen Fox and when fleeing from the battle of Worcester in 1651, he took refuge at Farley. He is even said to have hid in a ditch in Farley with Sir Stephen when an unfamiliar horseman appeared.

In the 20th century there was a dispute with the owner of Clarendon Park as to the right for villagers in the parish to use the footpaths winding across the estate. A key path was from the parish west towards Salisbury. At an unspecified point at the start of the 20th century the then owner of the estate at Clarendon tried to stop villagers using the path. Predictably, there was uproar and a court case emerged from the dispute. Villagers had to testify at Devizes that they had always used the paths and they were a key link to outside of the parish; the decision went in favour of the villagers who were able to use limited footpaths in the future. However, the advent of motor transport mean that ultimately the footpaths decreased in significance.

The impact of enclosures began to affect Pitton and Farley in 1819. Prior to this, there was common husbandry and open fields. The exception to this seems to be an area between the two villages with hedges of hazel, oak, hawthorn, blackthorn, holly and maple. Ralph Whitlock, in "A Victorian Village" believes these hedges must have been made in the 11th century. He writes: "On the accepted principle that the age of a hedge may be determined by the number of species of trees or bushes in it, these enclosures must have been made in the 11th century, soon after the time of William the Conqueror."

Pitton and Farley looked after their poor until the 1830s, when they became part of Alderbury union. Prior to this there had been a "poorhouse" in Penny's Lane in Farley.

During the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887 there was a tent placed at Oat Close and the whole village joined in with the celebrations. The ladies of Farley made cakes and pies, and cooked joints, and beer ran freely. Similar events took place to mark royal events up to the Second World War. A custom began in 1887 to plant tress in commemoration, and many still stand today. During the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935 local resident Owen Griffin said: "When we look around at our village today and remember it as it used to be, we realize that no previous generation has ever seen such changes as we have seen."

Up to the 1920s the frosts of winter, which formed ice, were welcomed by the younger generation, as skating was extremely popular. The flooding of water meadows in the parish meant the severe frosts created skating rinks. Clarendon Fish Pond was the most popular destination. Flower shows were always popular in the parish, but this ended after the wars.

There was no piped water to Pitton until 1938. Prior to this all water was drawn from wells. In the 1920s and 1930s the wells at the High Street were about 80 feet deep and at White Hill Farm they were 120 feet. Every farm had its own well. Electricity and a telephone line to the villages did not appear until 1938. However, there was a post service. In the late 19th century at least, letters were delivered from Salisbury on foot.
By 1930 this set-up had changed and a postman cycled from West Dean to deliver post.

There are two pubs in the parish, one in each village; The Silver Plough in Pitton and the Hook and Glove in Farley. The Silver Plough is relatively new, in comparison to many old pubs in the county and used to be a farmhouse with an off licence.
An older inn at Pitton used to stand near The Green. It was known as the New Inn, but had disappeared by the start of the 20th century. The New Inn had a skittle alley.

The village hall in Pitton was built in 1970 after the village had raised money over the preceding years. This fundraising stretched back to 1938 and the new hall replaced a wooden army hut built after the First World War. It was refurbished at the start of the 21st century and now also has a large playing field. Farley's village hall sits next to All Saints Church and shares a site with Farley Nursery School.

The parish currently has a thriving social element and a large number of clubs, including a book club, art classes, a theatre group, Pitton Ladies and a working coffee shop in Farley village hall. The sports scene is also important, with a tennis club, cricket club and petanque club (charmingly called Pittonque).

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilPitton and Farley Parish Council
Parish Web Site 
Parish Emailclerk@pittonandfarley.co.uk

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

Schools: Information on both current and closed schools.

Population 1801 - 2011

Photographs: If images have been added for this community they are available here.: We hold a collection of over 50,000 photographs of places in Wiltshire in the County Local Studies Library. These may be viewed at this library and copies of out of copyright material may be purchased. We can search for a picture of a building or event if you e-mail us with details.

Historical Sources: A select list of books and articles is listed in 'Printed material'. You may go directly to the actual text from some of these.

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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 Pitton & Farley

Folk Biographies from Pitton & Farley

Folk Plays from Pitton & Farley

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 of historic importance is 27. There are 2 Grade I buildings, Church of All Saints and The Almshouse; and 1 Grade II*, Church of St. Peter.

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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