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Wiltshire Community History

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Poulshot

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 Poulshot:

Map of the Civil Parish of Poulshot

1896
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


From the Ordnance Survey 1896 revision of the one inch to one mile map. The modern civil parish boundary has been superimposed


Thumbnail History:


Poulshot is a civil parish near the centre of Wiltshire, containing the village of Poulshot and Poulshot Green. It is approximately three miles south-west of Devizes, three miles north-west of Potterne and six south-east of Melksham; the parish is roughly rectangular and comprises 1,531 acres of land. The village of Poulshot is something of a street village, with buildings clustered around the Poulshot road which splits the parish vertically down the middle. The main Devizes to Trowbridge road (the A361) just runs through the very northernmost tip of the parish and marks the north of the parish, with Summerham Brook marking the western boundary, while another stream marks the eastern parts of the parish. Poulshot is a low lying parish, with the greatest height being 200 feet above sea level. Poulshot's area was lessened in 1883 when parts of the parish were given to Chittoe (now in Bromham). In the 17th century John Aubrey described Poulshot as a 'wett dirty place.' Much of the land is clay.

The population of Poulshot has remained relatively steady over the last two centuries. In 1801 there were 308 residents. By 1841 this had risen to 372 and in 1881 there were 340. There was a slight dip in population at the start of the 20th century; in 1911 there were 285 residents but by 1951 the numbers had returned to the 300s, with 309 people living at Poulshot. In 2001 there were 376 residents.

There is no clear reference to Poulshot in the Domesday Survey of 1086; the land was probably assessed as being part of Potterne. An early spelling of Poulshot was Paulesholte and others included Powlesholde, Powlshot, and Pollesholt. The spelling Polshot was fairly common until the 1850s
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By the 13th century John FitzAlan of Keevil was the overlord at Poulshot and the manor of Poulshot therefore passed down with the manor of Keevil. In 1383 the manor passed to Sir John Lovel. His son conveyed it to William Stourton in 1412. It remained in the Stourton family until 1545 when it was sold to Thomas Long, who was a clothier from Trowbridge. His nephew Gifford Long died when he had the manor in 1635 and there is no mention of it until 1749 when Poulshot was held by Walter Long. 'Burdon's Manor' at Poulshot refers to land of one fee held by Nicholas Burdon in 1242. At the time of his death in 1272 the manor was around 240 acres of arable land and more land for pasture. It passed down through the Burdon family until the 15th century. In 1431 Ralph Thorp held this manor and it remained in the family until 1509. In 1555 John Ernely who then held the manor died. It passed down through his family until the 17th century when it passed to John and Robert Drewe. A third of this manor was sold to Phillip Smith in 1776 and in 1779 the remaining two thirds went to John Parker. After the start of the 19th century, Burdon's Manor cannot be traced.

A famous highwayman has links with Poulshot. Thomas Boulter's father was a miller in the parish, who himself had tasted public justice. Thomas Boulter, senior, was transported to the “plantations” in 1775, after being found guilty of stealing a horse, having the year before been whipped in Devizes market place for stealing honey from a neighbour. He was initially sentenced to death, but this was reduced to transportation for 14 years. It was this year that his son Thomas became a highwayman. Thomas, junior, was born in the parish in 1748 and was initially engaged in his father's trade as a miller. He then joined his sister on the Isle of Wight, to where he transferred his share of the Poulshot mill business and invested it in a grocery business. However, the venture was not a success and Boulter returned home, pretending to visit his mother at Poulshot, but actually starting to go down a path which would see him meet his demise on the end of a noose.

In an account of Boulter's first robbery, reportedly written by James Waylen, we hear that: 'A feeling of irresolution and tremor was for a time so overpowering that he rode past the Diligence two or three times before he could muster resolution to pronounce the decisive word, “Stand.”…in less than two minutes (he) had robbed both the passengers of their watches and money, saying that he was much obliged to them, for he was in great want, and wished them a pleasant journey.' On that day he robbed his way through the county and then all the way back to the Isle of Wight, where he stayed for some time living from the profits of his nefarious activities. He sometimes returned to Poulshot in an attempt to seek shelter when his crimes threatened to catch up with him.

He plied his singular trade across Wiltshire, Devon and Dorset for the next few years. He rode on a black horse known as “Black Bess”, which of course was the name of Dick Turpin's horse. In 1776 he turned his attentions towards targets in London and also to Bristol and Bath. The following year he headed north, to Leeds, Doncaster and Manchester. In heading north he was captured during a robbery which went wrong and was taken to York Castle. He was convicted at the March Assizes and sentenced to death. He was then pardoned upon the condition that he enter the army, which he duly did. But this new profession only lasted for a week and he soon escaped and headed home. Here he met James Caldwell, with whom he soon struck up a working partnership. They were both arrested in Birmingham in 1778 and were taken to London but Boulter escaped. He was recaptured about a week later, after trying and failing to leave the country, at Bridport in Dorset. Boulter was hanged at Winchester in 1778 when he was just 30 years old. Caldwell was hanged alongside him.

There are some cottages at Poulshot which were traditionally owned by the parish and rented out for small sums. By 1903 there were five cottages which had been in use for some time, but it is not clear exactly when they were built. The income was used by the parish to pay for outgoings such as a salary for the parish clerk and the upkeep of footpaths. Some council houses were built in the 1920s, first in 1923 and then another group in 1927. They were all on Poulshot Road. There were private houses built in the 1920s as well as council ones; Barley Hill House was constructed in 1935 and The White Bungalow a few years after. Some cottages were considered unsafe and unsuitable to live in by the council in 1938; these were sited on the corner of the Green and Barley Hill Lane. The parish sold them to Mr Reg Collett, who rebuilt them. After the Second World War the Rural District Council built 16 houses. Opened in 1947, these houses were built at Barley Hill Lane. In the second half of the 20th century it is estimated that 66 new houses were built.

Poulshot Mill is thought to date from 1661. It was located to the south of Poulshot, on the boundary with Worton. It first belonged to a clothier and was used as a fulling mill, but was then used as a grist mill until 1791. It was bought in that year by John Antsie, who already owned a cloth factory in Devizes. In 1837 the mill was leased to Thomas Gregory of Whistley Mill and it was used as a mill until the 1930s; it was then used as a house but was demolished in 1948.

Farming in the parish has traditionally been pasture land for dairy herds. Most farmers and labourers were raised as dairymen. The cows were mainly shorthorns, with Friesians arriving after the Second World War. When the railway arrived in the county in the 19th century, milk was more easily transported to London. It was usually taken to make cheese, and so reduced the cheese making in the area. There was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 1938 which meant many whole herds at Poulshot had to be destroyed and burnt. At the beginning of the 20th century the two largest farms were Lodge Farm and Barley Hill Farm. They were found on the north side of the village; to the south were Townsend Farm and Church Farm.

The parish council was formed in 1894 and one of their first acts was to sort out who owned the Green, which of course was of great importance. The parish council were given the rights to look after the Green and its tracks and paths in 1897. They ensured drainage worked and the Green as a whole was kept looking respectable. Lord Long, the lord of the manor, had of course owned much of the village which included parts of the Green. The new by laws stated that no-one would be allowed on the Green if they: 'throw stones, or climb trees or remove notices from notice boards, or disturb meetings' of if they were 'intoxicated'. There had been several ponds and pools on or near the Green; in 1964 the pond near Hay Lane was filled in as the water had become stagnant and was considered dangerous; others were filled in later. Some elms caught Dutch elm disease in the 1970s and by the end of the decade all elms in the parish were dead.

In 1916 St Peter's Church was very nearly burnt down on 2nd February when a fire began after the heating system malfunctioned. Rafters and the old tiled roof were completely ablaze, indicating how dry the upper portions of the church were. Everything that could safely be taken away was, but most of the efforts were on how to save the chancel of the church. Devizes Fire Brigade arrived and was credited with saving the chancel but the roof was utterly destroyed. The heat shattered windows, burnt through doors and ruined many commemorative tablets. The tower escaped from the fire relatively unscathed. The church was restored by 1925. In the intervening years services were held at St Paul's Chapel-of-Ease.

The parishioners were the lucky recipients of a generous bequest in the will of George Taylor who, before his death in 1852, had specified in his will that £3,000 was to be invested in order to raise income for the paupers in the parish. Some of the money was spent on bread, on Sundays after morning service at St. Peter's. By 1903 an average of 12 loaves was provided after each service. The Rector of Poulshot was paid £1 annually from this money to give a sermon to children at Easter time. Children and any adults attending were given cakes.

The Raven pub is a handsome black and white building found on the Poulshot road in the centre of the parish. It was bought by Wadworth's from Bromham Breweries in 1910 and has long been well known for serving beer from the wood.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Emailcustomercare@wiltshire.gov.uk
 
Parish CouncilPoulshot Parish Council
Parish Web Site 
Parish Emailclerk@poulshot.org.uk
 

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Population 1801 - 2011

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Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Poulshot

Folk Biographies from Poulshot

Folk Plays from Poulshot

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, as being of architectural or historical importance is 22. There is 1 Grade II* building,the Church of St.Peter.

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