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Wiltshire Community History

Rowde Search Results

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Rowde

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 Rowde:

Map of the Civil Parish of Rowde

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:


Rowde seems to be one of those communities that have existed for over a thousand years but in many ways do not have a great deal of recorded history. Its name comes from a Saxon word meaning a reedy place and there was certainly a village here in late Saxon times. In fact there was a settlement to the north-east of the village, near Rowde Farm in Iron Age and Romano-British times and, although it is pure speculation to suggest it, there could have been continuous occupation from then through to the recorded settlement in the early 11th century.

The present village lies entirely on Lower Greensand although much of the parish is gault and the light soils of the village attracted market gardening to the area in the late 19th century. The village is in the centre of its parish but to the west of the Rowde Ford Stream which rises near Roundway Down, on the Rowde and Bromham boundary. Most land in the parish is below 70 metres, only on Caen Hill and near Roundway Down is the land substantially higher. The Kennet and Avon Canal was built through the southern part of the parish and most of the famous Caen Hill flight of 29 locks, opened in 1810, are within Rowde. Caen Hill itself does not refer to the French town famous for its stone, but is a corrupted spelling of Cane Hill, which was its name from at least 1612 until the early 20th century.

It is likely that there was a church here in late Saxon times as a priest is mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086). In early Norman times the estate of Rowde had been given to Alured of Marlborough and his tenants were, William (18 hides of land), Gilbert (1hide) and Ulviet (1 hide). There was enough land for eight plough teams of eight oxen each and four of these were operated by slaves. The likely population at this time was between 100 and 120, including the priest. Small amounts of land were held by 23 families in return for work on William's estate. There were two mills; possibly on the sites of Rowde Mill and Rowde Ford Mill, a small amount of meadow land for hay and a small amount of woodland. Later the manor passed into Crown ownership.

By the early 13th century crops were far more important than stock as the only animals then recorded were oxen used for ploughing. It is possible though that the odd cow or pig were kept by individual households. A little later it is known that there were small communities at Smithwick and Durlett, and possibly at Foxhangers. The parish remained agricultural until the latter part of the early 16th century when a clothier is recorded. Around the same time the Crown relinquished ownership of Rowde when the manor was sold to Sir Edward Hungerford in 1591. In the early 17th century people moved to the parish from distant parts as there were a family from Wales and a woman from Ireland recorded as living here. This may have been as a result of the proximity of Devizes or travellers on the main road. Closeness to the town and agricultural centre of Devizes has influenced the village over many centuries.

Important events in the first part of the early 17th century were the enclosure of common land, and a slump in the cloth industry in 1622. Both events would have affected villagers who were deprived of both land and a cottage industry at this time. Enclosure of land may have led to the building of new farmhouses and associated buildings. Certainly the timber-framed Smithwick Farmhouse and Myrtle Farmhouse and barns are from this period, as are the Jacobean House and the Dell. The George and Dragon, which was refronted in the 18th century, is a timber-framed building of the 16th century or earlier.

The cloth trade recovered and by the late 17th century there was a clothier, weavers, a worsted comber, a scribbler and a wool jobber in the parish. At this time less than a half of the people employed in Rowde worked in farming; apart from those employed in the cloth industry there was a fellmonger, a glover, a cork maker and cork cutter. Cloth making continued in the parish during the first half of the early 18th century, although it declined during the second half.

The road through the village was part of the great road from Winchester and Andover to Bath and Bristol. Villagers would have had contact with travellers from more distant parts of the country and some may have been tempted to seek their fortune elsewhere. The importance of this road led to the Devizes to Rowde Ford section being one of the earliest roads in Wiltshire to be turnpiked. Dunkirk Hill was a problem for vehicles both ascending and descending and a team of oxen was kept here to help pull coaches and wagons up the hill. The road was turnpiked in 1705/6 and the George Inn existed on this section of the road by 1705 to provide refreshment to both humans and animals.

The extent of travel from the village in the early 18th century can be seen from a gravestone in Kinson churchyard, between Poole and Bournemouth. It is to Robert Trotman, a smuggler from Rowde, who was killed by an excise man on a beach near Poole on 24th April 1765. Unfortunately for the romantic idea of smuggling casks of brandy and raking them from a local pond after an encounter with the excise, we find that Robert Trotman was engaged in landing tea. A reasonable amount of building took place in the 18th century and survivals include Lower Foxhangers, Rowde Hall, Old Durlett, Manor House (built as a farmhouse), while Rowde Croft Farmhouse was built in 1806.

Although the cloth industry was in decline by now, Rowde Mill was rebuilt as a fulling mill in the late 18th century and was first leased, then owned, by John Anstie of Devizes. This must have been the final fling of the industry in the village as the mill was converted back to a corn mill in 1820, by which time many operations of the cloth making industry were concentrated in steam powered factories in the towns. Poverty caused by the loss of the industry led to people being buried by the parish up to 1805 and a rise in illegitimate births, where the man involved was probably out of work and could not afford to marry. The village also suffered outbreaks of smallpox with 14 people dying from the disease in 1776 and seven in 1806.

From a map of 1773 we can see that most village houses were either side of the main road, with a few at the northern end of Marsh Road. Small settlements were at Rowde Wick, Durlett Farm, and Piccadilly (now in Devizes); there were a few houses on Dunkirk Hill and mills at Rowde Wick and Rowde Ford. At the turn of the century there is a return for crops grown in 1801. This showed 195 acres under wheat, 24¼ acres under barley, 10 acres under oats, 40 acres under potatoes, 14 1/2 acres for peas, 61 acres for beans and 16 1/2 acres for turnips and rape. There were 15 farmers in the parish in 1848, probably little different from the number in 1801. During the 1840s there was a wide range of other occupations in the village. Crafts and manufacturing were represented by brick-makers, carpenters, a blacksmith, a bricklayer, shoemakers, a printer (business in Devizes) and a tailor. Retailers were a baker, a butcher, a grocer and post office, and a general store. There was a surgeon, a civil engineer, a newspaper proprietor, a land agent, a contractor, a registration officer and the chief turnkey of Devizes prison living in the village. Associated with farming were a cattle dealer, a horse dealer, a miller and a maltster. There were four named inns, the Queen's Head (now in Devizes) the Olive Branch, the Cross Keys and the George and Dragon; the landlords of the latter two were also shoemakers.

A distinguished architect and writer on art had been born in Rowde in 1820. Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt designed the Adelphi Theatre and Paddington Station and was the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge. Whilst a schoolboy at Mr Bigg's school in Devizes he may have watched Rowde church being rebuilt in 1833 and decided to follow his elder brother, Thomas Henry, into architecture.

In 1835 the area of Rowde parish around Dunkirk was taken into Devizes. In 1857 the Holt Junction to Devizes railway opened, which involved the building of the well known Fish Bridge, in Rowde parish, over the Melksham Road. The railway crossed the canal below Lower Foxhangers. The 1867 Wiltshire directory describes Rowde as being well wooded with the land mainly devoted to pasture. By this time the number of farmers had increased to 20 and there was a canal traffic manager and a commercial traveller in the village. A florist had also appeared but there was now only one brick and tile manufacturer.

A reading room was provided for the village by the Starkey family. In 1887 Frances Starkey conveyed the land, on which the room, a coffee tavern and cottage had been built, to the vicar and church-workers. The land had previously been owned by a former vicar of Rowde, Andrew B Starkey, who left it to his son, John Baynton Starkey. The buildings were erected by John's widow, Charlotte, for the use of the parish. They included a library. Several houses and farmhouses were built during the 19th century, including Oxhouse Farmhouse (c.1800), Prospect House (1830), Foxhangers House (1830), Rowde Hall, Blaxhill House, and The Villa. Some of these would have been occupied by people who wished to move out of Devizes but still be close to their business interests,

By 1890 the number of farmers had been reduced to 17 but there was still a good variety of businesses. Associated with farming were two cowkeepers and a dairyman while a market gardener had appeared. Shops included a grocer, baker and post office, two bakers, a beer retailer and baker, a provision dealer. Villagers must have eaten a lot of bread. There was a brick, tile and pipe maker, a bricklayer, a corn miller, two carpenters, a blacksmith, a thatcher, a shoemaker, and a coal dealer. By this time both the traffic manager of the Kennet and Avon canal and the foreman for the locks were living in the parish.

The 20th century has seen new housing being built, the closure and re-opening of the canal and the closure of the railway line (1966 with the rebuilt Fish Bridge demolished in 1968). In 1901 the Reading Rooms were enlarged by Mr Lowe and become known as the Lecture Hall or Institute; the caretaker lived in the adjacent cottage. In 1917 the writer Edward Hutton said that that Rowde had an 'old fashioned sweetness' and a 'curious inn'. Today there are several recent small housing developments and the village now has a rectangular shape instead of its linear form of 200 years ago.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Emailcustomercare@wiltshire.gov.uk
 
Parish CouncilRowde Parish Council
Parish Web Sitewww.rowdevillage.co.uk
Parish Emailrowdeparishcouncil@gmail.com
 

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Population 1801 - 2011

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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.

 

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Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Rowde

Folk Biographies from Rowde

Folk Plays from Rowde

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 36.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

Local Authors: There could be an author who was born or has lived in this community.

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