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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, 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 Rushall:

Map of the Civil Parish of Rushall

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 civil parish of Rushall covers 2,204 acres and lies in Swanborough Hundred some nine miles from Devizes, Marlborough and Amesbury almost equidistantly. The name "Rushall" may derive partly from the Old German names Rust and Rusto, and the Old English "healh" and signify "Rust's nook of land".

The parish lies between those of Charlton and Upavon. Like Charlton and other southern Pewsey Vale parishes Rushall has a long and narrow shape, some six miles long but less than one mile wide at any point; indeed at a point southwest of the village, the parish measures only approximately one quarter of a mile wide. The other significant similarity with its neighbouring parishes is that it lies on a north-eastern to south-western axis with the village at the north-eastern extreme of the parish on the level land of the southern Pewsey Vale where the soil is alluvium and river gravel overlying chalk; the parish rises south-westwards onto the chalk of Salisbury Plain where the land is marked by ridges and dry valleys. The highest point of the parish is at Rushall Hill Barn where the land lies at 600 ft; at the southern end of the parish it lies at a slightly lower height of 500 ft.

The north-eastern parish boundary follows the course of the Christchurch, or Hampshire, Avon; the western arm of the river joins its main course at Scales Bridge, to the east of Rushall village. The boundary continues southwards along the Marlborough-Salisbury road (now the A345), turning westwards to meet the Devizes-Andover road (now the A342) and then to climb south-westwards onto the downland.

A number of roads have developed in the parish: firstly, the 1773 Andrews and Dury map clearly shows the importance of the Ridgeway as a track crossing the downland towards Enford, linking a number of radiating roads towards the parishes along this part of Salisbury Plain. In upland Rushall the track crosses the parish at a point north-west of Casterley Camp in Upavon parish. The 1773 map also shows two roads leading southwards through the parish from Wood Bridge, in North Newnton parish. One follows a course on the western side of the River Avon (its eastern arm) to Upavon. This was part of an Avebury to Amesbury route which was turnpiked in 1840 when the section from Wood Bridge through Rushall parish was improved; before this date printed maps appear to show it as the minor of the two north-south routes. The other, now a B road, takes a south-westerly course to the north of Rushall village, turning southwards and then eastwards towards Upavon, meeting the road from Devizes on the way; by 1762 this road - suggested to have been be a summer alternative to the Ridgeway route - had been turnpiked between Devizes and Andover. At the point where the north-south and the Devizes (A342) roads meet, there is, in 2014, a T junction of the major routes, but forming a crossroads with a metalled lane leading eastwards towards the church. This lane, named Church Lane, was once a principal road of the village but today passes the church, crosses the western arm of the Avon and leads over a stone bridge to France Farm. The cause of the lessened importance of this track, together with the refocussing of the settlement
westwards, will be discussed further on.

There is evidence of considerable prehistoric activity in the parish mainly, although not solely, on Rushall Down, where Iron Age coins and a brooch, a Bronze Age pin, Mesolithic flint axes and a Neolithic flint axe head, amongst other finds, have been located. In addition, numerous Romano- British coins, jewellery and pottery fragments have been discovered. However, evidence of prehistoric activity has also been found on the lower ground in the north-east of the parish; this includes, for example the cropmark of a possible Bronze Age ring ditch, a possible late prehistoric enclosure, both north of the village. A full list of all the finds is to be found on the Wiltshire Historic Environment Record at http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/artsheritageandlibraries/museumhistoryheritage/wiltshireandswindon

The Domesday Survey records that before 1086 Rushall was held by Gytha, the widow of Earl Godwin or by her son, Harold. Geld was paid for 37 hides (approx. 4,440 acres), a figure which suggests that the pre-Conquest holdings may have included not only Rushall but also Charlton and Upavon. Following the Conquest it was held by the king, William I, but by the time of Domesday survey in 1086 its church had been given to the abbey of St. Wandrille, along with two hides of land (approximately 240 acres). This, then, is evidence of a church in Rushall already in existence by 1086. Charlton and Upavon are not recorded in the Survey, leading to difficulties in assessing Rushall's acreage and population in 1086. However, the Survey records that Rushall (with the hitherto undetermined adjoining lands included in the calculation) had land for 27 ploughs with 19 hides (approx. 2,280 acres) in the demesne and a population that approximated at some 400 individuals. In addition five mills, 112 acres of meadow, pasture 3 leagues by 1 leagues and woodland one league long and half a league wide are recorded. One league approximated - with local variations - to about three miles and was reckoned on the distance that could be walked in an hour. Additionally, in 1086 there were five mills which may have included those on land in Upavon. It has been postulated that the acreage of Rushall alone may have been approximately that which it comprises in the present day, with its population in the region of some 240

In the 12th and much of the 13th centuries the manor was held by the de Aunay family. In the late 13th and early 14th centuries it was held at intervals by members of the la Warre family. In 1302 Lord la Warre granted it to Roger Stokke and his wife Alice for their life, then, in 1312 to Adam Stokke and his wife Gena and their heirs. Following Gena's marriage, as a widow, to Robert Hungerford by 1316 it remained in Hungerford hands until it reverted to the grandson of Adam Stokke in 1355, passing again to Sir Walter, later Lord Hungerford in 1404 under the terms of the 1355 settlement. In 1377 there had been 91 poll taxpayers aged over 14 years). Thereafter the manor would pass to Richard, Duke of Gloucester and John Duke of Norfolk, who was attainted and killed in 1485, it then returned to the Hungerford family and passed to George, earl of Huntingdon, by 1533. In 1548-9 the manor was sold to William Poole and his son John but it was sold out of Poole family hands again until 1749 when it was purchased by Edward Poore.

Edward Poore's ownership of the manor had an important effect on the topography of the village: prior to the works he carried out, the church, rectory, manor house, demesne farmstead and possibly tenants' cottages stood by the western arm of the Avon. By the late 18th century Rushall manor included most of the land of the parish. Poore was responsible for either replacing or enlarging the manor house and imparking the land around it. The form of the early manor house is not known but the later house stood behind the church while in front of it and to the west there were a lawn and ornamental gardens. To the north of the Avon behind the house some 37 acres of land were imparked. Enclosed pastures, amounting to some 47 acres, also lay in front of the house beyond the road and stretched to a track between the two north-south roads east and west of the village; shown clearly on the 1773 Andrews and Dury map, this track remains today only as a field boundary. These pastures stretched westwards to the edge of the Devizes to Andover road. A track led from the house and church to the western end of Upavon village; this has now disappeared. The demesne farmstead and associated buildings were demolished between 1803 and 1838 and were replaced by 1842 by a bailiff's cottage and farm buildings known as France Farm in the south eastern corner of the parkland, with access by an ornamental stone bridge across the river. The bridge had formed part of the landscaping around the river, widened to form what the DoE listing of the bridge describes as an "ornamental lake". It has been suggested that the original name for the farm was Francis Farm, but local lore relates to the adoption of the name France Farm resulting from the fact that it could only be accessed by crossing water. Poore's manor house was demolished in 1840 and raised earthworks in the field to the west of the church are now the only remaining indication of its existence. The church itself remains isolated from the village which had become refocused as result of Poore's work along the now principal road of the village running from Wood Bridge towards Upavon to the west of the earlier settlement.

In 1771 nearly half the lands of the manor were settled on Edward Poore's son, also Edward, at his marriage. Between 1773 and 1803 a house was built on these lands, alongside the drove road leading from the Devizes to Andover road and climbing up to the downlands. First named "New House", it is named - rather incongruously - "The Cottage" on Ordnance Survey maps of the 1880s and subsequently and currently, "Rushall Manor". Only a small part of the house remains from the original 18th century structure and substantial extension and remodelling took place in the 19th century and subsequently. Other estates have existed alongside the major landholding of Rushall Manor: In the late 12th century two hides of land (approximately 240 acres) were settled on Beatrice de Aunay and Ellis, son of Ralph de Wroxale, on their marriage; Beatrice's brother, Alexander, subsequently added another half-hide (approximately 60 acres) to this land which, named the manor of Reynes, was sold to Sir Walter Hungerford in 1444 and was subsequently merged with Rushall manor.

In the early 13th century another parcel of land, approximately 30 acres together with pasture rights for 150 sheep was granted by Fulk de Aunay to Bartholomew of Upavon, whose son Michael, vicar of Charlton, granted it to Stanley Abbey in whose hands it remained until the Dissolution. The Crown sold the estate, of 37 acres and pasture rights for 205 sheep in 1546, to Sir Richard Graynefel and Roger Blouett. By the 17th century this land was leased in smallholdings but between 1751 and 1783 the plots were purchased by Edward Poore and added to Rushall manor.

Two other small estates granted by Fulk de Aunay and his brothers Godfrey and Alexander in the early 13th century were subsumed into Rushall manor in the late 14th and 15th centuries. Another two small estates were merged with Rushall manor in the 14th and 18th centuries and in addition land in Rushall belonging to the prebendal estate of Upavon before the Dissolution descended with the Upavon priory lands until the early 18th and early 19th centuries. Full details of all these landholdings are described in A History of Wiltshire, vol. 10.

The agricultural and economic activity supporting these estates and manor began early in the history of the area: Celtic field systems have been identified on Rushall and Thornham Downs. From the Middle Ages onwards, Rushall's agriculture has been described as "typical of the sheep-and-corn husbandry of the Wiltshire chalkland" (VCH, Vol. 10, p.141). In the early 13th century there was a two-field rotation; arable land lay north of the Ridgeway, around the west of the village and north of the Avon. South of the Ridgeway earlier ploughed land had become permanent pasture for large numbers of sheep belonging to flocks described as freemen's and parson's flocks; possibly demesne and tenantry flocks were also in existence. Cattle were also pastured. A common meadow north of the Avon was known as Man Mead in the 13th century.

By the early 17th century the two-field system had been changed: The arable land, which measured some 850 acres prior to the process of imparkment, was divided into some fifteen fields: North Field, north as its name suggests, of the river, measured 185 acres and was the largest of the fields. To the south of the village lay other fields, measuring on average 50 acres, including Shepherds Path, Middle Field and Home Field north of the drove road, and Whitefoot Hill Field south of the drove road. It is presumed that another field, named Garston Field was the field south of the church which was later imparked. Each field was believed to contain approximately five furlongs.

Division of sheep and cattle pasture land on the downs had also changed by the 17th century, with two long, narrow downs named Farm Down and Tenantry Down south of the Ridgeway, thelatter being subdivided into Summer, Cow, Winter and South Downs.

Common meadow land by the early 17th century consisted of Twintown Meadow, 5 acres, and Man Mead, also 5 acres, beside the Avon, with two further meadows, East Mead, 2 acres, and Haystock Meadow, 3 acres, alongside the eastern headwater of the river, pertaining to the farm and to land known as "Plants" after a tenant who had held it for many years in the later 16th century, Osmond Plant.

The manorial mill was held with a few acres in 1227 and was still recorded in the early 15th century and may have continued in use until later. In 1415 a new water mill was built with wood brought in 44 carts by 88 men from Hungerford in the space of one day; this was leased with the demesne in 1449. To the north of Scales Bridge there was a fulling (or tucking) mill, first recorded in 1623 and meadows subsequently known as Tucking Mill Meads lay either side of the eastern headwaters of the river. The last mention of this mill was in 1729 and by 1803 no mills were recorded in the parish.
Following Edward Poore's acquisition of the manor in 1749 and his subsequent purchase of freeholds nearly all the lands of the parish came into his possession and its common husbandry ceased. By the later 18th century Poore's land lay in three farms, Manor Farm, the largest and leased to William Giffard in 1750 for £200 per year; Mundays farm, described as new in 1771 and later leased together with Manor Farm, and the small Wormstall's Farm, of only ninety acres, which was leased for £38 per year in 1758.

In 1803 the agricultural land of Rushall comprised approximately 830 acres of arable land, 21 acres of meadow and 1,135 acres of upland pasture. The great majority of the strips in the arable fields were held by the Poore family but a few holdings by others persisted; however enclosure was complete by 1804. Rearrangement of the arable land proceeded and by 1838 there were three farms in the parish, Rushall Farm, another subsequently known as Sargent's Farm, and Rushall Down Farm where there was a farmstead and two cottages.

Throughout the 19th century Rushall farm was held by members of the Stratton family who, in 1869, also acquired Rushall Down Farm and, in 1873, Sargent's Farm. At this point most of the land in the parish was held by the family. Rushall Down Farmhouse and associated buildings became dilapidated after the purchase of land by the War Department in 1898. This purchase reduced the farm holdings to 947 acres by 1917, including 736 acres of arable, 149 acres of meadow and pastureland north of the Ridgeway with subsequent further conversion of arable to pasture in the north of the parish. To the south of the Ridgeway the land reverted to grassland, some of which was grazed.

In the earlier 20th century Frank Stratton and Co. specialised in dairy farming at Rushall. The successor of Frank Stratton was Joseph Maggs, who appears in the 1920 Kelly's Directory as one of the two principal landowners of the parish, along with the War Department. At this date he resided at Rushall Lodge while Frank Stratton remained at Rushall Manor. Maggs was a director of Wilts. United Dairies and then chairman of United Dairies Ltd. From Kelly's Directory of 1923 onwards he is recorded as resident at Rushall Manor.

After a serious fire in the farmstead buildings of Rushall Farm in 1945 Joseph Maggs sold it to Percy
Wookey who undertook a process of modernisation of the farm buildings and roads. The farm has remained in the hands the Wookey family and now comprises 1,650 acres - 920 in Rushall and 650 in neighbouring Charlton parish plus another 80 acres in Upavon parish at the southern boundary of the farm which were purchased in 1946. Rushall Farm began the process of conversion to organic production in the early 1970s; it grows wheat suitable for bread-making which is ground in the farm mill and sold as organically produced wholemeal flour. Straw from the wheat grown is sold as thatching straw. Kale and swedes are also grown as feed for the beef cattle and sheep reared on the farm. Horses, which provide a third species of grazing animal for the farm are also bought and sold.

A considerable amount of 19th and 20thcentury residential building now lines the main village street to the west and north of Rushall village and the names of some groups of houses reflect the formerly agricultural sites on which they have been built - including the Old Barnyard and the Old Tractoryard; both of these earlier collections of farm buildings were recorded in 1803. However, much of this later building has been infill construction between older buildings, some of which are listed: Amongst these is the colour-washed brick and thatched Old House, which had this name by 1886, one of two farmhouses on the east side of the street. Old House dates from the late 17th century with early 18th century and early 19th century additions. Chestnut Cottage, in Church Lane, is also listed, as The Chestnuts; originally a pair of cottages it is now one house dating from the late 18th century, colour-washed clunch (limestone) and thatched. South of the main road junction where the road from Devizes (A342) joins the village street, there are four pairs of thatched cottages and between 1808 and 1819 a school was built in the area of these cottages. Documents of the 18th and early 19th centuries indicate that a short way along the road to Devizes there stood what was described as an "ornamental cottage". A Baptist chapel stood at the bend of the road towards Wood Bridge and a number of thatched cottages stood opposite and to the west of it. The chapel closed in 1973 and has since been demolished.

Population figures from the beginning of the 19th century indicate that Rushall's population was at its highest in the late 1840s when the figure of 288 was noted in Kelly's Directory of 1848; this figure had increased from 157 recorded in the 1801 census. From the high point of the 1840s began a slow decline in population until the end of the 20th century when, in 1971 and 1981 the figure stood at 109 and 110 respectively. From that time, however, numbers have risen and in 2011 stood at 143. This increase may, perhaps, be the result of continuing increased mobility enabling inhabitants to commute to work and to other activities.

Given the steadily decreasing population in the second half of the 19th century, the number of tradespeople in the parish remained notably stable throughout the years to 1939; these details were recorded in Kelly's Directory, published at four-yearly intervals in the 20th century. In 1848 there were a carpenter, blacksmith, and shopkeeper. In 1867 there were a cattle dealer, surgeon, blacksmith, and shoemaker. On the eve of the Second World War in 1939 there were a thatcher, blacksmith, gamekeeper and a taxi cab proprietor who also served as a cycle agent and had a general store. By this time "motor omnibuses" were passing through the parish from Salisbury to Devizes on a daily basis. In the present day a primary school which was built in 1872 and has undergone substantial refurbishment and extension in the 20th and 21st centuries is an important facility in the village, as is the modern Rushall and Charlton St. Peter Village Hall; however little commercial activity exists in the 21st century

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Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Rushall

Folk Biographies from Rushall

Folk Plays from Rushall

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