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Wiltshire Community History

Sedgehill & Semley Search Results

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Sedgehill & Semley

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.

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 Sedgehill & Semley:

Map of the Civil Parish of Sedgehill & Semley

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

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

Thumbnail History:

The formerly discrete parishes of Sedgehill and Semley were united in 1986 to form the current civil parish of Sedgehill and Semley, which lies approximately 21 km. west of Salisbury.

The northern boundary of the enlarged parish adjoins East Knoyle. The north-south boundary of the extreme east of the parish, adjoining Tisbury parish, runs along a narrow lowland corridor between the two parishes. In the south-east the parish boundary follows the course of the River Sem and in the east the course of the river Nadder. The southern boundary adjoins the parishes of Donhead St. Mary and Donhead St. Andrew. This boundary follows approximately the watershed of the Nadder and the Sem; the northern edge of Castle Rings, an Iron-Age fort in Donhead St. Mary is incorporated within this boundary. Part of the south-western boundary with Dorset also follows the course of streams. The north-western boundary with Mere parish appears to have been defined by 16th century enclosure.

The former Sedgehill parish formed part of Dunworth Hundred and measured 1,185 acres; it lies on Kimmeridge Clay, a soil particularly suitable for use as pasture and meadowland. Variations on the name, such as 'Seghull[e]' and 'Segghull' were recorded from 1241 and it is likely that the parish name signifies 'a hill where sedge grows'.

The former parish of Semley formed a detached part of Chalke Hundred as part of the lands of Wilton Abbey in that hundred. Kimmeridge Clay outcrops over much of the former parish, although in the south gault and upper Greensand outcrop. Here, at Hatts Hill and Little Hill, the land reaches heights of over 240 metres. In the south-eastern corner of Semley lie deposits of alluvium from the rivers Sem and Nadder; in this area too there are outcrops of calcareous sand from the Portland Beds.

This article will proceed to describe the history of the formerly separate parishes.

In Sedgehill parish to the west of the Warminster to Shaftesbury road tributaries of the river Lodden flow north and west; east of the road tributaries of the Sem flow north-east. In the north west of Sedgehill parish pastures were used in common until the later 16th century; here the land is marked by the presence of numerous small ponds. The land in the former Sedgehill parish is mostly flat, lying at approximately 91 metres. in the north-west of the parish and at approximately 120 metres. in the east. The central portion of land at the southern boundary is higher at some 150 metres. The Warminster to Shaftesbury road itself lies on the course of a prehistoric ridgeway. It was turnpiked in 1753 and disturnpiked in 1877.

Settlement in Sedgehill has always been of a dispersed nature with farmsteads and hamlets linked by a network of lanes, of which one in the south of the parish led to Mere. The church was built in the centre of the parish.

There is little evidence of prehistoric activity although a triangular earthwork with ditches on two sides lies in the south-west of the former Sedgehill parish. From the earlier 20th century this has been known as the 'Castle'. The course of the prehistoric ridgeway has already been noted.

Sedgehill was not described in the Domesday Book. From at least the mid 11th century - if not earlier - the land may have been part of Shaftesbury Abbey's Tisbury estate. Certainly, in the early 12th century Sedgehill manor was an estate of the Abbey. It is known that the Abbey held some 120 acres of land, possibly in demesne, cultivated partly by means of labour services owed by 10 tenants who themselves worked a total of some 5-6 yardlands.

After the Dissolution the Shaftesbury Abbey estate was granted by the Crown to Sir Thomas Poynings in 1540 and was immediately sold by him to Sir Thomas Arundell; the manor remained in the latter's possession until his execution in 1552 when the Crown granted the manor to Richard Audley. After the sale of the manor by Audley to William Grove in 1573 it descended through successive generations of the Grove family to Sir Walter Grove, who died in 1932. The executors of Sir Walter sold Corner Farm and Lower House Farm in 1933 (Sedgehill, later Church, Farm had been sold from the manor in 1657).

Sedgehill parish contained some 16 farms prior to 1558; with the exception of Hall Place (later East Hayes) Farm these were held of the manor. From 1558, however, some 10 or more of the farms were sold. At this date the parish's common pastures were in the north-west part of Sedgehill and in lanes and strips bordering the roads in other areas of the parish. In c.1574 some 212 acres of pasture were enclosed and portions of the land divided between 11 farms. Some wide verges of lanes were not enclosed and remain common to the present day.

By the first quarter of the 19th century Sedgehill contained 19 farms, twelve of which measured less than 50 acres. Larger farms included Butterstakes and Higher Sweetwell Farms, each comprising between 50 and 100 acres; and Sedgehill West, Sedgehill (later Church) Farms and Goods (Later Lower Sweetwell) Farm; each measured between 100 and 150 acres. By 1837 a process of agglomeration had begun, in which Woodhouse and Pitts Farms and were merged under the latter's name, and now measured 170 acres; Berrybrook, Whitemarsh and possibly Butterstakes farms merged under the name of Berrybrook (162acres); Sedgehill West, East Hayes House and possibly another farm merged as Lower, or Lower House Farm (219acres). In addition to these, Sedgehill (later Church) Farm and Lower Sweetwell Farm remained at over 100acres. Higher Sweetwell and Corner Farms comprised between 50 and 100 acres; several other farms comprised fewer than 50 acres. A William Bracher owned the 10 acre Westmarsh Farm but was also tenant of Corner and Pitts Farms, which totalled 219 acres.

In the earlier 19th century there were some 670 acres of pasture land within small fields in the parish maintaining 100 sheep and 187 cows, and some 328 acres of arable land, also in small fields. Arable cultivation was proportionally greater in the east of the parish but diminished as the century progressed until, in 1916, only pastoral land remained. Sheep grazing was also reduced until none existed in 1906. At this point there were approximately 10 dairy farms although of these only Church Farm and Berrybrook comprised more than 150 acres; in 1954 there were 12 farms and in 1984, ten.

Much of the woodland that is recorded as being in existence in Sedgehill parish in 1582 had been converted to pasture and meadow by the end of the 16th century, although a small section remains today on the eastern boundary of the former parish; this is known as Abbey's Wood recalling the former ownership of land in the parish.

Listed buildings in Sedgehill include Church Farmhouse, which dates from the 17th century, with 19th century alterations; Pitts Farmhuose, built in the 18th century and extended in the early 20th century. Higher Sweetwell House, c.1700, is also listed, as are Berrybrook Farmhouse of the late 17th century and Sedgehill Grange, of the early 19th century. The Victoria County History of Wiltshire Vol. 13 states that in the late 20th century both Church Farm and Higher Sweetwell House each retained a 16th century plan of three rooms and cross passage.

Hays Farmhouse was in existence in the later 16th century. Corner Farm, in the north-east section of Sedgehill, was in existence in the early 17th century. The dairy of Pitts Farm, in the north-west of the parish, was incorporated into Woodhouse Farm in 1837. Woodhouse Farmhouse had been subdivided into three cottages by 1846; by c.1915 it had been converted to two cottages. The buildings are no longer in existence. Berrybrook Farm, in the south of the parish, had become Berrybrook House by the late 19th century and Sedgehill House by the earlier 20th century. The 18th century farmbouse previously named Whitemarsh Farm is now known as Berrybrook Farm. A house known as The Rectory between 1826 and 1908 was renamed Gunville House and in the late 20th century Sedgehill Grange. A house named Sedgehill Manor was built east of Butterstake Lane in the early 19th century.
Peake's Farm, on the southern boundary of the parish, was rebuilt in stone in the earlier 19th century.

Between 1801 and 1981, when the population of Sedgehill was still being counted separately, the number of inhabitants did not exceed 235; it reached this figure in 1831, having risen from 199 in 1801. By 1931 it had decreased to 120 but had grown again to 162 in 1981. By 2001 the combined parish of Sedgehill and Semley had a population of 647.

The name of the former parish of Semley is likely to derive partly from the name of the River Sem which flows through the parish; the name 'Semeleage' was noted in 917 AD. The former parish was rectangular and measured 2,985 acres. The fact that it is a detached part of Chalke Hundred is due to its earlier ownership by Wilton Abbey which held the lordship of an estate of 100 small dwellings known as Chalke from c.955, granted by King Edwy in that year. The Abbey continued to hold the manor of Semley until the Dissolution when it passed to the Crown.

The soil of Semley parish is primarily Kimmeridge Clay, although there are outcrops of Gault and Upper Greensand in the south where the land rises to over 240 metres at Hatts Hill and Little Hill. The north of the former parish is flat and mainly lies below 130 metres. There are outcrops of Calcareous sand in the south-east of the parish, together with alluvium deposits of the rivers Nadder and Sem. In the 19th century and possibly before that date water meadows were developed beside the River Nadder.

Small pools lie at scattered points in the parish whilst three large pools are fed by the Sem. Some of the pools have now been drained.

The road from Warminster to Shaftesbury runs north to south across the western section of the parish. This road was turnpiked in 1753 and disturnpiked in 1877. From this road another runs westward to Motcombe, in Dorset. Another north-south road crosses the eastern part of the parish from Savage Bridge to Donhead St. Andrew. From the northernmost part of this road another runs eastwards to Tisbury village. Between the two north-south roads there is a network of lanes, as in the former Sedgehill parish, which link hamlets and farmsteads as well as Semley village itself. Alongside many of the lanes in the parish, the wide verges remain as common land. A road running north-east from Semley village to Pythouse passes through pasture land which appears to have formed part of the park of Pythouse itself.

The Salisbury to Gillingham section of the Salisbury & Yeovil Railway opened in 1859 and crossed the parish, following the river Sem and turning south-west from the village. Semley station was opened in the same year, closing to goods traffic in 1965 and to passengers in 1966.

There is little evidence of prehistoric activity but Semley appears to have been a parish by the late 12th century. The minimal findings of prehistory include a bowl barrow, which was found 250 metres north east of St. Leonard's church. Evidence of two Roman roads has also been found, one taking a route from Dorset in the south east of the parish north-westwards to Bath, and the second running southwards from Gutch Common.

Semley is not named separately in the Domesday survey and is assumed to have been recorded amongst Wilton Abbey's holdings.

As in Sedgehill, settlement in the parish was likely to have been of a dispersed nature, although in Semley village itself the building of the church in c.1191 led to a loose arrangement of houses in its vicinity. The church was built close to a crossroads on apparently common land and around Church Green, which lies north of the church and remains open today, the scattered settlement of housing developed. Wide verges separate these houses from the adjoining roads. North of Semley village alongside the Pythouse road, traces of a possibly medieval moat have been identified.

The settlement known as Sem Hill developed at the crossroads of a road leading west from Semley church and north and south of the river Sem. By 1773 Musters Farm and Amberleaze Farm were at or in the vicinity of Sem Hill, the former dating from the 17th century.

Other foci of settlement include Huggler's Hole in the extreme west of the former parish, straddling the former parish border with Sedgehill. Two other hamlets lie partly in the former parish of Semley: Gutch Common straddles Semley and Donhead St. Mary and St. Bartholomew's Hill, Semley and Donhead St. Andrew.

In 1541 Semley manor was granted to Sir Edward Baynton, whose son restored it to the Crown in 1572. The manor was then granted to Matthew Arundell, whose son Thomas was created Baron Arundell of Wardour in 1605. Disputes over entitlement to hold the manor of Semley took place in the 1630s but in 1649 the manor was finally declared to be the property of Henry, Baron Arundell and it then descended with Wardour castle, Tisbury and the Arundell title to James, Baron Arundell who died in 1834. In 1839 Semley manor comprised some 550 acres which descended with the lordship of the manor and the Wardour estate until 1946. The influence of the Arundell family's recusancy and the importance of Wardour as a locus of Roman Catholic worship was reflected in the comparatively high number of Catholics in Semley and other nearby parishes: in 1780, Semley's 43 Catholic inhabitants represented the fourth highest number in any Wiltshire parish.

Between 1806 and 1820 John Benett of Pythouse bought 441 acres of Semley and by 1849 his estate in the parish comprised 1064 acres.

The manor of Northouse was amongst lands conveyed by Richard of Trow to William de Northo and his wife Christian in 1330; however, the manor's lands had been divided and sold by 1580. Some of these lands were held in 1580 by Thomas Benett; these descended through the Benett family until 1688 to John Pettredge and then passed to several owners until 1792 when Thomas Benett of Pythouse purchased them and they subsequently became part of the Pythouse estate.

Two other portions of Northouse manor descended through inheritance and sale through a diversity of families recorded to the late 20th century. Other estates in the parish included Chaldicotts and, Ansells, Oysters, Callis Place and Whitebridge Farm.

In 1773, Andrews and Dury's map shows that there were some 20 small farmsteads in the parish in addition to those located in Semley village and the other hamlets of the parish. In 1839 the largest of these farmsteads was Westwood, of 230 acres; nine other farms comprised over 100 acres, seven 50-100 acres and ten comprised 20 - 50 acres only.

Agricultural activity in the parish has primarily been that of dairy farming, and only a possibility of an open arable field has been evidenced. Until the mid 13th century the low-lying pasture between Semley and Sedgehill churches was known as Whitemarsh; together with the upland pasture between Semley and the Donheads this was shared by Wilton Abbey, the lord of Semley manor and tenants, by Shaftesbury Abbey, and by the lord of Sedgehill and Donhead manors and their tenants. After 1241 the areas of pasture allocated to Semley were not enclosed and some 800 acres of common pasture lay in the parish in the late 16th century. Between 1599 and 1769 approximately 500 acres of pasture were enclosed; it is believed that this enclosure process may have been concentrated on the hills in the south of the parish which were used for sheep grazing although by 1769 nearly all cattle pasture west and east of the Warminster to Shaftesbury road had also been enclosed. In the present day strips of common pasture for cattle remain in common alongside the Warminster - Shaftesbury and other roads in the west of the parish, and also alongside lanes in the southern section. Approximately 40 acres of the 300 acres of common pasture in the south-east of the parish were known in 1769 as East End Common and used by tenants of Semley manor; the remaining 260 acres were used by both freeholders and by leaseholders of the manor. Until 1922 use of common land in the parish was regulated by Semley Manor Court, after this time a common master was appointed annually by people with grazing rights; by the end of the 20th century little grazing took place on the commons and the role of common master was not in operation.

A certain amount of arable farming has taken place in the parish however. In 1839 some 1,000 acres of land were used in this way and in addition approximately 200 acres existed as woodland. However, at the opening of the 20th century agricultural activity in the former Semley parish was primarily taken up by small dairy farms although by 1910 some of the smallest farms had been incorporated into larger units and only two comprising fewer than 50 acres survived; still none exceeded 260 acres. By 1985, however, Church Farm comprised 500 acres to the north, east and south-east of Semley church; the farm maintained a herd of 380 cows for which feedstuffs were grown on the farm's land. At this date Hook Farm, comprising some 266 acres, was also a dairy farm with some arable. On other farms in the late 20th century beef cattle and sheep were maintained at Westwood Farm, with intensive pig breeding taking place at Whitebridge Farm. At Hart Hill Farm and part of East End and Bowmarsh farms, operated as stud farms.

One of the oldest buildings in the parish is Church Farm, which contains features from the late 16th century. East End Farm also incorporates sections of a similar date. Hook Manor and farmhouse date from the 17th century; houses of the 18th century include Conduit Farm, Leggat's Farm and Hatt's Farm. Farm buildings and domestic dwellings continued to be constructed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The 1831 census shows that of a total of 145 families, 127 were engaged in agriculture, supported by a number of trades and craftsmen and women. Furthermore, in c.1871 Thomas Kirby set up a business in which he purchased milk from local farms and sent it to be sold in London; for this purpose a depot was built near Semley station. Other depots were subsequently opened by Kirby outside the parish and by 1889 these were trading as Semley and Gillingham Dairies and from 1890 as Salisbury, Semley and Gillingham Dairies Co. Ltd. The company was acquired by United Dairies (Wholesale) Ltd. in 1920 which had built a factory at Semley by 1924; the factory was closed by 1985 although some buildings were used as a store by St. Ivel Ltd., a subsidiary of Unigate which had succeeded United Dairies.

Other trading interests existed in Semley during the course of the 20th century; of three coal merchants in existence in 1903 and 1911, J. Wescott & Sons was still in operation in 1939. A car breaking and spare parts business was begun on Church Green by H.S. Langford and this continues at Semley Business Park close to the former station in the 21st century. A number of light industrial units sustaining local employment and business opportunities also operate at Semley Industrial Estate in Station Road and at the small Whitebridge Industrial Estate.

The Railway Hotel was built in 1860 and opened on the north side of Station Road in 1865; in 1935 it was renamed the Kingsettle Hotel. To the east of East End Farm another inn existed in 1886, known as the Butcher's Arms. The Benett Arms dates from the 17th century and today the Chequered Flag Inn is also located in Station Road. In 1955 the Kingsettle estate of 14 council houses was built west of Station Road.

In the early 19th century spending on the poor of Semley parish was higher than elsewhere in Chalke Hundred. A workhouse was built after 1811 and poor relief expenditure peaked in 1812-1813. Semley became part of Tisbury poor-law union in 1835 and the parish workhouse was sold.

The population of the parish in 1801 was 493 and this increased until the 1880s when it started to decline. The population slightly rose again in 1951 to 500. However, in the 1960s and 1970s the population fell again, until in 1981 it stood at 432. This was the last census year in which a separate count for Semley parish took place. In 1974 Semley fell within the remit of Salisbury District Council and since the inception of Wiltshire Council unitary authority in 2009 has been within the latter's South Area.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilSedgehill and Semley Parish council
Parish Web Site 
Parish Emailsedgehill.semleypc@gmail.com

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Population 1801 - 2011

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Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Sedgehill & Semley

Folk Biographies from Sedgehill & Semley

Folk Plays from Sedgehill & Semley

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