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Wiltshire Community History

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Steeple Langford

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 Steeple Langford:

Map of the Civil Parish of Steeple Langford

1890s
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:


Steeple Langford is in the Wylye Valley in Wiltshire, approximately 12 miles south-east of Warminster and 10 miles north-west of Salisbury. The parish is made up of the village of Steeple Langford and the hamlets of Little Langford, Bathampton and Hanging Langford. Steeple Langford was once known as Great Langford.
Around the bottom of the parish sweeps both the River Wylye and a train line connecting Warminster and Salisbury.
Hanging Langford, a hamlet within the parish, is around one and a half miles south from Steeple Langford and can best be described as a “street village”. From the 16th century it also included Little Langford. Houses face each other over a straight street. In 1763, there were 17 farmhouses on the street, while in 1066 it was divided into two, with two manor houses of equal size and with the same amount of land.

Bathampton was often colloquially known as “Batham” in order to distinguish it from Bathampton between Bradford-on-Avon and Bath. Bathampton is smaller than both the Langfords and in 1377 had 60 poll tax payers.

The name “Stupelangford” appeared in 1310 in a document relating to an estate of a John de Ingham. The village has also sometimes been known as “Great Langford”. The name “Steeple” may come from a spire on the church at All Saints, or perhaps because of “staples” which were a form of marking out boundaries and fords.

The parish is very rich with archaeological finds. Artefacts from the Neolithic era have been found, as have nine bowl barrows and four pre-historic settlement sites.
To the north of the parish is Yarnbury Castle which is a circular hill fort constructed between 650 and 400 B.C.

There was a fair at Yarnbury castle on September 23 and 24 granted to Sir Richard Howe in 1718. It was extremely popular and by the late 18th century some buildings had been built to house it. It declined in popularity in the early 20th century and has not been held since 1929.

East Castle is a smaller version of a hill fort and is though to date from the Iron Age.
To the south west is Church End ring and Hanging Langford camp settlements which are late Iron Age and were still in use in the Roman period. Artefacts of note found in the parish include; Saxon and Roman pottery, Roman coins and Neolithic and Bronze age flint tools.

Later settlement and residential growth has always been around the river and the roads; there is a huge amount of the valley which is uninhabited. In Steeple Langford the houses are either around the main road or the charmingly named Duck Street, which is the road which runs to the former ford and bridge. Duck Street itself makes up part of the south-most section of the ancient track known as “The Ditchway”.

In 1377 there were 230 poll tax payers (aged over 14). It grew steadily, with 523 people in 1801 and 634 in 1851. There was then a decline and the population was 410 in 1931 and 517 in 1991.

Grovely Wood, on the hills to the south east of the parish, has an interesting history. It is thought it is the only forest to be mentioned in the Domesday Book. Fallow deer in the woods were said to be the biggest in the country.

Deforesting deprived peasants of their grazing rights, and the only right remaining was to gather nuts. In the early 20th century, a dealer from Wilton came to Steeple Langford and paid 6d per gallon for hazel nuts. It is reported that when William Cobbett came upon unemployed cloth workers from Bradford-on-Avon, who had walked to Grovely to gather nuts in 1773, he was so distressed that he gave up his own supper and breakfast so he could give them food. Three collections of Roman coins have also been found at Grovely.

The River Wylye was traditionally used to power the mills in the parish. There was a mill at Steeple Langford noted in the Domesday Book of 1086 and a corn mill existed at the manor until the 20th century. In the 1500s the mill was rebuilt to include a grist and malt mill. The mill was still known as a grist and malt mill up to 1796. A fulling mill, used in the cloth industry, existed in the 13th century but in the 1290s had fallen down.

There was a mill at Hanging Langford in 1086 and it remained there until the 17th century. It was divided between the two manor houses at Hanging Langford.
There were mills on each of the main two estates at Bathampton in 1086. This changed to a mill only at Little Bathampton until the 20th century. The mills were also used as a way of “drowning” nearby fields to create water meadows.

The main house in Steeple Langford was the Manor House built in the late 17th century. The ground floor and windows were updated in the 19th century, during which time a red brick kitchen wing was added. Several 18th and 19th century cottages line Duck Street. In the 1950s some council properties were also built.

There was a manor house at Bathampton. In the 1550s it was held by the Perkins family; notable because they refused to attend Anglican Church services. The fines which resulted from this were not paid by the family, so between 1590 and 1600 two thirds of the manor was held by the Crown. Another building of note at Bathampton is Bathampton House, built in the late 17th century. There is a date stone of 1694 and the initials FP, meaning Francis Perkins, one of the Perkins family. To the east of the house are 17the century stable blocks and 18th century walled gardens. At Little Bathampton there is Ballington Manor, thought to have been built by the local Mompesson family.

The Salisbury-Westminster line of the GWR was opened in 1856, but a halt at Hanging Langford shut the next year due to lack of demand. This meant the nearest station was at Wylye. “The Railway Tavern” was built to the west of Hanging Langford in the 1860s. This closed down in 1966 after the death of the landlady Mrs Annie Witt. She arrived at the Railway Tavern on 3 August 1914 as a young bride. It is reputed that the level of skill of the darts players inside the pub was extremely high.
The platform of the halt was still visible in 1973. Other inns have existed; there was one called the Bell in 1751.Another on Salisbury Road was rebuilt and given the same name, the Bell, after 1880. This was closed after Steeple Langford was bypassed in 1989.

The centre of village life in the Victorian period was the triangle of land opposite the junction of “The Ditchway” and the turnpike. Here was a churchwarden's malthouse, which later became the post office. There was also a reading room provided with newspapers and books.
In 1898 village life seems to be fairly self sufficient, with a harness maker, two beer retailers, a wheelwright, a postmistress and several farmers listed in Kelly's Directory of Wiltshire. In Hanging Langford, just down the road, there were farmers, a blacksmith, a carpenter and builder, a dairyman and a grocer.

Economically, the focus of the parish of Steeple Langford has historically been farming. Shared husbandry, based on the sheep and corn system occurred through the 18th century; lands were not enclosed until 1866. This would not have changed much since the 11th century. However, the number of people sharing the land had been reduced. In 1838, a single tenant had control of 509 acres. The main farm used in common was Kingston's; this was made part of Steeple Langford manor in 1867.

There was a weaver in Steeple Langford in 1575, suggesting a cloth making industry then despite the loss of the fulling mill at the end of the 13th century.. Gravel was extracted from areas next to the River Wylye in the 1950s. This created three lakes now known as “Langford Lakes Nature Reserve”, and looked after by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust who took them over in 2001. The lakes are now rich in wildlife and with birds in particular. Prior to this, the lakes were used as fisheries.

The poor relief spending in the parish was above average in the 18th century. £139 was spent on the poor in 1775. The parish was incorporated into Wilton Poor Law Union in 1836 and became part of the Salisbury one in 1874.

In 1929, dancers from Steeple Langford were judged the best men's morris dancers in the country after performing at the All England Festival at the Albert Hall. In 2001, the registered population in the parish was 501.

CouncilWiltshire Council
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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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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 Steeple Langford

Folk Biographies from Steeple Langford

Folk Plays from Steeple Langford

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 35. There is 1 Grade I building, Church of All Saints; and 2 Grade II*, Church of St. Nicholas of Mira and Bathampton House.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

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