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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 Stockton:

Map of the Civil Parish of Stockton

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 parish of Stockton is in the Wylye valley in south Wiltshire. It is 18 km from Salisbury and 13 km from Warminster. The boundary forms a rectangular shape with the river Wylye forming the whole of its northern border. It measures 4 km from north to south and 2.5 km from east to west. In 1934 when the parish of Fisherton de la Mere ceased to exist, the village of Bapton was transferred to Stockton, thereby increasing the size of Stockton considerably from 2,122 acres to 3,296 acres. The village of Fisherton was transferred to Wylye.

The village of Stockton is in the north of the parish and its main street runs parallel to the river. The Wilts. Somerset and Weymouth railway was built by the G.W.R. just south of the village and opened between Salisbury and Warminster in 1856. Wylye and Codford were the nearest stations and both closed in 1955. The remainder of the parish is mostly open downland with Stockton Wood crossing the southern boundary.

The geology of the parish is typical of the Wylye valley, being a mixture of gravel, clay-with-flints and chalk. The pattern of land use is also typical, with pasture and arable land on the gravel, a mixture of arable and rough pasture on the chalk and Stockton Wood on the clay-with-flints. The name Stockton probably means ‘an enclosure or farm made of stocks’ (wooden posts). Bapton means ‘Babba’s farm’. This may well have been the same man who gave his name to Baverstock, which is about six miles away across the down.

There are a few barrows in Stockton but the most important archaeological site is Stockton earthworks. This is a British village covering some 100 acres that dates from the pre-Roman Iron Age to the late Roman Period, suggesting at least four centuries of almost continuous development. Excavations have revealed a series of interlocked enclosures for livestock, suggesting that Stockton was a farming village and possibly a minor market. The site has also yielded many finds, including Bronze brooches dating from the early Iron Age and Roman periods.

The southern boundary of Stockton parish is formed by part of the Grovely Grim’s Ditch. This ditch runs for nine miles in Wiltshire and forms large parts of the boundaries of the twelve parishes it passes through. It was probably dug in the Saxon period and was intended as a boundary marking the extent of the Saxon territory.

In 1205 the manor of Stockton was held by the Bishop of Winchester to help support the monks of St Swithun’s. After the Dissolution the manor was among the estates given to the dean and chapter of Windsor. By 1547 it was in the hands of the Earls of Pembroke who in 1585 sold it to John Topp, a citizen and merchant tailor of London. The last Topp heirs were two sisters, Susan Everard and Christiana Lansdown. In 1749 the manor was divided into two, the manor itself and Lower Farm. The manor was sold to Henry Biggs in 1772 but Lower Farm was not sold to the Biggs family until 1841. A Biggs nephew named Major.-General Arthur Yeatman succeeded in 1877 and he took the additional name Biggs.

In 1898 the manor passed to H.W. Yeatman-Biggs, who bought Glebe Farm in 1898. This gentleman had a very successful career in the church and was bishop successively of Southwark, Worcester and Coventry. He sold the manor in 1921 but passed the farm on to his son. The land associated with Stockton manor has been held by the Stratton family since 1950; the Strattons have farmed Kingston Deverill since the mid-19th century. Both families are still in residence.

The manor of Bapton was sold in 1627 to John Davis, a yeoman from North Wraxall. The property remained in the Davis family, who eventually acquired Fisherton manor and almost all the land in Fisherton and Bapton, until 1871. It was then sold to Joseph Deans Willis and stayed in his family until 1927. They lived at Bapton Manor. In 1927 the house was occupied by Major Dunbar Kelly who was the agent to the lord of the manor, Sir Cecil Chubb. During the Second World War it was occupied by the military.

The parish church of St. John the Baptist is built of ashlar and has a chancel with north vestry, a nave with aisles, north porch and west tower. Rebuilding work took place in the chancel, north aisle and south aisle in the 1840s. In 1879 there was a general restoration of the whole church. In the later 18th century and the early 19th there were a few dissenters, and in 1812 a house was licensed for meetings. There was a small school for dissenters’ children in 1859 and there were three families of Independents in 1864, but no nonconformist chapel has ever been built in the parish.

Stockton has many houses and cottages dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, but the earliest listed building is Long Hall. This house dates from the 15th century and by the 1600s was known as Lower Farm. There are two smoke-blackened trusses in the roof of the main east-west range that have survived from the medieval house. In the 16th century a massive chimney stack and a first floor were added. In the 17th century wings were added to the south side. In the late 18th century the north front was refaced in red brick. Short wings were added to the east and west sides in 1900. In 1923 more extensive kitchen and service quarters were added on the south and west of the west wing which had most of its floors and walls removed to form a new dining room and picture gallery. Since this time the house has been the home of the Yeatman-Biggs family.

Stockton House is a Grade I listed Elizabethan country house, built in the late 1590s by John Topp. The walls are of banded flint and stone. Within the building are the remaining walls of the medieval hall which are nearly three feet thick. In 1802 Sir Jeffry Wyattville designed a new staircase and redecorated several small rooms. Between 1877 and 1882 extensive restorations and additions were carried out by the architects Edmund and E.B. Ferrey but in the early 1930s most of their decorations were removed. Several antique fittings, including an early 16th century fire-place in the hall were added.

The interior of the house is exceptionally rich in plasterwork and fireplaces. One example is the White Drawing Room which is completely Tudor. It has panelled walls, a plastered ceiling and an ornate fire-place with the family coat of arms of John and Mary Topp centrally placed. On the first floor the Great Chamber has a superb plaster ceiling showing the animals, fruits and flowers of paradise. Adam and Eve are shown over the ornate Tudor fire-place. A bedroom known as the Shadrach Room has a plastered ceiling and a highly carved fire-place that illustrates the Old Testament story of the Three Youths in the Fiery Furnace.

The Old Rectory is a substantial Georgian house set in 1.75 acres of ground. It was built in 1799 for the Rev. Henry Good who was Rector of Stockton from 1789-1824. The house is built of brick and has two storeys plus three attic rooms. The accommodation consists of a double drawing room, dining room, sitting room, study and kitchen. On the first floor are five principal bedrooms and two bathrooms. There is also a former coach house and stables.

Bapton Manor dates back to the 17th century (if not earlier) when the east end was built. To the west of this is a block dating from the 1730s with a stone front that has five windows. In the 19th century a single storey addition was made to the left and an extension to the right in the 20th century.

Until the Second World War farming was the major source of employment. The 1851 census shows that Sarah Patient, a widow, was farming 960 acres and employed 32 labourers. Thomas Compton farmed 670 acres and employed 24 labourers. The population was 300 and there were 61 households; most families would have contained at least one agricultural labourer. John Fleming kept a shop and William Haines was a grocer and draper, enabling the villagers to buy locally the small number of items they would have been able to afford. By 1901 John Gay was the only farmer at Stockton Farm and would have been the major employer. Other forms of employment were beginning to appear. There was a road man and four men who worked for the G.W.R.

The population of Stockton in 2011 was 204. This figure is very close to those for both 1801 and 1901, with various fluctuations in between. The highest point was 307 people in 1841 and the lowest was just 177 in 1931. The building of ten council houses and four council flats contributed to the sharp increase between 1931 and 1951 from 177 to 268 people.

The earliest indication of the size of the population is the Domesday survey taken in 1086 when there were approximately 54 people living in Stockton. In 1377 there were 140 poll tax payers aged 14 and over. The next available figure is from 1676, when the Bishop of London sent out a voluntary survey to all parishes requesting the number of people aged sixteen or over who were Church of England, Roman Catholic or Non Conformist. A return was sent for Stockton giving a figure of 120 people who were all Church of England. There were 78 baptisms during the period 1660-76 of whom approximately 25 did not survive until adulthood, making an estimated total of 173 people living in Stockton in 1676. The first official figure for the whole population was the census taken in 1801 by which time it had risen to 234 people.

The residents of Stockton were fortunate enough to have a fine alms-house built for them. It was founded c.1645 by the trustees of John Topp who died in 1640 and left £1,000 to benefit the poor. The alms-house was built round three sides of an enclosed courtyard to house six people in separate pairs of rooms. The accommodation was increased to eight by the addition of north and south wings in 1714. In the 19th century it was reduced to six people again to save money, following extensive repairs to the building. The inmates were aged over 60 or infirm, single, respectable and poor. They were given fuel, a cloak each year and a weekly allowance. Married people were not admitted until as recently as 1977. Today the almshouses are still occupied by local residents or people from Codford St Mary.

The biggest change to the parish in the 20th century was its increase in size in 1934 when the 1,174 acres of Bapton land were added to it. The 1910 Inland Revenue map shows that the small area of land north of the road through the modern parish belonged to Fisherton de la Mere Farm. The much larger area to the south (approximately 1,000 acres) belonged to Bapton Manor.

The 1885 Kelly’s Directory for Wiltshire shows that Stockton had all the trades you would expect to find in a farming village. There was a blacksmith, a carpenter and a wheelwright. The villagers also had a shop, a carrier (who would take you to Warminster or Salisbury) and two beer retailers. By 1903 very little had changed. The Rt. Rev. H.W. Yeatman-Biggs was in residence at Stockton House and he was able to employ a farm bailiff, a gardener and a gamekeeper. In 1935 the farming trades had gone, but the village shop was still in the Farley family after more than 50 years. A second shop and Post Office had opened and as well as Glebe Farm and Manor Farm, Miss Weston was advertising as a poultry farmer.

Bapton had its own shop, which had opened in the mid-19th century and there was also a smithy. A Reading Room opened sometime between 1901 and 1910. No doubt there was some interaction between the Stockton and Bapton residents, as Stockton had a pub and Bapton had a Reading Room. In 1910 there were 28 households in Bapton.

Stockton villagers would probably have looked to the neighbouring village of Codford to provide the services that they didn’t have themselves. These would have included access to a doctor (if they could afford it) and a wider range of shops. They may also have joined in some of the social activities; for example, Codford had a Women’s Institute. Stockton did, however, have its own social life, some of which was led by William Yeatman-Biggs, who lived at Long Hall after his father sold the manor in 1921. He was president of the Stockton and Wylye Players, having converted one of his barns into the Barn Theatre. He was also president of the cricket club. This information came from the Yeatman-Biggs archive held here at the History Centre. It is a treasure trove of written history, paintings and photographs started by the Rev. Thomas Miles in 1847 and continued by William Yeatman-Biggs until his death in 1952. It gives a unique insight into village buildings in the mid-19th century, moving on to more modern newspaper cuttings and photographs.

In 1951 the population of Stockton was 268. Some of the residents would have been employed on the farms, but many would have travelled to Warminster to work. From 1951 through to 2001 the population dropped steadily, as more people moved out of the village to find work and affordable housing. A colour photograph published in Country Life magazine in 1951 showed the main street on a summer’s day and all the houses were thatched. Stockton is still a very attractive village today. I will conclude with a description by W.H. Hudson in ‘A Shepherd’s Life’ (published in 1910). Stockton was one of five small villages between Wylye and Sutton Veny described by him as ‘of the old, quiet, now almost obsolete type of village, so unobtrusive as to affect the mind soothingly, like the sight of trees and flowery banks and grazing cattle’.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilStockton Parish Council
Parish Web Site 
Parish Emaillengs@robertpearson.co.uk

Churches: Information on both current and disused churches and chapels.

Schools: Information on both current and closed schools.

Population 1801 - 2011

Photographs: If images have been added for this community they are available here.: We hold a collection of over 50,000 photographs of places in Wiltshire in the County Local Studies Library. These may be viewed at this library and copies of out of copyright material may be purchased. We can search for a picture of a building or event if you e-mail us with details.

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The Victoria History of Wiltshire (opens in new window) is a partnership between local authorities and the Institute of Historical Research at London University. The History of Wiltshire is now the largest county history in the country and is still growing. The volumes are divided between general and topographical with Volumes One to Five covering subjects such as prehistory, ecclesiastical, economic and political history. The Volumes from Six onwards are topographical and will ultimately provide a comprehensive and systematic history of every single town and parish in the county.

(opens in new window) Explore Wiltshire's Past web site

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.


Maps: listed are maps on which you can find this community. All maps are Ordnance Survey maps.


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 Stockton

Folk Biographies from Stockton

Folk Plays from Stockton

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 or historic importance is 41. There are two Grade I buildings, the Church of St. John the Baptist, and Stockton House, and one Grade II* building, Long Hall.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

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

Literary Associations: Some communities have featured in novels or may have been the main setting for a book.

Registration Districts: If you want to obtain a copy of a birth, marriage or death certificate you can contact the local registrar.


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