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Wiltshire Community History

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Tilshead

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

1773
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre



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 Tilshead Civil Parish:

Map of Tilshead Civil Parish

1890s
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


From the Ordnance Survey 1890s revision of the one inch to one mile map. The modern civil parish has been superimposed.


Thumbnail History:


Tilshead lies at the head of the River Till west-north-west of Amesbury. The boundaries of the parish are marked by the Old Ditch in the south, south east and south west; a number of mounds in the north of the parish and by roads everywhere else. The river is now just a small stream, and has been known as 'the Till' since the late 19th century but was previously known as 'the Winterbourne' in the 16th century.

The name Tilshead comes from 'Theodwulf's Hide' and was used in the 11th century; it has been known as Tilshead since the 16th century. Chalk outcrops are a feature of the landscape and the downlands reach a height of 152m in the west and the east. Three crosses once stood here, including Cole's Cross in the north and Butler's Cross in the far north as well as a third cross in the south west that was recorded in 1632.

Tilshead was a royal borough in 1086 and had two manors, the north and the south. The North Manor was added to Dole Hundred in the 12th century and by the 13th century South Manor had been added to Whorwellsdown Hundred.

Old Ditch in the south runs for about 3.5km and is crossed by a further ancient ditch which divides the east and west downs. A number of long barrows have been found, including White Barrow which is 233m long and was acquired by the National Trust in 1909. Kill Barrow in the west is 52m long and there are a number of long and bowl barrows in the south and east. Neolithic and Saxon artefacts have been found and there is evidence of prehistoric field systems.

It is likely that Tilshead, from the time of King Alfred, was a prosperous place due to its location in the heart of ancient Wessex. It played host to various Kings of England as they travelled their kingdom, thereby creating a healthy economy. It was established as a centre for wool collection after the Saxons increased sheep farming and therefore supported agriculture as well as a local textile industry.

At the time of Domesday, Tilshead belonged to the King and had to 'render him yearly one nights' lodging for him and his household'; because of this no tithes are recorded as it could not be taxed twice. It is difficult to be sure of the extent of the Tishead land from this survey but it is suggests that it covers a larger area than it does today.
The survey records 66 burgesses which represented between 300 and 400 people living here that were not making a living directly from the land. This implies a level of prosperity as these businesses would be providing supplies for any royal visits and other associated events. Inns would serve the Hundred Court; markets, and therefore tolls would promote trade, and a healthy spinning and weaving industry was producing woollen cloth. Tilshead also included woodland measuring two leagues long and one league broad in 1086, but this has since disappeared. By 1886 the only woodland that existed had been planted in the early 1800s and was added to in the 20th century.
The work of 40 ploughs was expected, according to the survey, although there are only 27 ploughs recorded, and the villains in Tilshead averaged 4 oxen each, to a farm that measured approximately 30 acres. In 1086 four thegns had held land at Tilshead as proved by estate records dated 1242-43. The total population at this time would have been around 650.

Tilshead North Manor was granted by Henry I to the Holy Trinity Abbey at Caen, before 1131, when the grant was confirmed. Caen was free from the jurisdiction of the Hundred by 1255. There were 125 poll tax payers recorded in 1377, a slight drop in population.
The importance and prosperity of Tilshead lessened as the King and royal household gravitated towards the east and London, partly due to the geographical proximity of the continent, and also because William I and Henry I spent more time out of the country. The manor appears to have diminished in size around this time and the Abbess of Caen received North Tilshead while the Nuns of Romsey received South Tilshead. The balance of power in local government changed as the status and power of the sheriff increased and the hundred courts came into disuse as the manor court came into prominence.

Edward I, as an old man, stayed at Tilshead on 3rd May 1302, when two royal letters were issued from there, and it is assumed that he stayed at the manor house located near the church. Caen's Wiltshire possessions were granted briefly to Syon Abbey and then Kings College, Cambridge in 1442, but granted back to Caen by Edward IV in 1461. It was then retained by the crown until 1593, passed to Sir Robert Cecil by 1593 and was then sold off in portions. Giles Tooker held the lordship until 1616 and it was passed down through his descendants, including William and John Gore, coming into the ownership of Montague Gore by 1864. From 1844 the land was beginning to be sold off and some was bought by W.D. Hulbert.
Tilshead Manor Farm was sold to Joseph Jackson who was followed by John Chamings in 1908. He later sold land to the War Department in 1911, and the remainder of this part of the estate was sold after his death in 1920. R.J. Evans, the purchaser also sold to the War Department in 1924, and they owned most of the land by 1991. Land in Tilshead was also held by the Long family of which 200 acres was sold to the Cavendish Land Company in 1905, then to R.J. Farquharson and then on to the War Department by 1933. Other land to come under the War Department's control and ownership included land from the Drax, family sold by Baroness Dunsany, and land owned by Salisbury Cathedral amounting to 94 acres which was sold in 1928. This had come to be in the possession of the cathedral by the enclosures of the late 18th century.


In 1206 Romsey Abbey in Hampshire held one hide and this became known as Tilshead South Manor. It was a narrow strip of land measuring 3 1/2 miles long by ¾ mile wide. Carved off by Henry I to give to Romsey Abbey, it was poor quality land, mainly downland, and difficult to make a profit from, hence the low value of tithes. There is very little information about this manor, partly because it was land belonging to a religious house. However it is known that it was included in the Manor of Steeple Ashton for administration purposes, much like Imber, and this kept down the expenses. It was also in a different Hundred to North Manor and was run by a Bailiff based at the Home Farm.
In 1340 it was mentioned in the 'Nonarum Inquisitions' and made a contribution of 1 1/2 marks in contrast to the 11 1/2 marks from North Manor. This also illustrates less productivity from South Manor. It remained under Steeple Ashton until 1549 when it passed to the Crown and was briefly held by Lord Seymour, until his execution. It was later sold by the Crown in 1629 descending with the Long family estate which eventually sold the land between 1760 and 1780.
South Manor is shown on the enclosure awards on the south side of the main street of Tilshead stretching from opposite the church to the end of the village but no medieval properties remain in this area. In 1780 lands derived from South Manor were sold and passed down to the Mills family who also sold to the War Department in 1897 and 1911. Other land was divided between William Wallis and Thomas Stevens, descending through their families and owned by George Lowther by 1804 then becoming part of Tilshead Lodge estate.
Copehill Farm, owned by the Slade family for a number of generations until 1838, was also sold to the War Department by J.C. Henley in 1934.

Tilshead Lodge Estate was rectangular in shape and dotted with beeches and pines. A cedar still grows near the site of the lodge itself and an avenue of limes and one lilac tree also remain from the original plantation. Built by William, Duke of Cumberland, 2nd son of George II, in the mid 18th century it was bought by the Earl of Godolphin, and then owned by the Duke of Montrose. The 1760 map calls it Tilshead Buildings and it was rebuilt or altered in 1800. The 1773 Andrew and Dury's map shows Robert Fettiplace residing there. A description of 1819 mentions its elegant west front of stone 'finished in a rich style of architecture at an immense expense.'
It was sold to George Lowther in 1802 and let by him in 1813, and then bought by John Long in 1819. It was described at this time as 'one of the finest sporting residences in the county…. 1,015 acres nearly surrounding the village of Tilshead…. a mansion seated at a convenient distance upon an elevated site screened by plantations, it fronts the south with wings. Most substantially built, equal to accommodation of an extensive establishment…….elegant stone front, finished….at immense expense…. stabling for eleven horses, secondary stabling for six horses. Double coach house, granary, large enclosed kennels. Gardens, orchards, lawns fall from house with quantities of flourishing timber. Good game preserves.”

Between 1830 and 1907 it was owned by the Watson-Taylor family of Erlestoke and by the 1900s by Mr. Farquharson who trained racehorses. He was a popular landowner and flowers grown by his wife, Mrs. Farquharson, were sent to a London florist twice daily. The house had nine downstairs rooms including a drawing room and billiard room with highly polished oak floors scattered with rugs, and accommodating good furniture and paintings. A large number of staff were employed including nine indoor servants and twenty men outside who helped with the stud and training of the horses. The property was sold in 1934 after the death of Mr. Farquharson while on his way to a race meeting at Newmarket. Tilshead Lodge was then rented by Lady Bonham and the land rented out locally. The lodge was requisitioned by the army during the Second World War and had Nissan huts erected in the garden as well as a number of alterations to the interior. By the end of the war the house itself had deteriorated and it was eventually pulled down in the early 1950s leaving no trace. The whole area was by this time in military use.

The population of Tilshead according to the census from 1801 was 327 rising to 523 by 1851 and then dropping by 1871 to 467 due to emigration. A map from 1807 shows 54 households in the parish. From 1891 to 1921 the population was less than 400 but rose to 610 by 1931, due to the fully occupied military camps in the area. By 1951 it peaked at 989 and then dropped again as National Service was abolished. By1961 it was 314 and 343 in 1991.

The area has relied on the local farming industry for employment. In the 11th century there were a number of mills and they would have been powered by water, suggesting a much faster flowing stream than today. The mills were kept busy grinding corn, some brought in from outside the immediate area. In 1341 the vicar was entitled to tithes from these mills and the tenant of North Manor in 1517 was a miller, which suggests a certain level of prosperity.
Occupations listed in the parish registers in the early 1800s are mainly connected with the land and these include yeoman farmers, millers, a maltser, a carrier, a farrier, gamekeeper, shepherds and labourers. Land close to the village was used for arable farming with the upper downlands being used for pasture. Today and in contrast, most of the rough grassland is used by the military.
Two downland farmsteads were established, one on Copehill Down in the early 19th century as well as East Down Farm and in 1886 there were farm buildings scattered in the north east and north west as well as cottages in the south west corner, but all of these were demolished in the 20th century.
A windmill was built south west of the village around 1773 and demolished in 1904; it was a thatched building with a wooden post construction and some of the timbers, after demolition, were used to repair the church.
There were two pubs in the 1750s; The Crown is mentioned in 1822, probably now the Rose and Crown, and the Bell was situated south east of Candown Road and is recorded in 1814, but closed by 1939. The Black Horse at the other end of the village was in operation in 1848 and 1991 and is now a private residence.
By 1865 there was a baker, shopkeeper, blacksmith, at the west end of the village, and boot and shoemaker, as well as the agricultural trades you would expect.
Hare coursing took place regularly and in 1820 a hare warren existed near the boundary with the neighbouring parish of Orcheston St. Mary. The first Wiltshire Coursing Club, formed at Wyle had its first meeting at Tilshead Lodge in 1819.
A Hawking Club also had its Headquarters in Tilshead in 1924-25 and the Royal Artillery and Wyle Hunt met at the Black Horse.
The Tilshead Pipe Company existed in the 1970s and 1980s and produced hand made briar pipes in a small factory in Candown Road, but is no longer in operation. In its heyday its pipes were seen being smoked by such stars as Bing Crosby, Tom Selleck and Arnold Scharwarzenegger. Its James Upshall model was considered one of the best in the world and at its peak the company produced 315 pipes a week with the most expensive costing £1,200.

The main London to Bridgewater road crossed through the south of the parish in the 17th century; the main Salisbury to Bath road crossed the south west corner, and another Salisbury to Bath road, crossed the north east. This was turnpiked in 1758 and disturnpiked in 1873. The main Devizes to Salisbury road also crossed the parish adjoining other roads on the eastern side. Minor roads connected Tilshead to West Lavington and Shrewton and also across the downs to Netheravon, Codford St. Mary and west to Imber. The military usage of the land meant many road closures occurred and the West Lavington via Tilshead and Shrewton route became the main route from Devizes to Salisbury by 1900.

The Till has a gravel bed and nine mud walled properties, a common type of construction in the mid 19th century, were destroyed by a flood in 1841 In 1842 two cottages were built to help the flood victims, on the south side of the High Street. Monies were raised by national subscription and rents from these cottages formed part of an endowment to help the poor; this charity also helped Shrewton and Orcheston. Tilshead received one seventh of the income which amounted to £7 in 1901 and this was distributed to the poor and used to provide sheets for 45 people. By the mid 20th century this income was used to maintain the cottages and in 1991 they were converted to almshouses.
Another charity from the will of John Parham of 1876 gave £200 to buy blankets for the poor. From 1899 £6 p.a. was spent until 1939 and then in 1990 four beneficiaries received £5 each.

Lands in the east of the parish were bought in 1897 by the War Department and had become artillery ranges by 1910, reaching towards Larkhill. The area to the west was later included within Imber. Tank training takes place regularly and during the First World War there was a Kite Balloon school at Tilshead. By the Second World War a landing ground had been made to the west of the village. West Down North Camp was established by 1903, replaced by West Down Camp by 1925, and there were many temporary camps as well, usually tented, between 1918 and 1945. Some military buildings that had been built north of the village were demolished by 1982.

The Church is situated north of a triangular green space at a road junction. The road is wide suggesting the earlier borough street plan and north and south of the junction are the North and South manors, the probable sites of the demesne lands.
In the 18th century there was development to the west for about 500m along the high street and also south along the Shrewton road as far as a farmstead referred to as 'The Island'. 17th century houses are situated along Candown Road and in 1760 there was definite settlement there. Lanes lead off from the High Street, both north and south, and between 1760 and 1814 a few small cottages were built in the centre of the road junction south of the church.
Some 17th century buildings survive in the High Street and west of the church is a late medieval timber framed house with four bays. Bell Cottage and the Black Horse on the south of the high street may have 16th century origins. The Dean and Chapter house on the north side was built in the 17th century but refronted with brick in the 19th century and South Manor and Hooper's Farm are also 17th century, as well as Slades Farm in Candown Road and Lower Farm.
The North Manor was built in 1800 and extended in the19th century and there was some new building in Candown Road from 1773 to 1814.
Tilshead House, red brick and three storied, was built in 1820 for Richard Norris on the west side of Shrewton Road.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, building included a chapel and school. Drax House dates from1900 and May Villa from 1901. Six council houses were built either side of the road at the western end, originally known as 'Townsend' they later became known as West End by 1939. There is also a commercial garage opposite.
Newer buildings include two bungalows, ten council houses in Imber Place in early 1949 and eight more added in the 1970s, as well as a number of bungalows in that area. Accommodation for older people was also added in the 1970s.
Between 1957 and 1982 the buildings in the centre of the triangle were demolished and in 1991 the camping and caravan site was established. The village hall is situated on the north of the high street near the church and was originally the school.

Unusually the Tilshead landscape is different from other places as the effect of the leasing of land by the War Office demonstrates. The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw enclosures increase, as determined by an act of parliament; in the case of Tilshead this was almost reversed as the land came into use for military training purposes a century later. Fences were gradually removed and most of the downland reverted to grass, returning the landscape to its pre-enclosure appearance. It also had an effect on farming by making it unviable and therefore reducing the number of farms by the end of the 20th century. As land had to be grazed once a year according to a clause connected with the War Department use, beef cattle were used as well as sheep. Building and development were also extremely limited and restricted due to the military use. The centre of Tilshead was designated a conservation area and so here also development was curtailed. There are now about 140 houses in Tilshead and a Primary School which teaches about 40 pupils. The village has a garage with a shop, and a Post Office. There is a shared newsletter with three other parishes and an informative village website.


CouncilWiltshire Council
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Parish CouncilTilshead Parish Council
Parish Web Site 
Parish Emailtrudiejames@btinternet.com
 

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Population 1801 - 2011

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Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Tilshead

Folk Biographies from Tilshead

Folk Plays from Tilshead

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