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Wiltshire Community History

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Wilcot

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 Wilcot:

Map of the Civil Parish of Wilcot

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:


The parish of Wilcot lies within the Vale of Pewsey. It is north-west of Pewsey, six miles from Marlborough and eight from Devizes. Irregular in shape, the parish is crossed by the scarp of the Marlborough Downs which renders the central part too steep for arable farming. Upper and Middle Chalk outcrops are found in the north around Draycot and Oare, but in the southern part Lower Chalk outcrops and Upper Greensand are suitable for pasture or arable farming. The eastern part of the parish lies on valley gravel.

Settlements within the parish have included Wilcot, Oare, East Stowell, Draycot Fitzpayne, Stone Bridge and Rainscombe. However, East Stowell and Stone Bridge were both deserted during the 19th century. The high number of settlements in the parish meant the tax assessment for Wilcot in 1334 was the fourth largest in the hundred. A similar position was reached in 1638. In 1801 the population stood at 567. It reached a peak of 702 in 1851, declined to 494 in 1901 but later recovered to 555 in 1971.

Two ancient roads cross the parish. Hare Street, running from Marlborough to Upavon passes through Oare and Workway Drove is part of the Pewsey-Avebury road. Hare Street derives from Herepath, a Saxon word meaning a military road. (literally warpath). The two roads intersect just east of Wilcot Green. In the Middle Ages, a gallows stood there. The Kennet and Avon canal crossed the parish in 1807, and in 1862 Pewsey railway station was built. When the canal was built, it ran through land owned by the Wroughton family. This was permitted on the conditions that the canal should be widened to create an ornamental lake, now known as Wide Water, where it passed near their house and the company build an ornamental bridge over it. The bridge, built by John Rennie and known as Ladies Bridge, is listed. The ladies referred to were Susannah Wroughton and her daughter, also Susannah.

There is little evidence of prehistoric settlement at Wilcot. The name of Wilcot is first mentioned in 940. The village grew around the church and manor house mentioned in the Domesday Book, when the population would have been between 160 and 180 people; it was owned by Edward of Salisbury. He was succeeded by his son Walter, who founded Bradenstoke Priory. Walter's son Patrick gave the manor of Wilcot to the Priory and it remained in their possession until the dissolution of the monasteries. At the dissolution it was granted to William Allen, he sold it to John Berwick. After his death his wife gave it to her daughter Anne, wife of Thomas Wroughton. The Wroughtons held the manor until the early 19th century when the male line died out and the land passed to the Montagu family who also took the name of Wroughton upon acquiring Wilcot. The estate was broken up and sold between 1900 and 1919. During its early history Wilcot seems to have been small, its tax assessment for 1334 is lower than that of Oare and among the lower totals in the hundred. It later expanded, in 1377 there were 86 poll tax payers (aged over 14 years) and by the 16th century it was the largest village it the parish.

Listed buildings in Wilcot include several groups of monuments in the churchyard, the church and the manor house with its dovecot. Other listed buildings in the village are mostly houses or cottages of late 18th, early 19th century origins, including the school, the public house and the post office. The manor house, built on the site of the excellent house (domus optima) mentioned in the Domesday Book, is a large, irregularly shaped building. Its oldest parts date from the 17th century but it was extensively altered in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is built of brick, with a tiled roof. The house was briefly occupied by the actor David Niven around 1950. The present vicarage, built 1969, replaced a Victorian building which succeeded a smaller building, supposed to have been haunted in the 17th century by a continually tolling bell, a 'debauched person's' revenge on an uncooperative vicar.

Early settlement was in lower part of Wilcot street around the church and manor house. During the 18th century cottages were built to the north of the village on the higher, better drained land around Wilcot Green. Settlement around Wilcot Green continued throughout the 19th century. In 1746 there was a pub called the Swan on the south corner of the green, replaced about 1859 by the Golden Swan at the east corner. The village possessed a forge and a school was built in 1841.

In 1265 Bradenstoke Priory was responsible for local government in Wilcot and Stowell, though the rest of the parish was under the jurisdiction of the hundred court. No records survive of this period. Later, the Wroughtons held a manor court responsible for local matters, for example, obstructions of paths, fire hazards and encroachment on common land. The court oversaw the pound, the stocks and regulated land use. Records for this court exist from 1704-1829. Oare and Draycot did not fall within its jurisdiction. From at least 1609 there were two churchwardens, one from Wilcot or Stowell and one from Draycot or Oare. The accounts are extant from 1696-1878. The overseers for the two halves of the parish kept separate accounts, which were combined at the end of each year. Their records exist from 1715-36, 1769-90 and 1800-1816.

Prehistoric earthworks and archaeological discoveries on the high ground above Oare indicate ancient settlement. These include an Iron Age or Romano-British hill-fort and an early Iron Age midden. Neolithic and Bronze Age objects have been found near Draycot, as have ancient barrows and ditches on Draycot Hill. There is also evidence of Romano-British settlement there. The most important Romano-British settlement found in the parish was an industrial colony of potters in the north of the parish who, in the mid-first century, produced pottery for the army and later for civilian markets. The grey, lumpy pottery produced is known as Savernake Ware and has been discovered at Roman sites throughout southern England.

Oare was known by that name in 934. Oare, with Draycot, was held by one Roger from Geoffrey, bishop of Coutances in 1086, when around 50 people would have lived on the estate. The land passed to the Berkeleys and was held from them by the family of Cotel. The land was held by the Cotels until around 1327 but was held subsequently by the Paulton family. Before 1442 William Paulton settled the manor on his daughter Gillian at her marriage to John Cheney. Oare remained in the Cheney family until 1742 when it was sold to Henry Deacon. In 1757 he died without issue, his wife remarried and the land passed to the family of her second husband, the Goodmans, who held it until the estate was broken up in 1893. Oare House was built in 1740 for Henry Deacon and altered mid 19th century and again in 1921-25 by the Portmeirion architect Clough Williams-Ellis. It has a summer house designed by I. M. Pei, architect of the Louvre Pyramid.

The village was built along both sides of the Marlborough-Upavon road, a pattern of development which has been maintained. In 1830 incidents of machine wrecking and rickburning occurred in Wilcot and Oare. Mechanised threshing machines were destroyed in protest against the unemployment their use caused. In 1834 another case of arson in Oare devastated the leading farm there. A labourer, Charles Kimmer was caught by a Bow Street Runner, there being no local police force, and was hanged for the offence. A sermon entitled Satan's workshop was preached in Wilcot church to discourage further attacks.

A church was built in the village in 1858 and a school may have been built at the same time. The school was certainly present by 1859. The village also possesses a post office. During World War II the war cabinet met there at Oare House, the owner of which, Sir Geoffrey Fry, was private secretary to two Prime Ministers, Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin. The Old Oxyard, a house of mid-seventeenth century origins, lies on the east side of the street and was for some years the home of the noted historian G. M. Young, Honorary Editor of the Victoria History of Wiltshire from 1947 to1953 and member of the Wiltshire Victoria County History Committee until his death in 1959.

In 1086 Draycot was held with Oare by Roger from the Bishop of Coutances. By 1304 it was held by the Fitzpayne family but in 1376 John Fitzpayne sold it to John Skilling. The owner in 1545 was the second wealthiest man in the Swanborough hundred. Draycot Fitzpayne remained in the Skilling family until the 1750s when it was sold to John Craven. It was temporarily forfeited during the Interregnum for recusancy. The land was sold early in the 20th century to William Strong. He sold it in1918 and in 1923 it belonged to Leonard Swanton. Neil Swanton sold the farm to Sir Philip Dunn in 1970. The hamlet of Draycot appears to have always been small, its tax assessment for 1334 was small and it contained only 20 poll tax payers in 1377. Only the lord of the manor and his seven servants were listed for taxation in 1523. Subsequent assessments continue this pattern.

East Stowell was large enough to be separately assessed for taxation, but only at a very low sum. The village had increased in size by the 16th century and remained considerable until the early 19th century. At this time the Wroughton family built Stowell Lodge, a grand house with a park surrounding it. The creation of this park involved the destruction of East Stowell village. The majority of the population were moved to Wilcot Green. Not all of the cottages came within the park but the site was deserted by 1838 at the latest.

The settlement of Stone Bridge stood at a crossing of Ford Brook. There was a hamlet there in the 1730s including a smithy. The site was inhabited throughout the 18th century. However, the hamlet was deserted by 1807 when the canal was built close by. In 1970 the site was overgrown.

The village of Rainscombe was transferred to the parish of Wilcot in 1885. At this time it had a population of about 35. A farm in the area was owned in the 1930s by the politician and agriculturist Anthony Hurd, who was ennobled as Baron Hurd and whose son Douglas held important posts in Margaret Thatcher's government.

In 2011 Wilcot had a population of 515 and in 2006 won the Best Kept Village in Wiltshire Award. The village is home to a cricket club, which plays against local sides. Wilcot is set within a designated 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' and has a 4 Diamond rating from the English Tourist Board. In 2000 John and David Philpott discovered a hoard of 1,166 Roman coins dating from the fourth to early fifth century at Wilcot. Described as the Stanchester Hoard, after a nearby Roman villa of that name it was designated a treasure trove by the coroner and The Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes acquired the hoard for £50,000. The find was considered important due to the high number of unclipped silver coins it contained. It was also the latest dated example of Roman coins found in Wiltshire.

Oare is busy due to its site along the A345. The area is popular with walkers and the Mid Wilts Way Long Distance Walking Route passes through the village. The Giant's Grave at the eastern edge of the village offers views over the village and Pewsey Vale. Oare House is situated at the western edge of the village and the gardens are open to the public twice annually. Rainscombe Park on the northern edge of the village is the location of the annual Wiltshire Steam and Vintage Rally, usually held in June or July. The village is also home to a New Orleans-style ten-piece jazz band, Kennet Vale Brass. The childcare group Oare Kids provides care to up to 24 children of pre-school age.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Emailcustomercare@wiltshire.gov.uk
 
Parish CouncilWilcot & Huish Parish Council
Parish Web Site 
Parish Emailclerk@wilcotandhuish-pc.gov.uk
 

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

Schools: Information on both current and closed schools.

Population 1801 - 2011

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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.

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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.

 

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 Wilcot

Folk Biographies from Wilcot

Folk Plays from Wilcot

History of Buildings: The collections of the Wiltshire Buildings Record are housed in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.

Listed Buildings: There are 69 bulidings, or groups of builings, listed as being of architectural or historical importance is 31. There is 1 Grade I building, Oare House; and 2 Grade II* buildings, The Church of the Holy Cross and Wilcot Manor House.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

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

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