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Winterbourne Bassett

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

Map of the Civil Parish of Winterbourne Bassett:

Map of the Civil Parish of Winterbourne Bassett

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:

Winterbourne Bassett, 10 km. north-west of Marlborough, is the most northerly of three rectangular parishes, Winterbourne Monkton, Berwick Bassett and Winterbourne Bassett, which lie across the valley of the upper Kennet. From east to west it measures 5 km. and from north to south, at its widest point, 2 km. The name Winterbourne comes from the small streams at the head of the Kennet and is shared by its neighbouring settlements. The name Bassett belonged to Alan Basset, who was the lord of the manor in 1194.

The stream of the Kennet flows south through the parish, on the eastern side of the village. It is fed by several tributaries, which sometimes disappear underground. Much of the land in the parish is flat, but Hackpen Hill and the downland east of it reach heights above 259 metres. Chalk outcrops over the whole parish; on the ridge of Hackpen Hill it is covered by clay-with-flints.

There have been many archaeological finds in Winterbourne Bassett, although little evidence survives today. The antiquarian William Stukeley, writing in 1743, described a Neolithic stone circle in a field north-west of the church. It was a double concentric row of stones, the outer circle being 234 feet, and the inner being 148 feet, in diameter, with a single stone in the centre. Stukeley, with his theories on Druids, believed this to be a family chapel used by a local archdruid, for whom the Avebury stone circle was his cathedral. Gradually, over time, the stones have disappeared. Stukeley himself mentioned that some of the stones had recently been taken away. In 1972 just six stones were still visible. An archaeological report written in 2003 casts doubt on the location of this monument. It is highly probable that such a monument once existed, but it is thought to be in a field south of a lane leading to Clyffe Pypard. The scatter of stones north of the church are part of a naturally occurring distribution without any deliberate patterning.

Examples of objects found in the parish include Palaeolithic hand axes and flint tools found near Whyr Farm. A Bronze Age dagger was found at Winterbourne Down and a Bronze spearhead at Millbrow. Both items are at the Devizes Museum. A large number of Neolithic flint tools were discovered at Stanmore Copse. This wood is also the site of a deserted, late medieval village, where house platforms are visible.

By 1250 there were three established manors in the parish; Winterbourne Bassett, Rabson and Richardson. They all changed hands many times and further information regarding manorial descent can be found in the Victoria County History of Wiltshire volume 12, which covers Winterbourne Bassett. By 1760 all three manors were in the hands of Henry Fox (created Baron Holland in 1763). In 1938 the manors were broken up and sold as farms, namely Manor and Whyr Farms.

The church of St. Katherine and St. Peter dates from at least the 13th century. It is built of coursed sarsen rubble with corner stones of Corallian Rag. It was restored in 1857 when the chancel roof was raised and new roofs were built over the nave, aisle and transept.

There was a small Methodist community in the village. A brick chapel was built in 1903 and remained open until 1960.

There are just four listed houses in the village. Rabson Manor, which was an endowment of Amesbury Abbey, dates from the early 17th century. The current Whyr Farmhouse, built of limestone ashlar with a slate roof, dates from the early 19th century. A farmhouse has occupied this site since c.1700. Along the Clyffe Pypard road are two cottages in a row, built of brick and sarsen, with a thatched roof. They date from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Manor House is now a farmhouse and was built in the late 18th century of brick with a tiled roof. A house has occupied this site since at least the mid 16th century. A Wilton House survey dating from the 1550s described the manor house as having a hall and a parlour with chimneys. Silver and coin valued at £1,000 were stolen from the house in 1557. In the 18th century the house was rebuilt in brick with an east front and a north wing projecting at the back. A long back range was added south of the wing in the 19th century. The interior was altered then and again c.1970.

Before the First World War the main source of employment in Winterbourne Bassett was agriculture. The 1851 census shows that 289 people were living in the parish in 56 households. Of these, 115 were described as agricultural labourers and they were employed by three farmers in the village. Bartholomew Horsell farmed 700 acres at Rabson and employed 28 people. Susanna Large was a widow farming 600 acres at Whyr and employed 25 people.

The biggest employer was Hopewell Hayward Budd; in 1851 he employed 60 people. Born in 1780, he joined the navy as a midshipman in 1796, serving under Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith until Budd returned home wounded in 1809. The previous year he had married the daughter of a thousand acre farmer at Winterbourne and took on the tenancy after his father-in-law's death. The author A.G. Bradley, writing in his book 'Round About Wiltshire' describes some aspects of Budd's life in very complimentary terms, calling him 'the most energetic and progressive agriculturalist in all this region.' Having a naval background, Budd had no agricultural experience, but he was able to meet the challenge of a large farm and even try new ideas. He was the first farmer in his area to grow the Swedish turnip (swede) and to use machinery.

Budd was also remembered in north Wiltshire for his active part in the suppression of the anti-machine riots in 1830. Several hundred labourers arrived in Winterbourne intent on damage; Budd faced them alone and declared that he would shoot the first man who set foot on his land. No one was brave enough to test him. He also led out his own labourers and a troop of yeomanry in order to defend his neighbours' property.

Budd and his wife Sophia had ten children, including a son named Horatio Nelson Budd. He was still running the Winterbourne Farm in 1851 at the age of 70, but he retired to Calne later in the decade. Hopewell Hayward Budd died in 1869. According to Bradley he was remembered as a 'fine old English gentleman'.

There were very few tradesmen in the village. In the 1875 Kelly's Directory for Wiltshire, the only tradesmen listed were Alfred Parker, who was a grocer and blacksmith, and William Hunter, a shopkeeper and carrier. John Couzens was a baker, grocer and postmaster who first advertised in 1899. He and his wife Harriet ran the business until c.1923. It remained open until the early 1980s.

At the time of the Domesday survey the population of Winterbourne Bassett was approximately 50-90 people. The land supported six plough teams and there were 14 acres of meadow and 20 acres of pasture. There was no mill. The first official figure is in 1801, by which time the population had doubled to 218. It reached its peak of 291 just 20 years later and remained stable for the rest of the 19th century. The two World Wars had a significant effect on the population and the number continued to fall until 1991 when there were 123 people. The 2011 census recorded 159.

When researching the history of smaller villages, it is sometimes difficult to get a feel for what life was like there before the Second World War. If there is little published material, no written memories or photographs, no evidence or sport or social clubs, it is almost impossible to imagine what it was like to live in a small, remote community. Winterbourne Bassett is fortunate in that there are two sources that give us a glimpse into life there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Rev. Henry Harris came to Winterbourne in 1858 and stayed for 39 years. During the Christmas period in 1868 he wrote a book about his village which is now kept at the History Centre in the parish archive. He covers all sorts of subjects: church history, natural history, the weather, census statistics, the Domesday survey and the school. The following are some interesting extracts.

'There is no reading room in the parish but there is a small lending library.'

'There is a day school attended by 28 boys and girls, most of them very young, especially the boys, as the boys find employment in the fields at a very early age.'

'There is a Sunday school at 9.30 a.m. well attended. In the afternoon the elder girls come to the rectory and copy illuminated texts while Mrs. Harris reads to them. They are very fond of this employment and many of them show great skill and taste in their work.'

'There is a night school for boys for 10 to 12 weeks in the winter, 4 evenings a week from 6.30 - 8. This winter there is a larger attendance than usual amounting to an average of 22. This does owe no doubt to the instruction being gratuitous for the first time this winter. In former years the boys paid 2d a week, and even this small sum seems to be more than they can well afford'.

'One source of recreation if not education which is most readily welcomed by the people here is music. About 20 [people] come up to the rectory once and sometimes more times in the week when Mrs Harris teaches them both sacred and secular music. She has done this now for two years and the progress which many of them have made in that time is really wonderful. Two or three concerts have been given during the last 18 months, one in a barn and the others in the schoolroom. Several of Handel's and Haydn's choruses as well as many glees have been executed by the village choir with great precision and effect'.

No doubt the villagers were grateful for any opportunity to help pass what little spare time they had, and to be able to do something that gave relief from the monotony of their everyday lives. The harshness of life in a remote village was highlighted again in 1904, when the wife of the Rev. R.L. Ottley published 'A Modern Boeotia pictures from life in a country parish'. There is no mention of the parish or even Wiltshire in the book, and it was published under a pseudonym, but it was fairly clear to those who lived in the area which village the author was writing about. The book was reviewed in the Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine: 'The book is the work of a keen observer who feels and remorselessly describes the drawbacks, the unspeakable dullness and loneliness of the life in a small, country village, remote from neighbours and the railway station…'

The village was probably a fairly closed community until after World War II. The 1920 Kelly's Directory shows three farms over 150 acres, so most of the men in the village would have worked on one of these farms. Social activities (apart from the White Horse pub) would have been pursued elsewhere; possibly at neighbouring Broad Hinton or Clyffe Pypard, whose populations were approximately twice the size of Winterbourne Bassett. Carrier services operating in the village or from neighbours Avebury, Broad Hinton and Winterbourne Monkton enabled villagers to visit Marlborough, Swindon or Devizes.

Today, most of the parish is still farmland, including over 1,500 acres of arable land. Winterbourne Bassett may be small, but it is a peaceful and attractive part of Wiltshire, no doubt much enjoyed by its residents.

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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.


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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 Winterbourne Bassett

Folk Biographies from Winterbourne Bassett

Folk Plays from Winterbourne Bassett

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 6. There is one Grade I building, the Church of St. Katherine and St. Peter.

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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