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Wiltshire Community History

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Wylye

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 Wylye:

Map of the Civil Parish of Wylye

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 village of Wylye is half way between Salisbury and Warminster, 15 km distance from both. The parish lies north-south across the Wylye valley with the river flowing from west-east across its middle. The original parish boundary was defined as early as the 10th century and contained two distinct communities, Wylye and the tithing of Deptford. The land belonging to Deptford was north of the river and Wylye was south of the river. In 1934 the size of the parish increased from 936 hectares to 1,608 hectares when Fisherton de la Mere village and parish was added. The soil is light loam, subsoil is chalk and flint. The chief crops grown were wheat, oats and barley.

The village is named after the river but its origins are uncertain. Wylye may mean 'tricky stream' though it has no direct connection with the adjective wily. Fisherton de la Mere means 'Fishermen's Farm'. John de la Mere held the manor in 1377.

The earliest archaeological find in the parish was a mammoth's tooth dating from at least 8000 B.C. Bilbury Rings or Wylye Camp is an Iron Age hill fort. This has yielded many finds, particularly bronze brooches from Roman times. Another important Roman find was at Deptford Farm. In 1898 two labourers found an unusual, elegant vase or bottle-shaped vessel made of good hard red ware. It is now in Wiltshire heritage Museum at Devizes. A Roman road from Winchester to the Mendips passes through the southern edge of the parish.

The manor of Wylye was held by Wilton Abbey from 1086 - c.1540. From 1547 -1918 it belonged to the Earls of Pembroke. In 1918 the manor was broken up into three farms, Manor, Wylye Down and East farms. Deptford manor was held by the Mompesson family from 1420-1751 and afterwards by the Dukes of Somerset. The history of Fisherton de la Mere Manor is complicated; it is covered in detail in the Victoria County History of Wiltshire volume eight.

The parish church of St. Mary at Wylye was rebuilt in 1844-6, except for the 15th century west tower. St. Nicholas at Fisherton de la Mere was rebuilt in 1833, but there are fragments of the medieval building in the south wall and the suggestion of a Norman chancel arch. This church is now in the care of the Redundant Churches Fund. A Congregational Chapel was built in Wylye in 1860 and remained open until 2001.

There are many listed buildings in Wylye: cottages, houses and farmhouses, some dating from the 17th century. Court Farm was built c.1820, probably by William Small. He ran a successful mixed farm of 200 acres, of which dairying was an important part. A dairy with cheese room above seems to have been built into the original design which appears to have altered very little since it was constructed.

Manor House at Fisherton de la Mere was built c.1840 of limestone ashlar. By 1871 this farm had grown to 1,400 acres. In 2003 it was sold as 'a fine residential, commercial and sporting estate' comprising a manor house, pair of semi-detached cottages, range of traditional farm buildings, Manor Farmhouse and 1,400 acres of land.

Farming was the main source of employment in the village. In 1851 the land in the parish supported six farms ranging from a 200 acre farm employing ten labourers to the 1,700 acre farm at Fisherton which employed 52 labourers. 30% of the population were working on a farm. The village also had all the trades you would expect to find in a self-sufficient village. There was a carpenter, a butcher, a tailor, a blacksmith, two shoemakers and two grocers and drapers. One of the grocers was Jasper Cox, who had a wife and ten children to support.

The census also shows that both the rich and the poor were evident in this community. There were two ladies both described as 'gentlewomen' who each had servants. A farmer had six servants, as did the landlord at the Deptford Inn. The young curate at Fisherton had five servants. In contrast there were 23 paupers, all receiving financial support in the form of outdoor relief from the Wilton Poor Law Union.

The 1901 census shows little change. Some men were employed on the railway and 13 worked as stablemen or stable lads at the racing stables at Fisherton de la Mere (Frederick Hunt's stables).

Wylye was situated on a main travelling route from London to Exeter (now the A303). There were three inns in the village, The Bell, the Deptford Inn and The Swan. Travellers were able to stay at The Bell and the Deptford. The latter was an established inn in the mid 18th century when it was the meeting place of the Deptford club. It was demolished in the mid 19th century. The Swan closed c.1975 when the village was bypassed but The Bell is still open.

At the time of the Domesday Survey Wylye was divided into two holdings, Wylye and Fisherton de la Mere. Wylye was the smaller community with a population of approximately 98; Fisherton was double the size with approximately 200 residents. The first official figure is the 1801 census when there were 352 and 270 people respectively. By this time Wylye was the more prosperous community, with almost 100 more people than Fisherton. It remained the larger parish until 1934 when Fisherton was transferred to Wylye. In 1851 Wylye reached its peak with 510 people, after which it dropped steadily until 1981 when there were just 306 people. The building of approximately 27 new houses in the village increased the population to 409. The figure in 2001 was 419.

Although the 1851 census lists 23 paupers, this was only 3% of the population. The general cost of poor relief in Wylye was apparently modest, according to the Poor Law Abstract from 1804. The parish owned four cottages at Town's End presumably to be lived in by paupers. Expenditure on the poor reached peaks of £507 in 1812 -13, when 30 adults were regularly relieved, and £538 in 1817 -18, but averaged c.£335 between 1813 and 1836. The parish joined the Wilton poor-law union in 1836, after which the poor would have either received outdoor relief or would have gone to the workhouse at Wilton.

There were three charities at Wylye that also helped to support the poor. Elizabeth Mervyn, who died in 1581, gave a quantity of wheat, canvas and cloth. By the late 19th century this had been changed to bread; 495 loaves were given away in 1903. The charity was still paying gifts of money in 1991.

In 1678 Christopher Willoughby gave life pensions of £3 a year to two elderly parishioners. This charity was also still making payments in 1991. A second gift from Willoughby was added to gifts from Robert Hyde and from the parish. In 1793 the combined income of these gifts was supposed to have been used to buy a house at Chequers to be lived in by the poor: a stone inscription to record the charity was erected c.1833. The house was occupied in the 1860s but in 1904 it was uninhabitable.

In the early 20th century there was no doctor living at Wylye; the nearest was at Codford, which was three miles away. The village was also without a nurse, so a lady in the village sometimes sat with the sick or helped to look after them.

Twenty two council houses were built at Wylye in the 1930s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Between 1970 and 1995 nine private houses were built in Church Street and 18 in terraces between Teapot Street and Town's End. The whole village was designated a conservation area in 1975. These new houses are reflected in the population figure, which rose by 100 between 1981 and 1991.

The village still has a church, post office and pub, but sadly the school closed in 1973. Wylye was bypassed in 1975 when a section of the A303 was moved to farm land west of the village. The Swan Inn was a victim of this change as there was no longer enough passing trade to support two public houses.

During the 1980s, Norah Bull, who spent her childhood in Wylye, was interviewed. Her memories paint a vivid picture of life in a Wiltshire village during the 1920s and 30s. Like most villages at this time, Wylye was largely self sufficient. There were farmers, a baker, a grocer and two butchers. Norah also remembered a man who ran a fish round. His fish was sent down to Wylye by train from Grimsby every Tuesday and Friday. Wylye also had a successful motor engineers and haulage contractors business called Smith Brothers. This firm started by supplying coal, coke and firewood, later opening a petrol station and car repair garage. They also charged wireless batteries, and in the 1930s they progressed to wiring houses for electricity.

Norah's father was involved in trying to bring both piped water and electricity to Wylye. Unfortunately he met with opposition. The villagers did not want to pay extra rates when they were happy drawing water from their wells. They felt the same about electricity; the Bull family was one of only six houses that had electricity installed c.1933. Mr. Bull was very keen for his wife to have an electric iron. He paid £3 each year for three lights, one plug and the use of 120 units of electricity.

Wylye's long association with sport goes back to 1798. This was the year that a group of men from Salisbury and their opponents from Stockton met at an inn at Deptford to celebrate the first recorded cricket match in Wiltshire. The Deptford Inn was also the meeting place of the first hare coursing club in Wiltshire, which was formed in 1819. Foxhunting was well established in the county by the 1820s, including the South and West Wilts Hunt. The Wylye Valley hunt was formed in 1919. The river Wylye is a favourite place for fishermen. In the 1950s the river was rented by two clubs, the Wylye Club and the Wilton Fly Fishing Club, both having been formed in the 19th century. There was a football club in the village, many of the players being employed at the railway station. There was also a brass band in existence in the 1920s.

Today, Wylye has a successful village hall at the centre of the community's social life. As well as numerous special events, the hall is used regularly by a wide variety of groups, including karate, morris dancing, pilates and as a meeting place for young children. The Wyvern Hall was built c.1874 and its history is recorded on the village hall website. The hall is well supported and its website shows that the hall is an important part of this community. Although the activities are very different, Wylye's social life is as vibrant today as it has always been.

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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.

Historical Sources: A select list of books and articles is listed in 'Printed material'. You may go directly to the actual text from some of these.

Printed Material: This is a select book-list for the community but in the case of a town there may be hundreds more books, pamphlets and journal articles.

The full text of some items is available to view on this site.

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 Wylye

Folk Biographies from Wylye

Folk Plays from Wylye

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 39. There are no Grade I buildings; and 2 Grade II*, Church of St. Mary and Church of St. Nicholas.

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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