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Wiltshire Community History

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Bremhill

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 Bremhill:

Map of the Civil Parish of Bremhill

1896
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


From the Ordnance Survey 1896 revision of the one inch to one mile map. The modern civil parish boundary has been superimposed.


Thumbnail History:


The parish of Bremhill contains a collection of smaller parishes in valleys with Bremhill prominent on a hill. The smaller hamlets are Tytherton Lucas, East Tytherton, Foxham, Charlcutt, Spirthill, Stanley and Bremhill Wick. It is in the Diocese of Salisbury, Archdeaconry of Wiltshire and the rural deanery of Avebury. The village lies two miles north west from Calne and four from Chippenham.

Bremhill is located on Wick Hill, a corallian escarpment which falls sharply to the valley of the river Avon. The geology is from the upper oolite, providing loam, brash and clay soil. The Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal ran through the centre of the parish from the north east to the south west.

The name Bremhill seems to have its' origins in the name 'bremel', meaning a collection of brambles, although it has previously been called Breomel (937), Bremleshill (1226), Bremhill, (1468), Bremyll (1540). 'Hill' is not original and is thought to have developed due to the village being situated on a hill.

Athelstan gave Bremhill to Malmesbury Abbey in 935. The Domesday Book included the manor of 'Breme' and at the time of Edward the Confessor assessed the parish at 38 hides. It was one of the donations of King Edgar. The chief crops grown in the 1870s were wheat, barley and beans. The area covered 5,920 acres and the population in 1871 was 1,286. This had fallen to 700 in 1982.

In the 1650s a beautifully wooded park-like knoll stood opposite the parsonage windows called Pinnell's Knoll. It is in the possession of the Marquis of Lansdowne, forming part of the Bowood Estate. Pinnel was the name of one of the church wardens, Jeffrey Pinnel, in the 1590s when records began. There are also parcels of land called Jenkins', from churchwarden Robert Jenkins in the 1590s.

Two miles south west of Bremhill was Stanley Abbey, a Cistercian monastery, founded 1154. It was also the site of the earliest known fulling mill, recorded in 1189. There is also the preserved Hazeland Mill in the parish, situated between Bremhill and Stanley. The present mill dates from the early 18th century. The original was part of the estates of Malmesbury Abbey, recorded as a grist and tucking mill in 1534. The freehold was held by the Bayntun family of Spye Park from the 17th century and it was recorded as a cloth mill until c.1835 and as a grist mill until 1965.

Most of the houses in the parish are two storey rubble or brick buildings with thatched or tile roofs. Bremhill is no exception. A late medieval barn is present, of ironstone rubble with a steep roof. There is a 17th century farmhouse, rubble stone with a slate roof. North east of the Church and by the intersection of two roads stood the Glebe Farmhouse, of 17th/18th century. Opposite stood a small Victorian school, built 1846, rubble with a stone slate roof. The schoolroom has a coped west gable with bell cote. In the open space between the church and Glebe House stood a medieval 'Wayside Cross' and adjacent grew a large oak tree. There is also a well house in the village of a fish scale design and a tile pyramid roof. To the north of this are rubble thatched cottages. East of the church are Victorian buildings with high pitched roofs, weather boarding and dormers. The 19th century Bowood Estate cottages are rubble with brick dressings and tile roofs.

Bremhill Court was the former Vicarage and home of William Bowles, the poet and 'frightened eccentric'. The house has a 15th century core but is 17th century with alterations made by Bowles in the 1820s. It is gabled with mullioned windows on the façade and a gothic trim. There is also a parapet, turrets and pinnacles. The gardens were based on Shenstone Leasowes 60 year old outdated design. Thomas Moore said Bowles had 'frittered away its beauty by grottos, hermitages and Shenstonian inscriptions'. Sheep wandered in front of the terrace wearing bells tuned into fourths and fifths.

St. Martin's Church is an Anglican Church built c.1200. It was restored in 1850. The north west of the village contains more modern development.

Dumb Post is a small hamlet containing an 18th century inn of rubble stone with a tile roof. It has 15th century origins and was altered in the 19th century. It got its name because there was originally just a post for a sign to the hamlet with no name on it. There are also other rubble stone buildings with timber framing and red brick thatched roofs present in the hamlet.

Charlcote is one and a half miles south west of Bremhill and contains an 18th century cottage of rubble stone with a hipped thatch roof. It had a Sunday and day school with 40 pupils in 1846.

East Tytherton is situated in a valley and clusters around the rectangular green edged by a grey stone manor. The 17th century cottage has a timber frame and is painted brick with a corrugated iron roof. The 18th century saw the Moravian Society established in the village, with a Church, Manse and Church cottage, and the community joined the Moravian Brethren in 1745. A new home for the single sisters was built 1785-6 and in 1792-3 the former Chapel and manse were rebuilt. The present buildings were built 1792-4 and are red brick with ashlar dressings and stone slate roofs. The Chapel is single storey and two 2 storey houses are attached at each end. There is a small timber bell cote at the east end of the manse. The buildings to the left are in Flemish Bond brickwork and to the right are English Bond. The Chapel was founded in 1792-3. The church cottage appears to be the girls' school, added in 1793-4 and extended or altered later. In 1871 a school was erected for 50 children but had about 70 pupils. The Church still retains its original organ and gallery inside. Other buildings in the village are 19th century houses of rubble stone with ashlar dressings and slate roofs.

Foxham is five miles north by north east from Chippenham on the River Avon and strays along lanes with strips of common on either side which widens into a long rectangular green, grazed by cattle in the 19th century. The area of housing lies around this green. St John the Baptist Church was built in 1878-81 by William Butterfield but an Andrews and Dury's map of 1773 shows an earlier church on the site. It is of squared rubble stone with ashlar dressings and a stone slate roof. There is a 16th century rubble stone farmhouse with brick re-fronted walls and a slate roof. The 17th century manor house of the Hungerford family stood on an adjoining moated site to Cadenham Manor. The present one was extended 1920-30. It is in ashlar with stone slate roofs. Cadenham Manor was the estate of the Hungerford family c.1500-1712. It was bought by Edward Hungerford in 1468. John Evelyn stayed there in 1654 but John Aubrey stated it was in a ruinous state in the 1670s. The 18th century farmhouse is, again, of rubble stone with a tile roof. There is a farmhouse which adjoins a former lock of the disused Wilts and Berks Canal. Foxham had a Sunday and day school in 1846 with 100 pupils, built by Lady Lansdowne.

Spirthill (also called Sperthill or Spurthill) lies two miles south west of Bremhill. There is a 19th century farmhouse with an ashlar façade re-fronting an earlier building and a former Wesleyan Chapel, dated 1828, of red brick with a painted roof.

Stanley has a 17th century (possibly medieval) farmhouse, made of rubble stone with a Bridgewater tile roof. It adjoins the site of Stanley Abbey. There are other 17th and some 18th century thatched cottages of rubble stone and a farmhouse, extended in the 19th century with a slate roof. The mill house is of mid 19th century but does include earlier work. It is of rubble with a slate roof. The south front has a centre door at the first floor level and an arched headed opening to the right. Stanley Lane has a former turnpike house on the London Road c.1830-40. It was extended as a farmhouse in the mid to late 19th century. It is of red brick with ashlar dressings and a slate roof. The original cottage was single storey.

Tytherton Lucas has a few cottages and one or two farms. The Anglican parish church, 13th century, was rebuilt in 1802 and again in the mid 19th century. It has its original rubble stone masonry and a stone slate roof. A 16th/17th century manor house has been altered around 1700 and is of rubble stone with ashlar dressings and a hipped Bridgewater tile roof. There is also a stable. The 17th century farmhouse was altered in the 18th century. It is timber framed with rubble stone, red brick and a slate roof. Scott's Mill Farmhouse was part of the estates of Stanley Abbey. Before the 16th century the mill was let to H. Goldney, clothier 1526 and J Scott 1554. A mill building stood on the opposite side of Marden until it was demolished in 1987. There is also a range of 19th century farm buildings of red brick which is an unusually intact example of a 19th century farmstead.

Bremhill Wick now only has a scattering of cottages and farms with a small modern development. It is below Bremhill on the bottom side of Wick Hill.

There is a monument to Maud Heath (created in 1838 at the expense of the Marquess of Lansdowne and William Bowles) on Wick Hill, half a mile north west of the village. Maud Heath was a prosperous woman of Langley Burrell who was concerned about the conditions for local people bring produce to sell at Chippenham market. In 1474 she made a deed of gift giving trustees land and property in Chippenham to make and maintain a causeway from Wick Hill to Chippenham Clift.. The bridge pillar at Kellaways is inscribed: 'To the memory of the worthy MAUD HEATH, of Langley Burrell, widow, who in the year of grace, 1474, for the good of
Travellers did in Charity bestow in land and haufes about
Eight pound a year forever to be laid out on the Highway and
Causeway leading from Wick Hill to Chippenham Clift. This
Pillar was fet up by the Feoffees, 1698. Injure me not'.


Apart from this well known gift for the good of the parish, 1692 is the first recorded entry for poor law, and was given to old men and poor widows. The amount for that year for 22 people was 21.7s.8d. per month. In 1827 the cost was over £2,000 per annum (Bowles, 1828, p.199). A Friendly Society was formed in 1770 with 75 members paying one shilling per week. If a member was sick or unable to work they would be given six shillings a week. The society lapsed over time but in 1979 the Friends of St. Martins were founded to promote 'public interest in and enjoyment of the Church, its history, work and activities'. The Dumb Post Friendly Society was founded in 1770. Members met every six weeks. Each member spent some money and put the rest in a box. Fines also provided extra income. The fund gave sickness benefit for three months and a small amount for the rest of the illness. The money was also used for burials and money to be spent at the Dumb Post Inn on the day of the funeral, which members were required to attend. There was also the Festival Day on Whit Wednesday. After dinner members had to walk to the 'Bell and Organ' at Bremhill, walk around the cross twice and have a short pot of beer each time. Each member had to pay for it. There was no public house at the site in 1962. A field path was known as Parade Walk because of an old ceremonial walk between Bremhill and Dumb Post. Other societies included one called the 'Tatter Arm', at the 'Pig and Whistle' in Bremhill.

The Wilts and Berks Canal ran through the centre of the parish from the north east to the south west. The canal was completed in 1810 at a cost of £250,000 and ran from Abingdon on the Thames to Semington on the Kennet and Avon. It ran through mainly agricultural land and was 52 miles long; its main use was for transporting coal. One of the reasons for opening the canal was to extend the area in which coal from the Somerset pits could be sold but unfortunately the Somerset coal pits could not provide enough coal for the demand. If the pits produced 2,020 tons a week, 1,389 went down the Somersetshire Coal Canal but only 500 tons reached the Wilts and Berks Canal. The canal was not a success and only paid dividends to its shareholders for about 10 years. De Salis managed to navigate the Wilts and Berks Canal in 1895 but nine years later he said that although the canal was not officially closed, the system had 'practically ceased owing to the income being insufficient to meet the cost of maintenance'.

William Bowles was Vicar of the Parish from 1805-1844. He was a friend of Thomas Moore and a member of the Bowood Circle. He gave encouragement to other poets and Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey all had a high opinion of him. His sonnets were first published in 1888 and ran to nine editions. They influenced a whole school of poetry. Coleridge and Lamb were first attracted to poetry through them when aged about 17. He wrote sonnets and epitaphs, which can still be seen, for the graves in his churchyard whilst at Bremhill but a great deal of his own poetry was derided. He was in demand at Lord Lansdowne's Bowood House parties; he could always say something 'out of the ordinary' and he introduced many writers to the Marquess of Lansdowne. He once fell and injured his arm hurrying to meet Madame de Stael. She expressed proper concern but he staggered to his feet saying he would have been happy to endure even greater pain in order to see so great a curiosity! He was appointed to a Prebendal staff in Salisbury Cathedral in later years and he carefully measured the height of the Spire and its distance from his house to be sure that he'd be safe if the spire fell!

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Population 1801 - 2011

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Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Bremhill

Folk Biographies from Bremhill

Folk Plays from Bremhill

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, of architectural or historic importance is 92. There is one Grade I building, the Church of St. Martin, and four Grade II* buildings, the Moravian church, Manse and church cottage, the Church of St. John the Baptist, the Church of St. Nicholas and The Manor Farmhouse.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

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