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Wiltshire Community History

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Bulkington

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 Bulkington:

Map of the Civil Parish of Bulkington

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 Bulkington is tucked away on the western side of Wiltshire, approximately five miles from both Trowbridge and Melksham. Until 1866 it was a tything of neighbouring Keevil. The modern civil parish of Bulkington is 974 acres in extent and lies in the clay vale. The land here is flat, about 150 feet above sea level, and is drained by a network of streams. The main stream is the Semington Brook, which flows north-westwards from the eastern boundary of Bulkington; it then passes to the south of the village, forming the northern part of the Keevil/Bulkington boundary. The houses are all clustered along the single street that runs through the village from west to east. The name Bulkington means 'Bulca's farm'.

There are few archaeological remains in the parish. A cluster of boundary stones lie on the north-west corner. Close to Pantry Bridge is Turpin's Stone, which is said to have once had the inscription: 'Dick Turpin's dead and gone. This stone's put here to think upon.' More recently, in 1994, excavations were undertaken in a field just north of Lawn Farm. Although no structural evidence was found suggesting a dwelling, the position of the site on the main road between Bulkington and Keevil and close to the church, coupled with the existence of a sizeable medieval ditch and pit, suggest that there could be remains of early medieval housing here.

A second site of interest is near Brasspan Bridge. Here there is a major ditch feature that appears to represent a hollow way running from the village of Bulkington to the bridge. The Andrews and Dury map dated 1773 shows this trackway and adjacent houses. It is uncertain whether housing on this site dates back to the medieval period.

The remains of the base and socket of the old Parish Cross still stand on the small green in the centre of the village. The war memorial has been added on the top of the base.

The early history of Bulkington shows that there were numerous manorial holdings. This subject is covered in detail in the Victoria County History of Wiltshire volume 8, under the history of Keevil. Most of these smaller manors had merged into Keevil by 1630 when Keevil manor was held by the Lambert family. In 1681 Keevil was sold to William Beach. In 1790 it was held by the only surviving daughter who married Michael Hicks. Keevil remained in the Hicks family until 1911 when the property was broken up and sold as lots.

Another of Bulkington's manors can trace its history back to Peter of Bulkington in 1313. It is probable that this property was given to the monastery in Edington during the mid-15th century. After the Dissolution the Edington manor was granted to George Worth. His son George held Bulkington for over 60 years. George had no surviving sons and in 1625 he settled the manor on the children of his daughter Isabel when she married Francis Merewether. He held Bulkington until 1649 when he divided it into two parts. The house and its land were sold. The farm and its land were given in 1660 to their son Francis. In 1773 this manor was held by the Rev. William Long. It remained in his family until at least 1839 and subsequently formed part of the Gaisford estate.

By 1771 the Beach family, who were lords of Keevil, did not own any land in Bulkington. Much of it had passed to Thomas Gaisford, a member of a noted family in the village. Bulkington stayed in the hands of this family until 1919, when it was sold by J.C. Gaisford St. Lawrence. The estate consisted chiefly of Home Farm, Lawn Farm, Bulkington Mill Farm and Manor Farm. Covering 845 acres in total, the estate was bought in one lot by a syndicate of the tenants.

The present church at Bulkington, Christ Church, was built in 1860 to the design of Thomas Cundy. It consists of a chancel, nave and western bellcot with one bell. There was an earlier church in the village, but little is known about it. A chapel of St. Mary was in existence in the 14th century. In 1576 a chapel of St. Andrew was granted by the Crown to Andrew Palmer and others. This suggests that St. Mary's was abandoned between 1553 and 1576. Nothing further is known about either chapel. Local tradition (as recent as 1914) says that a chapel was at Newleaze, which is west of the church and Manor Farm.

The author Brian Woodruffe, in his book 'Wiltshire Villages', suggests that the church at Poulshot also served the residents of Bulkington, Worton and Marston. A glance at the Poulshot baptism and burial registers shows many references to Bulkington. However, the same is true of the Keevil registers. It is therefore safe to assume that Bulkington families attended church at either Keevil or Poulshot between c.1576 and 1860.

A Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built at Bulkington in 1816. It is a very small stone chapel with a plastered front. In the 1830s it had 50-60 members and neighbouring Keevil also had a chapel with a congregation of approximately 40. The Bulkington chapel continued to flourish until 1967, when it was sold. It is now a private house.

The houses in the village are chiefly 18th and 19th century. On the south side of the street, opposite Home Farm, are several large brick cottages with a pattern of chequer work made using burnt bricks (known as vitrified headers). One cottage is dated 1720. Poplars Farm at the west end of the village is a stone house built c.1770 which has a slated mansard roof. Withdean House, which is built of brick with stone dressings, is dated 1802. Both Manor Farm and Home Farm are of a similar date. There is one house that dates from the early 17th century; the former post office is timber-framed with brick in-filling. The oldest houses in the village are numbers 38 and 40; two detached cottages that probably date from the 16th century. They are both built of rendered timber-framing, one with a tiled roof and the other thatched.

Until the Second World War the main source of employment in Bulkington was farming. In 1851, when the population was 256, there were five men farming a total of 900 acres and employing 45 labourers between them. Many more would have been employed casually. In 1931 there were eight farmers listed in the Kelly's Directory; four of the farms were over 150 acres.

A much earlier industry was cloth production, which was established in the village by 1379 when the poll-tax return listed three weavers. Bulkington Mill, which is a remote building on the eastern parish border, was well established as a fulling mill by 1486. From c.1772-1805 the tenant was Stephen Hillman, a clothier from Devizes. In the 1820s it was owned by William Gaisford, but it seems that the business struggled, as it closed in 1827. The 1831 census notes a drop in the population caused by the recent closure of a cloth factory. This was probably the end of the industry in Bulkington. The mill was later run by farmers Henry and Llewellyn White, who used it as a grist mill. Being a small village, there were not many other small businesses in Bulkington in the late 19th century. There was a smith and a carpenter who both served the farming community. John Rose, and later his wife Maria, ran a bakery and grocery store from c.1871 until Maria died in 1905. The village pub, originally called The Bell Inn, was established by 1822.

Bulkington did not become a civil parish until 1866. Prior to this date it was a tything in the parish of Keevil. There is no separate entry for Bulkington in the Domesday survey so we do not know how big the population was at that time. In 1377 there were 160 poll-tax payers in Bulkington, compared with 200 in Keevil. The Andrews and Dury map dated 1773 shows that they were both well established communities of a similar size.

The first official census figure is in 1801 when there were 326 people in Bulkington. It is not clear whether they all lived in the modern village area; some may have lived in remote parts of the parish. The 6” O.S. map dated 1889 identifies three areas named 'Green', showing evidence of earlier occupation. A substantial house known as Garston House in 1839 existed south of Brasspan Bridge, and a widening of the lane on the southern side of the bridge was still marked as Gaston Green on a map of 1924. Further south, beyond Bulkington Drove and close to the parish boundary were a group of cottages known as Fuller's Green or Fullwood Green which existed until the early 19th century. The third area of settlement was at Bulkington Mill. The 1924 map shows an area south of the stream called Mill Green.

In 1801 the population of Keevil was 466. Both communities were affected by the closure of the cloth factory in 1827, which forced families to move elsewhere in search of work. Keevil reached its peak in 1841 when the population was 505; there were only 268 people in Bulkington. From then right through to the Second World War there were approximately 200 more people living in Keevil than Bulkington. The lowest figure for Bulkington was in 1921, when there were 133 people. New houses were built in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2011 the population was 285 compared with 441 in Keevil.

In the early 19th century, when communities still had the responsibility for caring for their own poor people, Bulkington had two cottages known as Poor's House. After the setting up of the Poor Law Unions the cottages quickly fell into disrepair. By 1885 they were in ruin and the land was sold. The proceeds were put towards the rates.

There was one charity in Bulkington dating from 1723, when Joan White left a yearly rent-charge of £2 on her lands to trustees to pay to poor people in the tithing of Bulkington. In 1833, and still in 1903, the £2 was divided equally among all the poor there over one year old, each share in 1903 being about 4 1/2 d. In 1959 it was distributed among a few elderly people.

The 20th century has seen many changes in village life and Bulkington is no exception. In 1939 farming was still the main source of employment, along with the London Co-operative Society Ltd, who were milk contractors. The village had a grocer, plus a second shop and Post Office. Bulkington maintained strong links with Keevil and joined them for many social activities. Keevil W.I. started in 1940 and is still in existence. The Keevil Flower Show was an important annual event. The Keevil and Bulkington Silver Threads Club (a social club for senior citizens) was founded in 1960 and was still active thirty years later. One notable exception was cricket. The two villages had their own teams and there was a healthy rivalry between them!

Today the village still has its church, pub, hall and playing field. The Well was refurbished in 2009 and is well known for its restaurant. The village hall is an important community building and the committee has recently secured funding to carry out a number of improvements to the hall and the car park.

The village is fortunate enough to have its own playing field. The William Breach Centenary Playing Field was donated to the parish by William Breach in 1996 for the enjoyment of the whole village. It is used for both community events and by individual families for private parties. Highlights of the year include the Sports Day in September, fireworks in November and the Easter Egg Hunt
.
The village website shows clearly that this is a thriving community with plenty of activity. It describes itself as 'giving you the best of all worlds; situated in an idyllic rural location nestling on the edge of Salisbury Plain', close to three market towns and with Salisbury and Bath not too far away. There is a page on the BBC's 'Domesday Reloaded' website entitled 'Home Life in Bulkington'. The author ends by saying 'In most cases, travel to the town is an essential part of our lives, but for many, to return home to the country is something we would not change for anything'.

CouncilWiltshire Council
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Parish CouncilBulkington Parish Council
Parish Web Site 
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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

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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 Bulkington

Folk Biographies from Bulkington

Folk Plays from Bulkington

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 11. There are no Grade I buildings and no Grade II* buildings.

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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