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Wiltshire Community History

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Burbage

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 Burbage Civil Parish:

Map of Burbage Civil Parish

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 Burbage lies to the south of Savernake Forest, a fact which has had considerable influence over this community at many times in its history, and at the eastern end of the Vale of Pewsey. The parish is of roughly rectangular shape, aligned from north to south, containing the villages of Burbage and Durley, the hamlets of Stibb Green and Ram Alley, and various outlying farms. In the north and south the underlying rock is chalk, divided by a wide belt of Upper Greensand across the middle. Sands and clay with flints outcrop in the north. The headstreams of the Hampshire Avon and the River Bourne rise on the greensand. The main village is Burbage, which was originally three strips of ribbon development, Westcourt, Burbage and Eastcourt, which were based on early estates. Durley village was planted on about 230 acres of rough pasture belonging to Burbage. There are now many Savernake estate houses in Durley.

There appears to have been little occupation of this area until Saxon times although artefacts from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages have been found, Iron Age pottery shards were unearthed at Godsbury and objects from a Romano-British grave found in the south of the parish. The Roman road from Cirencester to Winchester via Mildenhall (Cunetio) crossed the north-eastern corner of the parish. Most of the names derive from Saxon and it is most likely that much of the area was forest until then. Durley means a clearing in the forest, while the name Burbage indicates a fortified place on a ridge. Burbage is first mentioned by name in a charter of 961 but it is the ridge rather than the village that is referred to. There was an estate called Burbage in the 11th century and as there was a church and priest in the latter part of the 12th century it is fairly safe to assume that a village existed by the end of the 11th century.

When the Domesday Book was complied in 1086 there were three estates here and a virgate (between 20 and 30 acres) of land for the priest. The size of the three estates was similar in size. Blacheman, whose name is remembered in Blackman's Lane, held 2 1/2 hides of Humphrey de Insula and this was the most valuable of the three at 40 shillings. The other two were held by servants of King William; Richard de Sturmy, whose descendants held Savernake, had 2 1/2 hides, later Westcourt Manor, while Ralf de Haluile had two hides of land. Both estates were worth 30 shillings. There were only 15 families living on the three estates and the total population would have been in the range of 57-67 at this time. Small amounts of woodland survived on each estate and there was meadowland at Westcourt. Arable land in the common fields supported 6 1/2 ploughteams of oxen.

All the estates were within Savernake Forest and were all later held by the Sturmey family. By the early 13th century the important Marlborough to Winchester road passed through the parish, probably along the present High Street where the deep banks on either side bear witness to the eroded greensand caused by many centuries of traffic. Settlement would have grown up on either side of this road, which bypassed the church at Eastcourt, creating three lines of north to south settlement. Settlement at Westcourt was associated with the site of an early manor house while Eastcourt was probably the priest's land. In the early 14th century it was noted that there was extensive open fields and these would have covered between 1,000 and 1,500 acres. The whole parish, except Southgrove Copse in the south was disafforested in 1330. There had been little woodland for at least three centuries but now the area was no longer subject to Forest Law.

No mill was recorded in the Domesday Book and there was probably little surface water. By 1349 there is a miller, who must have dammed one of the streams to collect enough water overnight to power his wheel. The number of poll tax payers (people over 14 years of age) in 1377 was 107, a reasonable number for this period. In 1427 Burbage passed by marriage to Sir John Seymour and has remained in the Seymour, Bruce, Brudenall, and Brudenall-Bruce families ever since. From 1450 land in the open fields was enclosed and sheep were important in the parish with grazing allowed in Savernake Forest for the tenants of both Burbage and Durley. These rights had completely disappeared by 1847.

From the 16th century the course of the main Marlborough to Salisbury road was altered and it now passed along Burbage High Street, providing increased traffic and possibly more custom for the ale house. Land was enclosed at Durley from 1574 and two rabbit warrens existed here. The name Ram Alley was first recorded in 1632 and the settlement doubtless came about from cottages that were built on the waste land. We do not know what early cottages fronted the High Street but some timber-framed ones from the 17th century survive there and also at Eastcourt. John Aubrey wrote that good turnips and peas were grown in the parish in the mid 17th century.

The origins of Stibb Green were in cottages built on wasteland around a triangular green. By 1711 the Duke of Somerset's Arms was open here, it was later called the King's Arms and closed between 1859 and 1867. Open land had been enclosed since the mid 15th century and in 1721 the remaining 922 acres of open fields were enclosed. The road through the parish remained an important one and was turnpiked in 1762. Durley stayed the quiet settlement, close to the Forest with dwellings along the north to south street, with more cottages to the west. There seem to have been a fair number of paupers in Burbage parish in the latter part of the 18th century. A workhouse was established by around 1774 and paupers living there worked at spinning and laundering. Much of the help provided was outdoor relief, helping people living in their own homes. In 1794 the parish bought 74 spinning wheels for people to spin hemp in their houses.

Commercial activities and services provided increased during the 19th century. A school was established in 1806 and by 1833 there were two schools here. In 1809 the Kennet and Avon Canal, passing through the 502 yard long Bruce Tunnel was opened in the northern part of the parish. Burbage Wharf was probably built around 1810 when the canal was fully open providing a waterway from Bristol to London. A revolving wooden crane (now restored) was built at the Wharf in 1831. With its own wharf Burbage would enjoy products such as coal and slate that could not be obtained locally, and also had a means of transport for its agricultural produce. Bricks and tiles were made here in the 19th century. The remaining common land, 213 acres, was enclosed in 1824 and by 1840.

Throughout the first half of the 19th century Burbage was able to support a good range of shops, crafts and trades. The parish became part of the Pewsey Poor Law Union in 1835 and was able to send its pauper inhabitants to the workhouse in Pewsey, a retrograde step for those involved as they would have preferred to continue being supported in their local community. By the 1820s there were two new public houses in the High Street. The Cleaver, which had closed by 1859, and the White Hart. Population peaked in 1861 but this figure was inflated by the men who were building the Berks and Hants Extension Railway Line living in the parish at the time of the census. The railway was opened in 1862, as a part of the Great Western Railway network with a station at Savernake and one in Burbage, near the canal wharf. Today this is the Exeter to London main line. In 1864 a branch line to Marlborough was built to the west of Savernake Station; this line closed in 1933. In 1818 the new Swindon to Andover Railway line was built across the parish creating a second station at Savernake.

By 1875 the New Inn, later the Bullfinch, had opened in the High Street and from 1880 until at least the Second World War the Red Lion beer house was open; it later became a restaurant. In the late 19th century the Three Horseshoes opened as a beer house at Stibb Green, later gaining a full licence.

Village population decreased for nearly 100 years from 1861. In the first half of the 20th century any new building was largely council housing for rural workers, replacing cottages that had few facilities and were in poor condition. In 1926/7 fourteen houses were built at Eastcourt while in 1936 a further twelve were built on the eastern side of the southern part of the High Street. A village hall had been erected in the 1920s and in 1928 the White Hart was rebuilt. Having lost its canal traffic in the mid 19th century Burbage suffered a further blow to its transport services when the railway station was closed in 1941.

Village population reached its lowest point in 1951 but from then onwards, and especially from the 1960s, the village has seen substantial expansion. From around 1950 to 1974 sixty-two council houses were built, mainly to the west of Eastcourt Road. From around 1970 to the mid 1990s over 100 private houses and bungalows were built between Eastcourt Road and the High Street. Building continued in the late 20th century with infill between the older houses in the High Street. Although most shops and many local businesses disappeared during the 20th century stables at Westcourt were used for racehorses and from 1981 were used as kennels for the Tedworth Hunt. Two very beneficial events concerning transport occurred in the 1990s. In 1991 the Burbage bypass to the west of the High Street was opened relieving the pedestrians of the High Street of much of the danger of negotiating its length with little in the way of pavements. This has possibly been the greatest beneficial event for the village since the road was turnpiked over two centuries earlier. Of lesser importance was the re-opening of the restored canal bringing the economic benefits of increased tourism to the area.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
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Parish CouncilBurbage Parish Council
Parish Web Site 
Parish Emailclerk@burbage-pc.org.uk
 

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Population 1801 - 2011

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Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Burbage

Folk Biographies from Burbage

Folk Plays from Burbage

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 64. There are no Grade I buildings; and one Grade II* building, the Church of All Saints.

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