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Wiltshire Community History

Charlton (North Wilts) Search Results

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Charlton (North Wilts)

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 Charlton (North Wilts):

Map of the Civil Parish of Charlton (North Wilts)

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 Charlton is in the north of Wiltshire and is around two miles to the north east of Malmesbury and 11 miles south west of Cirencester. It is a street village which lies within a large rectangular parish of approximately 4,766 acres. It is surrounded by open fields on either side. The road which runs through the village is the B4040 which connects Cricklade and Malmesbury; this runs on an east and west axis. The Cirencester and Malmesbury road running north and south just bisects the west of the parish.

Charlton Park lies on the edge of the parish and is the seat of the Earl and Countess of Suffolk and Berkshire. The land of the parish is a mixture of Kellaways clay to the south, Cornbrash to the west and limestone in the village itself.
The land is mainly flat and even, with a high point of 107 metres above sea level and a low of 76 metres. Some cottages in the village are constructed from Cotswold stone; Charlton is in the far north of Wiltshire and not too far from Cotswolds landscape. The village was designated a conservation area in 1973.

In the Domesday survey it is recorded that Charlton belonged to the Abbot of Malmesbury. It notes that there were 23 villagers and 15 cottagers (suggesting a population of around 200), a mill, a meadow and pasture. There is no mention of a church. In Domesday Charlton is called “Cereltone”. The boundaries of the parish of Charlton seemingly changed a lot during the 11th and 12th centuries.In the 11th century they were marked by a stream to the south and west and by Hankerton to the north. The western boundary of Braydon Forest even reached the parish in 1225. In the 17th century there was argument as to who owned what land and Charlton had to concede 200 acres of land in the south to Garsdon. Now, the parish slopes gently from Charlton Park in the (relative) north to Worthy Hill Farm in the south east; the parish stretches quite a long way towards Minety along the main road, the B4040.

Charlton had 152 poll tax payers in 1377, which was the second highest number in the Malmesbury Hundred. The building of Charlton Park had the natural effect of increasing the population of the parish. In 1775 there were 125 adult males living there and in 1801 there were 428. In 1851, there were 690. The overall population followed the national rural trend of decreasing after that, and in 1981 the population was 427.

The lands of Malmesbury Abbey at Charlton were bought at the Dissolution by William Stumpe, who started the process of the creation of Charlton Park. Charlton Park is now the seat of the Earls of Suffolk. The original house was owned by the Stumpe family and then passed to the Knyvett family and Arthur Mee in Wiltshire: Cradle of our Civilisation claims it was, at least in part, designed by the famous architect Inigo Jones. It was first purchased by William Stumpe who moved the two miles up the road from Abbey House in Malmesbury. The original Elizabethan building was built around an open courtyard, facing south west.

William's granddaughter Elizabeth Stumpe married Sir Henry Knyvett. Their daughter Katherine Knyvett married Lord Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk.
The white columned tomb of Sir Henry and his wife Elizabeth are a striking feature in St. John the Baptist's Church in Charlton. The park passed into the possession of the Suffolk's when Katherine, daughter of Henry Knyvett, married Lord Thomas Howard in 1583.

After Katherine's death it passed to her son Thomas, who became Earl of Berkshire.
An interesting side note is that Katherine's half brother was Sir Thomas Knyvet, who played a significant role in the foiling of the gunpowder plot of 1605. He actually discovered Guy Fawkes in the under-croft beneath the House of Lords. Katherine was central in bringing about the many changes to the original house built around 40 years earlier. At the start of the 17th century she added the Long Gallery, two storied wings to the house and stair turrets with domes. The interior is now mainly Georgian, for much of the building works undertaken were long term projects, with some not being completed until the 20th century.
Parliamentary cavalry were garrisoned at the Park during the Civil War; the family would have been Royalists and James I once visited. It remained in the ownership of the Suffolk's until 1939, when it became a school until 1950. It was empty for 25 years. In the First World War, sections of the house were used as a Red Cross Hospital. In 1975, a Christopher Buxton began to renovate it; these renovations cost £1.5 million. It is now once again owned by the current Earl and Countess of Suffolk and Berkshire.

Prior to the First World War, there was a large number of staff living at the park. These included a butler, housekeeper, footmen, valets, lady's maids, housemaids, a French chef, kitchen maids and a live-in carpenter. It is reported that a mistress of Charles II was born at the park; Mary Davis was an illegitimate daughter of Lord Berkshire and caught the eye of Charles I when she was a dancer in London. Charles' infamous mistress Nell Gwyn did not like having Mary as a rival and so induced her to ingest jalap, which was used as a way to purge the body. Gwyn's tactic worked as Davis was pensioned off. Another famous character with a connection with Charlton Park is the poet John Dryden, who married Lady Elizabeth Howard. In 1667 Dryden wrote his poem Annus Mirabilis at Charlton Park when taking refuge in Wiltshire from the plague in London.

Growth of the village has been fairly limited; the site of the church at the western end of the village suggests that the village was long established before the church was built. There was very little building between the 11th and 13th centuries but the village was already reasonably well established by that point. Any houses built tended to be near to the main road. There was possibly a small hamlet to the east of the village in the Middle Ages called Kingershay. Now, there are a small collection of buildings standing to the east of Charlton which may have a connection to these earlier buildings. There were buildings on the road to Hankerton, which after the vicarage was built there in the 19th century became Vicarage Lane. Two council houses were built at the junction in 1945 and several others since. Prior to the 19th century there may have been a small hamlet on what is now Vicarage Road, known as Perry Green. Perry Green is now used as part of some addresses in Charlton.

An electricity substation was built near Stonehill Wood to the east in 1970 and in 1981 a water tower was built north east of Braydon pond to the south east of the parish. It still stands and is quite an imposing figure on the landscape.

Only one new farmstead was built in the parish in the 19th century. This is quite unusual. In the Middle Ages the farming was mainly arable, with large open fields surrounding the village. However, dairy farming was implied at Stonehill as it was described as a cow pasture. Farms grew at Stonehill in the 13th and 14th centuries. By the 15th century, deer had been introduced at Stonehill.

A surprisingly small amount of parish land was actually given over to farming in the 16th and 17th centuries; only about half of the parish was farm land. The farms were all small; although there were between 30 and 40 farms, none of them exceeded 100 acres. It was then that land began to be enclosed. In the Middle Ages there was little enclosed land within the parish. The arable farming occurred in open fields, called in 1409 East, West and Grandon fields. These fields began to be enclosed in the 16th century. Meadow land was common land and common grazing went up to the edges of Braydon Forest to the east. In 1610 Charlton Park had deer in their woodland and deer are often seen running wild on and near the estate grounds today. In 1809, John, Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire made changes to his estate at the park, such as converting pasture to arable, erecting new farm buildings and buying threshing machines. Today, the farms in the parish are mainly for dairy production.

There was a mill in existence at Charlton at 1086 and it existed until the mid 13th century. There was a water mill in the 16th century to the south west of the church. A windmill was also part of the park in around 1600. There were some other trades in Charlton, aside from farming. A weaver was mentioned in 1577. There were shoe makers and parchment makers in the 18th century and a slaughterhouse in the 19th century. A saw mill and a haulage business were in operation in the 20th century.
In the1907 Kelly's Directory of Wiltshire there are quite a number of occupations for the residents of Charlton listed. These included; the land steward and head gardener to the Earl of Suffolk, basket maker, wool dealer, hurdle maker, blacksmith and coach builder. There was a police station in Park Street in the mid 20th century.

Charlton was in a position whereby it could relieve its own poor as early as the 1570s. There are overseers accounts from 1707 to 1835. The money was spent on doles and other payments for items such as shoes, clothes and fuel. In six months in 1737 a relatively high £29 was spent on doles for 17 people.The general expenditure was above average for a parish of Charlton's size. In 1835 the parish joined Malmesbury Poor Law Union. In its first year Malmesbury Poor Law Union put three paupers from Charlton into the workhouse.

The pub the Horse and Groom dates from at least 1822. A small children's hospital was built in 1870. It had 11 beds. It was supported by the then Lady Howard, Victoria. In the 20th century this endowment was added to by fees and subscription. It was closed in 1953.

In recent years, Charlton and Charlton Park have become well known due to the arrival of the World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) festival, which was co-founded by musician Peter Gabriel. This famous festival, which also takes place on several sites around the world, was once based at Shepton Mallet in Somerset and then in Reading, but moved to Charlton Park in 2007. In 2010 there were 30,000 visitors to the festival.

CouncilWiltshire Council
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Parish CouncilCharlton Parish Council
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Population 1801 - 2011

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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 Charlton (North Wilts)

Folk Biographies from Charlton (North Wilts)

Folk Plays from Charlton (North Wilts)

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 28. There is one Grade I building, Charlton Park House, and one Grade II* building, the Church of St. John the Baptist.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

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