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Wiltshire Community History

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Donhead St. Mary

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 Donhead St. Mary:

Map of the Civil Parish of Donhead St. Mary

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

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 Donhead St. Mary lies in the south west corner of Wiltshire, on the Dorset border. The estate of Donhead was formed in the Middles Ages from the parishes of Donhead St. Mary and St. Andrew; they belonged to Shaftesbury Abbey. The parish was in the Salisbury District Council between 1974 and 2009.

More recent evidence has shown that the name Donhead is the Saxon word for 'the head of the Downs'. Other explanations have been 'dun-heafdan' (head or top of the town) or 'don-heafod' (head of the Don).Originally the parish was joined with neighbouring Donhead St. Andrew and formed a single parish called Donhead, but by c.1200 Donhead St. Mary was almost certainly a single parish with a church of its own.

The boundary parish between the two Donheads was drawn by the late 11th century, but small areas of land were still contained within each other's parish. An Act of 1882 and order of 1884 finally detached the parishes from each other to create two completely separate parishes. After the changes Donhead St. Mary measured 5,227a.

From the 17th century Donhead St. Mary has been called 'Upper' or 'Over' Donhead to distinguish it from Donhead St. Andrew (Lower).

The parish lies at the west end of the Nadder valley in the Vale of Wardour. Chalk covers the south of the parish with chalk downland at Win Green (bought by the National Trust in 1937 and partly in Donhead St. Andrew), and there is Upper Greensand and Gault in the centre and to the north. The parish boundary is marked by the River Nadder to the east, and by a ridge with Berwick St. John and Tollard Royal. It is separated from the Dorset parishes by the old Roman Road, ridges and the summit of a hill.

The land around Wincombe Park and Donhead Hall was imparked in the 16th and 19th centuries with woodland within them. Streams were used to grow watercress in the 20th century and mills were also operated from them. Some watercress beds could be found at Springhead River along a lane opposite the Grove Arms. Others were situated near the springs in Ludwell. The watercress was cut by hand and it was put into big wicker hampers called 'flats'. These were then taken by horse and van to Semley Station where they were destined for Birmingham, Bristol, London and Manchester.

Archaeological finds in the parish consists of Mesolithic microliths, a Neolithic long barrow, bowl barrows and ditches on Charlton Down and Win Green, and an Iron Age hill fort called Castle Rings near the boundary with Semley. A late Bronze-Age metalworker's hoard was also found on Donhead Clift, along with a bronze dagger from a barrow at Charlton. Ansty Hollow is the site of the 'Donhead Hoard', a collection of bronze palstaves and scrap metal which probably belonged to a travelling bronze smith. Tittle Path Hill is reported to be the site of Skyton Castle.

There was some sort of Roman settlement where 'Burltons' now stands, where the Roman road crosses the ridge below the church. In Roman times the water table was higher and some of the area under the village of Donhead St. Mary and down into Coombe and Charlton was swamp. Winklebury Hill is also reported to have fortifications known as 'Vespasian's Camp' on it. Roman cultivations in the neighbourhood of the Roman road may explain why the Donhead area seems so prosperous in Saxon times; the land would have been easily cultivated without having to clear much forest. There is a Saxon cemetery on Winklebury Hill within the preshistoric earthworks.

The Roman Road from Bath to Badbury Rings in Dorset crosses the parish. Its course ran from Tollard Royal to Ludwell; between Five Ways and Ludwell is called Dennis' Road. It then ran past Lower Berry Court and the church. An unused strip of Roman road is reported to lie on the north side of the present A30 where it runs through Birdbush. A rough track ran over Win Green and is the Ridgeway mentioned in the later 11th century. The two main roads through the parish run through Birdbush and Ludwell (part of a main London-Exeter road from 1677). The other is the boundary road with Motcombe. They were turnpiked in 1753 and disturnpiked in 1877. Britmore Lane was given its name in 1886 and Water Lane in 1533. The later 18th century lanes linking the parish settlements were still in use in the early 21st century. The lanes linking Higher Coombe to Wincombe Lane and the one from Front Horse Hill Lane became disused between the late 18th and mid 19th century. Pound Lane became disused between 1924 and 1950.

Both the Donheads were held by Shaftesbury Abbey in 1066 and 1086 when they were assessed at 40 hides. In 1544 the Crown gave the manor to Sir Thomas Arundell who forfeited it on his execution in 1552. The Arundell family regained the estate in 1554. Henry Arundell forfeited the estate as a Royalist but it was bought back from the State in 1653 and remained with the family. Early in the 19th century a great deal of the manor was sold piecemeal, including farms such as Wincombe and Higher Berry Court Farm, and some at Charlton and the Coombes.

In 1066 and 1086 the parish of Donhead had 15 acres of meadow land and the pasture covered one league in length and breadth. In 1225 activity consisted of sheep and corn husbandry when there were 1,523 sheep. Most of the sheep were owned by the lords of the manor. There were also 242 oxen and 168 cows; most local people depended on arable and dairy farming. At this time most of the open fields could be found south of the Salisbury to Shaftesbury road and were called Donhead or Charlton Field. These fields were divided in 1317 and were called West, Middle and East c.1575 or later. Another open field was called Coombe c.1575. On the chalk to the south of these were common called Broad Down and then later Charlton Down, totalling 266 acres in 1768. To the north of the parish were common pastures called Heath, North Down and Flitmore. In 1235 the freemen of Donhead St. Mary were granted pasture rights. To the west of the parish were common pastures called Wincombe and Landsley. In 1450 sheep farming and corn husbandry prevailed. The crops were mostly oats but also included wheat and barley. Most of the western commons had been inclosed by c.1575 but common husbandry in the south part of the parish persisted until the 19th century. The parish lanes also provided common pasture (103 acres in 1768). At night portable hurdle pens housed the sheep and by day they grazed on the commons. Each night the hurdle pens were moved. Open fields covered the chalkland to the north until the 19th century. There was twice as much arable land as pasture in 1840. The 19th century reorganisation of the farms may have ended most common husbandry by the 1860s. Sheep and corn husbandry declined in the later 19th century, arable was converted to pasture and the number of sheep fell from 5,325 in 1866 to 1,835 in 1916. In 1876 there were 64 farms in the parish with totals of c.2,000 acres of arable and c.1,800 acres of pasture land. The major crop was wheat (this was replaced by oats in 1906). In1916 no oats were grown, but there was more barley than wheat. From 1876 to 1916 there was also a large reduction in the acreage of leguminous crops and root crops, especially turnips and swedes. The number of cows increased and the number of pigs had doubled by 1896, only to reduce greatly by 1916. In 1985 corn was grown and there was cattle raising and dairy farming.

The woodland in the Donhead Estate in 1086 was six furlongs long and two wide. It was situated mainly to the north of the Salisbury to Shaftesbury road in 1768 at Higher Coombe, Wincombe and Donhead Cliff. In 1840, of the 375 acres of woodland, 30 acres was on the chalk in the Coombes and 154 acres in Wincombe Park, but most of it was still to the north. The situation remained the same in the 20th century.

The withy beds around the sources of the Nadder were used to provide material for basket making. Houses in Donhead St. Mary had individual strip land attached to them which were used as allotments and to keep animals. The practice continued up until the 1950s.

Watercress was grown in streams in the 19th and early 20th centuries. R. W. Williamson had beds on the site of the Charlton Mill beside the manor in 1893. By 1913 four additional beds had been added. At the end of the 19th century the site was used by Mr Williamson to grow watercress which he sold in London after the railway reached Semley in 1859. Watercress is still grown in the area into the 21st century, but on a much smaller scale.

In 1255 the Abbess of Shaftesbury Manor claimed to hold an assize of bread and of ale and to have a gallows. The Abbess held twice yearly views of frankpledge in 1287. The last court leet was held in 1922. The most frequent matters presented to the court were flooded and badly maintained roads and bridges, obstruction of watercourses and overcharging by millers. A case of breaking and entering was heard in 1577. Pasture rights in the open fields were regulated in 1606. Other manorial business at court related to straying animals, buildings in need of repair and unlicensed inclosures.

In 1612 the whole village was in the Quarter Sessions: 'The jury present that at St. Peter's Day last in the Saboth next following after evening prayer, there was an ale kept for the benefit of the church at Donhead St. Mary'. The 'Church Ale' was the way of raising money for the needs of the church when a large quantity of ale was brewed in the church house and sold to parishioners; on this occasion for the benefit of the parish poor. It contravened licensing laws preventing the selling of ale during church services and generally on a Sunday. Thomas Grove of Ferne House complained
"Good Unkel
There is an order of ye last sessions for binding over some of Donhead (for illegal drinking). You may be pleased to inform the Sessions that yourself and I have supprest them already when we met at Ludwell for that purpose and there is not one of them that keeps tippling since that time…..My butler South informs that he hath sold no ale since Whitsuntide and undertakes that he shall never do it againe and therefore intreats that he may ne excused from appearing at the sessions
I remain, Sir, your affectionate kinsman and servant,
Thomas Grove".

The village of Donhead St. Mary is loosely grouped near the church. Most buildings consist of local dressed limestone with thatched or tiled roofs.

Berry Wood Lane has 17th century and 18th century cottages.

Britmore Lane is the site of The Carpenter's, once a public house but now a detached cottage of 18th century date. It is built of dressed limestone with a tiled, thatched and Welsh slated roof. The building has a L-Plan and dormers. There is a lean-to at the back which is probably a rebuild of a two storey wing. It has Flemish Bond brick to the kitchen range. The property ceased to be a public house called The Carpenter's Arms in 1953.

The 15th century Lower Berry Court Farmhouse can be found on Pound Lane. It was altered in the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries and is made up of dressed limestone and rubblestone with a thatched roof. It is a six bay hall house with a service wing. The interior dates from the 16th and 17th centuries and still retains a medieval roof but the solar range was remodelled. It is a good example of a late medieval hall house and was owned by the Abbess of Shaftesbury until the Dissolution when it became the property of the Arundells of Wardour until the 1930s. As the parish boundary ran through the middle of the house petty sessions could be held for both parishes in one room! It was also used for payment of tithes.

At Church Hill there are is pair of cottages, now a house, of the early 18th century in dressed limestone with a partly thatched and partly tiled roof. The windows include a 20th century bulls-eye. 'Home Close' is a detached house of late 17th and early 18th century date with early 20th century additions. It is built of dressed limestone with a tiled roof which was formerly thatched. On the first floor of the 18th century range there is a plaque over the door with stylised floral decoration and the date 1712 intertwined with the initials 'EMB'.

Burlton House is of the early 18th century but has been altered and extended in the 18th and 19th centuries. Again, of dressed limestone, it also has an L-Plan and dormers. A 20th century conservatory has replaced a 19th century one.

Church Cottage can also be found on Church Hill and is a late 17th and mid 19th century cottage and cart shed which is now one house. Tulip Cottage was a farmhouse, now a detached house, of the late 17th century with alterations and additions of the 18th and late 19th centuries. There is also a row of 18th century cottages with a thatched roof. One has a 20th century stable door. They were former brewery workers' cottages. Glyn Farmhouse is early 17th century, altered in the 19th century, with limestone rubble stone and a hipped thatched roof. The garage was formerly the service end. Church Hill Farmhouse was built in the mid 17th century and altered in the 19th. It has a thatched roof. The shop attached to the rear is from the late 19th century.

Shute House was once the rectory. It was built in the late 16th century with an early 18th century section to the south. The building materials are limestone ashlar and rubble stone with a tiled roof and L-Plan. The six panelled door in a moulded stone architrave is said to be from Bowood House. The late 16th century range is now a service wing. The house ceased to be the rectory in the 1950s when is became a private house. Its name was then changed to Shute House after a spring which flowed into the garden. It is reputed to have a wing which was used as a dormitory for pilgrims, offering them shelter if they were sick. A pear tree on the south wall was planted to commemorate Nelson's victory at Trafalgar and the formal pool and water gardens were created and garden landscaped by Jeffery Jellicoe. Pilgrim's Cottage also offered shelter to travellers.

St. Mary's Church had been built by the 12th century. It stands on the ridge near the Roman Road. The architecture of the church covers the 12th to 13th centuries, with 19th century restoration. It is built of dressed limestone with a tiled roof. There is a nave with aisles and a chancel with side chapels, a west tower and a south porch. The gabled porch is 14th century. All of the chapel and aisle windows are square-headed and the three stage west tower in 15th century. The nave has a five bay wagon roof and a 19th century Perpendicular style screen filling the arch. There is a 12th century three bay south arcade. The north arcade has three double chamfered arches and there is a restored late medieval lean-to roof in the aisle. The chancel contains a 13th century style east windows and a 19th century wooden pointed barrel-vaulted roof. There is also a 19th century pitched roof.

The school can be found to north west of the church and was built in 1840/1. It was replaced by another school in 1875 which was also situated to the north west of the church, built of red brick with a thatched roof. This school closed in 1922 and is now the village hall. The old school building housed a library and is now part of a private house.

The mid 17th century cottage in Front Horse Hill Lane, altered in the 18th century, is of dressed limestone with a thatched roof. 'The Mill House' has an attached former mill. It was built in the mid 18th century and altered in the 20th century. It has a hipped tile roof and is of dressed limestone. The mill was partly converted to a house in the mid 1970s and wass partly without a roof by the late1980s. The cast iron waterwheel and gearing have been retained. Donhead Hall Farmhouse is a 19th century Flemish Bond brick worked house with limestone quoins and a Welsh slate hipped roof.

The Wesleyan Chapel was built on the west side of The Street in 1837. It was rebuilt in 1868.

Watery Lane is the site of Donhead Hall. In 1658 Reynaldo Weekes owned lands which became the Donhead Hall estate. The original area of c.82 acres was added to in the early 19th century. By 1840 the 178 acres of land included two parks. The present Hall is a country house, probably built in 1730 by Mr. Godfrey Huckle, grandson of the famous painter Sir Godfrey Kneller. Godfrey Huckle later changed his name to Kneller to inherit. The old Hall had been known as Belknapp. It is built of limestone ashlar with Welsh slate hipped roofs, with a basement and a probable early 19th century porch. The hipped roof has griffins to the cornice and the left pier to the gates also has the griffin. The house overlooks the deer park and was owned by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723) during the early 18th century and by the Wyndham family during the 19th century. The theatre at Donhead Hall is of a late 18th century date, of dressed limestone with a tiled roof, and is single storey. There are round curved openings with doors to the left and right; the rear is windowless. There is a 19th century brick extension with a hipped roof. The interior has a raised floor with the stage at the south end, and a panelled barrel vaulted ceiling. The stables and carriage house block have been partly converted into a private chapel and were disused by the late 20th century. They were built in the mid 18th century of dressed limestone with a hipped tiled roof in an L-plan shape. There is a 19th century gabled loft door and the carriage house is at the rear. The stable interior includes cast iron and timber stalls and loose boxes. The chapel on the east end of the range has a boarded ceiling, and formerly housed an organ and panelling. The granary is of early 19th century date. It is also of dressed limestone with a half hipped tiled roof. At Christmas time all the workers of Donhead Hall were given either half a crown or a Christmas stocking (depending on their age!).

There are three cottages of mid 18th century date in Watery Lane, of dressed limestone with tiled roofs; two have 19th century gabled porches. They are situated opposite the gates to Donhead Hall.

Wincombe House is a country house of the 1820s, built for John Gordon. It is of painted limestone ashlar with a Welsh slate hipped roof and a veranda on cast iron posts. The house is set in wooded parkland; the two lakes are said to be fishponds that belonged to the Abbess of Shaftesbury, close to the source of the river Nadder. Wincombe Park was included as part of the abbey's barton in the Middle Ages. It contained a warren and an inclosed pasture called 'The Heath'. It was granted to Sir Thomas Arundell in 1545. The land then passed to the Earl of Pembroke, William Herbert. Parts of the estate were sold in 1650. A 16th century description of Wincombe Park reads 'There is a pasture called Wyncombe Park where a warren has been constructed for rabbits and a Lodge for the warrener nereby. And there are in the same pasture four ponds for fish, viz: Carpes and Tenches, and the said pasture contains by estimate, sixty acres'. The remainder of the valley was most likely common pasture. Farms in Wincombe in the early 19th century included Lower Wincombe, Wincombe, and Castle (these two had merged by 1840), and Water Street.

The Royal Oak is a private house now; the licensee used to keep pigs in the garden there.

Twelve council houses were built on Dennis' Road between 1936 and 1938. Council and private housing was built after the 1950s.

Charlton is a nucleated village, the buildings being very close together along a single street. Home Farm is at its centre and there is the church and pond opposite it. The community was formed from about the 10th century and a village emerged from the 14th century. Settlement at Charlton increased during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Graves family bought most of the land of Charlton from the Arundells in 1823. The Charlton estate was sold in portions in 1913.

Charlton House was built c.1821. It was given its name between 1848 and 1855. The building is rendered, with a Welsh slate, hipped roof, and is a square house with a rear service wing. There is a Tuscan porch and four french windows within a cast iron veranda. It is reputed to have been built for Lord Winford, a Lord Chief Justice. The stables and the carriage house are c.1830. They are of limestone ashlar with Welsh slate hipped roofs in an L-shaped plan around the courtyard. The stable block has a central planked loft door with a gable over. It is little altered and considered a good architectural example of the period.

Manor Farm was built by the Graves family in the mid 19th century as a 'model farm', to try innovative forms of farming.

Middle Farmhouse has a date stone carved '1710' over the door. It was altered in the mid 19th century and is of dressed limestone with a tiled roof.

The National School at Charlton was built in 1842 to the east of St John's Chapel. It closed in 1876. A new school was built c.1875 at the junction of Front Horse Hill Lane and Back Horse Hill Lane.

The Methodist Chapel was originally Wesleyan. It is built of dressed limestone with a Welsh slate roof in the Classical style. The entrance front to the south west gable has central panelled doors with a fanlight, and there are cast iron boot scrapers to either side of the door. There is a circular plaque 'WESLEYAN/CHAPEL/AD/1869'. The interior contains plain pews, a wooden reading desk at the north end, and a gallery over the entrance lobby at the south end. It is situated on the side of the valley in a prominent position.

The Church of St John, Charlton, is in Coronation Close at the top of Ludwell Hill. It was built in 1839 by William Walker, of dressed limestone with a Welsh slate roof in the Neo-Norman style. There is a nave, chancel and west gallery over the entrance lobby, flanked by twin west towers. The nave and chancel have a six bay king post roof with a stone floor. There are 19th century oak pews, an octagonal stone font bowl on a cylindrical base and 1940s stained glass windows by Christopher Webb. The internal re-arrangement of the west end and gallery was proposed c.1985. This church was built to replace the 14th century Saxon Chapel of Ease near Home Farm which had a chancel, nave, south porch and west tower. It was built of ashlar.

The Coronation Drive estate was built in the 1950s with St. John's Close after this.

The inhabitants of Ludwell lived by the main road in the later 19th century. Settlement included the small hamlet of Birdbush in 1886. Development in Ludwell increased in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Ludwell Primitive Methodist Chapel was built in 1861 on the south side of the Salisbury to Shaftesbury Road. It was closed by 1964.

The Grove House Hotel was once a nursing home. The Grove Arms is a public house of early 17th century date, with additions in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is built of dressed limestone with a thatched roof and L-plan. It was called the Talbot or Black Talbot 1579-1811, the Black Dog after 1811(the black dog or 'talbot sable' was the Grove crest). It was renamed the Grove Arms c.1880-5. The pub can be found opposite the Ludwell workhouse at the bottom of Ludlow Hollow. It was damaged by fire in 1998. Coaches often got stuck when they broke down on the steep gradient of the hill, including that of Lady Grosvenor. The gradient was reduced in the 1960s. At the top of Ludlow Hollow was the Rising Sun, built in 1773 and called a beer shop in 1840.

Ludwell Stores and Post Office is a shop and house with an attached former bakery, and a 19th century shop front. The building was built in the late 18th century of dressed limestone with a tiled roof. The unaltered 19th century glazed shop front is visible to the left of the main range. To the right is the former bakehouse. The interior has cast iron columns supporting the shop front.

The Old Remembrance Hall was built before 1840, and Ludwell School in 1875. The new Remembrance Hall opened in 1990 and the old one was sold. The new hall is situated across the A30, next to the sports centre and playing fields. In the early 21st century the village still retains a post office and general stores, dressmaker's shop and a butcher's shop.

A wagon works existed at Birdbush, along with two chapels and a pub called 'The Lamb' (all closed). The Lamb Inn belonged to the Matthews Brewery of Gillingham by the beginning of the 20th century but is now a private house called Lamb Cottage. There used to be a butcher's shop and a tailor's shop where workmen sat on tables doing the sewing. There was also a post office and a bakery. Behind the bakery a barber visited a few evenings a week. There was also a garage in the village. Birdbush Congregational chapel was built in 1722/3. The chapel was first used by Presbyterians but later became Independent. It was rebuilt in 1871.

The Coombes lie in a narrow tree covered valley where a stream was dammed to form lakes. In the 19th century the Beaufort family owned most of the Coombes. In the later 19th century most smaller farms in the three Coombes had become part of the Coombe Estate on which Coombe House was built and land imparked.

Coombe House was built in 1886 by Mark Beaufoy MP, a vinegar manufacturer from Barnsley. It is now St. Mary's School. It has a lake and fishponds. The south wing was enlarged in 1911 as a ballroom to celebrate the marriage of his daughter. The house and land was sold in 1930 and it became Coombe House Hotel in 1931-5.

Swan Lake Cottage in Higher Coombe was originally two cottages of 18th century date, of rubblestone with a thatched roof and rustic porch. The Priory is a detached house, early 17th century and altered in the 20th century. It is of dressed limestone with a tiled roof and dormers. It was named after the priory of French Carthusian monks who came to Coombe after being expelled during the French Revolution. Most of the monks eventually returned to France but one, Anthelm Guillemot, stayed. He died aged 84 and is commemorated by a wall tablet in the current vestry at the west end of Donhead St. Mary Church.

At Coombe Hollow is an early 18th century cottage of dressed limestone with a half hipped thatched roof and gabled stone porch.

In Lower Coombe a memorial stands outside the partly timbered barn dated 1759, next to Lower Coombe Farm. It commemorates members of the Pond family who were tenants there and died of the plague in 1665. Grove Farm Barn is again of dressed limestone with a half hipped, thatched roof, five bays, and a stable door to the left on the east side. The year '1771' is incised on the tie beam on the north side of the centre bay.

Middle Coombe farmhouse is of a late 17th century date and was altered in the mid 19th century. It has a Welsh slate roof, is built of dressed limestone, and has an L-plan. Priory Cottage is of the mid 17th century with 19th and 20th century extensions. Coombe Cottage is 17th century with 19th century alterations. It has a thatched roof and an L-plan.

There were eight mills on the Donhead estate in 1086. Five were identifiable in Donhead St. Mary in the 20th century. Wincombe Mill belonged to Donhead Manor and was mentioned in 1235. It was owned with Wincombe Farm in 1840 and ceased to work in 1854. In 1579 there were two fulling mills at Ludwell and in 1606, three. All belonged to the owner of Higher Ashgrove Farm. Ludwell Mill could be found west of Cats Hill Lane. It belonged to Baron Arundell in 1768 and Robert Trim in 1840. It ceased to operate as a working mill between 1911 and 1923. Donhead Hall Mill was also owned by Arundell in 1768 and Samuel Scammel in 1840, it stopped working between 1900 and 1921. It still retained its overshot wheel in c.1943. Mullin's Mill was demolished between 1840 and 1886. Charlton Mill may have ceased operating before 1840. The only mill not grinding wheat was Mullins Mill, a fulling mill. Donhead Mill was situated at the bottom of Horsehills. There was also a mill below Rose cottage in Watery Lane.

The parish was prosperous in the later 16th and early 17th century. There were 755 inhabitants in 1695. By 1801 it was 945; and 1,095 in 1811. By 1851 it was 1,621, with declining figures after this, mainly due to emigration and removal to other parishes. Young men also left the parish to find agricultural employment. This continued into the early 20th century and by 1951 the population was 868. With the advent of new housing development the population rose to 953 in 1981.

Trades in the hamlet of Ludwell included a harness maker, draper, tailor, wool stapler, mason, and two shops from 1848 or even earlier.

Beer was brewed at Donhead Brewery c.1855 until c.1885. Tulip Tree Cottage, previously called Sunnybank, had a brewery. It was demolished and the stone was used to build the property called 'Bruins'. There was a malt house on the opposite side of the road to the Sunnybank Cottages. The malt house was owned by the brewery and the cottages housed the workers.

The 1881 Census show a great many tradesmen living in The Street. They include a brewer, butchers, laundresses, bakers, carpenters, wheelwright, cooper, stone masons and builder, brewers and a brewer's drayman, boot and shoe maker, blacksmith, dressmaker, and a provision merchant. There was even a 'painter and glorier'! Other occupations in the parish include dairymen, market gardener, rope maker, rake maker, glover, miller, shepherd, and, of course, agricultural labourers.

Those living in Haystone were had the occupations of blacksmith, tailor, carrier, painter, mason, carpenter, draper, and a rural letter carrier. There was a blacksmith's forge near the old library in the late 19th/early 20th century. He built bicycles and also cut hair and did dental work - he put a sack bag on the anvil and sat his patient on it. He would extract teeth with pliers! There was a workshop and petrol pumps at the rear of Dunworth House in the 20th century. John Jeffery livestock auctioneers were operating in the early to mid 20th century. There was a bakery at Church Hill in the early 20th century. There was a garage on the site of Harrington's Wagon Works in the 20th century, called the Birdbush Garage. Carriers went from Charlton to Poole every week in the 1920s and 30s. It took two days to complete the trip. The village shop was 'The Old Stores' until the 1980s.

The yearly sum paid on poor relief was £315 in 1783-5 and £771 in 1803. It decreased from £2,204 in 1813 to £960 in 1815 although there were still about 230 parishioners receiving it. A house at Ludwell was converted into a workhouse in 1820; the vestry also used it as a meeting place. The church house and four cottages were also used to house paupers. In 1821 three shillings made for six months keep for each pauper in the workhouse. A parish surgeon was appointed in 1823 and was paid to vaccinate paupers in 1830. In 1836 the Vestry paid for three families in the workhouse to emigrate to Canada. During 1838 thirty seven people were sent to Australia - the journey was longer but the cost per head was less. In 1841 a family was sent to New Zealand. The names of those willing to go were submitted by the clerk of the Tisbury Union. Donhead St. Mary had become part of the Tisbury Poor Law Union in 1835 and the village workhouse and cottages were sold. The workhouse was a three storey building which could be found opposite the Grove Arms.

Philippa Grove gave one third of her income from £1,000 for a clothing club in the parish. Between 1861 and 1867 Marianne Jones Bateman gave income from £500 to the clothing club. About eighty nine women were given 5s in annual bonuses in the period 1899 to 1903. This altered to 15s for 25 women in 1925 and the clothing club funds were still being added to in the 1950s. The income was given to the Charlton Sunday School in 1985.

The Rector R. W. Blackmore left a will (proved in 1882) which gave income from £500 to a coal club. The 16 tons of coal were given to 39 people in 1900, who had to make a small payment for it. The club was still running in 1949 but by 1985 the income was also given to the Charlton Sunday School.

The plague infected the residents in 1665-6. Small pox affected the community of Donhead St. Mary and in the 18th century payment was given to those families affected. In June 1799 all paupers were inoculated against the disease.

The great storm of 1703 was felt in Donhead St. Mary; the church windows were damaged and stone pinnacles fell. Two chimney tops were thrown and a four hundred weight stone was blown from under a bank at least seven yards from the site.

The Friendly Society met at the Grove Arms in 1803. The Hope Society had ceased by 1906. A summer fete was held at the rectory. The Reverend Gouthrope built a four rink bowling green and there was a football pitch. There were boating competitions on the ponds. The Donhead Cycle Speedway Team was established in 1949-50. They were originally called the Donhead Daschunds and later became the Donhead Dragons. They started out with a track at Brook Hill but later moved to the Remembrance Field at Charlton.

The parish war memorial can be found in St. John's churchyard. During World War II convalescent homes were situated at Coombe House and Donhead House. The searchlight was positioned at the top of Zig Zag Hill over the border in Dorset. Evacuees arrived and it was hard to find them accommodation as everywhere was crowded. A German plane came down on Handley Green. POWs (mostly Italians) worked in local farms and several stayed at Higher Berrycourt Farm - they had more freedom than the Germans. Arundell Farm had German POWs and Peckonshill Farm had German and Italian POWs from the Port Regis Camp. Lots of vehicles were could be seen on the lead up to D-Day; they were parked at night all around Tom Rossiter's fields to prevent them being seen by air. Telephone posts were demolished by tanks.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilDonhead St. Mary Parish Council
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Parish Emaildonheadstmarypc@pendrill2.plus.com

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 Donhead St. Mary

Folk Biographies from Donhead St. Mary

Folk Plays from Donhead St. Mary

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 historical interest is 43. There is 1 Grade I building, the Church of St. Mary, and 2 Grade II* buildings, Donhead Hall with attatched walls and terraces and Lowerberry Court Farmhouse.

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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