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Wiltshire Community History

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Firsdown

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 Firsdown:

Map of the Civil Parish of Firsdown

1890s
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


From the Ordnance Survey 1890s revision of the one inch to one mile map.The modern civil parish boundary has been superimposed.


Thumbnail History:


As Firsdown is a modern creation it has little human history as it was open downland until the second quarter of the 20th century. It does however have an important prehistory but very little has been written about it as a community. For that reason the only major sources for this short article have been Wiltshire Council's Historic Environment Record and the Firsdown Parish web site, to which due acknowledgement is made.

The civil parish of Firsdown has only existed since 1986 when it was created from the eastern, downland, part of the parish of Winterbourne, formerly Winterbourne Earls, Winterbourne Dauntsey and Winterbourne Gunner. A very small part of Winterslow parish has also been included. Settlement is along Firs Road and began after the First World War. By 1940 there were only about 12 houses and bungalows existing, with large gardens but no mains water. Built on the chalk they had to rely on collecting rain water and using bore holes, where the water was pumped to the surface by agricultural wind pumps. In the 1950s large numbers of bungalows were built, dwellings occupied both sides of Firs Road and side roads were built. Building was complete by 1976 and this had created a housing estate on the downs with no infrastructure and no links to any historic community, other than sheep and shepherds. Children went to school in Winterslow, the estate was in the ecclesiastical parish of Winterslow, and post was delivered from Winterslow post office. However the people lived in Winterbourne parish and were not a part of the Winterslow villages. Winterbourne Parish Council allocated some council seats for Firsdown residents; their community numbered between 550 and 600, about ⅓ of Winterbourne parish population. In 1974 the Firs Road ratepayers Association was founded and began to campaign for a new civil parish for the area. The Boundary Commission endorsed this view in 1984 and Firsdown parish came into being on 1st April 1986. The parish council first met on 17th April 1986. The name was created from the Firs Road and the downs of Winterbourne that house the community.

From Neolithic to Romano-British times this downland was home to many families, although it is unlikely that there was continuous settlement for any lengthy period. In Neolithic times, when major phases of Stonehenge building took place, a henge monument was created at Figsbury Ring; contemporary pottery and flint have been found here and an axe fragment elsewhere. An Early to Middle Bronze Age farmstead has been found on Thorny Down with associated wooden and bronze items, flint, animal bone, and worked stone and animal bone. There is also a dated bowl barrow and another possible one. In the Iron Age Figsbury Ring was converted into a hill fort, which could have controlled an area that included part of the Bourne valley, Winterslow, Pitton, Porton, and Idmiston. The hill fort is univallate and encloses an area of 16 acres, with entrances on the west and east. Undated round barrows and ditches could also date from this period. There is a 4th century Romano-British cemetery to the east of the Whiteway. Excavation revealed 36 cremations and 14 burials with some associated grave goods. At this time cemeteries were often outside settlements and at nearby Winterslow there was a villa, a farm house, a possible amphitheatre, and a pottery scatter indicating a likely settlement. The Roman road from Old Sarum to Winchester forms the southern boundary of Firsdown parish and settlement would also have been associated with this linear feature.

It is likely that settlement ceased after the Romano-British period and the downs were used only for rough grazing and hunting. From early modern times the downs were part of the sheep and corn economy of south Wiltshire and provided daytime grazing for flocks of sheep. To the north, at Porton Down, the chemical and microbiological research station was built in 1916 and because of this areas of the parish north of the A30, on Thorny Down, are inaccessible. After Firs Road was built up the following side roads were constructed for more housing; Firs Close in the early 1950s; Ilynton Drive in 1962-3; Great Croft in 1963-6; Juniper Road in 1968; Maple Drive in 1976. Many houses and bungalows have large gardens and much tree planting has been done by householders over the last few decades. Some bungalows have been converted to houses but there has been little other building since the 1970s. The population is around 600.

Firsdown Music Festival began in 2006, from an idea by Professor Graham Wright and is run by volunteers and hosted by the George family. Starting as a Sunday afternoon event it has been extended to include Saturday evening owing to the number of singers and musicians who wanted to play. All the acts perform for free, everything is organised by volunteers, and admission to the event is free.

Somewhat unusually a community and a parish have been created in Wiltshire in the second half of the 20th century. It does not have the things we expect to see in our traditional villages - a church, school, chapels, farm houses, old buildings - but it does have community spirit.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Emailcustomercare@wiltshire.gov.uk
 
Parish CouncilFirsdown Parish Council
Parish Web Sitewww.firsdown.net/
Parish Emailclerk.firsdown@googlemail.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 Firsdown

Folk Biographies from Firsdown

Folk Plays from Firsdown

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 of historic importance is 2.

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.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Search the Wiltshire Studies Catalogue This will take you to our library catalogue where you will need to limit to 'Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre' for branch and re-enter your search term to find books on the subject. Please enter more than one word, e.g. 'Salisbury + market' unless you are looking for a small community.

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Wiltshire & Swindon Archives

Wiltshire Wills Search by name, occupation, or subject for details of a will from this parish held in the Wiltshire & Swindon Record Office.

Genuki Family History - Wiltshire

If you have a local history enquiry, contact the County Local Studies Library

 

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