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Wiltshire Community History

West Lavington Search Results

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West Lavington

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 West Lavington:

Map of the Civil Parish of West Lavington

Wiltshire & Swindon Centre

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

Thumbnail History:

The parish of West Lavington includes the settlements of West Lavington and Littleton Panell, which now form a nearly continuous line of ribbon development along the A360 Devizes to Salisbury road. Today it is difficult to know where the boundary lies between the settlements but West Lavington lies to the south, grouped around its church and former manor house while Littleton Panell is to the north, along the main road and around its former manor house, à Becketts. There does not seem to have been too much difference in population size at the end of the 18th century, but from around 1870 West Lavington increased far more in size and outstripped its neighbour in population. The population of the whole parish reached a peak of 1,589 in 1861 and then, in common with most villages declined, although there was an unusual increase in the 1920s.

The land declines from south to north on the northern slope of Salisbury Plain. In the south of the parish the land rises to over 600 feet on the chalk uplands, while in the north it drops to 200 feet. The Bulkington Brook flows through the villages rising to the south of the settlement. The villages themselves lie on the strip of gault and upper greensand at the foot of the Plain.

There is evidence of occupation in this area from late Neolithic or early Bronze Age times. Early remains have been found on the downs to the south with two round barrows and field systems visible. An early to mid Bronze Age axe was found at New Copse Farm and late Bronze Age spearhead, palstave, axe and awl on other parts of the downs. Early Iron Age material has been found in the same areas. There may have been early activity on the lower ground but the first settlement remains are of a Romano-British site in the grounds of Littleton Panell Manor grounds (now part of Dauntsey's School). Both Samian and Castor ware pottery were found here while six bronze brooches and a bronze bracelet have been found on West Lavington Down.

Some clue to the early origins of the two settlements may be found in their names. Lavington was the Saxon Lafa's Farm, covering both the present Lavingtons from the early 5th century. The main settlement would have been at Market Lavington and it is quite likely that the West Lavington settlement came two or three centuries later. Littleton is the little farm and might have been small in relation to either of the Lavingtons. It is even possible that it could pre=date the West Lavington settlement, with possible continuous occupation from the Romano-British settlement.

However there is no archaeological evidence for Saxon settlement in the parish but as both houses and most artefacts were made of wood, which will have left little trace, it does not mean that there was no habitation here. There was certainly settlement here by late Saxon times, as two recorded in the Domesday Book. The main settlement in the area was at Market Lavington, to the east, and settlements to the west would have been dependent upon it. The most populous settlement was at Littleton Pannell, where there was land for six ploughs, although only five were used. There were two mills and a population of around 100 people. The entry for West Lavington is more difficult to interpret. It was held from the king by Robert Blund, who farmed one hide and one virgate with one plough team. His two sons held seven hides and one virgate of land from their father and worked it with five plough teams and their men. Unusually there is no indication of numbers of heads of households although there was a mill of a fairly low value. Depending on the status of the working men the population could have been anything from 25 to 45 people and these are likely to have lived around the manor house. The value of West Lavington was 50% greater than that of Littleton Pannell, which probably reflects the greater amount of land contained in the estate.

It is fairly certain that there was a Saxon church at West Lavington and if this is the case it raised the question of why no settlement is indicated in 1086. It could have been that a wooden church had been built for the Saxon owner Achi, his family and retainers and was also used by the inhabitants of Littleton. Whatever the origins the parish church remained at Lavington although its earliest features now date from the second half of the 12th century. This doubtless represents a rebuilding by the bishop of Salisbury as the estate of Lavington, with the manor of Potterne, was given to Bishop Roger in 1136. From then onwards Lavington was known as Bishop's Lavington.

In the mid 13th century William Paynel married Maude Husse and so acquired the manor of Littleton by marriage. In the time of William or his sons the suffix 'Paynel' was added, being recorded in 1317. In 1332 West Lavington paid more tax than Market Lavington and in the 14th and 15th century the parish had the typical Wiltshire land use of sheep and arable (mainly wheat with a little barley and oats). The Dauntsey family had land in the parish from at least 1474, eighty years before William Dauntsey's bequest founded a school and almshouses. West Lavington Manor House was rebuilt in the earlier 16th century, as can be seen from the evidence of a contemporary doorway in the present house. During that century there was extensive sheep farming in the parish, there were 1,394 sheep on one farm alone.

In 1630 Sir John Danvers acquired West Lavington by marriage and extensively rebuilt the manor house. He was very interested in garden design and created ornamental gardens in the Italian style. John Aubrey, in the mid 17th century, is very complimentary about Sir John Danvers of Chelsea and wrote the following about the garden.

'The garden at Lavington is full of irregularities, both naturall and artificiall, sc. elevations and depressions. Through the length of it there runneth a fine cleare trowt stream; walled with brick on each side, to hinder the earth from mouldring down. In this stream are placed severall statues. At the west end is an admirable place for a grotto, where the great arch is, over which now is the market roade. Among severall others, there is a very pleasant elevation on the south side of the garden, which steales, arising almost insensibly, that is, before one is aware, and gives you a view over the spatious corn-fields there, and so to East [Market] Lavington: where, being landed on a fine levell, letteth you descend again with the like easinesse; each side is flanqued with laurels. It is almost impossible to describe this garden, it is so full of variety and unevenesse; nay, it would be a difficult matter for a good artist to make a draught of it.'

On Friday 26 April 1689 there was a disastrous fire in the village with 226 bays of buildings burned. A bay was normally the area between two sets of crucks or wooden fames that provided support for an upper floor, roof and the timber framing of the front and rear walls. The buildings represented by the number of bays would have been houses, barns, stables and other outbuildings. The number of people who lost buildings was 26 but this probably represented more houses as several would have been tenanted. For example Thomas Baxter, 'his losses in houses consisting of 31 bays or building we prise at £450.' This may have represented between six and twelve buildings. The parsonage house with barns, stables, etc. comprised 29 bays and was valued at £615. Altogether 34 people suffered losses in trade and household goods. These totalled £1608.18.8d and varied between £5 of the widow Alice Chilvester and £445 for William Bartlett. From this it would seem that 34 households were lost.

The only houses remaining in West Lavington today that pre-date the fire are the Old Manor House, West Lavington Manor and the Old House in Duck Street. There are several late 17th and early 18th century houses, including Dial House of 1691 that must have been built to replace those lost in the fire. There appear to be indications of more earlier houses in Littleton Panell so it seems likely that the fire was concentrated in the area around the church of All Saints.

In the 18th century it was noted that there was much flint digging in the parish for the repair of turnpike toads. Sheep remained pre-eminent and in 1766 there were 6,298 in the parish. The West Lavington estate was bought by the Duke of Marlborough in 1766, hence the Churchill Arms in the village today. By 1801 the main crops from arable land were wheat and barley, with some oats, peas, rape, turnips, beans and rye. Market gardening flourished in the 19th century and produce was sent to Salisbury and Bath. Chalk was quarried for lime burning. 1825 saw riotous celebrations in the village when toll gates on the turnpike roads were burned down and never replaced.

In 1867 there was still a good range of businesses in both villages. The variety of shops included two grocers (one was also a farmer and one a draper), a baker and grocer, a butcher, three shopkeepers (one of whom was also a blacksmith and his wife ran the post office), while there were four public houses; the Black Dog and the Churchill Arms, with the Wheatsheaf and the Cross Keys in Littleton. Market gardening was represented by six gardeners (one was also a carrier) making use of the rich loamy soil above the greensand. There was a beer retailer, who was also a maltster, and four millers. There was another blacksmith, a saddler, two carpenters and wheelwrights, a stonemason, two bricklayers, a building and timber merchant and carpenter. Clothes were provided by two tailors and a stay maker and there were three boot and shoe makers. The parish contained ten farmers and a dairy.

In 1990 the railway line between Westbury and Stert was built across the northern part of the parish and West Lavington station was sited half a mile to the north of Littleton. The licence from the Black Dog was used for the new railway hotel. The manor house at Littleton, à Becketts, was rebuilt in red brick in 1904 and little trace of the original remains. In 1905 Lord Churchill sold the manor of West Lavington and much of the land to Mr. H T Holloway. Between 1910 and 1936 the War Department acquired 4,203 acres in the parish, being the downs in the southern part.

The 20th century saw the substantial expansion of Dauntsey's School from 1919 onwards and the buildings and grounds now comprise 100 acres in and around both villages. There have been small housing developments from the 1970s and the two villages have grown together.

Parish Web Site
CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilWest Lavington Parish Council
Parish Emailclerkpc@sky.com

Churches: Information on both current and disused churches and chapels.

Baptist Chapel, West Lavington
Church of All Saints, West Lavington
St. Joseph's R.C. Church, West Lavington
Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, West Lavington
Schools: Information on both current and closed schools.

Population 1801 - 2001

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.

'History of the Dauntsey Charity...'
A history of all Saints' Church , West Lavington
A school's adventure
All Saints Church- Bishops Lavington
Great Oaks From Little Acorns Grow; a history of St. Joseph's Church, Littleton Panell
Heraldry of West Lavington
How does your garden grow? : an account of developments at Dauntsey's School, 1951-1991
Pastoral Pedigree : the family of David Saunders, 'The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain'
Round about Wiltshire, pages 255-256
The Church Bells of Wiltshire: their inscription and history page 119
The Church Plate of the County of Wilts, page 108
The Illustrated Portrait of Wiltshire, pages 111, 113, 135
The Lavington Mannual
The Monumental Brasses of Wiltshire, pages 32, & 54-7
The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain
The Vicarage Family in West Lavington
The Victoria History of Wiltshire, Vol. 7, pages 198-206
The Wiltshire Shepherd
The Wiltshire Village Book, pages 228-9
Wiltshire and Somerset Mills, pages 107-8
Wiltshire Villages, pages 110-111

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.

Salisbury Journal 1738 to 1816
Devizes & Wiltshire Gazette 1816
Devizes Advertiser 1858 to 1933
Devizes News 1979 to 1985
Sherborne Mercury 1737 to 1867
Wiltshire Independent 1836 to 1876
Wiltshire Telegraph 1877 to 1935

Maps: listed below are maps on which you can find this community. All maps are Ordnance Survey maps.

Map Type Map Sheet Reference
O.S. National Grid Reference SU 008530
O.S. 25 inch County Series 1870s-194046/1
O.S. 6 inch County Series 1870s-194046
O.S. 1:2500 metric edition; 1950s onwardSU 0052-0152; 0053-0153
O.S. 1:10000 metric edition; 1950s onwardST 95 SE; SU 05 SW
O.S. Explorer130
O.S. Landranger184
Geological Sheet282

Map of West Lavington

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Map showing Panoramio pictures and Wikipedia entries for the area around West Lavington

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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:

There were no Folk Songs found for West Lavington

There were no Folk Biographies found for West Lavington

There were no Folk Plays found for West Lavington

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 46. There is one Grade I building, the Church of All Saints; and one Grade II* building, Dial House.

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.

Current District:Devizes
Address:The Beeches, Bath Road, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 2AL
Former District:

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