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Wiltshire Community History

Royal Wootton Bassett Search Results

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Royal Wootton Bassett

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

Map of the Civil Parish of Wootton Bassett:

Map of the Civil Parish of Wootton Bassett

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

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

Thumbnail History:

Royal Wootton Bassett is a market town located in North Wiltshire. It is some 4 miles south west of Swindon, and lies 10 miles from Malmesbury, 4 miles from Lyneham, 8 miles from Calne and 14 miles from Chippenham. In its earliest days the town would have bordered on Bradon Forest. Until the mid 1800s the towns of Cricklade and Wootton Bassett were larger and more important locally than the relatively small Swindon. Since the coming of the railways in the 1850s, however, that all changed and development then centred on Swindon.

Early records usually start with 681 AD when a Malmesbury Abbey charter granted to the Abbot, by the Saxon king Ethelred, 10 hides of land to a place called 'Wodeton'. (A clearing in what is probably now Braden Forest). However this charter was lost by 1066 when the Doomsday Book shows Wodeton belonging to Levenod as a manor with a Norman lord, Milo Crispin. The manor descended to an Alan Bassett in 1200 A. D. and his signature can be seen as part of the Magna Carta Preface. In 1219 Alan Bassett gained permission from Henry III to hold a market weekly in the town; there is still one today on Wednesdays. The town had a small priory probably in Wood Street, run by a priest (the prior) and lay brothers (presbyters) to feed 13 old men of the parish. This was originally called the hospital of St John and was set up in 1254 by a son of Alan Bassett, Philip. Another manor house was built called Vastern and the two manor houses were run by one lord.

In 1405 the Priory of St John was transferred to Bradenstoke Priory and so only continued for approximately another 50 years. The first known Mayor of Wootton Bassett in 1408 was John Wollmonger. This name suggests that there may have been a good trade in wool at that time.

Various changes took place over the years as to the land and ownership of Wootton Bassett. In 1446 just before the start of the Wars of the Roses, the town sent two MP's to parliament. The king at the time was Henry VI; rumour has it that Henry VIII had a mistress at Vastern Manor, Wootton Bassett. Certainly the manor house and land belonged to Catherine Parr his widow, until her death in 1548.

In the 17th century the Hyde family (Earls of Clarendon), to possibly further their political careers, renewed the charter for Wootton Bassett and also presented the town with its Town Hall. It did not always look as it does today. The usual plan of the Town Hall was an upper room or council chamber built on 15 pillars. Under this at ground level was a store room for market commodities, maybe even an area to sell them from. As the Mayor kept law and order there was a lock up or 'Blind House' for keeping drunks overnight. Folklore goes that the drunks were more drunk in the morning because in secret 'midnight ale' was passed through the grating by means of the 'churchwarden pipe'. The Blind House disappeared in 1889 with some restoration work. The national school may have used the Town Hall temporarily until their new premises in Station Road were ready. Over the years many uses and changes have taken place. Now the town has a very interesting museum open on Saturday mornings. The silver Maces in the Town Hall date from 1603 though it is unclear how they came into the borough's possession and therefore their significance is also unknown.

Wootton Bassett's coat of arms was possibly borrowed from the Clarendon coat of arms when they owned the manor. It appears in a window at the House of Lords and also on the scabbard of the mayoral sword presented to the borough in 1812.

Wootton Bassett is a typical market town with a long High Street, which broadens to allow space for a market. The main road runs along this street and, until the development of post-war decades, much of the housing is very close to it. The High Street offers a mixture of buildings, many of which date back several hundred years.

The charter granted by Charles II in 1679 and procured for Wootton Bassett by Lawrence Hyde allows the town to again hold a weekly market on Wednesdays (still held today), three fairs and a court of pie powder to execute summary justice on disturbers of the peace. The mayor was also the clerk of the market with power to set tolls. The market continued but dwindled due to managerial apathy and by 1810 was in a sad state. Then in 1832 when the town lost its borough political status the more affluent townsmen joined together to form a committee and held a grand monthly cattle market. This flourished well, so was added to with a Christmas fat stock show, and two hiring fairs held in the Spring and Autumn. The first hiring fair took place on 4th October 1836 when people in the agricultural and domestic field of work gathered to be hired as servants. There was music and dancing and a generally pleasant day with no trouble on the way home. However these fairs disappeared by the end of the 19th century and in 1939, with the outbreak of war and the general increase in traffic from Chippenham to Swindon through Wootton Bassett, the market or shambles closed. The market building stood where the Town Hall now is, at the entrance to Wood Street, but when it couldn't be sold after falling into disrepair the building was pulled down in 1813 and the timbers disposed of.

With the dissolution of the monasteries, when Elizabeth I was on the throne she decreed that each parish should have responsibility for its own poor, raising funds locally to look after them. The 1793 Wootton Bassett census records a small workhouse for 12 people in Old Court (off Station Road) This was followed in 1836 by a much larger building at Purton to serve both Purton and Wootton Bassett All these workhouses were disused by 1948.

Schooling for all came at about the turn of the century, and the present Civic Centre is a site given by the Earl of Clarendon to teach both children and adults of labouring, manufacturing and other poorer classes in Wootton Bassett. The schoolmaster's house was next door and the school was opened officially in 1861 by the Bishop of Salisbury. In line with its growth during the latter part of the twentieth century several new primary schools were added. In 2001 Wootton Bassett Comprehensive school moved to a new building, opened in 2002 by HRH Princess Anne.

The Town Library had two initial sources of stock. Part came from the Mutual Improvement Society who, when it closed down, donated its stock. Donations were generously given by people including Lady Meux and the borrowing stock at the national school was transferred making by 1890 a total of some 1000 titles. Lady Meux officially opened the town library in the Town Hall and presided over the library committee. The library was open on Mondays 7 to 8:30pm and cost two shillings to belong. When the county decided to operate a free service the competition was too great and the town library closed around 1935. The county branch library was situated at the Lorna Doone centre, in temporary accommodation at Borough Fields and, since 1991 has been in purpose built premises in the Borough Fields shopping centre.

Wootton Bassett had a Railway Station in the early 20th century when the milk was transported from nearby farms to the London market. The Station was closed in 1966 when Dr. Beeching reformed the railways.

On the site of what was until recently the St Ivel Dairy, was a brewery known as the Beaufort Brewery, set up to exploit the latest techniques and run a school of scientific brewing. Another brewery was located where the present Conservative Club is on the High Street and the well for drawing water can still be seen in a garden behind. This was the Wootton Bassett brewery. The third was the Lamb or Caldwell's in lower High Street.

The town boasted brickworks using local clay until the deposits ran out. These were located in Vale View, and Church Street where there are now allotments. It also had a bacon factory where the pigs were driven in, slaughtered cured, and made into sausages, black puddings, lard, faggots, polonies and of course bacon. The North Wilts Bacon factory was behind the Curriers Arms and evidence of it exists today. The Gas, Coke and Light Company was formed in 1859 in Station Road, operating the supply for the town. The manager's house was next door to the gas holders. It was his job until the late 1960's to light the gas mantles in the street lamps. This has all gone now being replaced by a plumbers' merchants opposite the entrance to the St Ivel factory. The Gas House still stands, although with much alteration. Wootton Bassett also had its own blacksmiths, wheelwright and rope maker. There is mention in the Doomsday Book of a water mill, but now demolished. The town also had three windmills used for pumping and driving machinery.

Until 2002 St Ivel, under the name of Uniq, operated a dairy in the town and was one of the largest single employers. This business has now closed. Most employment opportunities in the town rest on the industrial estates, Woodshaw and Whitehill Trading Estate, and in retail on the High Street.

Parish Web Site
CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilRoyal Wootton Bassett Parish Council
Parish Emailenquiries@woottonbassett.gov.uk

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

Baptist Hope Chapel, Wootton Bassett
Church of St. Bartholomew and All Saints, Wootton Bassett
Congregational Chapel, Wootton Bassett
Primitive Methodist Chapel, Wootton Bassett
Quakers, Wootton Bassett
Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart, Wootton Bassett
Salvation Army, Wootton Bassett
United Reformed Church, Wootton Bassett
Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Wootton Bassett
Wootton Bassett Community Church, Wootton Bassett
Wootton Bassett Methodist Church, Wootton Bassett
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.

A brief history of the Parish Church of St Bartholomew and All Saints, Wootton Bassett in the County of Wilts and Diocese of Salisbury
An Inventory of Nonconformist Chapels and Meeting Houses in South - West England ( Page 247)
Around Wootton Bassett in old photographs
Countrywomen on the Land : Memories of Rural Life in the 1920s and '30s ( Pages 24 - 29)
Exploring Historic Wiltshire, Vol. 1 : North
Fasterne ( Pages 176 - 179)
Highways and Byways in Wiltshire (Pages 327 - 328)
Moonraker Firemen ( of the past) ( Pages 217 - 224)
Round About Wiltshire
The Beauties of Wiltshire (3 Vols) (Vol. 3, Pages 37 - 43)
The Church Bells of Wiltshire : their inscriptions and history
The Church Plate of the County of Wilts ( Pages 145 - 146)
The history of Wootton Bassett : " a very ancient mayor towne"
The Illustrated Portrait of Wiltshire
The parish church of St Bartholomew and All Saints, Wootton Bassett
The Victoria History of Wiltshire, Vol. 4
The Victoria History of Wiltshire, Vol. 4
The Wiltshire Village Book (Page 42)
The woman who wouldn't die
Wiltshire (Buildings of England series) : revised by Bridget Cherry
Wiltshire : the topographical collections corrected and enlarged by John Edward Jackson
Wiltshire Schools : a short history
Wiltshire Towns : the archaeological potential ( Page 71)
Wootton Bassett Notes ( Pages 192 - 196)

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
Marlborough Times 1859
North Wilts Herald & Advertiser 1861 to 1950
Swindon Advertiser 1855 to 1967
Sherborne Mercury 1737 to 1867
Wiltshire Independent 1836 to 1876
Evening Advertiser 1898

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 070825
O.S. 25 inch County Series 1870s-194014-Dec
O.S. 6 inch County Series 1870s-194014
O.S. 1:2500 metric edition; 1950s onwardSU 0682-0782; 0683-0783; 0681-0781
O.S. 1:10000 metric edition; 1950s onwardSU 08 SE; SU 08 SW
O.S. Explorer169
O.S. Landranger173
Geological Sheet252

Map of Wootton Bassett

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Map showing Panoramio pictures and Wikipedia entries for the area around Wootton Bassett

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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 Wootton Bassett

Song Title

Roud No.

Collected From



Collected By

Wassail song



Wootton Bassett


Wiltshire, F H

There were no Folk Biographies found for Wootton Bassett

Folk Plays from Wootton Bassett

Play Title

Alt Play Title


Words From

Mummers' play

Wootton Bassett

Wiltshire, F H

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 importance is 63. There are no Grade I listings but there are 4 Grade II* buildings.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

Local Authors: There could be an author who was born or has lived in this community.

Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon, 1609-1674 , Statesman and historian; M.P. for Wootton Bassett

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:Swindon
Address:Aspen House (1st Floor), Temple Street, Swindon, Wiltshire SN1 1SQ
Former District:Cricklade to April 1936

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