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Wiltshire Community History

Dauntsey Search Results

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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 Dauntsey:

Map of the Civil Parish of Dauntsey

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:

Dauntsey is a civil parish in the north of the county of Wiltshire and is approximately six miles to the south east of Malmesbury and eight miles north east of Chippenham. There is no centre or village or such, but rather a scattered collection of farmsteads, homes and hamlets. These are chiefly Dauntsey Green, Dauntsey Common and Dauntsey Lock, but none of them in particular have a centre. Earlier in the parish's history, Smithcot, Sodom and Idover were hamlets which once existed, but now remain only in the names of farms, houses and roads. The M4 motorway cuts through the parish and so now perhaps adds to the scattered feel of the community. The parishes of Little Somerford and Brinkworth are directly north of the parish boundary while Great Somerford is found to the west of Dauntsey and Lyneham to the south. The northern boundary with Brinkworth is marked by Brinkworth Brook and the Swindon to Chippenham railway line bisects the base of the parish. Geologically Dauntsey lies on Oxford Clay and is essentially in the shape of a rectangle, made up of 3,258 acres of land. This is a reduction from what it measured in 1884, after which 42 acres was transferred to Brinkworth parish. The parish is a fairly low and level one with its highest point being 122 metres above sea level.

The population of Dauntsey has risen over the years, with a dip in the mid 1800s when many people left to find work in less rural areas. 357 people lived in the parish in 1801 and 623 in 1851. By 1921 the population was 351. This grew to 456 by 1981 and was 532 in 2001.

In 850 there was an estate called Dauntsey belonging to Malmesbury Abbey; this more or less approximates to the Dauntsey of today. At around the time of the Domesday survey there was a large area of woodland. The manor of Dauntsey remained with Malmesbury Abbey until the 12th century, although in 1086 at the time of the Domesday survey, it had been leased to Robert, having previously been leased to Alward before 1066. There were six plough teams on the estate at Dauntsey and the population would have been between 110 and 130 people. A mill was also recorded as existing at Dauntsey in 1086. There was another mill in 1487 known as Smith's Mill. The Dauntsey family took their name from the parish in the 13th century, when the Dauntsey name is first recorded. There are a few generations of Miles of Dauntsey. The family became quite large landowners in the subsequent centuries. Their property included Winterbourne Dauntsey in Gloucestershire. Records from the 14th century show that Dauntsey was a well off parish; certainly it was one of the wealthiest in the Malmesbury Hundred and there were 111 poll tax payers in 1377.

The Dauntsey family name died out with Walter, who died childless aged 22 in 1420.
His sister, Joan, was married to Sir John Stradling, who was her second husband. The Stradlings became the owners of Dauntsey following Walter's death. Although Joan went on to marry for a third time, her son Edmund was a Stradling and he carried on the name as owner of the manor. The manor next came into the hands of the Danvers, who were related to the Stradlings. There is some confusion as to exactly this occurred. Edward Stradling's sister, Anne, who was married to Sir John Danvers, certainly succeeded Edward and thus the estate later passed down through the Danvers family. There is a story that Edward met his death through murder, perhaps during a robbery at the house, and it was the death of Edward and his family, that meant Anne became the heiress and the Danvers family became the lords of the manor.

Sir Henry Danvers is an important figure in the history of the parish. He was born in Dauntsey on 28 June 1573 and was the second son of Sir John Danvers and Elizabeth Nevill. He became the Earl of Danby, created so by Charles I in 1626. He was effectively banished from the country in 1594 when he was involved in the death of Henry Long. It is said that Henry Danvers shot Henry Long, of South Wraxhall, in an inn in Corsham. There are several stories that differ as to why this happened; some say it was in self defence, others that it was a deliberate killing after a long running quarrel. He spent time in France, enlisting in the French army, and receiving a pardon from Elizabeth I for his bravery. He was made Lord Danvers by James I after spending time fighting in Ireland for the king after his return home. He then became an earl. He died in 1643 and is buried at Dauntsey, in a tomb in the church of St. James.

Sir John Danvers, younger brother of Henry Danvers, was a member of the committee who judged Charles I. His name is upon the death warrant and therefore was known as a 'regicide'; being someone who was responsible for the death of a king. Upon the restoration of the monarchy, it was ordered that all regicides should be put on trial and then hung, drawn and quartered. Sir John, who died in 1655, was buried at Dauntsey Church. In order to prevent any damage being done to his remains, it is said that friends dug up his body from Dauntsey and re-buried it somewhere else. There is certainly no record of Charles II's men finding his body. In later years, theories that his body was buried at Bradenstoke Priory and also that it was re-buried deep within Dauntsey's church-yard were proposed. The third brother, Charles, was also involved in a well known royal story; he served under the earl of Essex in Ireland and became part of the plot against Elizabeth I and the Cecil family. He was tried and beheaded on Tower Hill on 18 March 1801. After the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II, the manor of Dauntsey was under the dispensation of the crown, and was given to the Duke of York, the King's brother. It was the Crown's to give once again in 1691, and was granted to Charles Mordaunt, the Earl of Monmouth. In 1697 he also became the Earl of Peterborough, and this is where the name of the parish's public house, The Peterborough Arms, comes from. The manor was sold a few generations later to the Meux family. Sir Henry Meux and his wife Valerie moved to Dauntsey in 1877 and lived at the manor house where Sir Henry became involved in the politics of Wiltshire and became a local magistrate. He also became High Sheriff of the county in 1866.

At the couple's estate in Hertfordshire, Theobalds, Sir Henry is said to have kept live bears, zebras, ostriches and an elephant but despite this interest in keeping exotic animals, he also enjoyed hunting while in Wiltshire. Sir Henry died in 1900 and his wife, Valerie, in 1910 when the manor became the property of Mr Ferdinand Marsham-Townshend, who sold it in 1915. Dauntsey House and all its contents were sold by auctioneers in London on 6 April 1915.

Very little building from before the 18th century still stands in the parish, with the oldest and most imposing building being Dauntsey House; it is thought to date from the 14th century and is a Grade II * building. It was remodelled late in the 17th century and once again in around 1800. It was originally built for members of the Dauntsey family, who owned the manor at that time. In the 19th century a stair hall and kitchen wing were built.
Since the sale of the manor, which included Dauntsey House, the house has been owned by a succession of private owners.

In 1770 there were two main hamlets in the parish; Dauntsey Green and Dauntsey Common. At Dauntsey Common in 1773, there were around 12 buildings, including an almshouse and school. Most of the building in the parish dates from the 19th century, especially in Dauntsey Green which became the main village street known as The Green.
Some cottages and a house were built in Greenman's Lane in the 19th century. In 1932 some four pairs of council houses were built near to the school, with many more houses built in the latter parts of the 20th century. In the 1950s an estate of 22 council houses was built to the west of the southern road to Lyneham. It was called St James's. Despite the relatively recent age of most building, there are a fair few listed buildings in the parish. The delightfully named Good Mondays Farmhouse is Grade II listed, as are Great Smithcott Farmhouse, Great Dairy Farmhouse, Evergreen Farmhouse and Dauntsey Park Lodge.

Farming in the parish was traditionally centred on a pasture economy. In 1846 only 130 acres of land were arable and nearly all the rest used for grazing cows. Between 1870 and 1940 there was an average of at least 800 cows in the parish. Open fields were enclosed during the 17th century and the early 18th century and any remaining parts of Dauntsey common were enclosed by the 1760s. At the end of the 18th century there were around 20 working farms at Dauntsey. Many of these were relatively small. By 1846 there were 18 farms, most of which had increased in size from the previous century. The number of cattle kept in the parish had soared to 1,800 by the 1960s; around half of these were for dairy and the other half for beef.

The Wilts and Berks canal, opened in 1810, was built across the southern tip of the parish being built from east to west. A wharf was built soon after the opening of the canal; it is to the south west of Dauntsey parish. The name Dauntsey Lock, given to one of the mini-hamlets that make up Dauntsey, was named after the canal. This name was in existence at least from 1884. The canal closed in 1914, but in the 21st century efforts are being made to re-open the canal and Dauntsey Lock is an important structure in this project, with the canal through Dauntsey to be restored on its original line. The railway line, the GWR line from London to Bristol, which opened in 1841, was built to run parallel to the canal. A station was built in the parish after the line opened; it was near the boundary with Christian Malford and opened to passengers in 1868. Farms and outhouses were built near to the station, but half of these were technically in Christian Malford. A milk station was built north of the station in the 1880s. By the 1890s it had become part of Wilts United Dairies Company, sending milk to London on the train. It closed when the station did. There was also a branch line to Malmesbury, which opened in 1877, but shut in 1933. The station itself closed in 1965.

There was an almshouse, with accommodation for five residents, in Dauntsey by 1420. Sir Henry Danvers, Earl of Danby, also gave money and a site for an almshouse and school in his will of 1643. They were built at some point in the 1660s. In the 1860s a new school was built, and this included almshouses; in 1905 there were eight residents in these almshouses, including two married couples. In the 1720s the poor of the parish were fairly well looked after; in 1727-28, the overseers of the poor spent £18. In 1747-48 the overseers spent £85 and burials were often paid for. In the 19th century the cost of caring for the poor continued to rise; £398 was spent in 1802-03 with 40 people getting regular relief. Dauntsey became part of Malmesbury Poor Law Union in 1835.

The end of the 19th and the start of the 20th centuries saw a succession of shows and pantomimes performed in Dauntsey. The Dauntsey Dramatic Society started out with a production of Ali Baba, with the main role taken by the school master of the time. Productions in the 1900s included 'The Goose Girl', 'The Three Bears' and 'Alice in Wonderland.' This last show was especially impressive, engaging some professional actors and even being performed twice in Malmesbury Town Hall, as well as at Dauntsey. The productions ceased prior to the outbreak of World War One.

The only public house in the parish is The Peterborough Arms. It dates from the early 19th century - probably 1820 - and is a Grade II listed building.

Parish Web Site
CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilDauntsey Parish Council
Parish EmailDanielle574@btinternet.com

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

Church of St. James, Dauntsey
Independent Chapel, Dauntsey
Primitive Methodists, Dauntsey
Providence Baptist Chapel, Dauntsey
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 Decade of Demon Kings in Dauntsey
Church of St James the Great, Dauntsey
Department of the Environment: Lists of buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interests, North Wiltshire Vol 3
Round about Wiltshire
The Accounts of the Churchwardens of Dauntsey 1775- 1900
The Meux Succession: The Rise and Demise of a Dynasty
The Story of Dauntsey
The Victoria History of Wiltshire, Vol 14
Wiltshire Meeting House Certificates 1689-1852
Wiltshire Schools
Wiltshire: Cradle of our Civilisation

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
North Wilts Herald & Advertiser 1861 to 1956
Swindon Advertiser 1855 to 1967
Sherborne Mercury 1737 to 1867
Wiltshire Independent 1836 to 1876
Wiltshire Telegraph 1877 to 1935
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 ST 980825
O.S. 25 inch County Series 1870s-194014/13
O.S. 6 inch County Series 1870s-194014
O.S. 1:2500 metric edition; 1950s onwardST 9880-9980; 9881-9981; 9692-9792; 9892-9992
O.S. 1:10000 metric edition; 1950s onwardST 98 SE; SU 08 SW
O.S. Explorer168/169
O.S. Landranger173
Geological Sheet252

Map of Dauntsey

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Map showing Panoramio pictures and Wikipedia entries for the area around Dauntsey

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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 Dauntsey

There were no Folk Biographies found for Dauntsey

There were no Folk Plays found for Dauntsey

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 27. There is one Grade I building, the Church of St. James, and one Grade II* building, Dauntsey 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:Chippenham
Address:4 Timber Street, Chippenham, Wiltshire SN15 3BZ
Former District:Malmesbury to April 1936

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