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Wiltshire Community History

Ashton Keynes Search Results

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Ashton Keynes

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 Ashton Keynes:

Map of the Civil Parish of Ashton Keynes

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

From the Ordnance Survey 1896 revision of the one inch to one mile map. The modern civil parish boundary has been superimposed.

Thumbnail History:

Ashton Keynes is a large village on the county boundary with Gloucestershire. Being accessible from Cirencester, Swindon and the nearby Kemble station, which provides a rail link to London, makes it a very desirable location in which to live: the last 30 years have seen a 50% growth in population. The village is dominated by water; the River Thames is on the southern boundary and the Thames Path goes through the village. Gravel extraction is an important industry and part of the Cotswold Water Park is in the parish.

The name Ashton means 'farm by the ash tree'. The later addition of Keynes is a family name; in the 13th century the manor was occupied by a William de Keynes.

Neolithic axe heads have been found here, showing that the land was inhabited as early as 3000-1800BC. Crop marks in the centre of the parish near Kent End reveal a Bronze Age site. This shows a ditched enclosure and a group of circular ring ditches. There is a second, larger site, close to the county boundary at Ash Covert. In the 2nd century this was a Romano/British settlement. Many of these settlements existed, notably the preserved Ancient Monument close to the Cotswold Community School. There was possibly a Roman villa here. Cleveland Farm, near the eastern boundary, is on the site of a Roman Temple.

From the early 1100s nearly all the land of Ashton Keynes descended as a single estate belonging to Tewkesbury Abbey. After the dissolution the Manor changed hands several times. In 1848 the estate was sold to Lord Henry Vane (later Duke of Cleveland), who in turn left it in his will of 1891 to Arthur Hay-Drummond. Both men increased the size of the estate through purchases of land and cottages. In 1913 the whole estate was put up for auction. The numerous farms and cottages were sold separately and the Manor ceased to exist, although the title Lord of the Manor was bought by Mr. A.W. Bowley, who also bought Church Farm and Kent End Farm.

The Church of the Holy Cross is mostly Norman, and consists of a chancel with north chapel, a nave of four bays with aisles, north and south porches and a western tower containing five bells. It was restored in 1876-7 by William Butterfield. There were Congregational and Primitive Methodist chapels in the village until the 1970s; both buildings are now private houses.

Ashton has been described as the village of the four crosses. These crosses were put up for a variety of purposes, including places of worship, boundary marks and meeting places. The four at Ashton were all erected in either the 14th or 15th century, but only the bases and parts of the shafts remain, the tops probably having been smashed during the Civil War. The churchyard cross was re-erected in 1917, the stone pieces having been discovered in various parts of the village. The other crosses are at Park Place, Gumstool Bridge and High Road.

Cove House was built in the 17th century and is believed to have been the residence of the Lord of the Manor, remaining so until the break up of the estate in 1913. It remained a family home until the Second World War, when, at different times, British, Canadian and American troops were stationed there. It has now been converted into two houses.

There is a Mill at Ashton mentioned in Domesday, probably on the same site as the current Mill House. The present building originates from the 16th century, with later additions. It was converted into a house in c.1910 when the mill section was pulled down and made into a garden.

The Old Rectory is an 18th century building on the site of a Rectory built in 1584. There is a date stone inside the house, at one time on the north wall, which reads 'Thomas Aubrey 1584'. There are also remains of a malting kiln.

The Long House and Long Cottage are in Park Place. (There is another Long House in High Road). A date stone on the house is marked TMC1765. These are the initials of Thomas Carter, who built a bake house and two cottages on the land. By 1858 there was a blacksmith's shop on the site. Later, a room in the house became the village Post Office. The village's first telephone exchange was installed in the next room and the only public telephone was inside the Post Office.

Like many others, this village would have been mostly self sufficient until the mid-20th century. It was mostly a farming community, providing food for the needs of the village. There were also a small number of tradesmen. The 1851 census records 122 agricultural labourers; second in this list are the 55 glovers. There is a long tradition of glove making in Ashton Keynes, which probably developed because of the growth of the woollen industry and tanning which made available a good supply of leather. In the 19th century many cottagers were outworkers for a Cricklade factory.

The trade directories show that all the trades needed by the villagers from the late 19th century were present. There were grocers, bakers, butchers, boot and shoe makers, tailors, innkeepers and a blacksmith. The local carrier would take you to Cirencester and transport goods and packages between the two places.

The Domesday population of Ashton Keynes was approximately 200. By 1801 it was 764, continuing to rise until reaching its first peak of 1070 in 1861. After falling to 744 in the 1920s, it has again risen steadily, reaching 1420 in 2001. The last 30 years of the 20th century have seen a 50% growth, and the number of houses is now over 500 compared with 400 in the 1970s. Two blocks of fields have been used for post-war housing developments, and some in-filling has taken place within the village.

Until the late 19th century flooding was a major problem. In 1851 the villagers signed a petition requesting a Public Health inspection. The resulting report drew attention to the village's location, with a river flowing outside the gates of several houses, and the fact that the soil was almost always damp. Surface drainage was poor and the wells were shallow, resulting in the villagers having to use contaminated water. The Inspector noted that the villagers could do much to help themselves. He called a public meeting, stating that if 3/5ths of the rate payers agreed, the necessary work could be done and paid for out of the poor rate.

There is no record of a doctor having lived and practised in the village. People who needed a doctor usually went to Cricklade. Various Friendly Societies existed to which people paid small weekly contributions. This entitled them to sickness benefit and admission to hospital if necessary. Each year Society members organised a fund-raising day to help Cirencester Hospital.

The major change in the community during the 20th century has been gravel extraction. This industry began in the early part of the century, when the gravel was used to make concrete. Many men who had previously been employed in agriculture worked on excavating the area that is now the Cotswold Water Park. In 1939 there were 14 acres of water in the area. Today, after extracting 15 million tons of gravel, there are 150 acres of lakes.
Life in the early 20th century was hard. Most of the cottagers in the village were concerned with glove-making. Young girls had to help when they arrived home from school, often staying up until midnight to finish their task. During the Second World War American soldiers were stationed in the village and households took in evacuees. The villagers organised dances and shows to entertain them. In the 1950s 'The Horse and Jockey' public house was a popular meeting place. In 1953 a skittle alley was opened and in the 1960s an 18 hole putting green.

The Ashton Keynes village website shows that this is a vibrant community with plenty of groups and activities for all ages. There is a village hall, sports field and playing fields. To celebrate the millennium, the village produced a book listing the people, dwellings, organisations and businesses present at the turn of the century. Reading the many comments by individuals, it is evident that Ashton Keynes is a lively, friendly and happy village in which to live.

Parish Web Site
CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilAshton Keynes Parish Council
Parish Emailclerk@akpc.org.uk

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

Bethesda Congregational Chapel, Ashton Keynes
Church of the Holy Cross, Ashton Keynes
Primitive Methodist Chapel, Ashton Keynes
Strict Baptist Meeting, Ashton Keynes
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.

An Inventory of Nonconformist Chapels and Meeting Houses in South-West England
Ashton Keynes a village with no history
Ashton Keynes Millennium Book
Highways and Byways in Wiltshire
Holy Cross Church a simple and brief guide for visitors
The Church Bells of Wiltshire pp 14, 252 & 315
The Church Plate of the County of Wilts p 175
The Strict Baptist Chapels of England vol 5 p.32
The Victoria History of Wiltshire vol. 4
The Wiltshire Village Book pp21-22
Wiltshire (Buildings of England series) pp 94-95
Wiltshire Villages pp 185-186

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 1819
Wiltshire Independent 1836 to 1876
Devizes & Wiltshire Gazette 1816
Marlborough Times 1859
North Wilts Herald & Advertiser 1861 to 1950
Swindon Advertiser 1855 to 1967

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 050940
O.S. 25 inch County Series 1870s-1940Apr-15
O.S. 6 inch County Series 1870s-19404
O.S. 1:2500 metric edition; 1950s onwardSU 0493-0593; 0494-0594
O.S. 1:10000 metric edition; 1950s onwardSU 09 SW; SU 09 SE
O.S. Explorer169
O.S. Landranger173
Geological Sheet252

Map of Ashton Keynes

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Map showing Panoramio pictures and Wikipedia entries for the area around Ashton Keynes

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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 Ashton Keynes

Song Title

Roud No.

Collected From



Collected By

Frog he would a-wooing go


Weaver, Elizabeth Mrs.

Ashton Keynes


Williams, Alfred

Old true blue


Bennett, Samuel [Sam]

Ashton Keynes


Williams, Alfred

Folk Biographies from Ashton Keynes

NameLocation/CommunityDate of Birth

Bennett, Samuel [Sam]

Ashton Keynes


Weaver, Elizabeth Mrs.

Ashton Keynes


There were no Folk Plays found for Ashton Keynes

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 66. There is one Grade I buildings, the Church of the Holy Cross.

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

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