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Chapter TitleNotes

Wootton Bassett

Title :Wootton Bassett Notes ( Pages 192 - 196)
Author :
Book Type :General History and Topography
Publisher :Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Date :
ISBN :
Journal :WAM Vol. 29
Full Text :Wootton Bassett Notes.

(Reprinted from the Wootton Bassett Almanack, 1897.) "It may perhaps not be generally known that the tower of the Parish Church which was taken down at the restoration was not more than 40ft. in height. It was, however, of exactly the same size as the present one, and contained four large pieces of oak timber in the corners of the belfry. The windows in it were of the Decorated period. On the east side could be seen the mark of the roof of the Church to which it belonged, which must have been a small, low edifice, supposed to have been built about A.D. 1300.
"A portion of the church of 1300 still exists, viz.: the window in which the stained glass to the memory of the late Earl of Clarendon is placed. In the chancel taken down at the restoration of which this window formed part, it was placed at the east end in the north aisle. It is considered to be a good specimen of the style (Decorated) to which it belongs, and has now formed part of three or perhaps four different Churches, as the chancel which was taken down was of a kind of debased architecture and inferior workmanship, and may have been erected by Lawrence Hyde, Earl of Rochester, at the same time as the Town Hall, as the columns or pillars were apparently about the same pattern and size.
"On the left-hand side of the south door on entering the Church was the remarkable fresco or mural painting representing the assassination of Thomas á Becket. About 1856 this interesting relic of antiquity was destroyed by a monument being placed over it, the place being between the large doorway and the staircase leading to the parvise. It is thus described in a newspaper of the date of the discovery, viz., 1823: - 'The curious discovery of an ancient painting in the Church at Wootton Bassett.- On clearing the south wall, which is a more ancient part of the Church than the rest of the structure with which it is now united, the workmen here accidentally brought to light a very curious painting, executed in the rudest style, but evidently illustrating the subject which it represented. In the act of brushing, a piece of plaster fell off and discovered underneath the armed foot of a man with a spear. Gradually removing the plaster away, the workmen found a painting in water colours (red) of the murder of Archbishop Becket. The four knights in armour are nearly perfect, the two foremost are pressing on him with their swords drawn, the latter in the act of drawing. The archbishop is kneeling before the altar; between his hands, which are raised in a pious attitude, is the wafer. The cup and the book are placed on the table before him, the crucifix and the mitre are by his side. The cardinal's red robe with golden bands is distinct. His features are a good deal obliterated, but there is sufficient to distinguish that his head is turned in sudden surprise. The picture is evidently painted on the first coating, as the bare stone is immediately underneath; and below is sketched what was intended as the Cathedral itself. The picture is highly worth the inspection of the curious.' The writer can remember seeing this on the very day on which it was discovered. It was in the first year he went to school, and on going home past the Church he went inside to see it.
"On the north wall of the nave, just opposite the large door was the royal coat of arms placed by law in every Church at the Restoration. It was painted on the wall in red colours, and there were these words on the upper part, 'God save King Charles,' and at the bottom, 'God save his Grace.'
"The handsome chandelier was presented about 1780 by Mrs. (or Miss, for she was never married) Jane Hollister, daughter of Mr. Charles Hollister, who was then steward or bailiff to Lord Clarendon.
"In a Terrier dated 28th July, 1783, the furniture of the Church is thus described: - 'five large and one small bells, a clock, one silver chalice and cover gilt, the gift of Mr. William Joburn to the Church at Wootton Bassett in the year 1631, on the cover is engraved the letters W.J.; one small ditto & cover weight 11 ozs., one silver salver weight 11 ozs., one ditto 10 ozs., one chandelier and two scones, one in the minister's desk and one on the clerk's, the gift of Mrs. (or Miss) Jane Hollister of Wootton Bassett; and the glebe land, Wootton Fields, formerly called Rudhills (53 acres).'
'At the time of the restoration of the Church the lead coffin of Henry Hyde, Earl of Clarendon and Rochester was found. He must have been a very tall man, and the coffin was singularly narrow where the shoulders would be. The inscription, of which the writer has a tracing, was 'The Right Honble. Henry Hyde, Earl of Clarendon and Rochester, Died 10th December, 1753, in ye 83rd year of his age.' There was also the coat of arms and the motto 'Soyez Ferme.'
"In a Terrier dated 28th July, 1783, the Old Vicarage - which stood on a site some distance below the present one- is thus described: - "The Vicarage House Built with stone, and covered with thatch, a hall on the first floor with stone pavement, pantry with earth floor, scullery with stone pavement, on the first floor; a dining room wainscotted chair high, a drawing room, and three bed rooms, all ceiled, on the second floor; three garrets; brewhouse 29ft. by 24ft. Stable, 19ft. by 17ft., stone walls, and covered with thatch. Barn, 47ft. by 19ft. weather boarded, and covered with thatch.'
"The parish was formerly divided into two tythings, Woodshaw and Greenhill. Each appointed its own tythingman or constable until 1839, when the rural police took over their duties. When the new Highway Act was adopted in the Swindon Division, in 1864, surveyors of highways ceased to be appointed. The Borough of Wootton Bassett appointed its own surveyor. The amount levied was to the full extent of that authorised by law, namely, three ten-penny rates in a year, and there was always much squabbling among the inhabitants. Once a year the road scrapings were sold, about Christmas time, at one or other of the inns, and the money was spent in jollification. This was called the 'Dirt Supper.'
"The rates in Woodshaw tything seldom exceeded sixteen pence in the pound, and those levied in Greenhill were about sixpence, but - as may be expected - the roads were in a wretched state.
"The area of the parish in which the tything of Woodshaw was comprised was the north and east side of the stream, the correct name of which is the 'Lower Avon,' and the Greenhill tything the south and west sides of the same. Among the roads which have ceased to exist in the parish may be mentioned one called 'Pudding Lane,' which led out of the Chippenham Road to Dunnington Common, and now forms part - at the west side- of an arable field called Muxon Close, on Dunnington Farm. Those people from Brinkworth and elsewhere who came up Whitehill Lane, could, if they wished, go to Marlborouugh without passing through the borough, thus avoiding the two hills by which it is approached. There was also another road which was abolished when the enclosure (about 1820 or 1821) of the common land within the parish took place. It led from Dunnington Common by a bridge built over the canal, down to the brook into a large field called Ford Close, or Cruse's Field (now belonging to Mr. George Twine), and went over, up under the hedge, into what was Greenhill Common, thence to Calne, Chippenham, &c. It was only used for a bridle road, but it is quite evident from the quantity of earth in the track - which has vanished, the ground being much lower-that it must have been used to a great extent in ancient times. By going from Dunnington Common by Nore-Marsh, up Stoneover Lane, and thence by a road which is said to have existed by Midgehall Farm to Shaw, there appears to have been a way to Highworth. There was also another lane which is now disused, called Vowley Lane. This was between Wootton Fields Farm and Taylor's Field on Nore-Marsh Farm. The correct name, however, is Fowl Hill. There were several pieces of land of this name to which the lane led, and instead of 'Bishop's Fowley' the farm ought to be called 'Bushey Fowlhill,' that being the name in old documents. There is another bridle road, the knowledge of which has probably almost passed away. It commenced at Upper Greenhill, and passed along the south side of the parish, from thence to Bushey Vowley, or Fowlhill by Wootton Fields Farm, and between the glebe (called Rudlands) and Goldborough in Broad Town parish. The footpath from Tockenham and Lyneham originally crossed the brook on the lower or north side of the canal aqueduct by means of some very large stones, which formed a bridge. One of them was dragged out by four horses in 1842 and utilised on a neighbouring farm. It is probable that the field named the Wores (there were three of that name) was so called from being close to the mill pond. A wear, or weir, is a dam or stank, so that it is probable that 'The Weirs' is the proper name. The Weir at Broad Hinton, and Whyr Farm, are probably derived from the same source. About 1793 the turnpike road from Swindon to Christian Malford Bridge was in use, and that part between Hunt's Mill Bridge and the Red Lion at Hillocks, Lyneham, was entirely new. The old road leading from Wootton Bassett to Chippenham went up where the canal bridge now is, up the hill on the right a little way beyond it, thence through the upper part of Little Park Farm, by Woodyates (or Wood Gate) and along towards Tockenham, passing at the bottom of the Cowleaze at Queen's Court Farm, where there are several pollard sycamore trees which were once in the hedge belonging to the road. It then passed the village of Tockenham on the north side, went by Shaw House Farm, and thence to the Red Lion. The turnpike house in Wootton Bassett parish at Coped Hall would seem to have been used as such, according to the census, in 1793, but that at the west end of the town at Whitehill Lane was not built then. There was a date on the beam (1797) when it was pulled down in 1879. From where Whitehill Lane widens below the cottages, or rather did, for it has recently been enclosed and added to the adjoining fields, it was called Broadway. What is now Hooker's Gate in ancient times was called Faafe Gate, and was where the 'Duke went forth.' There was an enclosure of oak trees there, called Woakhay (or Oak Hay), and a 'Woak Hay mead.' This must have been corrupted into Hooker's.
"There was formerly a wood called Calo Wood, consisting of a hundred acres, about where Mr. Tuck's farm is at Highgate. After the agricultural Riots of 1830 a large piece of land on the north of the road was broken up there, and used as allotments by the labourers of the parish, which was christened by them ' New Zealand,' and another piece of land on the south side was used for the same purpose, and called 'High Beggars.'
"The Act of Parliament for enclosing the common land in this parish was obtained in 1819, and the commissioner appointed was Mr. Decimus Godson, who also in the next year surveyed and valued the parish of Lyneham. He afterwards became manager of a bank at Croydon, where some of his descendants are now in business.
"Greenhill Common consisted of about forty acres, and everyone in the parish had a right to depasture stock there, and a hayward was appointed by the manor court. The cottagers also kept many geese. It was a favourite resort of gipsies, whose 'pitch' was generally on the west side of the hedge on the left-hand side of the Bushton and Clyffe Road, just over the canal bridge called in the ordnance map 'Greenhill Bridge.' On Sunday the lads and lasses of the lower orders in Wootton Bassett were accustomed to congregate there, the former for football and the latter to have their fortunes told by these dusky sybils.
"The late Mr. Abraham Woodward, of Wood Street, Wootton Bassett, declared that he had seen in print somewhere that Lady Englefield, on her departure from Vastern in 1667, assigned this common to the inhabitants for pasturage in lieu of the Lawn (or Lawnd). Of this there is scarcely a doubt.
"The Cripps family had a field in the middle of Greenhill Common, which they held as lifehold for many generations. It was popularly supposed to have been at some time 'grabbed' from the common, and was called ''Pinchgut close.'
"The last time any court of the Manor of Wootton Basset was held was in March, 1834. The writer, whose father was tything-man and hayward, remembers summoning some of the inhabitants of Greenhill tything to attend. The manor courts were always held in the Town Hall.
"When the common was enclosed it was apportioned to the owners of the adjoining land, according to the quantity in their possession."


Abbreviations used:
  • WAM Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Magazine
  • WNQ Wiltshire Notes and Queries

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