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Wiltshire Community History

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Title :Wiltshire and Its Worthies ( Pages 115 - 118)
Author :Joseph Stratford
Book Type :People
Publisher :Brown & Co.
Date :1882

most probably a native of this parish, deservedly holds a distinguished place. Succeeding Abbot Robert in 1234, he zealously set himself to restore the prosperity of the abbey, which had suffered both in Spirituals and Temporals. His energy was untiring and his labours abundant, so that alienated possessions were recovered, lost rights regained, debts discharged, the lands diligently cultivated, and the abbey well provided with cattle, sheep, and agricultural produce, as well as enriched with plate, money, and other effects. As a spiritual ruler he was also diligent and exemplary. He is said to have loved and cherished the brethren, and to have well governed the Church and ordered the house and himself. "He was diligent in instructing the young, modest and meek in reproving and correcting; always free from reproaches, hard words, or austerity." After eighteen years of activity he resigned his office and sought retirement, but died the following year, 1253.
Other natives and notable residents have honourable mention in the traditions and annals of this interesting little town. One of these,


when a boy, left Amesbury to seek employment in London. We next hear of him on the title page of a book published in the reign of Charles II., which reads thus: - The English Vineyard Vindicated; By John Rose, Gardiner to His Majesty at his Royal Garden in St. James's, Formerly Gardiner to Her Grace the Duchess of Somerset. With an address where the best plants are to be had at easie rates. The work originated in a conversation between Rose and the celebrated John Evelyn; and it appears that while the former supplied the information the latter prepared it for publication. Rose was the first to cultivate the pine-apple in England, and a painting representing his presentation of the delicious fruit to the king adorned the royal residence. He died Sept. 17, 1677, and was buried in the church of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. In his prosperity he did not forget his native town. The bulk of his property was bequeathed to the parish of Amesbury. Part was devoted to the maintenance of a Free Grammar school for twenty boys, one of the first scholars in which was Joseph Addison. Twenty pounds were applied to the purchase of communion plate for the church on some of which his name appears.
A contrivance for throwing grain for the action of the fan in the winnowing machine, and known as the Amesbury Heaver, was the invention of John Trowbridge a native of this parish. He was a man in humble circumstances, but possessed an inventive and useful genius. He was one of the earliest, if not the first, to apply the loom to the weaving of wire for winnowing and other purposes. He died in 1823.
The relation of Amesbury to Stonehenge is ancient and intimate; and the inhabitants of the little town naturally feel a deep interest in the mysterious ruin of which by near neighbourhood they seem constituted the custodians.
Visiting Amesbury in 1822 for the purpose of delivering a course of lectures on ancient history Henry Browne, a gentleman of Worcester, had his attention strongly drawn to these wonderful remains. Taking up his residence in the town he pursued his archæological researches on the Plain with great ardour. Pen and pencil, pickaxe and spade were all employed in the prosecution of his work. With much ingenuity and exactness he constructed, chiefly while on the spot and with few mechanical aids, a model of Stonehenge for himself; and then proceeded to make a second which when complete he placed upon a sort of wheelbarrow and early one morning set out with it for London. "After a toilsome and almost continuous march of two days and nights, (for he only slept a short time in the day) he arrived on the morning of the third day at the British Museum, showed a letter he had got from the Trustees to the porter, wheeled his load into the courtyard, and saw his model safely deposited in the house. He left without staying to be questioned, and was soon on his way home again; but was detained for some days on the road by illness brought on by his exertions."
He continued his pursuits as a lecturer for many years, and also published several pamphlets on various subjects - including one on Stonehenge and Abury. Like many other active and inquiring minds Mr. Browne essayed to explore the mysteries of the Apocalypse. The results of his studies were given to the public in two or three pamphlets, which like most works on the same subject have passed into oblivion. His death resulting from over exertion in a long walk to fulfil a lecturing engagement at Winchester occurred in that city April 17, 1839; and he lies buried in Amesbury Churchyard. Mr. Browne was uncle to the popular authoress - "Charlotte Elizabeth." His son,


like himself felt the charm of Stonehenge, and for more than forty years devoted himself to illustrating it by models and drawings; and acting as guide to visitors. He passed so much time on the spot, both by night and day, as to seem almost a portion of the same. His presence served to protect the ruin from injury and defilement and the information which he intelligently and courteously afforded to strangers was highly appreciated. When at length compelled to relinquish attendance through infirmity, the kindness of friends enabled him to live in retirement till his death on 26 Feb., 1881, at the age of 84.
The annals of Amesbury Manor would form a long and interesting chapter in Wiltshire History. The Abbey which occupied the site of the present residence of Sir Edmund Antrobus, Bart., M.P., originated in a nunnery founded by Elfrida in atonement for the murder of her son-in-law Edward the Martyr. Many distinguished names are found in its records. Eleanor the widowed Queen of Henry III., the Princess Mary daughter of Edward I., and at least thirteen ladies of noble birth, were at one time numbered among its sisterhood. It was surrendered at the dissolution in 1540, and shortly afterwards granted to Sir Edward Seymour. It was next carried by marriage into the family of Bruce Earls of Aylesbury; and in 1720 was sold by Lord Charles Bruce to Lord Carleton, by whom it was left five years afterwards to his nephew Charles, third Duke of Queensberry. This nobleman and his Duchess, Katherine Hyde, daughter of Henry Earl of Clarendon, were the patrons and friends of the poet Gay, who is said to have here written some of his best pieces and passed some of the happiest years of his life. After some changes of owners the estate was sold to Sir Edmund Antrobus, Bart., in 1824, who on his death in 1826 was succeeded by his nephew, the second baronet of that name. The term of his proprietorship was one of sunshine to the people of Amesbury. He rebuilt the Abbey, as the Manor House is called, restored the Church, and spent large sums in building and planting on the property. He died May 4, 1870, "leaving a blessed memory."

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



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