Introduction

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Victoria County History

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D.A. Crowley (Editor)

Year published

2002

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1-2

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'Introduction', A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 17: Calne (2002), pp. 1-2. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=18029 Date accessed: 21 August 2014.


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INTRODUCTION

The eastern part of Calne hundred lies mainly on chalk at the western edge of the Marlborough Downs in north Wiltshire, and the western part lies mainly on the sandy and clay soils of flat lowland. Most of the land drains to the river Marden, which rises at Calstone and flows north-westwards through Calne. Early settlement on the downland is indicated by an Iron-Age hill fort south-east of Cherhill village and by other prehistoric remains. In the Roman period there was a villa on what was afterwards the site of Cherhill village, and there were three villas, and a possible posting station on the London-Bath road, in what became the west part of the hundred.

Calne grew up as a small town on the Marden, and the main London-Bristol road ran through it. The town stood on a large and eponymous estate held by the king which may have included all but the west end of the hundred, and in the 11th century property in it was held by burghal tenure. The land of the hundred is generally fertile, open fields were laid out on all parts of it except the west end, and there was settlement in seven nucleated villages. The pattern of settlement was not the same in every village, but there were some common features: Berwick Bassett, Eastman Street (on the edge of Calne), and Yatesbury are likely to have originated as planned settlements consisting of a demesne farmstead and of farmsteads held customarily and standing in a roughly straight north-south street, and at both Calstone and Cherhill an east-west street or lane linked groups of demesne and customary farmsteads. As the king granted land out of his estate called Calne, it seems that existing settlement was reorganized or that new settlements were planted. The way in which farmsteads lay dispersed south of Calne at Quemerford, Stock, and Stockley may indicate how the land was settled before the open fields were laid out. In the west part of the hundred Studley and Whetham were settlements probably on assarts of Chippenham forest, and between them Bowood remained royal forest until it was imparked in the 17th century and sold in the 18th. Presumably because the land of most of the villages in the hundred was once part of the same estate there is more evidence of intercommoning than is usual for Wiltshire. Probably for the same reason several of the churches were dependent on Calne church, and from the earlier 13th century the treasurer of Salisbury cathedral, to whom Calne church had passed, took the great tithes from much of the hundred.

Although Calne was a market town on a main road, probably most of its prosperity was derived from industry. Cloth was made there until the mid 19th century, and from the mid 19th century to the late 20th bacon and other food processing factories were the main places of employment. The built-up area expanded greatly in the 20th century. Elsewhere the hundred remained rural. Open fields and commonable pastures were inclosed at various times from the 17th century to the 19th, and arable and sheep farming gave way to arable and dairy and beef farming. Despite 20th-century infilling the villages have remained small, and the sites of mid 20th-century R.A.F. stations near Compton Bassett and Yatesbury villages were cleared in the 1970s. From its source to where it left the hundred, a distance of c. 8 km., there were 14 mills on the Marden.

A HISTORY OF WILTSHIRE

The largest estates of land in the hundred were those accumulated by the owners of Bowood House and by the owners of Compton Bassett House. Bowood House was built on the land imparked in the 17th century; in the 1760s additions to it were designed by Robert Adam and the park was redesigned by 'Capability' Brown. The Compton Bassett estate belonged to the Co-operative Wholesale Society from 1918 to 1929 and was afterwards broken up. On both estates, and on an estate centred on Studley manor in Calne parish, many cottages were built or rebuilt between the mid 19th century and the earlier 20th in picturesque or revival styles; most of the cottages are in pairs. Immediately south of Bowood park, and probably originating as an assart of Chippenham forest, Whetham manor, the descent of which can be traced from the 13th century and on which a 17th-century manor house stands, is unusual in that it is not known to have ever been sold.

Near Oldbury castle, the hill fort south-east of Cherhill village, a white horse was cut in the 18th century, and on the perimeter of the fort an obelisk was built in the 19th. The fort and the surrounding downland were acquired by the National Trust in the 20th century.



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Calne Hundred