Introduction

Sponsor

Victoria County History

Publication

Author

D A Crowley (Editor), A P Baggs, J Freeman, C Smith, J H Stevenson, E Williamson

Year published

1999

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1-2

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'Introduction ', A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 16: Kinwardstone Hundred (1999), pp. 1-2. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=23035 Date accessed: 30 July 2014.


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INTRODUCTION

All the parishes in Kinwardstone hundred in east Wiltshire contain chalk downland. In the west part of the hundred six parishes lie in the east part of the Vale of Pewsey; other parishes lie in the valleys of the rivers Bourne, Dun, and Kennet. There are hill forts at Chisbury in Little Bedwyn parish and at Fosbury in Tidcombe parish, and the sites of several Roman villas have been found, but, compared with the downland of south Wiltshire, the hundred is not rich in prehistoric remains. Before the Conquest much of the land lay in four large royal estates, Bedwyn, Collingbourne, Pewsey, and Wootton, which were granted away, wholly or in portions, mainly between the 10th century and the 12th. Settlement was mostly in small villages beside streams. In the west part of the hundred, between East Sharcott in Pewsey parish and West Grafton in Great Bedwyn parish, c. 10 villages stand, as north-south streets, in the form characteristic of the Vale of Pewsey. There is evidence of colonization from Burbage, Chilton Foliat, and Pewsey, and there was probably colonization from Great Bedwyn and Collingbourne Kingston. On the north-west the woodland of Savernake forest, and on the south-east that of Chute forest (until 1544 including Hippenscombe), belonged to the Crown until the 16th century and the 17th respectively.

The land of the hundred is generally fertile. Each of about 45 villages and hamlets on it had its own set of open fields and its own common pasture. Several sets of open fields were apparently of less than 200 a., some were of over 500 a., and Burbage's was over 1,000 a. Most of the lowland common pasture was inclosed in the 17th century, most of the open fields and of the downland pasture in the 18th. Sheep-and-corn husbandry predominated in the hundred until the 19th century, when, after a railway was built through the Dun valley and the Vale of Pewsey, dairy farming for the London market became important. In the late 20th century most farming was arable, in some places combined with beef, dairy, or sheep farming, and much of the land lay in farms of over 1,000 a.; by then large farmsteads had been built outside the villages, and the sites of smaller ones within the villages had been used for housing. No industry has developed in the hundred and no town stands in it. Great Bedwyn was an early borough and retains a small market square, and Pewsey had a market from the 19th century and became a local shopping centre in the 20th, but the principal market towns for parishes in the hundred were Marlborough, Hungerford (Berks.), and Andover (Hants).

Between the Conquest and the Dissolution the owner with the most land in the hundred was Hyde abbey, Winchester, which held Collingbourne Kingston and Pewsey manors. Members of the Sturmy family held land in the hundred from 1086 or earlier and became hereditary wardens of Savernake forest. Their estate passed by marriage to the Seymour family, and later likewise to the Bruce and Brudenell-Bruce families. Edward Seymour, duke of Somerset (d. 1552), greatly increased it by purchase and, especially, by the acquisition of the estates of Hyde abbey and Easton priory and the addition of Savernake forest, Hippenscombe, and other Crown land. The estate was diminished by alienations in the later 17th century, and increased by purchases in the later 18th century and earlier 19th. Tottenham House was built on it in the 1720s and the park around the house was redesigned by 'Capability' Brown from the 1760s. About 1840 Charles BrudenellBruce, marquess of Ailesbury, owned, besides land outside the hundred, most of Great Bedwyn, Little Bedwyn, Burbage, Collingbourne Kingston, Easton, and Savernake parishes, and land in several other parishes. The estate was greatly reduced by sale in 1929, by a 999-year lease of woodland to the Forestry Commission in 1939, and by a sale to the Crown in 1950.

In the Middle Ages only 12 parish churches stood in the hundred, and most of their revenues were taken by religious houses and prebendaries of Salisbury cathedral. The benefices of only Buttermere, Chilton Foliat, and Pewsey remained rectories. Great Bedwyn church had six dependent chapels, but most villages and hamlets lacked a church. In the 19th century five new churches, Chute Forest, Fosbury, East Grafton, Savernake (Christchurch), and Savernake Forest (St. Katharine's), were built and an ecclesiastical district was assigned to each. Many villages had one or more nonconformist chapel, but no centre of religious dissent grew in the hundred. An almshouse for 50 widows stands in Froxfield: it was built in the 1690s and endowed by Sarah, duchess of Somerset (d. 1692).