A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 11, Downton Hundred; Elstub and Everleigh Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1980.
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Overton (fn. 1) was made up of two separate triangles of land and contained approximately 7,000 a. (2,834 ha.). (fn. 2) The main triangle stood 6 km. west of Marlborough. (fn. 3) It comprised the chapelry of Fyfield and the tithings of East Overton, which contained the parish church, Lockeridge, Shaw, and West Overton. A detached portion of West Overton tithing, Overton Heath, lay in the south-east corner of the triangle. The triangle measured 8 km. from its apex north of New Totterdown in Fyfield to its southern boundary south of Wansdyke and was crossed from east to west by the river Kennet and the London—Bath road. The settlement in West and East Overton, called West Overton village from the later 18th century, (fn. 4) and that in Lockeridge are all immediately south of the river. Further east the village of Fyfield lies mainly north of the river with some settlement to its east on the north side of the London—Bath road. The base of the triangle a little south of Wansdyke measured some 5 km. The southern and eastern sides of the triangle followed no physical feature. The eastern boundary between Fyfield and Clatford, in Preshute, was revised by the inclosure commissioners in 1819. (fn. 5) To the west an ancient ridge way, which follows the western summits of the Marlborough Downs, separated the triangle from Winterbourne Monkton, Avebury, and East Kennett.
The second triangle, 6 km. south-west of West Overton church, comprised the chapelry of Alton Priors and was separated from the first by that part of Shaw which was in Alton Barnes. It was separated on the south-west from Alton Barnes by an ancient track which ran southwards from Walker's hill to the two Altons and south of them by the stream, from which those settlements derived their name, flowing south from Broad Well spring to join the Christchurch Avon. The chapelry contained Alton Priors tithing, West Stowell tithing, which formed a spur-like projection east of Alton Priors, and a small detached rectangle, the Black Horse, 1.5 km. east of West Stowell and geographically in Wilcot. Alton Priors village was ranged along the southwest boundary with Alton Barnes while the hamlet of West Stowell clustered in the north-east corner of the spur. Alton Priors took its suffix from its ownership by the priory of St. Swithun, Winchester. For a short time in the later 16th century, when the Crown held the manor there, the village was called Queen's Alton. (fn. 6) It is 11 km. south-west from Marlborough. From its northern boundary south of Furze hill in East Kennett the chapelry measured a little over 3 km. to its southern boundary north of Woodborough hill in Woodborough, and about the same distance from west to east on a line with the lane linking Alton Priors village with the hamlet of West Stowell.
Shaw township originally constituted a diamondshaped wedge between Overton and Alton Barnes. Shaw village, which straddled the Wansdyke 3 km. south of West Overton village, was apparently deserted in the earlier 15th century. (fn. 7) It may have been then that the township was divided into two triangles, of which the northern was attached to Overton as a tithing and the southern to Alton Barnes. It is likely, however, that the boundary between them was not finally fixed until Shaw down, common to both Shaws, was inclosed in 1674. (fn. 8) Since the church was in that part allotted to Alton Barnes, most aspects of Shaw's history have been treated elsewhere. (fn. 9)
It is probable that Overton Heath and Clatford Park, which both lay on the western fringe of Savernake forest, were originally part of an estate at Rainscombe, in North Newnton, given in 934 to the abbey of Wilton. (fn. 10) In the earlier 18th century, and probably much earlier, the portion then called the land at Savernake park, and later Overton Heath, was considered part of West Overton manor and township, also a former Wilton property. (fn. 11) Since it had once lain within the forest the land remained tithe-free and was therefore deemed an extraparochial place in the 19th century. (fn. 12) The crescent shaped area north of Overton Heath, also tithe-free, was called Clatford Park from the 16th century and remained unattached to any parish. It was bounded on the north by the Wansdyke. Its southern boundary may have been established when the land was imparked. Both Overton Heath and Clatford Park were deemed civil parishes in the later 19th century. (fn. 13)
In the earlier 19th century the tithings of West Overton, East Overton, and Lockeridge, in one of which Shaw tithing was probably then included, were a poor-law parish of 1,719 ha. (4,248 a.) called West Overton. (fn. 14) The chapelries of Alton Priors and Fyfield then each relieved their own poor. (fn. 15) That apparently led the Census enumerators of 1841 to class Fyfield, with its medieval chapel, incorrectly as an ancient parish. (fn. 16) All three became civil parishes in the later 19th century and as such are dealt with separately below.
In 1885 the detached fragment of Alton Priors called the Black Horse, reckoned to contain some 75 a. (30 ha.), was transferred to Wilcot, and Shaw in Alton Barnes to Alton Priors. (fn. 17) The area of Alton Priors was thereafter 1,909 a. (773 ha.). (fn. 18) The two small civil parishes of Clatford Park, 310 a. (125 ha.), and Overton Heath, 124 a. (50 ha.), were merged in 1895 and called the civil parish of Clatford Park. (fn. 19) That in the following year became part of the civil parish of Fyfield, increasing Fyfield's area from 1,121 a. (454 ha.) to 629 ha. (1,555 a.) (fn. 20) In 1934 Alton Priors and Alton Barnes were merged to form the civil parish of Alton. (fn. 21)
The civil parish comprises two exposed chalk masses transected by the alluvium and associated gravel terraces of the Kennet valley. The two areas in most respects mirror one another. (fn. 22) Around the northern apex, which stands at about 254 m., and at the south end, slightly lower-lying around the 213 m. contour, the Upper Chalk is overlain by clay-with-flints. The south-eastern deposits support extensive woodland called Pumphrey wood and West Woods. (fn. 23) On Overton down the Upper Chalk, particularly around Down and Pickledean barns, is strewn with hard siliceous sandstones called sarsen stones, or, from their resemblance at a distance to a flock of sheep, grey wethers. Similar scatters occur west of Lockeridge House on the chalk beyond the south bank of the Kennet and in Lockeridge dene. (fn. 24) Those in Pickledean and Lockeridge dene have been under the protection of the National Trust since the early 20th century. (fn. 25) From Overton down the land slopes gently downwards to the south for 4 km. across the Upper and Middle Chalk of the dip slope of the Marlborough Downs. That area was the site of the open fields and was still mostly arable in 1977. Similarly in the south part of the parish the land inclines from 223 m. on Boreham down northwards for over 3 km. across the chalk, in 1977 largely arable, to the valley cut out by the Kennet below 152 m. South of the river the alluvium bears a cover of rich pasture land, once the site of extensive water-meadows. Beyond it to the south gravel deposits provide the terrace 1 km. wide on which the village of West Overton grew up. Both north and south of the river the chalk strata have been breached by headstreams, their beds long since dry, which gouged out valleys, or deans, at right angles to the Kennet. The courses of those valleys at Pickledean, Lockeridge dene, and Hursley bottom are mostly characterized by gravel deposits. It was in Lockeridge dene that the hamlet of Lockeridge, which lies nearly 2 km. east of West Overton but at about the same height, grew up on an exposed tongue of Middle Chalk.
West Overton tithing, which lies on the periphery of an area of considerable prehistoric settlement, has been the scene of human activity from Neolithic times. (fn. 26) Numerous barrows of various types, some of which have associated inhumations and cremations, as well as artefacts of the Neolithic Period and the Bronze Age, have been found. (fn. 27) A group of seven bowl-barrows on Overton hill and another four near North Farm have given rise locally to the names Sevenbarrow hill and Four Hill fields. (fn. 28) An ancient ditch extends across Overton down from Avebury. (fn. 29) The chalk uplands north and west of North Farm seem to have been particularly favoured as a settlement site from the Iron Age. North-west of the farm-house an Iron-Age enclosure of some 2 ha. is surrounded by a bank and ditch. (fn. 30) There are Romano-British settlement sites north of the Bell inn, in the coomb near Down barn, and further north on Overton down. Both the Down barn and Overton down areas contain numerous hut sites which possibly represent the villages of coloni attached to larger estates. The Overton down settlement, which is of the later 3rd or earlier 4th century, is associated with an earlier field system to the south-west. (fn. 31) Also on Overton down are the remains of some funerary monuments of Roman date which have occasionally been mistaken for bowl-barrows. Their mounds, which may originally have been drum-shaped with ditches and fences around, contained cremations and, so far as is known, are unique in the British Isles. (fn. 32) A field system, possibly of Romano-British date, extends into West Overton from Avebury and Winterbourne Monkton. (fn. 33) A contemporary field system extends over 8 ha. west of Boreham wood and another of early-Iron-Age date over 44 ha. on Boreham down. (fn. 34) The Wansdyke crosses West Overton south of Shaw House and continues eastwards through West Woods. (fn. 35)
Although the settlements in the civil parish of West Overton were in different hundreds for administrative purposes, several medieval taxation assessments show that together they represented a fairly prosperous unit. (fn. 36) There were 37 poll-tax payers in West Overton, 41 in Lockeridge, and 63 in East Overton tithings in 1377. (fn. 37) In the later 16th century and the earlier 17th East Overton and West Overton, which for taxation purposes may then have included Lockeridge, contained several inhabitants prosperous enough to be assessed at large sums. (fn. 38) In 1801 there were 172 people living in East Overton, (fn. 39) the same number in West Overton, and 194 in Lockeridge. The total number living in the three townships had increased to 563 in 1811 and to 734 by 1821. The emigration of a Lockeridge farmer and some of his men to Australia in 1830 may have accounted for the slight decrease in population to 718 by 1831. (fn. 40) Numbers had increased to 791 by 1841 but thereafter in general showed a decline. The decrease in the population of East and West Overton townships noted in 1871 had apparently occurred because houses there had been demolished, while Lockeridge's population had increased slightly because new houses had been built. (fn. 41) Thereafter numbers declined until in 1931 there were 454 people living in the civil parish. In 1971 there were 478 people living in West Overton. (fn. 42)
Most roads and lanes which served West Overton in the later 18th century were either still in use or could be traced as tracks in 1977. (fn. 43) Of the numerous ancient thoroughfares which cross the downs north of the Kennet one, later than the field system which it crosses, led from the eastern entrance of Avebury eastwards across Overton down, where it branched out into numerous tracks, to Marlborough. It probably continued in use until fairly recent times. (fn. 44) An ancient ridge way runs along the western parish boundary. (fn. 45) The course of the Roman road from Mildenhall to Bath may be traced a short distance north of the London-Bath road west of North Farm. (fn. 46) The London—Bath road itself was turnpiked in 1743. (fn. 47) Much of its traffic had, however, been diverted to the motorway 12 km. to the north by 1977. Within West Overton village only two changes of any significance have taken place in the network of lanes. The first was the building c. 1819 of New Road on the north side of a tract of open arable, probably at the time of parliamentary inclosure. (fn. 48) The second was the incorporation into the churchyard, probably c. 1877, of the eastern end of the lane running south of the Old Manor. (fn. 49) The lane north of the Kennet linking Lockeridge with Fyfield was a footpath in 1977. (fn. 50) Another lane, no trace of which remained in 1977, led north-westwards from it in the later 18th century to join the lane running northwards past Lockeridge House to the London-Bath road. (fn. 51)
Where it flows in wide meanders eastwards through West Overton the Kennet is no more than a sluggish stream except after heavy rain. Since water is extracted from near-by chalk strata to supply Swindon and Marlborough its bed is often dry in the low-water season from June to December. (fn. 52) By the later 18th century the river had been bridged east of the mill in West Overton tithing and in East Overton tithing south of the George inn. There may also have been a footbridge carrying a lane across the river mid-way between those bridges on the tithing boundary between East and West Overton. (fn. 53) The George bridge, which took its name from the near-by inn, was rebuilt, and the road it carried widened, c. 1929. (fn. 54) South of Lockeridge House the river appears to have been crossed by a ford in the later 18th century. (fn. 55) A bridge seems to have been built by 1816. (fn. 56)
Although the London—Bath road crossed the parish, the nearness of Marlborough discouraged the establishment of inns in West Overton. The George, first mentioned in 1736, stood on the south side of the main road west of the lane leading into the eastern end of Overton village. (fn. 57) No mention of it after 1827 has been found. (fn. 58) The New Inn, first mentioned in 1819, changed its name c. 1823 to the Bell. (fn. 59) That inn, which was enlarged at various dates in the 19th century, stands further west on the south side of the main road at its junction with the lane leading to West Overton Farm. By 1906 Lockeridge had two inns. The Masons' Arms, once apparently called the New Found Out, stood near the green at the south-west end of the hamlet's main street. It closed c. 1956. (fn. 60) That later called the Who'd 'a Thought It stands further north on the west side of the road. (fn. 61)
In the earlier 20th century there were two bands in West Overton, the Overton Mission Band based at the Primitive Methodist chapel in West Overton, and the Lockeridge Prize Band. They were amalgamated c. 1934 to form the Kennet Vale Silver Band which still flourished in 1977. (fn. 62)
The village of West Overton lies entirely south of the Kennet and is approached by two lanes running south from the London—Bath road. West Overton Farm stands at the village's western entrance whence the main street runs almost imperceptibly uphill towards the church, which stands on a knoll with the Old Manor and the former Vicarage (now called Overton House) to the west. Most of the older houses are on the wide gravel terrace close to the street and to another road, parallel to the street, which runs along the southern side of the valley floor. South Farm, the most substantial of them, has a long south range with sarsen walls which is probably of the 17th century. That range was partly rebuilt in brick c. 1800 and a north wing added at its eastern end to provide a new symmetrical entrance front. New windows were inserted in that front in the later 19th century. Houses which lay on the north bank of the Kennet east of the lane leading from the New Inn (later the Bell) in the later 18th century and the earlier 19th had disappeared by the later 19th century. (fn. 63) Earthworks south of the church suggest that settlement may once have spread further up the hill in that area. Sarsen, used both as squared ashlar and rubble, red brick, and timberframing, all occur as walling materials. The use of timber-framing, of 17th- or early-18th-century date, seems to have been replaced in the later 18th century and the 19th by that of brick and sarsen. (fn. 64) In 1977, however, the village was mostly one of small closes of council houses of the 1950s and of more recent private developments. Southfield, beyond South Farm, was being developed by G. B. Thorner (Homes) Ltd. in 1977.
North Farm, the only substantial house in West Overton to stand north of the London-Bath road, was begun in 1801. (fn. 65) Of red brick, it has a square main block with a three-bay south front and a service wing to the rear. To the north-east a large farmyard with central stockyard is surrounded on three sides by farm buildings of various dates from the early 19th century. (fn. 66) The modern buildings on the east have replaced an aisled barn which had a thatched roof. Two outlying stockyards on the downs beyond North Farm, Pickledean barn, and beyond it to the north-west, Down barn, were called respectively Old and New barns in 1773. (fn. 67) They were reconstructed in the 19th century and have enclosing walls of squared sarsen stone.
The hamlet of Lockeridge lies along the bottom of a small valley running south-westwards from the Kennet towards Boreham down. At least three of the houses have outer walls of timber-framing, perhaps of the 17th century, which was by 1977 much replaced by brick. Dene (formerly Glebe) Farm, which stands on the west side of the street south of its junction with the lane running from Manton, in Preshute, to West Overton, has a long later-17th-century range of coursed sarsen blocks with mullioned and transomed windows and a thatched roof. A secondary wing was added on the west in the earlier 19th century. Most of the other older houses appear to be of later-18th- or earlier19th-century origin. Lockeridge Dene House was converted from cottages in the earlier 20th century. (fn. 68) At Lockeridge, as at West Overton, red brick or sarsen rubble are the usual walling materials and many of the roofs are still thatched. Where the street turns south-west into Lockeridge dene there is a small green around which in the later 18th century were several cottages. The green formerly extended over the sarsen field bought in 1907 by the National Trust. (fn. 69)
Much of the later-19th-century building was at the north end of the hamlet where there are estate cottages, a school, and the Who'd 'a Thought It inn. All were built, probably at the expense of the Meux family, in the style associated with C. E. Ponting, an architect and agent for the Meux estates. (fn. 70) Lockeridge House is separated from the rest of the hamlet by the flood-plain of the Kennet. A few houses are scattered along the road from Lockeridge to West Overton. The most notable are Lockeridge Cottage of c. 1800, the former home of C. E. Ponting, and the later-19th-century building formerly used as the Meux estate office. (fn. 71) There are some modern private houses along the lane leading east from the green.
That part of the former village of Shaw which lies within West Overton consists of a hollow way with embanked areas, presumably the sites of houses, on each side. The village street ran north-westwards towards the Wansdyke and close to their junction was the original site of the house and buildings of Shaw manor.
The civil parish has similar geological features to those of West Overton. (fn. 72) North and south of the Rennet's alluvial plain and gravel terraces are extensive chalk masses overlain at their extremities by clay-with-flints. (fn. 73) Near New Totterdown on Fyfield down the clay-with-flints lies at c. 259 m. and is thickly littered with sarsen stones. In 1644 the area was 'a place so full of a grey pebble stone of great bigness as is not usually seen', where 'they lie so thick as you may go upon them all the way'. (fn. 74) The site formed part of the Nature Conservancy area on Fyfield down in 1977. Between Fyfield down and Fyfield hill the uplands are broken by a dry valley, part of Clatford bottom, which lies below 168 m. South of Fyfield hill the village of Fyfield lies on the gravel terrace at c. 137 m. in the Kennet valley, clustering in a wide meander of the river on its north bank. As in West Overton the riverside settlement was sandwiched between the arable of the chalk uplands north and south of the Kennet. In the south part of the parish Clatford Park Farm, lying at c. 200 m., and the road by which it is approached from Clatford, are on the gravel deposits of another dry valley cut through the Upper Chalk by a head-stream of the Kennet. On either side of that road deposits of clay-with-flints coat the Upper Chalk and lie between 213 m. and 229 m. Those west of Clatford Park Farm are thickly wooded.
Two bowl-barrows at Totterdown and a bellbarrow on Fyfield down attest activity in Fyfield in early prehistoric times. (fn. 75) As in West Overton the downs north of the Kennet were the site of settlement of a more permanent nature in early-Iron-Age and Romano-British times. A field system of 121 ha. on Fyfield down, which extends westwards into West Overton and eastwards into Preshute, has yielded material of both periods. Some of its field boundaries are marked with sarsen stones and within it are ditches and ponds which may be contemporary. (fn. 76) The remains of a Roman pavement were found south of Fyfield village in the early 19th century. (fn. 77) Within Wroughton mead on Fyfield down there was a farmstead from at least the later 12th century until c. 1300. It consisted of three small inclosures within a larger inclosure and its buildings included a long-house which could accommodate both men and beasts. (fn. 78)
In 1334 Fyfield, then called Little Fyfield, was assessed for taxation with East Overton. (fn. 79) The chapelry had 22 poll-tax payers in 1377. (fn. 80) At least eight of its inhabitants were able to contribute to the benevolence of 1545. (fn. 81) Until 1831 the population was possibly enumerated with that of East Overton or Lockeridge. Numbers were first returned separately in 1841, when 150 people lived in Fyfield. (fn. 82) There were 200 people in 1861, and thereafter the population fell gradually until 1891 when there were 152 inhabitants. Because of the transference in 1896 to Fyfield of the civil parish of Clatford or Clatford Park, which included the former extraparochial place at Overton Heath, numbers had risen to 178 by 1901. (fn. 83) The population had declined to 143 by 1931 and stood at 134 in 1971. (fn. 84)
The population of Clatford Park rose from 15 in 1841 to 25 in 1881. Just before it was merged in Fyfield, Clatford Park in 1891 had thirteen inhabitants. In 1841 25 people lived at Overton Heath. Numbers there fluctuated little over the next 40 years but rose from 24 in 1881 to 34 in 1891. (fn. 85)
The track from Avebury which enters Fyfield from West Overton and crosses the field system on Fyfield down is of ancient origin. (fn. 86) The London-Bath road, turnpiked in 1743, crosses Fyfield as well as West Overton. It is carried a short distance north of the Kennet's flood-plain on a ridge of Middle Chalk. (fn. 87) The courses of most lanes which ran through Fyfield in the later 18th century and the earlier 19th, if not still in use, could in 1977 be traced as footpaths. Such a footpath, part of which formed the village's main street in 1773, leaves the lane running from the London—Bath road towards the Kennet and leads southwards to Lockeridge House. There was no trace in 1977, however, of the small lanes which once led northwards from that lane. The lane which runs south-east from the London—Bath road towards the Kennet, over which it has been carried by a bridge since the later 18th century, formerly split south of the river into two lanes. (fn. 88)
The church and Fyfield House stand south of the London-Bath road on slightly higher ground at what was originally the northern end of the village. Until the later 19th century settlement lay close to the river along the lane which ran southwards from the London-Bath road. (fn. 89) That site was subject to frequent flooding and, after numerous cottages there were burned down c. 1860, was abandoned in favour of one higher up the valley along the main road, where there was already settlement including the Fighting Cocks inn, first mentioned in 1811. (fn. 90) Many cottages, particularly those on the south side, the inn, and the Congregational chapel were demolished when the road was widened in the later 1930s. (fn. 91) In the earlier 20th century council houses were built near the western boundary of the civil parish immediately south of the London-Bath road on a site, part of which was once glebe land, called Priestacre. (fn. 92) Most of the inhabitants of Fyfield lived there in 1977. A few private houses have been built south of the village near the bridge over the Kennet at various dates since the First World War. Beyond them sewage disposal works to serve the area upstream were opened in 1973. (fn. 93)
Overton Heath and Clatford Park, which are on the eastern fringe of extensive woodland, contained little settlement in 1773 as in 1977. Clatford Park contained only a farm-house at both dates. (fn. 94) Apart from Park Farm, which stands beside the lane to Clatford, Overton Heath contains on its eastern boundary a former Wesleyan Methodist chapel and one or two houses. Other houses were built on the west side of the road to Wilcot between 1802 and 1862 but had disappeared by 1889. (fn. 95) Further south on that side of the road Yew Tree Cottage stands on the site of the house, burned down some time in the 19th century, in 1773 called the Dog House and in 1788 the Old Dog. (fn. 96)
The former chapelry lies almost entirely on the elongated chalk bluff which bounds the Vale of Pewsey to the north. (fn. 97) The northern tip stands on the Upper Chalk between the 244 m. and 259 m. contours. About 500 m. south of it, a little north of New Town, the Upper is succeeded by the Middle Chalk which is divided into twin summits, Walker's hill (fn. 98) to the west and Knap hill to the east. Both hills stand at 260 m. and, with the uplands to the north, have always provided pasture. The open Lower Chalk terrace, mainly under arable cultivation in 1977 as formerly, lies south of them between the 137 m. and 168 m. contours and extends for some 2 km. to the chapelry's former southern boundary. The village of Alton Priors lies in the south-west corner of the former chapelry at c. 136 m. on a narrow strip of Upper Greensand facing its westerly neighbour, Alton Barnes, across withy fringed streams. The hamlet of West Stowell also stands on Upper Greensand at about the same height. The detached rectangle of land to the east once called the Black Horse lies at c. 137 m.
Numerous barrows of various types, with associated primary cremations and later intrusive burials, show the uplands north of Alton Priors to have been settled from the Neolithic Period (fn. 99) when a causewayed camp which belonged to the Windmill Hill culture was constructed on Knap hill. (fn. 100) The site was refortified with a plateau enclosure in the early Iron Age and apparently remained in use in Roman times. (fn. 101) Another two enclosures lie west and north-west of New Town. (fn. 102) Of the four ditches in Alton Priors, that extending south-west from Knap hill is called locally the Devil's trackway. (fn. 103) Traces of a building of Romano-British date have been found in a field called Stanchester at West Stowell. (fn. 104) Walker's hill, below which an ancient ridge way runs on a north-south course, was of strategic importance in Pagan-Saxon times. It was probably to prevent incursions from the north along such a route early in that period that the Wansdyke, which crosses the northernmost tip of the former chapelry, was constructed, leaving a pass for the ridge way at Red Shore. (fn. 105) The Neolithic long barrow on Walker's hill, called Adam's Grave, may be identified with Wodnesbeorg, or Woden's Barrow, the site of battles in 592 and 715. (fn. 106)
In 1334 Alton Priors and 'Stowell', which possibly included not only West Stowell tithing but also East Stowell in Wilcot, was, apart from Westwood and Wroughton, the most highly rated unit in Elstub hundred as then constituted. (fn. 107) It seems likely that inhabitants of both West Stowell and Alton Priors were numbered among the 114 polltax payers accounted for at 'Stowell' in Swanborough hundred in 1377. (fn. 108) Various taxation assessments of the later 16th century and earlier 17th century show Alton Priors and West Stowell to have contained several inhabitants of sufficient substance to be assessed. (fn. 109) In 1801 178 people lived in Alton Priors and West Stowell. (fn. 110) Numbers had declined to 161 by 1911 but thereafter increased, and in 1841, of the chapelry's 251 inhabitants, 194 lived at Alton and 57 at Stowell. The population was 253 in 1851 but had declined to 207 by 1861. There was an increase to 221 in 1871 but the population again declined and stood at 178 in 1891. By 1901 numbers had increased to 217 but thereafter declined. In 1931, the last date at which figures are available, 172 people lived at Alton Priors and West Stowell.
The ridge way which forms the western boundary of West Overton continues on a southerly route inside the western boundary of Alton Priors. Entering Alton Priors at Red Shore through the gap in the Wansdyke it formed part of the road linking the Altons with Woodborough which was turnpiked in 1840. (fn. 111) The track formerly called Workway drove, which marked part of the boundary between Alton Priors and West Stowell tithings, (fn. 112) once provided a more direct link between the hamlet of West Stowell and that road at Knap hill. (fn. 113) Those sections of the ridge way which were not turnpiked could, like the courses of most other later-18th-century and 19th-century roads in Alton and Stowell, be traced as footpaths in 1977. (fn. 114) The Kennet & Avon canal, constructed across the south-west angle of the chapelry in 1807, was opened in 1810. (fn. 115)
The Manor stands on the north side of the lane leading to West Stowell, but apart from some more modern housing east of that house, settlement in Alton Priors in 1977, as in the later 18th century, was mainly south of the lane. The mid-19thcentury house which stands opposite the Manor is surrounded by an earlier walled garden and probably replaced an earlier house. In 1977, however, most of the houses clustered, as they did in 1773, close together along a lane running southwards from the Manor towards the church. (fn. 116) At least one incorporates some 17th-century work but the remaining older houses appear to have been rebuilt in the earlier 19th century. Some houses of more recent construction flank the lane's southern end. The village may formerly have extended west of the lane into the field north of the church where there are still earthworks. (fn. 117) There was apparently little settlement there by 1773 when the church and the original manor-house, in 1977 much reduced in size and called the Priory, stood, as in 1977, isolated beside the streams separating the two Altons.
Settlement in West Stowell lies, as in 1773, in the easterly spur of the tithing and is confined to the eastern branch of a triangular lane which runs north of the lane from Alton Priors to Wilcot. (fn. 118) Apart from a few farm buildings, the hamlet included in 1977 West Stowell House on the east side of the lane and a chapel opposite on the west.
Manors and other Estates.
In 939 Athelstan granted a nun, Wulfswyth, 15 mansae at Overton. (fn. 119) That estate is to be identified with the 15 hides at Overton, later called the manor of OVERTON or, from the later 16th century, EAST OVERTON, which both in 1066 and in 1086 belonged to the bishop of Winchester. (fn. 120) By 1086 the estate had been assigned by the bishop for the support of the monks of the Old Minster. (fn. 121) The prior and convent of St. Swithun's received a grant of free warren within their demesne lands at East Overton in 1300, and held the estate until the Dissolution, when it passed to the Crown. (fn. 122)
In 1541 Winchester chapter received a royal grant of the manor, which it reconveyed to the Crown in 1547. (fn. 123) In the same year the Crown granted East Overton to Sir William Herbert (created earl of Pembroke in 1551) and it descended with that title to Philip, earl of Pembroke and Montgomery (d. 1683), who sold it in 1682 to William Clarke (d. 1688). (fn. 124) Clarke devised the manor in trust for his son John, who in 1720 sold it to a director of the South Sea Co., Francis Hawes. Hawes's property, including East Overton, was confiscated by parliamentary trustees when the South Sea Bubble burst shortly after and was sold by them in 1726 to the trustees of John Churchill, duke of Marlborough (d. 1722). From the duke's eldest daughter Henrietta Godolphin, countess of Godolphin and suo jure duchess of Marlborough, the manor passed to her nephew Charles Spencer, duke of Marlborough (d. 1758), and thereafter descended with the title to John Spencer-Churchill, duke of Marlborough (d. 1883), who sold it in 1866 to R. C. Long(d. 1869). (fn. 125) In 1870 under Long's will his brothers F. S. and W. Long sold it to the trustees of Sir Henry Meux, Bt. (d. 1883). By that date the much augmented estate included South Overton and North Overton farms, representing East Overton manor, and Fyfield, Lockeridge, Glebe, and Clatford Park farms. There was also West Woods, 718 a. Sir Henry was succeeded by his son Sir Henry Bruce Meux, Bt. (d. 1900), whose widow sold most of the estate in 1906 to Alexander Taylor of Manton House in Preshute. (fn. 126) Taylor afterwards sold the estate to the Olympia Agricultural Co. Ltd., whose chairman was Joseph Watson (created Baron Manton and d. 1922). (fn. 127) The company's farm manager, Frank Swanton, bought North, South, and Fyfield farms in 1925. After Swanton's death in 1971 his sons R. G. F. and R. Swanton farmed in partnership as F. Swanton & Sons. In 1977 Mr. R. G. F. Swanton farmed Fyfield and South farms, 880 a., and Mr. R. Swanton North farm, 700 a. (fn. 128)
Some land on Overton and Fyfield downs, 800 a., was retained by the Olympia Agricultural Co. Ltd., however, and in 1977 was owned by Mr. J. V. Bloomfield as part of his estate at Manton. (fn. 129) West Woods, 1,008 a., sold by the Olympia Agricultural Co. Ltd. in 1928, was acquired in 1931 by the Forestry Commission, owner in 1977. (fn. 130)
Before the rearrangement of East Overton manor into North and South farms, it is probable that the estate was farmed from the Old Manor. That house stands west of the church. Its west range is a small house of the earlier 17th century which has walls partly of sarsen rubble, with ovolo-moulded windows, and partly timber-framed. A later wing, which may have been a parish reading room, was incorporated on the east and remodelled in the later 19th century. The whole house was remodelled in the later 20th century when one room in the west range was filled with panelling brought from a house in Stafford. (fn. 131) Sir Maurice Dorman was owner in 1977.
In 972 King Edgar granted Alflaed 10 mansae, then said to be at 'Kennett' but clearly identifiable with the later manor of OVERTON or WEST OVERTON. (fn. 132) In 1066 the estate belonged to Wilton Abbey and at the Dissolution passed to the Crown. (fn. 133)
The manor was granted in tail male to Sir William Herbert (created earl of Pembroke 1551, d. 1570) and his wife Anne in 1544. (fn. 134) The estate, which included a detached part at Overton Heath abutting the south-east corner of the ancient parish, thereafter descended with the Pembroke title. (fn. 135) In 1917 Reginald, earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, sold West Overton farm, 665 a., to J. H. E. Poole, 257 a. including Pickrudge and Pumphrey woods to F. Spearman, and Park farm, 116 a. at Overton Heath, to F. W. Harvey. (fn. 136) The woodland, 180 a., bought by Spearman was sold in 1940 by the administrator of the estate of G. Spearman to the Forestry Commission, owner in 1977. (fn. 137) West Overton farm, 705 a., was owned in 1977 by Mereacre Ltd. (fn. 138)
The site of the manor's original farm-house is unknown but may have been opposite West Overton Farm. (fn. 139) West Overton Farm, called Overton House in the later 19th century and the earlier 20th, (fn. 140) is a square red-brick house of c. 1825 with a contemporary walled garden to the north and large farmyard to the south.
The 2 hides at Lockeridge held in 1066 by Elmar had passed to Durand of Gloucester by 1086. (fn. 141) Durand's estate descended to his grand-nephew Miles of Gloucester (created earl of Hereford in 1141, d. 1143). (fn. 142) Between 1141 and 1143 Miles granted the lands, the later manor of LOCKERIDGE, to the Templars. (fn. 143) In 1567 and 1719 Lockeridge was considered to be a free tenancy of East Overton manor. (fn. 144)
After the suppression of the order of Templars in 1308, the estate passed, with other Temple property, to the Knights Hospitallers. (fn. 145) Thenceforth the estate was administered from the preceptory at Sandford (Oxon.) until the Dissolution, when it passed to the Crown. (fn. 146)
In 1543 Richard Andrews was granted the manor by the Crown and immediately conveyed it to Christopher Dismore (d. 1564) and his wife Joan or Jane. (fn. 147) After her husband's death Jane, who married secondly Edward Passion, held Lockeridge for life. (fn. 148) In 1577 John Dismore, on whom his cousin Christopher had settled the reversion of the manor, sold the reversion to Henry, earl of Pembroke, who was in actual possession of Lockeridge at his death in 1601. (fn. 149)
The manor passed like that of East Overton to Philip, earl of Pembroke and Montgomery (d. 1683), who sold it in 1680 to Edmund Naish. (fn. 150) Naish sold it in 1683 to Thomas Cholwell (will proved 1694), who devised Lockeridge to Richard Kent. (fn. 151) In 1717, after Kent's death, his trustees conveyed the manor to his daughter Hester (d. 1739) and her husband John Chetwynd. (fn. 152) John Chetwynd, who became 2nd Viscount Chetwynd in 1736, sold it in 1756 to Charles, duke of Marlborough (d. 1758). (fn. 153) The manor afterwards descended again like that of East Overton.
In 1086 Durand of Gloucester held freely of the church of Winchester 2 hides, all but 1 virgate, which in 1066 had apparently been held of the church by lease. (fn. 154) The land passed like Lockeridge manor to Miles, earl of Hereford, and descended to Miles's eldest daughter and coheir, Margaret, wife of Humphrey de Bohun, as part of the honor of Hereford. The estate continued to pass with the honor and in 1243 was still deemed to be held of the bishop of Winchester. (fn. 155) After the death in 1373 of Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex, it was allotted in 1384 to his younger daughter and coheir Mary, wife of Henry, earl of Derby (later Henry IV). (fn. 156) The estate is last mentioned as part of the honor of Hereford in 1402. (fn. 157)
Richard Quintin held the lands, then reckoned at 1 knight's fee, of Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex, in 1243. (fn. 158) A Richard Quintin still held that fee in 1275. (fn. 159) What is probably the same estate was held in 1316 by John of Berwick. (fn. 160) In 1327 John of Berwick, perhaps the same, settled lands at Lockeridge, Shaw, East Kennett, and West Kennett, in Avebury, on himself for life with reversion to John of Fosbury and his wife Alice. (fn. 161) In the later 14th century the lands were held by Peter of Fosbury's heir. (fn. 162) William Sparshot held them in 1412. (fn. 163)
The estate apparently passed like an estate at Woodborough to Richard Benger (d. 1529), whose heir was his sister Anne, wife of Thomas Smith. (fn. 164) Anne and her husband were still seised of it in 1551. (fn. 165) In 1559, however, Anne, then a widow, settled an estate which included land at Lockeridge on herself for life, with reversion to Ralph Henslowe (d. 1578) and his wife Clare. (fn. 166) Ralph's son Thomas sold the estate in 1594 to Thomas Smith. (fn. 167) The Smith family held the land until the earlier 18th century, when Richard Smith of West Kennett sold the Lockeridge estate in moieties. (fn. 168)
A portion was sold in 1713 to William Andrews who in 1726 settled it on the marriage of his son William and Elizabeth Franklin. William and Elizabeth sold it in 1768 to George, duke of Marlborough. (fn. 169)
The other portion, which seems to have comprised no more than a few acres, was sold in 1723 by Richard Smith and his son Thomas to George Brown. In 1757 George conveyed it to his son George, who sold it in 1763 to George, duke of Marlborough. (fn. 170) Both moieties thereafter passed like the manor of East Overton.
In the earlier 12th century 2 hides at Lockeridge, the provenance of which is unknown, were held by Walter de Beauchamp (d. 1131). The estate passed to Walter's son William (d. 1170), who between 1155 and 1169 granted it to the Templars. (fn. 171) It was presumably merged with their manor of Lockeridge, as was another hide there granted by Robert of Ewias in the earlier 12th century. (fn. 172)
The Macy family held a small estate at Lockeridge in the earlier 13th century. (fn. 173) In 1281 William Macy granted 60 a. of land there to the priory of St. Margaret, Marlborough. (fn. 174) The priory's estate at Lockeridge was augmented c. 1294 by 40 a., held of the honor of Hereford, which Philip Francis granted to it. (fn. 175) The priory held the manor of LOCKERIDGE or, as it was later called, UPPER LOCKERIDGE until the Dissolution. (fn. 176)
In 1539 the manor was granted to Anne of Cleves as jointure. (fn. 177) Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford (created duke of Somerset in 1547, executed in 1552), received a grant of it in 1542. (fn. 178) In 1550, however, Thomas Goddard (d. 1550) was in possession. (fn. 179) In 1582 his son Thomas sold the manor to Richard Wroth. (fn. 180) In 1588, however, Richard Browne was seised of it. After his death Bariscourt farm, as the estate was then also called, was held for life by his widow Katharine Muffett. (fn. 181) The land descended in the Browne family to Richard Browne, who, with his wife Jane, sold it in 1688 to Sir Thomas Fowle (will proved 1693). (fn. 182) Under Sir Thomas's will the estate passed to his nephew Thomas Fowle, and on the nephew's death to another nephew, Robert Fowle (d. 1705), who devised it to his kinsman the Revd. John Fowle (d. 1710). (fn. 183) By 1737 Peter Delme (d. 1770) had acquired the estate, and he sold it in 1759 to George, duke of Marlborough. (fn. 184) The manor thereafter descended with that of East Overton.
Immediately after he had bought the estate, the duke of Marlborough leased Lockeridge House and some adjoining meadows to Peter Delme. (fn. 185) The house was thereafter always let as a gentleman's residence until offered for sale as part of the Meux estate at Overton in 1906. (fn. 186) It was occupied in the late 19th century and the earlier 20th by H. R. Giffard, who later bought the freehold. (fn. 187)
Lockeridge House was built c. 1700 and has a double pile plan with principal fronts to the north and south of five bays. Two small additions were made on the west in the early 18th century and another on the south in the early 19th century, when new windows and a porch were added to the east front. Most of the 18th-century rooms retain original panelling and fittings. To the north-west there is a small stable court and to the north part of an entrance court with early-18th-century gatepiers and walls. Other 18th-century walls remain around the gardens to the south.
An estate comprising 2 hides and 1½ virgate at Shaw was held in 1066 by Cudulf. By 1086 it had passed to Robert son of Gerald and was held of him by a tenant Hugh. (fn. 188) It is to be identified with the later manor of SHAW. (fn. 189) It passed like the manor of Fittleton to Hubert de Burgh, earl of Kent (d. 1243). (fn. 190)
In 1243 Simon le Dun held the estate of the earl of Kent, and Henry le Dun held it of Simon. (fn. 191) Henry le Dun the younger was in possession in the later 13th century. (fn. 192) In 1316, however, John of Hartington held Shaw. (fn. 193) In 1327 Walter of Harrington held it and was still lord in 1333. (fn. 194) In 1386 Robert Devenish, who had apparently acquired the lands from John Wylye and Robert of Etchilhampton, granted the estate to Joan, widow of Robert Blake of Quemerford, and her son John. (fn. 195) John Blake was in possession in 1395. (fn. 196) Robert Blake held Shaw in 1428. (fn. 197) The manor descended in the Blake family to Thomas Blake, who in 1575 sold Shaw farm to William Button (d. 1591) of Alton Priors. (fn. 198)
William Button was succeeded at Shaw by his son Ambrose, who in 1595–6 sold the farm to his younger brother William (d. 1599). (fn. 199) William's son, Sir William Button, Bt. (d. 1655), in 1648 settled it on himself for life, with remainder to his second son Sir Robert Button (d. 1678). (fn. 200) It thereafter passed like the manor of Lyneham to John Walker (d. 1758), whose son John sold it to George, duke of Marlborough, in 1770. (fn. 201) The duke sold it c. 1801 to John Stratton, still owner c. 1815. (fn. 202) In the early 1840s, however, William Brough owned Shaw farm, 481 a. (fn. 203) The farm afterwards changed hands frequently. (fn. 204) It was bought in 1921 by Frank Stratton (d. 1941), whose grandson Mr. C. A. Cutforth was owner in 1977. (fn. 205)
The manor-house at Shaw mentioned in 1648 and 1660 stood at the junction of the street of the former village of Shaw with the Wansdyke. It may have survived into the 19th century and the last of its out-buildings, a barn, was demolished c. 1970. (fn. 206) Soon after 1800 that house was replaced by a new one some 400 m. west. (fn. 207) The red-brick house, (fn. 208) which is approached from the south-west by a short avenue of beeches, has a principal south front of three bays and stands amid walled gardens. The stable block of 1909 east of the house was built by Spencer Compton, the then owner. (fn. 209)
The part of Boreham wood claimed by Thomas of Kennett when the wood was put out of Savernake forest in 1225 may possibly be identified with the estate at Shaw held by the same Thomas or a namesake in 1243. (fn. 210) The estate was then apparently held of the bishop of Winchester. (fn. 211) A Thomas of Kennett still had land at Shaw in 1265. (fn. 212) What may be the same estate was settled by John of Berwick on Gilbert of Stubbington and his wife Margery and on Margery's heirs in 1299. (fn. 213)
The estate's later descent is unknown. It may possibly be represented either by land at Shaw sold in 1511 by John Ernie to John Button and his wife Edith, (fn. 214) or by another estate there, which included land at East Kennett, owned by the Weston family in the 16th century and sold in 1586–7 by Richard Weston and his wife Margaret to William Button. (fn. 215) Both were merged with the manor of Shaw.
The priory of St. Swithun, Winchester, appropriated Overton church and its chapels in 1291. (fn. 216) The rectory estate, which consisted of tithes alone, passed with East Overton manor until 1553. (fn. 217) In that year William, earl of Pembroke, conveyed the tithes from Alton Priors chapelry to the Crown. (fn. 218) The Pembrokes later recovered that portion, however, and the reunited rectory descended with East Overton manor to Philip, earl of Pembroke and Montgomery (d. 1683). (fn. 219)
In 1680 the earl sold the tithes of Alton Priors chapelry with Alton Priors manor to Samuel Brewster and Nicholas Fownes in moieties. After the moieties were reunited in 1714 the great tithes of Alton tithing were deemed to be merged. (fn. 220) In 1812 those of West Stowell tithing were sold by the lord of Alton manor to William Hitchcock, owner of West Stowell farm. (fn. 221) In 1848 rent-charges of £250 and £100 respectively were allotted to the owners of the Alton Priors and West Stowell estates. Since the tithes were already considered to be merged, however, the sums so allotted were not apportioned. (fn. 222)
In 1682 Philip, earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, while retaining the demesne tithes of West Overton manor, sold some of the great tithes arising from the tenantry lands there, with all the impropriated tithes arising from East Overton, Fyfield, and Lockeridge, to William Clarke with East Overton manor. Those tithes, thereafter deemed to be the impropriated rectory of Overton, descended like East Overton manor. (fn. 223) In 1802 the tithes from the tenantry lands of West Overton manor were re-allotted between the duke of Marlborough as impropriator and the earl of Pembroke and Montgomery as lord of the manor. (fn. 224) The duke of Marlborough was allotted 512 a. in the open fields of East Overton, Fyfield, and Lockeridge to replace his impropriated tithes there in 1821. (fn. 225)
By 1840 the owner of Shaw farm had in some way acquired the great tithes of his estate. They were thereafter considered to be merged. (fn. 226)
In 1066 the bishop of Winchester held an estate of 5 hides at Fyfield. At an unknown date it was assigned to the sacrist of the cathedral church and in 1066 was held of the bishop by a monk, Alsi. In 1086, however, Edward held it of the bishop. (fn. 227) In 1243 the prior of St. Swithun's claimed the manor of FYFIELD, which was finally confirmed to him by the bishop in 1284. (fn. 228) The prior and convent received a grant of free warren in their demesne there in 1300. (fn. 229) Thereafter the estate, like East Overton manor, was held by St. Swithun's until the Dissolution, when it passed to the Crown. (fn. 230)
In 1547 the Crown granted the manor, with East Overton, to Sir William Herbert, later earl of Pembroke, and it thereafter passed with the title to Philip, earl of Pembroke and Montgomery (d. 1683). (fn. 231) Thomas Fowle had acquired it by 1697 and it afterwards descended in the Fowle family to the Revd. F. C. Fowle (d. 1840). (fn. 232) It was presumably he who offered the estate for sale in 1812. (fn. 233) It was bought by John Goodman, in possession by 1815. (fn. 234) The manor was later bought by R. C. Long, described as lord in 1867, (fn. 235) and thereafter descended again like East Overton manor. (fn. 236)
The east front of Fyfield House, from which the estate was farmed until c. 1975, (fn. 237) was probably added c. 1820 to an earlier house which was demolished and rebuilt in the later 19th century to provide secondary rooms and a service wing. West of the house are barns and extensive stabling of 19thcentury date, of which the larger part to the west was built in 1872. (fn. 238)
It is possible that the small estate called CLATFORD PARK in the later 16th century may have originated in land at Rainscombe granted in 934 by Athelstan to Wilton Abbey. (fn. 239) The land may have passed after the Dissolution with other Wilton estates in the area to Sir William Herbert.
Before 1597, however, the ground called Clatford Park, then apparently lately inclosed, belonged to Sir Thomas Wroughton (d. 1597), who had bought it from Robert and Thomas Wroth. (fn. 240) Shortly before his death Sir Thomas sold it to Sir Robert Wroth (d. 1606), who devised the park to his younger sons John, Henry, and Thomas. (fn. 241) In 1618 John and Henry Wroth confirmed the park to Richard Goddard, who may have acquired it some years earlier. (fn. 242) It may have been that Richard Goddard who disparked the land c. 1631. (fn. 243) By 1717 Clatford Park seems to have been acquired by John Chetwynd, later Viscount Chetwynd, owner of Lockeridge manor. (fn. 244) It was sold with Lockeridge in 1756 to the duke of Marlborough. Clatford Park thereafter descended like East Overton manor until 1906 when, reckoned at 182 a. and called Clatford Park Home farm, it was offered for sale as part of the Meux estate. (fn. 245) It was acquired at some date by the Forestry Commission, who sold the farm to E. N. and N. S. Baker in 1956. (fn. 246) Clatford Park Farm, a brick house of c. 1800 which may have replaced an earlier one, (fn. 247) and the surrounding land were owned in 1977 by Mr. C. Morgan-Smith.
Between 871 and 899 Ceolwen, widow of Osmod, granted the reversion of 15 hides at Alton, which she had inherited from her husband, to the church of Winchester for its refectory. (fn. 248) By the nth century Winchester's Alton estate also included the later manor of Patney. (fn. 249) In 1086 the estate, reckoned at 20 hides, was among those which had been allotted by the bishop for the support of the monks of the Old Minster. (fn. 250)
Between 1047 and 1052 Bishop Stigand and the monks of Winchester leased 2 hides and 1 virgate at Alton to Wulfric for two lives. (fn. 251) The estate was afterwards held by Wulfward Belgisone, and between 1078 and 1085 the bishop, at William I's instigation, granted the same land to William Scudet for life. (fn. 252) It was restored to the convent in 1108. (fn. 253)
In 1284 the estate, by then separate from Patney, was finally confirmed to St. Swithun's by the bishop. (fn. 254) It comprised the land of the tithings of Alton and West Stowell. The convent received a grant of free warren within the demesne of the manor of AL TON PRIORS, or AL TON PRIORS AND STOWELL, as it was later known, in 1300. (fn. 255) St. Swithun's held the estate until the Dissolution, when it passed to the Crown. (fn. 256)
In 1541 Alton was granted to Winchester chapter, who returned it to the Crown in 1547. (fn. 257) In that year Sir William Herbert, later earl of Pembroke, received a royal grant of it, but he returned it to the Crown in 1553. (fn. 258) The manor was later restored to the Herbert family, earls of Pembroke, however, and in 1630 William, earl of Pembroke, died seised of Alton and Stowell. (fn. 259) The manor descended with the title to Philip, earl of Pembroke and Montgomery (d. 1683), who in 1680 sold it in moieties while retaining the manorial rights. (fn. 260)
In 1681 Nicholas Fownes sold the moiety which he had bought to John Smith the elder (d. 1691) of Alton Priors. Samuel Brewster, who bought the other moiety, settled it on his son Samuel in 1692. In 1708 the younger Samuel mortgaged the moiety to George Noble, whose interest therein was declared absolute in the same year. Noble sold it in 1714 to the elder John Smith's son John (d. 1726), and thus the moieties were reunited. (fn. 261) The manorial rights apparently passed like Patney manor to Sir William Pynsent (d. 1719), who conveyed them in 1717 to John Smith. (fn. 262)
John Smith was succeeded in 1726 by his son John. (fn. 263) That John died in 1742 having devised the manor to his daughters Dilarevere, Priscilla, and Elizabeth in turn. Dilarevere, wife of Michael Smith, died without issue in 1769, and her sister Priscilla, wife of Michael Ewen, also died childless. Their sister Elizabeth, wife of James Burrough, succeeded, and in 1778 she sold Alton Priors to her son Michael (d. 1831). (fn. 264)
In 1812 Michael Burrough sold Alton Priors to Thomas Caldecott (d. 1833). Caldecott was succeeded by his nephew, the Revd. J. T. Parker, who sold the manor in 1849 to J. G. Simpkins. In the following year Simpkins sold it to Head Pottinger Best (d. 1887). Best settled it on his daughter Rosamond, wife of W. L. Stucley, who predeceased her father in 1877. Her husband, created a baronet, held the manor for his lifetime. On his death in 1911 it reverted to Rosamond's half-brother, Marmaduke Head Best (d. 1912), whose widow and another sold the Alton estate, 1,100 a., in 1912 to New College, Oxford, owner in 1977. (fn. 265)
The Button family were lessees of the demesne, and probably resident at Alton, from the later 15th century. John Button (d. 1491), his son John (d. 1524), grandson William (d. 1547), and greatgrandson William (d. 1591), were all tenants. (fn. 266) Thereafter the lease passed like Lyneham manor to Sir William Button (d. 1655). (fn. 267) In 1651 John Smith became lessee. (fn. 268) It may have been the same John Smith (d. 1691), who acquired the freehold of a moiety of the estate in 1681. (fn. 269)
The Priory, as it was called in 1977, probably represents a wing of the manor-house of c. 1700 built of brick with stone dressings. (fn. 270) It incorporates some timber-framed walling and the reset head of a fire-place of the later 16th century. The house was reduced in size c. 1810 and the surviving part divided into cottages, which were reunited and restored c. 1970. (fn. 271) South-east of the house fragments of the 18th- and 19th-century walls of a formal garden remain.
Soon after 1810 a new manor-house was built on the north side of the lane from West Stowell to Alton Barnes. Although Alton Priors Manor incorporates some features of a house of c. 1815, it is the product of an extensive reconstruction in the mid 19th century. There are extensions to the north.
In 1680 Philip, earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, sold seven copyholds totalling 4 yardlands at Alton Priors to Daniel Hodges (d. 1689). (fn. 272) The land passed in the Hodges family from Daniel to his son Edward (d. 1738), and grandsons George (d.s.p. 1739) and Edward Hodges (d. 1769). The daughters of Edward the grandson, Hannah, wife of James Beezely, and Anne, wife of Nicholas Symmonds, succeeded as tenants in common. In 1771 Nicholas Symmonds bought Hannah's moiety and in 1783 sold the reunited estate to Michael Burrough. The estate thus merged with Alton Priors manor.
In 1680 the earl also sold 3 yardlands at Alton Priors to John Stiffe. In 1691 John's widow and devisee, Mary, conveyed the land to their daughter Mary and her husband Ebenezer Cawdron. The Cawdrons sold it in 1698 to William Stretch of Alton Priors. The land passed in the Stretch family to another William who sold it in 1783 to Michael Burrough, lord of Alton Priors. (fn. 273)
It seems possible that the land at West Stowell which formed part of Alton Priors manor was also sold c. 1680. In 1780 the West Stowell estate was owned by John Hitchcock and it passed in the Hitchcock family until at least the earlier 19th century. (fn. 274) Elizabeth Clark was owner in 1848. (fn. 275) F. A. Cave was owner in 1912. (fn. 276) Sir Eric Phipps acquired the estate c. 1930. His widow sold the farm and West Stowell House separately in the early 1950s to the Hosier Estate Co. and Pewsey rural district council respectively. The Hosier Estate Co. sold the farm to Sir Philip Dunn, Bt., in the late 1960s. Sir Philip's daughter, the Hon. Mrs. Jacob Rothschild, was owner in 1977. (fn. 277)
West Stowell House, a square red-brick house of the earlier 19th century with fronts of three bays, was much remodelled and enlarged to the designs of Guy Aylmer for Sir Eric Phipps c. 1930. (fn. 278) After it was acquired by the local authority it was used by Pewsey hospital as a school until 1971. (fn. 279) In 1977 the house and its out-buildings were being remodelled as eight separate dwellings.
During the Middle Ages Overton contained, besides the Winchester manors of East Overton, Fyfield, and Alton Priors, economically independent estates at Lockeridge, West Overton, and Shaw. East Overton and Alton Priors, while part of the inter-manorial structure of the estates of St. Swithun's Priory in Wiltshire and Hampshire, remained separate economic units. Fyfield manor, however, seems to have been administered as part of East Overton manor for economic purposes by the later 13 th century, although with separate open fields. What is known of the economy of the most substantial of the Lockeridge estates, which was held by the Templars, and of the economies of West Overton, a Wilton property, and Shaw, is mentioned below.
In 1066 East Overton was assessed for geld at 15 hides. In 1086 the estate contained land enough for 7 ploughs. The 8½ demesne hides supported 2 ploughs and those held in villeinage 5 ploughs. The demesne's value had increased from £6 in 1066 to £8. There were 15 a. of meadow and the pasture was 8 furlongs in length and 4 furlongs broad. (fn. 280)
In 1066 the bishop of Winchester's Fyfield estate was assessed for geld at 5 hides. In 1086 there was land enough for 3 ploughs. There were 2 ploughs and 1 serf on the 3 demesne hides. Elsewhere on the estate there were 3 villeins and 9 bordars with 2 ploughs. There were 3 a. of meadow, 30 a. of pasture, and woodland 3 furlongs long by 1 broad. In 1066 and 1086 the value of the estate was £5. (fn. 281)
In 1210 East Overton and Fyfield, still economically independent, were valued at £16 and £8 respectively. (fn. 282) In 1309 the manors were interdependent and their joint income was £116. (fn. 283) During the 16th century the two estates were valued at £52 yearly, a sum which included the worth of the rectorial tithes of both. (fn. 284)
By the later 13th century it is possible that Fyfield's demesne was worked with that of East Overton, which was then in hand. (fn. 285) The demesne of East Overton, leased to farmers from at least the 16th century, certainly included a considerable acreage at Fyfield in 1567. (fn. 286) Some 291 a. at Fyfield were still included in the East Overton demesne, 755 a., in 1728, although the owners of the two manors were then different. (fn. 287)
Of the tenancies within the combined manors of East Overton and Fyfield in the later 13th century only one, of ½ virgate held by a cottar, may be located with certainty and it was at Fyfield. Eleven holdings of 1 virgate, reckoned at 20 a. each, were then held for the usual agricultural services and small money rents. The virgater who acted as woodward was excused certain of the usual duties but was instead bound to carry the lot and crop of the manorial timber to the lord's court. There were also thirteen holdings of ½ virgate. Their tenants owed services similar to those of the virgaters and half their money rent. The ½-virgater, or cottar, who acted as shepherd paid no rent. The chief task of the cottar at Fyfield, whose holding was probably at Wroughton's mead, was to look after two of the lord's plough-teams at the ox-yard there. (fn. 288)
In 1567 the demesne farmer leased an additional 3 yardlands. At that date both East Overton and Fyfield contained several small copyhold farms. At East Overton there were 4 holdings of 2 yardlands, 4 of 1½ yardland, 1 of 1 yardland, and 2 of ½ yardland. At Fyfield there were 1 of 2 yardlands, 5 of 1½ yardland, and 2 of 1 yardland. (fn. 289) By 1724 the number of East Overton leaseholders had increased to ten, and the largest leasehold farm contained 100 a. Of the nine copyhold farms at East Overton the largest contained 113 a. (fn. 290)
In 1210 the demesne flock at East Overton numbered 300, and at Fyfield 100 sheep. (fn. 291) The chalk uplands continued to support large numbers of sheep throughout the Middle Ages. In 1299 the combined manor of East Overton and Fyfield supported a flock of 717 ewes, 400 hoggasters, and 322 lambs. (fn. 292) They were folded in three sheepcots, one south of the Kennet at Audley's Cottages in Fyfield and two north of the river at Hackpen and at 'Raddon' or Wroughton's mead in Fyfield. (fn. 293) There was much interchange of stock, particularly of lambs and hoggasters, between the Overton flock and those of some of the Hampshire manors of St. Swithun's Priory such as Barton, Hurstbourne Priors, and Mapledurham, in Buriton. (fn. 294) In 1567 at both East Overton and Fyfield sheep were stinted at 100 to the yardland. (fn. 295)
The open fields of East Overton and those of Fyfield occupied the wide chalk terraces north and south of the Kennet. In 1567 East Overton's fields were named as South, East, and North fields, and Fyfield's as North, South, and Rylands fields. (fn. 296) In the Overton fields at least, subdivision had taken place by the early 18th century, and in 1728 there were North, Yonder, South, Vicar's, Coneys, Long, Bittam, Hatch Yatt, White Barrow, and Pound fields. (fn. 297)
In 1567 there was a common meadow in East Overton called Broad mead and another in Fyfield called Berry mead. At the same date the common pastures of East Overton, called Prior's Ball, Full Ridge, and Hursley, were estimated at 100 a. and used by the manorial tenants all the year. The tenantry sheep downs were on Broad, 34 a., and Little, 8 a., downs. Fyfield then contained a sheep down of 130 a. called North down. 'Atleys' or Audley's down, 80 a., at Fyfield, south of the village, was common to the tenants there during spring, summer, and autumn, but after 11 November the farmer of East Overton was entitled to it. (fn. 298) In 1728 East Overton manor contained Hackpen and 'Roddon' downs, 276 a., Hursley down, 26 a., and a tenantry down of 101 a. (fn. 299)
In 1719 some lands in the open fields and common meadows of East Overton and Fyfield were inclosed, and in some cases exchanged, by agreement between the lord of East Overton, his tenants there, the freeholders and leaseholders of Lockeridge tithing, the lord of Fyfield manor, and others. (fn. 300) At parliamentary inclosure in 1821 the lord of East Overton was allotted some 800 a. in East Overton tithing and some 500 a. in Fyfield chapelry for the manor of East Overton. Within Fyfield manor, administered separately from East Overton from at least 1697 and perhaps much reduced in size by that date, the lord was allotted 218 a. At the same date arrangements were made to pay the owner of the mill in the neighbouring tithing of West Overton £27 yearly for turning water out of the mill dam to irrigate the water-meadows of East Overton, partitioned into 7 'stems' on either side of the Kennet, from December to the beginning of April and again from the beginning of May until the end of June. (fn. 301)
Much reorganization of the farms in East Overton and Fyfield took place before parliamentary inclosure. In 1812 Fyfield manor comprised three farms, two, of 338 a. and 27 a., containing land on either side of the Bath road, and one of 112 a. representing the remnant of the former demesne. (fn. 302) The division of the manorial estate at East Overton into North and South farms on either side of the London-Bath road probably occurred c. 1800. (fn. 303) In 1856 North farm at East Overton and Fyfield farm were worked together but by 1906 North, 958 a., and South, 451 a., farms at Overton and Fyfield farm, 573 a., had been let to three different tenants. (fn. 304)
In the later 19th century and the early 20th both Overton and Fyfield downs were exploited, as part of the Meux estates in north Wiltshire, for sporting purposes. Both areas provided training courses for such notable racehorse trainers as Alexander Taylor and his son Alexander. (fn. 305) A large rabbit warren of some 536 a., established on Fyfield down by 1880, was managed as a game warren until c. 1910, when Alexander Taylor the younger killed c. 14,000 rabbits to make the downland gallops safer. (fn. 306)
In 1066 Wilton Abbey's West Overton estate was assessed for geld at 10 hides. In 1086 7 hides and ½ virgate were in demesne. There was land enough for 4 ploughs. On the demesne there were 2 ploughs and 2 serfs. Elsewhere on the estate were the remaining 2 ploughs and 3 villeins and 8 bordars. There were 5 a. of meadow, 20 a. of pasture, and 20 a. of woodland. The whole estate was worth £5 in 1086. (fn. 307)
Nothing is known of the estate's economy later in the Middle Ages. In 1535 the manor was worth £21, of which £9 represented the rents of free and customary tenants and £12 the farm of the demesne. (fn. 308)
The demesne in 1567 contained 168 a. of arable and 7 a. of meadow and supported a large flock. (fn. 309) The Kingman family were farmers in the earlier 17th century and the Cooke family for most of the 18th century. (fn. 310) Edward Pumphrey became tenant in 1784 and his family held West Overton farm, reckoned at 232 a. in 1794, well into the 19th century. (fn. 311)
In 1567 the estate contained, besides 3 freeholders and 1 cottager, 11 customary tenants who paid yearly rents totalling £7: 2 copyholders held 2 yardlands each, 4 held 1½ yardland, 3 held 1 yardland, and 2 held ½ yardland. (fn. 312) There was the same number of customary holdings in 1631. (fn. 313) In 1706 there were 24 manorial tenants, of whom the most substantial held no more than 30 a. Three of their holdings included land at Overton Heath. (fn. 314) About 1794, of the seventeen tenants holding some 560 a., most held about 30 a. each, but a few worked farms of 50–100 a. (fn. 315)
West Overton's arable fields, on the chalk soils north and south of the settlement, were named in 1631 as North, West or Little, and South fields. (fn. 316) Some subdivision had apparently taken place by c. 1794 when the arable lands north of the London-Bath road were named as Upper, Middle, and Lower fields and those to the south as Ditch Hedge, Double Hedge, and Windmill fields. (fn. 317) In 1631 common meadow lay in South and Little meads and in Northside and Southside meadows. (fn. 318) There were two downs, a cow down of 100 a. and Aliens down, 40 a., within the manor in 1567. The farmer and the tenants then had herbage and pasture rights in a common of 30 a. called Common woods. Another common, of 40 a., called the Heath or Abbess Wood and abutting the south-east corner of the parish, was shared with the tenants of North Newnton and its tithing Hilcott, which were also owned by the Pembrokes. (fn. 319) The manorial pasture was reckoned at 177 a. c. 1794 and called Cow and Tenantry downs, Mill ham, and Church ditch. (fn. 320)
In 1802 551 a. in the open fields and common meadows and pastures of West Overton were inclosed at the expense of the earl of Pembroke and Montgomery. The demesne farmer, whose land had been augmented by several copyholds by that date, was allotted 131 a., and the earl's other tenants a total of 385 a. (fn. 321) Immediately afterwards rents within the estate rose from £655 to £916, making available the capital necessary for improvement. (fn. 322) By 1818 the West Overton estate contained two consolidated farms, the former demesne, then called West Overton farm, 330 a., and another, probably to be identified with the later Park farm at Overton Heath, which was reckoned at 200 a., of which 10 a. were water-meadows by the Kennet. (fn. 323)
In 1066 the estate later called Lockeridge manor paid geld for 2 hides and was worth £2. In 1086 1 hide was held in demesne. The estate then supported 1 plough and contained 1 villein, 2 bordars, and 1 serf. There were 1 a. of meadow, 12 a. of pasture, and 6 a. of woodland. The value of the estate had fallen to 30s. by 1086. (fn. 324)
That estate, acquired by the Templars between 1141 and 1143, was augmented in the later 12th century by another 3 hides at Lockeridge. (fn. 325) The lands were thenceforth administered from Rockley, in Ogbourne St. Andrew. (fn. 326) By 1185, however, only that land given by William de Beauchamp seems to have been held by tenants: 2 were cottagers, and of the remaining 9, 2 held 10 a. each for 6s. yearly, and 7 held 5 a. each for 3s. yearly. Besides boonwork, all owed certain renders in kind which had apparently been introduced by the Templars. An assart and 4 a. were then held in common. (fn. 327) In 1338 receipts from the estate totalled £20, a sum which included £7 representing rents, works, and customary payments. Outgoings amounted to £7, making a profit of £13 to be sent to the preceptory at Sandford (Oxon.), from which the estate was then administered. (fn. 328)
By 1768 the duke of Marlborough had acquired the manors of Lockeridge and Upper Lockeridge. He also owned the land, deemed part of the Overton estate of the monks of Winchester, held in 1086 by Durand of Gloucester. (fn. 329) That estate, reckoned at 2 hides all but ½ virgate, was worth £1 in 1066 and 1086. (fn. 330) When the open fields and common pastures of Lockeridge were inclosed in 1821 the duke of Marlborough as lord was allotted 300 a. there. (fn. 331)
By the mid 19th century most of the land in Lockeridge tithing north of the Kennet had been included in North farm at Overton. What remained of Lockeridge farm, 177 a., was south of the river. It then included the allotment at Lockeridge made in 1821 to replace vicarial tithes and glebe, which was leased from the vicar. (fn. 332) The composite farm so formed was worked in the later 19th century by members of the Rebbeck family. (fn. 333) By 1906, however, the former glebe, by then like Lockeridge the freehold property of Lady Meux, was worked separately and known as Glebe farm. (fn. 334)
In 1066 Shaw paid geld for 2 hides and 1½ virgate and was worth 20s. In 1086 the estate contained land enough for 1 plough and supported 1 villein and 2 serfs. There were 30 a. of pasture and woodland 1 league long by 1 furlong broad. In 1086 its value had increased to £2. (fn. 335)
By the 14th century it is likely that the lands of the part of Shaw in Overton had been consolidated as one farm. (fn. 336) It contained a very small arable acreage and was probably exploited as a sheeprearing hill farm. (fn. 337) Under the ownership of the Button family Shaw was worked in conjunction with their West Tockenham estate in Lyneham. In the 1670s the Shaw flock numbered some 600 sheep. Much of the stock was transferred each summer to West Tockenham for fattening on the lusher pastures there. (fn. 338)
The owner of Shaw farm was accustomed to pasture over 1,000 sheep on Shaw down, where in the mid 17th century he inter-commoned with the tenant of Alton Barnes. (fn. 339) When Shaw down was inclosed in 1674 and apportioned between the owners of Shaw in Overton and Alton Barnes, Sir Robert Button as lord of Shaw in Overton was allotted certain woods and 150 a. south of Wansdyke. (fn. 340) That apportionment was repeated in 1680. (fn. 341) When Skilling heath, another near-by common shared with neighbouring estates, was inclosed in 1693, the owner of Shaw farm received some 5 a. (fn. 342) By 1834 the farm's arable acreage had greatly increased, possibly through the clearance of woodland, and, of its 425 a., 112 a. represented arable land in Boreham and Rowdown fields and 66 a. arable land in South field. (fn. 343) From 1907 to 1918 the farm was worked by Arthur Stratton in conjunction with the farm at Alton Priors, and it was at Shaw that Stratton established a pioneer school for Land Women. (fn. 344)
In 1066 a composite estate based on Alton Priors paid geld for 20 hides, 5 of which represented the later manor of Patney. Of those 20 hides, then worth £24, 6 hides and 1 virgate were in demesne in 1086. There were then 4 ploughs and 8 serfs on the demesne, and elsewhere on the estate 8 ploughs and 27 villeins and 15 coscez. There were 100 a. of meadow, pasture 6 furlongs long by 4 broad, and woodland 7 furlongs long by 2 broad. The estate of 3 hides held as an under-tenancy in 1086, which comprised land at both Alton Priors and Patney, then contained land enough for 2 ploughs and was valued separately at £5. (fn. 345)
In 1210 Alton Priors manor, by then separate from Patney, was worth £32, of which £8 represented assessed rents. (fn. 346) The estate's profits were possibly allotted at an early date to the almoner of St. Swithun's, Winchester. (fn. 347) By 1334, however, the profits seem to have been paid directly to the prior's treasury at Winchester. (fn. 348) In the earlier and mid 16th century the estate was worth £34, a value which included the appropriated tithes of Alton Priors chapelry. (fn. 349)
Alton Priors demesne, except 15 a. in West Stowell and 8 a. in Alton Priors, probably remained in hand and was administered by a bailiff appointed by St. Swithun's Priory until the 15th century. The demesne had been divided into Great and Little farms by 1774, but in 1827 was again in single occupation and called Alton farm. (fn. 350)
In the later 13th century assessed rents from the manor totalled £8. The largest customary holding was then that of ½ hide in West Stowell tithing held for 8s. rent and labour services including autumn boon-work. Also in that tithing were fifteen holdings of 1 virgate for which half the rent and services of the ½ hide were owed. Each virgater was additionally entitled to 1 a. of demesne land. In Alton Priors tithing there were eight holdings of 1 virgate, the tenants of which owed the same yearly rent as the West Stowell tenants and the usual agricultural duties, and three of ½ virgate held for half the rent and services of the virgaters. Another twelve holdings of ½ virgate were held by cottars for rents of 3s. yearly and an obligation to perform the humbler agricultural tasks and certain weekly work. One of the cottars acted as ploughman and the cottars' wives milked the ewes or carried wool. Some 8 a. of demesne were let to them for 2s. yearly. (fn. 351) In 1595 of the seven Alton Priors copyholders, who paid a yearly rent of £6, the three most substantial held 4½, 3, and 2½ yardlands respectively. In West Stowell of the four copyholders, who paid £3 yearly, two held 3 yardlands each and two held 2 yardlands each. (fn. 352)
Like East Overton, Alton Priors played its part in the inter-manorial economy of the estates of St. Swithun's Priory. In 1210 there were 32 oxen and 250 sheep within the estate. (fn. 353) Of the 464 ewes maintained there in 1261, 100 were sent to Overton, and of the 380 lambs raised there, 121 were sent to the same estate after shearing. In the same year 193 qr. of wheat were accounted for, as well as varying quantities of barley, oats, and dredge which were sent to Enford and Overton. (fn. 354) In 1299 138 cheeses had been produced over the past year. (fn. 355) Similar numbers of sheep and quantities of wheat, oats, and barley continued to be maintained and produced within the manor in the 14th century. (fn. 356) During the 14th and 15th centuries stock continued to be sent from Alton to other priory manors in Wiltshire and Hampshire and to be received from them in turn. (fn. 357)
There appear to have been two open fields on the manor in the 13th century. (fn. 358) They were later named as North and South fields. (fn. 359) In the later 16th century, however, those fields appear to have been exclusive to Alton Priors while West Stowell had its own East and West fields. (fn. 360) It is likely that the subdivision, the later emergence of West Stowell as a separate farm, and the acquisition by the lord of Alton Priors of two small freeholds within the manor in 1783, made formal inclosure unnecessary. (fn. 361)
Since the manor was almost entirely on chalk soils, it relied for meadow land and hay on another priory manor, Patney, with which it had been associated in the early Middle Ages. Hay was brought to Alton from Patney in the 14th century, and in the mid 16th century certain meadows in Patney were usually leased with Alton Priors manor. (fn. 362)
Manor farm at Alton Priors was tenanted in the later 19th century by Arthur Stratton (d. 1918), who established there a business for contracting agricultural machinery, the largest in Wiltshire for cultivating, threshing, hauling, and cutting. Shortly before the First World War the firm's work force at times of greatest demand was 24 men and during the same time the cultivating tackle let out increased from three to five sets. (fn. 363)
It is likely that in the 12th and 13th centuries the entire parish lay within Savernake forest. (fn. 364) Woodland seems to have been most plentiful within the tithings of West Overton, Shaw, and Lockeridge. (fn. 365) Boreham wood in Shaw, although put out of the forest in 1225, became part of it again a year or so later. It was still part of the forest in 1842, but was afterwards acquired by an owner of Shaw farm. (fn. 366) In 1543 Lockeridge manor contained 29 a. of woodland. (fn. 367) Tawsmead copse was part of Alton Priors manor in 1552 and in 1977. (fn. 368) The woodland of East Overton in 1567 comprised Little wood, 16 a. planted with oaks, and Wools grove, 40 a., then both fairly recently established. At the same date Fyfield contained Fyfield wood, 40 a., and Audley's coppice, 8 a. The woods of West Overton, which included Wykeham Hasset, 4 a., Allen's coppice, 27 a., and Chichangles coppice (later Pumphrey wood), 25 a., were then considered dissafforested lands of Savernake. (fn. 369) After the Lockeridge estates and East Overton manor were acquired by the dukes of Marlborough in the 18th century, their woodland, augmented in the later 19th century by a considerable acreage in Fyfield, was husbanded for sporting as well as economic purposes. (fn. 370) In 1906 West Woods, as the woodland of the enlarged estate was then called, comprised 718 a. of oak, fir, and larch. (fn. 371) The woods suffered depredation by timber merchants before their acquisition in 1931 by the Forestry Commission, which thenceforth worked them from Savernake Forest. The land in East Overton, Lockeridge, and Fyfield was replanted mainly with beech in the 1930s and that in West Overton similarly replanted in the 1950s. (fn. 372)
The huge boulders, or sarsen stones, which littered the Kennet valley and Overton and Fyfield downs were used as building material locally from earliest times until the 20th century. (fn. 373) Their systematic exploitation began in the 19th century when improving farmers began to clear them from the arable fields. In the mid 19th century the Free and Cartwright families established themselves as stone-masons in the parish. Both firms, which employed local labour, also functioned as coal merchants, transporting sarsen stones to Honey Street wharf in Woodborough and carting coal back to Overton. Sarsen was used chiefly for tram-sets and kerbing, but was replaced by concrete in the earlier 20th century. Shortly before the industry finished in 1939, four waggon-loads of sarsen blocks were used to repair Windsor Castle. The main areas worked were on the downs north of the river. Some protection was offered to the Pickledean and Lockeridge dene areas in 1907 when 12 a. in Pickledean and 8 a. in Lockeridge dene were bought by the National Trust. (fn. 374) The sarsens on Fyfield down are within the 610 a. there declared a Nature Conservancy area in 1956. (fn. 375)
In 1977 North farm, 700 a., although a distinct unit from South and Fyfield farms, 880 a., was worked in conjunction with them by the partnership of F. Swanton & Sons. Fyfield and South farms, then under grass, supported dairy cows and young female stock, while North farm was given over to cereal production and the rearing of beef and pigs. (fn. 376) Some 200 a. on Fyfield down were then used as gallops for the training of horses, mostly for flat racing, by Mr. J. V. Bloomfield of Manton House in Preshute. (fn. 377) West Overton farm, 705 a., was then mainly under arable cultivation with 228 a. under winter wheat and 118 a. spring barley. It was farmed in conjunction with land in Beechingstoke and Patney. (fn. 378) Within Alton Priors farm, 1,000 a. including Tawsmead farm, there were 600 a. of arable under a rotation of corn, kale, and grass, 100 a. of permanent pasture on which a dairy herd was maintained, and 300 a. of downland grazing for beef cattle. (fn. 379) West Stowell farm then contained 344 a. devoted to mixed farming. (fn. 380) Shaw farm in 1977 had, besides its pasture lands on which a dairy herd of no cows was maintained, 460 a. of arable mostly devoted to barley and wheat. (fn. 381)
In 1086 a mill attached to the abbess of Wilton's estate at Overton paid 10s. yearly. (fn. 382) Richard Cuffe (d. 1504) held a water-mill and some land freely within West Overton manor and paid a yearly rent of £1 2s. to Wilton Abbey. His heir was his daughter Maud, wife of John True. (fn. 383) A John True held the same mill and land in 1567. (fn. 384) By 1631 the mill estate was held by Robert Smith. (fn. 385) Before 1730 William Smith of Salisbury sold to Stowell Smith of Overton (will proved 1731) a farm at Overton to which a water-mill and a windmill were attached. (fn. 386) The estate eventually passed to Stowell Smith's nephew Thomas Smith (will proved 1763), who devised it to his kinswoman Hannah Martyn. She, who died c. 1804, devised the lands on trust for her granddaughter Thermuthis Ashe. (fn. 387) Thermuthis and her trustees sold them in 1806 to Richard Matthews of East Kennett. (fn. 388) Edward Pumphrey was owner of West Overton water-mill in 1821. (fn. 389)
The water-mill seems to have fallen into disuse by the mid 19th century. It stood beside the Kennet north of West Overton Farm. Most of the associated leats had been filled in but some stonework remained in 1977. The site of the windmill, which stood in Windmill field about 1.5 km. southwest of Overton village, (fn. 390) was not recognizable in 1977.
Lockeridge manor contained a windmill in 1564. (fn. 391) No more is heard of it.
There were two mills worth 12s. 6d. within Winchester's Alton estate in 1086, presumably one at Alton Priors and one at Patney. (fn. 392) Alton Priors mill stood on the stream dividing the two Altons and was apparently demolished c. 1650. (fn. 393)
The prior of St. Swithun's, Winchester, withdrew his manors of East Overton and Fyfield from Selkley hundred and included them in his own hundred of Elstub in the earlier 13th century. Alton Priors had been withdrawn from Swanborough hundred and included in Elstub by 1281. (fn. 394) It was at Alton that the prior held the courts for the Kennet valley portion of Elstub hundred, which comprised the tithings of Alton, West Stowell, East Overton, and Fyfield and the near-by manor of Patney. At the courts, held twice yearly, the prior exercised franchisal and manorial jurisdiction from at least 1281. (fn. 395) His franchisal rights included infangthief and outfangthief, return of writs, view of frankpledge, which he claimed to hold, in Alton at least, by grant of Henry III, and pleas of vee de naam. (fn. 396) He accordingly claimed right of gallows within East Overton manor in 1234 and 1275 and within Alton in 1275. (fn. 397) In 1255 he claimed to hear pleas of vee de naam at Alton, and in 1281 to hold assizes of bread and of ale there by virtue of the grant of the view. (fn. 398)
The tithings of Lockeridge, West Overton, and Shaw owed suit at the courts of Selkley hundred. (fn. 399) No medieval manorial record for those manors is known to survive.
Records of courts for West Overton, East Overton, Alton Priors and West Stowell, and Lockeridge, all Pembroke properties c. 1600, show the courts to have been held locally, sometimes on the same day, once or twice yearly. All, except the West Overton courts, in which no franchisal jurisdiction seems to have been exercised, were usually called views of frankpledge and courts. The business of the views was transacted and recorded separately from that of the courts. The main business of the views was to appoint tithingmen and of the courts to regulate agricultural practice and to appoint haywards. Records of courts for East Overton and Fyfield, at which each tithingman and homage presented separately, survive for 1559, 1566–7, 1632–5, 1666–7, 1670, and 1676. (fn. 400) West Overton court records are extant for 1559, 1566–7, 1632–5, 1667, 1670, 1675–6, 1678, 1688, and 1724–1822, (fn. 401) and those of the Lockeridge views and courts for 1632–3, 1666–7, and 1676–8. (fn. 402) The Alton views and courts, at which the tithingmen and homages of Alton and West Stowell presented separately, are recorded for 1544–6, for 1564–5 and 1567 when the tenant William Button held them, and for 1666–7, 1670, and 1676–8. (fn. 403)
The chapelries of Alton Priors and Fyfield both relieved their own poor. (fn. 404) Alton and Stowell became part of Pewsey poor-law union in 1835. (fn. 405) In the same year Fyfield and the poor-law parish of West Overton, which included East Overton, West Overton, Shaw, and Lockeridge tithings, were included in Marlborough union. (fn. 406)
A church book for Overton, 1810–77, records church rates 1811–70, churchwardens' accounts 1810–77, and a few vestry minutes for the earlier 19th century. (fn. 407) A vestry minute book for Fyfield chapelry, 1849–1922, records rates levied for chapel repairs and the appointments of churchwardens, overseers of the poor, and way-wardens. (fn. 408)
In the 12th century there were churches at East Overton, Fyfield, and Alton Priors. Between 1142 and 1171 Henry, bishop of Winchester, and Jocelin, bishop of Salisbury, together granted Alton church to the hospital of St. Cross near Winchester. (fn. 409) A later-12th-century confirmation of the grant stipulated that suitable provision be made for a vicar to serve it. (fn. 410) In the late 12th or the 13 th century the hospital restored Alton to the bishop of Winchester in return for a yearly pension therefrom. That pension was reckoned at £2 in 1337 and in the 1540s, (fn. 411) but by the early 19th century, and still in 1977, £3 4s. was paid yearly to the hospital out of Alton Priors. (fn. 412) In 1291 another pension, of £1 3s. 4d., was paid from Overton church to the deacon in the abbey church at Wilton. (fn. 413) In 1284 St. Swithun's Priory gave up any right to the advowson of Overton, to which Fyfield was then already attached as a parochial chapel with rights of baptism and burial, and to that of Alton in favour of the bishop in return for his acknowledgement of its lordship over manors including Fyfield and Alton. (fn. 414) By 1290, when the advowson of Overton was regranted by the bishop to the convent, Alton church had also been annexed as a parochial chapel. (fn. 415) St. Swithun's appropriated Overton church with its dependent chapels in 1291. (fn. 416) Vicars were afterwards appointed to serve the cure and a vicarage was ordained probably by 1308. (fn. 417) The benefice was called the vicarage of Overton until the earlier 18th century but was afterwards referred to as that of Overton with Fyfield and Alton Priors. (fn. 418) The priors presented vicars until the Dissolution. (fn. 419)
A grant of tithes from his lands at Lockeridge by Walter of Gloucester to the church of St. Owen at Gloucester before 1129 may suggest the existence of a proprietary church there. (fn. 420) The tithes passed to the priory of Llanthony in Gloucester when Walter's son Miles (d. 1143) conveyed St. Owen's church and its possessions to the newly established house in 1137. (fn. 421) Miles's son Roger, earl of Hereford (d. 1155), confirmed the grant of tithes to Llanthony. (fn. 422) Since no more is known of any payment of tithes from Lockeridge to Llanthony it is likely that they were afterwards paid to the church of Overton.
In 1541 the Crown granted the advowson to the newly formed Winchester chapter and it afterwards descended like the manor of East Overton. (fn. 423) The lords presented, except in 1545 when Richard Paulet, to whom Winchester chapter had granted a turn, presented and in 1623 and 1624 when John Hayes and Robert Vaisey, to whom William, earl of Pembroke, had granted consecutive turns, did so respectively. (fn. 424) The chapelry of Alton Priors, including West Stowell tithing, was detached from the vicarage and united with the rectory of Alton Barnes in 1913. West Stowell was detached from Alton Barnes and annexed to the ecclesiastical parish of Wilcot in 1928. (fn. 425) In 1929 the benefice of East Kennett was united with the vicarage of Overton with Fyfield and the patronage of Overton transferred from the Olympia Agricultural Co. Ltd. to the bishop of Salisbury, patron of East Kennett. The united benefice was called Overton and Fyfield with East Kennett. (fn. 426) In 1975 that benefice was united with three others, Avebury with Winterbourne Monkton and Berwick Bassett, Broad Hinton, and Winterbourne Bassett, to form the benefice of Upper Kennet. A team ministry was formed consisting of a rector at Avebury and two vicars at Overton and Broad Hinton. The rector was to be collated by the bishop of Salisbury and the two vicars chosen by the bishop and rector together. Rector and vicars were all to serve for terms of seven years. (fn. 427)
In 1291 the church, including Fyfield chapelry, was assessed for taxation at £13 6s. 8d. Alton Priors was assessed separately at £6 13s. 4d. (fn. 428) The vicarage was worth £20 in 1535. (fn. 429) The vicar then received a pension of £1 18s. 9d. from the appropriated rectory. (fn. 430) The owners of the rectory estate continued to pay it after the Dissolution and it is last mentioned in 1725, when it was paid by the lord of East Overton manor. (fn. 431) From 1829 to 1831 the benefice had an average yearly net value of £319. (fn. 432)
The vicar, probably in the later 13th century or the earlier 14th, was allotted all the small tithes from Overton and its chapelries except those arising from the lands of St. Swithun's Priory. The prior of St. Margaret, Marlborough, was then expressly allowed to take the small tithes from his manor of Upper Lockeridge in return for a 3s. payment yearly to the vicar. (fn. 433) That modus continued to be paid in the later 18th century. (fn. 434) The lords of West Overton manor also apparently took the small tithes from their demesne. (fn. 435) By 1812 the small tithes of Alton Priors had been commuted for £5 7s. 4d. a year, and £5 6s. a year replaced those from West Stowell. (fn. 436) When the open fields of the tithings of East Overton, Fyfield, and Lockeridge were inclosed in 1821 the vicar was allotted 200 a. in place of tithes. (fn. 437) He received a rent-charge of £31 to replace those arising from Shaw tithing in 1840. (fn. 438)
The vicarial glebe, presumably allotted at the same time as the tithes, comprised some 64 a. of which 46 a. were in the open fields of East Overton and 18 a. in those of Fyfield. (fn. 439) The vicar received 40 a., mostly in East Overton tithing, to replace that estate when the open fields were inclosed in 1821. (fn. 440) With the 200 a. in place of tithes a glebe farm of 240 a. was formed. It was worked from the farmhouse called Dene Farm in 1977. The estate was sold by the vicar to the trustees of Sir Henry Meux in 1883. (fn. 441) The money raised was in the same year used to buy estates at Beckenham (Kent) and Battersea (Surr.). (fn. 442)
The vicarage-house at Overton, first mentioned in 1588, stood west of the church. (fn. 443) The house was rebuilt in the early 19th century, incorporating older walling, and enlarged later in the century. The incumbent of the united benefice of Overton with Fyfield and East Kennett lived there after 1929. The Vicarage was sold in 1939 and was afterwards called Overton (later West Overton) House. (fn. 444) A new house for the united benefice was built on the southeastern outskirts of West Overton village. (fn. 445)
In the later 16th century there were also houses belonging to the benefice at Fyfield and Alton Priors. That at Alton is not mentioned again. The vicar was ordered to rebuild that at Fyfield in 1686 but no more is heard of it. (fn. 446)
At an unknown date 2 a. of land in Lockeridge field were given to maintain a lamp in the church at Fyfield. The land was let for 6s. yearly in 1548. (fn. 447) The Crown granted the 2 a. to Thomas Gratwicke and Anselm Lambe in 1557 and they immediately reconveyed them to Christopher Dismore, lord of Lockeridge manor. (fn. 448)
Among the more notable non-resident incumbents of Overton were William Fauntleroy and John Moore. Fauntleroy, vicar 1496–1511, and later vicar of Enford, held many more lucrative preferments. (fn. 449) Moore (d. 1805), vicar 1759–73, was tutor to the younger sons of his patron, the duke of Marlborough. While vicar, Moore was also rector of Liddington, a prebendary of Durham, and dean of Canterbury. He later became successively bishop of Bangor and archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 450)
It seems probable that chaplains served Alton Priors and Fyfield churches in the Middle Ages. One at Fyfield is mentioned in 1281. (fn. 451) Curates were employed at each in the 1550s. (fn. 452) A reader served Fyfield church in 1584 but it was unknown whether he was licensed to do so. (fn. 453) A neighbouring incumbent served Alton Priors in 1585. In the same year the vicar's son officiated at Fyfield but whether he had episcopal licence to do so was unknown. (fn. 454) A sequestered royalist, John Gregson, served Alton Priors between 1650 and 1652 but by 1656 he had been ousted by the puritan rector of Alton Barnes. (fn. 455) The two Altons were once more briefly united from 1829 to 1833 when Augustus Hare, rector of Alton Barnes, unofficially served the chapelry. (fn. 456) In 1851 the same assistant curate, who lived at Lockeridge, served both Overton and Fyfield. (fn. 457) Curates seem always to have assisted the vicars in the later 19th and earlier 20th centuries. (fn. 458)
In 1851 it was reckoned that over the past year an average congregation of 250 had attended morning and 410 afternoon services at Overton. (fn. 459) At Fyfield over the same period morning congregations had averaged 150 and evening ones 250. (fn. 460) On Sundays in 1864 morning and afternoon services with sermons were held alternately at Overton and Fyfield. Weekday prayers were said, presumably at Overton, during Lent and Eastertide. Holy Communion, attended by an average of twelve communicants, was celebrated at the great festivals and on the first Sunday in each month. (fn. 461) Alton Priors church then seems to have been served separately but no details of its life have been found.
The parish church of ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS is built of flint and sarsen with ashlar dressings and has a chancel with north organ chamber and south vestry, a nave with north aisle and south porch, and a west tower. (fn. 462) It was built in a mixture of gothic styles between 1877 and 1883 to designs by C. E. Ponting and replaced the medieval church which had become dilapidated. The earlier church had a chancel, nave with south porch and west tower and, although the later building follows its plan except for the aisle and a lengthened chancel, appears to have been generally lower in height. (fn. 463) The chancel arch of the earlier church, which is reset between the present aisle and organ chamber, is of 14th-century date, and three nave windows, much restored and reset in the south wall, are of the 15th century. The small plain tower appears to have been of later-medieval construction but apparently bore the date 1697.
The church of ST. NICHOLAS, Fyfield, is mostly built of ashlar and rubble and has a chancel, nave with north aisle and south porch, and a west tower. The nave was rebuilt during a restoration of 1849 by C. H. Gabriel but its predecessor may have been of 12th-century origin. (fn. 464) The chancel, which has lancets and a decorated corbel table, was built in the earlier 13th century and the tower of ashlar was added in the later 15 th when the nave was given new windows, heightened, and reroofed. When the nave was rebuilt that roof was reset but the windows were replaced by lower ones in a simple 14thcentury style and the north aisle with a two-bay arcade was added. The timber-framed south porch, which was probably post-medieval, was also rebuilt and the chancel reroofed and provided with a new east wall with three lancets where there had formerly been only one small window. The church has a circular 12th-century font which is decorated with interlacing arcading, but most other fittings are of the 19th century.
The church of ALL SAINTS, Alton Priors, is built of freestone, rubble, and red brick and has a chancel, nave, and west tower. (fn. 465) The chancel arch survives from the 12th-century church. The nave was rebuilt and widened towards the south in the 14th century. The tower, which is similar in design to that at Fyfield, was added in the later 15th century or the earlier 16th, and at about that time the chancel appears to have been reconstructed and a rood-stair put into the north wall of the nave. In 1491 John Button bequeathed lead to roof part of the church. (fn. 466) The nave roof was renewed in the later 18th century and the chancel roof is probably of similar date. The chancel walls were refaced in brick in the earlier 19th century and the nave walls restored later in that century. Further restoration of the whole building was undertaken c. 1960 and c. 1976. (fn. 467) On the north side of the chancel a tombchest surmounted by a monumental brass commemorates William Button (d. 1591). The church was declared redundant in 1973 and in 1977 was in the care of the Redundant Churches Fund. (fn. 468)
The king's commissioners took 8½ oz. of plate from Overton church in 1553 but left a chalice. Fyfield then apparently had no plate but 1 oz. was taken for the king from Alton Priors. In 1977 Overton's plate comprised a silver chalice, paten, and flagon in medieval style given at the church's rebuilding in 1878. Fyfield in 1977 had a chalice and paten hall-marked 1732, a cup given in 1733, and an alms-dish hall-marked 1781 and given in 1833. (fn. 469) Alton's plate then comprised a cup and paten hallmarked 1577 and 1638 respectively. (fn. 470)
Overton church had three bells in 1553. In 1977 there was a ring of six: (i), (ii), (iii) are by Gillett & Co., Croydon, 1883; (iv), of the earlier 16th century, is by H. Jefferies of Bristol; (v), 1683, by Roger (II) Purdue and recast in 1883 by Gillett & Co.; (vi), 1606, by John Wallis. (fn. 471) There were three bells at Fyfield in 1553 and two in 1977: (i), c. 1540, is attributed to Thomas Jefferies of Bristol; (ii) is dated 1629. (fn. 472) Alton church retained its three bells in 1977: (i), (ii), 1709, are by William and Robert Cor; (iii), 1736, is by William Cockey of Frome (Som.). (fn. 473)
Those baptisms, marriages, and burials performed at Overton and Fyfield are recorded in the same register from 1682 to 1731. Thereafter the two churches kept separate registers, which are complete. (fn. 474) Alton Priors apparently kept a separate register: entries of baptisms and burials begin in 1664 and are complete. Marriage registrations, which start in 1702, appear to be lacking from 1753 to 1758 but are otherwise complete. (fn. 475)
A chapel of ease, dedicated to the Holy Family, was established at West Stowell by Lady (Frances) Phipps in 1934. (fn. 476) It was served from Devizes but ceased to be used regularly when a church was opened at Pewsey in 1964. In 1977 services were held infrequently at the chapel, then still owned by Lady Phipps. (fn. 477)
A group at Fyfield, including Richard Kingsman and his family, was presented for not attending Fyfield church in 1662 and 1674. (fn. 478) Some of those presented may have been among the five nonconformists recorded in Overton parish in 1676. (fn. 479)
Independents certified a house at Fyfield in 1797. (fn. 480) No more is known of that meeting. Dissenters met at Fyfield again in the later 19th century. Their chapel was closed in 1895. (fn. 481) A Congregational chapel, which apparently stood near the Fighting Cocks inn at Fyfield, was demolished in the 1930s. (fn. 482)
Independency flourished in West Overton and what was possibly one group certified houses there in 1825, 1827, and 1849. (fn. 483) In 1851 the Overton meeting was served by a lay preacher and over the past year an average of 40 people had attended afternoon services and 35 those held in the evening. (fn. 484)
Thomas James's house at Lockeridge was certified by Independents in 1849. (fn. 485) The group still met in 1851 when it was estimated that over the past year an average of 30 people had attended both afternoon and evening services. (fn. 486)
Wesleyan Methodists certified two houses at Lockeridge in 1817, another at Overton in 1819, and one at Alton Priors in 1836. (fn. 487) The group at Alton flourished, (fn. 488) and in the 20th century met in a small chapel south-east of Alton Priors Manor until c. 1947. In 1977 the building was used as a garage. (fn. 489) Wesleyans certified a new building at Overton Heath in 1846. (fn. 490) In 1851 that chapel was served by a minister from Marlborough. During the past year an average of 110 people had attended afternoon, and 40 evening, services there. (fn. 491) The chapel, described as at 'Park', was still used in 1894 but had closed by 1935. (fn. 492) The building was used as a store in 1977.
Methodists, designated 'independent', certified a house at Fyfield in 1821. (fn. 493) In 1851 what is clearly the same group, then described as Primitive Methodists, still flourished and over the past year an average of 13 people had attended morning, and 51 afternoon, services in a cottage at Fyfield. (fn. 494) On Census Sunday that year some 58 Primitive Methodists attended afternoon service in a house at Lockeridge. (fn. 495)
Two evangelists from the Christian Brethren established at Regent Place, Swindon, started a mission in a cottage in Lockeridge dene c. 1906. A new chapel was later built in Lockeridge village. The brethren, who were 'open', held regular Sunday services there in 1977. (fn. 498)
In 1808 labourers' children were taught in a school at Overton supported by the duke of Marlborough. Other children, paid for by their parents, attended two small day-schools elsewhere in the parish. (fn. 499) Some 30 children were taught in 1818 at a day-school supported by subscriptions and contributions from the parish rates. The master who kept the school was paid £30 yearly. (fn. 500) The parish contained four schools in 1833. One, begun in 1823 and supported partly by the incumbent and partly by parental contributions, was attended by twenty children. At the others, all begun after 1828, 26 children, paid for by their parents, were taught. (fn. 501) Children from Alton Priors in 1833 attended a school in Alton Barnes, and continued to do so thereafter. (fn. 502) In 1858 30 infants were taught by an old woman in a cottage kitchen at Overton. At a 'tidy and business-like' school in Fyfield between 60 and 70 children from Fyfield and Lockeridge were taught in 1859 by a trained mistress. (fn. 503)
About 1872 a school, affiliated to the National Society, was built at Lockeridge to the design of C E. Ponting to serve West Overton, Fyfield, and Lockeridge. (fn. 504) In 1906 that school had been attended over the past year by an average of 117 pupils. (fn. 505) Thereafter average attendance gradually declined and was 66 in 1938. (fn. 506) In 1977 the school was attended by 42 children, who nearly all came from West Overton, Lockeridge, and Fyfield. (fn. 507)
Charities for the Poor.
In 1704 Robert Fowler of Lockeridge gave £20, the interest to be distributed yearly amongst the unrelieved poor of the parish. Interest was usually allowed to accumulate in the earlier 19th century and £3 was distributed triennially in small money doles. Income was 12s. yearly in the 1860s. In 1902 accumulated interest of £8 was apportioned in sums of £2 and £6 respectively between a coal and clothing club and a fund for the sick and needy. The yearly income was 6s. or 7s. in 1905 and then deemed applicable only to the civil parish of West Overton. (fn. 508) In the 1960s the yearly income of under £1 was allowed to accumulate and in 1969 there was a balance of £10. (fn. 509)
At an unknown date Mary Tasker of Fyfield gave £20, the interest to be distributed yearly amongst the unrelieved poor of Fyfield tithing. In the earlier 19th century interest was allowed to accumulate and then distributed in small money doles. The yearly interest of 12s. was distributed in fuel in the 1860s. In 1895 accumulated interest totalling £4 was used to buy coal for distribution at Christmas. In the earlier 20th century the annual income of 6s. or 7s. was similarly allowed to accumulate until there were sufficient funds to provide coal for all the poor of Fyfield. (fn. 510) In 1965 the charity had an income of under £1. (fn. 511)
In the 1970s the funds of both charities were allowed to accumulate and at Christmas 1976 doles of 50p were distributed to twenty people in the parishes of West Overton and Fyfield. (fn. 512)