A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 15, Amesbury Hundred, Branch and Dole Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1995.
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Little Langford (fn. 1) is in the Wylye valley 12 km. north-west of Salisbury. (fn. 2) The river Wylye to the north, the Grovely Grim's ditch to the south, and a coomb to the east marked part of its boundary in the 10th or nth century and became parish boundaries. The Powten stone on the south boundary before 1066 may still have marked Little Langford's boundary in the 14th century. (fn. 3) A minor course of the Wylye called the Back river, which is forded east of the village, later marked part of the northern boundary. (fn. 4) Taking in a north-east and south-west coomb and half another the parish, 1,020 a. (413 ha.), took its shape in response to relief: it reached from the river south-west to the watershed and was roughly rectangular. At its north-east corner it projected eastwards: the projection, from which the men of Wylye took some of the hay, may have been the shared meadow assigned to Little Langford in the early recital of its boundaries. (fn. 5) The epithet Little was in use to distinguish the village from its neighbours Steeple Langford and Hanging Langford in 1210–12. (fn. 6) In 1934 the whole of Little Langford parish was added to Steeple Langford. (fn. 7)
The land falls from c. 185 m. on Grim's ditch to c. 70 m. by the Wylye. There is alluvium near the river, and valley gravel south of it around the village and in the coombs; chalk outcrops further south, covered by clay-with-fiints near the southern boundary. Most of the parish is downland and it had roughly equal amounts of open fields, of down pasture, both on the chalk, and of woodland, on the clay. The woodland was extensively cleared in the 19th century, and in the later 20th the downs were used much more for tillage than pasture. (fn. 8) The parish was in Grovely forest at all perambulations in the Middle Ages: most of its woodland was part of the forest in 1589 but not 1603. (fn. 9)
The Wilton—Warminster road linking the villages on the right bank of the Wylye between Great Wishford and Bishopstrow crosses the parish. It was turnpiked between Little Langford and Stockton in 1761, disturnpiked in 1871. (fn. 10) A road across the downs between the Wylye and the Nadder marked the west boundary of Little Langford in the early Middle Ages, (fn. 11) and later other north—south tracks linked Little Langford and the Grovely ridge way, which in the later 16th century may have crossed the southern extremity of the parish. (fn. 12) The Salisbury-Warminster section of the G.W.R. was made across the parish very near the turnpike road in 1856: the nearest station was at Hanging Langford in Steeple Langford until 1857, afterwards at Great Wishford until 1955. (fn. 13)
There were 32 poll-tax payers in 1377, a total which suggests that Little Langford was more populous than at any time except perhaps the later 19th century, (fn. 14) and probably 20 adult inhabitants in 1676. (fn. 15) The population was 25 in 1801 and had risen to 39 by 1861. After new building in the 1860s it stood at 67 in 1871 and reached a peak of 82 in 1881. There were 64 inhabitants in 1931, (fn. 16) almost certainly fewer in 1981.
The Iron-Age hill fort now called Grovely castle is in the parish, a barrow lies on the boundary with Steeple Langford, and other archaeological remains may have come from downland in the parish. There was a prehistoric field system east of Grovely castle. (fn. 17)
Little Langford village stood on the gravel terrace near the river and was the smallest of the three markedly different villages called Langford. (fn. 18) For most of its history, certainly from the later 16th century to the 1860s, it consisted of little more than the church and two farmsteads: the village had fewer houses than its neighbours because neither of its manors had customary tenants living on it. (fn. 19) In the 18th century the three main houses in the parish, each with three principal ground-floor rooms, may have been of similar size: east of the church Little Langford (later Lower) Farm was a stone house with five first-floor rooms, west of the church Stourton (later Upper) Farm, as rebuilt in 1737, was also a stone house but had only three first-floor rooms, (fn. 20) and in 1783 the rectory house north of the church was a stone and thatch house with two first-floor rooms. (fn. 21) Before 1761 the village was possibly on the Great Wishford to Bishopstrow road, and parts of an old road are visible east and west of the church. From when that road was turnpiked, however, if not earlier, it ran across higher ground to the south. In 1773 the parish contained no building other than those on the line of the old road, presumably including a few cottages. (fn. 22) The whole village, including the church, was rebuilt in the later 19th century. In 1864 a new farmhouse, of stone and in Gothic style, and model farm buildings incorporating four cottages were built south of the railway and beside the turnpike road, and a group of eight cottages, of red brick and slate, was built in 1863 near the site of Lower Farm. (fn. 23) Upper Farm, Lower Farm, and cottages were demolished (fn. 24) and a new rectory house was built. (fn. 25) The eight cottages, forming three sides of a rectangle, were sometimes called the Barracks, (fn. 26) later Stourton Cottages. Six more houses were built in the 20th century, four east of the church on or near the old line of the village and two near the road west of the new farmstead.
Manors and other estate.
Land at Little Langford was the subject of three grants in the mid 10th century: in 943 King Edmund granted 3 hides, the west half of what became the parish; c. 950 King Eadred granted to Wulfheah 1 mansa; and in 956 King Eadwig granted to Byrnric 6 mansae, comprising what became the whole parish. The first and third grants are recorded in Wilton abbey's cartulary, the second in that of Glastonbury abbey (Som.). (fn. 27)
In 1066 Wilton abbey held 3 hides at Little Langford, an estate mainly in the west half of the parish and later called LANGFORD DANGERS manor. Its tenant was an Englishman whose two sons had by 1086 acquired the abbey's right to hold the land in demesne. (fn. 28) The abbey remained overlord until the Dissolution. (fn. 29)
In 1242–3 the manor was held of the abbey as ½ knight's fee by William Tracy, (fn. 30) who with his wife Margery conveyed it to Ralph Dangers in 1252. (fn. 31) In 1428 John Tracy was said to be the mesne lord. (fn. 32) The manor descended in the Dangers family with Lambert's estate in West Amesbury. (fn. 33) John Dangers held it in 1294 (fn. 34) and 1309, (fn. 35) his son Ralph in 1317, and Ralph's son John (fn. 36) apparently 1323–54. One or more William Dangers (d. by 1443) held it 1379–1435, and William Dangers's feoffees, including John Stourton, held it in 1443. (fn. 37) In 1448 it was conveyed to Stourton (cr. Baron Stourton 1448, d. 1462), (fn. 38) already the owner of a second manor in the parish. (fn. 39)
In 1086 Glastonbury abbey held 2 hides at Little Langford and claimed as thegnland 1 hide held of the king by Edward of Salisbury, who also held the 2 hides of the abbey. (fn. 40) Edward's successors were overlords of both estates, together called LITTLE LANGFORD manor and comprising land in the east half of the parish. (fn. 41) The overlordship descended to Edward's son Walter (d. 1147), Walter's son Patrick, earl of Salisbury (d. 1168), and with the earldom to Patrick's son William (d. 1196) and William's daughter Ela (d. 1261) and her husband William Longespee, earl of Salisbury (d. 1226). It passed with the overlordship of Shrewton, (fn. 42) and was held by Thomas Montagu, earl of Salisbury (d. 1428). (fn. 43)
The 1 hide held by Edward of Salisbury in 1086 had been held by Azor in 1066 and was held of Edward by Letard. (fn. 44) The tenant in demesne of Little Langford manor in the later 12th century was Stephen of Langford, whose heir was his brother William of Langford. (fn. 45) The manor passed in the Langford family, apparently to Turbert Langford (fl. 1203), (fn. 46) to John Langford who held it as ½ and 1/10 knight's fee in 1242–3, (fn. 47) to Alan Langford (fl. 1300), (fn. 48) to Alan's son John (fl. 1329), (fn. 49) and to Thomas Langford (fl. 1348). (fn. 50) In 1388 it belonged to William Dun, (fn. 51) who by 1397 had conveyed it to William Stourton (fn. 52) (d. 1413). Stourton was succeeded by his son John, Lord Stourton (d. 1462), (fn. 53) who also acquired Langford Dangers. (fn. 54)
Langford Dangers and Little Langford manors descended with the barony from Lord Stourton in the direct line to William (d. 1478), John (d. 1485), and Francis (d. 1487), with the barony to Francis's uncles William Stourton (d. 1524) and Edward Stourton (d. 1535), and again in the direct line to William, Lord Stourton (d. 1548), and Charles, Lord Stourton, whose lands were forfeited in 1557 on his execution and attainder for felony. (fn. 55)
About 1573 Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford (d. 1621), claimed Little Langford manor as an escheat on the grounds that he was a successor of the earls of Salisbury as lord of Amesbury manor, to which the overlordship of Little Langford manor had been attached. Hertford's claim was evidently made good, (fn. 56) and apparently matched by a successful claim for Langford Dangers manor by Henry Herbert, earl of Pembroke, the successor to Wilton abbey as overlord. (fn. 57) In 1585 the Crown claimed both manors on the grounds that Lord Stourton held them without intermediary at his death, (fn. 58) and in the same year granted both to agents. Langford Dangers was acquired by Lord Pembroke, probably by 1590, certainly by 1595, (fn. 59) and descended with the Pembroke title as part of the Wilton estate: it was sometimes called Stourton farm, presumably after the Stourtons who were lessees in the 16th and 17th centuries, and later Upper farm. (fn. 60) Little Langford manor was conveyed to Lord Hertford in 1586. (fn. 61) In 1621 it passed to his grandson and heir William, earl of Hertford, who in 1626 sold the reversion after the death of his sister-in-law Lady (Anne) Beauchamp, to William, earl of Pembroke. (fn. 62) Lady Beauchamp sold her interest to Lord Pembroke in 1636, (fn. 63) and Little Langford manor thereafter descended with Langford Dangers: it was called Lower farm in the 19th century. (fn. 64) In 1921 the Wilton estate sold both manors as Little Langford farm to Frederick Andrews, from whom they were bought back in 1939. (fn. 65) In 1990 the Wilton estate owned nearly the whole parish. (fn. 66)
In the later 12th century Stephen of Langford granted 1 yardland in Little Langford to Bradenstoke priory. The priory apparently conveyed it to Ralph Dangers in an exchangec. 1243 x 1260 (fn. 67) and it was presumably added to Langford Dangers manor.
In 1086 Little Langford had land for 4 ploughteams, on which were 3 or more teams, and there were 51 a. of meadow, much for so small a place, and 50 a. of pasture. The land was nearly all demesne, on which were 4 servi and 9 bordars, and was in 2–4 holdings. No villanus was mentioned in Domesday Book (fn. 68) and there is no later evidence of customary tenure. The land was presumably worked in demesne by Wilton abbey and Glastonbury abbey from when they acquired it; it was possibly in only two holdings before they acquired it; and almost certainly from the 13th century, certainly from the 16th to the mid 19th, there were two farms corresponding to the two manors in the parish. (fn. 69)
Sheep-and-corn husbandry predominated in the parish. (fn. 70) Between the village and the downs there were three open fields, c. 280 a., which were never formally inclosed. Common husbandry ceased when the two farms were worked as one: that may have been before 1796, when the open fields were still so called, (fn. 71) and was certainly before 1838. (fn. 72) Vestiges of open-field cultivation were removed c. 1860 when glebe in the former open fields was exchanged for other land. (fn. 73) Sheep were pastured in common on the downs, also c. 280 a., (fn. 74) until a separate down was allotted to each farm, evidently in the late 18th century. (fn. 75) The extensive meadow land was shared with men of other parishes, Duttenham mead (16 a.) with Wylye, Chitterne or Jordan mead (10 a.) with Chitterne, and 1 a. of Broad mead apparently with Dinton: after the hay was taken Little Langford had the pasture of all 27 a. (fn. 76) Rights to the hay were acquired for Little Langford in respect of Duttenham mead c. 1860, Chitterne mead in 1906, and Broad mead between c. 1860 and 1920. (fn. 77)
Presumably from the mid 15th century, certainly from the mid 16th, the two manors were leased. (fn. 78) In the later 16th century Little Langford farm to the east, occupied by members of the Hayter family and in the early 17th century called Hayter's farm, was slightly larger than Stourton farm to the west, occupied by Christopher Stourton from 1528, Leonard Stourton in the later 16th century, and Hercules Stourton in the earlier 17th century. Both farms were said to include only c. 90 a. of arable: Little Langford farm had 80 a. of several down. (fn. 79) Both were leased for years on lives by the earls of Pembroke, and from 1753 to 1857 members of the Biggs family held both leases. In 1701 Little Langford farm included c. 33 a. of meadows, c. 9 a. of several pasture, 106 a. in the open fields, c. 36 a. of inclosed arable, and 101 a. of woodland. Stourton farm, held by Tristram Biggs from 1681, included c. 25 a. of meadows, c. 12 a. of several pasture, 153 a. in the open fields, and 23 a. of woodland. Cows were kept on Little Langford farm but both were mainly sheep and arable farms: the downs were common for 1,100 sheep. Some meadows were watered, although in the early 18th century a dispute between the lessees prevented the watering of Broad mead, c. 13 a. (fn. 80) By c. 1750 a coppice at the extreme south end of the parish had been grubbed up for arable. (fn. 81) In 1796 Little Langford (Lower) farm, 507 a., included 12 a. of pasture, 24 a. of water meadows, 46 a. of inclosed arable, 120 a. of open arable, 96 a. of woodland, and 200 a. of downland; Stourton (Upper) farm, 394 a., included 15 a. of dry meadow and pasture, 20 a. of water meadows, 6 a. of inclosed arable, 162 a. of open arable, 55 a. of woodland, and 120 a. of downland. (fn. 82) In 1838 the parish had 355 a. of arable, 69 a. of meadows of which 52 a. were watered, 35 a. of lowland pasture, 281 a. of downland pasture, and 249 a. of woodland: Lower farm to the east, 504 a., and Upper farm to the west, 465 a., were worked together. (fn. 83)
Lower farm and Upper farm fell in hand in 1857 and 1860 respectively, (fn. 84) and by 1865 Little Langford had become one of the places most affected by improvements on the Wilton estate. The model farm buildings of Little Langford farm replaced both Lower Farm and Upper Farm, new buildings were erected on the downs, all the cottages in the village were replaced, 156 a. of woodland were grubbed up for arable, and downland pasture was ploughed. Land in Great Wishford was added to Little Langford farm, 1,432 a. c. 1864, (fn. 85) and has remained part of it. In 1920 the farm, 1,562 a., was for corn, sheep, and dairying. (fn. 86) Arable was laid to grass between 1920 and 1941 (fn. 87) but ploughed again later. In 1990 Little Langford farm, 1,422 a., was an arable and dairy farm, had buildings at Little Langford and in Great Wishford parish, specialized in cereal production, and maintained a herd of pedigree Holstein Friesian cattle. Most of c. 90 a. of woodland remaining in the parish was managed by the Forestry Commission. (fn. 88)
A mill on the Englishmen's Little Langford estate was mentioned in 1086 (fn. 89) but no mill is known later.
Little Langford was part of a single tithing with Hanging Langford from the 16th century or earlier. (fn. 90) There is no evidence of a manor court held for Little Langford and, since there was apparently no customary tenure, (fn. 91) none may have been held.
Few paupers lived in the parish. Expenditure on them 1783–5 averaged £9; the poor-rate was low and only £18 was spent in 1802–3, when two adults were relieved regularly. In the period 1813–15 no poor rate was levied because there was only one farmer in the parish. (fn. 92) Yearly expenditure was over £34 from 1815 to 1819, later fell, and was nil in 1831–2. (fn. 93) In 1836 the parish joined Wilton poor-law union; (fn. 94) in 1974, as part of Steeple Langford parish, it became part of Salisbury district. (fn. 95)
Little Langford church was standing in the later 12th century. (fn. 96) The benefice remained a rectory. A plan of 1650 to add Hanging Langford to the parish was not implemented. (fn. 97) In 1973 Little Langford was united with Steeple Langford as the parish and benefice of the Langfords, that benefice was then united with the benefice of Wylye and Fisherton de la Mere, and in 1979 Stockton was added to create the new benefice of Yarnbury. (fn. 98)
From 1309 or earlier the advowson passed with Langford Dangers manor. (fn. 99) Sir Walter Sutton, who presented ineffectually in 1323, may have been a relative of John Dangers who presented successfully in the same year, (fn. 100) and in 1349 John Dangers successfully resisted Robert More's claim to the advowson. (fn. 101) William Dangers's feoffees presented in 1443 and John Barrow in 1527 by grant of Sir William Stourton (probably Lord Stourton d. 1548). (fn. 102) Henry, earl of Pembroke, presented in 1573, and the advowson descended with the manor and the Pembroke title until 1972, when it was transferred to the bishop of Salisbury. John Gauntlet presented in 1694 by grant of a turn. The bishop shared the right to present for the new benefices created in 1973 and 1979. (fn. 103)
The church was valued at £20 in 1349, (fn. 104) at only £7 7s. in 1535, (fn. 105) and at £65 in 1650 (fn. 106) and 1705. The rector was entitled to all tithes from the whole parish: (fn. 107) in 1838 they were valued at £147 and commuted. (fn. 108) The rector had a house and c. 5 a. of arable in 1592 when, perhaps unsuccessfully, he claimed rights to feed animals on Stourton farm. (fn. 109) In 1705 he had a house and 10 a., in 1783 a small house and 10 a. including 2 a. in place of some hay tithes. (fn. 110) The house was demolished and a new one built north of the church in 1798. (fn. 111) It was repaired, altered, and enlarged in 1827. (fn. 112) After 1856, probably in the early 1860s, the glebe was concentrated near the church and rectory house by exchange with the earl of Pembroke; (fn. 113) in 1872 a new house was built north-west of the church, and the old house was demolished. (fn. 114) The house and glebe were sold in 1926. (fn. 115)
In 1324 John Langford, lord of Little Langford manor, gave land in Little Langford and elsewhere to St. John's hospital, Wilton, to endow a chantry of which the chaplain should celebrate daily in Little Langford church. Each year the hospital was to present a chaplain to the archdeacon of Salisbury for admission and to provide him with food, clothes, and a house at Little Langford. (fn. 116) The chaplain accused of stealing a chalice, a breviary, a surplice, and a towel from the church in 1389 was possibly the chantry chaplain. (fn. 117) The hospital may have failed to present chaplains, and from 1397 or earlier the advowson of the chantry was claimed by Langford's successors as lord of the manor. (fn. 118) Sir Reynold Stourton, a relative of the lord, and the lord, William, Lord Stourton, presented in 1457 and 1502 respectively. That chaplains were presented to the bishop for institution suggests that chaplaincies were for longer than a year, and the chaplain who died c. 1502 may have been the prior of St. John's. (fn. 119) No reference to the chantry has been found after 1502. The hospital may have kept the endowment, and the patron, also patron of the parish church, have presented no other chaplain.
Thomas Green was apparently the rector deprived for Roman Catholicism before 1570. (fn. 120) In 1630 John Lee, rector of Wylye and treasurer of Salisbury cathedral, and in 1634 Alexander Hyde, rector of Wylye and 1665–7 bishop of Salisbury, were instituted as rectors, and in the 1630s curates served the church. (fn. 121) Hyde was sequestrated in 1645 (fn. 122) and resigned in 1660. (fn. 123) In 1650 the minister John Wilson preached every Sunday. (fn. 124) In 1662 the parish lacked Jewell's Apology and a chalice. (fn. 125) Curates often served the church in the 18th century and earlier 19th. (fn. 126) In 1783 the rector Henry Hawes lived at Box: the curate, rector of Steeple Langford, held a service every Sunday and communion four times a year. There had been no wedding, christening, or burial for three years. (fn. 127) From 1798 to 1827 the rector was William Moody, the lord of Great Bathampton manor and of a manor in Hanging Langford. (fn. 128) Morning and evening services were held every Sunday in 1851 with average congregations of, respectively, 20 and 46: half those attending evening service were from outside the parish. (fn. 129) When a new rector was instituted in 1863 he found no communicant and parishioners who he said knew little of Christian worship: in 1864, in his own drawing room while the church was being rebuilt, he held two services every Sunday, morning prayers every day, and communion at festivals and monthly for six communicants. (fn. 130) A retreat attended by Walter Hamilton, bishop of Salisbury, was conducted in the church in 1865, (fn. 131) and from 1867 the rector also served St. Martin's chapel at Grovely Wood (fn. 132) (later in Barford St. Martin). The rectory was held with Great Wishford rectory 1926–73. (fn. 133)
The church of ST. NICHOLAS, so called in 1324, (fn. 134) is built of chequered flint and ashlar, and consists of a chancel with north vestry and a nave with south transeptal chapel and east bell turret. The reset south doorway is of the later 12th century and has a decorated tympanum above a lintel carved with a hunting scene. (fn. 135) Most features of the church were apparently reproduced when it was rebuilt in 1864 to T. H. Wyatt's designs. They suggest that the small nave and chancel were 12th century and that the chapel was added in the earlier 14th. Most of the windows were enlarged in the 15th century or the 16th. A north porch was rebuilt as the vestry, and the bell turret built, in 1864. (fn. 136) The bell turret was renewed in 1965. (fn. 137)
The chalice stolen in 1389 was apparently not replaced until soon after 1662: the church had no plate in 1553. In 1990 the parish held a chalice hallmarked for 1660 or 1662 and a new set of plate given in 1864. (fn. 138) There were two bells in 1553, (fn. 139) one in 1783. (fn. 140) A sanctus bell was hung in the turret in 1864. (fn. 141) The registers begin in 1699: baptisms and burials are lacking for 1767–85 and 1764–85 respectively. (fn. 142)
A day school in the parish was attended by eight children in 1846–7. (fn. 145) No other day school is recorded, and an evening school started by the rector in 1863 or 1864 was attended by few and may have been short lived. (fn. 146)
Charity for the poor.
Between 1899 and 1913 Sidney, earl of Pembroke and of Montgomery, gave land for almshouses and shared with the tenant of Little Langford farm, Frederick Andrews, the cost of building two cottages for poor and aged residents of Little Langford. The Little Langford almshouse charity was created by Scheme of 1923 and endowed with the cottages and £200 collected in Little Langford as a war memorial. (fn. 147) The cottages remained in use as almshouses in 1990. (fn. 148)