A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 17, Calne. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.
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Calne is a small town 8 km. east of Chippenham and 10 km. north of Devizes. (fn. 1) It was an early borough and market town and from the 16th century to the 20th derived its prosperity from cloth making and food processing. (fn. 2)
Early medieval settlement. In the 10th century and possibly earlier Calne was a locally prominent settlement. (fn. 3) It stood on a large estate of the king and had an early church. (fn. 4) The dependence of their churches on Calne church, vestiges of such dependence, or other evidence suggests that the king's estate called Calne extended east to include Berwick Bassett, Cherhill, Compton Bassett, and Yatesbury, and on the south it perhaps included Heddington. On the west it may have been bounded by the watercourse which came to be called the Whetham stream and, between its confluences with the Whetham stream and Cowage brook, by the river Marden. From before the Conquest to the 12th century the king apparently granted away his estate in portions and, whether before or after each grant was made, those five villages, each with its own open fields and common pastures, were planted or reorganized, (fn. 5) as, nearer to Calne, were Calstone village, the settlement called Eastman Street, and probably the settlement called Whitley. On other land near to Calne, that at Quemerford, Stock, and Stockley, and between the town and the roughly north–south line of the Whetham stream and the Marden, all of which was almost certainly part of the king's estate, settlement was or remained dispersed. On the north Beversbrook was probably part of the estate and had become the site of settlement by 1086. West of the line of the Whetham stream and the Marden, Studley and Whetham were settlements which were probably planted on assarts on the edge of the woodland called Chippenham forest. (fn. 6)
Composition of Calne parish
The king's estate, Calne hundred, and the parish of Calne church may have been conterminous (fn. 7) until some parts of the estate which were granted away became the sites of independent churches or were added to another parish, and until land probably west of the estate was added to Calne parish. Compton Bassett, Heddington, and Yatesbury, if each had been part of the estate, had been granted away by 1086, and their churches, which were or became independent, had been built by the 12th century or the 13th; the history of those places is related elsewhere. (fn. 8) Beversbrook, if it had been part of the estate, had been granted away by 1086, and it was later in Hilmarton parish. (fn. 9) Three estates at Calstone had been granted away by 1086 and a fourth, the black land of Calstone, later Blackland, had been granted away by the 12th century. A church was built on one of the estates at Calstone and a church was built at Blackland; each was in the gift of the owner of the estate on which it was built, was served by a rector who received the tithes from his patron's estate, and was a parish church. (fn. 10) Churches built at Berwick Bassett and Cherhill remained daughters of Calne church. By the 16th century inhabitants of those places had all rights of baptism, marriage, and burial in their churches, and Berwick Bassett and Cherhill came to be reputed parishes and became civil parishes. This article excludes both places, and the history of each appears under its own heading. (fn. 11) The history of the whole of Blackland, where the land was shared between Calne and Blackland parishes, and of the whole of Calstone, the land of which was shared by Calne and Calstone Wellington parishes, is related under the headings Blackland and Calstone Wellington, (fn. 12) and therefore this article also excludes accounts of those parts of them which lay in Calne parish. Studley had been added to Calne parish by the 13th century, (fn. 13) and Whetham was later part of the parish.
Between Studley and Whetham the woodland later called Bowood, with other land west of Calne, was part of Chippenham forest in the 13th century. A new boundary adopted for the forest in 1300 and confirmed in 1330 included Bowood and excluded the land between it and the town, (fn. 14) and later it was debated whether Bowood, which was imparked c. 1618, (fn. 15) was part of Calne parish. Parishioners of Calne perambulated it in the later 16th century and earlier 17th and the vicar of Calne claimed tithes from the park. (fn. 16) The vicar's right to the tithes was successfully contested in the mid 17th century, and from then those living in the park and in certain hamlets on the edge of it relieved their own poor. In 1709 the justices at quarter sessions found the park and those hamlets to be an extra-parochial liberty. (fn. 17) In the earlier 19th century Bowood liberty consisted of only the park and one of the hamlets, Buck Hill. (fn. 18) This article includes Bowood liberty, dealing with most aspects of it in a sub-article under its own name.
In 1657 parliament ordered that Calne and Blackland parishes should be united. The order was not to prejudice the interest and title of the rector of Blackland, who lived until 1669, (fn. 19) and was apparently void. (fn. 20)
In the earlier 19th century Calne's boundaries with several parishes, besides those with Blackland and Calstone Wellington, were complex. To the north a tongue of Hilmarton extended into Calne, and three islands of Calne, a total of 22 a., lay in the tongue; to the east islands of Calne, of 149 a., 12 a., and ½ a., were surrounded by Cherhill and Compton Bassett parishes, and a 3-a. island of Cherhill was surrounded by Calne; to the west a 50-a. peninsula of Bremhill extended into Calne. (fn. 21) In 1883 the peninsula of Bremhill and the 3 a. of Cherhill were transferred to Calne, the detached 161½ a. of Calne to the east was transferred to Cherhill and Compton Bassett, lands in the tongue were exchanged between Calne and Hilmarton, and the boundaries between Calne, Blackland, and Calstone Wellington were simplified. Calne gave c. 198 a. to Blackland and 11 a. to Calstone Wellington and received c. 98 a. from Blackland and 32 a. from Calstone Wellington. In 1885 Calne parish, including its land at Blackland and its part of Calstone's land and excluding Bowood liberty, measured 8,058 a. (3,261 ha.). (fn. 22)
In 1835 a municipal borough of Calne was formed and in 1851 a board of health. The area served by the board of health was altered in 1852, and the new area became Calne urban sanitary district. In 1889 the boundary of the sanitary district was adopted as that of the municipal borough and in 1890 as that of a new parish, Calne Within, 356 a. (144 ha.). Also in 1890 the rest of Calne parish, the whole of Blackland and Calstone Wellington parishes and of Bowood liberty, and a small part of Bremhill parish, were formed into Calne Without parish, 9,895 a. (4,004 ha.). (fn. 23) In 1934 Calne Without parish was reduced to 8,759 a. (3,545 ha.) by transfers to Calne Within parish, thereafter 516 ha. (1,276 a.), and to Cherhill. (fn. 24) In 1984 Calne Without parish was increased to 4,326 ha. (10,690 a.) by transfers to it of part of the tongue of Hilmarton parish and a large part of Pewsham parish. (fn. 25)
The boundary on the south followed the course of a Roman road and was marked by a prehistoric ditch. (fn. 26) On the northwest it followed a river, and there and in several places on the north-east it followed streams. On the north-east a pasture called Penn was probably shared by the men of Calne, Cherhill, and Compton Bassett; a boundary across it dividing Calne and Cherhill parishes had apparently been drawn by 1628. Cherhill's part of Penn remained commonable, and the boundary, a series of straight lines at right angles to each other, was presumably drawn around new closes in Calne's part at the time of the division. (fn. 27) South of Penn a pasture called Low was shared by the men of Calstone and the men of Cherhill and a straight line separating Calstone's and Cherhill's pasture, and thus Calne and Cherhill parishes, was drawn across it between 1616 and 1728. (fn. 28) South of Low strips in the open fields of Blackland and Calstone were divided among Blackland, Calne, and Calstone Wellington parishes, and between Penn and Low the parcels in a common meadow called Abberd mead were divided between Calne, Calstone Wellington, and Cherhill parishes; (fn. 29) the parish boundaries in those places were simplified at inclosure in the earlier 19th century. (fn. 30) North-west of Calstone village the closes were divided between Blackland and Calne parishes, (fn. 31) and there the boundary remained complex until the exchanges in 1883. (fn. 32)
Geology and relief
Calne lies at the western edge of the Marlborough Downs, where the scarp of the downs runs north-east and southwest. Calstone's land, south-east of the town, is almost entirely chalk, includes much downland, and reaches 262 m. North-west of the scarp the land continues to fall north-westwards, and Upper Greensand, Gault, Lower Greensand, Kimmeridge Clay, Upper Calcareous Grit, Coral Rag, and Lower Calcareous Grit outcrop in roughly north-east and south-west bands. The river Marden rises below the scarp, flows north-westwards, and is joined by River's brook and Abberd brook from the east, Cowage brook and Fisher's brook from the north, and a stream from the south. It leaves the parish at c. 56 m. The stream joining the Marden from the south may have been called the Sambourne in the 13th century and was later called the Whetham stream. It has cut a deeper valley than the other streams and has exposed Oxford Clay. The Marden and all the streams have deposited strips of alluvium. (fn. 33) To the west Bowood's land is undulating and reaches 166 m. on its west boundary. Elsewhere the land is lower and, although some of the ridges between the streams are pronounced, is generally flat; the flattest land lies at c. 90 m. south and east of the town and at a similar height in the extreme north.
There were open fields in all parts of the parish except the west. (fn. 34) In the 19th and 20th centuries there was usually more grassland than arable. (fn. 35) There was woodland in the west part of the parish, mainly west of the Whetham stream and especially in Bowood liberty, little in the centre and east parts. (fn. 36) South of Bowood park, a park was made near Whetham House; the Whetham stream was dammed to make lakes in both parks. (fn. 37) The west end of the detached 149 a. of Calne parish lying near Compton Bassett became part of the park of Compton Bassett House. (fn. 38) The Marden, which falls 50 m. in c. 8 km. across the parish, was a much used source of power for mills, and in the 19th and 20th centuries sand was extracted commercially from the Lower Greensand on sites east of the town. (fn. 39)
About 100 a. of Calne parish east of Quemerford, with adjoining land in Cherhill, was the site of R.A.F. Compton Bassett, open from 1940 to 1964. Part of a hutted camp and married quarters were built in Calne parish. (fn. 40)
In the Middle Ages there were in Calne parish, besides the town, Blackland, and Calstone, the villages or areas of loosely grouped settlement called Eastman Street, Quemerford, Stock, Stockley, Studley, Whetham, and Whitley. (fn. 41) In the 18th century there were hamlets called Broad's Green, Mannings Hill, Ratford, Sandy Lane, and Cuff's Corner, other pockets of settlement, and many isolated farmsteads. (fn. 42) In the 19th century lines of settlement on the north-west edge of Bowood park coalesced as Derry Hill village, (fn. 43) and in the 20th century the town expanded in all directions. (fn. 44) Including those living at Blackland and Calstone the parish had c. 550 poll-tax payers in 1377. (fn. 45) It was said in 1548 to have an adult population of 860 (fn. 46) and in 1657 c. 667 families. (fn. 47) It had 3,767 inhabitants in 1801, 3,547 in 1811. The population had risen to 5,128 by 1841, when 2,483 of that number lived in the borough, and it remained roughly constant until 1881, when of the parish's 5,194 inhabitants 2,474 lived in the borough. (fn. 48) The population of Calne Within parish, which did not have the same boundaries as the borough as it was from 1835 to 1889, was 3,495 in 1891, and it fluctuated little between then and 1931, when it was 3,463. (fn. 49) By the boundary changes of 1934 houses on the edge of the town were brought into the parish, which had 5,553 inhabitants in 1951. (fn. 50) Thereafter the number of houses in the town and the population both increased, and in 1991 Calne Within parish had 11,792 inhabitants. (fn. 51) The population of Calne Without parish, including Bowood and the whole of Calstone village and of Blackland, was roughly constant between 1891, when it had 2,023 inhabitants, and 1921, when it had 1,987. By 1931 it had risen to 2,360, mainly because new houses on the north edge of the town had been built in the parish; in 1934 those houses were transferred to Calne Within parish and others to Cherhill, and in 1951 Calne Without had 1,310 inhabitants. (fn. 52) The population of Calne Without increased from 1,310 in 1961 to 1,871 in 1981; the boundary changes of 1984 caused it to increase, and it was 2,150 in 1991. (fn. 53)
The Roman road from London to Bath is that of which the course marks the parish boundary on the south. (fn. 54) Calne stands on what from the 14th century or earlier to 1971 was the main London–Bristol road, running via Marlborough to the east and Chippenham to the west. In 1971 the road was superseded in importance by the London and south Wales motorway. East of the town, and west to where it crossed the Marden, its course across the parish apparently changed little between the 14th century and the 20th. West of the town Sambourne bridge may have carried the road across the Marden in the 14th century, as Studley bridge, possibly on the same site, did in the 17th century. West of the crossing the road may have turned north-westwards and run through Studley village and via Stanley, in Bremhill. (fn. 55) A road on that north-westerly course survives: in the 17th century it was described as the plough road to Chippenham, and in 1999 part of it was called Norley Lane. In the 17th century the Bristol road west of Studley bridge ran south of Studley, where it made several sharp bends. (fn. 56) East of Studley bridge it was turnpiked across the parish in 1707, west of Studley bridge in 1727. (fn. 57) A new section of road avoiding the bends south of Studley was built between 1787 and 1810, probably before 1807, (fn. 58) and was still called New Road in 1999; the old course survives as the road through Derry Hill village. The Bristol road was disturnpiked west of Studley bridge in 1870, (fn. 59) east of Studley bridge in 1871. (fn. 60)
The main London–Bath road, which in the 17th century diverged from the London–Bristol road at Beckhampton, in Avebury, (fn. 61) crossed the south-west corner of Calne parish. Sandy Lane hamlet stands on its course. The section east of and through Sandy Lane was turnpiked in 1713, that west of Sandy Lane in 1726. The road, on which there was a steep gradient in Lacock parish west of Sandy Lane, declined in importance, presumably from 1744 when a road linking the Bristol road at Chippenham to the Bath road at Pickwick, in Corsham, was turnpiked, and the section east of Sandy Lane was disturnpiked in 1790; (fn. 62) from the mid 18th century to 1971 London–Bath traffic passed through Calne on the Bristol road. (fn. 63) In 1999 the old Bath road across the corner of the parish was in use as a minor road.
A road linking Chippenham and Devizes ran, mainly outside the parish, between the old course of the Bristol road at Derry Hill and the Bath road at Sandy Lane. (fn. 64) It was turnpiked as far north as Sandy Lane in 1713 and as far north as Derry Hill in 1790, and it was disturnpiked in 1871. (fn. 65) It was still the main Chippenham—Devizes road in 1999.
Calne was linked to Devizes by a road leaving the south end of the town and running southwards via Broad's Green, Heddington Wick in Heddington, and Netherstreet in Bromham. (fn. 66) Until the mid 18th century, when the Bristol road began to take it, traffic between Calne and Bath probably used one of two roads between the town and the north end of Sandy Lane. One left the Heddington Wick road near the town and led via Pinhills Farm, Cuff's Corner, and the south-east boundary of Bowood park; its course near the town survives as Wenhill Lane. The other left the Heddington Wick road 1 km. south of the town and ran south of Pinhills Farm to Cuff's Corner. Both were obstructed by a lake in the park of Bowood House made in 1766 and were replaced by roads running via the south end of the lake. West of the lake the new course to Cuff's Corner was a road of which most was an existing approach to Whetham House; east of the lake the old roads were replaced in 1774 by a new, more south-easterly, section of road, which diverged from the more southerly of them. (fn. 67) The new sections, and the old section between Cuff's Corner and Sandy Lane, went out of public use as a road in 1790–1 when an alternative turnpiked road was built; all three sections were public bridleways in 1999. Between the Heddington Wick road (from 1790 the Melksham road) and the south end of the lake the new section remained in use as part of a drive between the London road and Bowood House. (fn. 68)
A north-east and south-west road across Calne parish was turnpiked in 1790 south-west of the town, in 1791 north-east. (fn. 69) It was built on a new course immediately north of the town, where it came to be called Oxford Road; further north sections of minor roads were improved as parts of it. South of the town the Heddington Wick road was turnpiked from the town to a point 2.5 km. south of it, and a road by which Whetham House was approached from the Chippenham–Devizes and London–Bath turnpike roads south of Sandy Lane was also turnpiked; by 1791 a new north-east and southwest section of road, known as the Whetham road, had been built, partly between Whetham House and its park, to link those two sections of road. (fn. 70) The new turnpike road gave access from Calne to Swindon, Wootton Bassett, Melksham, and Devizes. It was disturnpiked in 1879. (fn. 71) As a road linking the towns of west Wiltshire to Swindon it remained important in the 20th century.
The road turnpiked in 1790–1 superseded some other roads in the parish besides the road via Cuff's Corner. In the 18th century the road from Wootton Bassett, later called Abberd Way, approached Calne along the valley of Abberd brook. (fn. 72) It may have been little used after 1791; in 1999 most of it survived and part of it was a tarmacadamed road serving a factory. South of the town the old Heddington Wick road, apart from the section which had been turnpiked, went out of use as a road to Devizes, and c. 750 m. of it south of its junction with the Whetham road has been obliterated. The Whetham road replaced a road along the south edge of the park of Whetham House joining the Heddington Wick road at Broad's Green, and by 1817 a short new section of road had been built to link it to the section of the Heddington Wick road north of Broad's Green; (fn. 73) those sections remained in use as minor roads in 1999.
In the 17th century and until 1790 much Calne–Devizes traffic probably used the London road east of Calne and, from Quemerford, a road leading across downland to join the Beckhampton–Devizes road at Bishop's Cannings. (fn. 74) By 1728 a minor diversion had been made at Quemerford to avoid Quemerford House and a lower water mill and to take advantage of a bridge over the Marden on the London road. (fn. 75) From 1790 the Quemerford to Bishop's Cannings road presumably declined as a Calne–Devizes route and, possibly in the mid 19th century after an upper water mill on the course of the road at Quemerford had been enlarged, traffic was diverted to a north–south road which left the London road further east; (fn. 76) the north–south road was tarmacadamed and in the late 20th century carried much Calne– Devizes traffic.
Many lanes cross Calne parish, which contains no wide river and few steep hills. In the 18th century minor roads led north and south from the town. (fn. 77) One leading north may have been that said in the 17th century to come from Malmesbury; (fn. 78) the route from Malmesbury to Calne by that road is circuitous and the road, although tarmacadamed, may never have been more than minor. Another left the London road at Quemerford and led south as Stockley Lane to Heddington. In 1999 that and several other roads in the parish remained on courses which they followed in 1773. (fn. 79)
The Wilts. & Berks. canal, linking the Thames at Abingdon (Berks., later Oxon.) to the Kennet & Avon canal at Semington, was built between 1795 and 1810; by 1800 it had been opened between Dauntsey and Semington and in 1802 a 31/8-mile branch from that section to Calne was completed. Through Calne parish the branch followed the right bank of the Marden, passed through a tunnel under the London–Bristol road, and terminated at a wharf in the centre of the town. Traffic on the Wilts. & Berks. canal ceased in 1906 and the canal was closed by Act in 1914. (fn. 80)
A single-line broad-gauge railway which followed the left bank of the Marden was opened between Chippenham and Calne in 1863 by the Calne Railway Company. It bridged the Bristol road 1.5 km. west of Calne and had a station on the south-west edge of the town. The line was operated by the G.W.R., converted to narrow-gauge in 1874, and bought by the G.W.R. in 1892. Calne station was rebuilt in brick in 1893. Near the bridge over the Bristol road a private siding and halt called Black Dog was built in 1873 to serve Bowood House; a stationmaster's house was built in 1874. Black Dog halt became a public station in 1952; it was closed and the siding removed in 1963. The Chippenham–Calne line was closed to freight in 1963 and to passengers in 1965; Calne station was demolished after 1965, the bridge over the Bristol road in 1968. (fn. 81)
There are prehistoric remains on the chalk downs of Calstone, (fn. 82) few on the clay and sandy soils elsewhere in Calne parish. On land transferred to Cherhill in 1934 there is a site of Mesolithic settlement. The site was reused in the Neolithic period and, as part of Cherhill village, in 1967. (fn. 83) A Bronze-Age grave was found north-west of Calne church. Two sites south-east of Sandy Lane and on or near the course of the Roman road between London and Bath have been identified as possibly that of Verlucio, a Roman settlement probably important as a trading centre or posting station. Remains of three Roman villas have been found north-east of Sandy Lane, one less than 1 km. north of the sites supposed to be Verlucio's, one near Bowood House, and one near Studley bridge. (fn. 84)