A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1953.
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The modern parish of Poulshot is bounded on the north by the main road from Devizes to Trowbridge (A 361), and for a short distance by the Kennet and Avon Canal and the railway line running from Patney to Holt junction (formerly part of the Berks, and Hants line). Summerham Brook forms part of the western boundary and another stream the south-western, southern, and part of the eastern boundaries. The two streams meet at the extreme south-western corner of the parish. The parish is low lying, nowhere reaching a height of more than 200 ft. above sea-level, and lies mainly in the clay region of north and mid-west Wiltshire. (fn. 1)
In 1883, by Order of the Local Government Board, detached portions of the parish of Poulshot were transferred to the parish of Chittoe, (fn. 2) now in Bromham (q.v.).
The parish is roughly rectangular in shape and covers 1,531 acres. (fn. 3) The village is long and straggling and lies approximately in the centre of the parish. It is scattered along Poulshot Green, large and oblong, through which runs a secondary road joining the Devizes-Trowbridge main road with a secondary road between Worton and Seend. The church lies ¾ of a mile south-west from the centre of the village. There are traces of a causeway running from the church to the Devizes-Trowbridge main road. (fn. 4)
In 1273 Burdon's manor in Poulshot (see below— Manors) comprised 240 acres of arable land and 33 acres of meadow. There was pasture, poor and unwholesome, for 40 oxen, 25 other beasts, and 200 sheep. In the forest 5 leagues distant was a detached parcel of woodland of 14 acres. (fn. 5) In 1334 Nicholas Burdon granted to the king his wood of 'Raderigge' lying near Melksham forest (gisaunt pres de la foreste de Melksham) in exchange for the hundred of 'Grymbaldesasch' (Grumbalds Ash, Glouc.). (fn. 6) The manor belonging to the Paulesholtes (see below—Manors) also had outlying woodland property which in 1330 amounted to 32 acres in Melksham forest. (fn. 7) Both manors had mills. A mill belonging to Burdon's manor was valued at 10s. a year in 1273 (fn. 8) and 1280, (fn. 9) and in 1301 Nicholas Burdon died seised of a fourth part of a water mill worth 3s. 4d. a year. (fn. 10) A mill is mentioned as belonging to the Paulesholtes manor in 1322. (fn. 11) This is possibly the mill at 'Hurst' which was part of the same manor in 1463. (fn. 12) Poulshot Mill on Semington Brook is now the only mill within the parish and this is no longer working. According to tradition it was once used for grinding snuff. (fn. 13)
John Aubrey (1626–97) described Poulshot as a 'wett dirty place' and the inhabitants of the parish as 'appearing in the spring time of primrose complexion'. This peculiarity he attributed to the various springs in the parish which, he said, 'taste brackish'. These springs, according to Aubrey, were renowned for their medicinal value and on this account were frequently visited by the inhabitants of Devizes. (fn. 14)
There were several distinguished incumbents of Poulshot. Isaac Walton (1651–1719), son of theauthor of the Compleat Angler, held the rectory from 1680 until his death. His mother was a half-sister of Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells (1637–1711) and Ken frequently visited his nephew at Poulshot. The bishop retired there in 1688 when the Prince of Orange was advancing on London by way of the western counties. (fn. 15) Thomas Rundle (1688–1743) who became Bishop of Derry in 1735 was presented to the living in 1720. (fn. 16)
A third distinguished rector was Benjamin Blayney (1728–1801) the Hebrew scholar who prepared a corrected edition of the authorized version of the Bible for the Clarendon Press. (fn. 17)
Thomas Boulter a notorious highwayman was the son of a Poulshot miller. On the many occasions when he was obliged to seek refuge he retired to Poulshot where he was securely harboured. He was executed at Winchester in 1778. (fn. 18)
It is impossible certainly to identify with Poulshot any entry in the Domesday Survey. (fn. 19) It may be represented by the 3 hides and a virgate in the adjacent parish of Potterne (q.v.) held by Robert under Ernulf de Hesding. (fn. 20) Ernulf was the ancestor of the FitzAlans, lords of the manor of Keevil, of whom, by 1242, Poulshot was held. It has, on the other hand, been suggested that it is to be identified with Liseman's holding in Melksham (q.v.).
In 1242 John FitzAlan, lord of the manor of Keevil, was overlord of Poulshot (fn. 21) and from then the overlordship of Poulshot followed the descent of the manor of Keevil. Under John FitzAlan, Roger de Sifrewast held 1 fee about which nothing further is known; Nicholas Burdon held 1 fee, and Ralph de Paulesholte held 1 fee under the intermediate lordship of Ralph de Wiliton. (fn. 22)
The intermediate overlordship of the de Wilitons passed in that family until 1398 when John de Wiliton died childless. (fn. 23) It then passed to John's sister, Isabel wife of William Beaumond, (fn. 24) and from her in 1424 to her son Thomas Beaumond. (fn. 25) In 1463 and 1478 this manor was said to be held of the Bishop of Salisbury by right of his church at Poulshot. (fn. 26) In 1562 and 1635 it was said to be held of William Brouncker as of his manor of Melksham. (fn. 27)
A grant in 1216 by the king to Hugh de Bernevall of land in Poulshot may refer to this manor. (fn. 28) In 1272 Ralph de Paulesholte settled the manor as a messuage and a carucate of land in Poulshot and elsewhere upon himself and his children John, William, and Alice. (fn. 29) John de Paulesholte had succeeded his father by 1289 (fn. 30) and in 1322 he forfeited all his possessions. (fn. 31) As part of his manor, John held 32 acres in the forest of Melksham. (fn. 32) His lands were restored to him before his death in 1330 when he was holding the manor of Poulshot and land in 'Chitumersche'(Chittoe Marsh). (fn. 33) John's heir was his kinsman, John Enok of Potterne, son of William Enok. It seems probable that John Enok is the same as John de Paulesholte, upon whom with his wife Margaret the manor was settled in fee in 1335. (fn. 34)
In 1383 the manor was conveyed by Henry Eyre to Sir John Lovel. (fn. 35) Sir John died in 1408 and was succeeded by his son John. (fn. 36) In 1412 this John, by then Lord Lovel, conveyed the manor to William Stourton. (fn. 37) From this date the manor passed in the Stourton family until 1545 when it was sold to Thomas Long, clothier, of Trowbridge, and great-uncle of Gifford Long, (fn. 38) who died holding the manor in 1635. (fn. 39)
The next mention of the manor is in 1749 when it was in the possession of Walter Long. (fn. 40) It is possible that when Henry Long of Rood Ashton died childless in 1672, Poulshot instead of passing with Rood Ashton to Henry's sister Elizabeth, went to the male heir, Sir Walter Long of Whaddon, and passed in the same way as Whaddon (q.v.) to the present owner Viscount Long of Wraxall.
Burdon's Manor. Nicholas Burdon, who held I fee at Poulshot in 1242, was probably the same Nicholas Burdon who did homage in that year for lands in Devonshire which his father Richard held of the king in chief. (fn. 41) He was knighted in 1261 (fn. 42) and died in 1273 holding 3 carucates of land in Poulshot and 14 acres of wood in the forest '5 leagues distant'. (fn. 43) His son Robert Burdon, who succeeded him, died about 1280 and the property passed to Robert's son Nicholas, a minor aged 11. (fn. 44) The queen (Eleanor) was granted the custody of Nicholas Burdon during his minority, (fn. 45) and in 1286 his mother, Mary Burdon, paid rent to the queen for Poulshot. (fn. 46) Nicholas was succeeded in 1301 by his son, another Nicholas Burdon. (fn. 47) In 1353 Nicholas settled his manor at Poulshot on himself and his wife Dennise, with remainder first to Peter de Testewood and his wife Agnes, and then to his own heirs. (fn. 48) By 1358 Nicholas had been succeeded by his son Edmund, who that year conveyed Poulshot to Nicholas and Richard atte Borgh for their lives. (fn. 49) Edmund was succeeded in 1361 by his son John Burdon. (fn. 50) In 1388 John conveyed half of the manor to Thomas Cutting and Agnes his wife for their lives with reversion to Thomas Worfton and Cecily his wife. (fn. 51) Cecily was probably the daughter and heir of John Burdon and married Henry Thorp as a second husband, (fn. 52) for Henry Thorp at the time of his death held the whole manor in right of his wife Cecily. (fn. 53) Cecily outlived her husband and her eldest son Thomas. (fn. 54) She died in 1422 having conveyed the manor to feoffees in trust for her son Ralph after payment of her debts and those of her husband. (fn. 55)
In 1428 John Ernesley was holding this manor. (fn. 56) It was probably, however, conveyed to him for life only, for in 1431 Ralph Thorp settled it upon himself, his wife Philippa, and their heirs. (fn. 57) The manor descended in the Thorp family until William Thorp died childless in 1509. (fn. 58) It then passed to William Clifford son of Thomasine sister of William Thorp. (fn. 59)
The next mention of the manor occurs in 1555 when John Ernley died seised of it. (fn. 60) It then descended in the Ernley family until 1614 when Sir John Ernley conveyed it to John and Robert Drewe. (fn. 61) In 1632 Robert Drewe and his wife Jane conveyed it to Robert, Nicholas, and Michael Drewe, (fn. 62) and in 1656 John Drewe and Elizabeth his wife conveyed it to John and William Norden. (fn. 63) Sir John Drewe died in 1660. (fn. 64) His widow Elizabeth married Sir Henry Andrews of Lathbury (Bucks.) and conveyed the manor to him in 1663. (fn. 65) Elizabeth died in 1686 and Sir Henry died childless in 1696. (fn. 66)
Nothing more is known of the descent of this manor until 1776 when John Tuck conveyed ⅓ of it to Philip Smith. (fn. 67) In 1779 the same John conveyed the other two parts to John Parker. (fn. 68) In 1805 Robert Skeate, Mary his wife, and William and Elizabeth Hughes conveyed it to Samuel Naylor. (fn. 69) The further descent cannot be traced and the property apparently became merged in the manor belonging to the Longs.
In 1207 William, Abbot of Bec, assigned the churches of Poulshot, Brixton Deverel, and Durrington to the Bishop of Salisbury in return for the prebend of Ogbourne and the churches of Ogbourne, Hungerford, and Wantage. (fn. 70) The advowson of the church of Poulshot remained vested in the Bishops of Salisbury, who, as far as is known, never surrendered their right of presentation to the living. (fn. 71)
In 1274 John de Hinton, parson of Poulshot, acquired for himself and his successors a messuage and a virgate of land in Poulshot. The right to this property was disputed in 1340 and again in 1351 when it was unsuccessfully alleged that John de Hinton had acquired it without a mortmain licence. (fn. 72) In 1341 the property belonging to the rectory was described as a carucate of land and pasture. (fn. 73) In 1671 the glebe comprised approximately 76½ acres of arable and pasture lying in separate parcels varying from 1 to 23 acres. (fn. 74) In 1785 the total acreage of the glebe was given as 77½ acres, of which all except 15 acres were let. (fn. 75)
In 1291 the church at Poulshot was valued at £10; (fn. 76) in 1341 at £7. 6s. 8d. (fn. 77) and in 1535 at £7. 8s. 8d. (fn. 78) The rectory of Poulshot was united with the rectory of the ecclesiastical parish of Worton and Marston in 1932. (fn. 79)
The parish church of Poulshot is dedicated to St. Peter. It comprises a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, west tower, south porch, and vestry. The only traces of a building earlier than the 13th century are portions of carved 12th-century capitals built in over the north door, the opening to the rood stair over a recess in the south aisle, and part of a blocked roundheaded window in the chancel. The present nave dates from the late 13th century but was badly damaged by fire in 1916. (fn. 80) The two aisles were added and the present chancel arch built in the 14th century. In the 15th century most of the windows were replaced and the porch was added. The tower was built in 1853 and the vestry a little later. The aisles, 4 ft. 6 in. wide, are unusually narrow, and it is probable that the arcades within the nave were built with the intention of taking down the outer walls and rebuilding them to make aisles of normal width. The nave roof, which still bears traces of the fire, spans both aisles. The chancel has been refaced with ashlar. The aisles are built of rubble patched with ashlar and the porch and tower are of ashlar.
The Commissioners of Edward VI left the church its old chalice and took 10½ oz. of silver for the king. The chalice was later replaced by an Elizabethan cup and paten of which only the paten cover, hall-marked 1576, remains. The present chalice bears a mark of 1634. There is also a large plain paten dish having no regular hall-marks. In the centre of this is inscribed 'The gift of the Rev: Is: Walton Rector of Poulshot 1707'. There is another plated paten inscribed 'Poulshot Wm. Fisher A.M. Rector 1821', and a tankard-shaped flagon of the same metal. (fn. 83)
A chapel of ease dedicated to ST. PAUL was built in 1897. It is a brick and timber framed building with 100 sittings. (fn. 84)
In 1781 the rector's house at Poulshot was built mainly of brick, the west front, 72 ft. long, being of brick and lath and plaster rough cast. (fn. 85) The incumbent of Poulshot now lives in Worton rectory.
According to the 'census' of Bishop Compton (1676) there were that year no nonconformists in Poulshot, (fn. 86) although after the Declaration of Indulgence (1672) the house of William Mayo of Poulshot was licensed as a Presbyterian meeting-place. (fn. 87) From the returns made in 1829 it appears that there were 7 Methodists in Poulshot that year. (fn. 88) A Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built in 1886 from designs by C. E. Ponting, architect of Marlborough. It seats 100. (fn. 89)
The Revd. Benjamin Blayney (d. 1801) directed that £12 should be paid annually from his personal estate towards the maintenance of the school in Poulshot which had previously been dependent on voluntary contributions. (fn. 90) The school was reported in 1819 to have been founded by the late rector, presumably Blayney himself. It was attended by 20 children who were taught by a master receiving a salary of £18 annually. (fn. 91) It appears from the Charity Commissioners Report of 1834 that the school received £1 from the parish rate because the capital sum of £20 which Daniel Mayo had given in 1733 to teach poor children of the parish had been spent on repairs to property. (fn. 92) There were 56 children in school in 1833. They were taught reading 'gratuitously', but a small charge was made for writing and arithmetic (fn. 93) There were still about 50 pupils in 1859. These were taught by an elderly untrained master in a room of a cottage leased by the rector for the purpose. It was noted that 'the school is constantly looked after by the parochial clergy'. (fn. 94) By a deed dated 1884 the Revd. Henry Oliver conveyed to the rector and churchwardens part of the land known as Cook's Yard 'fronting the common or green' in trust for a school which was to be in union with the National Society. (fn. 95) In the same year the school, with a school chapel, was built. (fn. 96) In the years 1893, 1895, 1906, and 1910 the accommodation was computed at 93. The average attendance was 55 in 1893 and 57 in 1906. (fn. 97) The school received £7. 10s. from Blayney's charity in 1903 but nothing from Mayo's charity except the rent of a cottage near the Green which was let at 9d. per week. (fn. 98) In 1938 and 1950 the accommodation figures given are for a school in 2 departments—mixed 49, infants 27. (fn. 99) The School had 2 teachers and the average daily attendance in July 1950 was 30. (fn. 100)
In 1903 there were 5 cottages in Poulshot then said to have been in the possession of the parish for 'very many years'. They were managed by the parish council and were let at small weekly rents varying that year from 6d. to 1s. The income was used by the council to meet certain expenses such as the salary of the parish clerk, the cleaning of the council's meeting room and the repair of footpaths. (fn. 101) In 1831 the vestry, with the consent of the lord of the manor, inclosed 'for the benefit of the poor' 3 a. 1 r. 28 p. of waste land to the northeast of Poulshot Green. Until 1894 when it was taken over by the parish council this land, known as The Green Gardens, was managed by a committee appointed by the vestry. In 1903 the land was let out in allotments of about 10 perches at an annual rent of 3d. a perch. The income was then spent on buying coal for the poor, or occasionally it was set aside for a special purpose beneficial to the parish at large. (fn. 102)
George Taylor, by a codicil dated 1852 to his will, bequeathed £3,000 in trust to be invested for the benefit of the poor of the parish. Part of the interest on this was to be spent on bread for distribution on Sundays after morning service to 6 old men and 6 old women selected by the rector and churchwardens. In 1903 12 loaves were given away every Sunday, but the proportion between men and women recipients was not always observed. The same investment was also to provide the Rector of Poulshot with £1 a year on condition that he preached a sermon to children on Easter Wednesday. Cakes were to be brought and given to the children and teachers attending the sermon. On the same day 1s. 6d. was also to be paid to the parish clerk. In 1902 the cost of the bread and cakes provided by this bequest was £13. 6s. 8d. (fn. 103)