A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1953.
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The parish of Hilperton lies in the Oxford and Kimeridge Clay region of north and mid-west Wiltshire. (fn. 1) Within the parish the ground is undulating but nowhere reaches a height of more than 200 ft., and the lowest lands of the parish lie in the Avon valley. (fn. 2) The parish boundary between Hilperton and Trowbridge where it crossed Hilperton Marsh was straightened in 1816 when that common was inclosed. (fn. 3) In 1884 by Order of the Local Government Board detached parts of Semington and Whaddon and a part of Great Hinton were added to Hilperton, (fn. 4) and in 1897 part of Hilperton was transferred to Trowbridge. (fn. 5) The modern parish is bounded on the north for about ½ a mile by the Kennet and Avon Canal, and for about a ¼ of a mile by the River Avon. Paxcroft Brook, a tributary of the Biss, flows through the parish just within the southern boundary. The main road from Devizes to Trowbridge (A 361) runs through the parish, and the village of Hilperton lies along this and along a secondary road turning north off the main road and leading to Staverton. To the north-west of the parish is a now disused stone quarry which in 1847 was said to be producing stone for use locally for building and road making. (fn. 6)
Many of the houses in the village are built of a pleasant ashlar. Hilperton House, on the west of the street, is a good example of an early-18th-century medium-sized house although retaining the domestic offices of an earlier building at the back. It comprises two stories and an attic, and is built of ashlar with a slated hipped roof. Over the front door is a stone shield bearing 4 lions passant guardant. The interior is little altered and retains its contemporary staircase and most of the rooms their bolection moulded panelling, chimney pieces, and door furniture.
On the east side of the street and opposite Hilperton House there is a lock-up built of ashlar probably in the late 17th century. It is an unequal sided octagon in plan with a domed roof finished with a ball finial. The original entrance from the street has been blocked up, and another formed opening upon the garden of an adjacent house.
The houses numbered 232–4 in the village street were probably weavers' cottages. They have been formed out of a mid-17th-century house of two stories and an attic. This has been extended at each end without the attic to make three cottages under one roof. The original house had a five-light window on either side of the front door, and there is a similar window in the extension to the right. Built across the left end forming a T there is an 18th-century red brick addition making a fourth cottage. Numbers 70 to 80 appear to have been built as weavers' cottages. They form a row of four two-story stone rubble cottages with a pantiled roof and freestone quoins and dressings. They date from the 18th century and adjoin a court of six other cottages (Dymotts Square). One ground-floor room in each cottage has a large three-light window back and front and there are indications that at one time a loom was fixed in one of the upper rooms. (fn. 6a)
Hilperton Marsh is a hamlet situated ½ mile northwest of the village of Hilperton. Most of the houses lie along a minor road which joins the secondary road from Hilperton to Staverton (B 3105) with the secondary road from Trowbridge to Staverton (B 3106). A wharf on the Kennet and Avon Canal, opened in 1810 and known as Hilperton Marsh Wharf, served as a port to Trowbridge. Coal and machinery were brought there by water to within a mile of the Trowbridge mills. (fn. 7)
By 1663 much pasture and arable in Hilperton had been inclosed. The capital messuage of the manor of Hilperton Zouche (see below—Manors) had 76½ acres of arable and pasture inclosed, 6½ acres of meadow in common and 48 acres of arable in common. At this date all free- and copy-holders of both manors held some inclosed arable and pasture. (fn. 8) In 1783 all the glebe with the exception of 1¼ acre of arable in Hilperton Field was inclosed. (fn. 9) The inclosure of some of the waste of Hilperton was carried out in 1816 under an Act of the previous year which also authorized the inclosure of waste at Trowbridge and Trowbridge Dauntsey (q.v.). The allotments made in Hilperton totalled 51 a. 1r. 18p. Thirteen public footways and 3 private carriage ways were appointed. (fn. 10)
Almost nothing is known of the history of Hilperton before the 19th century. In 1645 Hilperton and Whaddon together were assessed towards the upkeep of the Parliamentary garrison at Great Chalfield at £100—an assessment, which, surprisingly enough, was higher than that for either Melksham or Bradford. In fact, Hilperton's actual contribution comprised 103 lb. of butter, 3 head of cattle, 195 lb. of cheese, 21 bushels of malt, the services of 41 sawyers, and £23.1 11s. in cash. (fn. 11)
Hilperton lies less than 2 miles from Trowbridge, and the course of its later history at any rate has largely been determined by this proximity. Before the localization of the cloth industry in the towns, Hilperton must have played a part in the domestically organized industry of the region. (fn. 12) Even after the introduction of machinery into the Trowbridge cloth mills, weaving continued for some time to be done in Hilperton and other neighbouring villages. (fn. 13) In 1801, out of a working population of 688 only 20 persons were employed in agriculture, the rest in trade, manufactures, or handicrafts. (fn. 14) In 1840 from a survey made of the occupations and living conditions of 36 Hilperton families it appears that 90 adults and children were employed upon weaving in their homes, 1 adult worked in a mill in Trowbridge, and 24 persons followed other occupations. The average weekly earnings of the families engaged in weaving was 10s. 11d. By this date the decline in handloom weaving had caused great distress in Hilperton. (fn. 15) In 1826 the parish was one of the places where the poor-rates had to be remitted. (fn. 16) In December 1838 a chartist meeting attended by about 500 persons took place in the village. (fn. 17) Tradition gives the name 'tie-downs' to the inhabitants of Hilperton: (fn. 18) this may possibly be a reference to some process in cloth manufacture carried out there.
In 1086 there were two tenants at HILPERTON holding of the king in chief. Ansger the cook held 4 hides, 1 virgate, and 6 acres; William Corniole 5 hides, 1 virgate; Godwin 'Clec' 1 virgate, and Eldild 1 hide, 6 acres formerly held by her husband. (fn. 19)
In 1242 there were two overlords of the manor: the Earl of Salisbury who held 1/5 of a fee as part of the honour of Trowbridge (q.v.), and Ralph Mortimer who held 1 fee. (fn. 20) The overlordship of the Salisbury fee descended with the honour of Trowbridge which became annexed to the Duchy of Lancaster. The overlordship of the Mortimers' fee descended in that family to the Mortimers, Earls of March, and was merged in the Crown on the accession of Edward IV. (fn. 21)
Under the two overlords of 1242 both parts of the manor were held by the same terre-tenant. Humphrey de Scoville held the Salisbury portion directly of the earl, and the Mortimer portion of Alan de la Zouche, who held it of Ralph de Mortimer. (fn. 22) It is likely that Humphrey's father, Ralph de Scoville, had also held both parts, for in 1205 Humphrey paid ½ a mark for the enrolment of the grant made to him by his father of the manor of Hilperton. (fn. 23)
In 1282 Baldwin de Scoville, Humphrey's son, conveyed the portion of the manor held of the honour of Trowbridge to John de Taney and Gwenllian his wife. (fn. 24) In the following year John and Gwenllian conveyed it to Walter de Bareville and his brother William for their lives in exchange for property elsewhere. (fn. 25) By 1303 Hilperton had reverted to John de Taney, who that year conveyed it to Walter de Paveley, Joan his wife, and their son Walter. (fn. 26)
In 1274 the Mortimers' moiety was held by Baldwin de Scoville under Roger de la Zouche who held it of Roger Mortimer. (fn. 27) The sub-tenancy of the Scovilles seems to have ceased soon after this, for in 1304 Alan de la Zouche was holding of Edmund Mortimer, and there is no mention of any other sub-tenant. (fn. 28) In 1323 it was conveyed to Walter de Paveley by Richard de Pevensey and Ella his wife. (fn. 29) The two portions were thus united under Walter de Paveley.
Walter de Paveley was followed by his son Walter who died in 1375. (fn. 30) The property passed to Edward son of Walter the younger who also died in 1375 only a few months after his father, and was succeeded by his brother Walter. (fn. 31) This Walter appears to have died childless, for Hilperton passed to the heirs of Walter de Paveley, grandfather of Edward and Walter, by his second wife Alice. (fn. 32) One of these heirs, Joan, wife of Sir Ralph Cheyney, received the moiety held of the Earl of March, (fn. 33) while the moiety held of the honour of Trowbridge was divided between Eleanor wife of Richard Seymour and Joan wife of John Chidiock. (fn. 34)
Joan Chidiock's share of the manor of Hilperton passed to her grandson John. John died in 1540 leaving two daughters as coheiresses. (fn. 35) Hilperton went to the younger of these, Margaret wife of William Stourton, and passed to Margaret's grandson William, Lord Stourton. (fn. 36) In 1543 Lord Stourton sold Hilperton along with other property to Thomas Long, clothier, of Trowbridge. (fn. 37)
This part of the manor now became known as HILPERTON STOURTON and passed in the Long family until 1640. In that year Edmund Long and Dorothy his wife sold it to Sir John Danvers. (fn. 38) Sir John was attainted as a regicide in 1661 and Hilperton Stourton with other property was granted to Henry Hyde, Lord Cornbury, and others, who were to act as trustees to pay off Sir John's debts. (fn. 39) Before the beginning of the 18th century Hilperton Stourton passed to John Eyles. (fn. 40)
Eleanor Seymour's share in Hilperton passed after her husband's death to Nicholas de Seymour for life with reversion to Eleanor's grand-daughter Alice, wife of Sir William la Zouche. (fn. 41) Alice was followed by her son William, Lord Zouche, who died in 1468 and was succeeded by his son John, aged 8. (fn. 42) In 1539 John's son, another John, conveyed it to his youngest son George. (fn. 43) George Zouche sold it in 1543 to Thomas Long who had bought Hilperton Stourton. (fn. 44) From this date these two parts of Hilperton follow the same descent.
Joan Cheyney's moiety of the manor of Hilperton passed to her daughter Cecily, who died in 1430. (fn. 45) It then passed to Cecily's youngest son John, of Pinhoe in Devonshire. (fn. 46) In 1461 John conveyed it to feoffees for the performance of his will. (fn. 47) He was followed by his son whose daughter Mabel married Edward Walgrave. (fn. 48) Mabel died in 1505 and Edward one year later. (fn. 49) Hilperton then passed to their son John, who was succeeded in 1514 by his son, another Edward. (fn. 50) In 1551 Edward and his wife Frances sold their property in Hilperton to John Slade. (fn. 51) It then passed in the Slade family until 1659 when John Slade the elder and John Slade the younger sold it to John Eyles who later acquired the other two parts of the manor. (fn. 52)
The manor descended in the Eyles family until 1792 when it passed under the will of Edmund Eyles to his nephew Josiah Eyles Heathcote, son of Maria Eyles, wife of George Heathcote. (fn. 53) Josiah died unmarried in 1811 and Hilperton passed to his mother's heirs, Colonel Montagu and Mrs. Egerton. (fn. 54) In 1815 Richard Godolphin Long, John Long, and Daniel Long were lords. (fn. 55) In 1939 the principal land-owners were Messrs. Amor Pike, Benjamin Charles Hill, and Horace Walter Greenhill. (fn. 56)
The advowson of the rectory of Hilperton has followed the same descent as the manor. It was divided at the end of the 14th century in the same way between the three heiresses of Sir Walter de Paveley. The heirs of Joan wife of Sir Ralph Cheyney, who held a moiety of the manor, presented every second turn; the heirs of Joan wife of Sir John Chidiock and of Eleanor wife of Sir Richard Seymour, who each held a quarter of the manor, presented once in every four turns. (fn. 57) On two occasions presentations were made by persons other than the lord of the manor. In 1420 the Prior of Farleigh presented. (fn. 58) In 1503 William Clevelode of Stowford presented by grant of Sir John Zouche. (fn. 59) The present patron is the Viscount Long of Wraxall.
In 1492 a Papal verdict was sought in a dispute between the rectors of Hilperton and Whaddon concerning the tithes of a field called Whaddon Marsh alias Whaddon Field alias West Field. This, with the exception of certain acres of glebe belonging to the Rector of Whaddon, lay in Hilperton parish and judgement was given in favour of the Rector of Hilperton. (fn. 60) In 1672 the Rector of Hilperton still received tithes from land belonging to Whaddon manor in fields called Whaddon Marsh, Horse Field, and Eastfield. (fn. 61) In 1783 the glebe belonging to Hilperton rectory comprised approximately 10 acres of pasture lying in three parcels called Heepcroft, Chestling, and Coming Hill, and approximately 17½ acres of arable lying in parcels called South Field, Little Black Lane, and Moonlight, and in Hilperton Field and between the roads leading to Trowbridge. (fn. 62)
The church is dedicated to ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS, (fn. 67) and consists of a chancel, nave, west tower, south porch, and combined vestry and organ chamber. With the exception of the tower, it was rebuilt in 1848 in 14th-century style. E. Doran Smith of Salisbury was the architect for the new chancel. (fn. 68) Ashlar with Welsh slates were used for the rebuilding. In 1891 a vestry and organ chamber were added to the north side of the chancel. All that remains of the earlier church is a number of 18th-century memorial slabs, a pointed oak counterboarded door, probably of the late 15th century, and a hatchment of the Royal Arms of George III dated 1771. In 1893 a 12th-century font bowl found in Whaddon churchyard was set up on a new stone base and circular shaft. It replaced a 19thcentury font which was moved to the chapel of ease at Hilperton Marsh (see below). The 13th-century tower is of rubble with worked stone dressings and is crowned by a low octagonal broach spire. The clock was installed by Fairer of London in 1863. The pulpit and seating are contemporary with the rebuilding.
There are six bells; (i) and (ii) were cast in London in 1909; (iii), (iv), and (vi) are inscribed 'Richard Slade John Selfe Churchwardens' and dated 1664; (v) is inscribed 'Nathaniel Bolter Made Mee 1633'. Numbers (iii), (iv), (v), and (vi) were recast in 1853. (fn. 69) Electric lighting was installed in 1931. The registers date from 1694 and are complete. (fn. 70) The commissioners of Edward VI left for the church a chalice (11 oz.) and took 17 oz. of silver for the king. There is now an Elizabethan cup hall-marked 1576, a paten hall-marked 1690, given by the Revd. E. F. Boyle in 1852 and so inscribed, a flagon, a paten hall-marked 1893, a chalice hall-marked with the same date and given by the Revd. Thomas Wood in 1894, and a paten hall-marked 1894 and given by 'H.C. and A.S.' in 1895. (fn. 71)
In 1672 Hilperton rectory house was described as a 'fair new built dwelling house' of 4 bays. (fn. 72) In 1783 its measurements were given as 56 ft. by 27 ft. and it was said to be built of stone with a stone tiled roof. It then stood in about 1 acre of ground. (fn. 73)
ST. MARYS-IN-THE-MARSH, a chapel of ease at Hilperton Marsh, was built in 1889. The chancel is of flint and the nave of corrugated iron. (fn. 74)
According to Bishop Compton's census (1676) there were that year 35 Protestant dissenters in Hilperton. (fn. 75) In 1707 the house of Edward Stevens and in 1709 the house of John Boles, both of Hilperton, were licensed as Protestant meeting-places. (fn. 76) In 1769 Hilperton House, then occupied by Sarah Webb, was licensed as a meeting-place for Independents. The petition for the licence was signed by Sarah and Mary Webb, Stephen and Sarah Slade, William Ferris, and John Cogswell. (fn. 77) Between 1765 and 1771 certain members of Back Street Particular Baptist chapel, Trowbridge (q.v.) occasionally preached in the open air at Hilperton. (fn. 78) Converts thus made joined Back Street chapel until 1806, when a church was formed at Hilperton. (fn. 79) The chapel, built that year, is of rubble with an ashlar front. It has a plain plastered interior with contemporary low box pews and a gallery at the west end. It seats 150. The vestry was enlarged in 1821 and a Sunday-school room built above. (fn. 80) The burial-ground was enlarged in 1832 and iron gates and railings were erected. (fn. 81) In 1835 James Miles, a deacon of the chapel, resigned, and with some followers began another cause at Hilperton Marsh. A cottage was fitted up as a place of worship, but no service was held there after 1850. (fn. 82) In 1829 the congregation of the Hilperton Particular Baptist chapel numbered 59 (fn. 83) and in 1890, 30. (fn. 84) In 1877 William Perkins Clark and Henry Clark gave £700 to be invested for the benefit of the minister of the Baptist chapel at Hilperton. In 1896 the sum had risen to £953. 19s. 10d. In 1903 the income from this investment was £37. 8s. and was still applied to its original purpose. (fn. 85) A Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built in 1819 and ten years later there were said to be 34 Methodists in Hilperton. (fn. 86) The chapel was rebuilt in 1891 with seating for 300. (fn. 87) Both Baptist and Methodist chapels benefited under the will of Isaac Beavan (see below—Charities).
In 1819 there was a day school in Hilperton attended by 36 children. (fn. 88) In 1833 25 children were attending a school opened the year before and there was also a Baptist day school. (fn. 87) It is not known whether either of these schools derived from the school of 1819. It was certainly for the school opened in 1832 that land was acquired in trust in 1846. (fn. 90) By the terms of the trust the school was in union with the National Society (fn. 91) from which it received a building grant of £40. (fn. 92) In the same year the trustees received a building grant of £70 from the State, (fn. 93) and £54 was authorized some years later. (fn. 94) The sum of £157 was raised locally. (fn. 95) It was reported that there were 100 children in school in 1846, (fn. 96) while about 50 children were attending in 1858. (fn. 97) They were taught by an uncertificated mistress and pupil teacher. A new building with a house for the master was erected in 1875, (fn. 98) and it was reported in 1893 that there was accommodation for 165 children. The average attendance was, however, 122. (fn. 99) The accommodation was unchanged in 1910 although it is shown as 110 for the senior department and 55 for the infants. (fn. 100) In 1931 the school was reorganized and became a junior mixed and infant school. The accommodation was then computed at 85 and 47. The school was controlled in 1948. The average attendance in July 1950 was 75. The school was then in charge of a head teacher and 2 assistants. (fn. 101)
It was stated in 1786 that in 1555 John le Zouche, Lord le Zouche, a Seymour, William Stourton, knight, and Lord Stourton gave in trust to the church and parish of Hilperton lands worth £4 annually. Nothing further is known of this gift and in 1903 it was reported as a lost charity. (fn. 102)
Isaac Beavan by his will dated 6 December 1877 directed that a sum should be invested which would produce the annual interest of £5. This was then to be used for the purchase of coal and blankets for the poor of the parish irrespective of their religious profession. He also directed that £10 a year should be paid to the treasurers of the Baptist and Wesleyan Sunday schools, and £1. 10s. a year into the funds of the Baptist chapel. A sum of £150 invested in stock representing the bequest for coal and blankets was transferred to the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds in 1879. By an Order of the Charity Commissioners of 1880 the churchwardens of the parish church were appointed trustees for the administration of this charity. In 1903 there were 42 recipients each of whom received 3 cwt. of coal in January. (fn. 103) The sum of £333. 6s. 8d. invested by the two Sunday schools was also transferred to the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds in 1879. The annual dividends of £8. 6s. 8d. were then divided equally between the two schools. (fn. 104) At the same date a sum of £50 was transferred to the same trustees and the dividend of £1. 5s. was applied by the treasurer and deacons of the Baptist chapel towards the stipend of the minister of the chapel. (fn. 105)
By indenture dated 8 March 1887 William Perkins Clark gave £1,776 to be applied for the benefit of the poor of the parish of whatever religious creed. This fund was to be administered by the rector and churchwardens and the minister and deacons of the Baptist chapel. In 1903 the capital sum had increased to £2,979. 7s. 8d. of which £1,200 was invested in stock, £1,580 was advanced on mortgages, and £199.7s. 8d. remained in the bank. The annual income from these investments was £90. 6s. 8d., out of which allowances of 5s. a week were paid to 3 poor persons selected by the rector and churchwardens and 3 poor persons selected by the minister and deacons. The recipients had to have resided for at least 10 years in the parish and to be 60 years of age or more. (fn. 106)
Sir William Roger Brown by his will dated 1901 bequeathed to the parish council £250 to invest and apply for the purchase of coal for the deserving poor of the parish at Christmas time. This legacy was invested and the annual dividends amounted to £6. 11s. In 1902 there were 31 beneficiaries each receiving 2 cwt. of coal. (fn. 107)