A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1953.
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This is the first volume of the Victoria History of Wiltshire to be published. It is also the first volume for any county to be published under the co-operative system described below. Its appearance therefore is a landmark not only in the history of Wiltshire but in the history of the patronage of culture.
In the summer of 1947 the Wiltshire County Council, the Swindon Borough Council, the Victoria County History Committee of the Institute of Historical Research of the University of London, the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, together with its Records Branch, and representatives of the Bishops of Salisbury and Bristol came together to form the 'Wiltshire Victoria County History Committee'. A number of scholars accepted invita- tions to join the Committee forthwith, and a few months later the Salisbury City Council became a constituent member of it. The aim of the Committee was to promote the publication of a Victoria History of Wiltshire and the three local authorities named granted annual subsidies to enable this to be done, the grant to run initially for five years. The grants were applied wholly to the costs of compiling and editing a long range of general and topographical volumes. On the understanding that the work of compilation met with the General Editor's approval, the University of London undertook to publish the material in volume form. So was cemented a partnership between a group of local authorities and the University of London which has proved most beneficent in Wiltshire and has been imitated in several other parts of England.
The Wiltshire Victoria County History Committee appointed an Hon. Editor for Wiltshire, Dr. G. M. Young, C. B., and a salaried Assistant Editor, Miss Elizabeth Crittall, M.A. In 1949 the present General Editor (though not then holding that position) was appointed a joint Hon. Editor with Dr. Young and continued to hold the position after he had assumed his present office later in the same year. The Wiltshire Committee counts it a privilege that Dr. Young's name should have been associated with its work from the beginning.
In collaboration with the central Victoria County History Committee the Wiltshire Committee has worked out a scheme for the Wiltshire History which is more ambitious than any previously attempted in this series. Five general volumes have been planned, instead of the customary two or three, even though the articles on natural history, with which users of the History have grown familiar, have been excluded. It has also been resolved to index each volume.
As the present volume testifies, there are also innovations in the detailed treatment of the topographical articles. Since the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments is expected shortly to report upon Wiltshire it has been possible to deal much more summarily than in the past with the architecture of the county. The method of treatment employed in the present volume may be slightly expanded in later ones, but it is not likely that in the Wiltshire History any return will be made to the elaborate methods of the past. Secondly, owing to difficulties, which, it is believed, have now been removed, it has not been possible to describe modern developments in the history of the charities. A somewhat fuller account than is customary has however been given of their earlier history. The volume also contains two entirely new features: the history of each Nonconformist place of worship and the history of each primary school. Efforts have also been made to deal more fully with the industrial and agrarian history of the places described, and, in the case of urban settlements, with their government and public services. Some of these innovations should be regarded as experimental and may be modified in succeeding volumes.
The names of the members of the Wiltshire Victoria County History Committee are printed below. A sincere debt of gratitude is due to all of them for their sage counsel, and notably to Alderman W. R. Robins, O.B.E., who has presided over the Committee from the start. Nor will those whose memories go back to the early days of the Committee soon forget the enthusiasm of the late Colonel R. W. Awdry, C.B.E., then Chairman of the Wiltshire County Council, and the skill with which he negotiated with the different interests involved. But most particularly thanks are due to the three local authorities named above for their generous contributions, without which, it is fair to say, this noble enterprise could not have been undertaken. While gratitude must be evenly distributed among them all, a special tribute is due to the Corporation of Swindon, which initiated the scheme, not only in Wiltshire but in England, and has ever since borne the burden and some of the costs of administration.
Much material was collected and first drafts written for the histories of the parishes in Bradford and Melksham hundreds by Miss O. M. Moger, a member of the staff of the History under Dr. Page more than forty years ago. For this careful work, Miss Moger's successors in the task of compiling the Wiltshire History are much indebted. The compilers have also benefited from the co-operation of a number of persons living and working in Wiltshire. Thus thanks are due to Mr. H. Ross, B.A., of the department of Adult Education, University of Bristol, who, with a class of students, made abstracts of the Inclosure Awards in the County Record Office for the parishes included in this volume; to Major C. J. Jacobs, who, by personal visits to the churches concerned, checked and brought up to date the information already printed elsewhere about church bells and plate; to Mr. F. C. Pitt, who made valuable comments on the history of Trowbridge. The Revd. M. W. Powell kindly gave access to certain Methodist church records in his keeping as Superintendent Minister, the Wiltshire Mission. The assistance in many forms received from Mr. C. W. Pugh, M.B.E., as Hon. Librarian and former Hon. Secretary of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, and from the County Archivist (Mr. M. G. Rathbone) and the Diocesan Registrar (Mr. A. M. Barker) and their staffs is also gratefully acknowledged. Nor must the kindness of many Wiltshire incumbents be forgotten.
Unless otherwise stated the photographs reproduced in this volume have been specially taken by Mrs. Margaret Tomlinson, M.A., who also drew the street plans of Bradford-on-Avon, Melksham, and Trowbridge. These plans are based upon the Ordnance Survey Map with the sanction of the Controller of H.M. Stationery Office, Crown Copyright reserved. The maps of the three hundreds were drawn by Mr. H. A. James, F.S.A., A.R.I.B.A. Thanks are returned to all those who gave permission for their photographs to be reproduced, in many cases without fee, and particularly to Mrs. Awdry, who has permitted three photographs by her late husband, Colonel R. W. Awdry, to be reproduced. Finally the Editor and Assistant Editor are under many obligations to the Director and Staff of the National Buildings Record for allowing the use of photographs from their collection and for other assistance.
The presence in the volume of a coloured frontispiece is entirely due to the generosity of Messrs. Spencer, Moulton & Co. Ltd., rubber manufacturers of Bradford-on-Avon, who made a grant towards the cost of making the blocks.