A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1965.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
THE HUNDRED OF WARMINSTER
The main part of the hundred of Warminster lies on the western edge of the county surrounding the town from which it takes its name. One small detached piece, the southern half of the parish of Pertwood, lies just beyond the southern end of the main part of the hundred; another detached piece, consisting of the parishes of Fisherton de la Mere, Teffont Magna, and Dinton, lies about 4½ miles south-east of its eastern border. A large part of the hundred thus lies in the valley of the Wylye, and the northernmost part of it, Upton Scudamore parish, lies on the watershed between the Wylye and the Biss, a tributary of the Bristol Avon, and so between the English and Bristol Channels. To the west Corsley is drained by tributaries of the Frome, while in the south Teffont Magna and Dinton lie in the valley of the Nadder. All the parishes are geologically dominated by the chalk with its associated outcrops of greensand. In several of them the outcrops are extensive, providing level stretches of good arable land, while water meadows could be made in the valley bottoms. From the late Middle Ages until the present century the typical sheep and corn husbandry of South Wiltshire was carried on throughout the hundred. Warminster was a celebrated corn market until the late 19th century, and had a large trade in malting. The woollen industry also flourished there in a modest way, and some mills in the district around the town were used by clothiers, chiefly in the 16th and 17th centuries. Agriculture, however, has always been foremost in the region, as it is today. Warminster, although its clothing trade has gone, and its market and malting have very much declined, retains its position as the shopping centre for the surrounding villages and provides employment in light industries and in the military establishments in and near it.
In 1084 Warminster hundred included the royal manor from which it took its name and estates in Dinton, Fisherton de la Mere, Bishopstrow, Norton Bavant, Sutton Veny, and Upton Scudamore. (fn. 1) Reasons are given below for assuming that Warminster then included Corsley and Dinton included Teffont Magna. (fn. 2) These places and Upper Pertwood were in any case in the hundred by 1249. (fn. 3) Pertwood is not mentioned by the Geld Rolls as being in another hundred, so that it is likely that in 1084 the hundred contained all the places which were reckoned to be in it in 1831. (fn. 4)
The hundred always appears to have been appurtenant to the manor of Warminster, and followed the same descent. (fn. 5) The jurisdiction did not exclude the sheriff, who held two tourns yearly for the hundred. (fn. 6) Some of the lords within it claimed liberties which might properly have belonged to the sheriff. Thus in the 13th century the Mauduits claimed a gallows at Warminster, (fn. 7) the Prioress of Studley view of frankpledge, a gallows, and assize of bread and ale at Corsley, (fn. 8) and the Clares assize of bread and ale at Smallbrook. (fn. 9) The Abbey of Lacock claimed extensive liberties in Bishopstrow, (fn. 10) and in fact that tithing paid nothing at the sheriff's tourn, and did not appear at the other hundred courts in later times. (fn. 11) Corsley was still reckoned a liberty in the early 14th century, and the bailiff of the hundred held separate views of frankpledge there. (fn. 12) The Prebendaries of Warminster claimed exemption for their tithing in the 13th century, (fn. 13) but it is not clear with what success. Whitbourne was said to be exempt in 1288-9, and does not appear as a tithing in later times. (fn. 14)
In 1348-9 the lords of the hundred were holding a three-weekly hundred court and two courts leet a year. (fn. 15) Profits from them often amounted to £12 or £15 a year in the later Middle Ages. (fn. 16) The same courts were held in 1652, but then it was said that few presentments were made or amercements imposed. (fn. 17) This statement is borne out by surviving records of courts in the 17th and 18th centuries. The few presentments made generally concerned highways or the customs of commons, and there seem to have been no suits between parties. The only real business was the collection of the dues of tithing silver or certain money, and mill fine, which amounted to £2 or £3 a year. (fn. 18) The curious practice of appointing the manorial officers of Little Sutton in the hundred court should also be mentioned. Yearly courts were still held in the 1830's. (fn. 19)
In 1195 the hundred was divided into home and foreign parts, (fn. 20) or as they were later called, in- and out-hundreds. In 1427 the tithings of Great Sutton, Little Sutton, Upton Scudamore, Norridge, Thoulstone, Dinton, Teffont Magna, Fisherton de la Mere, Bapton, Pertwood, Norton Bavant, Corsley, and Avenel's Fee appeared at the out-hundred court. (fn. 21) All still did so in the 18th century except Avenel's Fee which was generally reckoned in the in-hundred, with Boreham and Warminster. (fn. 22) The courts of the in-hundred, or town and liberty, are described below. (fn. 23)
Before his death c. 1264 William Mauduit had granted the bedelry of the hundred to Walter Bernard. Later in the century Walter's son John had a life interest in it which he conveyed to Richard Sculy. (fn. 24) By 1311 Sculy's interest had apparently passed to John Goscelyn, who then quitclaimed his right in the bailiwick of the hundred to Thomas Mauduit, the lord. This transaction was probably on the death of John Bernard, for Mauduit already had seisin of the bailiwick. (fn. 25) Soon after this it was granted in fee to Robert le Bore. (fn. 26) His interest passed to John Mauger, apparently by 1324, (fn. 27) although le Bore was still exercising the office in 1336. (fn. 28) Some dispute between Mauger and John Mauduit, lord of the hundred, was ended in 1349 by a quitclaim from Mauger's son to Mauduit. (fn. 29) Perquisites for that year were accounted for by a paid bailiff. (fn. 30) The bailiwick appears to have been sometimes let at farm and sometimes held by salaried officers in the 14th and 15th centuries. (fn. 31) It was mentioned as appurtenant to the manor of Portway in 1499, (fn. 32) but nothing more is known of such a connexion. In 1508 it was at farm, (fn. 33) and this seems to have been the practice throughout the 16th century. (fn. 34) By 1652, however, the foreign bailiwick had evidently been united with the bailiwick of Warminster town, (fn. 35) and is not again heard of. There were two high constables in 1620, (fn. 36) probably one for each part of the hundred, but in later times the out-hundred does not seem to have had officers separate from those of the town.
In 1439 the sheriff's tourn for the hundreds of Warminster and Heytesbury was held at 'Ilegh', later called Iley Oak, a great tree which stood probably in Southleigh or Eastleigh Woods between Sutton Veny and Longbridge Deverill. (fn. 37) It was still the meeting place of the tourns in 1652. (fn. 38) Nothing is known of the meeting place of the other hundred courts until 1831, when they met in the Town Hall at Warminster. (fn. 39) The name Moot Hill, applied to the low mound across the Wylye south-west of Norton Bavant village, which was formerly a detached part of Warminster parish, (fn. 40) may indicate that the early meeting place of the hundred was there.