A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 9. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1970.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The parish of Liddington lies to the south-east of Swindon and is a narrow rectangle in shape. It measures c. 4½ miles in length and in width varies between c. ¾ mile at its northern and c. 1½ mile at its southern end. It is bounded on the north by a small stream which flows south-westwards from the River Cole and then turns sharply south to form the eastern boundary of Coate tithing before flowing into Coate Water. At its north-east tip it is bounded by the Roman road to Mildenhall and further to the south the eastern boundary is formed by a stream anciently called the 'Liden Brook', whence the parish derives its name. The eastern boundary takes a sharp bend eastwards after leaving the 'Liden' to join the ancient trackway known as 'Lyde Cumb'. (fn. 1) It continues south-eastwards along a track called 'Sugar Way', while the southern boundary follows that known as the 'Thieves Way'. (fn. 2) In 1881 the area of the parish was reckoned at 2,767 a. (fn. 3) while ten years later the land acreage was 2,535. (fn. 4) The reason for the decreased acreage was the transfer in 1884 of a detached portion of the parish, the tithing of Coate, to the civil parish of Swindon. (fn. 5) Coate, part of which is within the parish of Chiseldon, lies immediately south-east of Swindon and c. ½ mile west of the northern part of Liddington, and is made up of 232 a. bounded on the south by the main SwindonChiseldon road and on the east by a tributary of the River Cole. It was part of the parish by the 12th century and continued to be a tithing until 1884 when it was transferred to Swindon. More recently, as a result of this transfer, the eastward expansion of Swindon has completely absorbed the tithing. The house formerly belonging to Prince's Farm in Coate, and now surrounded by a housing estate, was used in 1966 as the Common Room of the Park Boys' Club in Cranmore Avenue.
Liddington is characteristic of the long narrow parishes of the Wiltshire chalk country. From the low-lying clays in the north, the land rises gradually across the Upper Greensand to the Marlborough Downs in the south. In the north, around Liddington Wick, the clay soil is pre-eminently suited to dairy farming. The Upper Greensand belt which flanks the clay on the south is porous and fairly resistant to weathering, and this combination has produced more suitable conditions for the growth of settlements. (fn. 6)
The main settlement of Liddington is situated below the chalk scarp but the parish also contains two outlying hamlets: Liddington Wick c. 1½ mile north-west of the main village and Medbourne c. ¼ mile to the south-west. Both these hamlets were once the centres of small estates within the parish. Both Liddington itself and Medbourne are situated on the gently rising Upper Greensand ridge just above the spring-line, whence they draw their water supply. To the south of these settlements the chalk scarp rises sharply and at its highest point, Liddington Castle, just south-west of the village, reaches a height of 910 ft. (fn. 7)
The parish, bounded by ancient lines of communication such as 'Sugar Way' and 'Lyde Cumb', and traversed by the Ridge Way, has been an area of settlement since the earliest times. The site was occupied in Mesolithic times and a number of pits have been claimed as Neolithic flint-mines. The discovery of 28 loomweights and 4 pits of the early Iron Age suggests considerable activity in the growing of wool and weaving of woollen cloth in the area at this time. (fn. 8) The outstanding archaeological feature of the neighbourhood is the univallate Iron Age hill-fort known as Liddington Castle which covers some 7½ a., (fn. 9) while to the east of this is a roughly rectangular system of earth-works covering c. 10 a., (fn. 10) and between the Ridge Way and Liddington Castle there is possibly an 80-acre field system of early date. (fn. 11)
From place-name evidence the main settlement west of the brook known by the pre-Saxon name of 'Liden' (fn. 12) may be attributed a Saxon origin. (fn. 13) Liddington Wick, like the main settlement, formed part of the lands of Shaftesbury Abbey by the mid 12th century, (fn. 14) although the larger hamlet of Medbourne is not mentioned until the 13th century. (fn. 15) The prosperity of the parish must have been fairly considerable, since in 1334 the contribution of Liddington to the 15th of that year was second only to that of Wanborough, the most highly-rated fiscal unit in Thornhill hundred. (fn. 16) Again, in 1377, 174 persons in the parish were qualified to pay the poll tax, a number second again only to Wanborough. (fn. 17) There were only two contributors to the Benevolence of 1545, a fairly low number compared with the other parishes of the hundred. (fn. 18) The number of contributors to the Subsidy of 1576 was similarly low. (fn. 19) In 1801 the total population of the parish was estimated at 337 and thenceforth rose steadily to 454 in 1841 and included 43 persons who lived in Coate tithing, but thereafter the population gradually declined and in 1961 stood at 346. (fn. 20)
The parish, as shown above, was served by a good number of ancient trackways, one of which, the Ridge Way, traversed the parish from east to west just north of the village and has been metalled in modern times. (fn. 21) A map of 1773 shows numerous tracks traversing the parish. One of these ran from Aldbourne Chase and entered Liddington in its south-west corner, whence it ran north-eastwards past Liddington Castle to join the SwindonHungerford road south of its junction with the Ridge Way. Another track ran from the Ridge Way north to Medbourne. (fn. 22) These tracks no longer had any importance in the 20th century. In the 18th century a lane following a semi-circular course ran off the village street to give access to Upper Mill, which stood north-west of the manor house. The lane curved north-westwards to join the road from Badbury to Wanborough. (fn. 23) It had disappeared in 1967. The main roads in Liddington have changed little since the 18th century. The SwindonWanborough road was turnpiked by 1841, (fn. 24) the Swindon-Hungerford road, which passed through Liddington, in 1813–14 and the Coate-Marlborough road, which joins the latter just north of Common Head, in 1819. (fn. 25) In 1939 the Swindon-Hungerford road was diverted to by-pass Liddington and became the trunk road to Aldbourne and Newbury. (fn. 26)
The village of Liddington is arranged in a triangular pattern around the green. To the south-west of the by-pass road lies the parish church, the Parsonage Farm, and the school, unoccupied since 1962. The main nucleus of the village lies to the north of the road with the manor-house on its eastern outskirts. (fn. 27)
In 1583 some kind of ale-house was kept by a tailor, Thomas Gilbert, (fn. 28) and by the middle years of the 18th century the number of ale-houses in the parish had increased to three, although their location is unknown. (fn. 29) In 1753 a complaint was received by the Justices of the Peace that disorderly alehouses kept by Thomas Hatt and Robert Berry were disturbing the parish. (fn. 30) It is possible that the complaint was partly justified since in 1761 only two of the three ale-houses in the village were still licensed, including the one kept by Thomas Hatt. (fn. 31) These two remaining ale-houses were probably the 'Sun' and the 'Bell', mentioned by name for the first time in 1822 (fn. 32) and which in 1966 were still serving the parish. The village contains several thatched cottages of various periods, one of the most recent having a date tablet of 1827. The development of Liddington in modern times has been confined to the building of a number of private houses in large gardens to the east of the manor-house and along the Wanborough road. Several older houses have also been modernized as middle-class residences. Council houses have been built in the centre of the village. At Medbourne there is a stone farm-house probably of late-17th-century origin (fn. 33) and in recent times a number of council houses have been built. The hamlet of Liddington Wick has a farm-house and several cottages.
The parish of Liddington will always be associated with Richard Jefferies (d. 1887), the poet-naturalist. (fn. 34) Although he was born at Coate Farm, then in Chiseldon, two of his works, The Story of My Heart (1883), and Wild Life in a Southern County (1885), draw much of their inspiration from the area around Liddington Castle. In 1938 a memorial plate to Richard Jefferies and to another Wiltshire poet Alfred Williams (d. 1930), was affixed to the O.S. Triangulation Pyramid on Liddington Castle. (fn. 35)
Manors and Other Estates.
By the time of the Domesday Survey the manor of LIDDINGTON, assessed at 38 hides, belonged to Shaftesbury Abbey, (fn. 36) but it is not known at what date the abbey had acquired it. A grant in 940 by King Edmund to his man Adulf of 10 mansae at Liddington is included in the abbey's 15th-century cartulary, (fn. 37) but these, it has been suggested, (fn. 38) may not have been held by Shaftesbury at the time of Domesday and may represent the 5-hide estate, called the Burgate and previously held by Picote de Burgate, which Henry 1 granted to the abbey in 1121–2. (fn. 39)
Liddington remained among the possessions of Shaftesbury Abbey until the house was dissolved in 1539. (fn. 40) In 1542 lands in Coate and Medbourne, both in Liddington, which had previously belonged to Shaftesbury, were granted to Sir William Sharington of Lacock (fn. 41) and in 1543 Sharington received a grant of the manor of Liddington. (fn. 42) On his attainder a few years later Sharington forfeited all his lands but these were restored to him in 1550. (fn. 43) He died without issue in 1553 and was succeeded by his brother Henry. (fn. 44) Henry's heirs were his three daughters and on his death in 1581 (fn. 45) Liddington passed to the youngest, Olive, who married John Talbot. Olive died in 1646 and was succeeded by her grandson Sharington Talbot (d. 1677). His heir was his son John (d. 1714) (fn. 46) who sold the manor to the Duke of Marlborough (d. 1722). (fn. 47) It then descended with the Marlborough title until 1877 when the Liddington estate, including Medbourne Farm, Liddington Upper Farm, and Parsonage Farm, was sold in lots. (fn. 48)
The manor-house at Liddington stands to the east of the village just above the source of the 'Liden' brook. Here a spring, rising from below the Greensand, supplies a pond or small lake which may formerly have served Upper Mill. (fn. 49) The house, approached by a bridge across the lake, is a building of stone rubble dating from the late 16th or early 17th century. It consists of two stories and attics, having stone mullioned and transomed windows and a three-gabled front; internally there is a contemporary stone fireplace on the upper floor.
Lands in Medbourne probably formed part of Shaftesbury Abbey's estate in Liddington from at least the 13th century. John of Earlscourt and Alice his wife subinfeudated a messuage and 2 virgates of land in Medbourne to William Giffard in 1270. (fn. 50) The lands may have already been held in chief by Shaftesbury Abbey, since in 1301–2 William of Earlscourt, presumably the son of John, regranted them to the abbess. (fn. 51) Shaftesbury also appears to have been granted a small amount of land in Medbourne in the early 14th century by William Giffard. (fn. 52)
In 1392 the manor known as that of MEDBOURNE DOYNEL and MEDBOURNE STOKE was held of the abbey by William Wroughton (d. 1392) and his wife Isabel. (fn. 53) The lands were presumably connected with the Doygnel family at an earlier date, but it is not known exactly when the Wroughtons acquired them. The estate then descended in the Wroughton family until the 16th century in the same way as the manor of Woodhill (in Clyffe Pypard). (fn. 54)
Medbourne did not pass to Sir William Sharington with the rest of the Shaftesbury Abbey lands in Liddington but was granted to him in 1547–8 by William (III) Wroughton. (fn. 55) On the death of Sir William Sharington in 1553 (fn. 56) the Medbourne estate presumably passed to his brother, Sir Henry, (fn. 57) who, in c. 1556–7 enfeoffed his brother John and the latter's wife, Anne, with lands known as Medbourne Farm. (fn. 58) It is not known when John Sharington died, but, after his death, Anne married a second husband, Nicholas Stephens of Chiseldon. (fn. 59) Anne died c. 1577 (fn. 60) and the estate passed to her eldest son Edward Sharington, who died seised of Medbourne Farm c. 1583. (fn. 61) The Medbourne property then passed to William Sharington, Edward's son, (fn. 62) who died seised of the farm in 1610. (fn. 63) After William's death the Medbourne lands passed, in part, at least, to his sister Anne, wife of William Saule, (fn. 64) although her sister-in-law, Elizabeth, widow of William and later the wife of Thomas Farwell, had an interest in the estate. (fn. 65) The history of the estate then becomes obscure, but in 1617–18 the lands at Medbourne were said to be held of the lord of the capital manor of Liddington. (fn. 66) By the 18th century the estate had become broken up into at least four small freehold estates, and at the end of the century three of these were held by the Eycott family. Two parcels of land were bought by the Duke of Marlborough from S. and J. Eycott in 1771, while a third, called Larges Close, was purchased from J. Eycott in 1772. In 1776 land which probably represents the remnant of the estate known as Medbourne Farm, was sold by Thomas Warman to the Duke of Marlborough. (fn. 67) Henceforward the estate was let to farm by the Duke of Marlborough, and at the end of the 18th century was said to be made up of 255 a. (fn. 68) Medbourne Farm, the house of which is probably of late-17th-century construction, was reckoned at 223 a. in 1877, and was sold in that year, (fn. 69) together with other estates held by the Duke of Marlborough in Liddington.
There appears to have been a smaller estate within Medbourne, which is first mentioned in 1412, when John Blakett was said to hold the manor of Medbourne. (fn. 70) This estate was certainly not the main manor, which was held by the Wroughtons at this date. What was probably the same land was still part of the farm at Medbourne in 1617–18, when the estate was said to include 2 yardlands known as 'Blaks'. (fn. 71)
The estate, sometimes called the manor of LIDDINGTON WICK, formed part of the main manor (fn. 72) until 1543 (fn. 73) when Sir William Sharington conveyed the lands to William Fisher (d. 1585). (fn. 74) A water-mill and other tenements in Liddington Wick were conveyed to Fisher in 1578–9 by John Purlyn. (fn. 75) William Fisher died seised of 9 messuages in Liddington Wick, (fn. 76) and this estate passed to his son Thomas, who died seised in 1598 of c. 294 a. in Liddington Wick and Moor, which included pastures called Burlands and Ellonds Mead. (fn. 77) Thomas's son Henry was seised of 9 yardlands in 1617–18, (fn. 78) and was still styled of Liddington Wick in 1623, (fn. 79) but by the time of his death he was said to be of Westlecott (in Wroughton), (fn. 80) and had apparently sold Liddington Wick. Henry was succeeded by his son William, who died in 1663, leaving a widow Jane, a son Henry, and a brother John. William devised his lands to Henry and John for the payment of his debts. The will was disputed by Jane, who claimed that she had surrendered part of her marriage jointure to enable her husband to buy the manor of Liddington Wick, possibly from his father, and that in return William had agreed to settle the manor on her for life if she survived him. William had, however, in 1636, settled the manor upon his brother John, for the payment of his debts. (fn. 81) The outcome of this involved dispute is not known, but by 1643 the estate included lands in Liddington Wick, Liddington Moor, and Medbourne, (fn. 82) and by 1652 Liddington Down had been acquired. (fn. 83) William Fisher was a Royalist but his estate, said to be worth £200 a year, was not sequestered. (fn. 84) In 1695 Frances Fisher, widow of Henry, William's son, was seised of the manor and after her death the estate passed to her oldest daughter Henrietta (d. 1742), who married Stephen Gythens of Gloucester. Their daughter Henrietta (d. 1756) devised the property to her cousin Rachel Gythens of Bristol and to Samuel Commeline in equal parts. In 1760 Rachel sold her share to Commeline for £2,000. (fn. 85) No more is known of the estate until 1794 when Liddington Wick Farm, reckoned at c. 164 a., was held by Ambrose Goddard, who at this date was arranging to exchange it with the Duke of Marlborough for Walcot in Swindon. (fn. 86) The exchange must have taken place, as Liddington Wick Farm was part of the Duke of Marlborough's Liddington estate in the 19th century. (fn. 87)
In 1567 William Fisher and Thomas Fisher his son leased 3 messuages and lands including Ellonds Mead to John, William's younger son. (fn. 88) The next year John was leasing a further 2 messuages in Liddington Wick. (fn. 89) In 1578–9 John was granted a long lease of the estate conveyed to his father William and brother Thomas by John Purlyn. (fn. 90) It is possible that the 4 yardlands, held in 1617–18 by a William Fisher, represent this estate, and that William was the son of John. (fn. 91) In 1652 William Fisher, the Royalist, leased the site of the farm and manor of Liddington Wick, and lands including Liddington Down, to William Button of Lyneham and West Tockenham (d. 1654–5). (fn. 92) In 1695 the capital messuage of Liddington Wick was leased to Henry Harding by Frances Fisher, widow of Henry, the great-great-grandson of William Fisher (d. 1585). (fn. 93)
The later history of the estate of Liddington Wick is obscure but in 1877 the land there, reckoned at c. 171 a., was sold (fn. 94) with other of the Duke of Marlborough's Liddington estates.
In 1543, when Sir William Sharington acquired the manor of Liddington, it was in the tenure of the former bailiff of the Abbess of Shaftesbury, Thomas Bristowe, (fn. 95) who was recorded in 1535 as farming the manor for a rent of 13s. 4d. (fn. 96) In 1543–4 Sir William Sharington conveyed the site of the manor and certain of the demesne lands, which included 400 a. called Farmer's Down, to William Bristowe, (fn. 97) who died in 1568 holding the site of the manor, (fn. 98) which then passed to his son Anthony Bristowe. (fn. 99) On Anthony's death in 1591 the estate passed to his grandson William, a boy of six. (fn. 100) In 1615 William Bristowe conveyed the site of the manor of Liddington to Richard Younge. (fn. 101) The subsequent descent of this small estate has not been traced but it seems subsequently to have been re-united with the capital manor, since in 1768 the Duke of Marlborough was leasing out land there. (fn. 102)
Immediately upon receiving the grant of the site of the manor from Sir William Sharington in 1544 William Bristowe (see above) obtained licence to alienate the land known as Liddington or Farmers' Down to Thomas Stephens of Chiseldon, (fn. 103) who died seised of it in 1553. (fn. 104) Also known as Leferves or Bristowe's Down, (fn. 105) this small estate of c. 600 a. (fn. 106) remained in the Stephens family until c. 1607. On the death of Thomas Stephens the elder it passed to his son Thomas Stephens the younger (fn. 107) (d. 1596). (fn. 108) On the death of Thomas (II) Stephens the Down passed to his heir Nicholas Stephens (d. 1611), (fn. 109) who sold it to Richard Goddard (d. 1615), (fn. 110) probably just before 1607 when Goddard settled it as part of a marriage jointure on his wife Jane Fettiplace. (fn. 111) On Goddard's death it probably passed to his son Thomas, (fn. 112) but by 1652 had been acquired by William Fisher (d. 1663). (fn. 113) The estate remained only a short time with the Fishers and was acquired by the dukes of Somerset at some date during the later 17th century when they were said to hold a considerable freehold estate within the parish, (fn. 114) and the duke certainly held Liddington Down in 1707. (fn. 115) In 1715 the Down, together with 110 a. known as Farringcombe Down was held by Charles, Duke of Somerset (d. 1748). On his death the estate passed to his son Algernon, on whose death in 1749 it passed to a grandson, Charles Wyndham, Earl of Egremont (d. 1763). Liddington and Farringcombe Downs were inherited by his third son, Charles Wyndham, who was confirmed in these and other lands by Act of Parliament in 1779. (fn. 116) In 1817 the estate, then estimated at 613 a., was held by William Wyndham. (fn. 117) By 1893 John Heath had succeeded him. He sold it in that year, under the name of Liddington Warren, for £3, 300. (fn. 118)
In 1341 the rector held 2 virgates and a meadow. (fn. 119) This small estate had increased considerably by 1677 when the rectorial glebe consisted of c. 42 a. situated in Liddington Breach, the field next to Wanborough, Middle Down Field, the Down Field next to Badbury, South Down, West Field, Middle Field, and Farm Fields. (fn. 120) In 1716 the rectorial estate was estimated at c. 36 a., (fn. 121) and the same amount of glebe was recorded in 1731 and 1776. (fn. 122) By the inclosure award of 1777 some 190 a. were allotted to George, Duke of Marlborough, as the impropriator, in lieu of tithes. (fn. 123) In 1817 the rectory estate, estimated at c. 143 a. and valued at c. £68 a year, formed part of the demesne lands of the Duke of Marlborough. (fn. 124) The estate was made up of Home Farm, which covered c. 73 a. to the south of the church, and 2 smaller areas of c. 24 a. and c. 46 a. respectively, which lay in Liddington Mead, a large area of meadow land in the north-east corner of the parish. (fn. 125) In 1887 the total area of glebe belonging to the benefice was estimated at c. 186 a., (fn. 126) a figure which probably included both rectorial and vicarial glebe. The rectorial estate, both before and after the Dissolution, was probably often let to farm by the rectors, as in the early 16th century when the parsonage estate was farmed by Thomas Appryce and William Stradlyng. (fn. 127)
At the time of the Domesday Survey the parish, which contained meadow land 4 furlongs in length and 3 furlongs in breadth, and pasture land measuring ½ league by 4 furlongs, was assessed at 38 hides, of which 24 were held in demesne; the remaining 14 were farmed by tenants of the abbess. There were 6 serfs on the demesne, which contained land enough for 4 ploughs, while the remaining land contained land for 7 ploughs and supported 23 villeins and 17 bordars. The land T.R.E. was worth £18, but by the time of the Domesday Survey its value had risen to £22. (fn. 128)
A survey of the lands of Shaftesbury Abbey, which has been dated c. 1160, shows the parish as made up of three distinct agrarian units, which were subject to an economy typical of the lowland clays and the higher chalk scarps of downland country, and which no doubt were organized much as were the lands of other Benedictine communities. (fn. 129) Coate, a detached part to the north-west, contained 5 hides which supported 10 holdings, for the most part of ½ hide in area. Services here laid stress on work with the flock and at haymaking. In Liddington there were 29 holdings of varying amounts, including one of 3 hides held by Everard of Medbourne, for a rent of 30s. The ploughmen in Liddington held by virtue of the same services as the men of Coate, except that they were bound to send 2 measures of grain to Shaftesbury Abbey at Martinmas, as were the men of Wick. There were 19 cotsetlers and 1 crofter in Liddington. In Wick, to the north of Liddington, there was pasture for 30 cows and 9 a. of meadow land. There were 4 smallholdings there, each amounting to no more than a few acres. One of the cotsetlers of Wick, to be chosen by the abbess's bailiff, tended the abbess's cattle and had to render 10 cheeses of Winchester measure to the abbess, a service for which he was granted certain privileges, such as the right to pasture his beasts with those of the abbess. (fn. 130)
In the 12th-century survey of the Shaftesbury lands the duties and services of both lord and tenant are described in detail. Without exception small amounts of rent, normally no more than a few shillings or pence varying with the amount of land held, were payable to the abbey in addition to services due. (fn. 131) Little can be said of the pattern of land tenure within the parish before the Dissolution, but by the 17th century the number of holdings seems to be fewer perhaps as a result of the accumulation of more land in the open fields by individual tenants. In the late 16th century there were 3 leaseholders and 49 copyholders, of whom 4 and possibly a fifth were tenants at will on the manor, according to a survey of this date. (fn. 132) A few years later in 1617–18 there were some 43 tenants, of whom 3 were leaseholders, 29 copyholders, and 11 cottagers, and who together owed a rent of c. £27. (fn. 133) Henceforward the number of copyholders declined and the number of those holding by lease gradually increased; in 1672 there were 20 leaseholders in Liddington and 11 in Coate, and 6 copyholders in Liddington. (fn. 134) This development continued into the 18th century and in 1731 the manor contained 30 leaseholdings, including those in Coate and Medbourne, together with 7 copyholdings and 10 customary holdings. (fn. 135) Nineteenth-century surveys of Liddington manor show no copyholding, (fn. 136) and in 1817 there were said to be 12 leaseholdings and 17 freeholdings within the manor. (fn. 137)
In 1617–18 there were 4 arable fields in the parish, 2 called Overfields and 2 called Lower Fields, a meadow known as Liddington Mead, which lay in the north-east corner of the parish, once open but now farmed in several allotments, and three pastures, Liddington Down, Marsh Leaze, and Ox Leaze. (fn. 138) It seems likely that some of these open lands lay in the north-west of the parish on either side of the Swindon-Hungerford road east of Common Head, since this area was known as Liddington Common in 1773. (fn. 139) By 1776 the number of open fields had increased to 6, Upper and Lower East Fields, Upper and Lower Middle Fields, and Upper and Lower West Fields, covering a total of c. 639 a. There were 3 commons, Cow Common, Sheep Down, and Sheep Pasture, with an overall acreage of c. 421 a. (fn. 140) According to a survey of 1617–18, 30 sheep could be kept on each yardland and 15 on each 'corcytrell' on Liddington Down, while a horse and 2 cows might be kept on each yardland and a horse and cow on each 'corcytrell' in Marsh Leaze, while in Ox Leaze an ox could be pastured on a yardland and on a 'corcytrell'. In Coate there was a marsh containing leaze for 60 beasts together with 2 'slades' of c. 50 a. and a fallow field, where there was leaze for 30 horses. At this date it was estimated that there were 37 yardlands and 15 'corcytrells' within the manor of Liddington, while the 'manor' of Coate was said to be made up of 20 yardlands. (fn. 141) In the late 17th century arable land in three upper fields was valued at 4s. 6d. an acre, and in the three lower fields at 5s. 6d. an acre. Pasture land and meadow in the open fields was worth 16s. an acre yearly, while land in Liddington Meadow was valued at 20s. an acre, the Horse Common at 12s., and the Beast Common at 6s. yearly. (fn. 142)
The economy of the parish was until recent times largely devoted to the rearing of sheep on the downs in the south of the parish. (fn. 143) Towards the middle of the 17th century it was estimated that Liddington Down contained common grazing for 14,000 or 15,000 sheep, and in addition there was a large beast common of some 110 a., (fn. 144) probably at this time, and certainly by the 18th century, known as Farringcombe Down. (fn. 145) In 1731 the total amount of sheep pasture within the manor of Liddington was 423 a., while 118 a. were given over to cow commons. (fn. 146) On Spring, or Liddington Farm in 1746, the tenant farmer had 163 sheep and lambs but only 17 cattle. (fn. 147) The best pasture land was in the more northerly part of the parish away from the chalk escarpment. Here some meadows may have been laid out as water-meadows. Bee Leaze, comprising about 26 a., was so described in the late 18th or early 19th centuries. This was part of Medbourne Farm and lay below Common Head to the southeast of the Coate-Marlborough road. (fn. 148) The arable land also lay in the north of the parish. About 1746 the amount of acreage devoted to the growing of wheat on Liddington Farm was some 80 a., while about 45 a. were given over to barley. (fn. 149) There is no further evidence of barley, but in 1801 the average wheat yield was 40 bushels an acre. (fn. 150)
As in neighbouring parishes a certain amount of inclosure was being carried out in the early 17th century. In 1641 the tenants and freeholders of the manor of Liddington were allowed to choose 8 men to arrange exchanges of arable and pasture between tenants, so that they might be able to inclose land as they wished. (fn. 151) At the same time there were said to be a number of freehold estates within the parish not intermixed with the open fields but inclosed. (fn. 152) By 1766 many small inclosures of land at Coate had been made: all tenants there had small amounts of inclosed arable, pasture, and meadow, while the holdings grouped together and known collectively as Coate Farm amounted to some 137 a. of inclosed land in 1766. In Liddington 19 leaseholders had small amounts of inclosed land. (fn. 153) But even in Coate the land was by no means completely inclosed, since a meadow, Coate Lot-Mead, was held in common and divided by lot amongst the tenants there. (fn. 154) In 1776 these old inclosures were said to amount to some 206 a., (fn. 155) and these were allowed to remain when allotments of land in the open fields were made the following year. The main allotment of some 900 a. was made to the Duke of Marlborough as impropriator and lord. The lands lay chiefly in the Upper East and Upper Middle Fields, and in Liddington Common, and were bounded by Liddington Wick in the north and by Stephen's Down in the south. (fn. 156)
In the early 18th century the numerous freehold estates, which were being formed from the early 17th century onwards, begin to emerge as distinct farms. Some 41 a. were farmed by Robert Webbe, who appears as a leaseholder in the late 17th or early 18th century, while another farm, Ile's, was estimated at c. 32 a., and another, farmed by Richard Pierce, was reckoned at c. 141 a. (fn. 157) The land farmed by Robert Webbe was estimated at c. 95 a. in 1731 and at this date was said to be part of Liddington Farm, itself part of the demesne lands of the manor (fn. 158) and otherwise known as Bacon's or Spring Farm. (fn. 159) At the same date the land at Coate, which also formed part of the demesne lands of Liddington manor, was largely occupied by some 152 a. farmed by John Prince. (fn. 160) The farm was tenanted by William Prince in 1794 (fn. 161) and, as a result of its associations with the family, became known as Prince's Farm, a name which it retained into the 20th century. A survey made after the Inclosure Act lists 4 farms held by tenants of the Duke of Marlborough: of these, Liddington Commons was estimated at 101 a., Liddington Meadows at 70 a., while Medbourne Farm and Upper Farm were reckoned at 255 a. and 520 a. respectively. (fn. 162) In 1817 the two latter farms were merged to form some 776 a. known as Liddington and Medbourne Farm. (fn. 163) Other farms at this date included Liddington Commons, now called Common Farm and reckoned at 102 a., and the Parsonage Farm, which covered an area of some 143 a. and included 73 a. known as Home Farm. (fn. 164) In the 20th century there were at least 7 farms, (fn. 165) including the farms at Coate, Medbourne, Liddington Wick, and Liddington Warren, all of which were representative of earlier freehold estates within the parish.
There were 2 mills within the manor of Liddington at the time of Domesday Survey, which together paid 5s. (fn. 166) In the mid 12th century one of these mills was held by Edward the miller, who paid a rent of 30d., while the other was held by a widow, Maud, for a rent of 6d. (fn. 167) The former was probably attached to the manor and was known as Liddington Mill, the wheel of which tore Thomas Chauler to pieces in 1249. (fn. 168) This mill was situated just northwest of the manor-house and it is likely that it remained part of the site of the manor, since in 1543–4 a water-mill was included in a grant of the site of the manor to William Bristowe by William Sharington. (fn. 169) This mill was still attached to the manor in 1591 when William Bristowe's son, Anthony, died seised of the site of Liddington manor, (fn. 170) and remained so in 1768 when the lord of the manor, the Duke of Marlborough, leased a messuage, tenement, and water-mill with their tolls and profits to the miller, Edward Cripps of Liddington. (fn. 171) By 1773 this mill was known as Upper Mill, and was fed by a large pond which fronted the manorhouse. (fn. 172) It remained in use until the 20th century. (fn. 173)
A second mill, possibly that rented by the widow Maud, was attached to the estate at Liddington Wick by the 16th century, although it was situated just north of Liddington village and was fed by the same stream as Liddington Mill. It may have been this mill that was held by John Wroughton in 1496, (fn. 174) but a mill is seen certainly to be part of the Wick estate by 1577–9 when tenements and lands there, including a water-mill, were conveyed to William and Thomas Fisher. (fn. 175) This mill, still part of the estate in 1689 (fn. 176) and 1762, (fn. 177) was known as Lower Mill (fn. 178) and remained in use until the 20th century. (fn. 179)
The church of Liddington is first mentioned in 1291 when it was valued for the taxation of Pope Nicholas. (fn. 180) Probably long before that date, and certainly a few years later it was attached to Shaftesbury Abbey as a prebend. This meant that in return for certain services to the community at Shaftesbury, the prebendaries or rectors of Liddington enjoyed the profits and perquisites of the rectory, which was not appropriated to Shaftesbury. (fn. 181) To serve the church of Liddington the prebendaries or rectors appointed vicars. The earliest known presentation of a vicar to serve the church is that of John of Coate, who was presented by the rector, Walter Burdoun, in 1297. (fn. 182)
The Abbess of Shaftesbury presented to the prebend throughout the Middle Ages, except in 1368– 1369 when the king presented by reason of an alleged voidance. (fn. 183) In 1371–2 Robert Walsham, Canon of Salisbury Cathedral, and William Walsham, Prebendary of Liddington, were granted a royal pardon for in some way disputing the king's right to present. (fn. 184) By 1389 the abbess was presenting again, (fn. 185) and continued to do so until 1537 when Sir Thomas Arundel presented with her consent. (fn. 186) The prebendaries or rectors presented to the vicarage without exception, so far as is known, throughout the Middle Ages. (fn. 187)
In 1543 Sir William Sharington, who also acquired the manor that year, was granted the advowson of the rectory and of the vicarage of Liddington. (fn. 188) His brother, Henry Sharington, to whom the manor passed, presented to the rectory in 1554. (fn. 189) Thenceforth throughout the 17th and 18th centuries the advowson of the sinecure rectory or prebend as it began sometimes to be called again towards the end of the 17th century, descended with the lordship of the manor of Liddington. (fn. 190) On at least two occasions, however, the right of presentation was leased out: in 1591 when Nathaniel Torperley, a prominent mathematician, presented, (fn. 191) and in 1632 when Sir John St. John presented. (fn. 192) The advowson of the vicarage continued to belong, as it had before the Dissolution, to the rectors or prebendaries, (fn. 193) who appear to have leased their right of presentation frequently in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1583 the queen presented, apparently because there was no rector to provide a vicar. (fn. 194)
The rectors were sometimes laymen, but in 1695 Sir John Talbot (d. 1714) presented his cousin William Talbot (d. 1730), then Dean of Worcester, and later successively Bishop of Oxford, Salisbury, and Durham. (fn. 195) On the death in 1759 of Matthew Tate, John Talbot's successor as lord of the manor, the Duke of Marlborough presented John Moore (d. 1805), the tutor of his younger sons, Lords Charles and Robert Spencer. Like all the rectors he did not live at Liddington and, while still rector of the church there, became successively Prebendary of Durham (1763) and Dean of Canterbury (1771). He relinquished the rectory of Liddington on becoming Bishop of Bangor in 1775 and subsequently became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1783. (fn. 196)
Soon after the beginning of the 19th century the institution of incumbents was simplified: the rectors, having been presented by the Duke of Marlborough (as lord of the manor) began presenting themselves to the vicarage. (fn. 197) The advowson of the church was then said to rest jointly with the Duke of Marlborough and the Prebendary (or rector) of Liddington, while the incumbent was styled the Prebendary, Rector, and Vicar of Liddington, and the benefice was called a rectory and a vicarage. (fn. 198) In 1951 C. W. Francis, who had been Prebendary, Rector, and Vicar of Liddington since 1936, left Liddington for another living, but remained prebendary and as such presented his successor to the vicarage. (fn. 199) On Prebendary Francis's death, the vicar, the Revd. H. R. Rogers, who had been presented by him in 1963, was presented to the prebend by the Duke of Marlborough, who in 1966 still retained his right of patronage. (fn. 200)
The church was valued at £13 6s. 8d. for the taxation of Pope Nicholas in 1291, (fn. 201) 1308–9, (fn. 202) and 1341. (fn. 203) In 1772 sums totalling £200 were received from the trustees of Lord Crew, Bishop of Durham, and from those of a Mrs. Horner and a Mrs. Pyncombe respectively. (fn. 204) A further £200 was added from the Royal Bounty and the benefice endowed in 1773. (fn. 205) It had a net income of £325 in 1835. (fn. 206)
The prebend, probably at the time of its foundation, was endowed with certain portions, presumably at first in the form of tithes, from the churches of Chesilbourne, Compton Abbas, and Melbury Abbas, all of which lay in Dorset. By 1291 Chesilbourne was making a yearly payment of £3 6s. 8d., (fn. 207) Compton Abbas £3 10s., (fn. 208) and Melbury Abbas £3 3s. 4d. (fn. 209) These portions were extracted with some difficulty and the Rector of Liddington made repeated and probably unsuccessful attempts in 1324, 1325, and 1326 to secure arrears of £28 from Compton Abbas (fn. 210) and of £25 6s. 8d. from Melbury Abbas. (fn. 211) These portions, which formed part of the gross value of the rectory, continued to be made throughout the Middle Ages and similar amounts were still paid in 1535, (fn. 212) although by this date Chesilbourne, in lieu of giving all its tithes to Liddington, paid £6, (fn. 213) a sum agreed upon by the respective rectors in 1438. (fn. 214) These portions continued to be paid after the Dissolution, and in the 17th century were said to belong to the prebend and to be worth £12 10s. (fn. 215)
In 1341 the rectory was valued at £13 6s. 8d., of which the great tithes amounted to £9 and those small tithes, which the rector had in certain meadows, to 40s. (fn. 216) In 1535 the rectory was valued at £24 gross, less 7s. 5½d. for synodals. Its value was made up of the portions paid by Chesilbourne, Compton Abbas, and Melbury Abbas, all great tithes, certain small tithes, and a landed estate. (fn. 217) It is possible that this sum represents a miscalculation based on the assumption that Chesilbourne was still paying £3 6s. 8d. instead of £6, and that the value of the rectory was c. £27.
After the Dissolution there is no mention of any small tithes being due to the rector, but, with the exception of those from the glebe-lands and from Liddington Meadows, all the great tithes belonged to the rectory. (fn. 218) By 1705, and probably at an earlier date, the rectorial tithes were impropriated by the lords of the manor, (fn. 219) who then presumably granted them to the successive rectors, whom they appointed. In 1731 all great tithes from Liddington, Stephen's Down, Medbourne, and Coate belonged to the rectory, (fn. 220) with the exception of the great tithes from the rectorial glebe which belonged to the vicarage. (fn. 221) After the inclosure award of 1777 right to certain great tithes was extinguished, (fn. 222) although 1,501 a. of land in the parish remained subject to tithe. (fn. 223) In 1841 the great tithes in Coate were commuted for a rent-charge of £42 9s., which was paid to the rector and his lessee, Elizabeth Henrietta Crowdy. (fn. 224) At the same date the rectorial tithes in Liddington were commuted for a rent-charge of £174 7s., which was paid to the rector's lessees, the Earl of Shaftesbury, Sir Edward Stracey, and Sir James Graham. (fn. 225) Together, therefore, the surviving rectorial tithes in the whole parish were commuted in 1841 for £216 16s. (fn. 226) The rectors leased out their tithes in the 16th century on at least two occasions. (fn. 227) The great tithes were also leased from time to time in the 18th century. (fn. 228)
The rector's house was described in 1677 as a building of 4 bays with a barn, stable, and outhouses standing in a small garden. (fn. 229) It is likely that as the rectors did not live in Liddington, the parsonage or prebendal house was occupied as a farmhouse from an early date. It was used as such in 1812 when it was described as a mean stone and thatched building standing between the churchyard and the vicar's house. (fn. 230) The Parsonage House, still so-called, stands immediately south of the churchyard. It is of chalk-stone and retains some 17thcentury features, but was evidently altered and enlarged in the early 19th century and later.
No ordination of a vicarage has been found. In 1535 the vicarage was worth £12 9s. 6d., less 4s. 2d. for synodals. Its value consisted of certain great tithes, all small tithes, except some which the rector had, and other emoluments. (fn. 231) In 1677 (fn. 232) and 1704 (fn. 233) the vicar had the tithes both great and small of all the glebe-land belonging to the rector, as well as all the small tithes. In 1705 the vicar maintained that he had only the small tithes (fn. 234) but at this date, as in 1731 (fn. 235) and 1775, (fn. 236) he also had the tithes both great and small from the rectorial glebe. By the inclosure award of 1777 the rectorial and vicarial glebe were freed from tithe and the vicar, in lieu of the great tithes from the rectorial and vicarial glebe, was compensated with 53 a. of land. (fn. 237) In 1841 the vicarial tithes were commuted for a rent-charge of £221. (fn. 238)
In c. 1634 the vicar had an estate of about 2 a., (fn. 239) which remained unchanged until 1777 when under the inclosure award of that year he received an allotment of land in the open fields of Liddington, in lieu of tithes. (fn. 240) In 1786 this new estate was estimated at c. 53 a. and most of the land was situated in the Lower East Field. (fn. 241) In 1817 the vicar's estate was estimated at c. 64 a., and was made up of two closes, one south-east and the other north-east of the church, while the third and largest part of the estate, now known as Parson's Field, lay north of the main settlement to the east of the Newbury road. (fn. 242)
There was also a vicarage house in 1677, then described as a building of 4 bays with a barn and stable attached. (fn. 243) The house is often mentioned in the 18th century. (fn. 244) By the early 19th century the incumbents no longer occupied it, since in 1783 the Vicar of Liddington was also incumbent of Chiseldon where he lived, (fn. 245) and in 1812 the vicar lived at King's Somborne (Hants). (fn. 246) In the same year it was noted that the vicarage house had once contained a library, or collection of books, which had long since disappeared because the house was unguarded and open to marauders. (fn. 247) In 1824 Prebendary Michael Hare, who was both rector and vicar, built a new house and henceforth the incumbents lived there. (fn. 248) After 1835 the house was known for a time as the Glebe House, (fn. 249) but it subsequently became known as the Rectory. The Rectory is a large house of rough-cast brick, standing in a garden to the south-east of the church, and may possibly occupy the same site as the former vicarage house.
At the end of the 18th century, services were held in the morning and in the afternoon alternately with those at Chiseldon. Holy Communion was celebrated at the four customary seasons, and there was an average of 12 communicants. Services were held on Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent, again alternately with those at Chiseldon. Children of the parish were catechized on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in Lent, and sermons were preached on the catechism every other year during that season. The congregation was said to be fairly numerous. (fn. 250) Over half a century later, on Census Sunday 1851, 100 people were present at morning service, while 140 attended the afternoon service, although one service was presumably held at Chiseldon. (fn. 251)
The church of ALL SAINTS consists of chancel, nave, north aisle, north vestry, and west tower. There may originally have been a narrow south aisle, as the chancel and chancel arch are not centrally placed in relation to the present nave. A severe restoration of the church by C. E. Ponting in the late 19th century makes it difficult to distinguish how many of its features are original. (fn. 252) The chancel and north aisle date from the 13th century, the former having two lancet windows in the south wall and one in the north; the east window is a 19thcentury insertion. The north aisle appears to have been little altered; (fn. 253) there are two lancets and a trefoil-headed doorway in the north wall and its east window consists of three graded lancets beneath a rear arch which is supported on corbelled shafts. The aisle's west window has a cusped rear-arch and curious star-shaped tracery, apparently of the early 14th century. The windows in the south wall of the nave, which date from the 19th-century restoration, have similar tracery and possibly replace original windows of the same design. The north aisle contains two tomb-recesses of c. 1300. The embattled west tower, of three stages with diagonal buttresses to its western angles, dates from the late 15th or early 16th century. (fn. 254) Most notable among the church furnishings is the circular font bowl of c. 1200 which has tapered sides and bands of pellet and zig-zag ornament. (fn. 255) Other furnishings, including the sanctuary rail, pulpit, lectern, and choir stalls, were installed during the 19th-century restorations. (fn. 256) The vestry was added outside the north doorway of the aisle in 1900. (fn. 257) The glass in the east window of the aisle was placed there in 1914 by Prebendary and Mrs. Pitt in memory of their son, Clifford George Pitt. (fn. 258)
Three bells were noted by the king's commissioners in 1553 (fn. 259) but their fate is not known. The church has 5 bells (in 1966): the first three, made by Roger and William Purdue, are inscribed with the churchwardens' names and date from 1663, while the fourth and fifth date from 1786 and 1849 respectively and bear the makers' names, Robert Wells of Aldbourne and William Taylor. (fn. 260) In 1553 the king's commissioners left a silver chalice weighing 6 oz. for the church: (fn. 261) this was still among the church plate in 1812 but had disappeared by 1920. (fn. 262) A paten was given by Prebendary George May in 1859. All other plate dates from 1886 when a chalice, paten, flagon, and spoon were provided by subscription. (fn. 263) The church also possesses a pewter flagon, possibly of 18th-century date, of a type which is found comparatively rarely in Wiltshire. (fn. 264) A barrel organ, given by Prebendary May in 1846, was restored to the church in 1891. (fn. 265) Outside the church, near the chancel door, is the stump of an ancient churchyard cross, and on one of the tower buttresses is a medieval scratch dial. The registers are complete from 1692. (fn. 266)
Bishop Compton's census recorded no dissenters in the parish in 1676. (fn. 267) By the 1680s there may have been a group of Anabaptists in the village, although the movement was slow to establish itself in this part of the county. (fn. 268) In 1699 the house of John Warman in Coate was certified as a meeting-house for protestant dissenters. (fn. 269) This meeting may not have lasted long and by 1783 there were again said to be no dissenters in the parish. (fn. 270) In 1822 a building belonging to Thomas Besant was registered as a meeting-place for Independents, (fn. 271) although no more is heard of it. By the mid 19th century both Primitive Methodists and Wesleyan Methodists used the village green for meetings. (fn. 272) In 1842 a chapel and premises, belonging to and occupied by James May, were registered for the use of protestant dissenters, (fn. 273) most probably Primitive Methodists. On Census Sunday in 1851 it was estimated that over the past year an average of 38 people had attended morning service in this chapel, while there was an average of 42 in the afternoon, and 60 in the evening. (fn. 274) Wesleyan Methodists in the village registered a chapel in 1870 (fn. 275) and this was still in use in 1966. (fn. 276)
By 1819 a group of dissenters in Liddington supported a school 'for want of contributions from the parishioners', at which about 20 children were taught. (fn. 277) A Sunday school, which began in 1823, was supported by the parishioners and had 50 pupils. A daily school was opened in 1825, where 10 pupils were taught at the expense of their parents. (fn. 278) A school with a teacher's house attached was built in 1851 at a cost of £400, the money being provided by the rector and public subscription. By 1859 there were about 20 children being taught by a 'dame' from Chiseldon. (fn. 279) In 1896 the school received a parliamentary grant (fn. 280) and subsequently became united with the National Society. (fn. 281) The average attendance was 56 in 1910, but by 1938 had dropped to 29, (fn. 282) although in 1950 attendance had risen again to an average of 55 children. (fn. 283) The school was closed in 1962 and the pupils were transferred to Wanborough. (fn. 284)
By his will proved in 1876 William Brind bequeathed £100 in trust, the income of which was to be used to provide an evening school for boys employed in farm labour. (fn. 285) In 1884 the Charity Commissioners were informed that the income had been used to maintain a reading room, since a night school was said to be no longer required. The charity was extended in 1887 to enable books to be purchased for a lending library or for distribution as prizes for farm-labouring boys. The income from the investment was about £2 in 1903 and the money was generally used to buy books for distribution as prizes in the village school. In 1968 it was about the same.
As is explained below, Liddington was supposed to have a share in the apprenticing charity founded by William Savage of Wootton Bassett in 1882. (fn. 286) But in 1903 no child of Liddington had benefited from this and the rector complained to the Charity Commissioners that it was difficult to obtain information about the fund. The charity still existed in 1963 when the income was about £2.
Jonathan Gosling, by his will proved in 1915, bequeathed £250, the profits of which were to be distributed annually to the sick and poor of the hamlet of Coate, which then lay partly in Liddington and partly in the neighbouring parish of Chiseldon. (fn. 287) During 1962–6 the Gosling Bequest Fund yielded about £9 yearly. In 1966 the Vicar of Chiseldon complained of a lack of adequately qualified beneficiaries in Coate which, since 1915, had been engulfed in the south-eastward expansion of Swindon (see above).