A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 11, Downton Hundred; Elstub and Everleigh Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1980.
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Rollestone, 8 km. west of Amesbury, probably appears in Domesday Book as Winterbourne and the form Winterbourne Rollestone was occasionally used in the 13th century and the early 14th. (fn. 1) In 1242–3 Rollestone was the name of both the parish and the mesne tenant of the manor, (fn. 2) and the family may have given its name to lands earlier associated with Winterbourne Stoke, which bounds Rollestone to the south and west. The long narrow parish extended 4.5 km. north-east from the river Till, broadening from 800 m. wide in the river valley to 1.6 km. on its eastern boundary with Durrington and Figheldean. (fn. 3) The boundary of the ancient parish bore little relation to the physical landscape of the downs, but in the south-west it followed the course or valley of the river and north of the village turned north-east along a dry tributary valley. Two detached portions of Shrewton on the banks of the Till south of Rollestone were attributed to the parish in 1812 but that seems to have been a cartographical error. (fn. 4) In 1878 the parish measured 870 a. (359.5 ha.). (fn. 5) The south-west boundary was straightened in 1885 when 4 a. of water-meadow were transferred from Shrewton to Rollestone. (fn. 6) In 1934 Rollestone was included with Maddington in the parish of Shrewton. (fn. 7)
Only the Till valley and its dry tributary lie below 91 m., and the highest point in the parish is 129 m. in the north-east corner at its junction with Shrewton and Figheldean. Upper Chalk outcrops over the whole parish, covered by gravel in the valleys. (fn. 8) The downs have provided grazing for sheep and cattle, and between that pasture and a strip of meadow on the banks of the river lay the arable lands of the parish. The only woodland was a small clump of trees north of the Shrewton—Durrington road. (fn. 9)
The main Salisbury—Devizes road, turnpiked in the early 1760s, crossed the down parallel to and inside the eastern boundary of the parish. When firing ranges were established in the area of Larkhill in Durrington in the early 20th century, the road was closed north of the Bustard Hotel in Shrewton. The Warminster—Amesbury road, which passes close to the village of Rollestone, rising sharply out of the valley near the church, became part of the main route between Devizes and Salisbury. (fn. 10) The Shrewton—Durrington road, which crosses the old Salisbury—Devizes road on Rollestone down, remained open to the public. The tracks which in the late 18th century led from the Warminster—Amesbury road south and south-east towards the church and Winterbourne Stoke and north-east to Middle Farm were still marked on maps in 1957, (fn. 11) but there was little trace of them in 1978.
On the downland 30 barrows of different types have been identified. There are two principal groups, at the junction of the Shrewton—Durrington road with the north-west boundary of the parish and east of Middle Farm on the north-east boundary. Other barrows are scattered between those groups. (fn. 12)
In 1428 there were fewer than ten householders in the parish and the settlement was of much the same size in 1901 when there were only eight inhabited houses. (fn. 13) During the 19th century the population grew from 34 in 1801 to 52 in 1861, but by 1891 it had fallen to 28. The establishment of an R.A.F. station on the down in the early 20th century greatly increased the population. Between 1911 and 1921 the total rose from 41 to 152, including military personnel, and in 1931, the last year for which separate figures for Rollestone are available, it stood at 189. (fn. 14)
Neither the existence of the R.A.F. station nor the diversion of the Salisbury—Devizes road affected the size or location of the village. It is on the valley gravel in the western corner of the parish, separated from Shrewton by an unmade road leading from the main road towards the river. The church and the Old Rectory stand slightly apart from the rest of the village, on higher ground to the south-east. Most of the buildings lie beside the unmade road south-west of Rollestone Manor, which stands at the junction of that road with the main road. Since the Second World War the village of Shrewton has extended along the Warminster—Amesbury road to the former boundary and in 1978 Rollestone, like Elston, in Orcheston St. George, and Maddington, both north of Shrewton, formed part of the larger settlement. In the early 19th century there were farm buildings on the down east and west of the Salisbury—Devizes road. (fn. 15) By 1877 the buildings west of the road had become known as Middle Farm. (fn. 16) A single-storey farm-house was built in the 20th century. Rollestone Bake Farm, east of the road, was first mentioned by name in 1899. (fn. 17) It was part of the property purchased for the Army in 1902 and then consisted of cottages and outbuildings. In 1978 a late19th-century barn and a stockyard were still used.
Much of the downland in the north-east part of the parish has been used by the Army or Air Force since the early 20th century. In 1926 there were firing ranges near the boundary with Figheldean, (fn. 18) and the area east of the old Salisbury-Devizes road and north of the Shrewton-Durrington road has since been used by the Royal School of Artillery at Larkhill. The Royal Flying Corps took possession of over 50 a. west of the old Salisbury—Devizes road opposite Rollestone Bake Farm under an emergency land hiring agreement in 1916. The station established there, No. 1 Balloon School, provided instruction in the use of kite balloons for the British Expeditionary Force. (fn. 19) The R.A.F. School of Balloon Training, as it was called in 1920, was the only one in England between 1926 and 1935 and was run in co-operation with the Royal Artillery and the Royal Navy. (fn. 20) Known in 1929 as Larkhill Kite Balloon Station and in 1932 as the R.A.F. Balloon Centre, it was renamed No. 2 Balloon Training Unit in 1936 when balloon stations were established elsewhere. In 1939 it was replaced by the R.A.F. Anti-Gas School which remained at Rollestone until 1945. There was then a landing ground, approximately 1.3 km. by 400 m., south-east of the track from the village to Middle Farm. The staff was reduced to a care and maintenance party in 1945 and the R.A.F. withdrew from the camp in 1946. (fn. 21) In 1978 Rollestone Camp was used by the Salisbury Plain (Training) Camp Staff. (fn. 22)
Manor and other Estate.
In 1066 and 1086 Cudulf held lands then said to be in Winterbourne which have been identified as those of the later manor of ROLLESTONE. (fn. 23) Roger de Quency, earl of Winchester (d. 1264), had an estate in Rollestone in 1242–3. (fn. 24) In 1275 it was held by his three daughters and coheirs and when the inheritance was divided in 1277 was allotted to Elizabeth or Isabel, wife of Alexander Comyn, earl of Buchan. (fn. 25) Rollestone was not afterwards named among the Buchan estates and in 1344 the manor was held by Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex (d. 1361). (fn. 26) It is not clear how the earl acquired the manor: it may have passed with Netheravon manor in the portion of Margaret or Margery de Ferrers, countess of Derby, daughter of Roger de Quency. (fn. 27) Although not expressly mentioned among the Hereford estates acquired by Henry, earl of Derby, in 1384 or at the repartitioning of the Bohun inheritance in 1421, (fn. 28) the manor was, like Netheravon, held by the king as part of the duchy of Lancaster in 1428. (fn. 29)
The first of several intermediate tenants in 1242–3 was Ernis de Neville (d. 1257), who was succeeded by his son Gilbert (d. 1294), and grandson John Neville (d. 1334). (fn. 30) John's son Gilbert held of the earl of Hereford in 1344, the last occasion on which the family is known to have held land in Rollestone. (fn. 31)
The tenant of the manor in demesne in 1242–3 was Nicholas of Rollestone. (fn. 32) By 1275 his son William had inherited, (fn. 33) and in 1294 Joan and Christine, daughters of Walter of Rollestone, conveyed lands in Rollestone to a trustee. (fn. 34) A holding in Rollestone was confirmed by Nicholas Lambard in 1325 to another Nicholas of Rollestone and Catherine his wife. (fn. 35) Their son Henry, rector of Orcheston St. Mary, perhaps disposed of the holding as he did the family's possessions at Eastcott in Urchfont in 1363. (fn. 36) In 1369 the manor was granted by John Littlecote to Henry Fleming and his wife Joan for the term of her life with reversion to Michael Skilling and Alice his wife and their heirs. (fn. 37) It descended with the manor of Shoddesden in Kimpton (Hants) to the Skillings' grandson John Skilling, (fn. 38) whose daughter Elizabeth, wife of John Wynnard, conveyed it to John Wydeslade and William Estecote in 1465. (fn. 39) The estate was later forfeited, for a reason that is not known, and in 1483 or 1484 a royal grant of the manor, said to have been held by Thomas Milbourne, was made to John Cawmfield. (fn. 40) In 1508 it was settled on a relative of Elizabeth Wynnard, John Skilling (d. 1526) of Draycot Fitz Payne in Wilcot. (fn. 41) John was succeeded by his son Walter, then a minor. (fn. 42) At his marriage in 1556 the manor was settled on Walter's son William. (fn. 43) In 1566 the Skillings sold it to Giles Estcourt, recorder of Salisbury and M.P. for the city between 1563 and 1587. (fn. 44)
Estcourt (d. 1587) was succeeded by his son Sir Edward (d. 1608) and grandson Sir Giles Estcourt (created a baronet in 1627, d. 1668). The manor passed in turn to each of Sir Giles's surviving children, none of whom left issue: to Giles (d. 1675), William (d. 1684), Amy (d. 1696) wife of Alexander Haddon, and Anne (d. 1704). (fn. 45) Anne devised Rollestone to a cousin, Edmund Estcourt, with remainder to Walter Estcourt of Shipton Moyne (Glos.), also her cousin and perhaps Edmund's elder brother. (fn. 46) Although Edmund lived until 1717 the manor was immediately on Anne's death occupied by Walter, either as tenant or in his own right. (fn. 47) On Walter's death in 1726 Rollestone passed with Shipton Moyne to his cousins Thomas Estcourt (d. 1746) and Edmund Estcourt (d. 1758) in turn. Edmund devised his entire estate to a kinsman, another Thomas Estcourt, (fn. 48) who sold the manor in 1791 to Nathaniel Dance, later Sir Nathaniel Holland (d. 1811), the portrait-painter and foundation member of the Royal Academy. (fn. 49) By the will of Nathaniel's widow Harriett (d. 1825) it passed to her nephew Robert Brudenell, earl of Cardigan. (fn. 50)
In 1827 Lord Cardigan sold the manor, which then included nearly the whole parish, to the Revd. Samuel Heathcote. (fn. 51) In 1847 it passed to Heathcote's son William in trust for William's children. At William's death in 1882 it was divided between his son Samuel and four daughters or their heirs. (fn. 52) Samuel occupied the manor until his death in 1886, holding a fifth in his own right, a fifth by a conveyance of 1883 from his sister Catherine, and a third of a fifth by another conveyance of that year from George William Heathcote, son of his sister Eliza. (fn. 53) He held the rest of the estate on lease from George William's siblings, from his sister Maria Wyndham, and from the children of his sister Sophia Walsh. (fn. 54) After Samuel's death mismanagement of the estate led to a suit in Chancery to secure the portions of Sophia's children Henry and Sophia Walsh. (fn. 55) The court ordered the sale of the manor in 1902. The Secretary of State for War purchased 265 a. of downland east of the Salisbury—Devizes road, (fn. 56) and the remainder was sold to T. W. Pratt. (fn. 57) In 1931 and 1932 the Air Ministry bought a further 57 a. of downland from Pratt. (fn. 58) The Ministry of Defence still held 130 ha. (321 a.) in 1978. What remained of the manor was acquired in 1932 by G. R. Smith. After Smith's death in 1972 Middle farm was sold and the rest of the estate, c. 300 a., passed to his widow Mrs. Janetta R. Smith. Middle farm was sold again in 1978. (fn. 59)
Rollestone Manor was built in the later 18th century. The 16th-century structural timbers and panelling which have been re-used in the house may have been taken from its predecessor which appears to have been completely demolished. The new house was of stone and flint but was given a new entrance front of red brick early in the 19th century. It was extended westwards in 1839. (fn. 60) The farm buildings are of the 19th century and include a timber-framed barn and a weatherboarded granary.
Services from tenants in Rollestone belonged to the manor of Norton Bavant granted as part of the estate of Roger Bavant to the prioress of Dartford (Kent) in 1362. (fn. 61) At the Dissolution 2 virgates in Rollestone and Maddington passed from the priory to the Crown. (fn. 62) The later descent of the holding has not been traced.
In 1084 Cudulf's demesne lands were assessed at 5½ hides and ½ virgate. (fn. 63) In 1086 his whole estate of 6 hides was worth £3 and included land for 3 ploughs, 4 a. of meadow, and ½league of pasture. There were 2 ploughs on the demesne and 1 held by 5 serfs, 1 villein, and 2 bordars. (fn. 64)
In the late 16th century Giles Estcourt and his tenants claimed rights to common grazing for their cattle on Net down and certain meadows in Shrewton. (fn. 65) The size of the tenants' holdings is not known, but they were presumably small since in the early 18th century the demesne was the one substantial farm in the parish. (fn. 66) In 1827 the few cottagers in the village and other tenants from Shrewton and Maddington held only 12 a. between them. (fn. 67) Because of the accumulation of land into a single farm, no inclosure award was necessary to end common cultivation in the greater part of the parish.
Throughout the 18th century and in the early 19th Rollestone farm was worked by tenants, although rarely by the same family for more than a generation. (fn. 68) No lease has been found of a date later than 1833 and by 1882 the Heathcotes occupied the farm themselves. (fn. 69) In 1838 it measured 820 a. including 458 a. of arable and 362 a. of pasture and watered meadow. Most of the pasture was on the down east of the Salisbury-Devizes road, except for a few strips of glebe near the north-west boundary and 4 a. beside Rollestone Manor. (fn. 70) The area of arable may have been increased later by burnbaking the down pasture, as the name of Rollestone Bake Farm implies. (fn. 71) In 1894 Rollestone Bake and Middle Farms were additional farmsteads from which Rollestone farm was worked. (fn. 72) In 1902 both had barns and cottages and there were also stables at Middle Farm. (fn. 73) Shortly before the Royal Flying Corps took possession of the site of Rollestone Camp in 1916 the area had been inclosed for wintering cattle. (fn. 74) In 1978 Middle farm consisted of 190 a. of downland. Rollestone Manor farm was worked by a tenant from the yards adjacent to the manorhouse. (fn. 75)
No record has been found of a private view of frankpledge for Rollestone or of the manor court. There is similarly no evidence of parish government before Rollestone joined Amesbury poor-law union in 1835. (fn. 76)
A church at Rollestone, mentioned in 1291, (fn. 77) was apparently built in the earlier 13th century. The prior of the order of St. John of Jerusalem in England presented to the rectory at least from 1302 until the advowson passed to the Crown at the Dissolution. (fn. 78) The only known exception was in 1471 when the bishop collated by lapse. (fn. 79) In 1923 the rectory was united with the adjacent living to form the benefice of Shrewton with Maddington and Rollestone. The right of presentation at every third turn was retained by the Crown, (fn. 80) and in 1958 the Crown became sole patron after an exchange with the bishop of Salisbury. (fn. 81) The three parishes were united in 1970, (fn. 82) and in 1972 the name of the living was changed to Shrewton. (fn. 83)
The rectory had an annual value of £4 6s. 8d. in 1291, one of only two livings in the deanery of Wylye with revenues of less than £5. (fn. 84) The assessments of £7 18s. in 1535 and £40 in 1650 were still low by comparison with other benefices of the deanery and hundred. (fn. 85) By the 19th century, however, the rector's income was relatively good, in view of the size of the parish. Between 1829 and 1831 he received an average of £150 a year. (fn. 86) Most of that came from tithes, which were due to the rector from the whole parish. (fn. 87) Payment in kind had ceased by the early 19th century and in 1839 a yearly rent-charge was substituted for the tithes, then valued at £170. (fn. 88) In 1341 the 6 a. of glebe were worth 6s. 8d. a year. (fn. 89) In 1838 the glebe, c. 5 a., included arable and pasture scattered about the western part of the parish. (fn. 90) A rectory-house was built in the late 17th century and probably replaced in the 18th. In 1835 and 1864 the house was described as unfit for residence. (fn. 91) From 1877 to 1922 it was probably occupied by the rector but since 1923 the incumbent of the united benefice has lived at Shrewton. (fn. 92) The small 18th-century rectory-house of flint and stone was sold in 1944 and later extended to the north. (fn. 93)
Few rectors resided at Rollestone. In 1303 Andrew of Tothale, rector 1301–14, was licensed to study at Oxford for 2 years. (fn. 94) There is evidence that the living was farmed and a curate employed in the mid and late 16th century. In 1556 a proprietor, a term which presumably indicated a lessee of the rectory estate, was ordered with the parishioners to replace furnishings in the church, and in 1584 the lack of quarterly sermons was blamed on Giles Estcourt, lord of the manor and probably also a lessee. (fn. 95) In 1644 James White, who held a second parish and a prebend at Salisbury, was sequestered from the rectory. (fn. 96) He was replaced by George Hadfield, a presbyterian, who was said to have preached twice every Sunday at Rollestone. (fn. 97) In 1674 the minister was described as very careful in the performance of his duties, (fn. 98) but pluralism and non-residence again became usual until the late 19th century. Only two absentee rectors are known to have employed curates. White did so in 1639, and in 1864, when the rector was vicar of Andover and a Fellow of Winchester College, his curate was also non-resident. (fn. 99)
From the later 18th century Holy Communion was celebrated four times a year, a practice which continued into the 20th century. (fn. 100) In 1783 attendance at the Sunday service, held alternately in the morning and the afternoon, was unreliable and the children failed to attend for catechism. (fn. 101) In 1851 the congregation was said to be three times the population of the parish. (fn. 102) A more cautious estimate of 1864 suggested that average attendance was between 40 and 150, depending on the weather and the presence of worshippers from other parishes. (fn. 103)
The church of ST. ANDREW, whose dedication cannot be traced before the mid 19th century, (fn. 104) is faced with flint and stone and has a chancel and nave with south porch. Reset lancet windows in the chancel indicate that it was built in the earlier 13th century and the small nave may be of the same date. The font is also early-13th-century. Later windows in the nave are to the west, probably 14th-century, to the north, 15th-century, and to the south, early16th-century. The nave was reroofed in the 16th century and of the 17th-century fittings the communion table and font cover remain. In 1845 the chancel and chancel arch were apparently rebuilt, much of the nave refaced, and the porch added. (fn. 105)
There is one bell of c. 1860. (fn. 106) In 1553 2 oz. of plate were confiscated for the king's use. (fn. 107) A chalice and cover of 1576 were still held by the church in 1978, but nothing was then known of a paten of 1694 which was said in 1891 to belong to the parish. (fn. 108) The registers begin in 1654 but do not cover the years 1714–1812. (fn. 109)
In 1669 a considerable number of dissenters met at Rollestone under the leadership of John Read of Porton, in Idmiston, one of several Baptist teachers in the area. (fn. 110) Nothing more is known of that conventicle and there was no further report of nonconformity in the parish.
There is no evidence of a school in the parish. Children from Rollestone attended schools in Shrewton and Maddington in 1858 and in Shrewton in 1870. (fn. 111) In 1978 the children still attended Shrewton school. (fn. 112)
Charity for the Poor.
By will proved 1704 Anne Estcourt gave an annual rent-charge of £30 from property in Long Newnton (now Glos.), Rollestone, and Shrewton to apprentice six poor boys from those parishes each year. In 1827 the purchasers of Rollestone manor were exempted from payment of the rent-charge which continued to be borne by the Estcourt estate. The donor left no instruction for the management of the charity and the provisions were not given effect until 1711. In that year the Commissioners for Charitable Uses decreed that the rent-charge and the arrears should be divided equally between the three parishes, an arrangement very favourable to the small population of Rollestone. The trustees appointed for each parish were to buy land with the arrears. No purchase was made by the Rollestone trustees and in 1791 the rent-charge of £10 was said to be insufficient for two apprenticeships a year. (fn. 113) The charity was rarely used in the early 19th century. After 1833 the accumulated surplus was reinvested to provide one apprenticeship each year. There was a scarcity of candidates from Rollestone and by 1900 most of those who benefited came from Shrewton, although there is no evidence that the restriction to Rollestone was formally abolished. In 1871 the trustees contributed, £200 towards the enlargement of Shrewton school but permission for a further donation of £50 was refused by the Charity Commissioners in 1904. (fn. 114) The apprenticing charities of Shrewton and Rollestone were combined by a Scheme of 1910. Money not spent on apprenticeships was thereafter used to help boys attending Dauntsey's agricultural school. A further Scheme of 1919 allowed contributions to any form of training for poor children of the two parishes. In 1963 the yearly income of the combined charities was £80. (fn. 115)