Selkley hundred

Pages 62-66

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 12, Ramsbury and Selkley Hundreds; the Borough of Marlborough. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1983.

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Selkley hundred as constituted in 1841 comprised nine complete ancient parishes and five tithings in other parishes. The complete parishes were Aldbourne, Avebury including the tithings of Beckhampton and West Kennett, East Kennett, Mildenhall including the tithings of Poulton and Stitchcombe, Ogbourne St. Andrew including the tithings of Ogbourne Maizey and Rockley, Ogbourne St. George, Preshute including the tithings of Elcot, Clatford, Manton, Langdon Wick, and Temple Rockley, Winterbourne Bassett including the tithing of Richardson, and Winterbourne Monkton. The tithings in other parishes were Broad Hinton in Broad Hinton parish, West Overton, Lockeridge, and Shaw in Overton parish, and Catcomb in Hilmarton parish. (fn. 1) This volume contains the history of Broad Hinton parish because the parish church was in Broad Hinton tithing. Apart from that tithing the parish contained Uffcott and Bincknoll tithings in Blackgrove, later Kingsbridge, hundred, and part of Broad Town tithing in Kingsbridge hundred. The histories of the whole tithing of Broad Town and of the civil parish of Broad Town created in 1884 from that and part of Bincknoll tithing have been given with that of Clyffe Pypard. (fn. 2) Accounts of West Overton, Lockeridge, and Shaw have been given under Overton. (fn. 3) Catcomb was in Selkley hundred because it was part of Avebury manor from the 12th century until the 17th, (fn. 4) though it has not been found recorded as part of Selkley hundred before 1736; (fn. 5) its history is dealt with under Hilmarton. (fn. 6)

Estates at Avebury, Beckhampton, West Kennett, Broad Hinton, Uffcott, East Kennett, Mildenhall, Poulton, Ogbourne including lands later in Ogbourne St. Andrew and Ogbourne St. George, Rockley, East Overton, West Overton, Fyfield, Lockeridge, Shaw, Preshute, Clatford, Manton, Winterbourne Bassett, Rabson, Stanmore, and Winterbourne Monkton were in the hundred in 1084. (fn. 7) The tithings of East Overton and Fyfield in Overton were detached from the hundred in the early 13th century. (fn. 8) Aldbourne may have been in Thornhill hundred in 1084 and Stitchcombe was then in Kinwardstone hundred: both were in Selkley hundred in 1242–3. (fn. 9) Although then geographically at its centre, the king's estate in Preshute parish was not part of the hundred in the 13th century and earlier. It consisted of the tithings of Elcot and Langdon Wick, the king's tithing of Manton, and possibly the tithing of Temple Rockley, and was called the honor of Marlborough and hundred of the barton. (fn. 10) As Elcot tithing all those tithings were in Selkley hundred in the later 18th century. (fn. 11)

The hundred was on the Marlborough Downs and surrounded Marlborough. The later addition Aldbourne protruded on the north-east and Berwick Bassett parish in Calne hundred intruded on the west. The river Kennet and its tributary the Og divided the downs into three chalk masses overlain on the heights by clay-withflints. Hackpen Hill, the wide and steep north-west scarp face of the downs, overlooks an extensive semicircular terrace of Lower Chalk. The Kennet flows south through Broad Hinton, Winterbourne Bassett, Winterbourne Monkton, and Avebury where, south of the London-Bath road, it turns east. The Og, which took its name from the settlements of Ogbourne St. Andrew, Ogbourne St. George, and Ogbourne Maizey, flows southwards into it on the Marlborough-Mildenhall boundary. Nearly all settlement in the hundred has been in the valleys of the Kennet and its tributaries. Except south of the Kennet in Mildenhall there was little woodland in the area in 1982. Selkley hundred was an agricultural area where a sheep-and-corn economy typical of downland has always predominated. There was additionally some industry at Aldbourne where fustians were manufactured and bells founded. Warrens were maintained on tracts of rough downland in Preshute and Aldbourne. In the 19th and 20th centuries racehorses have been trained on the downs, chiefly at Beckhampton, Manton, Ogbourne Maizey, and Rockley, and in the 20th century at Hightown in Aldbourne. (fn. 12)

There has been settlement, probably continuous, on the land of the hundred from prehistoric times. Avebury may have been an important cult centre in the Neolithic Period and Bronze Age. Silbury Hill south of Avebury and the mound which formed the motte of Marlborough Castle were both raised beside the Kennet in prehistoric times. The Roman town of Cunetio stood south of the Kennet in Black Field southeast of Mildenhall village. Of the many prehistoric tracks which cross the hundred, the Ridge Way ran north-east across Hackpen Hill, and Harepath Way was part of the main road from Devizes through the Winterbournes to Swindon in 1982. Cunetio, upon which several Roman roads converged, was afterwards replaced by Marlborough as the focus of routes. That which ran west to Bath and east to London has, in spite of alterations to its course, always been a main road. Ermin Street became a part of the northern boundary of the hundred between 1084 and 1243. (fn. 13)

The hundred belonged to the king and was administered by the constable of Marlborough Castle. (fn. 14) With the borough of Marlborough, the hundred was assigned as dower in 1273 to Queen Eleanor, to whom in 1262 Marlborough Castle and the hundred of the barton had been granted, in 1299 to Queen Margaret, in 1318 to Queen Isabel, who was deprived of it in the years 1324–7, and in 1330 to Queen Philippa, on whose death in 1369 it reverted to the Crown. (fn. 15) In 1403 the reversion was granted to Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, and from 1415 or earlier until 1621 the lordship of Selkley, like that of the borough, descended with the site of Marlborough Castle, from 1621 to 1779 with Barton manor in Preshute, and from 1779 with both. (fn. 16)

In 1255 and 1275 the hundred was worth £10. (fn. 17) It was leased for terms of years at £14 yearly from 1450 or earlier and was still so leased in the earlier 16th century. (fn. 18) In 1525 the profits of waifs, felons' goods, deodands, and treasure trove were expressly excluded from the farm and reserved to the queen. (fn. 19) Cert money paid at the Michaelmas tourn amounted to £3. (fn. 20) Quitrents payable c. 1740 amounted to £10 10s. 2d. (fn. 21)

Selkley hundred c.1841

'Selk', supposedly a place near Woodlands Farm in Mildenhall, is unlikely to have named the hundred. (fn. 22) The name of the hundred seems to have come from Selkley wood, mentioned in the 13th century, near East Overton and Fyfield, (fn. 23) and possibly north of West Woods. In the earlier 16th century pasture for sheep near Lockeridge was called Selkley. (fn. 24) The hundred possibly met at Marlborough Castle in the Middle Ages. From 1781 to 1784 courts met at the Bull inn at Marlborough and from 1785 to 1861 at the Castle and Ball. (fn. 25) There was a hundred constable from 1230 or earlier. (fn. 26) From the 16th century a constable was elected at the Michaelmas views. From 1736 or earlier two constables were elected yearly. (fn. 27) A hundred bailiff was mentioned from 1255. (fn. 28)

The suit owed by the tenants of Aldbourne manor was withdrawn from the hundred courts possibly between 1257 and 1268, (fn. 29) certainly before 1289 when views of frankpledge and other liberties in Aldbourne were claimed. (fn. 30) The abbess of Lacock withdrew the suit of her tenants at Upper Upham c. 1258. (fn. 31) Although the men of Avebury were accustomed to attend hundred courts in 1255, (fn. 32) they claimed in 1275 that their suit had been withdrawn between 1216 and 1272. A tumbrel and gallows may have been used in Avebury from c. 1235. (fn. 33) In 1281 the abbot of Cirencester showed charters issued by Henry I and Henry III to support his claim to view of frankpledge, assize of bread, and infangthief in Avebury manor. (fn. 34) The abbot's right to hold views was confirmed in 1360. (fn. 35) Although Mildenhall was considered exempt from hundred jurisdiction in 1249, (fn. 36) its suit at the hundred courts does not seem to have been finally withdrawn until c. 1260. (fn. 37) The king had a prison at Mildenhall in 1265 (fn. 38) and in 1272–3 James de Audeberg raised a gallows there. (fn. 39) The abbot of Bec-Hellouin (Eure) was granted quittance from suit of shire and hundred and other liberties in Ogbourne St. Andrew and Ogbourne St. George c. 1178. (fn. 40) Under a grant of 1239–40 to William de Cauntelo of quittance from suit of shire and hundred for his men and the right to take view of frankpledge, (fn. 41) the suit of Rockley was withdrawn c. 1252. (fn. 42) In 1275 Selkley was entitled to return writs concerning its affairs addressed to the constable of Marlborough Castle and to hear pleas de vetito namio. (fn. 43) Between 1173 and 1182 Henry II granted to the monks of St. Victor quittance from suit of shire and hundred in their lands, which included Clatford. (fn. 44) After the alien priories were suppressed in 1414 Clatford again followed the hundred. (fn. 45) Manton tithing was a member of the honor of Wallingford (Berks., later Oxon.) and withdrew from Selkley c. 1259. (fn. 46) The men of the abbot of Glastonbury at Winterbourne Monkton apparently withdrew in the early 13th century. A tumbrel and gallows were claimed there in 1275. (fn. 47) In 1280 the abbot was granted return of writs, and other liberties in the early 14th century. (fn. 48)

Although Philip Basset was said to have withdrawn his men of Winterbourne Bassett c. 1260, the tithing attended hundred courts and views from 1481. Similarly, although the suit owed for land at Richardson was withdrawn c. 1245, Richardson tithing followed the hundred from 1481. (fn. 49) Besides those from Winterbourne Bassett and Richardson, tithingmen from Hinton Columbers and Hinton Wase, which from the early 18th century were merged as Hinton or Broad Hinton, Beckhampton, 'Kennett', which from the 18th century and earlier included both East Kennett and West Kennett, West Overton, Shaw, Clatford, Ogbourne Maizey, Rockley, Poulton, and Stitchcombe attended the hundred courts and views from 1481. For unknown reasons tithingmen from Aldbourne attended in 1544, Avebury in 1544 and from 1822, and Elcot from 1775. That part of the liberty of Savernake which afterwards became the civil parish of North Savernake Park was represented between 1784 and 1812. Lockeridge for unknown reasons did not attend in the 17th and 18th centuries and Catcomb was never represented, possibly because Avebury's quittance extended to it. (fn. 50)

Records of views and courts for the hundred survive, with gaps, from the 15th century until 1861. The courts were held, usually every three weeks, on Tuesdays in the 15th and 16th centuries. At the hundred court lists of free suitors were made and the tithingmen presented matters, more properly the concern of the view, such as infringements of the assize of ale and pleas of assault and trespass. The courts may also have heard pleas of debt. In 1577 the tithings were divided into a south-west group made up of Beckhampton, East and West Kennett, West Overton, Clatford, and Shaw, and a north-east group comprising Broad Hinton, Ogbourne Maizey, Rockley, Poulton, and Stitchcombe. Separate courts were held for each group in that year but in 1579 all the tithings again attended the same court. (fn. 51) The views, which were recorded separately, were held twice a year, at Hocktide and Michaelmas, and, in the 16th century, on the same day as the hundred court. (fn. 52) From c. 1600 the hundred courts and views were merged and, called views of frankpledge of the hundred, were biannual. (fn. 53) They were called views of frankpledge with courts baron in the later 17th century and from 1734 courts leet and views of frankpledge. They were held twice a year until 1820, afterwards less often, and from 1844 irregularly. At the views tithingmen were elected at Michaelmas, cert money, afterwards called quitrents, was paid, and matters such as default of suitors, millers who took excessive tolls, and pounds, stocks, bridges, watercourses, hedges, and highways in need of repair were presented by the tithingmen. (fn. 54)


  • 1. Census, 1841.
  • 2. Below, Broad Hinton, introduction; V.C.H. Wilts. ix. 23–43.
  • 3. V.C.H. Wilts. xi. 181–203.
  • 4. Ibid. ix. 57; below, Avebury, local govt.
  • 5. Q. Sess. 1736 (W.R.S. xi), p. 145.
  • 6. V.C.H. Wilts. ix. 49–65.
  • 7. Ibid. ii, pp. 200–1.
  • 8. Ibid. xi. 105.
  • 9. Ibid. ii, p. 200; Bk. of Fees, ii. 748.
  • 10. Below, Preshute, local govt.
  • 11. W.R.O. 9, Selkley hund. ct. bk. 1734–1861.
  • 12. Para. based on introductions and econ. hist. sections of par. hists. below.
  • 13. Para. based on introductions of par. hists. below.
  • 14. Pipe R. 1195 (P.R.S. n.s. vi), 150–1; Cal. Lib. 1226–40, 17, 206; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii (1), 234.
  • 15. Cal. Pat. 1266–72, 737; 1272–81, 27; 1292–1301, 451–4; 1317–21, 115; 1327–30, 556; 1330–4, 55; 1367–70, 301, 452; Cal. Close, 1272–9, 31; M. McKisack, Fourteenth Cent. 81, 97, 102.
  • 16. Below, Preshute, manors.
  • 17. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii (1), 234, 270.
  • 18. e.g. P.R.O., SC 6/1055/19; SC 6/1094/1–2; SC 6/Hen. VII/885; SC 6/Hen. VIII/3805; ibid. DL 29/724/11800–1.
  • 19. Ibid. E 326/6379.
  • 20. Ibid. DL 30/127/1908.
  • 21. W.R.O. 9, survey bk. of Selkley hund. etc. 1734–, pp. 239–43.
  • 22. W.A.M. x. 306; below, Mildenhall, introduction.
  • 23. Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), ii. 52, 94; Cal. Chart. R. 1300–26, 1; P.R.O., JUST 1/1005, rot. 117d.; P.N. Wilts. (E.P.N.S.), pp. xl, 291.
  • 24. P.R.O., C 1/1082/31.
  • 25. W.R.O. 9, Selkley hund. ct. bk. 1734–1861.
  • 26. Pipe R. 1230 (P.R.S. n.s. iv), 3.
  • 27. W.R.O. 192/12C; 9, Selkley hund. ct. bk. 1734–1861; Q. Sess. 1736 (W.R.S. xi), p. 89.
  • 28. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii (1), 240; P.R.O., DL 30/127/1908; Hist. MSS. Com. 58, Bath, iv, p. 207.
  • 29. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii (1), 270; for the date Complete Peerage, vii. 681–2; xi. 384.
  • 30. P.R.O., JUST 1/1011, rot. 47d.
  • 31. Ibid. JUST 1/998A, rot. 27d.
  • 32. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii (1), 234.
  • 33. Ibid. 270.
  • 34. P.R.O., JUST 1/1005, rot. 119d.
  • 35. Cirencester Cart. ed. C. D. Ross and M. Devine, ii, pp. 353–7.
  • 36. Crown Pleas, 1249 (W.R.S. xvi), pp. 62, 224.
  • 37. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii (1), 270.
  • 38. Close R. 1264–8, 69.
  • 39. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii (1), 270.
  • 40. A. A. Poree, Histoire de l' Abbaye du Bec, i. 471–3.
  • 41. P.R.O., JUST 1/1005, rot. 119d.
  • 42. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii (1), 234.
  • 43. Ibid. 270.
  • 44. Cal. Chart. R. 1327–41, 67–8.
  • 45. Below, Preshute, manors; P.R.O., DL 30/127/1908; W.R.O. 192/12a–k; 9, Selkley hund. ct. bk. 1734–1861.
  • 46. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii (1), 263.
  • 47. Ibid. 234, 270.
  • 48. Cal. Chart. R. 1327–41, 260; B.L. Eg. MS. 3321, f. 251.
  • 49. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii (1), 234, 270; P.R.O., DL 30/ 127/1908; W.R.O. 192/12a–k; 9, Selkley hund. ct. bk. 1734–1861.
  • 50. P.R.O., DL 30/127/1908; W.R.O. 192/12a–k; 9, Selkley hund. ct. bk. 1734–1861.
  • 51. P.R.O., DL 30/127/1908; W.R.O. 192/12a–b; 192/12E.
  • 52. P.R.O., DL 30/127/1908; W.R.O. 192/12A; 192/12c–d; 192/12f.
  • 53. W.R.O. 192/12g–j.
  • 54. Ibid. 192/12k; 9, Selkley hund. ct. bk. 1734–1861.