Page 1

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 13, South-West Wiltshire: Chalke and Dunworth Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1987.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.



Chalke and Dunworth hundreds are in south-west Wiltshire on the Dorset border. The parishes of Chalke hundred were united by being part of Wilton abbey's estate before the Norman Conquest, but most of the hundred is homogeneous. Long and narrow parishes lie north and south across the river Ebble and are characterized by extensive chalk downs. Until farmsteads were built on the downs in the 19th century, nearly all settlement was in small riverside villages. From the Reformation to the 19th century the earls of Pembroke owned most of the eastern parishes. Sheep-and-corn husbandry and more recently arable and dairy farming was the pattern of agriculture in all the parishes except Semley where there is a remarkable survival of common pastures. Some of the churches, including Alvediston and Bower Chalke, became parish churches only late in the Middle Ages, and there is a long history in Chalke hundred of churches served in pairs or groups by their incumbents or curates. Dunworth hundred is largely in the Vale of Wardour, and land in most of its parishes belonged to the Barons Arundell of Wardour as successors to Shaftesbury abbey. It is an area of broken landscape and mixed farming in which only Tisbury has grown larger than an ordinary village. Except at Tisbury, there has been little manufacturing in the area, but Portland stone has been extensively quarried at Chilmark, Teffont Evias, and Tisbury, and greensand stone has been quarried at the Donheads. Partly because of its stone, Dunworth hundred is notable for its secular buildings. The castle at Wardour is the only one to survive in Wiltshire; Fonthill Abbey in Fonthill Gifford was the most remarkable house of its day in England. Among the many farmhouses of local stone which survive from the Middle Ages is Place Farm at Tisbury, which was frequently visited by the abbess of Shaftesbury and has the largest medieval barn in England. After the Reformation, Roman Catholicism flourished in the hundred under the patronage of the Barons Arundell whose 18th-century house, Wardour Castle, incorporates a lavish chapel.

Except for Sedgehill parish and part of Donhead St. Mary parish both hundreds are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty: the exceptions are in a Special Landscape Area.