A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 16, Kinwardstone Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1999.
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Until c. 1240 Hippenscombe, consisting of a deep east-west coomb and a northern tributary coomb, lay in Savernake forest. From c. 1240 the north part lay in Savernake forest and the south part in Chute forest, and from 1330 the whole was a detached part of Chute forest. (fn. 1) Hippenscombe was extra-parochial, its inhabitants relieved their own poor, and, possibly under the Relief of the Poor in Extra-parochial Places Act of 1857, it was deemed a civil parish. It remained a civil parish until 1894, (fn. 2) when it was added to Tidcombe and Fosbury parish. (fn. 3)
Hippenscombe's boundary on the north and south ran along the top of the steep sides of the coombs. On the south it followed a ditch; on the north, part of it was marked by the Iron-Age hill fort in Fosbury. On the east the boundary crosses the contours to exclude the lower end of the coomb. All Hippenscombe's land lies on chalk, and each coomb is now dry; the river which cut the main coomb, the floor of which is now called Hippenscombe bottom, deposited a small amount of gravel. (fn. 4) Near the boundary on the north the land reaches 260 m., on the south boundary 245 m.; on the eastern boundary Hippenscombe bottom lies at c. 150 m. Grim's ditch, which marks the boundary on the south, is probably prehistoric, and prehistoric field systems have been identified on the high ground on either side of Hippenscombe bottom. (fn. 5)
The population of Hippenscombe numbered 47 in 1801. For reasons that are obscure it had fallen to 21 by 1811 and risen to 40 by 1821 and to 58 by 1831. At 59 it reached its peak in 1841. From 1871 to 1891 it fell from 57 to 35. (fn. 6)
Four sites of settlement are known, three of them in Hippenscombe bottom. A lodge was standing in the earlier 16th century. (fn. 7) A building which in 1707 was called the lodge or dwelling house of Hippenscombe farm probably stood on its site. (fn. 8) The most likely site of both is that of a farmstead called Hippenscombe at which a notable house was standing in 1773. (fn. 9) In 1955 that house was said to be ruinous, (fn. 10) and it was later demolished. In 1848 there were extensive farm buildings around it and a pair of cottages stood north of it. The cottages were apparently derelict in 1923 and were demolished later; a farm building of flint and apparently early 19thcentury was converted to cottages probably soon after 1923 (fn. 11) and was a house in 1998. Two bungalows and a house were built in the 20th century, and in 1998 most of the farm buildings were 20th-century.
Another possible site of the 16th-century lodge and the early 18th-century house is that of buildings which stood south-west of Hippenscombe farmstead in 1773. (fn. 12) A new farmstead was built there, probably c. 1830, and in 1834 and until 1899 or later a terrace of six cottages there was called the Great House. (fn. 13) The farmyard apparently went out of use between 1879 and 1899 and was later demolished; Great House was apparently ruinous in 1923 (fn. 14) and was later demolished.
Blagden Farm, later called Blackdown Farm, was built in Hippenscombe bottom west of Great House between 1773 and 1817. (fn. 15) In 1849 it consisted of a house and a barn, (fn. 16) in 1929 of a thatched house with walls of flint and brick and several small farm buildings. (fn. 17) The farmstead was in ruins in 1957 (fn. 18) and was afterwards demolished.
On the downland west of Hippenscombe bottom where several parishes met and several tracks joined the Roman road, a place called Scott Poor in 1773, (fn. 19) later Scot's Poor, a thatched cottage with walls of flint and brick was built in the 18th century and survived in 1998. In 1822 it was an alehouse called the Bell, from 1827 the Blue Bell. (fn. 20) It was closed in 1914. (fn. 21)
As part of Savernake forest and later of Chute forest the land of Hippenscombe parish belonged to the Crown in the Middle Ages. (fn. 22)
In 1544 HIPPENSCOMBE, apparently c. 90 per cent of the parish, was granted to an agent of Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford (fn. 23) (cr. duke of Somerset 1547), on whose execution and attainder in 1552 (fn. 24) it passed to the Crown. In 1553 it was assigned by Act to Somerset's son Sir Edward (fn. 25) (cr. earl of Hertford 1559, d. 1621), (fn. 26) and from then to 1827 the estate descended in the Seymour, Bruce, Brudenell, and Brudenell-Bruce families with Tottenham Lodge and Tottenham House in Great Bedwyn. (fn. 27) In 1827 Charles Brudenell-Bruce, marquess of Ailesbury, sold it to William Fulbrook (fn. 28) (d. by 1834), (fn. 29) who owned it until 1831 or later. (fn. 30) It was offered for sale by mortgagees (fn. 31) and bought, probably from them in 1834, by James Wheble (d. 1840). Wheble devised it to his son E. J. Wheble (fn. 32) (d. by 1863), (fn. 33) who in 1848 owned it as an estate of 825 a. (fn. 34) In 1879 E. J. Wheble's executors sold the estate to Edward Bates (fn. 35) (from 1896 Sir Edward Bates, Bt., d. 1899), (fn. 36) whose representatives held it in 1903. By 1907 the estate had been acquired by F. W. Lillywhite, who held it until 1911 or later. (fn. 37) In 1922 it was offered for sale by mortgagees (fn. 38) and may have been bought by A. W. Crawford. (fn. 39) From the late 1920s to the mid 1930s it belonged to members of the Stephens family, (fn. 40) from c. 1936 to 1949 to A. J. Hosier. (fn. 41) In 1955 it was bought by John Cherrington, who in 1962 sold it to his son Daniel Cherrington. (fn. 42) In 1998, as Hippenscombe farm, it belonged to Mr. Anders Bergengren. (fn. 43)
Part of Chute forest called BLAGDEN, c. 10 per cent of Hippenscombe parish, was granted by the Crown in 1632 to Sir William Russell, Bt., who in 1633 conveyed it to the lessee Sir Edward Wardour. Also in 1633 Wardour sold it to William Seymour, earl of Hertford. (fn. 44) From 1633 to c. 1929 Blagden descended in the Seymour, Bruce, Brudenell, and Brudenell-Bruce families with Tottenham Lodge and Tottenham House, until 1827 also with Hippenscombe. (fn. 45) In 1849 it consisted of Blagden (later Blackdown) farm and the Blue Bell at Scot's Poor, a total of 89 a. (fn. 46) In 1929 it was offered for sale by George Brudenell-Bruce, marquess of Ailesbury. (fn. 47) Blackdown farm, c. 80 a., was sold by Lady (Eleanor) Yarrow to Friend Sykes c. 1936, has since been part of the Chantry estate based in Chute parish, and in 1998 belonged to Mr. Michael Sykes. (fn. 48)
The tithes of Savernake forest were taken by Salisbury cathedral from the 12th century, as those of Chute forest probably were, (fn. 49) and the cathedral owned the tithes of the Hippenscombe estate. (fn. 50) In 1848 those tithes were valued at £132 and commuted. (fn. 51)
For reasons which are obscure the tithes of Blagden were not part of the cathedral's estate. In 1848 they belonged to Charles, marquess of Ailesbury, were valued at £12, and were commuted. (fn. 52)
Land at Hippenscombe had been inclosed by the Crown by 1343 and was thereafter managed as a park in which deer were kept and grass was mown for hay. (fn. 53) The park was presumably what later descended as the Hippenscombe estate. (fn. 54) The estate was said to contain 314 a. of woodland in 1544, 450 a. of woodland and 250 a. of pasture in 1586, (fn. 55) and a warren in the 1630s. Until 1633 it was kept in hand (fn. 56) and presumably used for sport and as a source of rabbits and timber.
In 1633 the Hippenscombe estate was leased as a farm, and the tenant undertook to destroy the rabbits. In the 1640s, however, the rabbits multiplied, and those killed in 1657 were worth c. £130. The woodland was much damaged by the rabbits, many trees were felled, and some coppices were grubbed up for arable; in the late 17th century there was said to be little woodland standing on the farm. In 1693 the farmer was licensed to clear rabbits from and to plough 250 a., and authority was given for a 16-a. coppice to be grubbed up; sheep-and-corn husbandry was practised, and in 1695 a flock of 160 ewes was kept. In 1702 the farmer was licensed to clear rabbits from and to plough a further 220 a., and he covenanted to plough no more than 400 a. a year. In 1709 it was estimated that Hippenscombe farm comprised 600 a. of arable, 15 a. of meadows, 40 a. of pastures, 15 a. of wood, and 160 a., presumably steep downland, considered more suitable for feeding sheep than preserving rabbits. (fn. 57)
In 1834 Hippenscombe farm, 825 a., included two farmsteads, 530 a. of arable, 34 a. of meadows, 21 a. of woodland, and, on the high ground on the north and south, 226 a. of downland pasture. (fn. 58) It remained a sheep-and-corn farm in 1867, when it had c. 600 a. of arable and temporary grassland, c. 200 a. of permanent pasture, a flock of c. 1,000 sheep, and a herd of pigs. (fn. 59) By 1886 much of the arable had been laid to grass and a herd of c. 100 cattle was kept in addition to sheep and pigs. (fn. 60) In the early 20th century the farm was used to rear game birds. (fn. 61) In the 1930s it contained no arable, (fn. 62) from c. 1936 to 1949 was used to rear cattle, and in 1955 was largely unproductive. (fn. 63) In 1998 Hippenscombe farm was an arable, cattle, and poultry farm.
In 1632 Blagden was described as waste land. (fn. 64) In the late 18th century or early 19th a farmstead was built on it, (fn. 65) and in 1849 the land was an 85-a. farm, later called Blackdown farm, which included 77 a. of arable and 7 a. of woodland. (fn. 66) In 1929 Blackdown farm was apparently a dairy farm and included the farmstead, 2 a. of woodland, 21 a. of arable, and 51 a. of pasture in Tidcombe and Fosbury parish, and 5 a. of rough pasture in Chute parish. (fn. 67) From c. 1936 and in 1998, when it was used to produce seeds and for sheep rearing, that land was part of a large farm based in Chute parish. (fn. 68)
Of the woodland which in 1834 stood on Hippenscombe farm 17 a. stood as Cleves copse. (fn. 69) Most of the 7 a. of woodland on Blackdown farm was cleared in the mid 19th century. (fn. 70) In the 20th century part of Cleves copse was cleared and trees were allowed to grow in several other places, especially on the high ground on the south; (fn. 71) in 1998 there was c. 35 a. of woodland.
Hippenscombe spent £13 on the relief of its poor in 1775-6, an average of £5 in the three years ending at Easter 1785. In 1802-3 eight adults and nine children were relieved regularly, three people occasionally; £54 was spent and the poor rate, at 6d., was very low. (fn. 72) Expenditure had risen to £73 by 1812-13 and fallen to £26 by 1814-15. (fn. 73) In the early 1830s no poor rate was levied. (fn. 74) By 1864 Hippenscombe had joined Hungerford poor-law union. (fn. 75) As part of Tidcombe and Fosbury parish it became part of Kennet district in 1974. (fn. 76)