Calne Hundred

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 17, Calne. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.

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, 'Calne Hundred', in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 17, Calne, (London, 2002) pp. 3-8. British History Online [accessed 21 May 2024].

. "Calne Hundred", in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 17, Calne, (London, 2002) 3-8. British History Online, accessed May 21, 2024,

. "Calne Hundred", A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 17, Calne, (London, 2002). 3-8. British History Online. Web. 21 May 2024,

In this section


In the 10th century and possibly earlier the king held a large estate called Calne, (fn. 1) and Calne hundred apparently originated as that estate imbued with the administrative and judicial functions of a hundred. The hundred was assessed at 91 hides in 1084. (fn. 2) It is not known to have met anywhere but at Calne.

The early boundary of the king's estate was not recited, its hidage was not assessed, (fn. 3) and by 1086 much of it had apparently been granted away. (fn. 4) Obvious features may have marked three quarters of the boundary. On the south it apparently followed the east-west line of either the Roman road between London and Bath or the road which was the main London-Bath road until the 18th century, (fn. 5) on the east it may have followed the roughly north-south line linking summits in the west part of the Marlborough Downs, and on the west it may have followed a north-south line formed by a watercourse called the Whetham stream and for a short distance by the river Marden. On the north the boundary was apparently a roughly east-west line partly across lowland and partly across downland. If on the south the boundary was the Roman road it excluded what became Heddington parish; if the later road, it included it. (fn. 6) The apparent regularity of the boundary and other evidence, including the dependence of churches on the church at Calne, (fn. 7) suggest that, besides Calne parish, the land within the boundary, mainly what became Blackland, Calstone Wellington, Cherhill, Compton Bassett, Yatesbury, and perhaps Heddington parishes, was part of the estate in the earlier Middle Ages, and estates in all those places were, as Heddington was, or are likely to have been, part of Calne hundred in 1084. Two of the estates in the hundred, called or at Beversbrook, (fn. 8) were later in Hilmarton parish. (fn. 9)

Four places outside the supposed boundaries of the king's estate became parts of Calne hundred in the Middle Ages. On the east Berwick Bassett, which was not mentioned in Domesday Book and came to have a church dependent on Calne's, was probably part of the estate and the hundred in the 1080s: (fn. 10) its anomalous position jutting out eastwards suggests that it was an addition to, and not an original part of, the estate. On the south Bromham was held by Earl Harold, passed to William I at the Conquest, was presumably added to the hundred soon afterwards, and was part of the hundred in 1084. (fn. 11) It was given to Battle abbey (Suss.) by William II, (fn. 12) and in the later 13th century or earlier 14th the abbey, which had been granted quittance of shires and hundreds, succeeded in attempts to withdraw it from Calne hundred. (fn. 13) On the west the king's estate was bounded by woodland later defined as Chippenham forest: (fn. 14) at Studley and Whetham what were probably assarts from the forest became parts of Calne parish and of the hundred. (fn. 15) Bowood, between Studley and Whetham, remained royal forest, became a liberty, and stayed outside the hundred until much later. (fn. 16)

Calne hundred c.1840

In 1332, when Bromham was a separate liberty, Calne hundred comprised Eastman Street, Quemerford, Stock, Stockley, Studley, Whetham, and Whitley (all in Calne parish), Blackland (divided between Blackland and Calne parishes), Calstone (divided between Calne and Calstone Wellington parishes), Berwick Bassett, Cherhill, Compton Bassett, Heddington, and Yatesbury parishes, and Beversbrook (in Hilmarton parish). (fn. 17) Two additions were made to the hundred later. Calne had 74 or more tenements held by burghal tenure in 1086, (fn. 18) when it may already have been a market town, (fn. 19) and, although the burgesses had no right to govern it, (fn. 20) the borough was not part of the hundred in the Middle Ages. (fn. 21) The lord of Calne manor exercised leet jurisdiction over the borough, was also lord of the hundred, and dealt with the business of the borough in the view of the hundred; (fn. 22) in the 17th century and later the borough was an accepted part of the hundred. (fn. 23) From 1763 Bowood belonged to the lord of the hundred, (fn. 24) from the late 18th century a tithingman representing Bowood liberty regularly attended the view of the hundred, (fn. 25) and in the 19th century the liberty was treated for some administrative purposes as if it was part of the hundred. (fn. 26)

The lordship of Calne hundred was probably granted by the king to Fulk de Cauntelo c. 1199 with the rump of the estate called Calne, later called Calne manor. Fulk was lord of the hundred in 1205. (fn. 27) The lordship descended with Calne manor, and from 1201-2 usually with Calstone manor, mainly in the Cauntelo, Zouche, Long, and Duckett families. (fn. 28) In 1763 it was bought with the combined manor of Calne and Calstone by William Petty, earl of Shelburne (cr. marquess of Lansdowne 1784), the owner of Bowood House, and it thereafter descended with Bowood House to successive marquesses of Lansdowne. (fn. 29)

The lord of the hundred had return of writs, which entitled him to exclude the sheriff and the sheriff's bailiffs from his liberty and to hold the biannual tourn for the hundred without the sheriff being present or represented. (fn. 30) In the 1280s the other liberties claimed were pleas of vee de naam, view of frankpledge, the assize of bread and of ale, gallows, pillory, and tumbril. (fn. 31) Exemption from the jurisdiction of the hundred courts was claimed by the lords of manors in all but one of the parishes within the hundred, and six or more private views of frankpledge were held. (fn. 32) The lord of the hundred, as lord of Calstone manor, himself held a view which had jurisdiction over Calstone, Quemerford, and Stockley. (fn. 33) Also in Calne parish the Prebendal estate was free from suit to hundred courts from the early 12th century, and in the earlier 13th the treasurer of Salisbury cathedral, as owner of the estate, claimed the right to hold a view and to enforce the assize of bread and of ale. The claim was denied by the king, and no private view is known to have been held for Eastman Street manor, the land of the Prebendal estate, until c. 1719. (fn. 34) In the late 13th century Malmesbury abbey unsuccessfully claimed exemption for all or part of its estate at Blackland. (fn. 35) A view of frankpledge may have been held by Stanley abbey for the moiety of Berwick Bassett manor which it held, and a private view was held at Berwick Bassett in the 18th century. (fn. 36) For their respective manors the lord of Cherhill manor held a view from the late 13th century or earlier, the lord of Compton Bassett manor from the later 14th century or earlier, and the lord of Yatesbury manor from the earlier 18th century or earlier. A separate view was also claimed for Heddington manor. (fn. 37)

In the late 15th century and earlier 16th, besides the alderman of Calne borough, nine tithingmen attended the view of frankpledge held for Calne hundred. The places represented were Berwick Bassett, Beversbrook, Blackland, Calstone, Compton, Heddington, Stock, Studley, Whetham, Whitley, and Yatesbury. One tithingman represented both Beversbrook and Whitley, small settlements on estates which were contiguous, and another both Berwick Bassett and Whetham, which lay 13 km. from each other. Cherhill, Eastman Street, Quemerford, and Stockley, for which private views were held or claimed, were not represented, and although the tithingman of Heddington attended and gave cert rent, he was not sworn, and did not present, because it was claimed that Heddington was exempt from the enforcement of the assize of bread and of ale at the hundredal view. Exemption was also enjoyed in respect of a moiety of Berwick Bassett manor, estates at Calstone, and Compton Bassett manor. The combination of Berwick Bassett and Whetham seems to confirm that, in respect of Berwick Bassett, the tithingman represented only what was not Stanley abbey's moiety of the manor; if so, he represented no more than two small populations. The tithingman representing Calstone was said to be of Calstone Wellington: he probably represented, not Calstone or Calstone Wellington manors, but only Blunt's estate, which was conterminous with the parish which came to be called Calstone Wellington. (fn. 38) The Compton tithingman was later called the tithingman of Compton Cumberwell, (fn. 39) the name of a manor in Compton Bassett parish which may have been smaller than Compton Bassett manor, (fn. 40) and presumably represented only Compton Cumberwell manor. By 1580, and for a reason which is obscure, Berwick Bassett and Whetham had ceased to be represented at the view; (fn. 41) a tithingman again represented Whetham from 1733, (fn. 42) a separate one Berwick Bassett from c. 1806. (fn. 43) Each of Beversbrook and Whitley, still represented jointly in the 1590s, was represented by its own tithingman in the 1660s and later. A tithingman representing Bowood attended the view in 1675 (fn. 44) and again from the late 18th century. Yatesbury continued to be represented despite the holding of a separate view for Yatesbury manor in the 18th century. (fn. 45)


Two courts of the hundred were held, one twice a year and one every three weeks. (fn. 46) Both presumably met at Calne. In 1581 it was said that the Green in Calne was the customary meeting place for the biannual court and that, even if by special request meetings were held in the church house there, it would remain so. (fn. 47) In 1651 the biannual court met in what was called the town street, perhaps the market place, (fn. 48) and in 1727 its usual meeting place was in Calne at the Wheel (otherwise the Catherine Wheel, later the Lansdowne Arms). (fn. 49) Records of the biannual court survive, with gaps, from 1491. The court was called a view of frankpledge, later a court leet and view of frankpledge, and was held in spring and autumn until 1840, once a year or less 1841-51; it is not known to have been held after 1851. The view proceeded partly on the presentments of the tithingmen and the alderman of the borough and partly on those of a jury of the hundred and of a jury of the borough: the business of the hundred was transacted and recorded separately from that of the borough. (fn. 50) In the late 15th century and the 16th the tithingmen made a few presentments that millers had taken excess toll, bakers and brewers had not observed the assize of bread and of ale, ditches and other watercourses had not been scoured, and stray animals had been taken. The jurors of the hundred affirmed those presentments and at most views added a few others: they presented waifs and strays, those obstructing the highway and causing other minor public nuisances, and occasionally those playing unlawful games. (fn. 51) By the later 17th century the court had ceased to enforce the assize of bread and of ale for the hundred and to hear presentments by the tithingmen. In the later 17th century and earlier 18th its main hundredal business was the nomination of new tithingmen, usually at the autumn view, and the presentment by the jurors of those causing nuisances. In the 1660s, 1670s, and 1680s the lord of the hundred was presented for not having provided a pound at Blackland and at Yatesbury, and a dangerous quarry, a dangerous well, unmaintained bridges and stiles, obstruction of the highway, and unscoured ditches were all reported. In 1669 the court heard that work on the highways required by statute had not been done, in 1720 and 1731 it ordered Calne parish's overseers of highways to mend roads, and from the 1720s to the 1740s the condition of roads and bridges was apparently the hundred jury's main concern. In 1731 the court ordered Studley tithing to erect new stocks, and from then, and usually at the spring view, the choice of the two constables for the hundred was made or reported. (fn. 52) From c. 1750 the number of presentments made by the hundred jury declined, and in the late 18th century and the 19th the only hundredal business of the court was to appoint the constables and tithingmen and to receive the customary payments then called court silver and formerly cert rent. (fn. 53) Records of the court held every three weeks survive, with gaps, for the period 1491-1541. By 1541 the interval between meetings had not been extended, although throughout the period the court had little business. The court heard pleas between suitors and reports that waifs and strays had been taken; about five


pleas came before each of its meetings. In 1525 it heard that the arms of strangers convicted of assault had been forfeited. (fn. 54) There is no evidence of a meeting after 1541.

In the Middle Ages the value of the hundred was assessed with that of Calne manor and was apparently low. (fn. 55) In 1274 the yearly value of the perquisites of the hundred was assessed at 40s. (fn. 56) The courts were never busy, (fn. 57) and in 1651 their perquisites were worth £3 6s. 8d. and no more than c. £2 10s. was given as cert rent. (fn. 58) The cert rent, otherwise court silver, was only £1 18s. 8d. in the later 18th century and earlier 19th. (fn. 59)

In the later 13th century, and probably from the 12th century or earlier, ½ yardland at Quemerford was held for service as bailiff of Calne hundred. By 1289 the lord of the hundred had successfully claimed that the land was held of her, (fn. 60) later lords presumably appointed the hundred bailiff, and in the later 17th century the lord of the hundred leased the bailiwick for periods of 21 years. (fn. 61) There were two constables of the hundred from the late 16th century or earlier, (fn. 62) and in the later 18th century and earlier 19th they were appointed each year at the spring meeting of the view of frankpledge. (fn. 63)


  • 1. Below, Calne, manors [preamble].
  • 2. V.C.H. Wilts. ii, p. 181.
  • 3. Cf. ibid. p. 115.
  • 4. Cf. below, Calne, manors [preamble].
  • 5. For the roads, ibid. Calne, introduction (roads); Heddington, introduction [roads].
  • 6. Cf. ibid. Calne, introduction (early medieval settlement); Compton Bassett, introduction [boundaries]; Heddington, introduction [boundaries]; Yatesbury, introduction [boundaries].
  • 7. Cf. ibid. Calne, churches; Compton Bassett, church; Yatesbury, manors (Yatesbury).
  • 8. V.C.H. Wilts. ii, pp. 181-2; for Blackland and Calstone Wellington pars., below, Calne, introduction (composition of Calne par.).
  • 9. V.C.H. Wilts. ix. 49 sqq.
  • 10. Ibid. ii, p. 182; below, Calne, introduction (composition of Calne par.); manors [preamble].
  • 11. V.C.H. Wilts. ii, pp. 117, 181-2.
  • 12. Ibid. vii. 180.
  • 13. Ibid. 177; v. 18, 48, 57-9; Collectanea (W.R.S. xii), p. 131.
  • 14. V.C.H. Wilts. iv. 446-7.
  • 15. Below, following para.; Calne, introduction (Studley; Whetham).
  • 16. Ibid. following para.; Calne, introduction (composition of Calne par.).
  • 17. Tax List, 1332 (W.R.S. xlv), 39-43; for Eastman Street, below, Calne, introduction (Calne outside the town).
  • 18. V.C.H. Wilts. ii, pp. 115, 121, 139, 158.
  • 19. Below, Calne, introduction (Calne: the town to c. 1800).
  • 20. Ibid. local govt. (boro. govt.).
  • 21. e.g. Crown Pleas, 1249 (W.R.S. xvi), p. 194; Tax List, 1332 (W.R.S. xlv), 8-9.
  • 22. Below, Calne, local govt. (manorial govt.); cf. ibid. following para.; for the view, ibid. this section.
  • 23. e.g. V.C.H. Wilts. iv. 327; Pigot, Nat. Com. Dir. (1830), 794; W.R.O. 118/163.
  • 24. Below, following para.; Bowood, estates (Bowood); Calstone Wellington, manors (Calstone).
  • 25. W.R.O. 1171, box 3, Calne hund. ct. papers, 1768- 1851.
  • 26. e.g. V.C.H. Wilts. iv. 327; Kelly's Dir. Wilts. (1848); W.R.O., A 1/345/44.
  • 27. Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 41; below, Calne, manors (Calne).
  • 28. e.g. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii (1), 230, 246; P.R.O., CP 25/2/81/693, no. 22; ibid. E 317/Wilts./6; for the descent, below, Calne, manors (Calne); Calstone Wellington, manors (Calstone).
  • 29. W.A.M. xlii. 28; for the descent, below, Bowood, estates (Bowood).
  • 30. V.C.H. Wilts. v. 57.
  • 31. P.R.O., JUST 1/1004, rot. 88; JUST 1/1006, rot. 47d.
  • 32. For the exception (Calstone Wellington), below, this section; for Heddington, ibid. Heddington, local govt.
  • 33. Ibid. Calstone Wellington, local govt.
  • 34. Below, Calne, local govt. (manorial govt.).
  • 35. B.L. Add. MS. 38009, ff. 13v.-14.
  • 36. Below, Berwick Bassett, local govt.
  • 37. Ibid. Cherhill, Compton Bassett, Heddington, Yatesbury, in each case s.vv. local govt.
  • 38. W.R.O. 130/76/1/1-3; 130/76/1/6; 130/76/1/9; for the view, below, following para.; for the alderman, ibid. Calne, local govt. (manorial govt.); for exemptions, above, preceding para.; most of the settlements referred to are discussed below in articles or sub-sections bearing their names; for Beversbrook, V.C.H. Wilts. ix. 49 sqq.; for Calstone Wellington par. and the manors of Calstone, below, Calstone Wellington, introduction; manors.
  • 39. Bowood Mun., Calne ct. r. bk., 1580-1612.
  • 40. Below, Compton Bassett, manors; econ. hist.
  • 41. Bowood Mun., Calne ct. r. bk., 1580-1612.
  • 42. W.R.O. 84/5.
  • 43. Ibid. 1171, box 3, Calne hund. ct. papers, 1768- 1851.
  • 44. Ibid. 84/1; 212B/967.
  • 45. Ibid. 1171, box 3, ct. r. of Calne hund., 1763-85; box 3, Calne hund. ct. papers, 1768-1851; Bowood Mun., Calne hund. ct. min. bk., 1810-53.
  • 46. Para. based on Bowood Mun., Calne ct. r. bk., 1580- 1612; ibid. Calne hund. ct. min. bk., 1810-53; W.R.O. 84/1-10; 84/12; 130/76/1/1-10; 212B/967; 649/2; 1171, box 3, ct. r. of Calne hund., 1763-85; box 3, ct. r. of Calne hund., 1786-91; box 3, Calne hund. ct. papers, 1768- 1851.
  • 47. Bowood Mun., Calne ct. r. bk., 1580-1612; for the church ho., below, Calne, introduction (Calne: the town to c. 1800).
  • 48. P.R.O., E 317/Wilts./6; for Calne's streets, below, Calne, introduction (Calne: the town to c. 1800).
  • 49. W.R.O. 84/4; for the Lansdowne Arms, below, Calne, introduction (Calne: inns).
  • 50. For boro. business, below, Calne, local govt. (manorial govt.).
  • 51. Bowood Mun., Calne ct. r. bk., 1580-1612; W.R.O. 130/76/1/1-3; 130/76/1/6; 130/76/1/9; 212B/967; 649/2.
  • 52. W.R.O. 84/1-8; 84/10; 84/12.
  • 53. Ibid. 84/9; 1171, box 3, ct. r. of Calne hund., 1763- 85; box 3, ct. r. of Calne hund., 1786-91; box 3, Calne hund. ct. papers, 1768-1851; Bowood Mun., Calne hund. ct. min. bk., 1810-53.
  • 54. W.R.O. 130/76/1/1-10.
  • 55. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii (1), 236, 245.
  • 56. Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1242-1326 (Index Libr.), 74.
  • 57. Above, preceding para.
  • 58. P.R.O., E 317/Wilts./6.
  • 59. Bowood Mun., Calne hund. ct. min. bk., 1810-53; W.R.O. 84/9; 1171, box 3, ct. r. of Calne hund., 1763-85; box 3, ct. r. of Calne hund., 1786-91; box 3, Calne hund. ct. papers, 1768-1851.
  • 60. P.R.O., JUST 1/1004, rot. 88d.; JUST 1/1006, rot. 47d.; below, Calne, manors (Quemerford).
  • 61. W.R.O. 212A/37/1, deed, Duckett to Eastmead, 1663; 894/4, f. 57.
  • 62. Bowood Mun., Calne ct. r. bk., 1580-1612.
  • 63. Ibid. Calne hund. ct. min. bk., 1810-53; W.R.O. 84/ 9; 1171, box 3, ct. r. of Calne hund., 1763-85; box 3, ct. r. of Calne hund., 1786-91; box 3, Calne hund. ct. papers, 1768-1851.