Potterne and Cannings hundred

Pages 175-178

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1953.

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



The modern hundred of Potterne and Cannings is formed from the ancient hundred of Cannings and half the ancient hundred of Rowborough.

In 1084 the hundred of Cannings was assessed at 70 hides, of which 10 were held in demesne by the Bishop of Salisbury. (fn. 1) The manor of Bishop's Cannings was seized by Stephen during the Anarchy and restored to the bishop in 1149. The hundred was restored at the same time, in terms which suggest that a hundred jurisdiction was annexed to the manor. (fn. 2) In 1194–5 Coate and Chittoe seem to have lain within the hundred; (fn. 3) in 1249 Bedborough, Bishop's Cannings, Nursteed, and Wick. (fn. 4) In 1255 the hundred was in the bishop's hands (fn. 5) and so descended. In 1316 the hundred consisted of Bishop's Cannings, Coate, Highway, and Round way. (fn. 6) The manor of Highway (q.v.), which, it has been surmised, (fn. 7) originally formed part of Kingsbridge hundred, was in 1219 exchanged by the Abbot of Malmesbury with the Bishop of Salisbury and it was perhaps then that it was removed into Cannings hundred. In an assessment to a 20th made in c. 1327–8 the towns in the hundred were Bishop's Cannings, Chittoe, Coate, Easton, Highway, and Roundway; (fn. 8) in assessments to 15ths and 10ths made in c. 1333–4 (fn. 9) and 1335 (fn. 10) the towns of Bedborough, Highway, Horton and Wick, and Nursteed are added.

Hundred of Potterne and Cannings

In 1084 the hundred of Rowborough consisted of 82½ or 96½ hides, of which the king had 5 and the Bishop of Salisbury 10 hides in demesne. (fn. 11) In 1249 (fn. 12) and 1255 (fn. 13) half the hundred was declared to be in the hands of the king and the other in the hands of the bishop. In the latter year the sheriff took as aid at his half-yearly tourns 2 marks and 4s. from Great Cheverell, 10s. 6d. from Little Cheverell, 17s. 4d. from Littleton Pannell, 21s. 4d. from Market Lavington, and 3s. from West Lavington. In the rest of the hundred the bishop held a view without the sheriff and had return of writs and pleas of withernam. At that time there was evidently a three-weekly court besides the tourns. In 1281 the bishop appears to have heard at this three-weekly court the pleas of his own but not of any foreign men. (fn. 14) In the Nomina Villarum (1316) the former half-hundreds are entered as separate hundreds called severally Rowborough (fn. 15) and Bishop's (fn. 16) Rowborough. The latter was held by the Bishop of Salisbury and was said to include the borough of Devizes, and the towns of Fiddington (in Market Lavington), West Lavington, Potterne, Rowde, and Worton (in Potterne). Littleton Pannell was reckoned a part of King's Rowborough. In all subsequent documents until its disappearance Bishop's Rowborough hundred appears separately from King's Rowborough. According to the taxation assessments of c. 1327–8, (fn. 17) 1334–5, (fn. 18) and 1335 (fn. 19) it consisted of West Lavington, Marston (in Potterne), Potterne, and Worton.

Though described as part of Bishop's Rowborough hundred in 1316 the town of Rowde had occupied a peculiar position since at least 1249, when it was separately represented at the eyre by 8 jurors. (fn. 20) It was represented at the eyre of 1268 (fn. 21) by 3 freemen, 4 men, and the reeve, and at those of 1255, (fn. 22) 1281, (fn. 23) and 1289 (fn. 24) by 6 jurors. In the assessment to the 20th made in 1327–8 it was called the liberty of Rowde and was assessed separately from the hundred. (fn. 25) This long remained the practice but in 1604 the liberty of Rowde appears as an integral part of Potterne and Cannings hundred (fn. 26) and so continued.

An assessment to a subsidy made in 1428 shows the hundreds of Cannings and Bishop's Rowborough separately, though they were assessed by the same jury and at the same time. The former then included Bupton (in Highway), Coate, Easton, Horton, and Roundway and the latter West Lavington, Marston, and Potterne. (fn. 27) An assessment to a 12th, however, made in the same year shows the hundreds united under the title of Cannings and Bishop's Rowborough. According to the latter assessment the joint hundred then included Chittoe, Coate, Easton, Horton, West Lavington, Marston, Potterne, and Roundway. (fn. 28) In the absence of more certain evidence we may conclude that the places in the Bishop of Salisbury's half-hundred of Rowborough were joined with those in his hundred of Cannings in the early 15th century.

In a taxation assessment of 1525 (fn. 29) the hundred is given the title of Potterne and Cannings which it subsequently bore. (fn. 30) The name 'Bishop's Rowborough' appears thereafter to have connoted no more than a town or tithing in Potterne and Cannings hundred. Some closes of pasture and meadow called Rowborough are referred to in a 17th-century survey as forming part of Lavington Dauntsey manor, now in West Lavington parish. (fn. 31) They perhaps marked the original meeting-place of Rowborough hundred. In 1525 (fn. 32) the hundred of Potterne and Cannings consisted of the parishes of Bishop's Cannings, West Lavington, and Potterne; in later assessments Highway is usually included.

In 1249 (fn. 33) and 1316 (fn. 34) the town of Bromham lay in the hundred of Calne. The town belonged to the Abbot of Battle (Suss.) who in 1275 exercised certain liberties therein. (fn. 35) In c. 1327–8 Bromham was being assessed as a separate liberty (fn. 36) and this remained customary even after the Dissolution. A jury for the conjoined liberties of Bromham and Rowde presented separately at Quarter Sessions in 1604. (fn. 37) On the other hand, in a taxation assessment made in the same year Bromham liberty, like Rowde liberty (see above), appears as an integral part of Potterne and Cannings hundred. (fn. 38) It so continued, although the expression 'liberty of Bromham' was still in use in 1632. (fn. 39)

Although in 1316 the borough of Devizes was entered under Bishop's Rowborough hundred, (fn. 40) it was separately represented before the justices in eyre from 1194–5 (fn. 41) onwards, and was separately assessed for taxation in the 14th and 16th centuries. The commissioners for musters of 1539 (fn. 42) and the commissioners charged with raising a loan in c. 1627 (fn. 43) reckoned it to be part of Potterne and Cannings hundred.

On Speed's map of 1610 the hundred is represented in two sections. The northern section incloses Calne hundred on three sides and extends in the form of the letter C from the confines of Broad Hinton on the north to Stanton St. Bernard on the south. The towns named within this section are Allington, Bupton, Bishop's Cannings, Highway, and Pinhills and Whitley House (both in Calne). Stanton St. Bernard lies on the boundary with Swanborough hundred. The triangular southern portion, presumably the old hundred of Bishop's Rowborough, is shown as inclosed on two sides by Swanborough hundred and comprises Marston, Potterne, and Worton. Bromham House, Devizes, the 'Grene' (i.e. Southbroom), and Rowde are placed within Swanborough hundred. There is no corroborative evidence to suggest that Allington, Bupton, Pinhills, or Whitley were ever in Potterne and Cannings hundred, or that Bromham, Devizes, Rowde, or Southbroom were ever in Swanborough. As late as 1661 Bupton paid lawday silver to the 'court of Cannings', (fn. 44) which suggests that it then was or once had been part of Cannings hundred. If this was so and the fact was known to Speed, he may have been led on to connect Bupton and Highway with Bishop's Cannings by means of a 'corridor'. Furthermore he may have scrupled to place the ancient 'liberties' of Bromham, Devizes, and Rowde within Potterne and Cannings hundred and may have intended to give each its own boundary or in some other way to have isolated them from the adjacent hundreds. In the end, however, he may have carelessly allowed the boundary of Swanborough hundred to run round them, instead of cutting them off on the east by a line drawn southwards through Stert.

In 1831 Potterne and Cannings hundred consisted of the parishes of Bishop's Cannings with Chittoe and St. James's, Southbroom, Bromham, Highway, West Lavington with Littleton Pannell, Potterne with Marston and Worton, and Rowde. Devizes was separately entered in the census returns. (fn. 45) The date of transfer of Littleton Pannell to the hundred is uncertain.

It is not known how long the bishops of Salisbury exercised an effective jurisdiction over the hundred. The high constables, however, were not elected at Quarter Sessions between 1574 and 1592. (fn. 46)


  • 1. Dom. Bk. Wilts., ed. Jones, 173.
  • 2. Sar. Chart. and Doc. (Rolls Ser.), 15.
  • 3. R. of the King's Ct. (Pipe R. Soc.), 109.
  • 4. Just. Itin. 1/996, m. 26.
  • 5. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii, 231.
  • 6. Feud. Aids, v, 205.
  • 7. Dom. Bk. Wilts., ed. Jones, 165.
  • 8. E 179/196/1.
  • 9. E 179/196/8.
  • 10. E 179/196/10.
  • 11. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), iv, 3, 8, 14.
  • 12. Just. Itin. 1/996, m. 26.
  • 13. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii, 231.
  • 14. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 804.
  • 15. Feud. Aids, v, 204.
  • 16. Ibid. 205.
  • 17. E 179/196/7.
  • 18. E 179/196/8.
  • 19. E 179/196/10.
  • 20. Just. Itin. 1/996, m. 34 d.
  • 21. Just. Itin. 1/998A, m. 25.
  • 22. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii, 236.
  • 23. Just. Itin. 1/1005, m. 145 d.
  • 24. Just. Itin. 1/1011, m. 59.
  • 25. E 179/196/7.
  • 26. E 179/198/342.
  • 27. Feud. Aids. v, 230–1.
  • 28. E 179/198/87.
  • 29. E 179/197/156.
  • 30. taxation assessments authorized in 1543 and 1552 and in an assessment made in 1571 (E 179/197/216, E 179/198/261 a and /288).
  • 31. W.R.O. Clayton MSS. 17.
  • 32. E 179/197/156.
  • 33. Just. Itin. 1/996, m. 28 d.
  • 34. Feud. Aids, v, 210.
  • 35. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii, 246. For an unexplained reason the jurors of Calne borough reported these liberties.
  • 36. E 179/196/1.
  • 37. Wilts. Q. Sess. Rec, ed. Cunnington, 4.
  • 38. E 179/198/342.
  • 39. S.P. 16/220, no. 29.
  • 40. Feud. Aids, v, 205.
  • 41. Under the name of the hundred of Devizes. R. of the King's Ct. (Pipe R. Soc.), 109.
  • 42. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xiv (1), p. 301.
  • 43. S.P. 16/55, no. 89; S.P. 16/79, no. 91.
  • 44. W.A.M. vi, 127.
  • 45. Census Returns, 1831.
  • 46. Sess. Mins. 1563–92 (W.A.S., Rec. Brch.).