A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1953.
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The ancient parish of Melksham comprised the areas now covered by the urban district, the rural parish of Melksham Without and the parish of Seend. The chapelry of Seend was made a separate ecclesiastical parish by Order in Council in 1873. (fn. 1) From the point of view of administration the Order can have done little more than confirm existing conditions: Seend had separate churchwardens at least from 1663 and levied its own poor rate at least from 1734. (fn. 2) The parish is now within the rural district of Devizes. Under the Local Government Act, 1894, the parish and urban district of Melksham Within and the rural parish of Melksham Without were created. (fn. 3) Parts of Melksham Without were transferred to the urban district by County Council Orders of 1895 and 1914; (fn. 4) and by the Wiltshire County Review Order, 1934, the urban district was extended to include one acre from Broughton Gifford and 432 acres from Melksham Without. (fn. 5) The rural parish surrounds the urban district on the north, east, and south sides. On the River Avon, south-west of the town, are 27 acres common to Melksham Without and Broughton Gifford. (fn. 6) A terrier of 1836 (fn. 7) accounted 12 acres as in Melksham; the river is now accepted as the boundary. (fn. 8)
In the north where the rural parish adjoins the parishes of Lacock and Corsham the boundary has no doubt always been the line of Wansdyke and the Roman road. (fn. 9) All of this area on the eastern part of the northern boundary fell within the tithing of Beanacre. On the west the boundary between Melksham and the parishes of Broughton Gifford and Atworth is formed by an innominate stream which falls into the Avon below the disused mill on the Bradford road in Broughton Gifford parish. The boundary does not follow the stream for the last ¼ mile. The western boundary is continued by the Avon until it reaches Semington Brook. The north-west corner of the parish comprises the tithings of Shaw and Whitley: in the south-west the district is known as Berryfields but has never been called a tithing. The southern boundary of the parish is formed by Semington Brook until it is joined by Summerham Brook which turns north and forms the south-eastern boundary of the parish. Within the half-circle formed by these two streams lies the modern parish of Seend. The eastern boundary has probably been less stable for the eastern part of the parish was occupied until the 17th century by the royal forest. All the tithings of Melksham with the possible exception of parts of Whitley and Shaw were probably in the forest. After the 17th-century deforestation, Blackmore, Woolmore, Woodrow, Whitley, Beanacre, and Shaw were considered to be part of Melksham. The 'Clears', an area of 200 acres which in 1341 had been marked out for assart, was attached to Seend. In 1624 Sir Francis Fane, Lord of the manor of Seend, allowed his tenants to inclose this last remaining part of the forest. (fn. 10) John Houlton held the property in 1764 and the site of the inclosure is no doubt represented by Clears Farm (now in Rowde parish). (fn. 11) Most of Seend itself, with the south-west part of Woolmore, had been cleared and farmed before 1610. (fn. 12) In the 19th century the tithings comprised the Town, Canonhold, Beanacre, Shaw and Whitley, Woolmore, Woodrow, Seend, Seend Row, and the Common and Waste Lands (divided into north and south sides). (fn. 13) Some of these were old townships owing suit of court to the foreign hundred (q.v. The Hundred of Melksham).
Key to the Map
1. and 2 Supposed sites of turnpike
gates at Lowbourne and on
3 Wharf of the Berks and Wilts canal.
4 and 5 Probable weavers' cottages.
6 Cheese store of Market Hall, now Assembly Rooms.
7 Reading Room.
8 New Hall.
9 Freemasons' Hall.
10 Site of Place House.
11 Possible Church House.
12 Mission Room.
13 Friends' Meeting House.
14 Methodist Sunday school.
15 Methodist Sunday school, now British Legion Club.
16 Baptist chapel.
17 Baptist Sunday school.
18 Ebenezer Chapel.
19 Congregational burial-ground.
20 Salvation Army Citadel.
21 Corn mill on The Island.
22 Possible site of dye-house of cloth mill.
23 First mill of Avon Rubber Co.
24 Site of brass foundry.
25 Iron foundry, now Wiltshire Farmers Ltd.
26 Market Hall, now Town Hall.
27 Capital & Counties Bank.
28 Lloyds Bank.
29 Site of lock-up.
30 Old Cottage Hospital, now Melksham College.
31 Church schools.
32 Old British school, now part of Lowbourne Schools.
33 The Fowler almshouses.
34 Site of old workhouse.
The urban district and Melksham Without lie in the broad flat valley of the Wiltshire Avon. The centres of population in the town, at Beanacre in the north, and at Seend are old-established. In the north-western parts of the parish, Shaw and Whitley are perhaps hardly less ancient centres of settlement and lie on land a little above the general level of the valley. Shaw Hill is 165 ft. and at a point ¼ mile north of Whitley the land rises to 195 ft. The south-western corner of the parish contains no villages or hamlets: the sparsity of population is sufficiently explained by the marshy nature of the low-lying land. The area is still liable to flood. The southern boundary streams are compelled to take their semicircular course to avoid the rising ground of which the parish of Seend is composed. This hill rises to more than 200 ft. in the centre of the parish and the village stretches along the length of its crest. No higher ground interposes between the churchyard on the south of the church and the escarpment of Salisbury Plain some 5 miles away. Three-quarters of a mile west of the village and almost at the foot of the hill is Seend Cleeve and ½ mile farther Seend Row. The hamlet called The Stocks lies between them. Still farther west, lying close to Semington Brook, is Seend Head. South of Seend Head Semington Brook is crossed by Baldham Bridge. On the eastern boundary of Seend, where the Devizes road crosses the canal and the railway (see below), are Martinslade and Sells Green. Both hamlets were originally perhaps farms and owe their extension to the lines of communication they straddle.
The eastern part of the parish comprises a rough rectangle 2 miles broad and 4 miles long running north to south and forms the larger part of Melksham Without. The area bears the mark of its origin in the royal forest for it contains no village or hamlet. The names of some of the small settlements occur before the 17th-century deforestation but even those, with the possible exception of Sandridge, have remained isolated farms. West of Sells Green on the Devizes-Melksham road is the district of Bowerhills. Woolmore Farm on the top of this hill (153 ft.) no doubt marks the site of the manor of that name (see below—Manors). North-east of Bowerhill lies Snarlton and north of this the rectangle is divided by the Calne road. Halfway between the town and the parish boundary on a low hill (161 ft.) lies Blackmore (see below—Manors) and on the boundary where the land rises towards Bromham, Sandridge Hill (337 ft.). The hamlet of Sandridge lies ¼ mile north of the hill. The remaining part of the north of the rectangle is empty of habitations except for Rhotteridge Farm (fn. 14); and Queenfield, a holding which may be associated with the manor of Woodrow (see below—Manors). North-east of the town and now within the urban district are Forest, marking perhaps a boundary rather than the centre of the forest, and Woodrow Farm which most probably marks the site of the manor of that name (see below—Manors).
The land in the greater part of the parish comprises Oxford Clay with Kellaways beds. Seend Hill is composed of Lower Greensand; immediately north, west, and south of the village is a belt of Kimeridge Clay, widening to the south-east; to the south-west are Limestone Corallian beds. (fn. 15) The River Avon flows north to south through the parish. South Brook flows from Shaw Hill through the north-west corner of the parish and joins the Avon just south of the sewage works. Two streams join the Avon in the town. Clackers Brook, which has its source in Bromham parish, joins the river on the south bank opposite the island by the bridge. A stream which forms a loop of the river leaves it a few yards north of Clackers Brook, and rejoins the parent stream at the urban district boundary. A stream which has its source in a spring at Sandridge joins the Avon at Beanacre.
Apart from the Roman road on the northern. boundary the most ancient highway in the parish is probably that leading from Devizes through Melksham to Bath (A 361 and 365). Close to the town this road is known as Spa Road: in the Market Place it is joined by the Bournemouth, Westbury, and Chippenham road (A 350). These conjoined roads form the principal street of the town and split again north of the Avon bridge where the Chippenham road is known as Beanacre Road. The road from Brad ford-on-Avon (A 3053) enters the town north of the bridge. The secondary road to Bromham and Calne (B 3102) leaves the Bath road as Lowbourne. At Forest a minor road leads north from the Calne road and reaches Lacock under Bowden Hill. Shaw lies on the Bath road: the secondary road to Corsham (B 3353) leaves the Bath road at Shaw church and passes through Whitley. From Whitley a minor road leads east and joins the Chippenham road north of Beanacre. The road from Devizes to Trowbridge and Taunton (A 361) passes through Seend and a minor road connects the village with the Bath road. A minor road leaves the Bath road at Sells Green and meets the Devizes—Chippenham road (A 342) at Bromham.
The collection of rates for the maintenance of the highways is mentioned in 1721 (fn. 16) and records of parish responsibility for the roads are preserved from 1768 to 1837. (fn. 17) In 1819 the rate amounted to £187 of which sum the Town tithing paid almost half. The Bradford-Chippenham road was put in order under Acts of Parliament of 1762, 1777, and 1806. (fn. 18) The Devizes-Bath turnpike, which passed along the High Street, was improved under Acts of 1780 and 1823. (fn. 19) The course of this road passed south of the present Bath road through the City and the Acre (fn. 20) (see below). The site of the turnpike gates on the Semington road is said to have been near Taylor-Warren's School (fn. 21) (see below). Another gate is mentioned on Lowbourne Bridge (fn. 22) but nothing is known of a turnpike on this road. Three unmetalled tracks in the area between the Calne and Devizes roads known as Brown's Lane, Prater's Lane, and Broad Lane are said to owe their origin to the circumventions of traders who wished to avoid the tolls. (fn. 23) They do not, however, approach the town sufficiently close to achieve such a purpose and their considerable width (in some places more than 100 ft.) suggests that they are greenways made during the inclosure of the forest with the purpose of leaving the inclosed fields accessible.
Some kind of bridge has no doubt always existed in Melksham though the earliest crossing may have been made by using the island which splits the river in two north of the modern bridge. The bridge is first mentioned in records in 1415 when William Honeston bequeathed a sum towards its maintenance. (fn. 24) The 'Great Bridge' was out of repair in April 1637, and the inhabitants asked that other places should contribute; the Justices ordered them, under a penalty of £40, to repair it themselves by Michaelmas. (fn. 25) It was swept away by a flood in 1809, and the present stone bridge of four arches took its place. (fn. 26) Lowbourne Bridge which crosses Clackers Brook is mentioned in 1417 as 'Ludborn' when Thomas Trewin bequeathed a sum towards its maintenance. (fn. 27) The footbridge over the Avon at the end of Scotland Road is said to have been built so that workers in Spencer's foundry (see below—Trade and Industry) might more conveniently reach Forest. (fn. 28)
Melksham has in the past been served by two waterways. The Berks, and Wilts. Canal from Abingdon, Swindon, and Chippenham passed through the town south-east of the Market Place. The canal was authorized by an Act of 1795 (fn. 29) and during the 19th century carried considerable traffic. The portion lying within the parish has now been completely filled in and the line of its course is rapidly disappearing. It ran south from Lacock through Forest and Woodrow, and passed east of the town by three bridges under the Calne road, over Clackers Brook, and under the Devizes road. Thence the course ran due south to join the Kennet and Avon Canal. The canal wharf lay close to the Devizes road opposite the present Maggs factory. The site is still known as 'The Wharf. Even in the last two decades of the 19th century large quantities of grain for Taylor's mill and coal are said to have arrived at the wharf. Towards the end of the century, barges, steered by the canal superintendent and decorated with flowers and green branches, were used for Sunday school outings to Lacock. (fn. 30) The Kennet and Avon canal passes through the northern part of the parish of Seend. The wharf for Seend still exists at Martinslade and a landing stage at the Barge Inn on the minor road to Seend Cleeve probably served that village.
Two branch lines of British Railways (Western Region) pass through the parish. The line from Thingley Junction (just outside Chippenham) to Westbury, which passes from north to south through the parish with a station north of the Avon bridge, was opened by the Wilts. Somerset & Weymouth Railway Co., in 1848. This line was handed over to the G.W.R. in 1850. A halt at Beanacre was brought into use in 1905. The branch line of the G.W.R. from Devizes to Holt passes through Seend parish and Berryfields. The station at Seend was opened in 1858. A halt on the Westbury road at Semington was opened in 1906 and another at Sells Green, named 'Bromham & Rowde', in 1909. (fn. 31)
In 1791, daily coach services to and from London and Bath are mentioned, (fn. 32) and in 1830 coach services to London, Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Devizes, and Reading. (fn. 33) Modern road transport is provided by the Bath Tramways Motor Company, Ltd., and the Western National Omnibus Company, Ltd.
No secular buildings remain to show the topography of the medieval town. The mills recorded in Domesday point to a settlement on the river but the area immediately round the river island was probably liable to floods then as now and tenements were perhaps grouped on the slightly higher ground south of the river. North of the river the ground falls away and early settlements are unlikely there. Thus the town was probably grouped in the vicinity of the church and the market-place. Between these two was placed at a much later period the manor house of the capital manor (see below). Southwest of the church is a tithe barn, said to date from the 15th century. It has been considerably altered and adapted and is used as an annexe for St. Michael's School (see below). The main road through the town, now composed of Spa Road, Market Place, High Street, and Bank Street, is no doubt the most ancient highway. Church Street, Church Walk, (fn. 34) King Street, and Lowbourne are perhaps of almost equal antiquity. The name of Bank Street before the inception of the business that prompted its name (see below—Trade and Industry) is said to have been Melksham Street. Union Street, running between Lowbourne and Bank Street, is of late-18th-century or early-19th-century origin. (fn. 35) A map of 1734 (fn. 36) shows a small road leading into the High Street opposite Church Street. The road no longer exists but its line may be traced by the footpath running from Seend church via Ruskin Lane and Redstocks to Church Street, Melksham, where the line of the offices forming No. 20 High Street follow the ancient line of the path. The connexion between church and church suggests that the track may have been a burying road. The origin of the settlements north of the river is not certain but it seems likely that the traditionally ancient parts of the City (fn. 37) and the Acre (both originally on the turnpike, now west of the Bath road) represent the urbanization of the river precincts that probably followed the rise of the cloth industry. The modern industrial area is entirely north of the river.
Two housing estates to meet the growing industrial population were built late in the 19th century. The earliest group on the west side of King Street opposite Conigre Farm was built by the West Wilts. Land & Building Co. (fn. 38) Kimber Street celebrates the name of the company's surveyor, Oliver Kimber, who was also the proprietor of the Seend iron-works (see below— Trade and Industry). Stone in the nearby school (see below) and in the houses is said to have come from the iron-works. Another of Kimber's houses bearing the date 1889 is to be seen opposite the Barge Inn at Seend Cleeve. An estate of 48 houses at Roundponds north of the Avon was built by C. S. Awdry in 1916. (fn. 39) The Urban District Council have built extensive estates at Forest, on the Semington road, and north of the Avon works.
None of the houses within the town appears to have been built before the 17th century and most of them seem to have been erected in the 18th. Apart from the manor houses and those in the rural parts of the parish (see below—Manors) there are few buildings of more than usual interest. Melksham House, behind the Town Hall, is probably of 17th-century origin, and it retains some two-light square-headed mullioned windows, now blocked. The house is now the headquarters of the Sports and Social Club of the Avon Rubber Company. The four two-story houses numbered 8–14 Spa Road, were probably erected in the early nineteenth century as lodging-houses for the Spa. Shurnhold House, built about 1640, and Shurnhold Farm, of the 17th century, are of stone rubble with ashlar quoins. The modern projecting wing of the house contains a large stone open fireplace, probably 16th century. Two rows of cottages, one known as Gane's Buildings running between the New and Old Broughton roads and the other at right angles to the city, are traditionally thought to have been weaver's cottages.
Apart from the primary schools (see below) several private schools were established in the town during the 19th century. (fn. 40) The house on Spa Road opposite Conigre Farm was probably built by Oliver Kimber (see above) as a school. It was kept in the 80's by Revd. Roland Taylor Warren of whom a contemporary commentator said 'he meant to do big things but they never materialized'. Bowerhill Lodge off Spa Road, once the residence of Charles Maggs (see below—Trade and Industry) was at about the same time a 'Gentleman's High School' kept by a Mr. Perkins. North of the canal bridge in Spa Road Mrs. and Miss Sturge kept a 'Ladies High School'.
A Volunteer force was raised in 1859 (fn. 41) and was known in 1875 as the Melksham Rifle Corps (12th Wilts.). (fn. 42) It was absorbed in 1889 by the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, later the 4th Battalion (T.A.). Arms and ammunition for the Volunteers were at one time stored in the 'round house' which still exists about half-way along the south side of Church Street. (fn. 43) The cheese store of the Market Hall (see below—Trade and Industry) was once used as a drill hall (now the Assembly Hall) and there were rifle butts in a field at the end of Scotland Road. (fn. 44)
The greater part of the western side of Bowerhill is now occupied by the R.A.F. No. 12 School of Technical Training. The fields on either side of Berryfields Lane were between 1939 and 1945 occupied by an R.A.F. camp: some brick built hutments in these fields are now used by Wiltshire Farmers, Ltd.
In early March 1839 a Chartist meeting was held at Melksham under the chairmanship of S. Chapman, a Holt working-man. (fn. 45) This is the first evidence of Chartist activity in Melksham. In March 1840 'the Radicals' of Melksham Forest were amongst the few groups of Wiltshire men to subscribe to a defence fund for the benefit of Frost, the Monmouth Chartist. (fn. 46) A Chartist group existed in the town from June 1841 to January 1843. (fn. 47)
A reading-room and circulating library had been opened by about 1815 at 'Mr. Ward's printing Office'. This was perhaps for the benefit of intending visitors to the Spa and it is not known how long it survived. (fn. 48) The Melksham Mutual Improvement Society with a reading-room on the east side of Bank Street was established in 1852. (fn. 49) The reading-room still survives and is now a private club. In 1877 Rachel Fowler gave the New Hall in the market-place to trustees as a readingroom and accommodation for religious and philanthropic meetings. The hall, built of Bath stone, was requisitioned between 1939 and 1945 and is now occupied by the Ministry of National Insurance. The endowment, two cottages and a sum of money invested in stock, is administered by a committee, and the income is at present accumulated. (fn. 50) Miss Fowler, whose other benefactions to the town are mentioned below (see Charities), lived in Bank Street. It was her practice during her lifetime to leave tracts upon the sill of her open window for the attention of passers-by. (fn. 51) She was an ardent Quaker and is buried in the graveyard behind the meeting-house in King Street. A College of Further Education is now established in the Cottage Hospital in Bank Street and a Practical Centre in Shurnhold for domestic science and cognate subjects.
Two early inns that no longer exist have been traced: the 'Chirurgions Arms' is mentioned in 1690, and the 'George' in 1720. (fn. 52) Identification of the 'George' with the present public house of that name is uncertain. In the early 18th century Thomas Smith of Shaw House enjoyed the monthly meetings of his 'Club' at John Beavan's house in Melksham. (fn. 53) The Bell Inn Club at Seend was established in 1800. (fn. 54) The Chaloner Lodge of Freemasons was founded at Melksham in 1896, and the Freemasons' Hall in Church Street was built in 1897. (fn. 55)
King George's Field on the north of Clacker's Brook was purchased in 1937 by public subscription and is used for recreation purposes. (fn. 56)
John Fowler the inventor of the steam plough was born in Melksham in 1826; Anne Yearsley, a verse writer, spent the last years of her life in the town where she died in 1806; Admiral Sir Charles Shadwell died in retirement there in 1886. Henry Moule, born in Melksham in 1801, was ordained to the curacy of the parish church in 1823: he turned his attention to sanitary science and wrote several works on sewage disposal. (fn. 57)
The capital manor of MELKSHAM as it subsequently became was held by Earl Harold in the Confessor's time and by the Crown in 1086. With its appurtenances (appendices), it was assessed at 84 hides, 34 of which were in demesne. It was valued at £111. 11s. by weight and by the English at the same figure by tale. (fn. 58) It was thus a large and valuable estate. In 1144 the Empress Maud and her son Henry gave the manor with its appurtenances to Humphrey de Bohun III. (fn. 59) It remained in his possession until 1157–8 when it was resumed by the Crown. (fn. 60)
For one quarter of 1157–8 the manor was let to farm at £9. (fn. 61) In 1158–9 the sheriff was allowed £23. 4s. 2d. for restocking it; (fn. 62) between 1199 and 1209 several other sums were allowed to him for the same purpose. (fn. 63) John visited the manor eleven times between 1200 and 1212. (fn. 64) Thomas de Sandford was directed in 1216 to take possession of the manor and use the revenues for the maintenance of Devizes castle, (fn. 65) of which he was the keeper. Sandford lost the custody of the castle shortly after acquiring the issues of Melksham. (fn. 66) In May 1217 the forests of Chippenham and Melksham and in the following October the manors of Devizes and Rowde and other lands were assigned to the support of the castle, (fn. 67) and this may have been the occasion for disannexing Melksham manor from it. At any rate the manor was being administered by the sheriff shortly before 1231, for in that year John de Monemue, who as sheriff accounted at the Exchequer in 1228, 1229 and 1231, was allowed to buy the corn with which he had sown it while he was in office. (fn. 68) Ela, Countess of Salisbury, who had the custody of Wiltshire from 1231 to 1237 also administered the manor. (fn. 69) She was immediately succeeded in the administration by Walter de Burgh who accounted for the issues from 1236 to 1238. (fn. 70)
The manor was committed, in or before 1238, to Nicholas de Barbeflet. (fn. 71) It was extended, with the hundred, in August 1240, (fn. 72) and it was found understocked; Barbeflet was charged with irregularities, and was possibly dismissed for inefficiency. The foreign hundred (see below) was committed to the sheriff in December 1240. (fn. 73) In 1240–1 the men of Melksham were farming the manor themselves. (fn. 74) In 1245 they were directed to till and sow the land even though their term had expired. (fn. 75) In 1251 they lost the farm when they were required to deliver to Hugh Gargat, appointed as keeper in September 1250, (fn. 76) the value (£41. 15s.) of the stock received when the manor was leased to them, and to pay a fine of 40 marks for failure to repair the buildings. (fn. 77) Perhaps they lost the farm through waste. Gargat was in office until 1255; (fn. 78) his successor was Stephen Fromund, a king's clerk; (fn. 79) next year Fromund delivered the manor to John de Langford and Peter de Bulkington to farm. (fn. 80)
In 1257 Henry III gave the manor and hundred to Amice, Countess of Devon for life, at a fee farm of £48 a year; (fn. 81) in 1268 he granted this rent, with the reversion of the manor, to Amesbury priory, providing that any surplus value over £50 a year should be rendered at the Exchequer. (fn. 82) In 1274 Edward I persuaded the countess to lease the manor to the convent at once in consideration of their undertaking to answer first to her for its value over £48 and after her death to the Crown for its value over £50. (fn. 83) In 1276 the king fixed the surplus revenue due at the Exchequer at £30, (fn. 84) and in 1285 (Amice having recently died), (fn. 85) for the love of his daughter Mary, a nun of Amesbury, he remitted £27. 8s. of the £30 due for the manor and hundred. (fn. 86)
The prioress and nuns held the manor until the Dissolution. They rendered £2. 12s. a year for it in 1315 and 1317–18 (fn. 87) and in 1379, (fn. 88) £3. 10s. in 1450, (fn. 89) £2. 13s. in 1485–6 (fn. 90), and £13. 13s. 7¾d. in 1535. (fn. 91)
In 1281 thirteen men of the manor sued the Prioress of Amesbury by monstraverunt. (fn. 92) This is the first express claim that the manor was ancient demesne of the Crown. The claim was upheld in a charter of 1285, when the Crown granted inter alia that the convent should plead and be impleaded by the little writ of right. (fn. 93) In 1316 the prioress claimed the right to tallage Melksham on the ground that it was ancient demesne. The Crown granted the request, provided that evidence supported the claim; (fn. 94) evidently it did, for in this year the prioress paid 1s. 6d. into the Exchequer for a writ de impetrando. (fn. 95) In 1377 (fn. 96) and 1404 (fn. 97) the Melksham entry in Domesday Book was estreated into Chancery, which suggests that the status of the manor as ancient demesne was then again being examined.
As was not uncommon with manors that were ancient demesne, a hundred was annexed to Melksham manor (see above—Hundred). By 1240, it was divided into a home and a foreign hundred, the former no doubt representing the leet jurisdiction within the demesnes. (fn. 98) There is no evidence that in the Middle Ages a court existed in Melksham town apart from the home hundred.
A charter of 1286 confirmed the Prioress of Amesbury in an extensive range of liberties in Melksham, and free warren was granted separately in the same year. (fn. 99) These privileges, with the annexed hundred, must have made this a valuable manor to hold. From 115 5 to 115 8 it was valued at £48 blanched. (fn. 100) In 1240 the manor, as stocked, was valued at £60, and it was declared that if it were more fully stocked it would be worth £70. Unstocked it would have been worth £52. (fn. 101) These figures are not easy to interpret, for in 1241–2 the nominal value was still £48 blanched, though the men of Melksham, as farmers, were paying £80 for it. (fn. 102) In 1255 the manor with the hundred was valued at £80, though Gargat, while bailiff, accounted for £100. (fn. 103) When extended in 1275–6, the manor with the home and foreign hundreds was worth £82. 1s. 8d. (fn. 104) In 1291, presumably without the hundreds, it was worth £55. (fn. 105) In 1535 the gross value was £96. 7s. 8½d., the net £80. 16s. 4¾d. (fn. 106) In 1540–1 the gross value was £94. 6s. 8½d., of which £20. 2s. 0¼d. arose from Melksham and its appurtenances and £50. 5s. from Seend Row. (fn. 107)
The manor was granted in 1541 to Sir Thomas Seymour, (fn. 108) who apparently sold it at once to Henry Brouncker of Melksham. (fn. 109) Brouncker let or mortgaged the capital messuage and other property in 1562, for eight years, to Laurence Hyde and John Smyth. (fn. 110) Henry Brouncker died in 1569 and was succeeded by his son and heir Sir William: some of his property in Melksham he bequeathed to another son Henry. (fn. 111) Sir William died in 1596 (fn. 112) and his son and heir Henry only two years later. (fn. 113) Henry's son William was then aged two and the manor was conveyed to Sir John Dauntsey in trust. (fn. 114) Henry's relict, Gertrude, later married Dauntsey's eldest son Ambrose. (fn. 115) In 1634 William was in possession of his inheritance and conveyed the manor to Sir John Danvers who had married Elizabeth, daughter of Gertrude Brouncker's second marriage. (fn. 116) Sir John died in 1655 and the manor passed to his kinsman of the same name. (fn. 117) This John Danvers finally sold the manor to Walter Long the younger of Whaddon in 1671 (fn. 118) and thereafter the manor followed the same descent as that of Whaddon (q.v.). While in the hands of the Brounckers and the Danverses the manor was on several occasions mortgaged. (fn. 119)
The manor house, later Place House, and sometimes The Court House, faced the market place on the site now occupied by Place Road. Its orchards and gardens stretched back to the churchyard. It was probably built by Henry (I) Brouncker in the mid-16th century on the site of an earlier house. It was sold in 1657, for £310, to Isaac Selfe, a younger son of Isaac Selfe of Beanacre, and he rebuilt the entrance. It remained in the hands of the Selfes until 1757; it passed by marriage to Richard Jenkyns, and in 1806 to the Heathcotes of Shaw Hill. In 1864 the house and its orchards and gardens were bought by a syndicate of Melksham people, the house demolished, and the land split up into small plots which were sold by public auction. A private road was cut through the centre of the estate and villas were built on either side. A gate at the end of the road opens on the churchyard and was the subject of much dispute when the estate was broken up, since in the last fifty years of its existence the house had been occupied by dissenters who, not unnaturally, had allowed the right of way to fall into desuetude. (fn. 120) Charles Maggs used the house for a short period about 1835 and built a rope-walk at the back of the house. (fn. 121)
The RECTORY MANOR of Melksham or CANONHOLD most probably had its origin in the Domesday holding of Rumold the priest of a hide of land appurtenant to the church. (fn. 122) In 1200 King John endowed Salisbury cathedral with the church and its appurtenances. (fn. 123) In or about 1220 Bishop Richard Poore appropriated the church at Melksham to the communa of the canons of the cathedral. The appropriation included the appurtenances of the church saving the vicarage, and the chapel at Erlestoke. (fn. 124) The rectory manor thus remained dean and chapter property until the 19th century.
The first recorded lessee is John de 'Byncrot', a canon, who in 1338 'on exchange with Robert of Worth' took the farm of the manor at £80. (fn. 125) The manor was let to another canon, Robert of Baldock, for the same rent in 1348. (fn. 126) In 1351 the manor or a part of it was leased at a rent of £24 to a lay farmer, William Whaf, (fn. 127) who was hayward of the capital manor. (fn. 128) Whaf was already a sub-lessee of the manor and held 40 acres of land with appurtenances in 1348. Another sub-lessee, John Stonyng, is recorded at the same time with a similar holding. (fn. 129) In 1360 another canon, William of Bothwell, took the farm at £80. (fn. 130) Before 1388 the farm was in the hands of John Chitterne, a canon residentiary of Salisbury, who in that year resigned the lease. (fn. 131) The manor was then taken in hand by the dean and chapter and the manorial property repaired. (fn. 132) No further lease seems to have been made until 1393 when Canon Richard Clifford (later Bishop of London), (fn. 133) in default of his seniors, accepted the 'long vacant' farm. The chapter agreed to pay him 20 marks for repairs. (fn. 134) Clifford did not perhaps retain the farm long nor interest himself in the estate to any great extent, for in 1406 the manor 'long since in lay hands and suffering from great defects' was granted to John Chitterne, almost certainly the canon who had managed the estate earlier. (fn. 135) It is not clear whether Chitterne actually took the farm of the manor or only managed it, for in the following year a note occurs that the farm is still in hand and that he is to continue managing the estate. (fn. 136)
John Chitterne died in 1419 (fn. 137) and no record of any further lessees has been found for the 15th century. In 1548 Henry Brouncker took the manor and parsonage on a ninety-nine year lease. (fn. 138) From this time until the 20th century Canonhold was in the hands of a succession of lay farmers. The lease descended to Brouncker's son William in 1570 (fn. 139) and to his grandson, another William, in 1624. (fn. 140) No further lessees are recorded before the Interregnum: in 1650 the manor was sold to John Ashe (fn. 141) and four years later the parsonage barn and a courtyard belonging to it were leased or subleased to Thomas Badcocke. (fn. 142) Two years after the restoration of dean and chapter property in 1660, the manor and parsonage were leased to Sir Francis Fane. (fn. 143) Before 1688 the lease passed to William Brownwick and in that year to Arthur Brownwick. (fn. 144) The parsonage was leased or subleased to William Blagden in 1685 and the rent mentioned suggests that this was a lease of the whole manor. (fn. 145) In 1692 John Ash was holding the manor jointly with nominees of the Dean and Chapter, possibly as a trustee. (fn. 146) In 1693 Richard Coxeter of Bampton (Oxon.) leased the manor and parsonage (fn. 147) and probably retained the lease until 1733 when he or another of the same name conveyed the manor to Benjamin Haskins Stiles. (fn. 148) Stiles died in 1739 and the lease passed to his nephew Sir Francis Haskins Eyles Stiles, the third baronet. (fn. 149) Sir Francis left England for Naples probably in the early 1750's (fn. 150) and his estates including Melksham and Bishop's Cannings (q.v.) were 'sold in Chancery'. (fn. 151) Melksham was bought (or at least a bid was made for it) by Jeremiah Awdry on whose death in 1754 during the course of the sale, the lease passed to his nephew John Awdry of Notton. (fn. 152) From this time until the 19th century the lease remained with the main branch of the Awdry family, passing to John's son of the same name (d. 1844), to his grandson John Wither (d. 1878) who in 1876 bought the reversionary interest of the landed estate of the manor. The manor passed finally to his greatgrandson Charles (d. 1912). (fn. 153) For most of this period the manor was sub-leased to other members of the Awdry family. At the death of his uncle in 1754 John Awdry was almost certainly a minor; (fn. 154) a long period of litigation followed since his title was apparently disputed (fn. 155) but possibly by 1760 (fn. 156) and certainly by 1762 an agreement was reached. Under a lease of that year Canonhold passed to Thomas Goddard in trust for John Awdry. (fn. 157) Thomas Goddard was possibly a brother of Ambrose Goddard of Swindon whose daughter Priscilla married John Awdry in 1765. (fn. 158) The trust was confirmed in 1768; (fn. 159) in 1777 the manor was sub-leased to Ambrose Goddard, possibly John Awdry's brother-in-law; (fn. 160) ten years later John Awdry asked Goddard to mortgage the manor to James Sutton (fn. 161) (of New Park in Bishop's Cannings, q.v.). In 1802 Goddard had presumably redeemed the mortgage since a lease of that year shows him holding the manor with remainders to John Awdry and John's half-brother Jeremiah. (fn. 162) In 1834 the manor was subleased to John Awdry's cousin William Henry, third son of John's paternal uncle, Ambrose; the lease contained a remainder for William Henry's son, West. (fn. 163) John Awdry died in 1844 (fn. 164) but the manor continued to be sub-leased to William Henry and West. (fn. 165) In 1876 the reversionary interest of the landed estate of the manor was sold for £4,000 to Sir John Wither Awdry by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. (fn. 166) Sir John died in 1878 and his estates were placed in the hands of trustees until the death of his relict in 1900. In 1901 the property passed to Charles, fourth son of Sir John's second marriage; all the copyhold had been extinguished by this time. (fn. 167) At the same time the leasehold interest in rectorial tithes was purchased from the trustees by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for £950. (fn. 168)
The landed estate of Canonhold was never great in extent. At the time of the 1876 sale to Sir J. W. Awdry he was said to have about 4½ acres in his possession; there were 20 acres of leasehold and 184 acres of copyhold. (fn. 169) The acreage shown in a survey of 1790 was very similar. (fn. 170) Part of the copyhold land was sold in 1849 to the Wilts. Somerset and Weymouth Railway Company for £816. 8s. About the same time an acre was sold for £30 to enlarge Melksham churchyard. (fn. 171) The lands reached out in scattered holdings on all sides of the Church and Canon Square. In 1772 boundary stones were set up at Shurnhold Farm inscribed 'JA/C/Hould'. (fn. 172) The map attached to the 1836 terrier of Melksham shows Canonhold as a district lying between the church and the river. (fn. 173) A map drawn by Charles E. Norman in 1879 gives the name Canonhold to houses midway in Church Walk. (fn. 174) The Walk was called Canhold Lane in 1833 and 1875. (fn. 175) Canonhold or Church Street is mentioned in 1871; (fn. 176) Canonhold Mead (or Ark House) lay between the vicarage house and the river in 1893; (fn. 177) Can Barn was the parsonage barn at Seend. (fn. 178)
The value of Canonhold was considerable. The priest's Domesday holding was worth 40s.; (fn. 179) in 1291 the figure given was £46. 13s. 4d., (fn. 180) in 1428 (in the assessment for the tax of 1/10th) £56. 13s. 4d. (fn. 181) and in 1535 £42. 15s. 11d. less 8s. due to the Prioress of Amesbury and £2. 15s. 8d. in alms on the anniversaries of Henry II and Henry III. (fn. 182) The rent charged by the dean and chapter during the period 1338 to 1459 was £80, and the accounts show that small amounts were remitted from time to time, but they never amount to more than £2 in the quarter. (fn. 183) From 1459 to 1540 the rent varied from £43. 3s. 4d. to £46. 6s. 2d.; this last figure remained fixed as the rent until 1641, but after the Restoration, although the rent was nominally the same, the actual amount paid seems to have been £43. 8s. 2d. (fn. 184) In 1694 the rent was the same and the 8s., previously due to the Prioress of Amesbury, was now paid to her successors in the capital manor (see above); £6.1s. 8d. was due to the vicar. (fn. 185) The fine upon entry at this period was large. In 1739 upon a request for entry of new lives the 'parsonage' was valued at £560. 2s. 6d. a year, subject only to a quit-rent of £49. 8s. 2d. The chapter normally took one and a half year's clear value for putting in a new life if the remaining lives were good, and three-quarters for exchange of a 'common and equal life', but more for both if the surviving lives were old or infirm. On the former basis the two operations would have meant a fine of £1,149.2s. 3d. but the chapter took 1,000 guineas. (fn. 186) When the lease was bought by the Awdry family, Jeremiah Awdry bid £3,600. (fn. 187) In 1834 the fine for entering a new life aged 5 to two lives of 72 and 23 was £4,550 calculated on a net annual value of £1,676. 19s. 8d. (fn. 188) The rent due to the capital manor was dropped in 1859 as obsolete. (fn. 189) In 1814 the vicar exchanged his rent (together with an allotment on Blackmore Common) for a small part of Can Meadow which adjoined his garden. (fn. 190)
The value of the manor lay very largely in the tithes. In 1388 when the manor was kept in hand they amounted to about £75 and included payments from all the tithings of Melksham together with Erlestoke. (fn. 191) In 1668 the parsonage tithes were valued at £423. 18s. 5d. though whether or not this included the whole of the rectorial tithes is not clear. (fn. 192) In 1833 tithes from Melksham were valued at £891. 7s. 11d., from Seend £325. os. 7d. and from Erlestoke £332. 6s. 3d. (fn. 193) The tithes were sub-leased in part from time to time: (fn. 194) those of Erlestoke (q.v.) were leased to the WatsonTaylor family in 1847 and 1865. (fn. 195) The tithes were redeemed in 1935. (fn. 196)
Blackmore Farm and Manor Farm, just outside the Urban District, on the Calne road, probably represent all that remains of the liberty and manor of BUCKMORE. Blackmore (or Melksham) Forest was formally disafforested under a commission granted in 1622, and forest and lands were granted in 1623–4 to the 1st Earl of Anglesey. (fn. 200) No mention of the property has been found from that time until the 18th century, but it presumably passed in the Anglesey family. In 1769, James, 7th Earl of Castlehaven, grandson of the 5th earl who had married Anne Pelson, granddaughter of the 1st Earl of Anglesey, (fn. 201) died in possession of the manor. (fn. 202) Six years earlier he had quarrelled with the people of Melksham about their ancient rights of common in the forest. (fn. 203) The property, recited as his 'freeholds in the disforested liberty and manor of Blackmore', passed to his brother John, the 8th earl. (fn. 204) In 1814 George John (Thicknesse) Touchet, Lord Audley, held the manor, with five dove-houses under the will of his great-uncle the 8 th earl and by the terms of a marriage settlement. (fn. 205) He sold it in 1817–18 to Thomas Bruges and Edward Phillips. (fn. 206) No further record of the manor has been found.
The manor of MELKSHAM LOVELLS does not appear under that name until the 16th century, but the family that gave its name to the estate held land in or near Melksham as early as the 13th century. In 1232 a grant by Silvester Lovel of messuages and land to Bradenstoke priory was confirmed. (fn. 207) About 1244 the Chancellor of Salisbury granted to Isabel, Hugh Lovel's daughter, a croft in Melksham at £18 a year. (fn. 208) In 1256 Terry le Draper and his wife Margery quitclaimed to Hugh Lovel, for £1 a year during Margery's life, ½ knight's fee in Melksham and Shaw. (fn. 209) In 1268 John and Goda Lovel and Walter and Alice 'de Rude' released to Sibyl, daughter of Roger, a messuage and land in Melksham. (fn. 210) A John Lovel is known to have been living in Melksham in 1381 (fn. 211) but no further reference to Lovel property has been found until 1558 when William 'Danyear' (recte Daniell) made a conveyance of the manor (then so called) possibly for purposes of mortgage. (fn. 212)
From this time the history of Melksham Lovells is linked with that of MELKSHAM BEANACRE. This estate is first mentioned as a manor in a claim by the Prioress of Amesbury in 1296, (fn. 213) but it possibly had its origins at least as early as 1275 when William and Isabel de Barache (or Barage) granted to William of Beanacre for life, at 21s. rent, a messuage and a carucate of land in Beanacre. (fn. 214) Their land in Beanacre and Melksham was taken into the king's hand for defaults in the Prioress of Amesbury's court, and they failed to replevy it; (fn. 215) it was sold in 1309 to John and Margery Bluet. (fn. 216) In 1312 Ralph Bluet conveyed it to John and Eleanor Bluet. (fn. 217) Sir John (II) Bluet died before 1349, and his relict in that year, and the king assigned to Edmund Baynard and his wife Eleanor (a daughter of Sir John) ½ messuage and other property in Beanacre. (fn. 218) No specific record of the manor of Beanacre has been found from this time until it is mentioned jointly with Lovells in the 17th century, but there are some indica tions of the way in which both properties descended. Henry Whitoxmede of Beanacre, sometime bailiff of Trowbridge, died in 1526, seised of property in Melksham worth £13. 6s. 8d. a year, held of the Prioress of Amesbury at a rent of £3. 6s. 6d. (fn. 219) In 1522 this land had been the subject of a conveyance, possibly a settlement, of which Roger Baynard was one of the assignees and may thus be connected with the 14th-century holding of the Baynards in Beanacre. (fn. 220) William, son and heir of Henry Whitoxmede, died in 1539 leaving two daughters, (fn. 221) the elder of whom, Elizabeth, later married William Daniell, who, as has been shown above, was holding Lovells in 1558. (fn. 222) There is, however, no way of certainly determining whether Daniell was holding by his own right or that of his wife. He died in 1604, seised in Elizabeth's right of'the manor of Melksham Lovells and Beanacre', held of William Brouncker, successor to the Prioress of Amesbury in the capital manor (see above). (fn. 223) William (II) Daniell, who succeeded his father, settled Lovells on his son William and Beanacre on his wife Cecily. (fn. 224) On his father's death in 1621 William (III) succeeded to the property and had livery of the conjoined manors in 1622. (fn. 225)
A William Daniell almost certainly the son of William (III) died without male issue in 1681. His heir was his sister Rachel, wife of Thomas Fettiplace of Fernham (Berks.). (fn. 226) From Thomas the manors descended to his son Charles (fn. 227) who in 1719 sold them to Sir Edward Des Bouverie. (fn. 228) Sir Edward was succeeded by his younger brother Jacob, created Viscount Folkestone in 1747, who in turn was succeeded by his son William, created Earl Radnor in 1765. (fn. 229) In 1772 when the last reference to the manors by their joint name occurs, Lord Radnor sold them to Paul Methuen (fn. 230) and from that time until the 20th century they descended in the Methuen family.
It is unlikely that the landed estate of the manors was very great in extent after the breaking up of the Brouncker property in the 16th century (see above—Capital Manor). Two houses, however, have been appurtenant to the manor since the 16th century. One, known as the Old Manor House was probably built by the predecessors of the Daniells in the 15th century. It followed the descent of the manors until 1914 when it was sold by Lord Methuen to Harold (later Sir Harold) Brakspear. Sir Harold sold the house to Lady Methuen in 1918 and in 1937 it was on lease to the Nestle Company as a residence for the managers of their local factories. (fn. 231)
The other house known as Beanacre Manor and standing close to the Old Manor House was probably built by Simon Noble on land purchased in the early part of the 17th century from his brother-in-law, Henry Brouncker and Sir John Jenynges. (fn. 232) Noble evidently sold the house later to Jenynges for it was Jenynges's son, John, who in 1620 leased the property to Isaac Selfe the clothier. In 1647 Jacob, Isaac's son, purchased the property from the Jenynges family: (fn. 233) he died in 1702 and was succeeded by his son Isaac. Isaac (II) died in 1773, and his daughter Anne, wife of Thomas Methuen of Bradford, became his sole heir. (fn. 234) From Anne the property passed to her son Paul Methuen of Corsham, who already owned the Old Manor House. By the beginning of the 19th century Beanacre Manor had become a farm and remained so until 1919 when Lord Methuen took possession and had the property restored by Sir Harold Brakspear. (fn. 235) Since that time the house has been leased and in January 1952 was put up for sale by private treaty or auction at a later date. (fn. 236)
The Old Manor House originally timber-framed, retains the hall with its 15th-century roof. In the early 16th century the building was encased in stone, and a detached chapel erected, which was later joined to the main building. Beanacre Manor is built of stone rubble, with worked dressings, and roofed with stone slates. The garden front has two stories and attics, with two projecting wings. The main front is symmetrical, with gabled wings, a two-story porch, and two ashlar chimney-stacks. (fn. 237)
The manor of SEEND is not separately mentioned in the Domesday survey and was probably included in the royal manor of Melksham. The overlordship remained with the Crown and is last mentioned in 1640 when Seend was held of the king as of the manor of East Greenwich. (fn. 238)
The first record of a tenant of the manor appears to date from 1190, when it was held by Wigan of Cherburgh. (fn. 239) Wigan died before 1194 leaving as his heir his son John, a minor, and the manor passed into the custody of Wigan's brother Thomas. Thomas retained the wardship of the heir and the custody of the manor until 1198; (fn. 240) for six months of 1199 the custody was in the hands of the sheriff Stephen de Turnham (fn. 241) and in 1204 it passed to Felise, relict of Andrew of the Exchequer. (fn. 242) John, Wigan's heir, came of age about 1206, (fn. 243) and died in 1269, when his son Wigan (II) succeeded him; the holding was then ¼ knight's fee of 15 librates. (fn. 244)
Wigan (II) of Cherburgh died in 1283, leaving two sons by different mothers. Both were named John, and since both were of age each was in turn thought to be the heir. The manor was taken into the king's hand until it was decided in 1284 that the younger John was the true heir. (fn. 245) The relict, apparently not the mother of either John, had her dower, and later married Sir Nicholas de la Huse. (fn. 246)
In 1297, while Wigan (II)'s relict still held her dower, John, the son of a Roger of Cherburgh, granted the manor to Sir Hugh le Despenser the elder; (fn. 247) in 1302 Peter de la Huse, grandson of Nicholas, released his right to the dower lands. (fn. 248) No explanation has been found of how the manor came into the hands of Roger and his son John. After Despenser's execution in October 1326 the manor was granted to Queen Isabel as part of her dower. (fn. 249) Gilbert of Berwick was appointed in 1330 to the custody of Seend and the queen's other Wiltshire manors. (fn. 250) The manor was granted in 1331 to Edward de Bohun in fee (fn. 251) and in 1332 Bohun had licence to settle it on his wife, himself and his heirs. (fn. 252) He died in or before 1337 without issue, and in that year the king granted the manor, subject to the relict's life interest, to Hugh, son and heir of Hugh le Despenser the younger. (fn. 253) The relict, Margaret, died in 1341, (fn. 254) and in that year livery of seisin was granted to Edward de Bohun's brother and heir, Humphrey, 10th Earl of Hereford. (fn. 255) In 1347 the king released to the earl all his own reversionary right. (fn. 256) Hugh le Despenser, the grantee of 1337, died without issue in 1349; (fn. 257) no record has been found to suggest whether or not he enjoyed the reversion of the manor after the death of Margaret de Bohun.
The 10th earl died in 1361 and was succeeded by his nephew and namesake who died in 1373; (fn. 258) the manor was held as part of the dower of his relict until her death in 1419. (fn. 259) The property was then kept in hand until 1421. (fn. 260) In this year the earldoms of Hereford, Essex, and Northampton were rearranged, (fn. 261) and the manor of Seend was assigned inter alia to the pourparty of Anne, Countess of Stafford, daughter of Eleanor de Bohun co-heiress of the eleventh earl, and cousin of Henry V (fn. 262) In 1431 the countess put the manor in trust for Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, son of the other Bohun coheiress, Mary, who had married Henry Earl of Derby, later Henry IV. (fn. 263) Gloucester died in 1447 without issue; (fn. 264) in or before 1461 the manor had passed to John Bourchier, Lord Berners, fourth son of the Countess of Stafford and her second husband Sir William Bourchier. Berners died in 1474 and was succeeded by his son of the same name, the translator of Froissart. (fn. 265)
The manor was mortgaged in 1506; (fn. 266) Berners died without issue in 1533. (fn. 267) His executors sold the reversion in 1539 to William Sharington of Lacock who already held some land in the manor. (fn. 268) The manor was again mortgaged in 1543. (fn. 269) Sharington was attainted in 1549, pardoned and restored in blood within twelve months, and allowed to buy back his property— including the manors of Seend, Seend Row, and Woodrow (see below). (fn. 270). He died withou issue in 1553, and his brother Henry succeeded. (fn. 271) Henry died in 1581, having settled the three manors in 1573 on his daughter Grace and her husband Sir Anthony Mildmay. (fn. 272) Their daughter Mary and her husband Francis Fane obtained the manors of Seend and Seend Row by marriage settlement in 1599. (fn. 273) Grace died in 1620, (fn. 274) and Fane was created Earl of Westmorland in 1624. (fn. 275) In 1626 the three manors were put in trust for his son Mildmay (fn. 276) who succeeded to the estate on the death of his mother in 1640. (fn. 277) They were sold in 1668 by Charles, the next earl, to Sir Richard Blake. (fn. 278) Sir Richard died in 1683 and his relict Elizabeth married secondly Edward Hearst. (fn. 279) No further record occurs of the manor of Woodrow. Seend and Seend Row were mortgaged in 1690 by the Hearsts (fn. 280) and some time after that, presumably at the death of Elizabeth, the two manors passed to her daughter by her first marriage, Mary, who had married a Robert Dormer. (fn. 281) The manors passed to their daughter Elizabeth who had married Sir John Fortescue Aland and are last mentioned in 1723. (fn. 282)
The manor of Seend may have passed into the Ludlow-Bruges estate. It has repeatedly been credited to the Awdry family, (fn. 283) perhaps through occupation of the manor house, or by confusion with Seend Row. It was said in 1904 that courts leet were held within the memory of persons then Jiving, or recently dead. (fn. 284)
The manor was twice extended in 1283, when its value was first found to be £20. 9s. 10½d. and later a few shillings less. (fn. 285) When added to the queen's dower in 1327 the manor and park (see below) were worth £50. (fn. 286) In 1419 its estimated value with park and wood was £75. 2s. 9¼d. gross and £63. 8s. 11¾d. net. (fn. 287) (see below—Agriculture).
A small estate comprising 14 acres of wood in Seend was annexed to the manor between 1203 and 1267. (fn. 288) This wood had been granted by Henry II to Richard Ruffus as appurtenant to a manor in Imber which he held by serjeanty (fn. 289) and was probably alienated by his nephew and heir Thomas. (fn. 290) The wood or grove is last mentioned in 1283 when it was said to be within the demesne. (fn. 291) In 1305 another area of woodland was annexed to the manor by a grant of Edward I to Hugh Despenser, the elder. (fn. 292) The land which was taken out of the forest of Melksham and enclosed by Hugh (fn. 293) comprised 182 acres 'under the town' of Seend, 70 acres at 'Berehille', and 220 acres in a place called Cowfold. (fn. 294) By 1341 some or all of this land was referred to as 'a park called Cowfold'. (fn. 295) It is possible that this inclosure may be identified with the estate known as Seend Park.
SEEND PARK is first expressly mentioned in 1309 when it was invaded by rioters. (fn. 296) It appears generally to have descended with the manor but in 1373 the custody was granted to Thomas Spigurnel during the nonage of the daughters of Humphrey le Despenser. (fn. 297) In 1421 it again passed with the manor. (fn. 298) In 1419 the park was declared to be 2 'leagues' in circuit and to contain a wood. It was said to be worth £200 at least. Two other groves called 'Bydgrove' and 'Gullesgrove', the latter of 4 acres, were valued at £40 and £5 respectively. The park and 'Bydgrove' were said to stand by the oak wood (stamper boscum quercuum). (fn. 299) In 1419–20 twenty-seven oaks and an aspen (tremulus) were felled in the park to make 21 perches of paling around it. In the same year a parker received 2d.a day. (fn. 300) In the survey of Melksham Forest made in 1612 it was stated that Seend Park and 'Chaugrove' were enjoyed by Ambrose Dauntsey as parcel of Melksham manor. The park was a great field inclosed by a paling and containing a fishpond. (fn. 301)
In 1419 the 'site' of the manor covered 2 acres, on which stood a tiled hall and chamber and a thatched stable and dovecote. (fn. 302) Licence to crenellate was granted in 1347. (fn. 303) In 1612 'Seend manor' lay inside the park. The house now called the Manor House, immediately east of Church Lane, was rebuilt by Ambrose (IV) Awdry, (d. 1789), (fn. 304) and altered and enlarged in the 19th century. It is a rectangular stone house with two stories and attic. The south front has five dormers and five windows on each floor. There is a modillioned cornice, with a plain parapet, and a modern one-story addition on the east side. The north or entrance front is 19th-century work, stucco-fronted, with a small moulded cornice and plain parapet, a central roundheaded doorway, and a porch of Ionic columns, frieze, and moulded cornice. The ground floor of the house is rusticated.
Seend Green House belonged to the Sumners in the 17th century, passed to the Seymours and the Webbs, and was bought by Thomas Bruges; it belonged in 1916 to Mrs. Ludlow-Bruges, (fn. 305) and in recent years to Thomas Charles Usher and his daughter. The present three-story square house, of ashlar, bears a tablet on a side wall inscribed 'Built by the Duchess of Somerset 1760'; it was refronted and enlarged in the 19th century. Hill Farm House, Seend, is a small timberframed 15th-century house, remodelled and enlarged, but retaining an original cruck.
The tithing of SEEND ROW was amongst the Wiltshire property of the abbey of Lacock bought by Sir William Sharington in 1540. (fn. 306) In 1542 Sharington was concerned in a settlement of his lands which then included property of Amesbury priory in the tithing. (fn. 307) Seend Row is first referred to as a manor in 1550 after Sharington's attainder and restoration and from that time until 1723 devolved with the manor of Seend (see above). The manor is next recorded in 1761 when it was in the hands of Ambrose Awdry the younger (fn. 308) and it is last recorded in 1789. (fn. 309) The ascription of the anor of Seend to the Awdry family in a gamekeepers deputation of 1821 probably refers to Seend Row. (fn. 310)
The manor of SEEND HEAD does not occur under that title until the 16th century but small estates of land and property at 'Sendheved' and 'Shendeheved' were the subject of conveyances in the 13th century. (fn. 311) In 1555 Christopher Dauntsey, a London merchant, conveyed the manor to Henry Viner another London merchant, possibly for purposes of mortgage. (fn. 312) By 1559 Dauntsey was dead and his relict was dealing in the estate jointly with Viner. (fn. 313) In 1568 Thomasine Dauntsey, the relict, brought an action in the Court of Requests against William Brouncker, owner of the capital manor for unlawful disseisin of part of her manor of Seend Head. Brouncker was stated to have 'possession of divers deeds concerning the premises'. (fn. 314) Evidently her action did not succeed, for in 1579 Brouncker was concerned in the conveyance of property that included the manor. (fn. 315) No further record of the property has been found.
The manor of SHAW was held in the 13th century as part of the barony of Castle Combe. (fn. 316) The barony, held before 1339 by Giles de Badlesmere, was partitioned in 1341, subject to his relict's dower. Shaw was assigned to his sister Elizabeth, (fn. 317) relict of Edmund de Mortimer, Earl of March. She had married secondly William de Bohun, Earl of Northampton. (fn. 318) In 1398 the overlordship of Shaw was said to be in the hands of Roger de Mortimer; (fn. 319) in 1410 the heir of Stephen le Scrope held it (fn. 320) and in 1425 Edmund, Earl of March. (fn. 321) From 1428, however, it remained with the Scrope family overlords of the Barony of Castle Combe. (fn. 322)
The first recorded tenant of Shaw is Richard de Highway who in 1274 held of Parnel de Dunstanville ¼ knight's fee there belonging to the barony. (fn. 323) In 1282 Richard brought an action of disseisin against the Prioress of Amesbury in respect of 400 acres of wood and 200 of moor in Melksham, wherein he claimed common in respect of his tenement in Shaw. The prioress's bailiff, however, pleaded that Richard's manor, held of Castle Combe, did not entitle him to common in Melksham manor. The issue was remitted to the justices at their next eyre. (fn. 324) In 1325 William of Highway settled the manor, now so styled, on Stephen and Constance de la More for Stephen's life; it was then held in dower by Isabel, relict of Ralph le Gras, and probably a daughter of William. (fn. 325) Ralph le Gras is perhaps to be identified as the father of John, bailiff of the capital manor (see below—Agriculture). In 1341 William atte More, possibly Stephen's son, held the manor as ½ knight's fee. (fn. 326) On William's death, the date of which is not known, a life interest in the manor passed to his relict's second husband, Sir Simon Basset. (fn. 327) In 1364 Cecily, daughter of William atte More, (fn. 328) was granted the reversion of the manor by her mother and Sir Simon Basset. (fn. 329) Cecily did not die until 1393 (fn. 330) but in 1379 the reversion was granted by Philippa, daughter of Richard Highway (possibly a younger brother of William of Highway), to Sir John Roches. (fn. 331) It is not clear what prompted the family to make this arrangement.
At the death of Sir John Roches in 1401 his property was divided between coheiresses (fn. 332) but Shaw was held in dower by his relict until her death in 1410. (fn. 333) From this time until 1428 the manor was held by Elizabeth, elder daughter of Roches, and her husband Sir Walter Beauchamp. (fn. 334) In or before that year John Baynton, son of the other Roches heiress came of age and took possession of the manor. (fn. 335) From that time until the middle of the 16th century Shaw followed the descent of Horton in Bishop's Cannings (q.v.). Sir Edward Baynton died holding Shaw in 1545 and the manor followed the descent of Bromham Battle (q.v.) until c. 1557 when Andrew Baynton sold it to John Gerrish, (fn. 336) who had held a life interest in the manor in 1545. (fn. 337) The manor remained in the Gerrish family until 1637, passing from John to William (d. 1604), (fn. 338) to John (d. 1635), (fn. 339) and to another William grandson of the second John, (fn. 340) who sold the mansion and Shaw Farm in 1637 to John Ashe of Freshford (Som.). (fn. 341) Shaw House and farm were sold in 1701 by Ash or a descendant of the same name to Thomas Smith. (fn. 342) Smith rebuilt the mansion and for the next fifty years Shaw House seems to have been one of the centres of country life in north—west Wiltshire. Smith's diary for 1721–2 has been preserved and printed and records the life of the neighbourhood in considerable detail. (fn. 343)
Thomas Smith was succeeded by his son John in 1723. John's relict Mary died in 1758, and next year, after litigation, his brother-in-law Robert Neale, M.P., a wealthy clothier of Corsham, became owner of Shaw House. (fn. 344) Neale died in 1776; his elder granddaughter and heiress had married Sir Harry Burrard, who took the additional name of Neale. (fn. 345) He let the house as a private school. In 1844 Lady Neale held the estate for life; William Stancomb of Trowbridge had bought the property, covering almost 130 acres. (fn. 346) J. F. Stancomb died at Shaw House in 1920, (fn. 347) and it is now a County Council home for the aged. Shaw Hill House, built before 1825 by Samuel Heathcote and sold in 1887 on the death of Thomas Jenkyns Heathcote (fn. 348), was the home of Charles Awdry from about 1890 to 1908. (fn. 349)
Lands which subsequently became the manor of WOODROW are first mentioned in 1252 when property in 'La Woderewe' was in the hands of Elias de Rabayn (fn. 350) (later keeper of Devizes castle and of Chippenham and Melksham forests) (fn. 351) and his wife Maud. The lands were of the inheritance of Maud, daughter of Julia of Bayeux, relict of a Lincolnshire landowner. (fn. 352) In 1272 Elias and Maud granted the manor (recited as the manor of 'La Grave') to John and Margaret Besil. (fn. 353) The Besils still held the property in 1275 (fn. 354) but in 1280 granted it to the king and Queen Eleanor. (fn. 355) By 1286 it was held by the queen to whom it had presumably been assigned as part of her jointure. Then and in 1290–1 the Abbess of Lacock farmed it at a rent of £16 a year. (fn. 356)
In 1290 the Prioress of Amesbury, as lady of Melksham, requested payment of £1. 19s. 8d. annual rent which she claimed that John de Besil used to pay to her out of Woodrow manor as a member of Melksham. (fn. 357) Whether she substantiated her claim has not been ascertained.
Queen Eleanor died in 1290, and the manor was granted in 1299 to Margaret, sister of Philip of France, on her marriage to Edward I, and confirmed to her in 1310. (fn. 358) It was granted in 1318, on Margaret's death, to Isabel, wife of Edward II, as jointure worth £14. 10s. a year, and regranted to her in 1331, and (with further liberties) in 1345. (fn. 359) Isabel died in 1358, and the manor reverted to the Crown. (fn. 360) In 1359 it was granted to Queen Philippa (as worth £13. 6s. 8d. a year), (fn. 361) and in 1361 she let it to farm to John Roches the younger for ten years on a repairing lease, reserving fees and advowsoris. (fn. 362) Roches paid a rent equivalent to the yearly value of 1359 but had an annual allowance of 13s. 4d. (fn. 363) On Philippa's death in 1369 it reverted again to the Crown. (fn. 364)
The manor was then, in 1370, let to farm to John Bluet for seven years at 20 marks a year; (fn. 365) withdrawn in view of the lease to Roches; (fn. 366) let to farm to Roches again in 1371 for ten years, (fn. 367) in 1377 for four years, (fn. 368) on a repairing lease in 1381 for seven years, and in 1382 for ten years. (fn. 369) In 1390 it was granted to Robert Feryby for life, (fn. 370) and on his death in 1392 to John Ellingham for life, free of rent; (fn. 371) but in the same year it was granted for life to Thomas Trewyn, and Ellingham was compensated. (fn. 372) Trewyn, after exceptional vicissitudes, died holding the manor twenty— five years later. It was taken into the king's hand in 1397, (fn. 373) and in the same year granted for life to the king's esquires William Alyngton and Robert Cary. (fn. 374) In 1399 it was granted for life to William Alyngton alone, with housebote and hedgebote in Blackmore forest. It was then valued at 2 5 marks. (fn. 375) In 1401, however, Trewyn had confirmation of the grant of 1392. (fn. 376) The ensuing events are remarkable. About this time Peter Besil, great—great-grandson of John and Margaret, claimed the manor as their heir under the grant of 1272; Trewyn pleaded that Besil had released his claim in 1403; Besil replied (and a Southwark jury confirmed) that Trewyn and others had imprisoned him at Southwark and extorted the release; and the manor was adjudged to Besil. (fn. 377) Besil is said to have granted the manor by a charter dated at Melksham in 1408 to feoffees who included Trewyn amongst their number; (fn. 378) a fine concerned with the transaction does not mention Trewyn but records a payment of 100 marks to Besil by the co-feoffees of the Melksham charter as a consideration for the conveyance. (fn. 379) Trewyn is said to have regained sole right in the manor by 1412. (fn. 380) On his death in 1417, leaving bequests for Melksham church and the repair of local roads, (fn. 381) he bequeathed the manor for life to his relict Elizabeth (who subsequently married Sir John Hamelyn) with remainder to Sir Walter and Elizabeth Beauchamp and Robert Salman. Beauchamp, Salman, and Elizabeth Hamelyn died, and Elizabeth Beauchamp entered the manor which was confirmed to her. (fn. 382) Thereafter she granted it to Sir William Beauchamp, afterwards styled Lord St. Amand. (fn. 383) St. Amand settled it in 1447–8 on himself and his wife in fee tail, (fn. 384) and died in 1457. (fn. 385) His wife survived him with a son Richard, and obtained the custody of the manor. (fn. 386) She married Sir Roger Tocotes and the king, in 1464, confirmed to Tocotes and his wife their estate in the manor (worth £20 and held at ndash120; knight's fee) (fn. 387) and released his own right to them and Sir William Beauchamp's heirs. (fn. 388) In 1466–7 William Besil, another descendant of John and Margaret, unsuccessfully revived the family's claim. (fn. 389)
Elizabeth Tocotes died in 1491 (the manor being then valued at £20), and her son Richard, Lord St. Amand, succeeded. (fn. 390) He died in 1508 without legitimate issue, and in 1532 his natural son Sir Anthony St. Amand sold the manor to Sir Richard Lyster, (fn. 391) who in 1541 ceded it to Richard Blount for £166. 13s. 4d. (fn. 392) The grant of 1541 was confirmed by fine in 1547, (fn. 393) and in 1548 Richard and Elizabeth Blount sold the manor to Sir William Sharington and his heirs. (fn. 394) It passed with Seend (see above) to the Earls of Westmorland, and it is not mentioned after 1683.
The origin of the manor of WOOLMORE is possibly to be found in a demesne holding of Amesbury Priory: the priory had a grant of free warren in their holding there in 1286. (fn. 395) The manor is not, however, mentioned until 1502 when Walter Dauntsey died seised of it. The property was then worth £10, and was held of the prioress by fealty and 35s. rent. Dauntsey was succeeded by his son John. (fn. 396) The manor or lordship of Woolmore was among the properties late of Amesbury Priory which Sir Thomas Seymour had licence in 1541 to alienate to Henry Brouncker. (fn. 397) There seems to be no later reference to the manor, but the devolution of the estate to the Hulberts and the Awdrys was traced by Colonel R. W. Awdry. (fn. 398)
Woolmore House, on the Devizes road at Bowermdash; hill, was erected in 1631 by George Hulbert, citizen and vintner of London, who had bought the property in 1629. It was built of red brick, reputedly to a plan of Inigo Jones. (fn. 399) His relict died in 1677; his son Thomas had broken up the property about 1669, and in the early 20th century Woolmore was a farmhouse belonging to Charles Awdry. (fn. 400)
Liseman (or Liesman), a king's thane, held in King Edward's time, and still held in 1086, 3 hides in Melksham. (fn. 401) This estate is entered in the Geld Roll as of 2 hides. (fn. 402) It was worth 30s. The subsequent descent of the land is doubtful; Canon Jones identified it conjecturally with Poulshot. (fn. 403)
In 1180–1 Richard Crassus held an estate in Melksham, worth 14s., which the Crown had quitclaimed to him; (fn. 404) in 1181–2 he held another estate there worth £1. 12s., similarly quitclaimed, which had once belonged to Richard Walerand, (fn. 405) and which was revalued at £1.16s. in 1182–3. (fn. 406) A Richard Walerand was living in Melksham in 1167–8. (fn. 407) These two estates continue to appear on the Pipe Roll among the terre date until at least 1208–9. (fn. 408)
Whitley, on the north-west outskirts of Melksham, appears as a manor in 1546, in documents relating to Andrew Baynton's exchange with Lord Seymour of Sudeley (q.v. Bromham Battle). It seems unlikely that the estate was, properly speaking, a manor at this time.
In 1772 and 1776 Robert Neale acquired two fourths of 'Whitley Farm', in Melksham, Bradford, and Corsham. (fn. 409) The Whitley estate was sold in 1846, and Whitley House, with 60 acres, in 1913 on the death of Henry George White. (fn. 410)
A small emparkment belonging to Lacock Abbey is mentioned in several medieval documents but does not seem to have been given a name. In 1242 Henry III granted to the abbey a cartload of firewood once a week out of Melksham Forest. (fn. 411) In 1260 he gave, instead, 40 acres of the forest (bounded, inter alia, by Wansdyke), with liberty to inclose with a hedge and ditch; (fn. 412) and in 1388 the abbey had leave to substitute a paling. (fn. 413) No further record of the property has been found.
In 1774 Robert Neale acquired from one Parsons of Beanacre a small estate called Princes, with the pew in Melksham church belonging to it; in the same year he obtained about half a tenement with the Hamms in Beanacre. (fn. 414) A meadow called the Ham 'by the Avon' is mentioned in 1620. (fn. 415) No other record of these estates has been found. Small holdings of land in Sandridge are mentioned in the 13th and 15th centuries. (fn. 416) Lord Audley had a house at Sandridge Park in 1825. (fn. 417) The present house was built by Henry Lopes before 1862. (fn. 418) R. H. Ludlow Bruges is stated to have been lord of the 'manor' of Sandridge in 1907, but it seems unlikely that this referred to more than the park surrounding the house named Sandridge Park. (fn. 419)
At the time of the Domesday Survey the advowson of the church at Melksham was probably held by the king as lord of the capital manor (see above). In 1200 John granted the church to the Bishop of Salisbury (fn. 420) and in 1220 it was appropriated to the communa of the canons of the cathedral. (fn. 421) Thus since that date the dean and chapter have been patrons of the living. Between 1555 and 1601 they waived their right of presentation in favour of various members of the Brouncker family (fn. 422) who were farming the rectory manor of Canonhold (see above). (fn. 423) The dean and chapter have retained the right to presentation since that time. (fn. 424)
A vicarage was instituted in 1250. (fn. 425) Under the appropriation of 1220 was included the chapelry of Erlestoke (fn. 426) (q.v.); Erlestoke, 7 miles from Melksham church with four parishes intervening, remained a dependent chapelry until 1877. (fn. 427) A chapelry at Seend was probably always dependent to Melksham. The chapel is first mentioned in the 13th century when Wigan of Cherburgh, who held the manor of Seend (see above) from 1269 to 1283, granted to the parish chaplain (capellano parochiali), Hugh of Trowbridge, a curtilage in Seend of the land which Ingram the chaplain had formerly held. (fn. 428) Seend remained a dependent chapelry until 1873, when a new parish was formed. (fn. 429) The patrons are the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury. (fn. 430)
The chapel of St. Leonard at Shaw existed before 1335, and the dean and chapter were bound to provide a priest to say Mass for the deceased lords of Castle Combe; in 1454 and in 1460 the steward of the manor was ordered to see that this duty which had been neglected was performed. (fn. 431) No further record of the chapel has been found. Shaw, with Whitley, was formed as a district chapelry in 1843 (fn. 432) and declared a vicarage in 1866. (fn. 433) The present patron is the Vicar of Melksham. (fn. 434)
The churches at Forest and Beanacre are chapels of ease to Melksham.
The vicarage of Melksham was valued at £10 in 1291 (fn. 435) and at £38. 9s. 4d. in 1535 when the vicar asked for the allocation of £6. 13s. 4d. for a chaplain to celebrate at Melksham and £6 for another to celebrate at either Seend or Erlestoke. (fn. 436) The vicarial tithes and oblations were valued in 1341 at £5. (fn. 437) The glebe lands were surveyed in 1608, 1629, 1704, and 1783; the survey of 1783 mentions the vicar's right of common for 7 cows, or 3 horses and 1 cow. (fn. 438)
Two 'Ministers' of Seend, Thomas Tomkins in 1649 and Thomas Symes or Syms in 1659, received 'augmentations' from the dean and chapter's lands or from Tenths. (fn. 439) An entry in the chapelwardens' book for 1663 records an agreement between Syms, as 'curate', and certain inhabitants that each of them will pay him a certain sum, to a total of £10, so long as he performs his duties, including the preaching of two sermons every Lord's Day. (fn. 440)
The 'Stoks' of Seend Church are a detailed record, compiled about 1500 to 1520, of 31 endowments of lights, obits, and other commemorations, varying from 7s. to 15s., and forming a total of £15. 18s. They refer to three altars of Our Lady situated in the porch, in St. Nicholas aisle, and in the south aisle; and to altars of Our Lady of Pity, St. Christopher, St. Katherine, St. Nicholas, and St. 'Sythe' (probably St. Osith). The lamp before the High Cross and Our Lady's light in the chancel are mentioned. (fn. 441) Edward Powell, prebendary of Salisbury and Lincoln, incumbent of two other benefices besides Melksham, spoke against Henry VIII's marriage. He was deprived in 1534 and executed in 1540. (fn. 442) Bohun Fox, Vicar of Melksham (1697–17 50), established a charity school, and persecuted the Quakers with unflagging animosity. (fn. 443)
The parish church of ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, north transept, north and south chapels, north porch and west tower. The present building was probably begun in the 12th century, when it may have comprised chancel, nave, north aisle, and transept. In the early 14th century the church was widened on the north side, the south aisle was added and the north rebuilt, and the transept was lengthened. About the mid-15th century the walls of the aisles were rebuilt and a chapel on the south side of the chancel, a clerestory and north and south porches were added. The Lady chapel at the east end of the south aisle was built later in the 15th century, and the rectangular central tower in the 16th. It was probably in the early 16th century that the aisles were raised and large four-light square-headed windows inserted. The roof and the galleries were repaired in 1810. (fn. 444) The Lady Chapel was subject to rights vested in the Prioress of Amesbury, and passed at the Dissolution, with Melksham capital manor (see above) to the Brounckers; (fn. 445) it is said to have been accessible from the church by a single priest's door, and it was connected with the manor house by a path crossing the churchyard. (fn. 446)
There are traces of a destroyed piscina in the south wall of the chancel, and of a late-13th-century tomb recess on the north wall at the east end. The tower rises in three stages to a battlemented parapet. The nave roof, covered with modern Welsh slates, has an embattled parapet. The porch is vaulted, and has a parvise above. Two scratch dials were found in 1932: one with numerals on the south-east buttress of the nave, and one under the south window. (fn. 447)
In 1845 the church was restored under the direction of T. H. Wyatt at a cost of £1,895. The tower was rebuilt at the west end; a vestry added on the north side of the chancel; the galleries and the south porch removed; the south wall of the south chapel rebuilt, and a north chapel formed between the transept and the porch. There were left, as visible remains of the Norman church, the lower part of the chancel with slight traces of its original arcading and a string-course at the west end of the nave. A carved capital and an unusually large stone coffin are both preserved in the porch.
A reredos was erected in 1850. In 1881 the chancel was restored and a new altar installed; the brass eagle lectern was added in 1891; the reredos was restored and the chancel screen erected in 1894: the figure of St. Michael was placed over the porch in 1901; the South African War Memorial window was unveiled in 1903; the alabaster font and the carved oak pulpit were added in 1906, and new stained glass in 1910. The organ, mentioned first in 1827, was replaced in 1880 by a new instrument, which was resited in 1902. (fn. 448) Gas was introduced for lighting and heating in 1838–9; the heating was renovated in 1904 and 1949, and electric light installed in 1904. A new clock was provided in 1756, and new chimes in 1775; a new sundial (now on the wall of the south-east chapel) was fixed in 1808. (fn. 449)
The brass of Ambrose Dauntsey (d. 1612), formerly in the south aisle, is now on the north side of the chancel. Other 17th-century memorials are those of John Awdry (d. 1639) and Isaac Selfe (d. 1656). (fn. 450)
The north or Daniell's aisle has been associated with Beanacre manor (fn. 451) (see above). It was stated in the Terrier of 1783 that the north aisle was repairable by Paul Methuen (then lord of Beanacre), the south-east aisle by Richard Jenkins and two others, and the southwest aisle by Mrs. Mary Thresher. (fn. 452)
There were four bells in 1553. The present peal of eight was recast in 1924 by Messrs. Taylors. It comprises the following bells: (1) and (2) 1896, Mears & Stainbank; (3) 1703, A. Rudhall; (4) 1703, A. Rudhall, recast 1896; (5) 1703, A. Rudhall; (6) 1768, 'T. R.'; (7) 1808, Jas. Wells, Aldbourne; (8) 1703 [Rudhall]. (fn. 453)
The Commissioners of 1553 left for the church a chalice, and took 13 oz. in plate for the king. The church plate was stolen in 1803, and replaced with pewter; new plate was bought about 1881; three vessels were stolen in 1893, and identified twenty years later in British Guiana. The church now possesses two patens, one hall-marked Exeter 1729 (presented in 1876) and another silver gilt; one chalice of 1571 and another, probably Italian, of early-16th-century date. (fn. 454)
The registers of baptisms and burials begin in 1568; those for marriages begin in 1569, and are defective for five years after 1657. Transcripts have been made of the complete set. There are two early drawings of the church in the parvise. Two Buckler water-colours of the church before restoration are in the W.A.S. library at Devizes.
The churchyard was extended in 1850, on land bought from the Awdry family for £200, and again in 1886, on land given by Colonel Phipps. (fn. 455) It was further enlarged in 1907, when the new ground was given by Charles Awdry and walled by public subscription. (fn. 456) When the hospital was moved from Bank Street (see below—Local Govt. and Public Services) the transfer of Henry George White's charity to the maintenance of the churchyard took effect. The former hospital premises, with £465 received for damage during requisition, were the subject of a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 1949. The Diocesan Board of Finance is custodian trustee, the Parochial Church Council are the managing trustees. (fn. 457)
The Terrier of 1783 describes in detail the vicarage house of that date. It was a stone-walled building with tiled roof, and attached to it were outbuildings, an orchard, and a garden. In 1877 the house was rebuilt after designs by G. E. Street, in a 17th-century style. (fn. 458) It stands on the west side of Canon Square.
A church house existed about 1670. (fn. 459) It was on the south side of Church Street; by 1835 it had been converted into two dwelling-houses. (fn. 460) These are probably represented by two houses half-way along the east sideof Church Walk.
The Mission (or Church) Room, an old stone building adjoining the entrance to the Avon Works (see below—Trade and Industry) was conveyed by John Howard Matravers in 1894 to the Diocesan Board of Finance for use as a Sunday school and for kindred purposes. (fn. 461) John Webb, by his will proved 1908, gave to the vicar and churchwardens £100 to be invested as the William and Sarah Webb Trust. The income is distributed at Christmas for the benefit of poor members of the Church of England resident in the parish. The endowment, £114. 5s.8d. invested in stock, is now (1951) held by the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds. (fn. 462)
The church of ST. BARNABAS, Beanacre, in Melksham Without, consists of chancel, nave, and north porch. It is built of coursed rubble in a 13th century gothic style, with a gabled bell-cote at the west end; the roofs are tiled. The font, of late-14thcentury work, came from the parish church. A church room, with square-headed mullioned windows, has been added on the south side. The site, in Hedge Lease, was given by Lord Methuen and the Hon. Paul Sandford Methuen in 1885 (fn. 463) and the church was built in 1886.
The church of ST.ANDREW, Forest, in Melksham Within, consists of small chancel, nave, vestry, organ chamber, and south porch. It is built of ashlar in a 13th-century gothic style, with a bell-cote at the west end for one bell. It has a carved marble and alabaster reredos, with gold mosaic panels, presented in 1898 by Mrs. Ludlow Lopes. It was licensed for worship in 1876 and consecrated in 1886; it was designed by G. E. Street and erected at the cost of the Revd. E. L. Barnwell. It possesses an old Italian parcel gilt chalice bought in Rome in 1876, a paten of about 1500 bought in 1876, and a silver parcel gilt flagon given by Barnwell. (fn. 464) The endowments, raised by public subscription between 1876 and 1886 and supplemented by gifts from Mr. and Mrs. Barnwell and others, are held by the Diocesan Board of Finance. An additional burial ground was given by Thomas Heathcote in 1887. (fn. 465)
The church of HOLY CROSS, Seend, consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles and porches, western tower, and vestry. It was rebuilt about the end of the 15 th century, and only part of the tower and the east end of the south aisle remain from the earlier church. The present north aisle was built by John Stokes, a clothier (see below—Trade and Industry); two brasses dated 1494 mark the burial place of Stokes and his wife. (fn. 466) The chancel was rebuilt in 1876, and a little later the west end of the south aisle was rebuilt and a south porch added. At the east end of the south aisle is a staircase leading to a doorway which gave access to the rood; remains of colour round the door reveal the profile of the loft, and a central figure may still be traced on the wall above the chancel arch, but most of the painting was removed in 1880.
The north porch has a parvise approached by an external stair, and lighted by an inserted three-light window (probably 17th century). The west gable of the north aisle has a crucifix finial, and in the hollow mouldings of the window below are carved shears and scissors—badges of John Stokes's trade. The tower rises in three stages to an embattled parapet, and retains its original oak counter-boarded door. All the roofs are low-pitched and have battlemented parapets. The 15th- and 19th-century work is in stone ashlar, the earlier in random rubble. The nave and the two eastern bays of the south aisle retain their 15th-century oak roofs. The galleries, except for a small portion in the tower, were removed in 1888.
Hot-air heating was installed in 1846, and electric lighting in 1930. The church was reseated under a faculty of 1858, and again in 1910. The canopied reredos, flanked with mosaic panels, was erected in 1883. The organ was installed in 1889. The original font, which had been broken, was buried in the churchyard in the late 19th century, but was restored to use in 1939; the modern font is still in the church. (fn. 467)
The church contains memorials to William Tipper (d. 1654) signed by Richard Broad, William Somner (d. 1654), and Florence Deverell (d. 1699).
There were three bells at Seend in 1553; there is now a peal of six: (1) 1880, Mears & Stainbank; (2) 1636 recast 1880, Mears & Stainbank; (3) and (4) 1636; (5) 1793, R. & J. Wells, Aldbourne; (6) 1636 recast by Taylor 1912. (fn. 468)
Edward VI's Commissioners left 15½ oz. silver for the church, and took 2½ oz. for the king's use. The church plate now comprises a chalice with paten cover of 1712 and a chalice, paten and flagon bought by subscription in 1875. (fn. 469)
The registers begin in 1612, and are complete except for a few years between 1717 and 1723. (fn. 470)
The vicarage house, on the north side of the road almost opposite the church lane, was enlarged in 1877. (fn. 473)
Daniel Jones's charity for singers at the 'chapel', and for the Sunday school, appears to have been lost before 1867. (fn. 474)
Louisa Brodrick Schomberg by will proved 1919, left £400 as an endowment for the church (excluding repairs and maintenance), or for Church day or Sunday schools in Seend, or for religious instruction in such schools. The vicar and churchwardens are the trustees. The capital, invested in stock, is now (1951) £642. 10s. 1d. Arthur Joseph Schomberg, by codicil to his will proved 1924, left £300 for the upkeep of church and churchyard or for Devizes cottage hospital; it was settled in court that any surplus should be paid to the hospital. The vicar and churchwardens are the trustees; the capital is now £369. 2s. invested in stock. (fn. 475) Thomas Charles Usher, in 1930, gave to the Diocesan Board of Finance £100 to be invested in augmentation of the vicar's stipend. (fn. 476)
CHRIST CHURCH, Shaw, was built in 1838, and rebuilt in 1905 by C. E. Ponting at the expense of Charles Awdry. (fn. 477) The new church retains the north and south walls of the former nave; aisles are formed by oak pillars and arches, carried up to a half-timbered clerestory. The chancel is apsidal, and where it joins the nave there is an ornate oak flèche, covered with oak shingles. The tower rises in four stages; the lowest forms a porch and baptistry; the buttresses of the belfry stage terminate in life-sized statues of saints; the parapet is embattled, and the slender spire is covered with oak shingles. The brass candelabrum was brought from Melksham church in 1846.
The registers begin in 1838. The plate comprises a flagon, chalice, and patens of about 1838, and a modern silver chalice and paten given as memorials about 1896. The original organ was enlarged in 1925. Gas heating was introduced in 1846. (fn. 478) Electric light was installed in 1937.
No early records have been found of Recusants in Melksham. A report in 1783 stated that there were no reputed Roman Catholics in the town. (fn. 479)
The church of ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA is in West Street, off King Street. It was built in 1939, of stock brick. (fn. 480)
The earliest references to Protestant Nonconformity in Melksham occur in the later 17th century, and from that period the Society of Friends and other dissenting bodies were strongly represented among the clothiers. Something of the fervour of the early dissenters in the district is illustrated by the action of William Somner, a member of a Seend family prominent in the clothing trade and, later, in the Society of Friends, who 'brot down' much of the painted glass in Seend church about 1648. (fn. 481)
There are some scattered references to early Presbyterian ministers and congregations. Edward Carpenter, 'Minister' of Melksham (1639–1657), signed in 1648 the 'Concurrent Testimony of the Ministers of Wiltshire' (a Presbyterian document). About 1665 his successor John Harding (who had been ejected in 1662) and four other extruded clergy were living at Melksham or Seend; (fn. 482) one of them, Thomas Rutty, was preaching at Calne in 1669. (fn. 483) In 1672 Benjamin Rutty, a Presbyterian and possibly a member of the same family (which was later active amongst both the Friends and the Methodists), obtained licence to act as a Presbyterian teacher and to use for the purpose his house at Seend. (fn. 484) He died in the following year, but his meeting apparently prospered for some time after. There was at Seend in 1717 a congregation of 52 'hearers', addressed once a month by Nathaniel Chauncy, the Presbyterian minister at Devizes. (fn. 485) Despite, however, these early beginnings, Presbyterian nonconformity apparently did not flourish in Melksham: there are now (1951) no Presbyterian or Unitarian churches in the district.
The strength of early non-conformity in the town is not perhaps truly reflected in Bishop Compton's census in 1676: a return was made of only 100 dissenters as against 1,865 church people. (fn. 486) An early19th-century return states on the other hand that of a population of about 5,000 'much the largest portion are dissenters' although it records only 293 'actual members' of congregations. (fn. 487)
Melksham has been an important centre for the activities of the Society of Friends from the 17th century until the present day. The first recorded Meeting is in 1669 when 80 Quakers were said to have attended service at the house of Robert Marchmant or Marshman. (fn. 488) When the Wiltshire Quarterly Meeting records begin in 1678 the Shaw Hill and Melksham Particular Meeting was sending members to the Quarterly Meeting. (fn. 489) In 1696 Shaw Hill was no longer included in the name (fn. 490) and Melksham's most flourishing period began, for notwithstanding the gradual decline of Quakerism in Wiltshire during the 18th century Melksham remained a strong society. (fn. 491) In 1775 at least half those attending the Quarterly Meeting came from the town (fn. 492) and from this time, although Melksham shared in the general decline, it never, like many other centres, ceased altogether. (fn. 493) In 1788 the Wiltshire Monthly Meeting was subdivided into three Preparative Meetings similar in composition to the three Monthly Meetings replaced by the Wiltshire Monthly Meeting in 1775. One of these, replacing the Lavington Monthly Meeting, was to be convened at Melksham (fn. 494) and it is thus not surprising to find two years later that the town's society was the strongest of all the Wiltshire centres and that something like a third of the Quakers in the county belonged to it. (fn. 495) Eight years later, however, Melksham had lost nearly half its members, the total then (including children) being 31 as against 50 in 1790. (fn. 496) The rapid decline of Quakerism during the next fifty years left Melksham and Calne as the only effective Wiltshire societies from 1828 until the end of the century. (fn. 497) The 48 members recorded for Melksham in 1829 no doubt included members of neighbouring erstwhile societies; (fn. 498) in 1903 18 members and 10 non-members attended at the Meeting. (fn. 499) By 1909 the Melksham Meeting was left as the only centre of the Friends in north-west Wiltshire and remained so until 1936: (fn. 500) its status, however, was that of a meeting for worship for it ceased to be a Preparative Meeting in 1915. (fn. 501) The Melksham Meeting was discontinued in 1950. (fn. 502)
The Friends Meeting House in King Street was built in 1734: (fn. 503) it is endowed with £95. 13s. 7d. invested in stock. (fn. 504) There is a burial ground behind the Meeting House and one at 'Show', possibly Shaw, is mentioned in 1786: (fn. 505) there is a tradition that there was another at Seend Cleeve. (fn. 506) Registers of births, deaths, and marriages dating from the 17th century until 1837 have been preserved. (fn. 507) There was a Quaker school at Melksham between 1695 and 1721 (see below—Schools). Prominent amongst Melksham Quakers in the early 18th century was Thomas Beaven who conducted by pamphlet a controversy with Bohun Fox, vicar of the parish. (fn. 508)
Until the early years of the 19th century Methodism had not taken a strong hold in Melksham itself, although Wesley preached there on 23 October 1750 with considerable success: 'the number of people obliged me to preach abroad, notwithstanding the keen north wind. And the steady attention of the hearers made amends for the rigour of the season.' (fn. 509)
Early meetings were held 'in a small cottage, which was provided with a few rough benches for seats. There were only 4 or 5 members, . . . all old people'. (fn. 510) Between 1787 and 1790 the hall of a house in the town that had formerly belonged to a local justice of the peace was used for meetings. (fn. 511) At this time Melksham was within the Bradford 'plan'. (fn. 512) In 1802 Charles Maggs (1769–1854), founder of the firm that still bears his name (see below—Trade and Industry) and later to play an important part in the spread of Methodism in Melksham and the surrounding areas, went to live in the town and occupied the former J.P.'s house: he found the cause 'at very low ebb'. (fn. 513) In 1805 Job Coleman's house in the High Street was the meeting-place, where two rooms thrown into one, fitted with forms and a pulpit, held about 300 worshippers. (fn. 514) In 1808 Maggs purchased the lease of the house and with the help of a charity of £50 bequeathed for this purpose, the first chapel was built. (fn. 515) The meeting became known as 'Mr. Magg's' and continued to flourish. Until 1811 Melksham had been included in the Bradford circuit but in that year a new circuit was formed with Melksham at its head: the first Superintendent minister was a Mr. Pearson. (fn. 516) At that time there were 41 members at the chapel: a revival in Melksham and in the circuit as a whole brought membership to 69 in 1817. (fn. 517) In 1821 the chapel was enlarged and a new long term lease obtained: (fn. 518) by 1827 membership had risen to 93. It remained at that level until 1857 when there was another remarkable revival, which, besides adding to the membership inspired members to further efforts for the liquidation of the chapel debt. (fn. 519) During the remainder of the 19th century membership remained at about 100: (fn. 520) there are now (1951) 86 members of the Melksham chapel. (fn. 521)
The present chapel of stone and stock brick was built in 1872 on the site of the 1808 building in the High Street near the Market Place. (fn. 522) The old chapel had been licensed for marriages in 1865 and a licence was issued in the year of its erection for the new one. (fn. 523) Registers of birth and baptisms were kept between 1811 and 1837. (fn. 524) The income from two lots of property, acquired in 1897 and 1901, was applied in 1903 to the maintenance of the chapel. The property, bought by the chapel and put in trust, comprised 2 plots of land and four cottages in Watson's Court, Melksham. (fn. 525)
At least by 1857 and probably much earlier there was an active Sunday school attached to the Melksham chapel; at that time 35 teachers and 150 children were attending the school. (fn. 526) A freehold site for a Sunday school in Watson's 'Barton' (now Watson's Court) was acquired in 1861: (fn. 527) the schoolroom was rebuilt between 1900 and 1906 on another site in Watson's Court at a cost of £1,800. (fn. 528) The old school is now (1952) leased to the local branch of the British Legion.
By his will, proved in 1891, John Ball left £100 to the trustees of the chapel for the provision of flannel and blankets at Christmas for poor persons attending the chapel. (fn. 529) The money is now (1951) invested in stock. (fn. 530)
By 1889, and possibly even a little earlier, the Melksham chapel was strong enough to form a separate meeting in Semington Lane half a mile from the centre of the town. In that year a site was acquired (fn. 531) and by 1896 a chapel had been erected. (fn. 532) Membership between 1890 and 1898 remained at 9: (fn. 533) in 1951 there were 5 members. (fn. 534)
There seems to have been no Methodist community at Whitley before the first decade of the 19th century: at about that time Thomas Joyce, a member of the Independent Chapel in Melksham (see below), opened his house in Whitley for weekly Methodist meetings. (fn. 535) In 1809 Whitley was placed on the Bradford 'plan'. (fn. 536) A chapel was built in 1828, but it remained private property until it was bought, through a connexional loan, in 1852. (fn. 537) In 1857 there were 28 members of the chapel and a Sunday school with 30 children, and 5 teachers. (fn. 538) A new site was conveyed in 1867, (fn. 539) and the present stone-built chapel bears that date. Accommodation was reckoned as 90 in 1873: (fn. 540) membership was 16 in 1886, rose to 19m 1890 and fell to 10 in 1898. (fn. 541) In 1951 there were 7 members. (fn. 542) The Whitley society which had been transferred from the Bradford to the Melksham Circuit at an early date became part of the Wiltshire Mission when it was formed in 1895. (fn. 543)
A Primitive Methodist Mission known as the Castle Combe Mission and afterwards as the Chippenham Mission of the Brinkworth Circuit was launched in 1829, and 'preaching places' were established at Melksham and Forest. (fn. 544) The early years of the Mission saw considerable struggle and persecution but by 1835 the Mission had become a circuit comprising 41 places. In 1839 there were 15 members at Melksham and 10 years later 33. Membership subsequently rose to 40 but in 1863 there were only 6, and at the end of the year the Mission Room in the town was closed and the furniture sold 'to help pay the rent, £4, which is due'. The furniture fetched only £2 and the balance was raised by subscription.
Unlike the town mission the Primitive Methodist Society at Forest flourished. In the early years of the struggle which it shared with the town society, membership was small—no more than 7 both in 18 39 and 1849. By 1863, however, when the town society collapsed, membership had risen to 12. Two houses in Lower Forest Lane were purchased in 1852 (fn. 545) and adapted as the Society's first chapel which was opened in 1856. In 1890 membership at Forest stood at 15 but numbers grew considerably during the next ten years, and in 1905 the present stone chapel in Forest Road was opened. Melksham Forest is now a prominent member chapel of the Calne Methodist Circuit. (fn. 546) Plans for forming a Sunday school were made as early as 1864 and one was certainly formed by 1875. There was a decline in the fortunes of the school in 1886 and it was closed for three years. A school building erected, also in stone, at a cost of more than £1,500 was opened in 1938. The money for the building was subscribed by many surrounding societies and by the anonymous gifts of many private persons. Frederick Henry Knee by will proved in 1932 left to the trustees of the church £25 to be invested and applied for the benefit of the Sunday school. (fn. 547)
The Primitive Methodist society at Seend Cleeve was formed at least by 1841 when the first chapel was built. (fn. 548) The chapel was rebuilt in 1849 and in 1863 a circuit minister went to live in the village. Like the Forest society Seend Cleeve did not share in the decline of Primitive Methodism in Melksham itself and continued to flourish even after the removal of the minister to Calne in 1883. The Seend Cleeve society is now within the Calne Circuit of the Methodist Church. (fn. 549)
Wesleyan Methodist teaching began early in Seend, inspired no doubt by Wesley himself who preached there on the evening of 8 November 1749. (fn. 550) The society used private houses or cottages for their early meetings. Alexander Mather, Superintendent of the Wiltshire Circuit in 1766–7, visited Seend regularly, and stayed with Daniel Flower at Seend Park Farm. (fn. 551) For some time before 1812 Seend was within the Bradford Circuit but in that year it was transferred to Melksham. (fn. 552) In 1814 membership was 40; (fn. 553) it declined during the century but reached 34 in 1898. (fn. 554) There are now (1951) 22 members and the Seend society is part of the Wiltshire Mission. (fn. 555) The brick chapel at Factory Row (by the cross-road, at the west end of the village) was built, on a leasehold site, in 1774, and opened by John Wesley in March 1775. (fn. 556) It was registered for marriages in 1854, (fn. 557) and settled on the trusts of the 'model deed' in 1873. (fn. 558) John Gaisford's charity for the Societies at Bulkington and Seend, created by will proved 1839 and a deed of 1870, now (1950) produces £1. 14s. a year for Seend. (fn. 559)
No information has been found about the early history of the Primitive Methodist society at Redstocks in the south-east part of Melksham Without. The chapel there was acquired by the Wesleyan Methodists in 1886. (fn. 560) Membership at the time was 20 but it declined throughout the remainder of the century and the Society was apparently never a strong one. (fn. 561) The chapel was sold in 1950. (fn. 562)
A chapel for Wesleyan worship was built at 'Berryl's Lane' (Berhills on the Sells Green-Bromham Road) in about 1850. In 1857 no society had been formed there and no further trace has been found of any Wesleyan community there. (fn. 563)
A Baptist congregation is said to have met in Melksham as early as 1669 and to have held its services in 'John Webb's shearing shop'. (fn. 564) In that year and in 1694 the congregation was recognized as a member of the Western Association, (fn. 565) and in 1689 and 1691 it was represented at the General Assembly in London. (fn. 566) In 1701 James Webb's house and John Webb's barn adjoining it were licensed as a meeting-house. (fn. 567) No further record of the group has been found until 1715 when the congregation was said to number 300. (fn. 568) A James Earle was at that time the minister and was probably succeeded in 1731 by Zebulon Marshman. By the end of the 18th century membership was 50: it rose to 130 by the middle of the next century and by 1885 had reached 151. In 1950 there were 115 members. (fn. 569)
The first chapel of the Melksham congregation was begun in 1714 and finished shortly after. The present stone-built church in Old Broughton Road was erected in 1776, provided with galleries in 1795, enlarged in 1806, and reopened after renovation in 1879; new heating was installed in 1899. The Sunday school is first mentioned in 1840: shortly before that date a new schoolroom had been built. At that time there were 332 pupils and 53 teachers. The present schoolroom was opened in 1909: there are now (1950) 141 pupils and 18 teachers. (fn. 570) A manse was bought about 1887, and sold in 1905, when the new manse in Beanacre Road was built. The Rev. Richard Haynes, by his will proved in 1768, left £150 in trust for the chapel and its ministers. This endowment is now (1950) invested in stock; the deacons of the chapel were appointed trustees by a scheme of 1916. (fn. 571) Registers of births were kept between 1794 and 1837 and of burials between 1794 and 1836. (fn. 572)
The Particular Baptist congregation in Melksham is first mentioned in 1794. At that time the community had no pastor and their needs were supplied by students from Bristol. (fn. 573) In 1798 a pastor, Thomas Ward from Diss (Norf.), (fn. 574) was appointed. No record has been found of an early chapel: in 1829 this congregation was referred to as the Zion Meeting in circumstances that make it clear that there was then some kind of meeting-house for Particular Baptists. (fn. 575) The present Ebenezer Chapel close to Union Street was built in 1835 on a site then called 'Stalkers Close' (see above, p. 93, n. 35) which had been obtained on a long-term lease. (fn. 576) Some additional land surrounding the chapel was leased in 1869. (fn. 577) A trust formed in 1860 for managing property of the Ogbourne St. Andrew Particular Baptist Chapel was applied to the benefit of the Melksham chapel in 1903 when the Ogbourne St. Andrew Chapel closed. The assets of the trust are now invested in stock and administered under a scheme drawn up by the Charity Commissioners in 1917. (fn. 578)
Two earlier Baptist centres in the Melksham district no longer survive. In 1672 the house of Abraham Little in 'Whitby'—almost certainly Whitley—was licensed for Anabaptist worship and a William Rutty was licensed to teach in it. (fn. 581) No further record of this meeting has been found. A Baptist chapel at Forest was opened in 1840 but the meeting did not apparently flourish and the chapel was sold in 1906.
The Independent congregation at Melksham was probably founded about 1773 (fn. 582) and seems to have owed its inception to the influence of Methodist preaching. John Honywell (d. 1836) who was ordained as the first pastor in 1778, was reported by the curate of Melksham in 1783 to be 'the teacher of a group of Methodists'. (fn. 583) In 1829 there were 75 'actual members' of the meeting. (fn. 584) The chapel is now within the Congregational Union and in 1951 had 60 members and 45 children attending the Sunday school. (fn. 585)
The site of the chapel in Market Place was obtained on a long-term lease in 1780 (fn. 586) and a meeting house and vestry were built upon it. In 1809 four small tenements on the west side of Semington Lane and the north side of the old poor house were put in trust for the chapel and used as a burial ground. (fn. 587) This was closed in 1876. (fn. 588) A register of births and baptisms was kept between 1776 and 1836. (fn. 589) By will and codicil proved 1932, F. H. Knee left a sum of £50 to the trustees of the church for the benefit of the Sunday school. The endowment was, in 1950, £50. 4s. 7d. invested in stock and held by the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds. (fn. 590) The Wilts, and East Somerset Congregational Union were appointed trustees of the chapel, schoolroom, and other property by a scheme made in 1934. (fn. 591)
A non-sectarian chapel at Sandridge Lane, on a site conveyed in 1892, is still in use; the services are conducted by lay preachers. (fn. 592) F. H. Knee, by will and codicil proved in 1932, established a charity for the Sunday school; the endowment is now £29.0s. 6d. invested in stock. (fn. 593)
The Salvation Army has a red brick Citadel, off Church Street, and other premises in Union Street. The Citadel was at one time a malt house and later a men's club: (fn. 594) it was held for some years on a lease and was acquired by the Army in 1929. (fn. 595)
The state of agriculture in Melksham capital manor in the 13th century is well documented.In the early years of John's reign there were introduced into the manor several hundred sheep, and small numbers of she-goats, sows, and cows. (fn. 596) When Walter de Burgh began his custody in 1236, 32 oxen were delivered to him. In the ensuing year he bought 69 oxen, 1 bullock, 8 cows, 67 pigs, and 820 muttons, and sold 67 oxen, 7 cows, 154 pigs, and 820 mutton fleeces. In 1237–8 he bought 18 oxen, 38 cows, 23 heifers, 3 bullocks, 125 pigs, 60 goats, and 20 kids, and sold 14 oxen, 8 cows, 23 heifers, 3 bullocks, 128 pigs, and 46 muttons. He also sold 158 cheeses, the fleeces of 774 muttons, and the hides of 2 oxen, 2 cows, and 1 heifer. When he handed the manor over to Barbeflet he left 3 heifers and 38 oxen. (fn. 597) When extended in 1240 the manor was stocked besides other beasts, with 1 horse, 29 oxen, 1 bull, 19 cows with 17 calves, 16 two-yearold bullocks, 20 one-year-old bullocks, 534 sheep, 159 ewes, 25 pigs, 20 goats, 1 bell wether (bucc'), and 6 kids. It was declared that it could have carried inter alia 40 oxen, 70 cows, 35 without calf, 1 bull, and 50 goats. In the same year the farmer had sold 40 muttons, 60 oxen, 7 ewes, and 4½ weys (pondera) of cheese. There remained in store 5 weys of wool, 30 great fleeces of muttons and sheep, 64 lambs' fleeces, 64 goat skins, and 62 kid skins. (fn. 598) In the first year of Hugh Gargat's custody (1250–1) 2 avers, 44 oxen, 8 cows, 8 calves, 106 pigs, and 201 muttons were bought, and 5 oxen, 1 calf skin and 4 mutton fleeces sold. In the second (1251–2), 6 oxen, 20 cows with calf, 2 heifers, 170 muttons, and 30 pigs were bought and 2 avers, 28 oxen, 6 calves, 138 pigs, 203 muttons, 1 aver hide, 1 cow hide, 1 calfskin, and 45 mutton fleeces sold. (fn. 599) Fromund received from Gargat 1 aver, 1 female foal, 29 oxen, 20 cows, 1 bull, 23 two-year-old bullocks, 17 calves, and 6 piglets. Three of the oxen and the piglets were sold and 2 cows died. In addition 31 pigs were bought and sold in the period of account (July 1257– February 1258). (fn. 600) The stock position in the later Middle Ages is unfortunately not known, but a very defective bailiff's account of 1356–7 shows that horses, cattle, pigs and above all sheep were still being reared. Cattle and poultry were carried away to Amesbury together with loads of fleeces, wool, and cheese. (fn. 601)
In 1236–7 corn to the value of £22. 17s. 3½d. was sold off the manor; in 1237–8 the value was £21.1s. 4½d. The crops consisted of wheat, barley, oats, and beans, of which wheat yielded the most (98 qr. 1 bu.) in the former year and oats (107 qr. 1 bu.) in the latter. No corn was bought at this period except a little rye for sowing in the second year. (fn. 602) In 1240, 202 acres were sown with wheat and 180 with summer corn. (fn. 603) In 1241–2 the sheriff accounted for corn to the value of £30. 13s. 4d. sold off the manor. (fn. 604) In 1250–3 corn to the value of £49. 14s. 2d. was sold. The crops were the same as in 1236–8 with the addition of dredge. The quantity of oats sold amounted to 118 qr. 4 bu., of wheat to 23 qr. 4 bu.; the total sales of corn amounted to 191 qr. 2 bu.–90 quarters more than in 1235–6. It was, however, necessary to buy 67 qr. of corn in 1250–1, a fact which confirms the impression that the late lessees had been bad tenants (see above—Capital Manor). Next year, only 18 qr. 6 bu. were bought. (fn. 605) Besides sales, repeated orders were given to the farmers to make issues of corn out of the manor. Thus, in 1252, 15 qr. of wheat and 15 of barley were issued (fn. 606) and in 1253, 30 qr. of wheat. (fn. 607) In 1255, orders were given to take 60 qr. of wheat to Clarendon and to hold in readiness another 60. (fn. 608) When Fromund surrendered the custody in February 1258 he accounted for 206 qr. 1 bu. of old and new wheat and 2 qr. 1 bu. that had, for a reason not apparent, arisen as churchscot. Since July 1257, 24 qr. 1 bu. of this had been devoted to seed, 96 qr. sold and 79½ qr. (valued at 17 marks) delivered to Reynold de Drumare. Small quantities had also been given to the sower, the mower, and the manor servants. Fromund also accounted for 39 qr. 1 bu. of old and new beans, of which 33 qr. 2 bu. had been sold and 6 qr. were in seed; for 17 qr. of barley, of which 2½ qr. had been sold and 14 qr. were in seed; and for 75½ qr. of oats, of which 2 qr. had been sold and 73½ qr. were in seed. The total value of corn sold within these six months was £18. 8s. 5d. (fn. 609) In 1316 corn was bought from outside. (fn. 610) In 1317–18, 29 quarters of wheat were bought from the rector. (fn. 611) There is no evidence for corn sales at this time. In 1356–7, corn to the value of £11. 13s. 1d. was bought, but loads of oats were delivered to Amesbury. (fn. 612)
In 1086 Melksham contained 130 acres of meadow and 8 'leagues' of pasture. (fn. 613) Herbage was sold for £3. 0s. 6d. in 1236–7. (fn. 614) Pasture and herbage were sold for £5. 4s. 4d. in 1250–1 (fn. 615) and for £2. 18s. 2½d. in the period July 1257–February 1258. (fn. 616) In 1275–6 the manor contained 178½ acres of 'good' and 92 acres of 'poor' land by measured perch, valued by the acre at 1s. and 6d. respectively. There were 51½ acres of meadow, each acre being worth 2s. 6d. Pastures called Inmarsh, Outmarsh, and 'Chalvecrofte' were valued at £5. 10s., £1. 10s., and £1. 8s., respectively. Certain men of the manor commoned in the second of these. (fn. 617) The extent of the pasturage in the manor and its management in the 14th century may to some extent be deduced from a minister's account of 1356–7. (fn. 618) The winter pasture of 'Rudemede' was let for 4s., of Outmarsh for 1s. 2d, and of Inmarsh, 'Wilresham' (fn. 619) and 'la Wike' for 5s. 'Chalvecroft', 'Parokes', and 'Burgmyngham' were depastured in winter by the prioress's beasts. Thirty-four beasts from Wallop manor (Hants), a priory estate, were depastured on one of the marshes in the summer of the year of account. The summer pasture of the 'foreign marsh', perhaps the same as Outmarsh, was sold for £1. 10s. The summer pastures of 'Chalvecroft', Cadley ('Caddeloe'), 'Lepcroft', 'La Otgasston', and 'Rabbemersh', rendered nothing, the last two because they were fallow (warecta). (fn. 620) The pasture around Broad Mead, North Mead, and 'la Wike' and the summer pasture in Broad Mead and 'la Wike' themselves and in 'Horsecroft' were sold and rendered nothing. (fn. 621) In 1539–40 Robert Maye was holding Inmarsh on a forty-one year lease for £8, and Robert Brouncker and others were leasing another pasture (or pastures) called 'Seven Okes', Bowerhill, and Berreyfield for £1. 2s. 10d. (fn. 622) These pastures were reckoned as part of the demesnes which were farmed for £18. 6s. 8d. in all, (fn. 623) 13s. 4d. less than in 1535. (fn. 624)
In 1240 rents of assize were valued at £36. 18s. (fn. 625) In 1250–1 £32. 13s. 10d. was received from this source with an increment of £4. 7s. (fn. 626) In 1275–6 the same rents, expressed as due from freemen and customary tenants, were valued at £43.3s. 11d. (fn. 627) In 1535 the rents of assize of free tenants were valued at £14. 18s. 9d. and of customary tenants at £45. 2s. 10d., a total of £70. 1s. 7d. (fn. 628)
In the early Middle Ages Melksham was lapped about with wooded forests. In 1086 there were 4 'leagues' of woodland. (fn. 629) In 1238 the keeper of the manor was granted the issues of all the demesne woods, except vert and venison, and the right to appoint two foresters of the town (forestarii de villa). (fn. 630) The pannage which these woods provided was valued at £1. 10s. in 1240 (fn. 631) and at £1 in 1275–6. (fn. 632) The sum of £1. 8s. was actually received from this source in 1236–7, (fn. 633) £2. 0s. 11½d. in 1250–1, (fn. 634) and £6. 14s. in the period July 1257 to February 1258. (fn. 635) It was confirmed by the charter of 1285 that pannage was included in the profits of the manor and hundred. (fn. 636) In 1356–7 £1. 2s. 6d. was received from the pannage of customary tenants. (fn. 637) In 1282 Richard de Highway complained that the prioress had disseised him of his common of pasture in 400 acres of wood and 200 acres of'more' in Melksham where he ought to common with all his beasts for his tenement in Shaw (see above— Manors). The prioress denied any rights in the soil because it was in the forest and claimed only estovers by charter. (fn. 638) No charter such as the prioress cited has been traced, but in 1290 she was granted the right to take estovers in all her woods without view of the forest officers and that those woods might be disafforested. (fn. 639) From this charter may perhaps be dated the enlargement of Melksham demesne by means of assarting the forests and the proliferation of manors within the hundred. In 1305 the prioress petitioned in Parliament for a grant of common of pasture in Melksham forest. An inquiry was ordered (fn. 640) but no further proceedings have been traced. The entry in the account of 1356–7 of £1.10s. 4d. as a rent resolute to the queen for 'le Wodemersh' suggests that the prioress failed to get her way, though she evidently was then farming the pasture. (fn. 641) In 1371–2 William the bailiff of Melksham had licence to retain 40 acres of pasture, assart of the forest, which his father had acquired from John son of Ralph le Gras (see above—Shaw manor). (fn. 642) A John le Gras was apparently a manorial officer in 1317–18 (fn. 643) which gives a terminus a quo for the assart. In 1535 the rents paid by free tenants from assarts and purprestures in the forest amounted to £9. 6s. 1½d. (fn. 644) They were valued at ½d. more in 1539–40 and then included 'Crays Marshe' and 'le Wast' in Woolmore, 'Smythes Hille' and 'Heyley' and other lands in Woodrow, and lands of uncertain location called 'Busshy Marshe', 'Parkers' and 'Goldringes'. (fn. 645)
In 1236–7 the reeve, hayward, swineherd, drover, sower, 6 ploughmen, and an unspecified number of harrowers were rewarded for their services by quittance of rent throughout the year and the shepherd by the like for half the year. In addition it was necessary to hire two other drovers, one for the winter only, at 6s. 6d., to spend 11s. 7d. in cutting and gathering the corn, and 7s. 5½d. in threshing and winnowing it. In 1237–8 there were similar remissions of rent for 6 ploughmen, the hayward, smith, swineherd, and harrowers for the year, and for the sower, 2 drovers, shepherd, and goatherd for the half year. Two additional drovers were engaged in winter at 3s. (fn. 646) In 1250–1 remissions of rent in the summer were granted to the reeve, the shepherd, 8 ploughmen, 4 farm labourers (wykemanni), and 5 customers. A 'daie' is mentioned in the same year, and the sum of 2s. was spent on mowing the meadows. (fn. 647) In the period from July 1257 to February 1258 the same sum was spent for that purpose, and 11s. 6½d. on threshing and winnowing the corn. The reeve and 4 ploughmen were allowed their rent and £1. 2s. 4d. was spent on the wages of the hayward, 2 drovers, a carter and a cowman, and a dairymaid (ancilla). (fn. 648)
In 1321 Walter Baldewyn died seised of a messuage and virgate in Melksham which he held of the Prioress of Amesbury inter alia by the service of being reeve, tithingman and hayward at the will of the lady. (fn. 649) Isabel de Geinville (prioress 1309–c.1337) and the convent granted for life the office of hayward to William le Whaf of Worton (called 'Baillif'), with reversion to his son William. He was to keep the crops, waters, meadows, and pastures of the manor and attach trespassers. For this he was to pay £1 to Thomas Chisenhale for his life and thereafter the same to the convent. He was to have a chamber in the manor and was to receive yearly 5 qr. 1½ bu. of barley and 6s. The grant was confirmed and the grantee's son William secured in the reversion in 1356. (fn. 650)
In or about 1409 the bondmen and tenants in bondage of the manor appear to have struck. A commission of oyer and terminer was consequently issued pursuant to the Statute of Labourers of 1388. (fn. 651) The outcome, however, is not known.
When Seend manor was committed to Gilbert de Berwick in 1330 he received, and delivered to Edward de Bohun a few weeks later, 3 qr. 4 bu. of barley, 4 qr. 4 bu. of oats, 4 qr. 5 bu. of maslin, 3 heifers, and 16 oxen. (fn. 652) A rental of the tenants was drawn up in 1371 and in 1419–20 was still the standard to which reference was made. (fn. 653) The manor was surveyed in 1419 just after the death of Joan de Bohun, Countess of Hereford. The reeve's account for the ensuing year also survives. The actual receipts were £1. 3s. 7¼d. from rents of assize, £32. 17s. 3¾d. from rents of lands and demesne meadows arrented, £5. 4s. 2½d. from rents of virgaters, half-virgaters, customary tenants, and cottars ('coterell'), £16. 1s. from rents of lands of assart, 19s. 5½d. from moveable rents, £2. 13s. 6d. from the sale of works, £2. 1s. 8d. from the issues of the demesne, and 15s. 2¼d. from the perquisites of three courts. Movable rents were not included in the survey. In the case of all other subheads, except issues of the demesne and perquisites of court, the actual receipts correspond very closely with the estimated values. In the excepted cases, and indeed in sum, the receipts fall below the estimate.
Church Field and Grovefield are named in 1419–20 and arable land lay also in Bench Piece ('Benche'), 'Chastell', 'Padleigh', and 'Bolteslond'. The only pasture named was 'Roohokes'—no doubt in Seend Row. There were 24 acres of meadow in demesne capable of being reaped. This meadow lay in 'Swevelsmed' (11½ ac), 'Longemore' (5½ ac), 'le Swere' (2½ ac), and 'Blaklondesmed' (4½ ac). In addition 90 ac. 3 r. were leased to tenants. 'Pershore Mede', 'Dolmore', 'Catgrovemed', and 'Palmeresthornes' are also named. A certain amount of land of all descriptions was in hand for defect of tenants, but new leases were granted within the year. The herbage of the garden, a vineyard with its produce and the easement of the great stable were leased for life to Thomas Lange of Potterne.
Two virgaters and 15 half-virgaters were required by custom to plough 57 acres and to harrow 38 acres, each virgater ploughing or harrowing 2 acres in winter, 2 in Lent, and 2 when fallow (ad warectam), (fn. 654) and each half-virgater 1 acre at each season. Between Midsummer and Michaelmas each virgater was required to perform 3 works each week and each half-virgater 1½ work, a total of 399. In the same quarter 12 cottars owed 4 works, 3 owed 3, and 3 owed 2, a total of 63. The ploughing service, valued at 3d. an acre, was commuted in the year of account on 54 acres, the harrowing service, valued at ½d. an acre, on 36 acres. Each summer work was valued at 1d. and 378 of the virgaters' and half-virgaters' works and 56 of the cottars' works were commuted.
Few records have been found that give any detailed information about Melksham agriculture in later periods. It is thus difficult to suggest when the change from mixed to predominantly dairy-farming took place. Arthur Young, in 1768, found that both grass and arable in the neighbourhood of Melksham were let at the high average rent of £1 an acre; he noted (with apparent regret) the substitution of horses for oxteams. (fn. 655) In 1794 Lord Bath's steward, reporting to the Board of Agriculture, observed that the land about Melksham could 'graze the largest oxen', and he pre dieted a rise in farm wages when machine-spinning of wool became established; (fn. 656) but three years later Seend was devoted almost entirely to dairy-farming, and the poor had begun to migrate to 'the corn parishes'. (fn. 657) In 1801 the acreage under wheat, barley, oats, rye, potatoes, peas, and beans, in the whole parish, was 354 out of more than 11,000. (fn. 658) In 1811, 231 families out of 794 were engaged in agriculture (fn. 659) —presumably inclusive of dairy-farming.
The formal inclosure of Melksham did not take place until 1815 (fn. 660) but it seems probable that most of the parish had been inclosed piecemeal from the 16th century onwards. There are several references to 'old enclosure' in the award—such, no doubt, as that of Rhotteridge about 1611, (fn. 661) and the inclosure of 'the Clears' carried out by Sir Francis Fane before 1624. (fn. 662) The 1815 award concerned only 520 acres of which the only compact area was that of Blackmore Common: the other awards affected small strips along roads. No single allottee received more than 20 acres and most allotments were very small.
A survey of 1833 (fn. 663) shows that out of 7,120 acres of agricultural land in Melksham itself, 1,217 were arable, and out of 2,342 in the chapelry of Seend only 236; almost all the rest were 'meadows and pasture'. Cheese-making was sufficiently important in 1847 to justify the opening of the 'New Cheese Market' at Melksham (see below, p. 115).
The land in Melksham and the surrounding districts is now given over almost entirely to dairy-farming, quite half of which is carried on by small holders. (fn. 664) In 1939 more than 1,100 acres out of 2,759 in Seend were taken up by small holdings. (fn. 665) The only remaining wooded areas are at Sandridge Park and Morass Wood, both on the Calne road.
The Domesday Survey credited the manor with 8 mills. (fn. 666) All later references, with one doubtful exception, (fn. 667) are to water-mills. Two existed in Beanacre in 1539–40; (fn. 668) they were perhaps the same as those held with Melksham Lovells manor in 1621. (fn. 669) Two were annexed to Seend manor in 1542–3, (fn. 670) and 4 to Seend and Seend Row manors in 1599. (fn. 671) There are now (1952) 2 corn mills at Seend Head: 1 is close to Baldham Bridge and is no longer in use and the other, at Seend Head itself, is operated by Messrs. J. & J. Noad. One of these may be close to the site of the mill at Seend Head conveyed to Roger le Gras in 1249 (fn. 672) and which is again mentioned in 1555. (fn. 673) 'Mr. Jeffery's great cornmill' on the island by Melksham Bridge, was in operation c. 1815. (fn. 674) In 1903 the mill was owned by John Taylor (fn. 675) and it is now (1952) operated by Messrs. Joseph Rank Ltd., on lease from Pound Taylor & Collen Ltd. (fn. 676) Challymead mill on the Bradford Road is now disused. Fulling mills are mentioned in the 16th century (see below—Trade and Industry) and Henry Coulthurst owned two in 1718. (fn. 677)
Markets and Fairs
A Friday market and a Michaelmas fair were granted to Melksham in 1219; (fn. 678) a Tuesday market and a fair on the vigil, feast, and morrow of Michaelmas in 1250. (fn. 679) The prioress and nuns of Amesbury obtained in 1491 a fair at Melksham on the 15 and 16 July; (fn. 680) in 1721 this fair was held on Monday 17 July. (fn. 681)
In 1792 and 1808 the market was held on Monday, and the fairs on the second Monday in each month and 27 July. (fn. 682) In 1825 the livestock market was held on alternate Mondays. (fn. 683) In 1875 the market was held for cattle, sheep, and pigs, and the fair on 27 July for cattle, sheep, and horses. (fn. 684)
In 1888 the fairs had lapsed, and the market was held on alternate Tuesdays (fn. 685) with Trowbridge. Before the final extinction of the fair it had been the custom to hold it on two days the first of which was devoted to business and the second to merry-making. Travelling showmen exhibited models such as that of the Niagara Falls, constructed, it was said, of 8 cwt. of coloured glass, and the fair was attended by 'Baker's Show', a barnstorming company. (fn. 686)
The market rights devolved, with the manor, to W. H. Long, who let them in 1909 to the Urban District Council for twenty-one years, and sold them to the Council in 1912 for £250. (fn. 687) The fortnightly market, mainly for calves, has not been held at Melksham since 1939. The July fair was formally abolished by order of the Home Secretary in 1910. (fn. 688)
Trade and Industry
Melksham weavers are mentioned as early as 1349, (fn. 689) but the first specific reference to mills that has been found occurs in 1555 when there were two fulling mills in the town. (fn. 690) No exact quantitative analysis is possible but it seems likely that the Melksham industry followed the fortunes, on a smaller scale, of those at Bradford and Trowbridge. In its most prosperous days in the 16th and early 17th centuries, its clothiers bought wool in the markets of Cirencester, Tetbury, Castle Combe, and Devizes; they used the local fleeces and the longer and finer wool of the Cotswolds, the Welsh Marches, and the Midlands; and their white undyed broadcloth was exported as far as Central Europe. Indeed, the fortunes of the local clothiers here as elsewhere may be traced, in many cases, to war or peace in their European markets.
It seems probable that in Melksham, as in other Wiltshire clothing towns, the families of clothiers were founded by more humble workers in the industry. It is significant perhaps of this movement and of the early preeminence of Trowbridge that Walloons, settled by Henry VII in Seend, left the houses they had built there and moved to the larger town in 1575. (fn. 691) Robert Marshman a weaver, who in 1570 had three looms in his house, was possibly an ancestor of him of the same name whose house was large enough to accommodate 80 Quakers at one of their earliest meetings in 1669 (see above—Nonconformity). The fortune of the Brouncker family was probably founded in the same manner. The name occurs at least as early as 1378 at Chippenham; (fn. 692) by 1541 Henry Brouncker had amassed sufficient resources to be able to purchase Melksham capital manor (see above) though there is no certain evidence that his fortune was founded on wool. One member of the family, Robert Brouncker of Broughton Gifford, was a master weaver in 1579. (fn. 693) The Gerrish family who bought Shaw manor in 1557 (see above) are found as Seend clothiers in 1608. (fn. 694) Many of the other great clothing families appear from the 16th century onwards to have merged in a very few generations in the local landed gentry. John Stokes of Seend, a wealthy clothier of the late 15th century, founded a family still wealthy in and after 1611. (fn. 695) The Sumners of Seend, a Quaker family, were considerable landowners in the 17th century. The Selfes of Melksham and Seend had become local landowners by the late 17th century, (fn. 696) and were connected by marriage with the Methuens of Bradford and the Awdrys of Melksham. The Awdrys, descended from an early 17thcentury vicar of Melksham, were comfortably settled in Melksham, Seend, and Lacock, and retained an interest in the clothing industry until the early 19th century. (fn. 697) The workers in the industry in the 17th century seem less often to have founded clothing families. The names of Robert Flower, (fn. 698) John Emeat, (fn. 699) Abraham Little, (fn. 700) Richard Mathew, (fn. 701) all weavers of Melksham (and, incidentally, members of Quaker families) are not found amongst the later clothiers; and the same may be said of Thomas Smyth (fn. 702) and William Curtis (fn. 703) of Seend, John Cox (fn. 704) (a fuller), John Parfect, (fn. 705) Simon Shory, (fn. 706) Thomas Singer, (fn. 707) John Smith, (fn. 708) and Samuel Unckles (fn. 709) of Melksham. Quakers, such as the Newman family, (fn. 710) the Beavens, (fn. 711) Samuel Chivers, (fn. 712) and John Beazer (fn. 713) were prominent amongst the 18thcentury clothworkers and a few were clothiers.
The industry in Melksham suffered from the. general decline before the middle of the 17th century due at least in part to the interruption of the export trade by the Thirty Years War. There are some indications, however, that trade was declining before that time: the export of white broadcloth was prohibited between 1614 and 1617, and two prominent clothiers, John Sumner and Henry Curtis of Seend, are found in debt at that time. (fn. 714) By 1647 the weavers of Melksham and Seend were complaining of want of work and of poverty even when their hands were full. (fn. 715) A scarcity of corn occurred at the same time and the impoverished clothworkers were driven to the pitch of rioting. (fn. 716)
The Wiltshire clothiers turned, about 1650, from white to medly broadcloth, and in the later 17th and the 18th centuries there was some revival of their trade: on the whole, however, the 18th century saw the decline of the industry and, as concomitants of the decline, industrial disputes and disturbances amongst the cloth workers. In 1726 the Government sent a commissioner to inquire into disturbances among the weavers of Trowbridge, Bradford, and Melksham. (fn. 717) In 1738, during a wages dispute, Henry Coulthurst, a leading clothier of Melksham, had his house and mills wrecked by the local weavers. Troops were sent in after nearly a week's delay (fn. 718) and the rioters were suppressed and brought to trial at the Salisbury Assizes next March, when three or four were sentenced to death and executed. (fn. 719) There were riots again in 1747, and in 1750 dragoons were sent to Trowbridge, Bradford, and Melksham to 'curb' the artisans. (fn. 720) Thomas Beaven the elder, a Quaker clothier, whose son was an ardent Quaker apologist (see above—Nonconformity), went bankrupt in 1748. Apparently, however, he was able to recover for he secretly recruited workmen for a factory in Spain, where he later set up business. (fn. 721) Two other Melksham employers went bankrupt in 1756–7. (fn. 722)
The last years of the 18th century saw the extension of machine processes to wool-spinning, and the consequent impoverishment of the hand-spinning villagers of Seend. (fn. 723) Two Melksham clothiers, in 1799 and in 1836, took out patents in connexion with their trade. (fn. 724)
The 19th century saw the final extinction of the industry. John Britton, in 1814, noted a declining but still extensive trade in fine broadcloths and kerseymeres. (fn. 725) Cloth-weaving slumped next year, in the north as well as in Wiltshire; the fate of the mills is indicated by that of a Mr. Yerbury which became a school before 1833. (fn. 726) By 1838 there were two mills left in Melksham, both operated by steam power and together employing 162 hands. (fn. 727) The Matravers mill alone survived in 1875; it was put up to auction in 1888, and the site passed to the Avon India Rubber Company Ltd. (fn. 728) The dyehouse, on the opposite side of the Bath road, was used late in the 19th century by the Wilts United Dairies. (fn. 729) A relic of the industry in the shape of a spinning jenny was still to be seen in a house in the City at the end of the century. (fn. 730)
The sale of the last cloth mill to a rubber company illustrates the change in Melksham industrial economy in the later 19th century: indeed, the survival of the town as an industrial centre is based on the manufacture of rubber and rubber products. (fn. 731) The company that was to become the Avon Rubber Company was started by Giles and Willie Holbrow in a disused mill at Limpley Stoke in 1875: in 1886 Messrs. Browne and Margetson took over the mill and plant though Willie Holbrow remained as manager. By 1889 the business had grown and the present company was formed: in the same year the factory moved to the new premises in the disused cloth mill at Melksham. In the early years of its existence the company concentrated on the manufacture of mechanical parts for railway rolling stock; since the last decade of the 19th century the manufacture of pneumatic tyres has been its primary concern. Throughout the 20th century the business has expanded with the increased demand for rubber products and the factory buildings have been extended to keep pace with the increased production and now cover about 12 acres north of the Avon.
An iron-ore field in Seend was described in 1666 by Aubrey as the richest he had ever seen. (fn. 732) It was not, however, until the middle of the 19th century that any attempt was made to exploit the field commercially. None of the companies formed managed to survive for more than a few years. The Geological Survey stated in 1920 that 77,984 tons of brown hematite were raised between 1855 and 1861, and 86,443 quarried from 1871 to 1874; the field underlay 179 acres of land of which the village of Seend occupied 64. (fn. 733) Exploitation was renewed between 1939 and 1945 and is now carried on by the Westbury and Seend Ore & Oxide Co. Ltd.
The medicinal properties of the Melksham chalybeate springs were first brought to notice about 1813, (fn. 734) although chalybeate wells at Seend are noticed as early as 1691. (fn. 735) The first spring, said to have been discovered in a search for coal in 1813, was of chalybeate waters: two years later a 'saline aperient' spring was found. (fn. 736) A company was formed in 1815, a pump room erected ½ mile from the town and houses built to accommodate intending visitors. (fn. 737) From 1813 to 1822 the Spa enjoyed a brief prosperity.
The firm of C. W. Maggs & Company (fn. 738), manufacturers of mats, rope, and twine, was founded in 1803 by Charles Maggs the Methodist (see above—Nonconformity). The company is still controlled by members of the family and has its factory and rope-walks by the old canal bridge in Spa Road. For a short time in the early 19th century the firm occupied Place House (see above—Capital manor). Early records of the firm's activities are extant. Charles Maggs, a grandson of the founder of the rope factory, himself founded a large Melksham industrial company, the Wilts United Dairies. The company is said to have begun its activities in West End Farm on the east of Spa Road. An office for the firm was built in the grounds of the rope factory. The condensory on the north side of the Avon bridge was opened in 1900. (fn. 739)
The site on which the garage of the Wilts United Dairies now stands was occupied c. 1870 by a brass foundry. (fn. 740) The iron foundry now disused, on the corner of Union Street and Bank Street, was occupied in 1903 by Spencer & Co. (fn. 741) Out of this company grew Messrs. Spencers (Melksham) Engineers, whose works occupy a large area on the Beanacre road. (fn. 742) North of the river Messrs. B. Sawtell & Co. have a factory for the purification of feathers used in bedding.
The Melksham Market Company, formed in 1847, (fn. 743) acquired from the owners of Place House an orchard fronting on the Market Place, and erected there 'the new Cheese Market'. The building was used by the Local Board, (fn. 744) and from 1889 by the County Court. The cheese store was let as a Drill Hall in 1907, and is now the Assembly Hall. The Company had been wound up in 1898, and the property sold to Charles Awdry for £2,500; in 1914 it was bought by the Urban District Council for £1,600. The Market Hall is now the Town Hall. (fn. 745)
There were two banks in Melksham in 1791. (fn. 746) One, called 'Fowlers' had disappeared by c. 1815 but the other known as 'Phillips' had probably survived as Messrs. Freeman, Moule & Co. drawing on Sir Charles Price & Co. of London. The bank premises were said to be 'on the west side of the [High] street near the George'. (fn. 747) By 1826 the name had changed to Moule, Son & Co. (fn. 748) and the bank was under the management of local solicitors. In 1838 it was known as the North Wilts Banking Co. drawing on Dimsdale Fowler & Co. (fn. 749) Some time after 1864 the bank amalgamated with the Hampshire Banking Co. under the title The Hants & Northwest Wilts Banking Co. This later became the Capital & Counties Bank and occupied the premises on the east side of Bank Street which still bear the name. Prior to 1914 there was a branch of the Wilts & Dorset Bank on the site now occupied by Lloyds Bank. By 1918 both this and the Capital & Counties had amalgamated with Lloyds. For a short time both premises were occupied, but in 1922 the present building in Market Square was erected and the Capital & Counties premises abandoned. (fn. 750) A branch of the Midland bank on the corner of Lowbourne was opened in the same year. (fn. 751) There was a savings bank in Lowbourne in 1855 (fn. 752) known in 1863 as the Penny Bank. The bank was still there c. 1890. (fn. 753)
About 1890 there were two forges in Melksham: one stood in the Bath road almost opposite Old Broughton Road and the other in Semington Lane south of Union Place. Only this last has survived and is still operated by descendants of the 19th-century owners. (fn. 754)
Local Government and Public Services
No records have been found that illustrate the medieval government of Melksham. The town was tallaged as part of the royal demesne but never seems to have compounded for its dues as an independent borough. Control such as there was no doubt fell largely into the hands of the manorial officers of the king, the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury, and Amesbury priory. No court rolls or accounts have been found that will show more than the administration of the agricultural economy. Perhaps there is little more to be known, for despite the urbanization of the northern part of the town that probably followed the rise of the cloth industry, the greater part of the parish has remained rural in character. Even in 1609, shortly before the final deforestation of Melksham Forest, there were prosecutions for 'stealing the deer which ran wild in the town'. (fn. 755)
The earliest churchwardens' book is dated 1574 and two more are extant for the periods 1740 to 1795 and 1799 to 1906. (fn. 756) For the most part the accounts refer to church affairs, but payments to the parish constable and for poor relief are recorded. The earliest mention of the vestry occurs in 1721 when Thomas Smith, the diarist, records his attendance at several of its meetings. (fn. 757) The only business he mentions was concerned with poor relief and the highway rates. The only surviving vestry minute book is for 1834 to 1855 and deals only with church affairs. (fn. 758) The first book recording the administration of the poor law dates from 1687. The greater part of the extant evidence for parish government is concerned with poor relief (see below), but the history of the local administration is illustrated in a fragmentary fashion in the public services it controlled. The first reference to communal activity that has been found refers to the digging of two wells. (fn. 759) The money for the work was raised by public subscription: one shaft was sunk in the 'Beast Market', i.e. in the present market square: the town pump, which is presumably to be identified with this well, was demolished in 1945 to make room for the traffic island. (fn. 760) The other well was 'on the right hand going from the Bath road in Cannon holding ... 45 feet from the Corner house in the Row from the Court or Place house'. The site of this second well is difficult to establish but it was possibly close to the northern corner of the present Church Street.
The first public water-supply was brought from Trowbridge by the Trowbridge Water Company. An Act for extending the pipe line to Melksham was passed in 1878. (fn. 761) The supply was brought to Melksham about 1880 when for the celebrations of the opening of the line the Company set up a fountain in the market square. (fn. 762)
The highways were the responsibility of the parish at an early date (see above, p. 92) but it was not until 1795 that money was subscribed for paving the footway in the town. It was begun in September of that year by the house opposite the second well and thus perhaps outside the present shop of Messrs. W. H. Smith. (fn. 763) The private venture was followed by an Act in 1816 for paving and improving the footways and for cleaning, lighting, and watching the streets. (fn. 764) This Act set up a body of thirtytwo commissioners. The Act was repealed in 1876 and in 1878 a local government board was formed. (fn. 765)
The offices of the local board seem to have been first in the Town Hall (then the Market Hall, see above— Trade and Industry) and later in Lowbourne. (fn. 766) The Urban District Council did not become owners of the Town Hall until 1914. (fn. 767) The centre for early local government and poor relief is not known but it seems likely that it was the present parish room. This small stone building of unknown date adjoining the vicarage wall in Canon Square is now used for parish meetings and as an annex to the Church School. (fn. 768)
The parish constable of Melksham is first mentioned in 1614 When two Sums of 5s. were paid by the churchwardens towards his expenses. No records of the constable's activities are extant. After the general Act of 1842 and until 1867 the vestry continued to nominate the constables: their expenses were paid by the overseers at least until 1847. (fn. 769) The site of the early police station is not certainly known but it is probable that a house adjoining the site now occupied by the Town Hall was rented by a police officer in 1847. (fn. 770) At about the same date a lock-up was built in the market square: it stood approximately in the position of the present traffic island. Another lock-up was converted to a club and is now used as a doctor's surgery. (fn. 771) The stocks, now in Devizes Museum, are said to have stood in an archway on the site of the present Surveyor's office in the Market Square. (fn. 772) The police station remained adjacent to the Town Hall until 1929 when a new station was built in Semington Road. There is no police station at Seend but a house there which is occupied by a police constable is the property of the Police Authority. (fn. 773)
The parish fire-engine, owned and managed by the vestry, is mentioned in 1793 and in 1838. (fn. 774) It was agreed in 1871 that £1 a year should be paid to the Market Company (see above—Trade and Industry) as rent of the engine house, and £15 a year for payment of the fire brigade and maintenance of the engine, and that the old engine should be sold. (fn. 775) The Urban District Council, taking over the vestry's functions, bought a motor fire-engine, and the expense was shared by the Melksham Without Parish Council; in 1939 (following the Fire Brigades Act, 1938) the Bradford and Melksham Rural District Council agreed to pay twofifths of the net cost on behalf of Melksham Without and three other parishes in the rural district; (fn. 776) and in 1948, under the Fire Services Act, 1947, the County Council became responsible. The fire station still adjoins the Town Hall.
A Cottage Hospital was established in 1868 on a site on the south side of Lowbourne. (fn. 777) In 1895 it was rebuilt on a site in Bank Street at the cost of Henry George White. An endowment for the hospital given by White was dependent upon the premises being used for that purpose. (fn. 778) The hospital was rebuilt on a site in Spa Road in 1938, the entire cost being met from a bequest of Mrs. Ludlow Bruges. (fn. 779) White's endowment was then transferred to the upkeep of the churchyard (see above—Church). The Melksham hospital, with the subsidiary charities of Mrs. Ludlow Bruges and James Henry Stephens, is now regulated by schemes of 1936 and 1940. (fn. 780) A Red Cross hospital was opened in the town in 1916. (fn. 781)
A post office was in existence in Melksham in 1782. (fn. 782) About 1880 the office was in Bank Street near Church Walk. (fn. 783) The present Post Office in the High Street was used also for a private business until 1909; it was then reconstructed, and again practically rebuilt in 1931. The Post Office telegraph service was introduced in 1870. The telephone service was provided by the National Telephone Co. in 1898. (fn. 784)
The private gas company formed in 1832 became a public company in 1885, and its undertaking was acquired by the Bath Gas Company in 1936. (fn. 785) Gas is no longer made in Melksham and the holder on the east bank of the Avon is now used for storage. (fn. 786)
The supply of electric light and power was first brought to the town in 1924–5 by the Western Electricity Distributing Corporation. (fn. 787)
The Urban District Council's cemetery extends from the west side of St. Michael's churchyard to the west side of Conigre, off King Street. A right of way through the churchyard was acquired in 1942. The first interment took place in 1945. (fn. 788)
A Quaker school was established in Melksham in 1695: children were to be boarded at the school for £7 a year and the master's salary was to be £30. In 1696 John Jeffry of Hampton (Glouc.) was appointed as the first master: he was succeeded in 1705 by John Padley 'from the north'. The school was closed some time before 1721 and there is no record that it was ever reopened. (fn. 789)
In 1818 there was said to be only Fox's school (see below) in Melksham. (fn. 790) By 1833 there were, besides the British school (see below), two day schools attended by 50 boys at their parents' expense and an infants' school for 50 children, maintained by fees of 2d. a week and subscriptions. (fn. 791) In 1859 (fn. 792) there was said to be, besides the National and British schools, a dame school 'in which about 20 scholars, mixed, are taught, under the auspices of the parochial clergy, by a native of the place, untrained'. There were two other dame schools in the town attended by 20 children, and several 'commercial' schools kept by members of various dissenting bodies. Ten children were taught by a dame in a cottage at Shaw where there was also a National school.
The Revd. Bohun Fox (1697–1750), vicar of Melksham, established a charity school in the town. (fn. 793) He is said to have personally superintended the school during his lifetime. At his death in 1750 he bequeathed £135 for educating and clothing poor children in the parish and the interest on this sum was paid to a schoolmaster. Fox had built no schoolroom and it is not known where he conducted the school. In 1818, when Fox's charity school was said to be the only day school in the town, only 6 children were attending it. (fn. 794)
The last schoolmaster to receive the income from the charity died in 1829. (fn. 795) From that time until 1834 the charity was applied to the British school (see below), inappropriately, perhaps, for Fox had been a persecutor of dissenters. By about 1834 a Provident District Society had been formed and the income was then divided between the society and the school. (fn. 796) From 1843 the National school (see below) received the total income, £6. 11s. from the charity. (fn. 797) In 1904 it was reported that the income, then £3. 6s. 8d., was divided equally between the Melksham Clothing Club, the National school, and the Sunday school. (fn. 798) The money is now invested in stock and the income is used to assist in clothing and equipping a child proceeding to a Secondary school, thus satisfying in one charity the dual purpose of the original benefaction. (fn. 799)
An 'Establishment' called the 'Melksham General School for the Education of Poor Children' was formed before 1828. At a meeting of subscribers held in that year the vicar and others were nominated as trustees and a cottage and land at Lowbourne were bought for £120. It was provided in the conveyance that the schools to be erected on this site should be managed by a committee of 8 Churchmen and 7 Nonconformists, on the principles of the British and Foreign Schools Society, and that a Church of England Sunday school might be held in them. (fn. 800)
In 1833 attendance at the school was said to be 130 boys and 90 girls and in 1839 160 boys and 125 girls. (fn. 801) By 1849 the school had received a total of £50 in State grants: potential accommodation was then reckoned at 503 and 145 children attended the school. (fn. 802) The fall in the attendance figures was no doubt due to the opening of the National school (see below). The British school, however, continued to flourish. By 1852 it had received in grants from the State £3. 10s. for books, £85 towards the salaries of certificated teachers, and £188 for pupil teachers. (fn. 803) In 1856 it obtained a building grant of £64. 6s. 8d., (fn. 804) probably towards additional accommodation: the promoters found another £33. (fn. 805) The special report of 1859 (fn. 806) was not entirely favourable. It was said that there were in the school 69 boys under a master named Neal and 2 pupil teachers, and 63 girls under a mistress. The teaching and general condition of the boys' part of the school met with approval; the girls' part was considered to be in an unsatisfactory state; it was admitted, however, that the inspection, which had taken place in 1857, had been 'hurried'. State grants for all purposes had, by 1860, amounted to more than £800, of which £638 was for pupil teachers and £88 a capitation grant; (fn. 807) and by 1862 the total grant had risen to £1,123. (fn. 808) These grants were made under the old code; under the code of 1864 the school received an annual grant of £36. 18s. 7d. This figure is smaller than the average received between 1833 and 1860. Attendance in 1864 was said to be 88. (fn. 809) The attendance figures and with them the amount of the annual grant fluctuated around the 1860 figures until the early years of the next decade. (fn. 810) After 1871 the school ceased to be known officially as the British school and was called simply Lowbourne school. (fn. 811) There is some evidence that about this time the management passed into the hands of a Nonconformist committee. (fn. 812) By 1881 accommodation was reckoned as 220 and attendance had risen to 139; the annual State grant was then £107. 5s. 11d. (fn. 813) The attendance figures rose steadily throughout the remainder of the century (fn. 814) and by 1907 were reckoned as: mixed 215, infants 60. The school was then attended almost to the capacity of its accommodation which was said to be mixed 226, infants 67. (fn. 815) An additional classroom had been rented in 1902. (fn. 816) The school was taken over by the County Council in 1909 and a new school of red brick built on a site adjacent to the old British school. (fn. 817) In 1950 there were 12 teachers in the senior school and 8 in the infant school; attendances were: mixed 331, infants 251. Accommodation was assessed at: mixed 260, infants 146. (fn. 818) Additions are now (1952) being made to the building.
The National school at Melksham was founded in 1840. In that year the vicar applied to the National Society for help in erecting a two-roomed school for 150 boys and 150 girls. The school building was to cost £530 and a teacher's house an additional £150. The Society contributed £75 towards the cost and the State £154. (fn. 819) The site for the building, 22 p. near the churchyard, was given by John Awdry as lessee and by the Dean and Chapter as reversionary owners of the land. (fn. 820) The infants department of the school occupied a nearby cottage that was rented for that purpose. The numbers enrolled during the first year were: 45 boys, 56 girls, and 30 infants. (fn. 821) In 1849 the average attendance was said to be 118 for all groups: accommodation, assessed at 6 sq. ft. for each child, was reckoned at 306. (fn. 822) The projected teacher's house, for which money had not been provided when the school was founded, was erected in. 1850 with the aid of a grant from the National Society. (fn. 823) The school buildings were enlarged in 1852 with the aid of a State grant of £27. 4s. 4d. (fn. 824) During the following ten years the National school, like the British school, took advantage of the large maintenance grants offered by the State. By 1852 it had received £8 for books and £47.10s. for pupil teachers; (fn. 825) by 1860 £13 for books, £157 to augment the salaries of certificated teachers, £410 for pupil teachers and £69 capitation grant. (fn. 826) By 1862 the total grant was £840. (fn. 827) Under the revised code the school received in 1865 £77. 10s. 2d. annual grant for all purposes; average attendance was then 151. (fn. 828) Attendance figures, and with them the annual grants, increased steadily during the next ten years. (fn. 829) In 1872 average attendance was 257 and the grant £141. 12d. 9d. (fn. 830)
In 1870, a scheme for the management of the girls and infants part of the school was established by the Charity Commissioners. (fn. 831) In the previous year the school received a State building grant of £86. 6s. which was probably used for an addition to the south-west corner of the building. (fn. 832) In 1877 the nearby tithebarn and its site were bought for the boys' school from Sir John Wither Awdry for £73. (fn. 833) On the completion of the alterations total accommodation for the whole school rose to 500. (fn. 834)
For the last two decades of the 19th century attendance at the school remained at an average level of 290; (fn. 835) by 1893 the annual grant had been increased to;£279. 2s. 6d. (fn. 836) In 1903, the Board of Education, at the request of the trustees, made an order constituting, in the terms of the National Society's model deed, a body of foundation managers. (fn. 837) By 1907 the average attendance had increased to: 130 boys, 135 girls, and 93 infants. (fn. 838) The schools, now (1952) called St. Michael's Church of England schools, comprise a mixed school on the west side of the churchyard and an infants department in the tithe barn. The teacher's house was sold about 1912. There were in 1050 11 teachers and average attendance was: mixed 233, infants 129. Accommodation was assessed at: mixed 222, infants 165. (fn. 839)
Shaw Church school, later known incorrectly as the National school, was probably founded in 1848. The National Society's returns of 1846–7 (fn. 840) reported that there was no day school in the chapelry, but in 1849 a day-school in the village received a small grant from the State for books and equipment. (fn. 841) By 1860 the school had received £3 for books, £9 to supplement the salary of the certificated teacher, £28 in aid of pupil teachers, and £5 capitation grant. (fn. 842) By 1862 the total grant had increased to £109. 10s. (fn. 843) Between 1863 and 1868 no annual grant was paid under the revised code. (fn. 844) In 1870 attendance was 43 and the newly awarded annual grant £19. 5s. (fn. 845) In 1871 a site was given to the school by T. J. Heathcote for a new building: towards the cost of its erection the State contributed £166. 5s. and the promoters £179. 15s.; £507. 5s. was given by subscribers. (fn. 846) The former school building was given to the school as a house for the teacher by Mrs. Hume who apparently owned the property. (fn. 847) In 1878 accommodation was reckoned at 97 and the average attendance was 76. The annual State grant then amounted to £46. 3s. (fn. 848) Attendance figures remained at an average level of 80 (fn. 849) until 1893 when they rose for the first time to 100. The annual grant was then £80. 3s. (fn. 850) In 1899 accommodation was reckoned at 119 and average attendance was 107. (fn. 851) The school building was enlarged in 1901 and again in 1911. (fn. 852) In 1938 accommodation was assessed at: mixed no and infants 46; average attendance was 93. (fn. 853) In 1950 average attendance was 86 and there was accommodation for: mixed no, infants 46. The school has now been granted voluntary (controlled) status. (fn. 854)
The educational services provided by the schools in Melksham and Shaw were supplemented in 1874 when a Church school was opened at Forest. (fn. 855) The site, on the Calne road, was given in 1873 by R. L. Lopes (fn. 856) and the school, with a house for a master, was built with the aid of £760. 5s. contributed by subscribers and a grant of £179. 15s. given by the State. (fn. 857) Accommodation was provided for 115 pupils. (fn. 858) Attendance throughout the 19th century and until recent years remained at about 60 and the annual grant at an average of £40. (fn. 859) There was in 1950 accommodation for 58 boys and girls and 35 infants; average attendance was 40. (fn. 860)
There was a charity school in Seend as early as 1724. (fn. 861) By 1818, however, it had ceased to exist, for it was then reported that there were no endowed schools in the chapelry. (fn. 862) In 1833 there were 6 day schools besides the then recently founded Church school (see below). These day schools were attended by 57 boys and 42 girls whose expenses were paid by their parents. (fn. 863) By 1859 these schools had apparently closed leaving, besides the Church school, only a dame school in which 5–10 children were taught. (fn. 864)
Seend Church school was founded in 1833 by Thomas Bruges who in the previous year had erected a schoolhouse in the churchyard at his own expense. (fn. 865) The attendance in the first year was said to be 42 boys and 43 girls. (fn. 866) No further records of the school's history have been found until 1859 when it was reported that there were '30–40 boys under an uncertificated master in a room 30 x 18 with damp stone floor' and that 'the condition of the school [was] not satisfactory'. Forty to fifty girls were taught in a room over the boys room by an uncertificated mistress. (fn. 867) The girls' school was considered equally unsatisfactory, but it was said that steps were being taken to improve it. A school called Seend Girls' Church school received a small state grant between 1860 and 1866 (fn. 868) and this school is probably to be identified with the girls' department of the Church school. In 1863 a site of about 30 p. on the Melksham road was obtained for a new boys' school. (fn. 869) In 1866 the girls' school received a building grant from the State of £50: (fn. 870) this was possibly used to convert both rooms of the old school to the sole use of the girls' department. How long the girls' department remained in separate premises—if this was in fact the case—is not certain. In 1869, however, Seend Church school, which was presumably the new boys' school, received a building grant from the State of £27. 15s. (fn. 871) and it is possible that the girls' school was at this time moved into the boys' school which then required larger premises. Moreover, Seend Girls' Church school is not found in the lists of Stateaided schools after that year. (fn. 872)
In 1872 average attendance at the school was 77 and the annual State grant £45. 14s. (fn. 873) The numbers attending increased steadily until in 1893 the figures had reached 132; the annual grant was then £100. 9s. 6d. (fn. 874) In 1910 accommodation was assessed at: mixed 152, infants 62; average attendance was: mixed 108, infants 56. (fn. 875) Average attendance in 1938 was: mixed 68, infants 32. In 1950 total accommodation was assessed at 117 and the attendance was 114 for all groups. (fn. 876)
A school at Seend Cleeve, situated at the end of Pelch Lane, (fn. 877) received an annual State grant in 1882. (fn. 878) There was said to be accommodation for 160 pupils and the average attendance was 51. The school ceased to receive an annual grant in 1885 and is not listed as a State-aided school after 1886. (fn. 879) It probably closed shortly after 1885, for between that year and 1888 average attendance at Seend Church school, only a few hundred yards away, rose from 71 to 133; (fn. 880) the increase accounts exactly for the average attendance at Seend Cleeve in 1885. (fn. 881) The buildings are probably represented by two long, low brick and stone cottages on the north side of the lane just before it reaches Seend Cleeve. Local tradition declares these to have been a school.
Jacob Selfe, (fn. 882) in 1757, bequeathed the interest on £100 for bread and meat at Christmas to 24 poor householders, of whom a third should be resident in Beanacre tithing. In 1904 Lord Methuen, holding Beanacre manor, gave £4 a year to the vicar for distribution in meat and grocery tickets to 24 poor persons of Beanacre. The vicar and churchwardens are now the trustees and the income is a charge on Beanacre Manor Farm.
Thomas Bruges, by will proved 1835, provided for the distribution of £10 a year in blankets at Christmas among the poor of Melksham and Seend. The endowment for each place is now £333. 6s. 8d. stock and held by the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds. The vicar and churchwardens are the trustees for the Melksham fund and the vicar and two appointees of the Parish Council for Seend. The incomes are distributed in clothing.
In 1861 John Pritchard conveyed to the Revd. G. S. Hume and his successors a close of arable (Whitecroft or Two Acres) at Beanacre for the clothing of poor persons regularly attending the parish church. The field was let until 1939, when it was sold; the endowment is now £141. 12s. 4d. stock, and the Vicar of Melksham is ex officio the trustee.
The Fowler Almshouses were founded and endowed by Rachel Fowler by deeds of 1858 and 1864. They consist of a row of five houses, built on the site of Caroline Buildings in 'The City', and now endowed with £911. 1s. 11d. stock. Each inmate receives 5s. a week.
Miss Fowleralso, bydeed of 1874, gave £266.13s. 4d, the income to be applied in blankets and flannels for the poor, irrespective of religious belief. The trustees are appointed by deed.
J. and J. Usher's Blanket Fund for Melksham Within and Without, originally endowed with a sum of £1,553. 5s. 8d., is governed by trustees under a scheme (fn. 883) of 1919. The endowment is now £1,419. 19S. 5d. stock.
William Tipper, by will proved 1651, left £50 to the churchwardens and overseers for the purchase of coats or waistcoats for poor men of Seend. The bequest was apparently used to buy the 5–acre pasture close in Westfield called the Poor's or Tipper's Ground, in 1951 let at £9 a year. The trustees are the vicar and churchwardens and two appointees of the parish council.
The 'Parish Lands' of Seend were conveyed in 1616 by Edward Perrett and others to Thomas Sheppard and other feoffees upon trusts. They now comprise the Parish Ground (3 a. 2 r. 24 p.) at Seend Row, 2 acres called Cogbell, aftergrass on lands in Keevil and Poulshot and on Lammas Plats and Bulkington Acre in Seend, and £916. 6s. 5d. stock resulting from a sale of land in 1872. The income, about £18, is now divided between two charities under separate bodies of trustees, and administered under orders and schemes of 1879, 1896, and 1918; (fn. 884) half is applied to church expenses, and half to a clothing or coal or sick club or a benefit society, with permission to give not more than £6 to persons under 21 for their advancement in life. The trustees of the latter charity are appointed by Order of the Charity Commissioners.
Henry H. Ludlow Bruges, by will proved 1903, left £1,000 upon trust to apply the income in the distribution of coal or fuel among poor persons of Seend chosen by the vicar, churchwardens, and overseers. The trustees are now the vicar and churchwardens and three persons appointed by the parish council, and the endowment of £936.1s. 7d. stock.
Records of poor relief in Melksham are almost complete for the period 1685 to 1836. Pay books showing the sums paid weekly to the poor are extant for the whole period, except for short gaps, and comprise 17 volumes. The poor-rate assessment books in 10 volumes cover the same period and there are overseers' accounts for 1769 to 1777, 1802 to 1827, and for 1827. (fn. 885) The records refer entirely to out-relief and record payments ranging from £12. 13s. 6d. for May 1686 to £15. 15s. in June 1719. (fn. 886) Payments at this time were generally made on Fridays. Thomas Smith of Shaw House recorded in his diary such a relief day on 21 December 1722 and added the following comment. 'The poor people were with us for the small Dole we usually give on this Day, they are indeed very Numerous in this Parish and much increas'd in Numbers since my time, and much Misery I fear is among them.' (fn. 887) Earlier in the year he recorded that he thought some who applied 'pretty hardly dealt with'. (fn. 888)
Payments to the poor remained steady, at about £30– £40 a month, during the second and third quarters of the 18th century. (fn. 889) The existence of separate poorrate books for Seend suggests that the chapelry maintained its own poor from 1734. (fn. 890) In 1780 payments to the Melksham poor were about £50 a month and in 1794–5 about £30 a month. (fn. 891) Poor rates to cover these payments and other expenses were collected from all the tithings of the parish and in 1801–2 amounted to about £520. (fn. 892)
In 1741 it was ordered that the poor should be employed on public works. (fn. 893) In 1829 lands were leased for the poor to cultivate. (fn. 894) Land for this purpose had probably been owned by the parish before, and probably long before, this date, for the overseers received a small allotment under the 1814 inclosure award. (fn. 895)
A poor-house is mentioned as early as 1614 when a payment was made by the churchwardens for having it cleaned. (fn. 896) There is no indication of the whereabouts of this house. In 1729 it was proposed to take a long lease of 'Mr. Selfes house' and grounds for a workhouse: (fn. 897) no doubt this refers to some other property than Place House but no further record has been found of the proposal. In 1771 a poor-house with brewhouse and bake-house was built in King Street at the end of the yard now called Union Place. (fn. 898) It was enlarged in 1797 by the addition of workshops. (fn. 899) The Melksham Union was formed in 1835 and the workhouse at Semington built within the next few years. The old workhouse was sold in 1839 for £725. (fn. 900) The only two public assistance institutions within the ancient parish are both maintained by the County Council. Shaw House (see above—Manors) is a home for the aged, and Sampford House at Shurnhold, a children's home. (fn. 901)
The normal system of poor relief was supplemented informally. A 'Society of Cloth Workers and Others' for the support of sick and infirm workmen, largely financed by the employers, met at the 'King's Arms' from 1762 to 1790 and perhaps longer. (fn. 902) The Provident District Society, with similar objects, existed in 1830 (fn. 903) and in 1868; (fn. 904) and for a short time in the second quarter of the 19th century it received, for clothing, half the income of Bohun Fox's charity (see above—Schools). A clothing club and a coal charity organized, like the Provident District Society, by the church, were in existence in 1868. (fn. 905)
C 142/297/1605 and see W.N. & Q. iv, 337, where it is suggested that Isaac Selfe built the house.