A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1965.
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The ancient parish of Pertwood lay on the summit of the downs about 3½ miles north from East Knoyle and the same distance south from Sutton Veny. (fn. 1) It comprised 450 a. (fn. 2) and since the 16th century consisted of a single farm. The parish was made up of two separate, roughly triangular shaped pieces of land, the apex of the northern, and smaller, triangle pointing towards, but not quite touching the apex of the southern, and larger, triangle. (fn. 3) Tracks running over the top of the downs formed the eastern and western boundaries of both parts of the parish. (fn. 4) The northern boundary of the northern part of the parish ran just north of Pertwood Wood, and the southern boundary of the southern part across Bockerly Hill just south of Upper Pertwood Bushes. (fn. 5) The church of St. Peter, (fn. 6) and Upper Pertwood Farm, comprising the farm house, called (in 1962) the Manor House, four or five farm cottages, and the farm buildings, form the only settlement within the area of the ancient parish. This fairly compact group of buildings lies in the southern portion of the former parish towards the top of the down and is approached by a drive from the main road. In 1885 all the southern portion of Pertwood was taken into the civil parish of East Knoyle and the whole of the northern portion into that of Sutton Veny. (fn. 7)
The entire ancient parish lay upon the Upper Chalk which in this region is capped with clay-with -flints. (fn. 8) In the northern part of the parish the land rises to about 700 ft., and in the southern part falls to about 550 ft. John Aubrey, writing towards the end of the 17th century, remarked that in spite of its high, and apparently bracing, situation, Pertwood was frequently enveloped in mist and was not a healthy place. (fn. 9) In 1962 there were two woods in the northern part of the former parish but many of the trees of Pertwood Wood (sometimes called Wylye Wood) had been cut. In both parts there were plantations of very large beech trees forming windbreaks. Such plantations stretched along the former northern and southern parish boundaries and another sheltered the church and farm from the west.
On Pertwood Down, to the west of the ancient parish, there are numerous barrows and clear traces of Celtic field systems, but none of these lies within the area of the ancient parish. In 1962 the main road from Shaftesbury to Warminster in the extreme south-west corner was the only road within the former parish. But the point between the apexes of the two triangles of land comprising the former parish is the meeting place of a number of tracks running over the downs, and through this junction ran the Roman road from the Mendip lead mines in the west to Old Salisbury in the east. In 1962 a footpath led from the farm to Chicklade, the nearest village, about 2 miles away.
No evidence has been found to suggest that there was ever a much larger settlement at Pertwood. It was assessed at 28s. to the 15th of 1334 when 5 hamlets in the hundred of Warminster had lower assessments. (fn. 10) No poll-tax payers were returned for Pertwood in 1377, (fn. 11) and in 1428 it was among those places not assessed for taxation because they had fewer than 10 householders. (fn. 12) When the Census figures begin in 1801 there were 15 inhabitants and the largest number ever returned for the ancient parish was 38 in 1881. (fn. 13)
Pertwood Manor stands facing east about 100 yds. from the church. It presumably stands upon the site of an earlier house, which was the home of the Mervyns in the 16th century, and possibly of earlier lords of the manor. John Mervyn in his will, proved in 1601, bequeathed to his brother, Philip, the right to live at Pertwood for life 'if he will take it, and orderly and quietly behave himself in the same'. (fn. 14) The present (1962) house dates from the 18th century but has been altered in the 19th and 20th centuries, so that what was a quite modest farmhouse has become a more sophisticated residence. It is a stone house of two stories with attic. The east, and main, front of 3 bays has 4-pane sash windows with drip moulds, and a half-glazed double door in the centre.
The manor of PERTWOOD was held before the Conquest by Wlward, but by the time of the Domesday Survey it had passed to Geoffrey de Mowbray, Bishop of Coutances. (fn. 15) Like Wing field, another estate of the bishop in 1086, (fn. 16) Pertwood passed to the Earls of Gloucester and an estate in Pertwood belonged to the honor of Gloucester until the beginning of the 15th century. (fn. 17)
The Pertwood estate of the Earls of Gloucester was held of them by the St. Quintins. It may have formed part of the fee in Wiltshire held of the honor of Gloucester by Herbert St. Quintin in 1210–12. (fn. 18) In 1242–3, 1299, and 1324 a John St. Quintin held 1/5 fee there of the honor. (fn. 19) After the last date no further trace has been found of the St. Quintin interest in the manor.
By the middle of the 13th century the Mortimers, later Earls of March, had also acquired an estate in Pertwood. In 1242–3 Richard of Pertwood (Pertewurth) held 1/5 fee there of Brian de Brampton, who held of Ralph de Mortimer, and Thomas de Caveresworth held ¼ fee there of the same Ralph. (fn. 20) The overlordship of the Earls of March lasted presumably until this honor was merged in the Crown upon the accession of Edward, Duke of York, as Edward IV in 1460. It was among the possessions of Edward's great-uncle, Edmund, Earl of March (d. 1425). (fn. 21)
In 1242–3 the estate in Pertwood held of the honor of Gloucester by the St. Quintins (see above) had been further subinfeudated and was held by Roger de Trowe and Robert Gentil. (fn. 22) At the same date Roger de Trowe also held 2 hides of James de Trowe who held them of Hugh de Vivon. (fn. 23) This 2-hide estate may also have been held of the honor of Gloucester, for in 1401 Roger de Trowe held a 2-hide estate there of that honor. (fn. 24)
Lack of evidence makes it impossible to trace satisfactorily the subsequent descent of these various holdings. In 1267 Alexander de Pertwood (Purchewort) and Agnes, his wife, conveyed a messuage and ½ virgate of land in Pertwood to Christine de Pertwood (Purcewort), who may have been the widow of the Richard de Pertwood of 1242–3 (see above). (fn. 25) Robert de Hoppegras and Alice, his wife, possibly descendants of the Pertwoods, conveyed a messuage, a carucate of land, and the advowson of the church of Pertwood in 1294 to Walter de Sutton. (fn. 26) Walter settled this estate in 1320 upon himself and his wife Joan and their issue with remainder to John Styward of Upton Scudamore. (fn. 27) In 1330 Richard, son of James de Trowe, conveyed his estate at Pertwood, part of which was then held by his sister, Joan, to William de Northo and Christine his wife with remainder to William's son, another William, and Denise his wife. (fn. 28) Sir William Sutton appears to have been lord of the manor in 1333, for he presented to the living of Pertwood that year, (fn. 29) and in 1365–6 John Joye and Christine his wife, sold the manor, which they held in right of Christine, to John Amberlegh. (fn. 30) John presented to the rectory in 1376 and 1379. (fn. 31)
Even less is known of the descent of the manor during the 15th and earlier 16th centuries. If the manor descended with the advowson, as is probable, it was from 1400 until 1419 in the possession of John Britte, or Brut, of Hindon; in 1433 of William Elys, and in 1450 of John Elys. (fn. 32) Towards the end of the 15th century William Fletcher became possessed of the manor, apparently in right of his wife Joan, daughter of John Brother of Pertwood. (fn. 33) William died early in the 16th century, leaving as his heirs two daughters, Agnes, wife of John Maton, and Margaret, wife of John Ingram. (fn. 34) Margaret seems to have married, as a second husband, William Mervyn (fn. 35) and before 1539 her share of the manor had passed to her son John Mervyn. (fn. 36) The moiety belonging to Agnes Maton had by then passed to Robert Temmys and Joan his wife, who was probably Agnes's daughter. (fn. 37) This part of the manor subsequently passed to George Ludlow, who sold it in 1553 to John Mervyn who thus became possessed of the whole. (fn. 38) John Mervyn was succeeded by his son, also John, who died in 1601, when the manor passed to his son Thomas. (fn. 39) Thomas died without issue and Pertwood passed to his brother George. (fn. 40) It then descended in the Mervyn family until 1692 when John Mervyn, grandson of George, sold it to Sir James Howe. (fn. 41) Sir James died without issue in 1736 and left the estate to his nephew Henry Lee, commonly called Lee Warner. (fn. 42) On Lee Warner's death in 1804 the estate passed to his nephew James Woodward, who assumed the name of Lee Warner, (fn. 43) and sold Pertwood in 1805 to John Benett of Pythouse. (fn. 44) Benett sold it in 1810 to Richard Ricward of Longbridge Deverill. (fn. 45) Before 1838 it passed to Henry Seymour, and from Seymour's son, Alfred, it was bought in 1877 by the Hon. Percy Scawen Wyndham. (fn. 46) In 1919 Guy Richard Charles Wyndham, grandson of Percy Scawen Wyndham, sold the estate to Arthur Mitchell, who in c. 1939 sold it to Paul Weldon. (fn. 47) In 1945 it was bought from Paul Weldon by Col. Scrope Egerton who owned it in 1962. (fn. 48)
The earliest reference found to a church at Pertwood is in 1333 when a rector was instituted to replace another. (fn. 49) The living was a rectory and the advowson belonged to the lords of the manor who, so far as is known, always exercised their patronage except in 1469 when the 'abbot of St. Saviour, Syon' presented. (fn. 50) Rectors seem to have been instituted fairly regularly until 1899 when the church was annexed to that of Chicklade as a chapel-of-ease. (fn. 51) It was then served by the Rector of Chicklade until 1921, when Chicklade with Pertwood were united to the church of Hindon, and since this date all three churches have been served by the Vicar of Hindon. (fn. 52)
The living was discharged in the 18th century when it was valued at £28, (fn. 53) and a grant of £6 10s. a year was made from Queen Anne's Bounty. (fn. 54) There were approximately 10 a. of glebe. In 1677 the glebe arable was distributed between the East, Middle, and West Fields and there was a close of meadow. (fn. 55) The tithe map of 1838 shows the glebe lying in two lots of roughly equal size in the southern part of the parish just below the farmstead. (fn. 56) All tithes were paid to the rector and were commuted in 1838 for a rent charge of £74. (fn. 57) In 1677 there was a rectory, or parsonage, house with barn and stable adjoining. (fn. 58) This is not mentioned in the glebe terrier of 1704 (fn. 59) and at the end of the 18th century the rector lived in Hindon. (fn. 60) In 1835 the house was still there but was said to be uninhabitable. (fn. 61) It was, however, later restored and in 1919 was let, with the glebe lands, to the tenant of Pertwood Farm. (fn. 62) In 1962 a small farm cottage stood on the site of the former parsonage house just to the south-east of Pertwood Manor.
Little is known about the church. In c. 1361 William le Frend of New Salisbury left 40d. in his will to it. (fn. 63) Richard Mervyn, probably a brother of the lord of the manor, was instituted as rector in 1631 and held the living for 7 years. (fn. 64) Lancelot Morehouse, scholar and mathematician, and a friend of John Aubrey, was rector in c. 1660. (fn. 65) In 1676 the congregation seems to have amounted to no more than 8 persons. (fn. 66) A service was held at 1 o'clock on every other Sunday and at no other times in 1783. Communion was not administered and the family living in the farmhouse usually went to church in Hindon. The incumbent at this date also served the church at Hindon, then a chapel-of-ease of East Knoyle. (fn. 67) In 1863 the rector lived at Chicklade, but Pertwood was his only benefice. Services were held on every Sunday, either in the morning or in the afternoon, and a sermon was preached at every service. There was also a service on Christmas Day, and on Good Friday, and Communion was celebrated at Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun. There were 4 regular communicants, but the congregation sometimes numbered 40 and was said to have much increased of late. Fairly substantial numbers came from Brixton Deverill to attend the services. In that year there was one baptism within the church and one burial in the churchyard. (fn. 68) In 1919 a service was held on one afternoon a week, and in 1962 about once a month and at the time of the Harvest Festival. (fn. 69)
Until the beginning of the 19th century, the church of ST. PETER was a small, stone, 12th-century building with a round-headed door on the south side. (fn. 70) It was restored in c. 1812 by the lord of the manor, and in 1822 there was said to be no feature of antiquity left except a holywater stoop to the south of the altar. The chancel at the later date was separated from the nave by a round-headed arch. (fn. 71) Late in the 19th century the church was completely rebuilt in flint with stone dressings. It comprises nave, chancel, and small north aisle. In spite of their long connexion with the manor there are only two memorials to the Mervyn family: one to Sheldon Mervyn (d. 1734), the other to his sister Mrs. Mary Pouldon (d. 1747). There is a wall tablet to Richard Ricward, lord of the manor after 1810 who restored the church. In 1908 the bowl of a 14th-century font was discovered buried in a nearby copse and was restored to the church at the expense of the then lord of the manor, Percy Scawen Wyndham. (fn. 72) In 1553 there were two bells. In 1963 there was but one small bell probably of late 13th-century date. (fn. 73) In 1553 a chalice weighing 2 oz. was left for the parish and ½ oz. silver taken for the king. In 1963 there was a silvergilt chalice with an indistinct hall-mark date, thought to be 1676 and a paten probably of the same date. (fn. 74) The oldest surviving register begins in 1811.
In 1086 Pertwood comprised 2 hides. Of these, 1½ was demesne on which there was one plough, leaving ½ hide for tenant farming. There were 2 villeins and 3 bordars with 1 plough. At that time there were 20 a. of pasture and 4 a. of woodland. (fn. 75) Situated entirely on chalk downland, the land of Pertwood for most of its history has been used for corn growing and sheep rearing. Since the middle of the 16th century, when John Mervyn acquired the whole manor, (fn. 76) the parish has comprised but a single farm. Almost nothing can be said about its agrarian economy before the 19th century. John Mervyn, who died in 1601, bequeathed 100 sheep each to two of his younger sons, presumably over and above his main stock which went with the manor to his eldest son. (fn. 77) This son, Thomas Mervyn, had a warren at Pertwood, which was plundered by two of his neighbours from Sutton Veny and their servants. (fn. 78)
In 1838 of the land subject to tithe 203 a. were arable, 181 a. down, 8 a. pasture, and 30 a. wood. Oats were the largest crop then produced, followed by barley, followed by wheat. At this date in the southern portion of the parish there were 2 large arable fields, namely West Field and Middle Field, and 3 smaller arable fields, two of them apparently subdivisions of Middle Field, and the third possibly made from the down at a fairly late date. In the northern portion of the parish, much of which was woodland, there were 2 fairly small arable fields. (fn. 79) In 1857 a sale notice mentions 800 sheep, and 23 horses, but no other stock on the farm. (fn. 80) In 1919 the arable was described as some of the best corn-growing land in the district. New dairy buildings had recently been erected. About 188 a. of the former parish were then pasture and 148 a. arable. (fn. 81) In 1962 the land was used mainly for cereal crops but there was also a herd of pedigree cows.