A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1965.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In this section
The small parish of Bishopstrow adjoins the Urban District of Warminster, running the length of its south-eastern boundary in a strip some 3½ miles long and about ½ mile wide. (fn. 1) The modern civil parish differs from the ancient parish by the addition to it in 1884 of Eastleigh Farm house and the fields near it, and of a small piece of land in the village, both formerly detached pieces of Warminster. At the same time lands formerly called Hillwoods, a detached piece of Bishopstrow near Warminster Common, were transferred to Warminster. (fn. 2) The parts of Pit Mead which belonged to Bishopstrow were added to Sutton Veny. (fn. 3) The area of the parish was thus reduced from 1,045 to 999 a. (fn. 4)
The same geological sequence of greensand valley and chalk down occurs here as in the next parish of Norton Bavant. (fn. 5) The village lies south of the Warminster-Salisbury road, which crosses the parish from west to east. The way in which this road ran north of Boreham and the present site of Bishopstrow House in the early 18th century is described below. (fn. 6) In 1773 the turnpike road from Warminster followed the present line of the main road through Boreham as far the bend near the entrance to the house; there it turned sharply to the north-east for a short way, and then again at right angles to rejoin the present line of road near the parish boundary. The road had been straightened by 1808. (fn. 7) The main part of the village lies along a road which branches south from the main road at Boreham and continues south to Sutton Veny. West of it the large houses called Eastleigh Court and Draytons (formerly The Buries) stand in extensive grounds. The Buries takes its name from a large earthwork from which excavations carried out by Hoare yielded much Roman material. (fn. 8) Further off is Eastleigh Farm, on its own near the parish boundary. East of the village street the church and former rectory are at the end of a lane, from which a path and footbridge lead across the river to the mill and so back to the main road. North of the road are only Bishopstrow House (fn. 9) and Bishopstrow Farm. The village street consists chiefly of continuous terraces of early 19th-century cottages. The similarity of their design, particularly in the wooden drip-moulds above the doors and windows, probably indicates that they were built by the lord of the manor. Some were formerly thatched, but all now have tiled roofs. When the parish was inclosed in 1808, the surveyor did not include these houses on the map, possibly because they were then being rebuilt. At the north end of the village, the house called Shirley House was formerly a timber-framed house consisting of a central hall and two cross wings. Between the hall and the cross wing part of a cruck truss survives; the house has been refaced in stone and brick, and the former thatched roof replaced by tiles.
In 1377 there were 87 poll-tax payers in Bishopstrow. (fn. 10) The population of the parish was 227 in 1801, and had grown to 296 by 1841. Since then it has declined intermittently to 153 in 1951. (fn. 11) The closeness of the village to Warminster has not affected it, and there has been little recent building apart from a few council houses. Agriculture has always been the chief pursuit carried on in the village, although there was some activity in the cloth trade from the 16th to the 18th century, which is described below. (fn. 12)
Edred held BISHOPSTROW before the Conquest, but by 1086 it had passed to Edward of Salisbury. (fn. 13) It was part of the lands, later known as the honor of Trowbridge, which were given by Edward to Humphrey (I) de Bohun, husband of his daughter Maud. It descended in the Bohuns, later Earls of Hereford, until the division of the honor in 1229, when Bishopstrow was one of the demesne manors allotted to Ela, Countess of Salisbury. (fn. 14) In 1236 Ela made an agreement with her son William Longespée, which enabled her to give the manor to the nunnery of Lacock which she had founded a few years before. (fn. 15) It remained in the possession of Lacock until the Dissolution. In 1550 it was granted by the Crown to Thomas Temmes, (fn. 16) brother of Joan, the last abbess. (fn. 17) After his death in 1575 (fn. 18) his son John, who had moved to Sussex, sold Bishopstrow in 1577 to John Middlecott, reserving a rent of £50 on it. Eight years later Middlecott, who had also left Bishopstrow, for Somerset, sold the manor to George, Lord Audley, later Earl of Castlehaven (d. 1617). In the following year the manor was let to James Gayner of Salisbury for 31 years. (fn. 19) On the execution of Mervin, Lord Castlehaven, in 1631 his property was forfeited to the Crown, but regranted to his son two years later. (fn. 20) In 1635 he sold Bishopstrow to William Temple, in whose family it remained for 300 years. (fn. 21) Temple's son Peter redeemed the £50 rent, which had passed through various hands, in 1690. (fn. 22) Peter's son Samuel had two sons, of whom the elder, Peter, died unmarried in 1755. The younger, William, left, by his third wife, a son William who was born shortly before his father's death in 1781, and died in 1875. He was succeeded by his grandson Vere de Lone Temple, who died unmarried in 1893, when the manor passed to his brother Grenville Newton Temple (d. 1949). (fn. 23) In 1950 the house and parkland were sold to W. Keith Neale, but in 1962 the Temple family still retained much property in the parish. (fn. 24)
In 1533 the manor house and farm of Bishopstrow were let for 99 years to Robert Abath, who had married a sister of Joan Temmes, the last Abbess of Lacock. In 1592 Clement Abath assigned the lease to Geoffrey Hawkins of Bishopstrow, clothier, and in 1613 Hawkins's widow and her second husband assigned it to John Temple of Kingston Deverill, whose son bought the freehold of the property. (fn. 25)
Until the early 19th century the manor house of Bishopstrow lay between the Salisbury road and the Wylye, just above Bishopstrow Mill. (fn. 26) In 1736 it was apparently only a small house with a hall, two parlours and four main chambers. (fn. 27) It may have been added to later in the 18th century, when the garden was expensively beautified. A small circular temple is dated 1770, and there are a summer-house and a boat-house of rather later date. A late 17thcentury brick building with stone-mullioned windows and quoins also remains on the site; it may have been an outbuilding of the former house. William Temple seems to have decided to build a new house north of the Salisbury road soon after the inclosure of the parish. In 1815 he made a tunnel under the road with a brick vault and elaborately decorated entrances of vermiculated stone. The new house was begun in 1817 to the design of John Pinch the elder of Bath. (fn. 28) It is a square two-storied building of ashlar with very fine joints; the plain design is relieved by a door set in a recess and decorated with Ionic columns on the main (east) front, and by a semi-circular bay on the south front.
About 1120 Humphrey (II) de Bohun gave land at Bishopstrow to the Priory of Lewes (Suss.), intending it as a partial endowment of the proposed daughter house at Farleigh. (fn. 29) It was transferred to Monkton Farleigh on its foundation, the gift being confirmed in the foundation charter of Humphrey (III) de Bohun (fn. 30) and by Henry I. (fn. 31) It was evidently the practice of the monks to lease out this small estate for long terms. In 1249 they appear to have obtained a surrender of such a lease in return for an annuity of 40s., (fn. 32) and in 1294 it was let at farm for the same amount. At that time it was called Horsepool. (fn. 33) In the earlier 14th century John of Bradford, Rector of Bishopstrow, held a life estate in the property, (fn. 34) the reversion of which was granted to Robert Hungerford. (fn. 35) In 1501 it was held by Maud Walrond on a 30-year lease, (fn. 36) and in 1518 it was granted to John Benet for his life. (fn. 37) After the Dissolution the hide of land called Buryshott and Horsepool was granted in 1543 to Richard Andrews and Nicholas Temple, (fn. 38) who immediately sold it to Sir John Thynne of Longleat. (fn. 39) In 1571 Thynne conveyed it, with other lands, to Thomas Gifford of Boreham, in exchange for land in Longbridge Deverill. (fn. 40) From that time it descended in the same way as the other property of the Gifford family, (fn. 41) to Sir John Dugdale Astley, who sold the lands, then called the Eastleigh estate, to Capt. Arthur Howard Southey in 1884. (fn. 42) He died in 1915 and his son J. A. Southey in 1956; (fn. 43) the land was then sold to Major J. C. Walker of Sutton Veny.
The farmhouse of this estate was perhaps that called in 1963 The Cottage, which has a brick front of the 18th century but is somewhat older at the back. By 1808 a larger brick house had been built in more extensive grounds nearby. (fn. 44) It was called Bury Cottage, and in 1822 was the home of William Temple, (fn. 45) who perhaps occupied it while Bishopstrow House was being rebuilt. In 1841 it was the home of F. D. Astley. (fn. 46) It was much added to later in the century, and in 1963 was used as a preparatory school. There was no house on the site of Eastleigh Court, which later became the chief house of the estate, in 1830. (fn. 47) In 1837 F. P. B. Martin lived in Eastleigh Lodge, no doubt recently built there. (fn. 48) By 1849 it had passed to the Astleys, (fn. 49) and, as Eastleigh Court, was sold with the lands to Capt. Southey in 1884. (fn. 50) Most of the large brick house in a plain Tudor style dates from after the sale, but some walling at the back, the outbuildings, and the gate piers are probably relics of the earlier house.
Among several small properties acquired by the nuns of Lacock after they had received the capital manor was one also described as in Horsepool. In the earlier part of the 13th century it had been held by Walter the physician; Godfrey Waspail, lord of Smallbrook (fl. c. 1250), gave it to his daughter Agnes, who gave it to the nuns in 1261. It consisted of a house and about 20 a. of land. (fn. 51) The gift of the mill of Bishopstrow to the abbey is described below. (fn. 52) In 1321 William le Bole was licensed to grant a house and 10 a. in Bishopstrow to Lacock. (fn. 53)
Several small free tenancies had been created in the Lacock manor by c. 1260. The largest was one of two virgates held then, and still twenty years later, by Walter Swoting. (fn. 54) He had a son Robert, who had land in Bishopstrow in 1327. (fn. 55) It was probably the same two virgates which were by 1403 held by Thomas Felawe in right of Agnes his wife. (fn. 56) In 1414 Hugh de la Lynde held the estate by grant of Felawe. (fn. 57) Soon after this time it must have passed to John Leverich (or Loverige); he left a daughter and heir Agnes who married into a family called Stalbridge. Her grandson Richard Stalbridge left two daughters and heirs, Agnes, wife of John Collins, and Katharine, wife of Richard Penyll. In the early 16th century they were engaged in a lawsuit with Roger Uffenham over the property, (fn. 58) in which Uffenham must have been successful, for his son Richard held it in 1539. (fn. 59) Early in Elizabeth I's reign Richard's daughter Emma and her second husband John Maggs were dealing with land in Bishopstrow. (fn. 60) In 1582 Maggs sold the estate to William Middlecott; (fn. 61) Middlecott's brother John included it when he sold the manor three years later, and although it was the subject of a lawsuit in the reign of Charles I, it probably descended with the manor from 1585. (fn. 62)
Two freeholds which had existed c. 1260 were held at the Dissolution by Thomas Gifford. One was of 1½ virgate, held by Jocelin c. 1260 and Robert Goscelyn his son c. 1280. (fn. 63) Robert left a son John who was of Bishopstrow in 1311. (fn. 64) Osbert Goscelyn lived there in 1319. (fn. 65) Thereafter the descent is unknown until at the Dissolution Thomas Gifford held it by descent from his father Maurice. (fn. 66) The second estate, of one virgate, was held by Adam Serle c. 1260 and Andrew de Lye c. 1280. (fn. 67) At the Dissolution Thomas Gifford held a virgate called Lythis, once of John Taylor, and late of John Bennett. (fn. 68) These two estates, held at rents of 13s. each in 1539, made up the lands in Bishopstrow held under the lords of the manor by John Gifford at his death in 1601; the rent was then said to be 26s. 4d. (fn. 69) Their subsequent descent was like the rest of the Gifford estate. (fn. 70)
In 1731 the Gifford estate in Bishopstrow consisted only of the former Lacock Abbey property and of Knapp Farm. (fn. 71) That farm must therefore have consisted chiefly of these 2½ virgates formerly held under the abbey. It descended with the rest of the property until 1808, when all the arable land and downs, some 104 a., were sold by F. D. Astley to William Temple. (fn. 72) It was probably at the same time that the remainder of the farm was sold to William Munday. In 1841 he or a descendant of the same name held a farm of 48 a. (fn. 73) The early-19th-century farmhouse stands north of the Salisbury road near the drive into Bishopstrow House.
When the manor of Bishopstrow was sold to William Temple in 1636, the lands he bought were only charged with 33s. 5d. out of the 53s. 0½d. fee-farm rent to the Crown payable out of the whole manor. (fn. 74) At least one other estate was therefore probably sold by Lord Audley at about the same time. This was perhaps the farm called Hoggetts, which in 1713 was the largest estate in the parish except for the Temple and Gifford holdings. (fn. 75) In the late 18th century Hoggetts was held by the Bayly family; (fn. 76) in 1836 James Bayly left it to his grandson F. W. Bayly (fn. 77). In 1841 the farm had an area of 93 a. (fn. 78) The house stood south of the Salisbury road, on the west corner of the lane and footbridge leading down to the church. It was sold to William Temple separately from the lands in 1868. (fn. 79)
In 1086 there was land for six ploughs in Bishopstrow; half was in demesne, with 4 serfs, and the remainder was held by 9 villeins, 6 bordars, and 2 cottars. There were small quantities of meadow and wood, and the pasture was 5 furlongs long and 3 broad. (fn. 80) A detailed survey and custumal of the mid-13th century (fn. 81) lists 9 holders of one virgate each and 6 of 4 a. each, and there can be little doubt that their holdings were those of the villeins and bordars of 1086. There were in addition freeholders who held lands amounting to over 4½ virgates, and some 60 or 70 a. of land in the west of the parish had been given to Monkton Farleigh Priory and so was not included in the survey. (fn. 82) Since it is unlikely that the area of the demesne farm had been much reduced, there is clear indication of a considerable expansion of cultivated area between 1086 and c. 1250. As in other places, (fn. 83) this expansion was accompanied by a growth in population. Compared with the recorded 21 tenants of 1086, there were 57 at the later date, of whom 37 held only houses or very small amounts of land. They included a smith, two shepherds, two millers, a capper and several widows; many of the remainder must have earned a living working on the demesne or the larger free or bond holdings. The virgaters themselves were obliged to work five days a week on the demesne farm from Midsummer to Michaelmas, and every second day for the rest of the year, while the holders of 4 a. worked every day through the first period and the same as the virgaters for the rest of the year. Some of the cottars had to do boon-work at haytime and harvest. Allowance seems to have been made for the tenants to redeem at least some of their works by the payment of larger rents, but it may be that this represents former customs, for on many Wiltshire manors such options were being withdrawn by this time. (fn. 84)
Although the 13th-century survey reveals little of the lay-out of the fields and meadows of the manor, the topography of the parish makes it certain that the larger part of the open-field land lay north-east of the village on the greensand levels which lie on either side of Middle Hill. The further of these must be 'Cinuba on the north side of Hirthbir' ' from which five loads had to be carried daily in harvest, and the nearer the 'midles', from which seven loads were required. Some land which was apparently arable, or at least lying in acres, lay on the lower ground near the village. (fn. 85) More lay to the south-west, in the area round the present Eastleigh Farm, which was called Old Field in the early 13th century; here, however, there were already inclosed crofts. (fn. 86) Of the meadows named c. 1250, Tunmead lay along the Wylye near the mill, and 'Beuemede' was no doubt nearby. Little is known of the farming of the land at this time, although sheep were evidently kept in some numbers, for in 1249 the Abbess of Lacock obtained a grant of pasture for 200 of her flock on land belonging to William Mauduit, lord of Warminster. (fn. 87) Some years earlier she had granted two of her free tenants rights to run their sheep on her own pasture. (fn. 88)
No more is known of agriculture in Bishopstrow until the 16th century. The first known lessee of demesne was William Cabell in the early 16th century, (fn. 89) although the practice of leasing was probably much older. The nine bond virgates of 300 years before can still be discerned in 1539, when they were held by five tenants, four of whom held two each. (fn. 90) A flock of 320 sheep was kept on the demesne farm, (fn. 91) and there is no doubt that the sheep and corn husbandry typical of the district was carried on, based on the commonable open fields and meadows and the downland pastures. What changes there were consisted of the inclosure of open land and the consolidation of holdings. There is no indication of extensive inclosure; even west of the village what appears to have been open field arable still existed in Elizabeth I's reign, (fn. 92) although it was perhaps not subject to a common field course, for about 1550 it had been sown in three successive years with oats, barley, and wheat. (fn. 93) In this part of the parish ground called Shuttlesborrow and a coppice of 10 a. in the detached part of the parish at Hillwood had recently been inclosed in 1636. (fn. 94) After the Dissolution the large copyholds seem to have been obtained by the lords and added to the demesne farm, for by 1636 all the holdings except the farm were very small. (fn. 95) It is possible, however, that they formed a freehold estate separate from the manor. (fn. 96)
The way in which the fields and commons were managed in the 17th century is only partially known. In 1631 the rectorial glebe lay in the field next to Boreham, the field over the hill, and the middle field south of the hill. Later terriers indicate that there was no glebe in the first middle field, (fn. 97) so that there seem to have been four fields, which in 1801 were evidently in a four-year course. (fn. 98) It was the custom to hain the land on which the corn had been cut from Michaelmas to Martinmas; during that time the tenants' cattle were in the field destined for winter sowing, and were presumably moved to the fallow field at Martinmas. Pit Mead and other common meadows were available for the tenants' stock from the carrying of the hay until Candlemas, first for cattle and, after St. Thomas's day, for sheep as well. On the Cow Down the tenants had common for cattle from 3 May until Martinmas, but it was several to the tenant of the farm for the remainder of the year. (fn. 99) The tenants were clearly very dependent in this parish on their pasture rights in the common fields and meadows, because for much of the year they had no other feed available. As late as 1801 a quarter of the arable land in the parish was uncultivated annually because of manorial rights, 'to the great detriment of agriculture'. (fn. 100) In these circumstances improvement was perhaps slower than elsewhere, and confined to the large manor farm. At least some of its arable land was in a separate Farm Field by 1631, (fn. 101) and there were water meadows belonging to it by 1662. (fn. 102) The first known rack lease of the farm, with newly-built farmhouse, was made in 1719. (fn. 103) Later in the century the several Farm Down of 205 a. surrounded the smaller Cow Down in which the tenants still had summer and autumn pasture. The tenants' sheep could, however, feed the fallow Farm Field from Lady Day to Michaelmas, a serious drawback to improvement. (fn. 104) In 1764 the loss of common pasture by the inclosing of 3 a. of land had to be made good by bounding out 3 a. of the Farm Field adjoining the Tenantry Field. (fn. 105) The final parliamentary inclosure of the parish took place in 1811 when the chief allottees were William Temple (642 a.), James Bayly for Hoggetts Farm (85 a.), and William Munday (40 a.). (fn. 106) The lands of the Astley, formerly Gifford, estate west of the village were all old inclosures, probably of long standing.
Almost all the allotments made to William Temple were held by his tenant of Bishopstrow Farm. In 1769 it consisted of 41 a. of inclosed meadow land, 216 a. arable and 205 a. of several down. (fn. 107) In 1808 Temple added to it 104 a. of arable land formerly belonging to Knapp Farm, which he had obtained by exchange from the Astley estate. (fn. 108) and in 1814 it was let at a rent of £600. (fn. 109) It was probably about this time that the farmhouse and buildings, which had previously been near the old manor house, were moved to their present site near the Salisbury road. In 1833 it consisted of 29 a. of pasture, 40 a. meadow, 318 a. arable land and 286 a. downland; in that year the farmhouse was destroyed by fire. (fn. 110) In 1851 a further 124 a., part of Morgan's Farm in Boreham, were added, so that the farm expanded to 772 a. of which 140 were in Warminster. (fn. 111) As on many farms at this time, the arable area was increased; in 1849 43 a. of downland were broken up. (fn. 112) There were only two other farms of any size in the parish. In 1838 Hoggett's Farm, the property of the Bayly family, contained 93 a.; (fn. 113) Bury Farm or Old Field Farm (now Eastleigh Farm), part of the Astley estate, was of 349 a. in 1849, much of which was in Sutton Veny parish. (fn. 114) When it was sold in 1884 Old Field Farm was described as an excellent sheep and corn farm, let at £340 a year. (fn. 115) These were, however, the last days of the old sheep and corn husbandry of the chalk country. In 1839 about half the parish had been arable and much of the rest downland, (fn. 116) but before the end of the century Bishopstrow Farm was held by S. W. Farmer, a partner in the firm of Frank Stratton & Co., which began the large-scale production of milk for the London market on chalk farms. (fn. 117)
The first clothier known to have worked in Bishopstrow is Richard Middlecott. He was quite highly assessed in the benevolence of 1545, (fn. 118) and in 1562 was able to pay over £600 for a grant of Crown lands in several counties. (fn. 119) He acquired much property in Warminster and founded a family fortune which lasted until the 19th century. (fn. 120) His son John, also a Bishopstrow clothier, acquired the manor of Bishopstrow in 1578. (fn. 121) A third rich clothier of this period was Geoffrey Hawkins, who bought the lease of Bishopstrow Farm for £632 in 1592; (fn. 122) this included the mill, which had been in use as a fulling mill for at least 60 years. (fn. 123) The names of a number of clothiers and cloth-workers who lived in the village in the 17th and 18th centuries have survived, (fn. 124) but little is known of their businesses or prosperity. Richard Short, a clothier who died c. 1684, left assets worth £1,662. (fn. 125) Peter Temple, a younger son of the lord of the manor, carried on business as a clothier between 1734 and 1745, when he went bankrupt. (fn. 126)
A mill worth 15s. belonged to the manor in 1086. (fn. 127) It was apparently held in fee in the middle of the 13th century by Elias Serle, but c. 1259 several parties who had obtained an interest in it after his death released it to the nuns of Lacock. (fn. 128) Thereafter it seems to have remained part of the manor. In 1533 it formed part of the property let to Robert Abath; it was then described as a fulling mill, gig mill, and grist mill. (fn. 129) It was still a fulling mill in 1636, (fn. 130) but in 1734 it was described as a grist mill and wood mill for grinding dyestuff. (fn. 131) In 1747 the lease was assigned to a Heytesbury clothier, (fn. 132) but from 1778 to 1837 it was let with Bishopstrow Farm and was presumably used as a grist mill. (fn. 133) After that time it was held separately by a succession of millers. (fn. 134) The mill was burnt down in 1873. (fn. 135) The present three-storied building of brick was built to replace the one destroyed; by 1885 steam power was used in addition to water. (fn. 136) Since about 1936 the mill has been used by W. A. King and Co. as a provender mill; water and electric power are used. (fn. 137)
Bishopstrow, 'the bishop's tree', has been connected with the 'Biscepes truue' mentioned by William of Malmesbury (fn. 138) as the place where St. Aldhelm's staff miraculously grew into an ash tree. (fn. 139) The suggestion is plausible, for the dedication of the church of Bishopstrow to St. Aldhelm is recorded as early as the 13th century, (fn. 140) and there is a possibility, discussed below, that a church of the Saxon period stood here until the 18th century. When the church is first mentioned c. 1120 (fn. 141) it had, therefore, probably long stood on a site used for Christian teaching since the early 8th century. It has remained the only Anglican place of worship in the ancient parish. In 1957, however, St. John's Church, Warminster, which had previously been a chapel-of-ease to Warminster parish church, was transferred to the charge of the Rector of Bishopstrow, and a new ecclesiastical parish of Bishopstrow and Boreham was founded. (fn. 142)
The church formed part of the endowment provided by the de Bohun family for Monkton Farleigh priory, (fn. 143) and the advowson was held by the monks there until the Dissolution. During part of the 14th century the patronage was exercised by the king as belonging to an alien priory; (fn. 144) in 1343 and 1346 Robert Hungerford contested this because he held a life estate of the prior, but was unsuccessful. (fn. 145) In 1472 and 1531 laymen presented to the living by grant of the prior. (fn. 146) After the Dissolution the advowson was held by successive owners of the former estate of the priory in Bishopstrow, (fn. 147) except twice in the 17th century when the Bisse family presented by grant of the then owners, the Giffords. (fn. 148) In 1962 it was held by Major J. C. Walker of Sutton Veny.
The monks only appropriated the tithes of their own estate, but charged the rectory with a yearly payment of 40s. (fn. 149) This payment was retained by the Crown at the Dissolution, but redeemed in the late 18th century by William Buckler, who released the rectory from it. (fn. 150) Beside this charge, the rectory was valued at £10 in 1291 (fn. 151) and at just over £14 in 1535. (fn. 152)
In the mid-16th century the rectory was held by Sir John Thynne, presumably because of his tenure of the Monkton Farleigh estate, and by agreement with the incumbents. Humphrey Roberts, described as curate, collected the tithes for Thynne c. 1550 and referred to him as his master, (fn. 153) and an 18th-century rector had heard that William Kidley, who held the living later in the 16th century, received only £8 a year from Thynne. (fn. 154) The tithes seem to have been restored to the rectors after the living passed into the ownership of the Gifford family. In 1652 the rectory was let for a year at £150, (fn. 155) and was augmented by £10 in 1655. (fn. 156) In 1820 the tithes and glebe were valued at just over £300; (fn. 157) this was perhaps a gross figure, for in 1835 the average income was said to be £220. (fn. 158) In 1884 the rectory was worth 'rather over £240'. (fn. 159) In 1820 the rector owned the great and small tithes of 943 a. of the parish, which were worth £262. (fn. 160) The tithes of the estate called the Buries, containing 78 a. were impropriate to the monks of Farleigh, and belonged to the later owners, (fn. 161) although the rector claimed the tithes of the lands in 1631, and the tithes of the whole parish in 1783. (fn. 162) In the 19th century they were regarded as tithe free. The rector's tithes were commuted in 1838 for £228 10s. (fn. 163) In 1341 the rector's glebe consisted of 8 a. of arable land, 2 a. of meadow, and a house. In 1631 it was reckoned at 9 a. of arable land, a close and gardens of 2 a. adjoining the parsonage, and a small close near Henford's Marsh in Warminster. (fn. 164) At the inclosure of the parish an allotment of 8½ a. was made to the rector in lieu of his open-field land, and he received 1 a. in Pit Mead. (fn. 165) In 1828 an exchange was made of some 4 a. of land lying north and south of the rectory to Joseph Everett of Heytesbury; the rector received in return about 6 a. lying south of the church on either side of Pit Mead Drove. (fn. 166) The total area in 1838 was 11a. (fn. 167) In 1949 ½ a. was sold for building council houses. (fn. 168)
In 1304 the Rector of Bishopstrow was given leave to study for 3 years on appointing a chaplain. (fn. 169) In 1322 another rector was a rebel against Edward II. (fn. 170) Two 15th-century rectors, Thomas Frome (1411-20) and John Hody (1420-5) held prebends and offices elsewhere, (fn. 171) and are unlikely to have resided. Thomas Lock was deprived in 1555; (fn. 172) in the following year several of the chief parishioners were said to have sold the church goods. (fn. 173) Lock's successor held the living through the changes under Elizabeth I until his death in 1571. (fn. 174) In 1583 William Kidley, the rector, was accused of 'using hunting, but very seldom', of churching women on working days, and of not wearing the regulation square cap. (fn. 175) Walter Bisse, rector from 1619, had his living sequestrated in 1646 and in the following year it was given to Thomas Pace. Bisse subsequently became Vicar of Alvediston, but was restored to Bishopstrow in 1660, (fn. 176) where he was succeeded by his son Thomas four years later. (fn. 177) Incumbencies during the 17th and 18th centuries were relatively long. There is no evidence of nonresidence until 1782 when Thomas Fisher, who was also vicar of Norton Bavant but had resided at Bishopstrow since 1767, was forced by gout to retire to Bath for the winter. (fn. 178) Since he is known to have employed a curate later, (fn. 179) it may be that his absence became permanent. In Fisher's time services were held twice on Sundays, with a sermon in the afternoon, and the sacrament was administered four times a year to about 14 people. (fn. 180) Fisher's successor, William Williams, was a Warminster man and resided on the benefice. (fn. 181) J. G. D. Thring, 1830-45, was also of a Warminster family, but held a Somerset living in plurality and resided there; at Bishopstrow he employed a curate whose salary was £62 a year in 1835. (fn. 182) J. W. Griffith, 1846-59 held the rectory of Pertwood in plurality. (fn. 183) In his time services were held morning and afternoon on Sundays; attendance was about 120 and there was a Sunday School of about 35. (fn. 184) J. H. A. Walsh, 1859-71, administered the sacrament twelve times a year to about 45 people; for his Sunday services the church was generally well filled. (fn. 185)
The church of ST. ALDHELM lies in flat meadowland a short distance east of the village street, and consists of nave, chancel and western tower with spire. Although reasons have been given above for thinking that a church stood on the site in Saxon times, little is certainly known about the building before the 18th century. (fn. 186) An inscription records its 'restoration from the lowest foundations' in 1757. This clearly involved a remodelling of the nave in the classical style. It was widened by about 2ft. 6 ins. and round-headed windows were inserted; the only entrance was under the tower. W. S. Champion, who restored the church in 1876, believed that the nave so renovated was of the 14th century. Early masonry at the west end on either side of the tower shows its former width. The 15th-century t ower and spire were left untouched in 1757, but it is not clear what was done at the east end of the church. Hoare's plan of c. 1830 shows a semi-circular apse lighted by small windows to the north-east and south-east. This feature has been interpreted as a remnant of a Saxon church, (fn. 187) but it is not known whether the apse was rebuilt in, or even dated from, 1757, or whether any early masonry survived in Hoare's time. In 1840 the apse was replaced by a square chancel extending further east and providing 50 extra seats; this was paid for by William Temple. (fn. 188) The next year the stone tiles which covered the nave were replaced by slates. (fn. 189) The church was again restored in 1876 under the direction of W. S. Champion of London. The chancel of 1840 was already in decay, and was rebuilt with an open roof of oak in place of its plaster ceiling, and a floor of glazed tiles. The 'circular apology' for a chancel arch was replaced by one more correct in style. In the nave the old roof, which Champion believed was partly medieval, was opened out and restored, and traceried windows in the style of the 14th century replaced those of 1757. The west gallery was removed, and the organ placed in a new chamber adjoining the chancel. Oak stalls were placed in the chancel and pitch-pine benches in the nave, and a new font and pulpit were given. In the western face of the tower advantage was taken of an old bearing arch to insert a window incorporated in the door head. In 1931 the spire was rebuilt. (fn. 190)
There were three bells at Bishopstrow in 1553. Some bells were said to have been taken from there to Norton Bavant, (fn. 191) and in 1783 there was only one. (fn. 192) This was recast by Wells of Aldbourne in 1785. (fn. 193) A second bell was added in 1902; it was given by J. M. Benett-Stanford, who had it cast for use at Pythouse but found it too heavy. (fn. 194) There was a clock in the church in 1799. (fn. 195) The present one was fitted as a thank-offering for the return of various parishioners from the S. African War. (fn. 196)
In 1553 17 oz. of silver were taken for the king and a 13-oz. cup was left for the parish. (fn. 197) In 1783 there were a cup, a flagon, and a very thin plate, all of silver and uninscribed. (fn. 198) The plate consists in 1962 of a set of two chalices and patens of 1797 and a chalice of 1929. (fn. 199) The parish registers are complete from 1676. (fn. 200)
In 1783 the rectory house was built partly of stone and partly of brick; one part was tiled and the other thatched and it contained 2 parlours, 5 bedrooms, and 2 garrets. (fn. 201) Much of this building still remains in the present Old Rectory, which was much enlarged in the 19th century. It was sold in 1954. (fn. 202) Payments for the maintenance of a thatched church house were made by the churchwardens between 1770 and 1825. (fn. 203)
In 1583 John Middlecott, lord of the manor, and his household were presented for not receiving the sacrament, (fn. 204) and in 1662 William Temple, lord of the manor, and his wife were among seven inhabitants who did not attend church. (fn. 205) Members of both these rich families were for many years prominent in the Old Meeting at Warminster, (fn. 206) but no congregation of dissenters was ever permanently established in Bishopstrow. In 1864 there were about five avowed dissenters in the village; a bakehouse was fitted up for worship but not regularly used. (fn. 207)
Poor rates were being raised in Bishopstrow in 1585 (fn. 208) but little is known about the management of the poor until the years immediately preceding the amendment of the law in 1834. The parish owned a poor house in 1812. (fn. 209) A newly built one was conveyed to the parish in 1828. (fn. 210) Expenditure on the poor between 1816 and 1824 varied between £173, in 1821, and £412, in 1818. (fn. 211) Between 1830 and 1835 it was between £250 and £375. Regular payments were made to some 20 or 25 recipients, no doubt aged or infirm people, and to the maintenance of bastard children. Extraordinary payments to unemployed labourers varied considerably; they were particularly high, some £135, in the winter of 1833-4. (fn. 212)
In 1808 there was a school in Bishopstrow where 12 poor girls attended, (fn. 213) no doubt the same one at which in 1818 the girls of the parish were taught knitting and straw plaiting at the expense of the lady of the manor. Some children went to schools in Warminster. (fn. 214) In 1833 18 boys and 21 girls were taught in a school at the expense of their parents, and William Temple, lord of the manor, paid for the schooling of 15 boys. (fn. 215) In 1842 it was described as a National School for girls. (fn. 216) A school building of two rooms was erected in 1848, providing accommodation for 60 children. (fn. 217) About ten years later it was still chiefly maintained by Temple, and attended by 40 or 50 children. (fn. 218) In 1864 boys left the school at the age of 9 or 10, and girls at about 12; a successful evening school was held in winter. (fn. 219) In 1871 only 10 boys attended the school compared with 36 girls. (fn. 220) Average attendance in 1919 was only 27, (fn. 221) and two years later the school was closed. (fn. 222) The small one-story building on the west side of the village street still stood, derelict, in 1962.