A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 9. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1970.
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Wootton Bassett lies about 5¾ miles south-west of the centre of Swindon. The parish is roughly triangular in shape and covers some 5,106 a. of land. (fn. 1) From the base of the triangle to its tip in the north is about 3½ miles and the distance along the base is approximately three miles. The northern part of the parish lies on the Oxford Clay and the southern on the Kimmeridge Clay. Through the middle, dividing the clays, runs the Corallian ridge, which extends from Wheatley, near Oxford, in the east, almost to Calne, in the west. (fn. 2) In the north and south of the parish, therefore, the ground is fairly flat and low-lying with good pasture suitable for dairy farming. But from the Oxford Clay in the north the land rises steeply up the side of the ridge, which on its crest is some 400 ft. above sea level. Towards the south the drop from the ridge to the Kimmeridge Clay is more gradual. Along the top of the ridge Wootton Bassett high street runs for nearly a mile. Immediately south-west of the town the ridge narrows and dips where the Brinkworth Brook cuts through and on the high ground beyond this dip Gilbert Basset built his great house of Vastern in the 13th century. Numerous wells and springs occur along the length of the ridge and the frequent exposures of Coral Rag have led in the past to the quarrying of stone for use locally for roads and building.
Two mineral springs in the parish have attracted some attention. (fn. 3) One on the land of Whitehill Farm, just south of the railway line, is probably the one claimed by John Aubrey c. 1670 to produce 'petrifying water'. It drew a certain number of visitors in the later 19th century. There is also a chalybeate well near Hunt's Mill, which is reputed to turn leaves red.
The southern part of the parish is roughly divided into two by the Brinkworth Brook, which is one of the headwaters of the Bristol Avon, and rises further south at the foot of the chalk escarpment. Having penetrated the Corallian ridge at its narrowest point, just south-west of Wootton Bassett town, the stream flows out of the parish in a north-westerly direction. Another stream, flowing in the same direction, and eventually joining the Brinkworth Brook, forms the western boundary of the parish for about 3 miles. Two other streams, one of which is the Thunder Brook, flow westward through the northern part of the parish and likewise join the Brinkworth Brook.
From the 12th to the beginning of the 17th century all the northern part of the parish was occupied by Vastern Park, (fn. 4) which probably accounts for the fact that only one road runs through it. This was called Whitehill Lane in the 17th century and left the parish on the west by a gate called Faafe, later Hookers, Gate. (fn. 5) Here in 1602 it was said 'the Duke had his way forth'. (fn. 6) The southern part of the parish was divided by the Brinkworth Brook into the tithing of Woodshaw on the east and the tithing of Greenhill on the west. (fn. 7) Until the early 19th century a feature of the southern part of the parish were the commons which survived long after the rest of the parish was inclosed. (fn. 8) The largest was Greenhill Common in the west. Further east were Dunnington, Nore Marsh, second in size to Greenhill, and Woodshaw. (fn. 9) Numerous lanes converged upon these commons, some of which became disused and disappeared after the commons were inclosed in 1821. A lane called in 1773 Bushey Fowley Lane, which in 1967 was in places a mere footpath, forms for about 1½ mile the eastern boundary of the parish. (fn. 10)
The main road from Cricklade to Chippenham runs through the middle of the parish and for about half a mile forms the high street of the town. In 1773, after crossing the Brinkworth Brook at Hunt's Mill, the road crossed Greenhill Common and left the parish along Roger Lane for Tockenham on a rather more southerly route than that of 1967. (fn. 11) The more northerly course was made when the common was inclosed in 1821. (fn. 12) During the 19th and very early 20th centuries three bridges had to be built on less than a mile stretch of this main road to Chippenham after it left the town to carry it over two railway lines and a canal. The road leading off the high street for Marlborough was turnpiked early in the 19th century. (fn. 13) In 1773 it skirted Dunnington Common and left the parish as Marlborough Lane. (fn. 14) A road called New Road was built early in the 20th century to make a way from this road to the main road to Chippenham, avoiding the town. (fn. 15)
The Wilts. and Berks. Canal reached the parish boundary from the west in 1801 and before 1804 had been constructed right across the parish. (fn. 16) A wharf was built at Vastern, where coal could be unloaded and local produce taken away. (fn. 17) There was no traffic on the canal after 1906. (fn. 18) Its course was clearly to be seen in 1967, although it had been filled in. The railway line from London to Bristol was constructed through the parish in 1841. (fn. 19) A station, known as Wootton Bassett Road, was opened in the adjoining parish of Lydiard Tregoze at the end of 1840 and served Wootton Bassett until its own station about ¾ mile south of the town was opened in 1841. (fn. 20) Some of the heaviest engineering works on the whole line were required on the stretch west of the station known as the Wootton Bassett incline. Here the line had to cross the Corallian ridge and make a steep descent, which required the construction of deep cuttings and long embankments. (fn. 21) In 1903 a new main line to South Wales, via Patchway, was opened from a junction on the old line just west of Wootton Bassett station. (fn. 22) In 1967 both lines were operating but Wootton Bassett station was closed in 1965. (fn. 23)
Apart from the town the only other centres of settlement within the parish were those at Vastern, at Hunt's Mill and the farmsteads around Greenhill Common, and around the other commons of Dunnington, Nore Marsh, and Woodshaw, all in the southern half of the parish. Vastern, as is shown below, was once the administrative centre of the whole parish. (fn. 24) At Hunt's Mill a kiln of Norman date was discovered c. 1893, which may have supplied pottery over quite a wide area locally. (fn. 25) At all the commons there were farm-houses and a map of 1773 shows a few other small houses around the edges. (fn. 26) In 1967 the farm-houses remained, although those at Dunnington and Nore Marsh were almost engulfed by the housing development on that side of the town. Greenhill Common Farm, probably dating from the 17th century, once had an imposing entrance through stone gateposts with ball finials, but was deserted and ruinous in 1967. Nore Marsh House, outwardly of the earlier 18th century, has a projecting porch and gateposts with ball finials. According to tradition wool for spinning was once stored in its attics. (fn. 27) Upper Woodshaw was burnt down in the 20th century. Lower Woodshaw and Harriscroft have timber framing and date from the 17th century. In the northern half of the parish, which for so long was covered by Vastern Park, there were no similar settlements, although after the break-up of the park in the 17th century several quite large farms, such as Whitehill Farm, Park Ground Farm, and Callow Hill Farm were developed.
When assessed for taxation in 1334 the parish was returned under the name of Vastern and contributed 86s. 8d., the next highest contribution to that of Swindon in the hundred of Kingsbridge. (fn. 28) In 1377 there were 207 poll-tax payers in the parish and only Swindon in the same hundred had more. (fn. 29) To the Benevolence of 1545 Greenhill and Wootton Bassett returned two contributors each. Woodshaw had five contributors. (fn. 30) For the subsidy of 1576 borough and manor were assessed separately. There were then 10 tax payers in the borough and 17 on the manor. (fn. 31) In 1801 the population of the parish was 1,244. (fn. 32) It then rose steadily and in 1841 was 2,990, but this included 800 labourers constructing the railway line through the parish. (fn. 33) Consequently in 1851 it had dropped to 2,123. In 1871 it was 2,392, and although this increase was in part attributed to a general prosperity in trade, some of it was accounted for by the presence of 13 workmen repairing the parish church and 50 people attending the fair. (fn. 34) In 1881 it was 2,237 and then began to drop slightly until 1911 when it was 1,991. Thereafter it began to rise and in 1951 was 3,419. By 1961 it was 4,390. (fn. 35)
The plan of Wootton Bassett with its long, straight street, flanked by plots of burgage character, suggests a town that was at some time deliberately planted, presumably as an extension to a small settlement around the church, which lies towards the south-western end of the street. It seems reasonable to suggest that this may have been done in the 13th century, perhaps to meet the needs of the rural community on the estate the Bassets were developing at Vastern. (fn. 36) According to tradition the priory, founded by Sir Philip Basset in 1266, stood just to the north of the church, and so would have been situated in what was the nucleus of the town. No trace of the priory, which only survived until c. 1406, (fn. 37) remains above ground, but a house in Wood Street, probably of the 17th century, is called Priory Cottage and is thought to adjoin the site.
Shops in the town are mentioned in account rolls of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. (fn. 38) One was in a house called the House of St. Mary (domus beate Marie). (fn. 39) By the same time there were several plots in the middle of the street for which rents were paid. (fn. 40) These may have been connected with the market, which, so far as is known, was always held in the street, and for which at some time shambles were built. In 1773 these stood in the street immediately west of the Town Hall. They were removed in 1813. (fn. 41) On the other side of the Town Hall there was a pond, which is shown in a print of 1808, but was filled in in 1836. (fn. 42) The Town Hall, which stands in the middle of the street, is traditionally said to have been provided by Lawrence Hyde in 1700. (fn. 43) It was extensively restored by Sir Henry Meux in 1889, and presented by Lady Meux to the town in 1906. (fn. 44) The mayor and aldermen held their petty sessional courts in it until 1886 and it subsequently has been used to house the property of the Town Trust and a branch of the County Library. (fn. 45) It is a small half-timbered building supported on 15 stone columns and reached by an open staircase. Under the staircase there was, until the restoration of the hall, a lock-up or blind house. Beneath the hall in 1967 stood a pair of stocks and an ancient fire engine.
Until the mid 19th century the town was virtually limited to the high street, the narrow streets running off its north-west side, and the small street behind the church called Butt Hay. The three side streets, which are connected by a footpath, known locally as Row Dow, (fn. 46) end abruptly where the escarpment, on which the town stands, begins its descent. On the southern side of the town, but, until the 19th century, quite separate from it, there was the small group of buildings known as Old Court, which, as has been suggested below, may have marked the site of the earliest manor of Wootton. (fn. 47)
The wide high street extends for about ½ mile and is closely lined on both sides by houses fronting directly upon the pavement. Most of the houses are of red brick from the local brickyards with stone roofs and appear to date from the 18th and early 19th centuries. One or two timber-framed houses, however, survive at the western end of the street. For the most part the 18th-and early-19th-century houses are modest buildings of two stories with attics and many have had shop fronts inserted on the ground floor. On the south-east side, however, there are two more substantial houses. No. 141 dates from the early 18th century. It is thought to have belonged to the Maskelyne family in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and housed a bank and the offices of Messrs. Bevir and Sons, solicitors, from 1867 onwards. The bank closed in 1930. (fn. 48) It is a stone house of seven bays with several distinguished features, notably the shell hood on carved brackets above the central doorway. Within is the original staircase. No. 137 is of brick and has five bays. It also dates from the 18th century and has some architectural distinction, including a broken pediment with urn above its front door. Lime Kiln House at the east end of the town is another fairly substantial house of the early 18th century. It was for a time the home of the Bevir family.
Lying along an important highway and having been the site of a weekly market, the high street is well supplied with inns. One or two were clearly quite substantial coaching inns in the 18th century and these are among the street's more prosperouslooking buildings. The Angel Hotel, on the northwest wide, is of chequered brick and has six bays and two stories. On the other side of the road the Crown Hotel has a parapet with ball finials and central doorway with fanlight, pilasters, and pediment. The 'Crosskeys', nearby, is dated 1742 but incorporates earlier building. It has a central arched entrance for carriages. Among the more modest inns were two older buildings at the west end of the street, namely the 'Waggon and Horses' and the 'Curriers Arms', both of which had parts dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. The 'Currier's Arms' was rebuilt in 1953. (fn. 49) The coming of the canal and the railway added at least two more inns, namely the Bridge Inn, standing where the Marlborough road crosses the canal, and the Railway Hotel at the bottom of Station Road. The Bridge Inn was closed in 1956. (fn. 50) A new hotel was built in the high street on the site of an earlier one in c. 1864. (fn. 51) This was the 'Royal Oak' built for Sir Henry Meux by Thomas Barratt of Swindon. (fn. 52) It served the neighbourhood as a hunting inn for some years but was closed in c. 1910. (fn. 53) In 1967 it housed a branch of the Midland Bank.
The expansion of the town began in a very small way with the coming of the railway in the 1840s. The canal, which came earlier, passed so far south, that it made no changes in the appearance of the town. But some cottages were built for the wharf at Vastern about a mile away. There was some early 19th-century building in the high street, mostly of smaller houses. A row of 15 cottages, called Victory Row, at the end of Wood Street is said locally to have been built in c. 1817 by William Cripps to celebrate a Whig victory. But it seems more likely that it was to celebrate the victory over France. The building of the station nearly ¾ mile from the high street in 1841 prepared the way for the building up of Station Road, formerly the northern end of the Marlborough road. The National Schools and the vicarage were built here in the 1860s. The Beaufort Brewery, near the station, was built in c. 1886. (fn. 54) There was also some late-19th-century building or rebuilding in the high street, notably the large house at the north-east end, once known as Troy House, later the Manor House, and in 1967 the offices of the Cricklade and Wootton Bassett R.D.C.
The opening of the Dairy Supply Company's factory near the station in 1908, resulted in a little more building in this direction. The R.D.C.'s first council houses were built in Station Road in 1921 and others were added in the same neighbourhood before the Second World War. (fn. 55) But Wootton Bassett's greatest expansion has taken place since the early 1950s when it has to some extent become a dormitory town for Swindon and a place of residence for personnel from the R.A.F. station at Lyneham. Almost all this new building, both private and council, has been to the south of the town, although in 1967 new estates were being laid out on either side of the Swindon road.
Vastern Park. The park of Vastern, which at its greatest extent covered virtually the whole of the north-western half of the parish, has been treated elsewhere in the History. (fn. 56) It will, therefore, only be touched upon briefly here.
So far as is known, the park first came into being c. 1229 when Alan Basset (d. 1232–3) was allowed to inclose 3½ a. of his wood of Wootton, which lay within Braydon Forest, together with his wood of Vastern, which lay outside the forest. (fn. 57) The park so formed was ordered to be destroyed by Henry III, (fn. 58) but on the reconciliation of the king and Gilbert Basset in 1234, permission was given for it to be re-inclosed. (fn. 59) Over the next ten years there were several royal gifts of venison to stock it as well as permission to enlarge it somewhat. (fn. 60)
The two woods inclosed in 1229 may have retained their separate identity and have been regarded as forming two parks. More than one park is mentioned in 1267 when Philip Basset was permitted to inclose a further 50 a. (fn. 61) This was then called the New Park of Wootton and was described as lying beneath the town of Wootton, while the Old Park of Vastern apparently lay under the manor of Vastern. (fn. 62) Old Park Farm, still so called in the 20th century, presumably indicates roughly where the Old Park lay. It is thought to have included also land later belonging to Whitehill Farm, Hart's Farm, and Hunt's Mill Farm. (fn. 63) The exact location of the New Park is not known. In 1271 and 1281 there were said to be three parks, and at the earlier date there was said to be a 'foreign' wood as well, which presumably lay outside the confines of the parks. (fn. 64) But finally two parks emerge, namely the Great and the Little Park of Vastern. Assuming that the present (1967) Little Park estate represents approximately the region of the Little Park of Vastern, the Great Park occupied the most northerly parts of the parish.
Under Hugh le Despenser the parks were further enlarged. A large extension was made in 1320 when some 600 a. were taken from the manor of Midgehall (in Lydiard Tregoze) in the north and the manor of Brinkworth in the west. (fn. 65) Another enlargement took place in 1363 when 120 a. were taken in and as late as the earlier 15th century 54 a. were added. (fn. 66) By this date the park must have reached its greatest extent. A survey made in 1602, by which time the disparkment of the park had begun, but based on an earlier perambulation, shows the park to have covered almost all the land of the parish north-west of the present main road to Chippenham, coming right up to the western outskirts of the town. (fn. 67) It must also at one time have extended south of the road where Little Park lay. The disparkment of Vastern began, as is shown below, soon after the middle of the 16th century when the manor belonged to the Englefields.
Manors and Other Estates.
Before tracing the descent of the manor some explanation of the manorial structure and changes of name seems necessary. Until the earlier 13th century there is firm evidence for only a single estate. (fn. 68) By 1210, as the manor of WOOTTON, this was held by Alan Basset. During the earlier 13th century, however, the Bassets, with royal consent, created the park of Vastern and by 1269 another manor, called VASTERN emerges. (fn. 69) By 1281 this was the main manor in the parish with the manor of Wootton described as one of its members. The two were for a time administered as separate manors but were always held of the same lord. Then towards the end of the 15th century the two manors were merged to form the manor of Wootton, and the name Vastern is applied only to the manor-house and its associated buildings and to the adjoining park. At roughly the same time the town or borough of Wootton begins to be distinguished in conveyances as a separate place and, to differentiate the manor from the town, the manor is usually called OLD WOOTTON, although occasionally the borough is also so called. At the beginning of the 16th century the name of Old Wootton is gradually replaced by the name WOOTTON BASSETT.
Charters of 680, 745, and 937 all purport to grant a 10-hide estate in Wootton to Malmesbury Abbey. (fn. 70) A 10-hide estate there is also included in Edward the Confessor's charter of 1065, confirming all its possessions to the abbey. (fn. 71) But Malmesbury did not hold Wootton at the time of the Conquest. In 1066 it was held by Leofnoth and in 1086 it was one of the estates of Miles Crispin. (fn. 72) Miles, in a way described elsewhere, subsequently acquired those lands which later formed the honor of Wallingford. (fn. 73) Wootton, like most of Miles's other Wiltshire estates, then became part of that honor and was held of its lord as overlord. (fn. 74)
By 1210 Wootton was held as 2 knights' fees of the honor of Wallingford by Alan Basset. (fn. 75) Alan died in 1232–3 and was succeeded by his son Gilbert, who was deprived of his estates for a short time after taking part in the rebellion against Henry III. (fn. 76) They were, however, restored to him in 1234. Gilbert was succeeded c. 1241 by his brother Fulk, then Dean of York and later Bishop of London, and Fulk was succeeded by another brother Philip. (fn. 77) Philip died in 1271, at about which date the Bassets' family name was occasionally, although not often, attached to that of Wootton. (fn. 78) Philip's heir was his daughter Aline, then the wife of Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk (d. 1306), but formerly the wife of Hugh le Despenser, the justiciar who was killed at the battle of Evesham in 1265. (fn. 79) Aline died in 1281 and her son by her first marriage succeeded to her lands. (fn. 80) This son was Hugh le Despenser, later known as the Elder, the favourite of Edward II. In 1300 Despenser was granted free warren in all his demesne lands which included Wootton and Vastern. (fn. 81) As an important Wiltshire residence of the Despensers, Vastern may have been singled out for plunder by their opponents. It was certainly plundered along with the Despensers' other Wiltshire property during their banishment in 1321. (fn. 82)
With the final overthrow of the Despensers in 1326, the manors of Vastern and Wootton passed with the rest of the Despenser lands in Wiltshire to Isabel, the queen mother. (fn. 83) On Isabel's downfall at Nottingham in 1330, the two manors were bestowed upon Edward de Bohun in recognition of the part he played at Nottingham, (fn. 84) but they were restored to Isabel after Bohun's death in 1334. (fn. 85) On Isabel's death in 1358 Edward III granted the two manors to his queen, Philippa, for life and workmen were sent to restore the houses and other buildings on the manor of Vastern. (fn. 86) Philippa died in 1369 and in 1376 the king granted the manors of Vastern and Wootton to his son Edmund, Earl of Cambridge. (fn. 87) Edmund, created Duke of York in 1385, died in 1402 seised of the manor of Vastern, with the manor of Wootton as a member, and was succeeded by his son Edward. (fn. 88) In 1404 the younger Edward was arrested and his lands seized, although licence was granted to his wife Philippa to occupy the manor of Vastern. (fn. 89) One year later Edward's lands were restored to him and in 1415 he obtained permission to mortgage the manors of Vastern and Old Wootton and the town of Wootton to raise money for the building of his college at Fotheringhay (Northants.). (fn. 90)
Edward, Duke of York was killed in 1415 at Agincourt and the trustees, to whom the manors had been conveyed, granted a third of them to his widow Philippa. (fn. 91) After Philippa's death in 1431 both manors were restored to her husband's heir, who was his nephew Richard, Duke of York (d. 1460), father of Edward IV. (fn. 92) At the time of Richard's defeat by the Lancastrians, and before Edward's succession, several of Henry VI's supporters were rewarded from the issues of the two manors. (fn. 93) But on his succession Edward IV granted both to his mother Cecily, Duchess of York, for life. (fn. 94) On Cecily's death in 1495 all manors granted by Edward III and Richard II to Edmund, Duke of York (d. 1402) were resumed by the Crown, and Wootton was granted by Henry VII to his queen. (fn. 95) Henceforth for about the next half century the manor of Wootton, including the borough of Wootton and the park or pasture of Vastern, formed part of the jointure of the queens of England. In 1509 it was granted to Katharine of Aragon; (fn. 96) in 1540 to Anne of Cleeves; (fn. 97) in 1541 to Katharine Howard; (fn. 98) in 1544 to Katharine Parr. (fn. 99) Just before the death of Katharine Parr the reversion of the manor was granted by Edward VI to his uncle, the Duke of Somerset, (fn. 100) and in 1550 the duke succeeded to it. (fn. 101) After the execution of Somerset in 1552 the manor was granted to John, Earl of Warwick, who was attainted the following year and died in 1554. (fn. 102)
In 1555 Queen Mary granted the manor to Sir Francis Englefield of Englefield House (Berks.), with remainder to his brother John. (fn. 103) Englefield was an officer of the queen's household and a zealous papist. On the accession of Elizabeth I he was obliged to withdraw to the continent and spent the rest of his life working in league with the English Roman Catholics there. (fn. 104) By 1571 Wootton Bassett had been taken into the queen's hands and part of its revenues confiscated. (fn. 105) For intriguing on behalf of Mary, Queen of Scots, Englefield was attainted in 1585 and all his lands were formally forfeited to the Crown. Two years later he died. (fn. 106) Wootton Bassett then passed to his nephew Francis, son of his brother John. (fn. 107) Francis (II) Englefield was made a baronet in 1611, died in 1631, and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, also called Francis. (fn. 108) Francis (III) Englefield died in 1656 and was succeeded by his son Francis (IV). Francis (IV) died without surviving issue in 1665 and his heir was his uncle Thomas Englefield. (fn. 109) Francis (IV's) widow, Honoria, upon whom Wootton Bassett was settled for life, married secondly Sir Robert Howard, politician and dramatist (d. 1698). (fn. 110) After Honoria's death in 1676 (fn. 111) Wootton Bassett should have reverted to Sir Thomas Englefield, but, upon the marriage of Honoria and Howard, the reversion was acquired from Sir Thomas by Howard, a transaction which led to a long legal dispute. (fn. 112) In 1676 Howard sold Wootton Bassett to Lawrence Hyde, cr. Earl of Rochester 1682 (d. 1711). (fn. 113) It passed to Lawrence's son Henry, who succeeded to his grandfather's earldom of Clarendon in 1723, and died in 1753 without a surviving male heir. Henry's estates then passed to his granddaughter Charlotte Capel, wife of Thomas Villiers, who was created Earl of Clarendon in 1776. (fn. 114) Thenceforth Wootton Bassett passed with the earldom of Clarendon until 1866 when it was sold to Sir Henry Meux. (fn. 115) Sir Henry died in 1883 and was succeeded by his son Henry Bruce Meux, who on his death in 1900 demised all his estates to his wife Valerie Susie Bruce Meux. Lady Meux died in 1910 having demised the manor to Ferdinand Marsham-Townshend, a grandson of the Earl of Romney (d. 1845). (fn. 116) F. MarshamTownshend sold the estate in lots in 1913. (fn. 117)
In 1338 Gilbert of Berwick, who in 1331–2 accounted as bailiff for both Wootton and Vastern, (fn. 118) held both manors at farm of Queen Isabel. (fn. 119) In 1369 the two manors were leased for 10 years to William Wroughton. (fn. 120) By the mid 15th century there was a considerable amount of leasing of the manorial lands, including parts of the demesne. Vasternclose, which represented the site of manor, including its buildings and a certain amount of land, was among the holdings leased out. (fn. 121) When the manor was in the hands of Katharine Parr, Vastern was leased to Sir Henry Long, who surrendered his lease when the estate passed to the Duke of Somerset in 1555. (fn. 122) By 1573 a house called the Gatehouse, apparently the manor-house, was leased to Richard Rowsewell. (fn. 123) In 1587 the Gatehouse, some associated buildings, and about 112 a. of land were leased to John Rowsewell for 21 years. (fn. 124) In c. 1641 Thomas Jacobs occupied the manor-house and was styled of Vastern. (fn. 125) In 1664–5 the capital messuage, site, and manor-house of Vastern were in the tenure of Thomas Brinsden, who probably still held them in 1670. (fn. 126) In 1674 the manor-house was in the hands of the lord of the manor, Sir Robert Howard, who may have occupied it for a time. (fn. 127) Under the earls of Clarendon Vastern was occupied as a farm-house by members of the Franklyn family. (fn. 128) After the restorations of Sir Henry Meux (see below) the house again became a more sophisticated residence. In 1967 it belonged to Mr. E. Le Q. Herbert.
Manorial Buildings. A chapel in the court of Wootton is mentioned in Alan Basset's lifetime (d. 1232–3). (fn. 129) Its whereabouts are unknown and it seems reasonable to suggest that the early buildings at Wootton were supplanted by the great house at Vastern built by the Bassets during the 13th century (see below). The Old Court mentioned in 1281 as a member of the manor of Vastern (fn. 130) may be a reference to these early buildings, and, even after Vastern had become established as the main manorhouse of the estate, there continued to be some manorial buildings at Wootton at least during the period when Wootton and Vastern formed separate manors. In 1331 a great storm damaged a roof at Vastern and a grange at Wootton and in 1334 there were said to be capital messuages on both manors. (fn. 131)
A great house at Vastern is first heard of in 1233 when, because of Gilbert Basset's part in the rebellion against him, Henry III ordered it to be demolished. (fn. 132) The house, as its name implies, was almost certainly fortified. (fn. 133) Consideration of the site indeed confirms this supposition, for the house stood aloft on the limestone ridge in an excellent defensive position, with the land falling away not only to the north and south, but also to the east where the ridge dips suddenly before climbing again to the town of Wootton Bassett. How far the demolition ordered in 1233 was carried out is not known for in the following year Gilbert Basset was restored to favour. (fn. 134) But the Constable of St. Briavels (Glos.) was ordered to send 10 workmen to undertake the task and the Sheriff of Wiltshire was commanded to pay and provide them with the necessary tools. (fn. 135) If demolished, Vastern was quickly rebuilt and became and always remained the manor-house of the combined estate which came to be called the manor of Wootton (see above).
By 1355, when the manor had been restored to Queen Isabel, the manorial buildings at Vastern were in disrepair and carpenters, masons, sawyers, and other workmen were dispatched there. (fn. 136) More repairs were necessary in the 1360s when the manor formed part of the lands of Queen Philippa. (fn. 137) Between 1369 and 1376, when Vastern was leased to William Wroughton, the king retained responsibility for the upkeep of all buildings within the great gate of the manor, special mention being made of the great grange there. (fn. 138) A series of account rolls covering this period suggests a considerable conglomeration of buildings, requiring fairly constant maintenance. (fn. 139) Roofs in particular needed the attention of many tilers and women were employed to collect moss to line them. Two high towers were covered with lead. A fireplace (caminus) in the great hall was repaired. Drains and a water tank were made. There were rooms, with a garderobe, above and next to the gate of the manor. Various other garderobes were repaired. Rooms named within the manorhouse were the 'Shyngledechamber' and 'Haloneschamber'. A great oven (furnus) is mentioned, as well as a kitchen, bakehouse, brewhouse, and malthouse. An account roll of 1449–50, when the manor had passed to Richard, Duke of York, mentions at Vastern a cellar, a little kitchen, and a porter's chamber. (fn. 140)
By 1501–2 there were on the site of the manor a great barn and an outer court, in which were a granary and another barn. (fn. 141) In 1573 the manorhouse was evidently represented by a house known as the Gatehouse, (fn. 142) which may have evolved from the great gate of the manor mentioned in 1369 (see above). In 1587 besides the Gatehouse, there was a building called the 'Garnerhouse' with a small stable adjoining, and a granary (horreum) of 5 bays (spacii), to which was annexed a building, or perhaps a piece of ground, called the 'cutting'. There were also an orchard, a garden, called the courtgarden, of 3 a., as well as fields and pastures adjoining the site of the manor. (fn. 143) A rental of 1674, made for Sir Robert Howard, estimates that the manor-house, with its outbuildings and gardens, including bowling greens and wildernesses, covered 10 a. of ground. (fn. 144) The bowling green at Vastern was evidently a meeting-place for the local gentry in the 18th century, who gathered there to play for money prizes. (fn. 145) The Wilderness, a wooded area to the east of the manor-house and comprising c. 5 a., is marked on a map of 1773 (fn. 146) and is still marked on maps of the 20th century.
Little is known of the plan or appearance of the early manor-house at Vastern, beyond the fact that it was extensive. Since there was a great gate, the buildings were probably contained within a surrounding wall and it is known that there was a prison there in the earlier 14th century. (fn. 147) James Waylen, visiting in 1840, speaks of foundations of large proportions, still to be seen at the rear of the house, but by then nearly destroyed. The house of 1840 he surmised, was 'but a shadow of its former self'. (fn. 148) In 1967 there was no trace of these foundations, although the irregular levels of the ground round about, and especially to the north-east, made it possible to guess at their whereabouts. The central block of the present house, which is built of stone, is apparently of medieval origin and may perhaps once have formed part of the gatehouse mentioned in documents from the 14th to 16th centuries. Its position, a little below the crest of the ridge where the rest of the buildings probably stood, lends weight to this suggestion. The block has a rectangular plan and is of two stories. A projection at the south-west angle may represent the remains of a small turret or of a garderobe. Internally one of the two ground-floor rooms has heavily moulded ceiling beams with a foliage boss of late medieval date at their intersection. The house, or gatehouse, was evidently remodelled in the later 16th century when it was given a Tudor-arched doorway on its west side. The massive stone chimney in the centre of the rear wall may also have been added. A carved stone chimney-piece of this period carries the arms of the Englefields, who acquired Vastern in 1555. It is believed that the chimneypiece was originally on the upper floor, where there may have been a single lofty room. (fn. 149) The addition of small wings on the north, east, and west sides of the building probably took place in the late 17th and 18th centuries. Under Sir Henry Meux the house was much restored and certain additions were made to the back premises. At this period a 15th-century doorway and a single-light window were brought from Berwick Bassett Manor House and inserted in the south-west wing. (fn. 150) The drive leading up to the house was in 1967 flanked by a tall clipped hedge, mainly of box, but containing also a few ancient yew trees.
After the attainder of Sir Francis Englefield in 1585 Little Park, until then part of the manor of Wootton Bassett and known as the Little Park of Vastern, was granted by the queen to Thomas Knyvett, a groom of her privy chamber. (fn. 151) In 1596 Knyvett sold the estate to Francis (II) Englefield, who had succeeded to his uncle's lands in 1587, and thus Little Park again became part of the manor. (fn. 152)
In 1676, at the time of the sale of the manor to Lawrence Hyde, Little Park was sold separately and was acquired by Francis Moore. (fn. 153) Moore subsequently got heavily into debt and an Act of Parliament was obtained vesting Little Park in the hands of trustees for sale. (fn. 154) In 1714 it was sold to Ralph Broome of Lyneham. (fn. 155) On his death in c. 1715 Ralph devised to his nephew John Broome Little Park House and 277 a., and to John's younger brother Jacob Broome 95 a. called Upper Bargain. (fn. 156) Jacob died unmarried and the 95 a. then reverted to John. (fn. 157) In 1758 John Broome sold Little Park to Sir Mark Stuart Pleydell (d. 1768). (fn. 158) It subsequently passed, like all Sir Mark's estates, to his grandson Jacob, Earl of Radnor (d. 1828). (fn. 159) It then descended with the Radnor title until 1914 when it was sold. (fn. 160) In the later 18th century the Pinneger family were tenants first under the Broomes then under the earls of Radnor. (fn. 161)
Little Park Farm appears to date from the 17th century, remodelled in the 18th century and possibly again in the early 19th century. It has a symmetrical front with two short-gabled angle projections and a gabled central porch. In the front of the house a walled forecourt is entered through a gateway with ball finials. An elaborate painted and gilded chimneypiece in one of the upper rooms was removed to Longford Castle by one of the earls of Radnor during the 19th century. It was said to be decorated with the arms of the Moore and Dancastle families. (fn. 162)
Land in a close called Privetthay was granted in 1325 by Hugh le Despenser to Ralph Bolle, his cook. (fn. 163) The following year Walter Cannings of Stratton conveyed all his right in tenements and land at Privetthay to Walter Berton of Highworth. (fn. 164) By 1385 Walter Berton had been succeeded by his son Richard who conveyed Privetthay to John Cole and William Hertheneve. (fn. 165) John Cole then apparently conveyed the lands to Walter Chapman, for in 1386 Katharine Freebody, widow of Walter Berton, relinquished her right of dower in them to Chapman. (fn. 166) By 1402 the Privetthay lands had passed to John Chapman, Walter's son. (fn. 167)
Besides the Privetthay lands Walter Chapman and Alice his wife had acquired a messuage with curtilage in Wootton Bassett from Thomas Castletown, merchant of Salisbury, in 1378, (fn. 168) and more messuages and land from John Wyke and Margaret his wife in 1389. (fn. 169) By 1407 the lands conveyed by John Wyke had passed to Nicholas Wootton, who was the son and heir of Walter Chapman, and presumably the brother of the John Chapman mentioned above. (fn. 170) In 1418–19 Nicholas Wootton acquired more land in Wootton Bassett from Richard By-the-water and Joan his wife. (fn. 171) After Nicholas's death his estate in Wootton Bassett, said to comprise 20 messuages, 3 virgates of land, 6 a. of wood, and 3 a. of meadow was divided equally some time before 1454 between his daughter Agnes, wife of William Yorke, and his granddaughter, Emmot, who was the wife of Henry Ogdun. (fn. 172) The two moieties may have been later united, for only a holding belonging to the Yorkes has been traced further. In 1476 John Yorke, son of William, conveyed some land in Wootton Bassett to the chaplain of the chantry, which he founded in Ramsbury church, called the Wootton and Yorke chantry. (fn. 173) John Yorke was succeeded before 1512 by his son Thomas, who leased out land in the parish that year and in 1524. (fn. 174) In 1539 a Thomas Yorke, presumably the same, again acquired the land which had been granted to the chaplain of the chantry in Ramsbury church. (fn. 175)
Although for much of its history Wootton Bassett has been the site of a weekly market it has never been other than a town on the smallest scale. The cloth industry of the 16th and 17th centuries made almost no impression upon it and until the 20th century the main occupation of its inhabitants was agriculture. The failure to develop any truly urban characteristics may always have been due to the proximity of Swindon with its more important market. Since the later 19th century the expansion of Swindon has certainly determined the course of Wootton Bassett's development.
Agriculture. Of the 12 hides which made up the estate of Wootton in 1086 6 were in demesne. Here there were 3 ploughs and 5 serfs, while elsewhere on the estate there were 11 villeins and 14 bordars with 6 ploughs, making a total of 9 ploughs, although there were teamlands for 12. There were 24 a. of meadow, 33 a. of pasture, and a wood 2 leagues long by 1 league broad. Before the Conquest the value of the estate had been £10 but in 1086 it was only £9. (fn. 176)
As has been shown above, early in the 13th century the Bassets began to create the park of Vastern by inclosing land which lay partly in Braydon Forest and partly in Vastern. (fn. 177) These inclosures could be made either for the enlargement of the park or to bring land into cultivation and by the later 13th century an agricultural estate at Vastern appears to have been developed. (fn. 178) When Philip Basset died in 1271, however, only a single manor, called the free manor of Wootton Bassett, was extended. Here there were 560 a. of arable, 65 a. of meadow, and pasture for 3 oxen, 20 cows, and 100 sheep. There was also pasture in 3 parks and a 'foreign' wood. Members of the manor are mentioned, but not named, and manor and members together were worth £44 6s. 7d. (fn. 179) By 1281 a manor called Vastern was the Bassets' main manor in the parish with the manor of Wootton expressly said to be one of its members. The other members were Old Court and an estate in Swindon. (fn. 180) Vastern by this date was reckoned to have 616 a. of arable and 173 a. of meadow, and pasture for 85 beasts and for 80 more in 3 parks. Manor and members were worth £53 11s. 8¼d. (fn. 181)
In the 14th century the manors of Vastern and Wootton seem to have been organized separately. In 1326 Wootton was valued at £30 and £28 for the goods and stock upon it; Vastern was valued at £20 with £40 10s. for goods and stock. (fn. 182) In 1334 the manors were extended separately. At Vastern there were 324 a. of arable, 134 a. of meadow, a several pasture, and the 2 inclosed parks. At Wootton there were 241 a. of arable, a several pasture of 29 a., 25½ a. of common meadow, and 2 common pastures called 'Windmillhill' and 'Pushill'. (fn. 183)
Although the two manors were apparently for a time organized separately, each with its own court and reeve, and growing its own grain, Vastern seems to have relied upon Wootton for its labour. (fn. 184) During a five-week period in 1331–2, Vastern received from the reeve of Wootton 379 labour services, which were used mainly for ploughing, for repairing the palings around the park and inclosing it in places with hedges, and for tending the royal horses. A surplus of services not required was sold. At Wootton, besides the services supplied to Vastern, 214 services were performed upon the manor and 219 sold. All these services came from 16 virgaters, 19 half-virgaters, and 19 cottars at Wootton. In 1334 the labour force available for both manors was reckoned at 16 virgaters, 16 half-virgaters, 8 quartervirgaters, and 6 cottars, holding a cottage a-piece, all of whom paid no rent but owed services according to the size of their holdings. There were also 11 cottagers, 7 cottars, and an unspecified number of other tenants, who held newly arrented tenements, all of whom paid rent but owed no service. (fn. 185) In 1449, by which date the two manors had been amalgamated, there was besides the same classes of virgater, a class of tenant called Monday-men. But by this time the service due from them and all other customary tenants had been commuted for money payments. (fn. 186)
For a time in the 14th and 15th centuries there was a royal stud at Vastern. In 1331–2 both the king and queen had horses there. (fn. 187) In 1360 3 stallions were sent to sire the king's mares and the following year all but 10 of the royal horses at Vastern were sold. (fn. 188) In 1449–50 the king had a stallion there called Balle Roos. (fn. 189)
The management and maintenance of the parks at Vastern formed a special department of the manorial economy, which in the 14th century was administered by the reeve of the manor and the keeper of the parks. At this date the keeper received 4d. a day out of the issues of the manor. (fn. 190) Later this became 2d. a day and continued to be a charge upon the manor, although the office became a mere sinecure bestowed as a piece of patronage. During the later part of the century, when the manor was leased to William Wroughton, the parks remained in the hands of the king, who also retained responsibility for the upkeep of the manorial buildings at Vastern. For the years 1367–75 accounts of the reeve survive for income and expenditure on both buildings and parks, (fn. 191) and for the period 1370–6 these accounts are supplemented by more detailed ones kept by the reeve and the keeper of the parks. (fn. 192) Only the barest summary of their contents can be given here. Income came from the agistment of animals pastured in the parks at certain times of the year and from the sale of trees, crop and lop, and bark. The agistment was usually leased out. Outgoings, in addition to wages, and expenses on buildings, which have been mentioned elsewhere, (fn. 193) included the maintenance and renewal of the palings and hedges surrounding the park and the upkeep of its numerous bridges and gates. Little can be said about the park as a royal chase. According to Leland Henry VII hunted deer there in 1489. (fn. 194) In 1449–50, when the manor was in the hands of the Duke of York (d. 1460), the parks were being administered by the reeve as part of the manorial estate. (fn. 195) In 1526–7 the palings round the park were still being maintained. (fn. 196)
The arrangements for common field cultivation and for grazing on both manors were clearly considerably affected by the development of the park, which eventually covered most of the northern half of the parish. In 1363 Park Field, containing 120 a. of arable, meadow, and pasture, which belonged to the manor of Wootton, and was let to tenants there, was inclosed and taken into the park. (fn. 197) Vastern manor had meadows both inside and outside the park. One of these, called 'Titele', lay uninclosed within the park in 1369 and was grazed in common by tenants of that manor. (fn. 198) The inhabitants of the town had grazing rights for their beasts like the rest of the manorial community. In 1562–3 these lay within the park and comprised 100 a. at Wootton Lawn and a parcel of ground towards the park's east boundary. (fn. 199) But in the later 16th century, when the Englefields began to inclose the park, the townspeople were deprived of all but their rights in Wootton Lawn. (fn. 200) New arrangements for commoning were made, allotting to every householder a specified amount of grazing in the limited area available. (fn. 201) But this in turn was taken from them in the earlier 17th century when the Englefields were stocking the Lawn with their own beasts and acquiring releases of common rights. (fn. 202) A full account of the townspeople's grievances is contained in a petition they addressed to Parliament in c. 1632. (fn. 203) By then, however, they were left with only the commons in the southern part of the parish.
Little is known of the common arable fields of the parish. The inhabitants of the town clearly had a share in them and in 1408 the conveyance of a burgage tenement and garden in the town included land in a North Field. (fn. 204) This may have been the field called Coxstalls on a map of 1773, (fn. 205) which lay outside Vastern Park, immediately north of the town, and where part of the glebe arable lay in the 17th century. (fn. 206) In the 16th century East and West Fields are mentioned. (fn. 207) The East Field lay in the southeast corner of the parish, (fn. 208) much of it represented in 1968 by the land of Wootton Field Farm. The West Field may have adjoined it, for it seems to have been in the neighbourhood of the Greenhill farms. (fn. 209)
There were inclosed meadows and a considerable amount of inclosed arable on both manors in 1334. (fn. 210) The break-up of the park for inclosure and leasing apparently began in the later 16th century, after Sir Francis Englefield acquired the manor, and some of the farms in the north of the parish, such as Whitehill, date from this time. (fn. 211) Early in the 17th century rights of common within the park were being extinguished and later in the century much of the land was evidently being ploughed. (fn. 212) The inclosure of the common fields outside the park probably took place over roughly the same period. In 1671 53 a. of glebe in the East Field had been inclosed to form three fields called the 'new inclosure'. (fn. 213) In 1699 there were two closes of 'new inclosed ground' in the West Field similarly named. (fn. 214) By this date inclosure, except for the commons at Greenhill, Dunnington, Nore Marsh, and Woodshaw was probably almost complete. The commons were inclosed by Act of Parliament in 1821, but by then rights in them were so inconsiderable that no allotments were made and the land was merely added to the adjoining farms. (fn. 215)
By the mid 15th century a considerable amount of the manorial land seems to have been leased out to various tenants. (fn. 216) A series of rentals for the period 1665–76 show that by then almost the entire demesne was rented out in lots. (fn. 217) Only just over 300 a. out of 2,823 a. were in hand in 1674. (fn. 218) The rest, broken up into some 40 lots, produced about £1,977 a year in rents. (fn. 219) Outside the demesne there were in 1671 1,068 a. held by copy-and leaseholders and 1,200 a. held by freeholders. (fn. 220)
In the mid 19th century almost the entire parish was given over to dairy farming. In 1842 there were 550 a. of arable against 4,225 a. of meadow and pasture. (fn. 221) All but about 1,000 a. of the parish belonged to the Clarendon estate. The only other farms of any size were Lower Woodshaw and Lower Greenhill, belonging to Sir John Jacob Buxton, Bishops Fowley Farm and Harris Croft, belonging to Robert Hughes, and Little Park, belonging to Lord Radnor. (fn. 222) In 1846 a labouring man reported that about two-thirds of the population of the parish were only occasionally employed and the other third, although employed about the farms, could only work in good weather. The highest wage was 8s. a week, or very occasionally 9s., and the usual rate was 6s. to 7s. (fn. 223) After the sale of the manor to Sir Henry Meux in 1866, Wootton Bassett became part of the large estate belonging to the Meux family, centred on Dauntsey, and a period of improved estate management began. Most of the farm-houses were renovated and many new buildings, including 40 labourers' cottages, were erected. (fn. 224) When the estate was finally sold early in the 20th century, all farms were let at a total annual rental of £7,560. The estate was broken up at the sale and sold in lots. (fn. 225) In the 1960s an associate company of the agricultural engineers, Blanch-Lely, bought several of the farms in the parish partly to farm for profit, but also to use for testing new agricultural machinery. (fn. 226)
Trade and Industry. As has been suggested above, a small settlement of craftsmen and traders dwelling around the parish church may have been encouraged to expand during the 13th century to meet the needs of the large rural estate and great house which the Bassets were creating at Vastern nearby. (fn. 227) The market granted to Alan Basset in 1219 may well have been held here from its beginning. (fn. 228) Almost nothing is known of the small town which developed during the Middle Ages and its growth was probably very slow. In the mid 15th century there were several shops. There was also a common bakehouse, which when leased out was worth 3s. 4d. to the lord of the manor. (fn. 229)
Wootton Bassett lay towards the edge of Wiltshire's cloth manufacturing region but there was a fairly flourishing industry in the parish in the 16th and earlier 17th centuries. The name of the first mayor known, John Wollmonger, suggests that the trade of woolstapling existed in the parish in the early 15th century. (fn. 230) In the early 16th century two inhabitants of the parish were accused of the offence of buying woollen yarn without intending to make it into cloth. (fn. 231) In 1631 Wootton Bassett was one of 14 Wiltshire towns suggested as a centre for the inspection of broadcloth, (fn. 232) but by then the industry was probably already dwindling. An early-19thcentury gazetteer speaks of a former 'considerable trade in broadcloth', which was, however, by then extinct. (fn. 233)
In spite of its weekly market the town never really became a flourishing centre for the surrounding countryside. In the earlier 19th century the market's trade was so bad that it ceased to be held for some years (fn. 234) and in 1814 the town was said to have 'much dwindled'. (fn. 235) This may possibly be accounted for by the proximity of Swindon with its then flourishing market. Nineteenth-century directories show that Wootton Bassett had virtually no trades or industries beyond those required to meet the modest needs of the immediately neighbouring farming community. In 1844 among the town's tradesmen were 4 blacksmiths, 3 wheelwrights, 2 coopers, and 2 saddlers and harness-makers. (fn. 236) It must be said, however, that a bank was probably opened in the town either at the end of the 18th or early in the 19th century, (fn. 237) and by 1838 both the North Wilts., and the Wilts. and Dorset Banking companies had branches there. (fn. 238) There was by that year also a post office. (fn. 239) The numerous inns along the whole length of the high street are evidence of a certain amount of business created by the weekly market. They were also called for by the travellers on the highway, along which the town lay. In 1755 15 persons were licensed to keep alehouses. (fn. 240) In 1822 there were 11 inns, many of which existed under the same name in 1968. (fn. 241)
The coming of the Wilts. and Berks. Canal in 1801 probably made little difference to the economic life of the parish, although coal for the surrounding countryside was unloaded at Vastern wharf. (fn. 242) Likewise the coming of the G.W.R. line with a station at Wootton Bassett seems to have made no very striking change, but by giving easy access to Swindon it opened up new possibilities for employment in that rapidly expanding town. After 1845 special early morning workmen's trains were run from the station. (fn. 243) Throughout the 19th century, however, agriculture remained the main occupation of the parish.
In the later 19th century there were two or three small breweries in the town. (fn. 244) The largest was that started by Howard Horsell in c. 1878, for which the Beaufort Brewery in Railway Road was built in the 1880s. (fn. 245) There was also a brickmaking business belonging to a family called Boulter in Church Street, which had three brickyards and continued into the early years of the 20th century. (fn. 246) Charles Rouse was making ropes in the town in 1890 (fn. 247) and the family hardware business survived in 1967. The first substantial business, apart from the earlier cloth trade, to come to the town was the Dairy Supply Company, which opened a factory in c. 1908 and acquired as part of its premises the former Beaufort Brewery. (fn. 248) This company was taken over in 1915 by United Dairies Ltd., which merged in 1959 with the Cow & Gate Company to form Unigate Creameries Ltd. (fn. 249) For a time the Wootton Bassett depot specialized in the production of dried milk. (fn. 250) In 1967 a fleet of milk-tankers was operated from the depot, which employed about 175 people. (fn. 251) A new industry came to the town in 1962 when BlanchLely Ltd. of Crudwell, makers of agricultural machinery, built a factory in Whitehill Lane. (fn. 252) In 1967 this covered some 12 a., on which stood the shops for assembling parts made in Crudwell. There was also accommodation for a development section and drawing office. About 100 persons were employed. (fn. 253) In 1967 a timber-yard at Vastern employed a small number of men making coffin-boards.
It was not, however, the arrival of new industry which accounted for the town's marked physical expansion in the 1960s. This was due in large measure to the huge development of Swindon only 6 miles away and the need for housing for personnel employed at the R.A.F. station at Lyneham about 4 miles away. The proximity of Swindon also meant that while extensive housing estates increased the size of Wootton Bassett, there was little corresponding development as a shopping or commercial centre.
Markets and Fairs. A weekly market on Fridays in his township (villa) of Wootton was granted to Alan Basset in 1219. (fn. 254) The tolls from this, valued at 50s., were reckoned among the profits of the manor of Wootton in 1271, (fn. 255) and in 1281 tolls of market and fairs together were estimated at 30s. and were again included among the profits of the manor. (fn. 256) This manorial market may have played an important part in the development of Wootton Bassett in the 13th century. But it possibly did not flourish for very long. Nothing more is known of it during the Middle Ages.
According to the reputed charter of 1561, a weekly market on Tuesdays was that year granted to the mayor and burgesses. (fn. 257) Such a market was certainly granted in 1571. (fn. 258) No market is mentioned in the charter of incorporation of 1679 (fn. 259) but there is no reason to doubt that the Tuesday market continued. But the market-place, which was in the main street, belonged to the lord of the manor and this situation seems to have led to a certain amount of difficulty and uncertainty. In the earlier 17th century one of the complaints of the inhabitants against Sir Francis (II) Englefield (d. 1631) was that he had removed their shambles, which stood in the middle of the street in the market-place, and had given them to a 'stranger', not resident in the town. (fn. 260) There is nothing to suggest that the weekly market was ever a particularly flourishing one and it may have been overshadowed by the more successful one at Swindon only six miles away. In 1673 it was described as 'indifferent'. (fn. 261) In the 18th century the day for holding it was changed to Thursday. (fn. 262) The tolls were probably frequently leased out and in 1752 it was laid down that the mayor had to provide the necessary boards and tressels, and the person to whom the tolls were let had to maintain them. (fn. 263) Early in the 19th century the market had so far declined that it was decided to sell the shambles. But no buyer could be found and the corporation was obliged to take them down at its own expense. (fn. 264)
In 1836 the market was revived after a lapse as a monthly event, held on Wednesdays. (fn. 265) At the first monthly market some 772 beasts were sold and trade was said to have 'fully realized expectations'. (fn. 266) The market-place continued to be regarded as belonging to the lord of the manor and after the corporation was dissolved in 1886 the market was said to belong to him. (fn. 267) This monthly market survived into the 20th century and was said shortly before the First World War to be very flourishing, although in 1903 auctioneers' fees and tolls only averaged £16 17s. 5d. a year. (fn. 268) Four firms of auctioneers regularly conducted sales of cattle, sheep, calves, and pigs. (fn. 269) But by c. 1938 business had declined so much that the market was closed. (fn. 270)
Fairs are first mentioned in 1281 in an extent of the manor of Vastern, when their tolls, with those of the market, were valued at 30s. (fn. 271) Three fairs with a court of piepowder were granted to the town by the reputed charter of 1561. (fn. 272) These were on the feast and morrow of St. George (23 Apr.), the feast of St. Bernard (21 Aug.), and the feast and morrow of the Conception of the Virgin (8 Dec.). The grant of privileges of 1571 confirmed the April and December fairs but made no mention of that on the feast of St. Bernard. (fn. 273) Two new fairs were granted in the charter of incorporation of 1679, namely on Whit Monday and on the Monday after the feast of St. Bartholomew (24 Aug.). (fn. 274) In 1792 there were three fairs: on 4 May, 13 November, and 19 December. (fn. 275) By 1888 there were only two, the spring fair, held at the beginning of April, and the Michaelmas fair, held early in October. (fn. 276) Both these for a time in the 19th century were partly hiring fairs and were said to have been of considerable importance. (fn. 277) But by the end of the century they were very small amusement fairs and only survived for a few years into the 20th century. (fn. 278)
Mills. In 1086 there was a mill paying 30d. on Miles Crispin's estate at Wootton. (fn. 279) In 1271 there were a water-mill and two windmills on the manor of Wootton. (fn. 280) Ten years later in addition to these three mills, there was also a horse-mill, (fn. 281) which is mentioned again in 1334. (fn. 282) In 1331 and 1334 when Vastern and Wootton formed separate manors, the water-mill belonged to Vastern and each manor had one windmill. (fn. 283) The water-mill was undoubtedly that known later as Hunt's Mill, lying on the Brinkworth Brook, less than ½ mile from Vastern Manor House. The first reference to it by that name found occurs in 1449–50. (fn. 284) The two windmills are marked on a map of 1773. (fn. 285) One stood at the end of Wood Street, the other stood just north of Hunt's Mill on the high ground above the main road to Chippenham and was blown down in 1781. (fn. 286) In 1674 Hunt's Mill with some 36 a. of land was let to Andrew Wharton for £20 a year but was reckoned to be worth £30. (fn. 287) When it was sold with the rest of the Meux estate in 1906 it had three floors and was fully equipped with two pairs of millstones. (fn. 288) The mill ceased working in c. 1906 and was pulled down in c. 1964. (fn. 289)
This topic has been dealt with in another volume of the Wiltshire History and will, therefore, only be treated summarily here. (fn. 290) Wootton Bassett first sent representatives to Parliament in 1446–7 and so was among the last of the Wiltshire boroughs to do so. (fn. 291) From 1446–7 two representatives were summoned regularly until 1832 when the borough was disfranchised. (fn. 292) The franchise lay with resident householders paying scot and lot. (fn. 293)
Until about the middle of the 17th century no particular influence or influences dominated the borough, thus giving strangers a rather better chance of being returned than in most Wiltshire boroughs. (fn. 294) From the middle of the 17th century the borough was generally, although not completely, dominated by the influence first of the Pleydells and the St. Johns, both local families, and then by the St. Johns and the Hydes (later Hyde-Villiers), who after 1676 were lords of the manor. (fn. 295) Until 1780 the members were almost all local men while after 1780 few local men sat for the borough other than members or connexions of the St. John family. (fn. 296) Towards the end of the 18th century, by which time the St. John family were in financial difficulties, Lords Bolingbroke and Clarendon came to an agreement by which each returned one member. (fn. 297) But twice in the early 19th century their interests were defeated by those of James Kibblewhite, a London attorney, who mainly by bribery managed to get both members returned. Among the measures taken by Kibblewhite was the building of a number of houses in the town, all bestowing the right to vote. These he later sold to Joseph Pitt, of Cricklade, who succeeded in returning two members in 1818. (fn. 298) On the eve of the Reform Bill Lord Clarendon had regained the patronage but held it precariously. (fn. 299)
The franchise, depending upon residence and contribution to municipal expenses, resulted in an electorate of about 250. (fn. 300) The corporation, and particularly the mayor, who was returning officer, wielded very considerable power at elections. It was because the St. John family usually had control over the corporation that their influence was on the whole greater than that of the Hydes, in spite of the fact that Lawrence Hyde acquired the lordship of the manor for the family in 1676 and bestowed several generous gifts upon the town. (fn. 301) Wootton Bassett was not the most corrupt of the Wiltshire parliamentary boroughs, although there were some particularly bad cases of bribery during the 18th century. (fn. 302) Probably the most dramatic attempt at corruption occurred in the early 1750s when Robert Neale was seeking election with the support of the Hyde interest. (fn. 303) Neale succeeded in appointing himself deputy town clerk and gaining possession of all the corporation records. His efforts to win over the mayor, William Hollister, and 'pack' the corporation with his supporters did not, however, succeed. Hollister, who was seven times mayor, remained loyal to the St. John candidates, who were said to have bought 135 votes at over 30 guineas a head and to have incurred bills at 11 public houses amounting to over £1,000. Neale claimed to have spent over £1,800 and his fellow candidate probably not much less. 'We hear from Wootton Bassett' reported a contemporary newspaper 'that there has been such rioting about the election as never was known in so small a town . . . there were guns, pistols and swords on both sides, but nobody was murdered. Eight men are already in Salisbury jail'.
Local Government and Public Services.
In 1274 the Earl Marshal, as lord of the honor of Wallingford, had a gallows and the assize of bread and ale in Wootton, which formed part of the honor. (fn. 304) Vastern may have been one of the more important of the Wiltshire estates of the Despensers, for in the earlier 14th century the elder Despenser had a prison there, in which he was alleged to have imprisoned a neighbour for a week without trial. (fn. 305)
In 1281 there were three members attached to the manor of Vastern, which was evidently at this date the main manor of the parish. (fn. 306) These members were named as the manor of Wootton, Old Court, and an estate which lay partly in Swindon and partly in Westlecott (Wroughton). (fn. 307) Nothing more is known of Old Court as a member of the manor, although its possible identity is discussed above. (fn. 308) Nor is the estate in Swindon and Westlecott mentioned again as a member of the manor, although in the 15th century the steward of Wootton Bassett held an annual court at Nethercott (Swindon) for the tenants there and court silver was still paid to the lords of Wootton Bassett in the 17th century. (fn. 309) A single court may have been held for Vastern and its members in 1281, but by 1331 there were three separate courts for Vastern, Wootton, and the borough. (fn. 310) But although separate courts were held, all three were held on the same day by the steward of the lord of the manor and borough. (fn. 311) By 1449–50 the manors of Vastern and Wootton had become merged, as shown above, and a court for the combined manor was held twice a year, while a court leet was held on the same days for the borough. (fn. 312)
As has been suggested above, it is probable that the town of Wootton Bassett was deliberately created some time in the 13th century. (fn. 313) The first sign of the development of any urban characteristics occurs in 1236 when reference to burgesses of Wootton suggests the existence of burgage tenure there. (fn. 314) The freemen of the manor of Wootton, paying £6 4s. 1d. rent to the lord of the manor in 1281, (fn. 315) may also have been holders of burgages, although specific mention of burgages has not been found before 1334. (fn. 316) That year an unspecified number of burgesses holding burgages in Wootton paid the lord of the manor £7 3s. 3d. annually for all services. (fn. 317) By 1331–2 the settlement at Wootton had developed sufficient urban attributes for it to be called 'burgus' and for a special court to be held for it. (fn. 318) Called the court of the borough, it was in fact a view of frankpledge held by the steward of the lord of the manor on the same day as the manor court was held. It is, indeed, clear that in spite of burgage tenure, the eventual development of a conventional borough constitution, parliamentary representation, and a grant, or possibly grants, of privileges, Wootton Bassett never achieved truly effective borough status, and the real business of government was conducted either in the courts leet of the lord of the manor or else by the parish officers. Even the market-place, in which the markets granted to the mayor and corporation in 1571 were held, always belonged to the lords of the manor. (fn. 319)
Nevertheless, some form of borough organization was established by the early 15th century. Reference to a mayor has been found in 1408, and, from such records as survive, it seems that throughout the 15th century the office was filled annually. (fn. 320) In 1446, for the first time, representatives from Wootton Bassett were summoned to Parliament, and it has been said that the borough received a charter of privileges that year. (fn. 321) But no evidence has been found for this. There is a 17th-century copy of a reputed charter dated 1561, granting wide privileges. (fn. 322) But, again, no enrolment or other trace of its existence has been found, (fn. 323) although the complaint by the inhabitants of the town in c. 1631 that besides depriving them of their common rights, Sir Francis (II) Englefield had confiscated their charter, is conceivably evidence that a charter existed. (fn. 324) According to the 17thcentury copy, the charter of 1561 confirmed a corporation consisting of a mayor, 2 aldermen, and 12 capital burgesses, all of whom were named. (fn. 325)
The first grant of privileges for which there is definite evidence is one of 1571 which merely granted a market and two annual fairs. (fn. 326) But in 1679 the borough received a charter of incorporation from Charles II. (fn. 327) This confirmed all earlier charters and the existing corporation, which was constituted as that laid down in the reputed charter of 1561. A common clerk was to be appointed, approval for the appointment first being obtained from the Crown. The corporation was to have a common seal and could hold property to the value of £40. A weekly court of record was authorized for the recovery of small debts and the trial of trespasses not involving more than £20. Exemption from toll was granted and trade within the borough restricted to freemen thereof. This charter was removed in 1752 by the town clerk with all the other borough records in the course of the intrigues between the rival political interests to gain control of the corporation. (fn. 328) It was recovered in 1859 but lost again in 1866, when another town clerk absconded. (fn. 329)
There can be little doubt that the charter of 1679 was obtained for the borough by Lawrence Hyde, lord of the manor, with his political interests in mind. (fn. 330) He probably presented the town hall too, and certainly gave a seal in 1682. (fn. 331) But the charter did not result in the development of any effective borough government and practically the only function of the corporation continued to be the returning, through the mayor, who was the returning officer, of the borough's two representatives to Parliament. (fn. 332) The court of record was never established and in 1804 the town's entitlement to it was said to have been only recently discovered. (fn. 333) Meetings of the corporation were known as a borough court, for which court books survive covering the periods 1751–2, 1785–1886. (fn. 334) But almost the only business of the court was the election and regulation of the corporation and its officers, although in the 19th century some action concerning the market and fairs was taken. (fn. 335) A constable and two serjeants-at- mace were appointed, but their functions were mostly ceremonial. (fn. 336) A town crier paid £2 a year for the privilege of crying, but in the 19th century it was difficult to find anyone willing to pay the price. (fn. 337) Town clerks were appointed with royal approval in 1690, 1699, and 1700. (fn. 338) These early clerks were attornies-at-law. Subsequently the appointment became a purely political one, held on at least two occasions by the lords of the manor. (fn. 339) The appointment of the capital burgesses was likewise a matter of politics fought over by the rival political interests. (fn. 340) By the 19th century any administrative action required was undertaken by a deputy town clerk, whose only salary was the payment he received for acting as clerk to the magistrates. (fn. 341)
In the later 19th century the mayor and aldermen held a petty sessional court about once a fortnight, although the county magistrates had concurrent jurisdiction in the town. (fn. 342) With the disfranchisement of the borough in 1832 the corporation virtually ceased to have any function at all, but in spite of this it was not dissolved by the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. (fn. 343) It survived until 1886 when Wootton Bassett finally lost its borough status as a result of the Act of 1883. (fn. 344) The corporation's only income at the time of its dissolution came from the tolls of the markets and fairs and the money paid by the town crier for his licence. (fn. 345) Besides the insignia and a few other objects in the town hall, it held no property. To administer such income as there was, the Wootton Bassett Town Trust, consisting of seven trustees, was established in 1889 by the Charity Commissioners. (fn. 346) A charity to administer the town hall was established in 1909. (fn. 347) In 1912 this charity was united with the Town Trust and known as the Town Hall and Trust Charity. (fn. 348) In 1962 the charity funds were augmented by a legacy of £15,000 from Richard Parsons of Hunt's Mill Farm. (fn. 349)
In the absence of any effective borough government, much of the business of the town and of the parish at least up to the 16th century was conducted in the manorial courts and the courts leet for the borough. The only records of these courts to survive are of 16th-century date and are but few. (fn. 350) The manor courts were then dealing with the usual agrarian matters, such as the regulation of common grazing and the payment of fines and heriots. (fn. 351) The court leet held for the borough dealt with offences by the town's bakers and brewers against the assize of bread and ale and with irregularities in the trade of butchers. (fn. 352) This court continued to meet in the town until 1834 but by this date the meeting was probably little more than a formality. (fn. 353)
Almost no parish records survive for the administration of town and parish by the parish officers and there are no vestry minutes. (fn. 354) The parish was divided into the two tithings of Woodshaw and Greenhill, each with a tithingman, who acted as constable until replaced by the county police in 1839. (fn. 355) Each tithing also had its own surveyor of the highways. (fn. 356) In 1798 the overseers employed a doctor to attend to the poor, and that year he innoculated some children in Wootton Bassett against small-pox. (fn. 357) In 1835 the parish became part of the Cricklade and Wootton Bassett Poor Law Union and since 1895 has been part of the rural district of the same name. (fn. 358) A parish council met for the first time in January 1895 and in 1967 met once a month. (fn. 359)
The town was said to be well lit by gas in 1859. (fn. 360) The gasworks in Station Road were closed in 1934. (fn. 361) In 1878 £400 was spent on a drainage scheme for the town, (fn. 362) and the sewerage works in Marlborough Road were built in 1891. (fn. 363) These were modernized and enlarged in 1921 and still served the parish in 1967. (fn. 364) By 1880 the town was said to be paved from end to end. (fn. 365) The first piped water supply was provided in 1891 and was brought through 8 miles of mains from Clyffe Pypard. (fn. 366) Electric street lighting was first introduced in 1933. (fn. 367) In 1962, with the rest of the rural district, Wootton Bassett was transferred to the Swindon Corporation Water Co. for its water supply. (fn. 368) Under the Isolation Hospitals Act of 1893 Wootton Bassett became the head of a hospital district and a hospital was built there. This was closed in 1930. (fn. 369)
The town's insignia comprises two maces and a sword. (fn. 370) The maces are not an exact pair. They are of silver with iron cores and bear no hall-marks. One is 15 in. long, the other 141/8 in. On the caps are engraved plain shields of the royal arms as borne by James I and above the shield is the date 1603. Both maces have the initials 'R.S.' on the under part of the bowl of the head.
The sword was presented by John Attersol, one of the members for the borough in 1812. It is 45½ in. in length. On the scabbard is a coat of arms, reputedly those of the borough, the arms of John Attersol, and those of James Kibblewhite, the other member for Wootton Bassett in 1812. At the same time as Attersol presented the sword, Kibblewhite gave robes to the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses. Each gift is said to have cost 100 guineas. There is also a wooden constable's staff 4 ft. 10 in. long. The initials 'C.R.' and date '1678' appear on the head which is of gilt.
In 1894 the borough seals were said to have disappeared, although known to have been in existence within living memory. In 1893 one seal came up for sale locally and was bought by E. C. Trepplin. It was described as slightly oval in shape, 1 in. x 7/8 in. in diameter, with an ivory moulded handle 2¾ in. high. It bore the 'spurious arms' and the legend: minor sigillum wootton bassett alias wootton vetus On the neck of the head was the inscription 'Ex dono Prenobil. L. Comitis Rochester 1682'. An endorsing stamp has the same arms with a buckled band inscribed 'Borough of Wootton Bassett'.
The church is first mentioned in 1200. (fn. 371) Licence for Stanley Abbey to appropriate it was granted in 1363 and the appropriation was confirmed by Boniface IX in 1399. (fn. 372) Before 1399 the abbey had appointed a vicar to serve the church and a vicarage had probably been ordained. (fn. 373) A hospital with a free chapel of the Virgin, St. John the Baptist, and All Saints was founded in the parish in 1266 by the lord of the manor, Sir Philip Basset. It was, however, in no way subject to the parish church and the rights of the parish were expressly protected in its foundation deed. (fn. 374) There was also a free chapel at Vastern in the 13th and 14th centuries. Since 1951 the benefice has been held in plurality with that of Broad Town, three miles distant. (fn. 375)
In 1200 the priory of Monkton Farleigh renounced a claim to the advowson of the church of Wootton in favour of Alan Basset, lord of the manor, and in return was granted an annual payment of one mark from the church. (fn. 376) From then until 1363, so far as is known, the advowson belonged to the lords of the manor. In 1363 it was conveyed to Stanley Abbey and leave to appropriate the church was granted a little later. (fn. 377) Stanley retained the advowson until the dissolution of the abbey in 1536. It then again became attached to the lordship of the manor and descended with it until c. 1926 when it was sold to the Martyrs' Memorial and Church of England Trust. (fn. 378) In 1935 it was purchased by the parishioners and transferred to the Diocesan Board of Patronage. (fn. 379)
In 1291 the church was valued for taxation at £16, (fn. 380) and in 1341–2 at £16 13s. 4d. (fn. 381) At the later date there were 4 a. of land belonging to the church; tithes of hay were worth £4 a year; tithes of mills 10s.; small tithes and alterage dues £2, and a ninth part of the tithes of corn, wool, and lambs £8. A ninth part of the tithe of corn from Queen Isabel's demesne land, since it was not leased out, was valued at £3 a year. A similar tithe from the Abbot of Stanley's demesne at Bassetsclose was worth 5s. (fn. 382)
A re-allotment of the revenues of the church between Stanley Abbey, as rectors, and the vicar was probably made in 1467. But the evidence for this only survives in an extremely corrupt document, in a much later hand, purporting to be a copy of the record of an enquiry held in 1565 by the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury into the provisions of such a re-allotment. (fn. 383) So far as can be judged from this document, which is very detailed, the vicar's share in the profits of the church was increased in 1467 in return for certain regular annual payments to Stanley Abbey. Among these was a rent of £6 for the farm of the great tithes. (fn. 384)
In 1535 Stanley Abbey was receiving a rent of £7 for the rectory and £1 from the vicar. (fn. 385) After the Dissolution the rectory, the value of which lay entirely in the great tithes, continued to be leased out. In 1555 it was leased to Roger Blake for 21 years with certain reservations, including the payment of £1 from the vicar and the tithe of wild deer in the parks. (fn. 386) By 1572, at which date the manor was in the queen's hands, the rectory had passed to John Hooper, who died that year holding it of the queen. (fn. 387) In 1583 Hooper's son, also called John, Henry Hooper, and George Hooper conveyed the rectory to Robert Streynsham. (fn. 388) By 1615 it had passed to Richard Francklin, who died seised of it that year and was succeeded by a son Sir John Francklin. (fn. 389) In 1660 it was held by Sir Richard Francklin. (fn. 390) By 1671 it had probably passed to William Packer and in 1687 was held by John Packer. (fn. 391) In 1720–1 it was conveyed by Richard Frome, Anne his wife, and Grace Packer, widow, to William Pleydell, who was Vicar of Wootton Bassett. (fn. 392)
In 1721 William Pleydell sold the great tithes due from Little Park and Brinsden's Farm to William Bartlett and Francis Broome respectively and there were subsequent sales of these tithes. (fn. 393) Other of the great tithes must have been sold at unknown dates and in 1842 there were 5 impropriators. (fn. 394) The Earl of Clarendon (lord of the manor) had the great tithes from 3,400 a. which were commuted that year for an annual rent-charge of £439; Robert Hughes of Woodford from 675 a. (commuted for rent-charge of £130); Sir John Jacob Buxton from 240 a. (commuted for rent-charge of £12); Jasper Warman and Elizabeth his wife of Purton from 32 a. (commuted for rent-charge of £4), and the executor of Thomas Ripley, Vicar of Wootton Bassett (d. 1804) from 1 a. (commuted for rent-charge of 10s.). The Earl of Radnor (d. 1869) had a life estate in the great tithes from Little Park and these were extinguished by the Tithe Award.
In 1535 the vicarage was valued at £11 or £9 8s. 10d. after payments of £1 to Stanley and 11s. 3d. to the Archdeacon. (fn. 395) In 1831 the average net income of the benefice over the last three years was £461. (fn. 396) At the end of the 18th century there was a protracted dispute over the small tithes due from Little Park. (fn. 397) By 1773 the small tithes due from Vastern, Old Park, and other demesne lands had been commuted for an annual modus of £35 12s. 4d. (fn. 398) In 1842 all the remaining small tithes in the parish were commuted for a rent-charge of £485 12s. 4d. payable to the vicar. (fn. 399)
According to the document purporting to record the settlement of 1467 (see above) the vicar had two pastures called High Mead and Sharps, a piece of arable called Parsonscroft lying in the common fields, and other strips of arable in Coxstalls. (fn. 400) He also had a house with a plot before it. He still had these lands in 1671 and had acquired additionally a small close called Pondclose, an arable close called Parklands, and some 53 a., formerly in the common fields, but by then inclosed. (fn. 401) The total glebe at this date comprised about 91 a. It was approximately the same in 1842 and consisted of 75 a. meadow and pasture and 16 a. arable. (fn. 402) In 1783 the vicarage house was of stone with a thatched roof. (fn. 403) This was pulled down in 1865 and replaced by a new vicarage in Station Road. (fn. 404) This was vacated by the vicar in 1959 when a smaller vicarage was built for him nearby. (fn. 405)
In 1563–4 there is mention in a conveyance of some land which had earlier been given by Nicholas Reeve to provide 5 lights in the church. Other land in Ashton Keynes, given for the same purpose, also at an unknown date, was included in the conveyance. (fn. 406)
In 1783 there were two services in the church on Sundays and one on Wednesdays and Fridays. Holy Communion was celebrated at the usual feasts. (fn. 407) There were then generally between 60 and 70 communicants. The corporation, it was reported, seldom went to church, and the mayor of that year was said to be an exception, for he, with three or four other officers, 'were not ashamed' to be seen there and 'behaved with decency suitable to their station'. (fn. 408) On a Sunday in 1851 the morning congregation numbered 300 and there was a slightly higher attendance in the afternoon. (fn. 409) In 1864 the vicar also served the church at Tockenham and was assisted at Wootton Bassett by a curate. Three services with sermons were held on Sundays and there were services on all the usual festivals. The average number of communicants at the great festivals was 60 and at other times 40. (fn. 410) When the benefices of Wootton Bassett and Broad Town were combined in 1951 a full-time assistant curate was appointed to help the vicar and regular services in the two parishes were maintained with the help of lay-readers. (fn. 411)
The church of ST. BARTHOLOMEW AND ALL SAINTS was extensively restored in 1870–1 by G. E. Street at the expense of Sir Henry Meux. (fn. 412) It is of stone and comprises chancel, nave of 5 bays, north and south aisles, south porch, and embattled west tower. The first impression on entering is of loftiness. Before restoration, it consisted of 2 naves only, of equal length and height, divided by an arcade of 8 pointed arches on circular piers, running the entire length of the church. Sir Stephen Glynne describing the church some time in the 19th century remarked that the east end presented a rather unusual aspect, having two east windows of the same size 'in one gable'. (fn. 413) There was a low west tower and a south porch with parvis above. The building was apparently entirely of the 15th century, except for an early-14th-century window in the easternmost end of the north wall. (fn. 414) There was evidently a screen with rood loft above, for the staircase leading to the loft survives in the south wall.
Some alterations were made early in the 18th century, probably by Lawrence Hyde. A new screen was erected between nave and chancel and certain alterations made to make a more satisfactory chancel, although this continued to be divided lengthwise by the eastern bays of the central arcade. At about the same time the ceilings of the naves were boarded over and painted with stars. In 1823 a medieval wall painting showing the murder of St. Thomas Becket was discovered on the south wall, but this was obliterated in 1856. (fn. 415)
At the restoration of 1870–1 the north wall of the church was pulled down and a north aisle built with vestry and organ chamber at its eastern end. (fn. 416) The one 14th-century window in the old north wall was then re-erected at the eastern end of the south wall of the south aisle, which was also partially restored, although its four 15th-century windows were preserved. Elsewhere Street inserted 13th-century style windows. The arcade east of the screen, which now divided the chancel from the south chancel aisle, was taken down and rebuilt and new arches were built from north to south across the chancel and chancel aisles. The tower was heightened and the bells rehung. The font and altar with its reredos by Thomas Earp date from this time. The pulpit is of the 15th century. Among the furnishings is a brass chandelier given in 1782 by Jane Hollister, who also gave 3 sconces, which have since disappeared. (fn. 417) A Lady Chapel was formed in the south chancel aisle in 1944. (fn. 418)
In 1553 the church had 4 bells and a sanctus bell. A peal of 5 bells was hung in 1633 and remained in position until the tower was rebuilt in 1870. In 1887, to mark the Golden Jubilee, three new bells were presented. The 2nd and 3rd bells of the old peal of 5 were recast and the 4th, 7th, and tenor of the existing peal of 8 are the old bells of 1633. A ringing chamber was formed in the tower in 1950 with choir vestry below. (fn. 419)
Edward VI's commissioners left the church a chalice of 8 oz. and took 13½ oz. for the king. (fn. 420) Among the plate is a large chalice of silver gilt the stem and base of which are ornamented with rich mouldings. Engraved on the bowl is a shield of arms of the Bakers' Company of Exeter. An inscription records that it was given to the church by William Joburn in 1631. There are two patens, one of which was given by William Pleydell, vicar (d. 1724). An elaborately ornamented communion set was given in c. 1871 in memory of Thomas Hyde Ripley, vicar for 52 years, and of his daughter Caroline. The registers begin in 1584. They are complete except for a gap between 1700 and 1720 in the register of baptisms.
After the manor was granted by Mary Tudor to Sir Francis Englefield, Vastern may have become for a time something of a centre of Roman Catholicism, attracting other papists to the parish. (fn. 421) Three papists were returned to Bishop Compton's census in 1676. (fn. 422) Francis Moore, who acquired Little Park that year and held it until 1714, came from a Roman Catholic family. (fn. 423) The Cruse family, who occupied Greenhill Common Farm as tenants of the lord of the manor for most of the 18th century, were also Roman Catholics. (fn. 424) There were 6 Roman Catholics in the parish in 1767 and 4 in 1780. (fn. 425) The four Roman Catholics of 1780 were members of one family and were visited occasionally by a chaplain, who was attached to the household of a member of the Arundel family in Chippenham. (fn. 426)
A chapel of ease, served from the church of Holy Rood, Swindon, was founded in Wootton Bassett in 1938, and in 1954 the Sacred Heart Church, likewise served from Swindon, was opened. (fn. 427) In 1967 it had a priest residing in Wootton Bassett.
There were reported to be 8 nonconformists in the parish in 1676. (fn. 428) In 1703 the dwelling house of William Norris, known as the 'Sign of the Bear', was registered as a meeting place for Quakers. (fn. 429) But the meeting did not become permanently established and no more is known of the Society of Friends in Wootton Bassett. A meeting-place for Independents was licensed in 1779 (fn. 430) and probably served as a chapel until 1825 when a new chapel was built in Wood Street with aid from the Congregational Association. (fn. 431) In 1851 average attendance was reckoned to be 120 at both morning and evening services. (fn. 432) In 1967 services were still held regularly on Sundays.
Primitive Methodism was brought to Wootton Bassett during the 1820s by preachers from the Brinkworth Circuit. (fn. 433) Meetings were held in various cottages and sometimes at the 'Royal Oak'. In 1831 two cottages were converted to make a chapel and an intensive campaign of house to house visiting was pursued. In 1838 the old chapel was demolished and a new one built on the same site at the western end of the high street. This later became known as the Hillside Chapel. It is a simple building with two large arched windows below a pedimental gable. Hugh Bourne is said to have preached at Wootton Bassett. Schools connected with the chapel were opened next door in 1842. (fn. 434) A town mission was undertaken in 1870 when 4,500 calls were made. On a Sunday in 1851 there were 171 at morning service and 216 in the evening. (fn. 435) In 1967 services were held regularly on Sundays.
The Wesleyan Methodists held services in Wootton Bassett in 1851 but had no chapel at this date. (fn. 436) Average attendance at these services was 55 both in the morning and in the evening. (fn. 437) A chapel was built at the corner of Coxstalls and the high street in 1855. (fn. 438) In 1897 there was no resident minister but services were conducted by preachers from Swindon. (fn. 439) The chapel was pulled down in 1964, by which date the congregation had joined the Methodists at the Hillside Chapel. (fn. 440)
A Baptist church was formed in 1878 (fn. 441) and in 1896 a chapel, known as the Hope Chapel, was built at the west end of the high street. (fn. 442) The following year there was no resident minister but visiting preachers conducted services. (fn. 443) The chapel, a plain red-brick building, was closed in 1939 and was subsequently used first as a timber-store and later as an additional schoolroom for the County Primary School. (fn. 444)
A free grammar school for boys was founded c. 1696 as the result of a legacy of £300 in the will of Richard Jones, dated 1688. (fn. 445) With this money Jones's executors purchased a rent-charge of 30s. and land in Haydon Wick and Rodbourne Cheney to provide for a salary for a schoolmaster. Some 18 boys of the town were taught reading, writing, and arithmetic. By 1834 the rent-charge had been lost, but the master was receiving £25 a year rent from the land as a salary. By c. 1859 the school, which was held in the town hall, had fallen into disrepute and was closed. For about the next 40 years the income from the land was applied to the upkeep of the National Schools (see below), although attempts were made from time to time to include the British Schools within the scope of the charity. In 1898 a Richard Jones Foundation was established to provide exhibitions of between £5 and £20 a year tenable at any secondary school or technical college. In 1903 the income still came from land and amounted to £20 a year. Three exhibitions had been awarded that year. In 1920 the land at Rodbourne Cheney, which comprised 20 a. and was known as Tan Hill, was sold and the proceeds invested. (fn. 446) In 1967 the income (about £70 a year) was used to help apprentices to buy tools and those going to grammar schools and technical colleges to buy equipment. (fn. 447)
In 1819 there was also a school for 18 girls taught by a mistress, whose salary was paid by Lord Clarendon. (fn. 448) There were 4 other day schools attended by about 140 children paid for by their parents and a Sunday school with about 80 children. (fn. 449) The poor, it was said, were generally desirous of receiving instruction. (fn. 450) The school for 18 girls still existed in 1835 and there were then 6 other day schools, including the free boys' school, as well as 2 large Sunday schools. (fn. 451)
The Primitive Methodists opened a day school next to their chapel in the high street in 1842. (fn. 452) In 1858 this was transferred to the British and Foreign School Society and that year had 200 pupils. (fn. 453) The premises were extended and improved in 1867 and 1891 (fn. 454) and in 1902 average attendance of infants was 66 and of older children 159. (fn. 455) After the Second World War the school was much enlarged by the erection of temporary buildings and in 1967, when the numbers were about 400, the school awaited removal to completely new buildings at Nore Marsh. (fn. 456)
By 1858 there were parochial schools for both boys and girls. Each had between 50 and 60 pupils and accommodation in both was said to be bad. In the boys' school premises, apparatus, and furniture were described as 'abominable'. (fn. 457) In 1859 Lord Clarendon gave a site in Station Road for new church schools and these were opened in 1861. (fn. 458) The architect was Isaac Lansdown and the plan allowed for infants on the ground floor with the older children above. (fn. 459) In 1902 average attendance was infants 91 and older children 77. (fn. 460) After the Second World War accommodation was much enlarged by the addition of temporary buildings. (fn. 461) In 1968 there were 280 children on the roll. (fn. 462) A County Secondary school was opened for 258 pupils in 1958. Numbers in 1968 were 608. (fn. 463)
The town has had a number of small private schools. In 1844 there were 2 boarding and day academies (fn. 464) and in 1858 2 dame schools. (fn. 465) In 1897 there was a preparatory school called the Lodge and 2 'seminaries for young ladies'. (fn. 466) In the 1920s there was also a preparatory school, known as Little Meads, in the house in the high street called the Manor House. (fn. 467)
During the 17th and 18th centuries several charities for the poor of Wootton Bassett were founded. In 1700 Charles Compton left a third of the residue of his estate to the poor of Wootton Bassett and Lyneham. Land in Badbury (in Chiseldon) was bought with this some years later, and the income from it was distributed equally between the poor of the two parishes. Gifts of £40 from Charles Pynner (Vicar of Wootton Bassett 1584–1619) and of £100 made at an unknown date by Sir Francis Englefield were also used to purchase land in Brinkworth for the benefit of the poor.
Benefactions of £40 made at an unknown date by John Gallimore, of Wootton Bassett, and £200 bequeathed by Lord Clarendon (d. 1786) were invested together in stock. A bequest of £200 in the will of Alice Brothers, proved 1766, to provide bread was also invested in stock, as was one of £100 from Lord Clarendon (d. 1824). By 1903 these seven charities, known as the Second Poor's Money, were all administered together and the income used to provide bread and gifts of money. That year 965 people received help from these combined charities.
The charity estate at Brinkworth was sold in 1920 and the profits thereof reinvested, while in 1962 the land at Badbury was sold and the proceeds invested. The incomes of the charities comprising the Second Poor's Money were evaluated separately in 1961–2, but together provided a joint income of about £69 to be used for the benefit of the poor of Wootton Bassett. In 1958 it was stated that Compton's Wootton Bassett charity had been distributed in small money payments, and the remainder of the charity money was probably allotted in the same manner. (fn. 468)
John Jacob, by his will proved in 1706, bequeathed £20 for apprenticing 3 poor children born and living in the parish of Wootton Bassett. He also bequeathed £3 to be distributed every winter amongst 12 poor persons of the town and parish, not in receipt of alms. (fn. 469) No more is known of this charity.
William Savage, by his will proved 1882, bequeathed £100 in trust. (fn. 470) The income was to be used to apprentice orphan boys or girls of Wootton Bassett or Liddington, who were to be selected by the Vicar and churchwardens of Wootton Bassett together with two ratepayers elected annually for the purpose. Wootton Bassett was to have the first two appointments and for every child chosen from Liddington, two were to be chosen from Wootton Bassett. If no suitable orphans were forthcoming, the child of a widow, or other poor person, might be considered. If there were no suitable applicants at all, the fund was to be allowed to accumulate. No child was apprenticed until 1903 when a boy of Wootton Bassett was apprenticed to an ironmonger. The charity still existed in 1963 and had an income of about £2 yearly.
By his will, proved 1894, John Wicke (Vicar of Wootton Bassett 1865–80) bequeathed £500 to be invested in stock. (fn. 471) The income was to be used to buy groceries and other provisions for the poor and provide a certain handicapped child with an annuity. In 1903 tickets worth 6s. or 8s. were distributed among the poor. By 1953 money grants were made to a fund for persons aged 65 years or more, to a patient suffering from tuberculosis, and to a coal club in Wootton Bassett. In 1963 the income of the charity was about £12.