Wilts or Wiltshire, an inland county bounded on the NW and the N by Gloucestershire, on the E by Berks and Hants, on the S by Hants and Dorsetshire, and on the W by Somerset. Its outline is irregularly oblong, and its boundary, with trivial exceptions, is all artificial. Its greatest length, from N to S, is 53 miles, its greatest breadth is 38 miles, its circuit is about 180 miles, and its area is 880,248 acres. The surface, to the N of a line not far from coincident with the course of the G.W.R., is rich plain, and the surface to the S of that line is mainly an assemblage of bleak downs intersected by deep valleys. Marlborough Downs occupy much of the north-eastern part of the S section, Salisbury Plain occupies still more of the southern part of that section, and these are separated from each other by the Vale of Pewsey. The aggregate elevation of the S section is high, the downy heights for the most part rise from such lofty bases, and have such softly swelling outlines, as to look almost like billows of a troughy ocean. The principal summits rise to altitudes of from 775 to 1011 feet The chief rivers are the Lower Avon, the East Avon, the Wiley, the Nadder, the Bourne, the Kennet, and some headstreams of the Thames. Upper oolite rocks prevail in the NW, and upper cretaceous rocks in all other quarters. Portland stone is quarried at Swindon, Tisbury, and Fonthill; Kimmeridge clay ranges from Swindon to the W of Devizes; coral rag extends from Highworth to Bromham; Oxford clay forms a level tract, with many mineral springs; Kelloways rock takes name from predominating at Kelloways near Chippenham; combrash is worked in the neighbourhood of Malmesbury for building; and forest marble is converted, in several places, into coarse tiles and flagstones.
The soil in the NW is chiefly a calcareous reddish loam, that of the downs is chiefly a dissolved chalk, and that in the depressions or valleys among the downs is chiefly either a flinty loam or a deep black earth. Wheat is grown on the best soils; barley, turnips, and potatoes on sandy tracts; and clover, sainfoin, and rape on the downs. Dairy-cows are extensively kept in the NW for the producing of Wiltshire cheese, horned cattle are fattened, and calves are bred for veal. Sheep, chiefly of the Southdown breed crossed with the Leicester and Cotswold breeds, are kept on the central and southern pastures. Pigs are reared in vast numbers, principally on the dairy farms, for conversion into the well-known Wiltshire bacon.
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Archives and Libraries
The complete set of Phillimore & Co's Wiltshire Parish Registers - Marriages series is available online.
For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.
Directories & Gazetteers
The Historical Directories web site have a number of directories relating to Wiltshire online, including:
Kelly's, Pigot, Slater, etc.
Old map of Wiltshire circa 1848 (Samuel Lewis)
Old map of Wiltshire circa 1895 (Gazetteer of England and Wales)
Newspapers and Periodicals
The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Wiltshire papers online:
- Salisbury and Winchester Journal
- Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette
- Wiltshire Independent
- Swindon Advertiser and North Wilts Chronicle
Parishes and places
The towns and parishes have now been moved to a separate page.
The Visitation of Wiltshire 1623. Edited by George W. Marshall, LL.D. is online.