CRICKLADE, a borough and market-town, in the union of Cricklade and Wootton-Basset, hundred of Highworth, Cricklade, and Staple, Cricklade and N. divisions of Wilts, 48 miles (N. by W.) from Salisbury, and 83 (W. by N.) from London; containing 2128 inhabitants. This place, which is of great antiquity, is by some supposed to have derived its name from the British Cerigwâld, signifying a country abounding with stones; and by others from the Saxon Cræcca, a brook, and Lædian, to empty, the small rivers Churn and Rey here discharging themselves into the river Isis. It is thought by Dr. Stukeley to have been a Roman station, from its position on the Roman road which connected Corinium, now Cirencester, with Spinæ, now Speen. About the year 905, Ethelwald, opposing the election of Edward the Elder to the throne, collected a large body of troops, consisting principally of East Angles, and advanced on a predatory excursion to this place, from which he retreated with his plunder before Edward, who was marching to attack him, reached the town. In 1016, Cricklade was plundered by Canute the Dane; since which it has not been distinguished by any event of historical importance.
The Town is situated in a level tract of country, on the south bank of the Isis, which has its source in the vicinity; it consists principally of one long street, and is paved from the fund called the Cricklade-Way lands, varying from £150 to £170 per annum, and arising from an early bequest. Water-works have been constructed, and pipes laid down in the main street, by a spirited individual. The market is on Saturday; there is also an extensive market for corn and cattle on the third Tuesday in every month, and a pleasure-fair is held on the 23rd of September. The Thames and Severn canal runs to the north of the town, and is connected with the Wilts and Berks line by the North Wilts canal, which passes the town to the south-west; the Swindon and Gloucester branch of the Great Western railway runs a few miles to the south. The county magistrates hold a meeting on the first Saturday in every month; and a bailiff and other officers are appointed by a jury at the court leet of the lord of the manor, who also holds a court every third week for the recovery of debts under 40s. Cricklade is a borough by prescription, and exercised the elective franchise from the reign of Edward I., with various intermissions, till that of Henry VI., since which time it has uninterruptedly continued to return two members to parliament. In consequence of notorious bribery, the franchise was in 1782 extended to the adjoining divisions of Highworth, Cricklade and Staple, Kingsbridge, and Malmesbury. The polling-places are Cricklade, Brinkworth, and Swindon.
Cricklade comprises the parishes of St. Samson and St. Mary, the former containing 1642, and the latter 486, inhabitants, and consisting together of nearly 8000 acres, about two-thirds of which are arable; the soil is generally a rich loam, producing fine crops, and the surface is mostly flat. The living of St. Samson's is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £18. 11. 10½.; net income, £460; patrons, the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury, who are also appropriators of the rectory, of which the Rev. T. Heberden is lessee. The church is a spacious and ancient cruciform structure, with a handsome embattled tower, rising from the intersection, crowned by a pierced parapet and pinnacles, and highly ornamented with niches and pedestals: the south porch was formerly a chapel, built by the Hungerford family; and towards the east is another porch, with large battlements, having in the centre the figure of a lion couchant. The interior is of corresponding character; the piers and arches that support the tower are lofty and of graceful elevation. A stone cross, which once stood in the principal street, was removed into the churchyard when the old town-hall was taken down. The living of St. Mary's is a discharged rectory, valued at £4. 14. 0½.; net income, £83; patron, the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol. The church is a very ancient structure; the chancel is separated from the nave by a circular Norman arch, and the interior contains many vestiges of its original character. In the churchyard is a handsome stone cross of one shaft on a flight of steps; the head is richly ornamented with small sculptured figures in canopied niches. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans. Near St. Samson's churchyard is a building erected in 1652, by Robert Jenner, goldsmith, of London, for the purpose of a school, but which for many years was used as a poor-house, and has only lately been restored to its original purpose. Among the several charities is one of a hundred acres of land granted by Charles I., out of the forest of Braydon, and now producing about £125 per annum, of which onehalf is given to decayed tradespeople, and the other, in equal portions, applied to the apprenticing of children, and distributed among the poor. A benefaction called Dunches' charity, consisting of lands worth £30 a year, is also, by the will of the donor, appropriated to eight decayed tradespeople not receiving parochial aid. The union comprises fourteen parishes or places, and contains a population of 13,165. In the parish of St. Mary are the remains of the priory of St. John the Baptist, founded in the reign of Henry III., now converted into a private residence. There was also an hospital dedicated to the same patron, the revenue of which, at the Dissolution, was £4. 10. 7.: some land, belonging to it, in the parish of St. Samson, is still called the Spital.