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Wiltshire, England

(Wilts)

Historical Description

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.

Estates are of all sizes; arable and dairy farms also are of all sizes, from comparatively small to so much as 5000 acres, and sheep farms range about 2000 acres. About 2 miles from Downton is the celebrated College of Agriculture, founded by Professor Wrightson. Broadcloths and other kinds of woollen goods are made at Bradford, Trowbridge, and some other places; carpets of excellent quality at Wilton, and silk goods at Devizes and Salisbury. The G.W.R. locomotive and carriage works are at Swindon, and there are large bacon-curing establishments at Calne. The Thames and Severn Canal, the Kennet and Avon Canal, and the Wilts and Berks Canal give extensive facilities of inland,navigation to the N. The G.W.R. goes quite through the county, and sends off several branches. The S.W.R. also traverses the southern part of the county.

According to the census returns issued in 1893, the chief occupations of the inhabitants were:—Professional, 3953 males and 2920 females; domestic, 897 males and 15,432 females; commercial, 7531 males and 142 females; agricultural, 27,672 males and 1029 females; industrial, 27,672 males and 1029 females; and "unoccupied," including retired business men, pensioners, those living on their own means, &c. 15,596 males and 69,364 females; or a total in the county of 94,738 males and 98,176 females. The number of men employed in the leading industries was as follows:—Agricultural labourers, 17,615; general labourers, 7304; farmers, 3060; carpenters, 2331. The chief occupations of women were—domestic service, with a total of 12,370; millinery and dressmaking, 2815; woollen cloth manufacturers, 2028. There were also in the county 233 blind persons, 211 deaf, 121 deaf and dumb, 1755 mentally deranged.

The county is divided for parliamentary purposes into five divisions—viz. (1) Northern or Cricklade, (2) North-Western or Chippenham, (3) Western or Westbury, (4) Eastern or Devizes, (5) Southern or Wilton. It also includes the parliamentary borough of Salisbury. The county includes the seven municipal boroughs of Calne, Chippenham, Devizes, Malmesbury, Marlborough, Salisbury, and Wilton. Wilts has one court of quarter sessions, and is divided into sixteen petty sessional divisions. The boroughs of Devizes, Marlborough, and Salisbury have separate commissions of the peace, and the boroughs of Devizes and Salisbury have, in addition, separate courts of quarter sessions. The county contains 334 entire civil parishes and parts of 5 others. It contains 312 entire ecclesiastical parishes or districts, with parts of 11 others. The county is governed by a lord lieutenant and custos, a high sheriff, and a county council consisting of 20 aldermen and 60 councillors. It is in the Western judicial circuit, the Southern military district, and chiefly in the diocese of Salisbury, but partly in that of Gloucester and Bristol. The assizes are held at Salisbury and Devizes. H.M. Prison is at Devizes. Population of the county (1801) 183,820, (1821) 219,574, (1841) 256,280, (1861) 249,311, (1881) 258,965, (1891) 264,997.

The territory of Wilts was inhabited by the Belgæ and Attrebatii; was included by the Romans in their Britannia Prima; formed part of the Saxon kingdom of Wessex; was overrun by the Danes in 871, 1003, 1006, and 1011; was given at the Norman Conquest to William d'Ewe, Edward de Saresbury, Robert d'Oili, Ralph de Mortimer, Milo Crispin, and others; was the scene of sharp contests in the war between Maud and Stephen; shared considerably, but not so much as many other counties, in the Civil Wars of Charles I.; and participated, at Salisbury, in prominent events of the revolution of 1688. Great ancient monuments, of the kind called Druidical, are at Stonehenge and Avebury. Cromlechs are at Bulford, Clatford, Littleton Drew, and Monkton Fields. Ancient British boundaries are presented in Wans Dyke and Bokerley Ditch. An ancient British road is the Ridge Way. Ancient British villages are traceable on Salisbury Plain. Barrows of four kinds stud all the chalk hills and valleys. Ancient camps, variously British, Roman, Saxon, and Danish, are in numerous places. Roman roads are the Fosse Way, Ermine Street, the Julian Way, and roads from Old Sarum to Bath, Dorchester, Uphill, Winchester, and Silchester. Norman castles have left remains or mounds at Ludgershall, Wardour, Marlborough, Malmesbury, Devizes, Castlecombe, and Sherrington. Monastic remains are at Laycock, Bradenstock, Monk Farleigh, Kingswood, Kingston St Michael, and Malmesbury.


Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Archives and Libraries

Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre
Cocklebury Road
Chippenham
Wiltshire
SN15 3QN
Tel: 01249 705500
Fax: 01249 705527
email: heritageadmin@wiltshire.gov.uk


Church Records

The complete set of Phillimore & Co's Wiltshire Parish Registers - Marriages series is available online.

Findmypast, in association with the Wiltshire Record Office, have the Baptisms, Banns, Marriages, and Burials online for Wiltshire parishes.


Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

List of Registration Districts in Wiltshire from 1837 to 1974.


Directories & Gazetteers

The Historical Directories web site have a number of directories relating to Wiltshire online, including:
Kelly's, Pigot, Slater, etc.

We have transcribed the entry for Wiltshire from the following:


Maps

Old map of Wiltshire circa 1848 (Samuel Lewis)

Old map of Wiltshire circa 1895 (Gazetteer of England and Wales)

Old map of Wiltshire circa 1885 (Kelly's Directory of Wiltshire)


Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Wiltshire papers online:


Parishes & places

Ablington
Aldbourne
Alderbury
Alderton
Allcannings
Allington (Amesbury)
Allington (Chippenham)
Allington (Devizes)
Alton Barnes
Alton Priors
Alvesdiston
Amesbury
Anstey
Ashcombe
Ashley
Ashley (Box)
Ashton Gifford
Ashton Keynes
Atworth
Aughton
Avebury
Avon
Avon (Christian Malford)
Avon (Stratford sub Castle)
Axford
Badbury
Bagdon Hill
Bapton
Barbury
Barford St Martin
Bathampton, Great and Little
Battlesbury
Baverstock
Baycliff
Baydon
Baynton
Beanacre
Beechingstoke
Belbury Ring
Bemerton
Berwick Bassett
Berwick St James
Berwick St John
Berwick St Leonard
Beversbrook
Biddeston
Bishops Cannings
Bishopstone (Salisbury)
Bishopstone (Shrivenham)
Bishopstrow
Black Heath
Blackland
Blackmore
Blunsdon St Andrew
Bodenham
Bokerley Ditch
Boreham
Boscombe
Bourton
Bowden Hill
Bower Chalk
Bowood
Box
Box River
Boyton
Braden
Bradenstoke cum Clack
Bradford on Avon
Bradon Forest
Bratton
Braydon
Bremhill or Bremble
Bremilham or Cowage
Brickworth
Brigmerston
Brinkworth
Britford or Burford
Brixton Deverill
Broad Chalk
Broad Hinton
Broad Town
Brokenborough
Bromham
Broughton Gifford
Brunton
Bulbudge
Bulford
Bulkington
Burbage
Burcombe
Burton
Burton Hill
Bury Wood
Buttermere
Buxbury
Calne
Calstone Wellington or Calstone Willington
Cams Hill
Casterley Camp
Castle Combe
Castle Ditch
Castle Eaton
Castle Rings
Catcomb
Chaddenwick
Chapel Plaster
Chapmanslade
Charlcott
Charlton (Devizes)
Charlton (Donhead St Mary)
Charlton (Downton)
Charlton (Malmesbury)
Charnham Street
Chedglow
Chelworth
Chelworth (Crudwell)
Cheney Court
Cherhill
Chicklade
Chicksgrove
Chidbury or Cidbury Hill
Chilhampton
Chilmark
Chilton Folliatt
Chippenham
Chirton
Chiselbury
Chisenbury
Chisenbury de la Folly
Chisledon
Chitterne All Saints
Chitterne St Mary
Chittoe
Christian Malford
Church
Chute
Chute Forest
Clack
Clarendon Park
Clatford
Clearbury Ring
Cleaverton
Clee Hills
Cleveancy or Cleave Ansty
Cleverton
Cliffe Pypard
Clinch
Cloatly
Coate
Coate (Liddington)
Codford
Codford St Mary
Codford St Peter
Cole Park
Colerne
Collingbourne Ducis
Collingbourne Kingston
Combe
Compton
Compton Bassett
Compton Chamberlayne
Conholt Park
Conock
Coombe Bissett
Coombe Castle
Cophead
Corsham
Corsley
Corston
Corton
Cotley Hill
Cricklade
Crockerton
Crofton and Wolfhall
Croucheston
Crudwell
Dauntsey
Deptford
Derry Hill
Deverill
Devizes
Devizes St James
Devizes St John
Devizes St Mary
Dilton
Dilton Marsh
Dinton
Ditchampton
Ditteridge
Dognol
Donhead St Andrew
Donhead St Mary
Downton
Draycot Cerne
Draycott Foliat
Draycott Foliatt
Durnford
Durrington
Earldoms
East and West Shercot
East and West Towel
East Castle
East Coulston
East Grafton
East Grimstead
East Harnham
East Kennet
East Knoyle
East Lavington
East Tytherton
Eastcott
Eastcott (Urchfont)
Eastcourt
Easterton
Eastlound
Easton
Easton Grey
Easton Piercy
Easton Royal
Eastridge
Eastrop
Ebbesborne Wake
Edington
Eisey
Elcomb
Elcot
Elston
Enford
Erlestoke
Etchilhampton
Even Swindon
Everleigh
Ewen
Farley
Faulstone
Fiddington
Fifield
Fifield Bavant
Figheldean
Fisherton Anger
Fisherton de la Mere
Fittleton
Flintham
Fonthill Bishop
Fonthill Gifford
Ford
Forest Hill
Fosbury
Fovant
Foxham
Foxley
Froxfield
Fugglestone St Peter
Furze Cope
Furzley
Fyfield
Garsdon
Great and Little Ashley
Great Bedwin
Great Chalfield
Great Cheverell
Great Somerford
Great Wishford
Grittenham
Grittleton
Grovely Wood
Hacklestone
Ham
Hamptworth
Hamshill Ditches
Hamston
Hanging Langford
Hankerton
Hannington
Hardenhuish
Harestock
Hartham
Haslebury
Hatch
Haxton Down
Haydon and Haydon Wick
Haydon Hill
Haystone
Heale House
Heddington
Heytesbury
Heywood
Highway
Highworth
Hilcott
Hill Deverill
Hillmarton
Hilperton
Hindon
Hodson
Holt
Homington
Horningsham
Hughditch
Huish
Hullavington
Hurcot
Hurdcott
Idmiston
Iford
Imber
Inglesham
Keevil
Kellaways
Kemble
Kingsdown
Kingston Deverill
Kingston Langley
Kington St Michael
Knook
Knoyle
Lackham
Lacock
Lake
Landford
Langley Burrell
Latton
Laverstock
Lea
Leigh (Ashton Keynes)
Leigh (Great Bradford)
Leigh Delamere
Leigh Hill
Leigh Westbury
Leybridge
Lidbury
Liddiard Millicent
Liddiard Tregoz
Liddington
Limpley Stoke
Linley
Little Bedwin
Little Chalfield and Cottles
Little Cheverell
Little Hinton
Little Langford
Little London
Little Salisbury
Little Somerford
Littlecott
Littleton
Littleton Drew
Littleton Pannell
Long Knoll
Long Newnton
Long Street
Longbridge Deverill
Longford
Luckington
Ludgershall
Lushill
Lyneham
Maddington
Maiden Bradley
Maisey
Malmesbury
Malmesbury Abbey
Manningford Abbots
Manningford Bohun
Manningford Bruce
Manton
Marden
Market Lavington
Marlborough
Marlborough Downs
Marridge Hill
Marston
Marston Maisey
Martin
Martin (Great Bedwin)
Melchet Park
Melksham
Membury
Mere
Middle Hill
Midway
Milbourn
Mildenhall or Minall
Milston
Milton
Milton Lilbourne
Minty
Monkton Deverill
Monkton Farleigh
Mousehole
Murcott
Nether Hampton
Nether Street
Netheravon
Nettleton
Netton
Netton (Durnford)
Newham
Newton
Newton Toney
Newtown
Newtown (Enford)
Newtown (Shalbourn)
Norrington
North Bradley
North Newnton
North Standen
North Tidworth
North Wraxall
Norton Bavant
Norton Coleparle or Norton
Nunton with Bodenham
Nurstead
Oaksey
Oare
Odstock
Ogbourne St Andrew
Ogbourne St George
Ogbury
Old Sarum
Oldborough or Oldbury
Oldbury
Orcheston St George
Orcheston St Mary
Over Street
Overton
Overton Heath
Overtown
Patney
Pen Pits
Pertwood
Pewsey
Pewsham
Pitmead
Pitton
Pitts
Plaitford
Poole Keynes
Porton
Potterne
Poulshot
Poulton
Preshute
Purton
Quidham Street
Rainscombe
Ramsbury
Redlynch
Road Hill
Rockley
Rodborne Cheney
Rodborne or Redborn
Roddenbury Hill
Rollstone
Rowde
Rowley
Rushall
Rushmore Lodge
Rusley
Ryever
Salisbury
Salisbury Plain
Salisbury St Edmund
Salisbury St Martin
Salisbury St Thomas
Salisbury The Close
Salterton
Salthrop
Sambourn or Sombourn
Savernake
Savernake Forest
Scratchbury
Seagry
Sedghill
Seend
Semington
Semley
Sevenhampton
Shaw and Whitley
Shepherds Shore
Sherrington
Sherston Magna
Sherston Parva or Sherston Pinkney
Shorncote
Shrewton
Shripple
Silbury Hill
Slaughterford
Snap
Somerford Keynes
Sopworth
South Damerham
South Marston
South Newton
South Wraxall
Southbroom
Southend
Southton or Vallance
Southwick
Spirthill
St Margaret
Standen
Standlinch or Standlynch
Stanton Fitzwarren
Stanton St Bernard
Stanton St Quintin
Staple
Stapleford
Startley
Staverton
Steep Green
Steeple Ashton
Steeple Langford
Stert
Stitchcomb
Stock
Stockley
Stockton
Stoford
Stoke Farthing
Stourhead
Stourton
Stratford Tony
Stratford under the Castle
Stratton St Margaret
Studley (Bremhill)
Studley (Calne)
Studley (Chippenham)
Studley (Trowbridge)
Surrendrall or Surrendell
Sutton Benger
Sutton Mandeville
Sutton Veney
Swallowcliffe
Swindon
Teffont Evias
Teffont Magna
The Biss
The Bourns
The Kennet
The Nadder
The Wiley
Throope
Tidcombe
Tilshead
Tisbury
Tockenham
Tollard Royal
Trowbridge
Tytherington
Tytherton Lucas
Upavon
Upton Lovell
Upton Scudamore
Urchfont or Erchfont
Wadswell and Wadswick
Wanborough
Wardour
Warminster
Wedhampton
West Ashton
West Cholderton
West Coulston
West Dean
West Grafton
West Grimstead
West Harnham
West Kennet
West Kington
West Knoyle
West Lavington
West Wellow
Westbury
Westport St Mary
Westwood cum lford
Whaddon
Whiteparish
Whitley
Wickball
Wilcot
Wilsford
Wilsford or Wilsford Dauntsey
Wilton
Wingfield or Winkfield
Winsley
Winterbourne Bassett
Winterbourne Dantsey
Winterbourne Earls
Winterbourne Gunner
Winterbourne Monkton
Winterbourne Stoke
Winterslow
Woodborough
Woodford
Wootton Bassett
Wootton Rivers
Worton
Wroughton
Wylye or Wiley
Yarnbury
Yatesbury
Yatton Keynell
Zeals

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Wiltshire 1623. Edited by George W. Marshall, LL.D. is online.

Map of Wiltshire