UK Genealogy Archives logo
DISCLOSURE: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we may receive a commission.

Amesbury, Wiltshire

Historical Description

Amesbury, a small town and a parish in Wilts. The town stands in the valley of the Avon, 4 miles NW of Porton station on the L. & S.W.R., and 7½ N of Salisbury. It was formerly called Ambrosbury, Ambresbury, and Amblesberie; and it probably derived its name from the ancient British chief Ambrosius Aurelius. It dates from a high antiquity, and in the time of King Edgar was the meeting-place of a synod for settling disputes between the regular and the secular clergy. A densely-wooded hill in its western vicinity bears the name of Vespasian's camp, and is marked by military defences round an area of 39 acres, which are believed to have been first formed by the ancient Britons, and afterwards strengthened and held by the Romans. Stonehenge and Cursus are only 1½ mile beyond this hill, and several other ancient monuments are near. A monastery for 300 monks was founded at the town either by the British Ambrosius or by a contemporary churchman, and this was succeeded, about the year 980, by a Benedictine nunnery, founded by Queen Elfrida, on account of the murder of her son-in-law Edward at Corfe Castle. The nunnery was converted by King Henry II. into a cell to the great convent of Font Everault in Anjou; became the retreat of several royal and noble ladies-particularly Mary, daughter of Edward I., and Eleanor, queen of Henry III.; and rose again to be an independent monastery, one of the richest non-mitred abbeys in England. The ancient abbey is identified with "the holy House of Almesbury" of Tennyson's "Guinevere." A noble mansion now occupies the site of the abbey, and bears its name. This was the seat of the Duke of Queensberry, built by Webb from designs by Inigo Jones, and subsequently improved by the Earl of Burlington; it was also the retreat of the poet Gay, where he wrote the "Beggar's Opera," and it passed in 1824 to Sir Edmond Antrobus, Bart., and was afterwards in great measure rebuilt, and adorned with a Corinthian portico. The parish church belonged originally to the abbey, was restored in 1853, and contains rich features of the Early Pointed style. The town has fallen greatly into decay, but still possesses interest for the sake of the attractions around it, and it has a hotel, a Methodist chapel, and a workhouse. A free grammar school was founded and endowed by John Rose in 1677, and there are other charities for apprenticing lads of the town, &c. A weekly market was formerly held on Friday, but has been discontinued. The immediate environs along the Avon are wooded and charming, while the country beyond is bleak and dreary, but celebrated for coursing. Prime pipe-clay is sometimes found in diggings.

The parish contains also the hamlet of Little or West Amesbury. There is a post, money order, and telegraph office. Acreage, 5936; population, 981. The property belongs chiefly to the estate of Amesbury Abbey. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Salisbury; value, £300. Patrons, the Dean and Chapter of Windsor.

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


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyWiltshire 
Ecclesiastical parishAmesbury St. Mary and St. Melorius 
Poor Law unionAmesbury 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

Findmypast, in association with the Wiltshire Record Office, have the following parish records online for Amesbury:



Church of England

St. Mary (parish church)

The parish church of St. Mary is an ancient structure of flint and stone, apparently Norman, and consisting of chancel, transepts, nave of three bays, south aisle, and a central tower containing a clock and 6 bells: the north transept has a chapel at the east end called the Jesus chapel, and a double piscina: overhead is a parvise or priest's chamber: the chancel has a stone credence supported by two angels: the church was repaired in 1853, and during 1903-6 the nave and tower were restored and the bells rehung at a total cost of £2,500: in 1907 the chancel was new roofed and other repairs made at a cost of about £600, defrayed by the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury: the church affords 656 sittings.

The register of baptisms dates from 1570 and of marriages and burials from 1599, but is continuous as to baptisms only from 1624, and for marriages and burials from 1610.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Amesbury from the following:


Online maps of Amesbury are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

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

RegionSouth West
Postal districtSP4
Post TownSalisbury