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Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire

Historical Description

Fonthill Giffard, a parish in Wiltshire, 1½ mile SE by E of Hindon, and 2 miles NNW of Tisbury station on the L. & S.W.R. Post town, Tisbury. Acreage, 2004; population, 427. The manor belonged, about the time of the Conquest, to the Giffards; passed to the Maundevilles, the Manduits, the Molyns, the Hungerfords, the Mervyns, the Cottingtons, and the Beckfords; was sold and divided in 1823, and belongs now in part to the Morrisons and in part to Sir Michael Shaw-Stewart. An ancient mansion of the Mervyns on it was destroyed by fire; another mansion, built by the Cottingtons, and inherited by Alderman Beckford, also was destroyed by fire; a third, built by the alderman at a cost of £240,000, went rapidly to decay, and was sold by his son for £9,000; and a fourth, built by that son, the author of " Vathek," on a new site, likewise underwent a disastrous fate. This last was founded in 1796, took the name of Fonthill Abbey, was designed by Wyatt, had aggregately a cruciform outline, with central octagonal tower 278 feet i high; measured 312 feet from north to south, and 250 from east to west; was fitted interiorly in a style of great magnificence; stood in a park about 7 miles in circuit, all enclosed with a wall 12 feet high; had the reputation of being a sort of fairy palace; one of the most splendid edifices in the kingdom, cost directly about £273,000, and indirectly not less than £500,000; came to a sudden end, partly by the sale of the manor in 1823, partly by the fall of the central tower and accompanying crash of the whole edifice in 1825; and is now represented by little else than interesting features within its grounds. A mansion on another site was erected in 1859 by the Marquis of Westminster, and another mansion on another part of the grounds, an edifice in the Italian style with a lofty tower, was altered by the late Mr Momson. Fonthill Abbey, while it stood, was the scene of some great i fetes, and was visited by Lord Nelson, in company with Sir William and Lady Hamilton. The builder and proprietor of It sustained his reverses in connection with West Indian property; retired, after these reverses, to a house at Bath, and died in 1844, at the age of 84. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Salisbury; value, £220 with residence. Patron, the Lord of the Manor. The church was rebuilt in 1865 by the Marquis of Westminster, and is a handsome edifice after designs by Wyatt. There is a Congregational chapel.

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 parishGifford Fonthill St. Nicholas 
Poor Law unionTisbury 

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

Church Records

The register dates from the year 1518.

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



Church of England

Holy Trinity (parish church)

The church of the Holy Trinity, built in 1866, at the cost of the late Marquess of Westminster, is of stone in the French Gothic style of the 14th century, and consists of apsidal chancel, nave, transepts, porches, vestry, and a southwest tower with pinnacles and spire, and containing one bell: there are three stained windows placed as a memorial to the late rector: the pulpit, of alabaster and marble, sculptured with the heads of the four Evangelists, and the font, of freestone, supported by a columns of green marble, were given by the late Alfred Morrison esq. of Fonthill House. The date of the foundation stone of the old church, built into the wall of the vestry of the new, is May 18th, 1748.

Civil Registration

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

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Fonthill Gifford from the following:


Online maps of Fonthill Gifford 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 districtSP3
Post TownSalisbury