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Melksham, Wiltshire

Historical Description

Melksham, a town and two parishes in Wiltshire. The town stands on the river Avon, and on the Wilts and Berks Canal, with a station on the G.W.R., 96 miles from London, and 9¾ E by S of Bath. The town was anciently surrounded by a forest of its own name, a favourite hunting-ground of Edward I.; was an important place in the Norman times, and in those of Edward I. and John; declined so much at a later period as to have escaped the notice of Leland in his description of its neighbourhood; rose again to importance as a seat of manufacture; underwent some decline after the introduction of railways; consists chiefly of one long street, irregularly aligned, but mostly well built; is a seat of petty sessions and county courts, has a local board consisting of twelve members, and has two banks, two chief inns, a town-hall and cheese-market, a four-arched bridge, a church, four dissenting chapels, and a literary institution. The town-hall and cheese-market was built in 1847, and is in the Italian style of white freestone. The new hall is a building of Bath stone, and is used for meetings and lectures. The church is a large structure originally cruciform, partly of the 12th century, has an embattled and pinnacled tower, originally in the centre of the church, but removed to the W end in 1846, and includes two side chapels. It has been restored and enlarged at various times, anda handsomely sculptured reredos was erected in 1894. The church contains monuments of the Awdrys, the Jenkinses' and others. There are dissenting chapels for Congregationalists, Baptists, and Wesleyans, a Friends' meeting-house, and a cottage hospital. Two mineral springs, respectively saline and chalybeate, were discovered near the town in the 18th century; a new saline spring was found at a depth of 851 feet in 1816; and a bath and pump-room, with a crescent and promenade, was subsequently erected at considerable cost in expectation of making the town a watering-place, but it proved a failure. A cattle and cheese market is held every alternate Tuesday, and a cattle fair on 27 July. The manufacture of fancy-cloth and sacking is carried on, and there is an india-rubber factory, a dairy company, flour mills, foundries, and a feather refining factory. It has a post, money order, and telegraph office. The former parish of Melksham was divided by the Local Government Act, 1894, into two separate parishes-viz., Melksham Within, the urban portion comprised in the local board area; and Melksham Without, the rural portion. The latter was divided for parish council purposes into four wards-Shaw and Whitley, Beanacre, Blackmore, and Woolmore. The parish council consists of fifteen members. Acreage of the united parish, 8406; population, 4284; of the ecclesiastical, 3638. The manor belonged anciently to King Harold. Beanacre was the seat of the Selfs, and Melksham House of the Longs. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Salisbury; value, £191 with residence. Patrons, the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury. The vicarage of Shaw and Whitley is a separate benefice. The church of St Andrew is about a mile from the town, and is a handsome building in the Early English style. There is a mission church at Beanacre.

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

Administration

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

Ancient CountyWiltshire 
Ecclesiastical parishMelksham St. Michael 
HundredMelksham 
Poor Law unionMelksham 

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


Church Records

The register of St. Michael dates from the year 1560.

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

BaptismsBannsMarriagesBurials
1568-18901655-18231569-19031568-1903

Churches

Church of England

St. Andrew, Forest

St. Andrew's church, about 1 mile from the town, erected at the sole expense of the late Rev. E. L. Barnwell, of Melksham House, for the use of the district of Sandridge and Melksham Forest, is a building in the Early English style, and consists of chancel, nave, south porch, and a western turret containing one bell: the reredos was erected in memory of Ralph L. Lopes esq. D.L., J.P.: the east window is stained and there are windows to the memory of Mrs. and Miss Lopes, Sir Massey Lopes, Mrs. Parker, Mr. Grist and Mrs. Tottenham: there are 200 sittings.

St. Michael, Church Street (parish church)

The church of St. Michael is a spacious edifice of freestone, which dates from the Norman period, but is now chiefly in the Perpendicular style, and consists of Norman chancel, nave of five bays, aisles, north porch, and an embattled tower with pinnacles, containing 8 bells: it was restored and enlarged in 1840, when the central tower was removed and the present tower built at the west end; and again restored in 1881: in 1891 the church was reseated and new floored, the oaken roof opened, and a carved oak screen and brass lectern were then given by C. F. Rumboll esq. M.D.: in 1894 the reredos was restored at considerable cost by the trustees of the late Sir John Awdry, and in 1897 a stained window was placed by Mrs. Stewart, of Lowbourne, in memory of her father, the late General Moule: the west window was the gift, in 1899, of Mr. George White, who also gave the six clerestory windows in 1910: in 1903 a memorial window was placed in the aisle to those parishioners who fell during the campaign in South Africa, 1899-1902: the organ was rebuilt in 1903, and an oak screen fitted, at the west end: in 1907 a handsome alabaster font was provided: there are 600 sittings.

Baptist

Baptist Chapel, Broughton Road

The Baptist chapel, Broughton road, founded in 1669, has 380 sittings.

Baptist Chapel, Forest

The Baptist chapel, Forest, erected in 1839, has seats for 150 persons.

Ebenezer Particular Baptist chapel, Union Street

The Ebenezer Particular Baptist chapel, Union street, erected in 1835, will seat 150 persons.

Congregational

Congregational Chapel, Market Place

The Congregational chapel, Market place, founded in 1773, has 400 sittings.

Methodist

Primitive Methodist Chapel, Forest

The Primitive Methodist chapel, Forest, will seat 150 persons.

Wesleyan Chapel, Market Place

The Wesleyan chapel, Market place, erected in 1872, has 450 sittings.

Wesleyan Chapel, Semington Lane

The Wesleyan chapel, Semington lane, built in 1896, will seat 100

Society of Friends

Society of Friends Meeting House, King Street

The Society of Friends' meeting house, King street, erected in 1734, has 300 seats.


Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Melksham from the following:


Maps

Online maps of Melksham 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:

CountyWiltshire
RegionSouth West
CountryEngland
Postal districtSN12
Post TownMelksham