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Wilton, Wiltshire

Historical Description

Wilton, a municipal borough, a parliamentary division, and a parish in Wiltshire. The borough stands on the river Wiley, in the peninsula at the confluence with the Nadder, and has stations on the G.W. and L. & S.W. railways, 86 miles from London, and 3 W by N of Salisbury. It was known to the ancient Britons as Caer Giulo, to the Saxons as Wiltan; took these names, and its present one, from its position on the Wiley; was the capital of Wessex, and gave name to Wiltshire; acquired a college in 773, converted into a nunnery or abbey about 800; witnessed the overthrow of Beornwulf of Mercia by Egbert of Wessex in 823, and was the scene of the first grant of tithes to the clergy in 854. It witnessed a defeat of the Danes by Alfred in 871, became the seat of a diocese from 906 till 1050, was burnt by the Danes under Sweyne in 1003; was fired again by the Empress Maud, after routing Stephen, in 1143; recovered speedily from its disasters, and was large and flourishing till 1244; suffered then severe and permanent loss by the diversion from it of the Great Western Road. It was visited by Queen Elizabeth in 1579, and by Prince Henry in 1603; acquired under the Herberts, in the time of Elizabeth, a staple of cloth and carpet manufacture, which became famous in connection with the town's name, and still continues to prosper; had for natives John of Wilton of the 13th century, John of Wilton of the time of Edward III., Thomas of Wilton of the time of Edward IV., and perhaps Massinger who died in 1639. The borough returned two members to Parliament in the reign of Edward I., but by the Reform Act of 1832 the number was reduced to one, and by the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, it lost its separate representation, and was made the head of a parliamentary division of the county. From a very early period Wilton has been a corporate borough, its first charter having been granted by Henry I., in 1100, which is still to be seen. In 1885 a new municipal charter was granted, under which the old corporate boundary was extended. It now includes the whole of the parish of Wilton, with parts of the parishes of Burcombe, South Newton, and Fagglestone St Peter. There is a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors. The town consists chiefly of two streets with neat and cheerful aspect, and has a post, money order, and telegraph office under Salisbury, a hotel, a town-hall, a literary institute, a concert-hall, an ancient cross, an endowed school, an ancient almshouse hospital, and sheep, cattle, and horse fairs on 4 May and 12 Sept. The nunnery or abbey of about 800 became Benedictine, acquired a mitred rank, and was given at the dissolution to Sir W. Herbert, the first Earl of Pembroke. Wilton House occupies the abbey's site, was rebuilt by Wyatt, contains a rich collection of marbles, paintings, and ancient armour, and stands in a richly ornate park. The extensive and beautiful woods of Grovely are about a mile from the town. The modern church superseded an ancient one, now partly taken down; was built in 1845 at a cost of £40,000, is in the Lombardic style, elaborately ornate, has a campanile tower 120 feet high, and contains a very elegant altar-tomb of the late Countess of Pembroke, erected in 1864, also of Sidney Herbert, the founder of the church. The living is a rectory, with Netherhampton annexed, in the diocese of Salisbury; net value, £190 with residence. Patron, the Earl of Pembroke. There are Congregational, Primitive Methodist, and Wesleyan chapels, and some considerable charities.

Wilton or Southern, Parliamentary Division of Wiltshire was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 42,896. The division includes the following:-Hindon- Alvediston, Ansty, Berwick (St John), Berwick (St Leonard), Bishops Fonthill, Chicklade, Chilmark, Dinton, Donhead (St Andrew), Donhead (St Mary), East Knoyle, Ebbesborne Wake, Fonthill Gifford, Fovant, Hindon, Kingston Deverill, Mere, Monckton Deverill, Pertwood, Sedghill, Semley, Stourton, Sutton Mandeville, Swallowcliffe, Teffont Evias, Teffont (Magna), Tisbury (East), Tisbury (West), Tollard Royal, Wardour, West Knoyle; Salisbury and Amesbury-Alderbury, Allington, Amesbury, Barford (St Martin), Baverstock, Berwick (St James), Bishopstone, Boscombe, Bower Chaike, Bramshaw, Britford, Broad Chalke, Bulford, Bnrcombe, Cholderton, Clarendon, Compton Chamberlayne, Coombe Bissett, Damerham (South), Downton, Durnford, Durrington, Earldoms, East Grimstead, Farley-with-Pitton, Fifield Bavant, Fisherton Anger (part of), Fugglestone (St Peter), Great Wishford, Grovely Woods, Homington, Idmiston, Lake and Wilsford, Landford, Laverstock, Little Langford, Maddington, Martin, Melchet Park, Milford (part of), Netherhampton, Newton Toney, Nunton and Bodenham, Odstock, Orcheston (St George), Orcheston (St Mary), Plaitford, Rollstone, Shrewton, South Newton, Standlinch, Stapleford, Steeple Langford, Stratford Toney, Stratford-under-the-Castle, Toyd Farm, West Dean, West Grimstead, West Harnham, West Wellow, Whiteparish, Whitsbury, Wily (part of Deptford), Wilton, Winterbourne Dauntsey, Winterbourne Earls, Winterbourne Gunner, Winterbourne Stoke, Winterslow, Woodford; Everley and Pewsey (part of)-Figheldean, Milston; Warminster (part of)-Fisherton-de-la-Mere and Wiley.

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 parishWilton St. Mary 
HundredBranch and Dole 
Poor Law unionWilton 

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 Wilton:


Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Wilton from the following:


Online maps of Wilton 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 districtSN8
Post TownMarlborough