Ashton, Steeple (St. Mary)
ASHTON, STEEPLE (St. Mary), a parish, partly in the union of Westbury and Whorwelsdown, and partly in that of Melksham, hundred of Whorwelsdown, Whorwelsdown and N. divisions of Wilts; containing, with the chapelry of Semington, and the tythings of West Ashton, Hinton, and Littleton, 1941 inhabitants, of whom 848 are in the village of Steeple-Ashton, 4 miles (E. by S.) from Trowbridge. This place derived the adjunct by which it is distinguished from other localities of the same name, from the lofty spire of its church, which was first injured, and then struck down by lightning in 1670. It was formerly of some importance, and had the grant of a market in the reign of Edward III., which was confirmed in that of Richard II., with the addition of an annual fair. In the time of Henry VIII. Leland states that the clothing trade was carried on here to a very considerable extent, but it has ceased to exist; the market also has been for many years discontinued, but the fair, though now ill attended, is still held on the 18th of September. Steeple-Ashton contains by estimation 5400 acres, of which 2120 are arable, 2660 pasture, and 540 woodland; Semington consists of 1195a. 1r. 24p., of which 213 acres are arable, and 923 pasture. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £17. 2. 6.; net income, £852; patron, the Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, who is restricted in his presentation to one of three senior foundation fellows. The tithes, exclusively of the tythings, have been commuted for £362. 10., payable to the College, £285 payable to the vicar, £18. 2. to the rector of Trowbridge, and £10 to the impropriator. The church is a spacious structure in the later English style, built between the years 1480 and 1500, and has a lofty square embattled tower at the west end, crowned with pinnacles, and a north and south porch of elegant design. There is a chapel of ease at Semington, which probably was in early times a parish; it is in the later English style. At West Ashton also is a church, forming a distinct incumbency. John Hicks bequeathed £5 per annum for teaching children, and John Togwell a further sum for the same purpose; which have been laid out in the purchase of £519. 10. 7., three per cent. consols. The parish is remarkable for fossils of the coral-rag formation.