Ilsley, East, or Market-Ilsley (St. Mary)
ILSLEY, EAST, or Market-Ilsley (St. Mary), a market-town and parish, in the union of Wantage, hundred of Compton, county of Berks, 9 miles (N. by E.) from Newbury, and 56 (W.) from London; containing 733 inhabitants. This place was originally called Hildesley, as appears from an inscription on a brass plate in the church, where the name occurs as belonging to an ancient family. The town is pleasantly situated, about seven miles from the Great Western railway, on rising ground forming a part of the chalk hills, or downs, which extend across the county from east to west; and on the road from Newbury to Oxford. The inhabitants are principally employed in agriculture; and the town is noted for its sheep-market, which, with the exception of that of the metropolis, is the largest in the kingdom, the number of sheep and lambs sold in one day sometimes amounting to more than 25,000. The place has also long been celebrated for the quality of its ale; and there is a small manufactory for whiting. The market is on Wednesday; great sheep-markets are held on alternate Wednesdays from Easter to Midsummer, and there is occasionally one before Easter. The fairs for sheep are on the Wednesdays in Easter and Whitsun weeks, August 1st and 26th (the last chiefly for lambs), and the Wednesdays next after September 19th, October 17th, and November 12th. A wool-fair is held in July, and a fair for hiring servants on October 11th. The town is a polling-place for the county, and the petty-sessions for the district are held here. The parish comprises 2945a. 1r. 26p., of which about 1846 acres are arable, 937 pasture, including downs, and about 200 woodland. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £22. 13. 4., and in the gift of Magdalen College, Oxford: the tithes have been commuted for £700, and the glebe comprises 63 acres. There is a place of worship for Wesleyans. The Rev. Richard Wightwick, who, conjointly with Thomas Teesdale, Esq., founded Pembroke College, Oxford, in 1624, was rector. In this parish are three tumuli called the Cross Barrows, two of which, on being opened, were found to contain one human skeleton each, and the third six skeletons: the graves in which they were, had been dug in the native chalk, and filled up with mould brought from a distance; in some of them were discovered the bones of birds and animals, and in others implements of war.