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Wootton-Bassett (All Saints)

WOOTTON-BASSETT (All Saints), a market-town and parish, and formerly a representative borough, in the union of Cricklade and Wootton-Bassett, hundred of Kingsbridge, Swindon and N. divisions of Wilts, 36 miles (N. by W.) from Salisbury, and 87 (W.) from London; containing 2990 inhabitants. This place, which appears to have been originally of greater importance than it is at present, was, at the time of the Norman Conquest, called Wodeton, from wode, a wood, and tun, a town. About a century after that period, it became the property of the noble family of Bassett, from whom it derived the adjunct to its name. The town is pleasantly situated on elevated ground, commanding extensive and pleasingly diversified prospects of the surrounding country, which is extremely fertile and in a high state of cultivation. It consists principally of one street, nearly half a mile in length; the houses are in general indifferently built and of mean appearance. The manufacture of broad-cloth, which was formerly carried on, has entirely ceased, and there is now no trade beyond what is requisite for the supply of the inhabitants. The Wilts and Berks canal passes within half a mile to the south of the town, and the Great Western railway has a station here. The market is on Tuesday; and fairs, formerly six in number, but now reduced to two, are held on the Mondays next after the feasts of Pentecost and St. Bartholomew.

The town received its earliest charter of incorporation in the reign of Henry VI., and under this grant, renewed by Charles II. in the 31st year of his reign, the government is vested in a mayor, two aldermen, and twelve capital burgesses, assisted by a town-clerk and subordinate officers. The borough first exercised the elective franchise in the 25th of Henry VI., from which time it regularly returned two members to parliament till it was disfranchised by the act 2nd of William IV., cap. 45. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £12, and in the gift of the Earl of Clarendon: the great tithes have been commuted for £585. 10., and the vicarial for £485, with a glebe of 92 acres. The church is an ancient structure: in cleaning the south wall, some years since, a curious painting was discovered of the Murder of Thomas à Becket, executed in a rude style. There is a place of worship for Independents; also a free school founded in 1688, by Richard Jones, and endowed with lands now producing about £25 per annum. An hospital dedicated to St. John, which formerly existed here, was, during the reign of Henry IV., granted and united to the priory of Bradenstoke, in this county. The old manor-house has been converted into a farm-house. At a short distance below the town is a mineral spring, possessing the same properties as that of Cheltenham, and much used by those residing in the neighbourhood, though not generally known.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.