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Heytesbury (St. Peter and St. Paul)

HEYTESBURY (St. Peter and St. Paul), a parish, and formerly a representative borough and a market-town, in the union of Warminster, hundred of Heytesbury, Warminster and S. divisions of Wilts, 3½ miles (E. S. E.) from Warminster, and 93 (W. S. W.) from London; containing 1311 inhabitants. The ancient appellations of this place were Hegtredesbyrig and Heightsbury, whence is obviously derived its present name. During the contest between Stephen and Matilda, the empress is said to have occasionally resided here. The town is situated in a pleasaut valley, on the south-west verge of Salisbury Plain, and on the northern bank of the small river Wily, on the road from London to Bridgwater; it consists principally of one long and irregular street, and is supplied with good water. The manufacture of cloth was formerly carried on to a considerable extent, the vicinity of the river affording a facility for the erection of mills; two manufactories were in operation, one for broadcloth, the other both for cloth and kerseymere, but the trade has of late very much declined. There is a small fair on May 14th, for cattle, sheep, &c. An act was passed in 1845 for a railway from near Chippenham, by Heytesbury, to Salisbury. Heytesbury was a borough by prescription, but not incorporated: it first sent members to parliament in the 28th of Henry VI., from which time two were regularly returned, until the 2nd of William IV., when it was disfranchised. The manor belongs to Lord Heytesbury, who appoints a bailiff; also a bailiff for the hundred, which is co-extensive with the manor. A court leet is held at Michaelmas, when two constables and two tythingmen for the town, and similar officers for the hundred, are chosen.

The living is a perpetual curacy, generally held with that of Knook, and in the patronage of the Bishop of Sarum; net income of Heytesbury, £75. The church, situated in the centre of the town, is a massive cruciform structure, with a square tower rising from the intersection; in the choir are fourteen very ancient oak stalls. The church was made collegiate about the year 1165, by Joceline, Bishop of Salisbury, and was rebuilt by Thomas, Lord Hungerford, in 1404: there were formerly two chantries, which have been suppressed; but the prebends of Tytherington, Horningsham, Hill Deverill, and Swallowcliff, which were attached to them, still remain. The Incorporated Society, in 1841, granted £100 towards repairing the church. There is a place of worship for Independents. An hospital, begun by Robert, Lord Hungerford, was completed and endowed, pursuant to his will, by his widow Margaret, Lady Hungerford and Botscaux, who, about 1472, amortized the manor of Cheverell-Burnell or Cheverell-Hales for its support. The design of the institution was to maintain a custos (who was to be a priest in full orders), and twelve poor men and one woman, nominated by the lord of the manor; the custos receives £150 per annum. On the summit of Cotley Hill, north-westward from the town, is a large tumulus, surrounded by a circular ditch and low vallum; and on another hill in the vicinity is the encampment called Scratchbury. Camp, so named from the British word Crech, signifying a hill; the circuit of its rampart is one mile and eighty-six yards, and its greatest height sixty-six feet, including an area of forty acres. There are other encampments on several bold eminences in the vicinity. Mr. William Cunnington, an industrious antiquary, was long a resident at this place, where he died and was interred in 1810. It confers the title of Baron on the family of A Court, whose ancient family seat is on the north-east of the town.

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