Architecture

Goodbye to a Medieval Pub in Downton

on Friday, 27 September 2013. Posted in Architecture

In early times, the parish of Downton formed part of a great estate granted to Winchester cathedral. The village itself was divided topographically into three sections which were linked by bridges. Settlement had developed in the High Street, so called in 1452 in a document in Winchester College archives, and from the mid-15th century the area was called the east borough. 

The King’s Arms, at the junction of Church Hatch and High Street, a solid-looking brick building with a tiled roof, was known to be a public house in 1628. We know who owned and occupied the King’s Arms in the mid-C18 from the Guildhall Library insurance documents.  These refer to James Russell, a schoolmaster of Downton, who took out a policy in 1755 ‘on his house only being the King’s Arms Inn at Downton …in the tenure of Lucy Loveday, Innholder… Brick, Timber and Thatched, Brewhouse only adjoining, Thatched. Two Stables only belonging, Thatched, £10 each.’ He paid £250 on the inn and £30 on the brewhouse.

Quakerism in Melksham

on Wednesday, 19 June 2013. Posted in Architecture

We were recently called to investigate the old Spiritualist Church in Melksham which had closed. The building was originally a Quaker Meeting House until that closed in 1959 and it was sold to the Spiritualists. Investigating the twists and turns of its history was part of our remit, and we were grateful to Harold Fassnidge who had trod this path before us.

Born of the Puritanism of the English Civil War, Quakerism was a reaction against what was perceived as a decline in the religious and moral standards of the clergy of the established church. The term ‘Quaker’ originated as a slightly mocking reference to a rebuke made by their leader, George Fox, to Gervaise Bennet, J.P. that he ought to ‘tremble at the name of the Lord’.

The Melksham branch of the ‘Society of Friends’ began to meet originally at Shaw Hill, in the home of Robert and Hester Marshman at some time before 1669, in which year eighty members were recorded as having met there. At two miles from Melksham, their house was evidently considered to be sufficiently safe from any authorities who might disapprove of, and choose to interfere with, their activities.

The Old Bridewell

on Wednesday, 03 April 2013. Posted in Architecture, Crime

In the centre of Devizes is an unassuming building, not very different from those red-brick houses flanking it. It has large, airy two-by-two pane sashes with typical segmental arches which contain a shaped keystone. Behind the net curtains can be glimpsed a cosy living room, and a pretty garden beyond. This is The Grange and it was once the old Devizes jail, or bridewell, in Bridewell Street.

The Bridewell started life in 1579 as a timber-framed building in the street which now bears its name. It was established after the opening of the Bridewell prison in London in 1556 as a new type of prison to deal with the growing numbers of those regarded as rogues and vagabonds or the idle poor. This example had been followed in Oxford in 1562, Salisbury in 1564 and Norwich in 1565. It was burnt down twice and rebuilt: after a fire in 1619 and another more serious fire in 1630, but still in timber, much of which survives today.

In 1771, the Devizes bridewell was re-fronted in brick: the date appears in studs on the original front door which was reused.

Potterings in Potterne

on Friday, 05 April 2013. Posted in Architecture

One of our latest visits took us to Jenny Mill in Potterne, to look at a mill that had been turned into the Mill School when the last miller left in the mid-C20. Without a map, it would have been very difficult to find Jenny Mill as it is as literally ‘the back of beyond’ at the end of a narrow track.

According to the Domesday Survey, there were six mills at Potterne in 1086. In his ‘Notes on Potterne’ (WSHC 1172/193), written in 1914, the then Rector, Rev. H. E. Medlicott, suggested that ‘Five Lanes Mill’ (as it was then called) was ‘no doubt one of the Domesday mills’, but offered no evidence to support this conclusion.  The mill as it stands has been rebuilt over again, probably several times, and what is there represents a rebuild of the 18th and 19th centuries, incorporating fragments of an earlier, timber-framed building. Still less remains of the workings of the mill; the leat that fed the wheel has been diverted and conduited around the site, and all that remains are two huge mill-stones propped decoratively against the gable end.

Tropenell and Chalfield and Naughty Lady Constance

on Saturday, 02 March 2013. Posted in Architecture

Last week I visited an enthusiastic meeting of the Atworth W.I. and talked about the meanings of pub names. At the end of the meeting I suggested that I might run a History Centre day course about the history and development of the village later in the year; this met with approval and I will be organising it for June 2013. At the moment we’ll selling surplus copies of older and better quality (although not always better physical quality) Wiltshire books; this week a gentleman came in and bought the two volumes of the limited edition Tropenell Cartulary as he is writing a new guide to Great Chalfield Manor (in the civil parish of Atworth). This reminded me that I once had a friend with the surname Trapnell, descended from that medieval family. All these coincidences gave me a subject for this blog!

Thomas Tropenell was born around 1405 and married twice, both times to widows, but it was only from his second marriage, when he was over 50, that there were any children. He seems to have been a man of the law and claimed the manor of Great Chalfield as he was a descendent by marriage of the Percy family, who had held it from 1201 until a time of dispute by various branches of the family in the early 15th century.


An interesting sidelight on this family is provided by the antics of Sir Henry de Percy’s second wife Constance, described as “bedfellow and cosyn to Maister Robert Wayville, bisshoppe of Salisbury, born to no land, neither to none arms”. Possibly because of “the naughty lyf the said Constance his second wyf lyed in with the bisshoppe Wayvile and with others” Sir Henry went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1354. Unfortunately he never reached the city, dying at Cologne. Constance managed to survive a further three husbands, including John de Percy, no relation to her first husband, of Little Chalfield.

House History - it's more recent than you think!

on Wednesday, 30 January 2013. Posted in Architecture

You may think it’s not for you, but you can still make use of the History Centre, even if you don’t have ancestors that come from Wiltshire. If you are a Wiltshire resident, we have information that can be of use to you relating to where you live. Even if your house is relatively modern (for example the 1960s) we will have maps showing what the site originally looked like and the names of former occupiers. I’d like to take you through just some of the sources we hold to detail what may be available about your house.

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