Melksham is an excellent centre for a variety of days out – whatever your interests, being in the heart of Wiltshire. Wiltshire is widely regarded for its archaeology an ancient history, with beautiful countryside, picture postcard villages and featuring many splendid landscaped gardens, stately homes and a wealth of National Trust Properties.
Very close to Melksham are
Also Close to home Castle Combe, Biddestone, Box tunnel created Isimbard Brunel, Which the sun shines through once a year on his birthday.
While nearby Chippenham
was an occasional country base for King Alfred, who had a
hunting lodge there, Melksham was the place where
he did the business, it was but a small place in the middle of Chippenham Forest. Not only a great place for hunting but
also a useful hiding place from marauding Danes. Later as Melksham
grew it became increasingly known as
A couple of hundred years later
Harold handed over the Kingdom without so much as batting an eye to the
The forest must have been cleared
a bit by then as there were listed several farms and mills. In a big share
out of their newly gained wealth the
As the forest made way for pasture and the town gradually began to grow, the cloth mills took on a greater importance. The area around Canon Square was formerly cottages for the weavers the church of St Michael is to one side and Church Walk the other, leads towards the river, which powered the mills.
John Fowler was born in Melksham in 1826, the son of a Quaker merchant. He started
his working life at a corn merchants, but on
reaching 21 left to work at a Middlesborough
engineering company. He invented a stationary steam hauled plough for land
drainage and later set up his own engineering business in
Gradually the weaving died out. The cloth makers of Melksham found it increasingly difficult to compete with more intensively mechanised mills of the north yet were unable, or unwilling to produce cheaper quality cloth. They resorted to paying their outworkers less, which led to street fighting as the workers protested at their poverty.
As the mills fell silent agriculture and engineering grew. Along came the canal of the Wilts & Berks Co. Followed by the railway. Neither made as great an impression on the town as the motor car and the Avon Rubber Company who set up a tyre manufacturing plant. During the last war giant grain silos were built between the railway and the Holt road. The railway had private sidings serving this and engineering works. The sidings are gone and now the most prominent feature is the roundabout, testament to the rise in road transport and the decline of rail.
The railway had already killed off
the canal, but its route can still be traced through parts of the town. The
most obvious point being the remains of a humped bridge in
The town has continued to grow, and
during the last sixty years or so has diversified greatly in the types of
businesses. It was at one time described as being only second to Swindon in its industry, before the coming of the Great
Western Railway, Melksham was some five times the
size of the little village of Swindon! Much of the
building that took place in the middle 1900's was pretty dire. Several fine
The county has been host to a number of notable battles, including Alfred`s defeat of the Danes at Ethandune where despite tremendous odds and a seemingly impregnable hill-fort, he used all his guile and cunning to win a famous victory. The civil war battle of Roundway Hill near Devizes also figures prominently in our 'warrior' history.
In more recent times, the county, especially Trowbridge in the west, was renowned the world over for its quality woolen products. Alas, all mills are now confined to memory and text, although Trowbridge now hosts a museum where details of this aspect of the county's past can be explored.
Lacock abbey was
founded by Lady Ela the Countess of
Another famous resident of Lacock was William Fox Talbot in 1835. He was one of the pioneers of photography, and discovered how to make prints from negatives.
Visitors to Lacock are shown the Oriel window from which he took his first successful photograph.
The Village has many architectural designs from the early timber framework to the Georgian pediment. The tithe barn, 14th century doorways and several old weavers’ cottages make it a delight to explore.
Lacock was given to the National Trust in 1944 by Matilda Talbot.
Originally home to a Roman Villa and then a castle as well. Castle Combe is the Wiltshire Mecca of picturesque villages. There are many wonderful buildings including the Dower House and the White Hart as well as the lovely church.
The church was extensively restored in the 19th century but mostly remains the old work. Round the top of the tower run 76 arches high and low. The parapet is carved with nearly fifty stone heads. Looking down on the roof is a carving of a shuttle and scissors the mark of the cloth industry put there by the merchants who built the tower. Walter De Dunstaville (1270) whose family owned the Castle after the Norman conquest has his tomb in the church with effigy showing him in full chain armour with angels at his head and a dog at his feet, and six small figures in the panels of the tomb.
The Scrope family moved in as Lords of the manor in the reign of Richard II and stayed for nearly 500 years. The manor house along with later additions became a hotel. Castle Combe did develop as a weaving town along with the rest of Wiltshire in the fifteenth century. It manufactured a red and white cloth known as 'Castle combe'. Weaving was carried out in the 50 or so weaving cottages.
Castle Combe is most famous for being portrayed as a fishing-port in the filming of Dr Doolittle staring Rex Harrison and Anthony Newley. The television aerials were removed and a little jetty was built on the banks of By Brook, to make the town into a seaport. Local inhabitants became 'extras' at 50s. per day, with meals, alcohol, and clothes all thrown in.
One local who was in the film used to sit by the market cross and recant the stories of the filming.
"Tell 'ee wot, zome o' them vilm volk, they be all right"
more info: http://www.castle-combe.com/
THE WHITE HORSES
Corsham has been home to
several armed forces, especially during the second world war. Prior to that
it was a typical West Wiltshire weaving town, tastefully built of
In 1801 it was the eighth most popular town in the county jealously preserving a number of ancient rights, which included the right to hold a court leet and have its own coroner. The parishioners were exempt from jury service and the vicar was empowered to hold his own consistory court.
In and around Corsham is a group of several distinguished country
The finest and most imposing of those in the district is Corsham court
A Royal Manor to the Saxon Kings
A hill-top village above a deep combe. It is best known for its long railway tunnel, the work of Brunel, and for its extensive stone quarries.
It used to have tallow and brewing industries. A villa of the roman period, with tessellated pavement has been found here, while another was discovered at Atworth, nearby as recently as 1938.
Tucked into the
western corner of Wiltshire the little town of
The 'broad ford' across the River Avon was replaced in medieval times by a sturdy stone bridge, complete with chapel for the use of the pilgrims. The view from the bridge encompasses the hill above the town where the old weavers' cottages are situated, and along the river bank 19th century cloth mills, all built of local stone.
Currently the town centre is going through transition, following the demolition of the Harris Factory. A new supermarket is under construction and the intention is that the town centre will be landscaped.
Historically, Doctor Joseph Priestley discovered Oxygen while living in Calne from 1772-1779. There is a memorial to him by the Doctors pond, not far from St Mary's Church.
Walter Goodall George (1858-1943) was born near
Calne also has St
Calne is one of the very few towns where you can stand in the centre, look up and see hills around you, towards the White Horse.
Alfred the Great is said to have bequeathed Chippenham to his daughter Elfrida and it is mentioned in the Doomsday book as one of the manors held by St. Edward.
charter in 1554 Chippenham used to be home to a saxon market place between the forests, Chippenham, Melksham and Braden
and was the favorite hunting grounds of the
It has a mix of
historic housing including timber-framed houses of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, as well as Georgian stately homes. The town was the
stop off point for coaches traveling from
life as a settlement on a ridge of stoney subsoil
by the little river Biss. Its growth to urban
status started with the building of a castle by the 'De Bohuns'
early in the twelfth century. The town was well developed when the wool trade
took off, and shared in the general wealth associated with weaving mills.
When the wool trade died out industry was replaced by a factory making steam
engines, some breweries and a bed making factory. Trowbridge's chief
distinction is that it houses Wiltshire's county offices. For all practical
purposes it is the county town and has been so since 1893. To visitors this
may seem a little strange what with
The reason for
this is due to communications, throughout the county communicating was always
a problem because of the
Warminster is located 400 feet (120 meters) above sea level. It's local surroundings are well known for several alleged sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects especially Clay hill to the west. Warminster used to be a great corn market in the days before motor vehicles. The carters usually ended up bringing back coal which was brought to Warminster from Radstock. Sadly Warminster is no longer considered a market town but it serves as a shopping centre for the surrounding villages and military establishments, as well as people stuck on the A36.
The name Warminster remains a mystery. It should mean 'The minister or monastery church by the river Ware or Were' but there is no trace of a church and residents even argue about there being a river of that name.
LONGLEAT HOUSE AND SAFARI PARK
Set in more than 900 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped parkland with a further 8,000 acres of woodlands, lakes and farmland, Longleat combines the magic of the old with the marvels of the new.
As well as being
the first stately home to open its doors to the public, Longleat
was also the first place, outside
From Safari Park to Stately Home, Mazes to Murals and Simulator Rides to Safari Boats there’s always something new to discover round every corner.
Photographs by kind permission from Longleat Estate www.longleat.co.uk
Copyright Moorlands 2007