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Parish History

A Brief History of the Parish of Urchfont

 

 

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The Domesday Survey of 1086 records that IERCHESFONTE was held by the Abbey of St. Mary at Winchester, the lands of Urchfont being endowed to the Abbey at this time as one source of revenue, with a value of £27, a population of less than one hundred, and having three mills.

 

Urchfont, the spelling of which has changed many times over the centuries, seems to derive the `font' element from the Latin fons, suggesting the possibility of a Romano­British settlement.

The Church is possibly built on the site of a much earlier one. Its dedication to St. Michael and All Angels is suggestive of a pagan building in much earlier times. Links with the Anglo Saxons of the 11th century can still be found in the local field names.

At the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536, the Abbey lands passed into the ownership of Edward Seymour, later Duke of Somerset. Urchfont descended with the Somerset titles until 1671 when it passed to the Earls of Ailesbury. In 1720 it was sold to Lord Carleton and then inherited by his nephew, the Duke of Queensberry of Amesbury House.

In the meantime William Pynsent had acquired lands in Urchfont and Eastcott. In 1765 the Pynsent Estate was left to William Pitt (the Elder) who sold it on to the Duke of Queensberry and for the first time for more than 200 years Urchfont was again under single ownership.

This was not to last and, in 1788, this inheritance together with other lands, was sold in succession to William Salmon, George Watson-Taylor, and finally to Hamilton Rivers­Pollock in 1928. A significant portion was acquired by the Heytesbury Hospital Trust in 1841.

Hamilton Rivers- Pollock died in 1940, and the manor and estate were bought by Wiltshire County Council in 1946 as a Residential Adult Education Centre, the first of its kind in the country.

An important social change occurred in 1947 when a large number of dwellings, formerly of the Manor estate, were auctioned into private hands.

In the early 20th century, Urchfont was a self supporting village. Today, at the commencement of the 21st century the village continues to be a thriving community.

 

 

Wedhampton is a village of about 50 houses, separated from Urchfont village by about a mile and a quarter – and by the A342. It is a compact hamlet on a semi-circular lane off The Lydeway. It was once a tithing of Urchfont which stretched from north to south, across clay, greensand and chalk soils.  By the mid 14th century, there was a settlement of 65 people living there, within a mile of the meeting place of the Hundred court at Foxley Corner.  'Wedhampton' appears to mean `the weed-ridden farmstead'.

The largest acreage was held in the 18th century by the Duke of Queensberry, sold on in succession to Mr William Salmon, Mr George Watson- Taylor, and the Trustees of Heytesbury Hospital. In 1969, the Trust sold its holdings in the village. There are several timber-framed houses dating from the late 16th century to the 18th century, but some of the old cottages no longer exist, having been demolished, or burnt down in a disastrous fire in 1883. Many have been restored, and a few new houses have been built. The boundaries of the village do not seem to have changed since the 13th century. Manor Farm and Old Manor Farm, in the centre of the village, are still working farms.

Lydeway, now generally regarded as part of Wedhampton, takes its name from the road Lydeway or Lide Way (now part of the A342) which marks the watershed between the Bristol Avon and the Christchurch Avon rivers.

This summary is based on information published in ‘Urchfont by any other name’.

 

 

 

 
 
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