Roundway Down

Roundway Down

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Royalist forces led by Henry Wilmot and John Byron encountered William Waller and his Parliamentary army at Roundway Down, near Devizes, on 13th July, 1643. Arthur Haselrig, commander of Parliamentary forces on the right, made the first charge but it was easily repelled by Wilmot's men. Waller attacked but failed to make any headway against the Royalist forces. Wilmot and Byron led a counter attack and the Roundheads were forced to flee. The battle at Roundway Down resulted in Parliament losing 1,500 soldiers and established that Charles II had full control over the West Country.

It was my fortune to charge Sir Arthur Hesilrige... He discharged his carbine first but at a distance not to hurt us... I then... discharged mine; I'm sure I hit him, for he staggered and wheeled off from his party and ran... I pursued him... and in six score yards I came up to him, and discharged the other pistol at him, and I am sure I hit his head... but he was too well armed all over for a pistol bullet to do him any hurt, having a coat of mail over his arms and a headpiece that was musket proof... I employed myself in killing his horse, and cut him in several places... the horse began to faint with bleeding, and Sir Arthur fell off. Then a group of troopers... charged and rescued him.

Roundway Down

The walk up to Roundway Down is delightful, not for its droving content so much as for the 85-acre SSSI it takes you through. Choose a day in mid-June for the flowers, another a month later for the flutterbies any date you like for the scenery. Once you leave the SSSI, it&rsquos a bit bleak but until then it&rsquos a nature-lover&rsquos paradise.

The Old Bath Road: important in early coaching days but you wouldn't know it now. It was superseded by the route through Box in the mid-C18 and has not been maintained since 1755 - though it was still used by some travellers, with beasts, maybe.

We started at Turnpike Farm at ST 982663 (#1). There&rsquos an interesting lay-by for beasts early on (#2) but once you start climbing the views are the main item on the menu. Beacon Hill gave us a good view of Oliver&rsquos Castle (#3), where in 1643 the Royalist forces routed the Roundheads. The name &ldquoOliver&rsquos Castle&rdquo is ironic, I suppose, because Cromwell didn&rsquot occupy it for long&hellip

The Swindon & Wilts. Historical Soc. has a good article on the internet about the end of the Battle of Roundway Down, quoting Sir Henry Slingsby, the Royalist commander:

We could see the enemy&rsquos whole body of horse face about and run with speed&hellip and our horse in close body firing in their rear, till they had chased them down the hill in a steep place, where never horse went down and up again.

Our photo #3 seems to have been taken (accidentally) from the edge of the Bloody Ditch, where so many Roundheads came to grief.

We missed the first milestone at SU 003653 but got the second at SU 017658 (#4). The markings have long gone, blast it, but "London 86 miles" was the original inscription, according to Geoffrey Wright ("Roads & Trackways of Wessex").

We stopped where a North-South byway crossed ours, not far on from the milestone. The road to Beckhampton looked a long one and we were over the boundary of the SSSI (#5).

15,000 pigs went through Beckhampton in 1830 alone. How did they do that? Whip, bribery, or just bucketloads of patience?

Note: if you follow the road a mile north-west from Turnpike Farm, you'll see Bell Farm, formerly The Bell Inn, where coachmen & servants were accommodated. (Their employers enjoyed greater comfort at The Bear, now a private house next door and once used by Queen Anne, according to Geoffrey Wright.)

Roundway Down - History

Roundway Hill and covert, Oliver's castle and Millennium White Horse

Devizes is set on a high plateau, 120 to 130 m high - amongst the Wessex Downs. To the north of Devizes lies Roundway Hill and Down, and Oliver's Castle. These form part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The map below that shows the location of Oliver's Castle (right), Roundway Hill covert, the Leipzig plantation and the Roundway Millennium White Horse Photogallery .

In 1643 during the first English Civil War there was an important battle on Roundway Hill. The Battle of Roundway Down is reported as a Devizes Heritage page.

Below is Roundway Hill with Roundway covert on the right and Oliver's castle right of centre. The gullies down which Parliamentary cavalry met their deaths are to the left of Oliver's castle.

Access to these sites is from the London Road out of Devizes. Turn north at the Travelodge Hotel towards Roundway village. After about a mile turn right onto a tarmac road that has a no through sign on it. At the current time there is no sign to Roundway Hill or Oliver's castle. After about half a mile you are on the road shown on the map below. As you go up the hill there is a fork in the road. Turn right for the Leipzig plantation and the White Horse car park. Turn left for the Roundway Hill covert and Oliver's castle.The black lines on the access roads indicates the end of the tarmac and the red dashed lines indicate good footpaths.

Oliver's castle - an iron age hill fort

Oliver's castle is an iron age hill fort it is in Bromham parish and would be more properly called Bromham hill fort. The name Oliver is associated with the Battle of Roundway when Sir Willam Waller's 2500 cavalry (horse) camped nearby for three nights. Over time, as is common throughout England, anything Civil War is linked to Oliver Cromwell who almost certainly never went there!

Olivers Castle is an Iron Age hillfort, dating probably from about 600 BC. Bronze age, iron age and romano-british finds have been also been made here. It has a very distinctive triangular plan. It is defended by a single bank and ditch enclosing an area of about four acres, relatively small for an Iron Age fortification. The site sits at the west end of the Vale of Pewsey with a commanding view across the flat plain stretching westwards from Devizes.The hillfort is one of a series defending the northern chalk scarp running acros

s Wiltshire. Others in the sequence include Oldbury Castle near Calne, Barbury Castle and Liddington Camp near Swindon.The square feature inside the camp visible on the aerial photograph is a 19th century dewpond.

Right An aerial photo of Olivers castle withe right light to show up the old iron age features. Poto courtesy of the Wiltshire History Centre in Chippenham

There is a separate report on the archaeology and history of the Oliver's castle .

A)Bowl barrow excavated by BH and ME Cunnington who found primary cremation, fragments of incense cup, bone button plus 3 plain coarse urns in a secondary position to S. B)Excavated by C Gingell,1977, who found a secondary cremation in an upright urn.

It has a distinctive profile from the east, west and south. It has five prominent trees set on its high brow and one can see why iron age people used it as a fort. It is a wonderful place to stroll through high chalk grasslands and to picnic or fly kites.

Left Neil Maw launches his electric plane with a camera on board. Neil and Ray Kyte are helping Devizes Heritage do an aerial survey with a still and video camera of the Battle of Roundway site.

Access is as described above, the last half mile is on a slightly rough road, but the car park is better than that for the Covert. From the car park a short circular walk of about a mile, as partially indicated on the map below, gives wonderful views.

Belowis a view of Oliver's castle from Bromham. The photo was taken 30 minutes before a very yellow sunset.

Oliver's Castle played a critical role in a major Civil War Batle in which the Royalists gained their best Cavalry victory. Some of the parliamentary cavalry were fleeing the battle, hotly pursued by the Royalists, and they died when they fell down the steep slopes of Oliver's Castle and many were killed. The Battle of Roundway Down 1643 is reported as a Devizes Heritage page.

Roundway Hill Covert and Oliver's Castle

Above is a telephoto shot of Roundway Covert taken from the Tower of St. James Church by the Crammmer Pond in Devizes The Covert is a 68 acre wooded area with 3 open grass areas that provides unique walk of about 1 mile on Roundway Hill. The wood is broad leaf, originally beech but now mostly of ash, and it is provided with 2 benches in open grass sections. The walk starts from the small car park at the end of tarmac road. There is an obvious gate and good footpath across the cornfield into the woods. Bear right after entering the wood and after a few hundred metres bear left on the path that leads through to the open areas seen on the aerial photo below. The path leads to the Oliver's castle car park. An alternative is to turn back from the 2nd bench to the car park through the woods. Below left is a photo of the path, one of the open areas and a bench. There are also photos of the wood in the photo gallery .

Natural History of Roundway Covert

Within the Covert woods are sunny, grassy areas where chalk-loving plants grow and a wide variety of insects, including butterflies, grasshoppers and bees, can be found.From seats provided along the mile-long trail there are panoramic views extending from the Vale of Pewsey to the east, along the northern edge of Salisbury Plain to the Avon valley and the woodlands of the Bowood and Spye Park estates to the north. In spring the open grassy slope is yellow with horseshoe vetch flowers. The leaves of this plant are the only food of the caterpillars of the chalkhill and Adonis blue butterflies. The patches of very short grass are grazed by rabbits, and the only plants that grow here are small ones like hairy violet, and those that rabbits will not eat, such as Carlin thistles, with their prickly leaves. The flowers persist through the winter. From June until the end of August large numbers of the marbled white and the dark-coloured ringlet butterflies can be observed. Grasshoppers are at their noisiest then and lizards sun themselves on the path.

On the right is a photo of the path to the Covert in the background,. the photo is taken from the end of the tarred road shown on the map. The original chalk scrub and downlandwas grazed by sheep. Planted as a beech wood, it was felled when it reached maturity. In the early 1950s, the area was replanted with beech but much of this replanting failed. Rabbit grazing has helped to create and maintain some of the clearings.The covert was subsequently leased to the Forestry Commission by the Society of Merchant Venturers, as Trustees of the St Monica Trust and more work was done towards re-establishing the wood. Devizes School and Wiltshire Wildlife Conservation Volunteers have built and maintained the path andplanted areas withsaplings, with the help of volunteer groups such as the Devizes Air Training Corps. Wiltshire Wildlife Trust took on the management of the trail and glades under a Conservation Licence until recently.

Below: Roundway Covert (on left ) and Roundway Hill (centre) above Roundway village.

The Devizes Millennium White Horse .

The Devizes Millenium White Horse was conceived in 1998 and constructed in 1999.

It was designed by the late Peter Greedy and is maintained by a group of volunteers called the "Cavaliers of the Devizes Millennium White Horse" photogallery . Right: Devizes White Horse from Quakers Walk.

In 2009 a celebration was held to recognise the 10th Anniversary of the White Horse when hundreds of people - young and old - celebrated by making a figure 10 for an aerial photo below.

There is an excellent website called the White Horses of Wiltshire . There is a good discussion of the history of the Devizes Millennium White horse too.

There was an old Horse - the Snobs' Horse built by Shoemakers' apprentices in 1845 on the east side of Oliver's castle. It has not been maintained and is now visble only in the right light and ground cover.

Roundway Down - History

The Battle of Roundway Down, Devizes July 13th, 1643

This was the most important Royalist cavalry victory of the Civil War. Victory gave the Royalists the key to securing the South-west, Bristol was soon captured. The potential was then there to attack London the Royalist's dream. But this dream was squandered in the failed attack on Gloucester and the subsequent campaigning.

Alan Carter is writing a book on the Siege of Devizes and the Battle of Roundway Down. It covers the parliamentary and King's armies following on from the Lansdown fight and looks at the immediate and long term military and political impacts of the battle and the huge parliamentary loss. The impacts on the local area and Wiltshire are explored. The impacts of the civil war on 6 of the military leaders, their families and their eventual fate following the civil war lends a novel insight into the Civil War that is far broader than this one battle. It should be ready by the latter half of 2019. Meanwhile there will be a chapter in Alan's Devizes in History book which is planned for Easter 2019. For many readers that will provide a good level of detail.

At Roundway Down Sir Ralph Hopton led the Royalist forces from Devizes Castle, but Lord Wilmot led the 1800 strong Royalist cavalry that came from King Charles at Oxford to relieve the Siege of Devizes. Sir William Waller the parliamentary Commander lost a battle that he expected to win. The defeat led to the capture of Bath and Bristol and for a while Royalist dominance of the south west of England. 600 were killed - mostly on the parliament side , 800 to 1000 parliamentary soldiers were captured along with all the parliament's artillery, baggage. 113 Royalist prisoners were released.

The Royalist commanders were Sir Ralph Hopton and Lord Henry Wilmot. The Parliamentary commanders were Sir William Waller and Sir Arthur Haselrige. The Parliamentary army consisted of about 2,500 horse and ca 1,800 foot soldiers and 8 guns.

Right are two replica 1653 cannons which fire up to 3lb balls. These photos were taken at the Aldbourne, Wiltshire skirmish in May 2010 at an English Civil War Society event. Other photos are available in the Civil War photogallery.

However at Roundway Down the parliamentary cavalry were hungry and exhausted following Waller's active campaigning in Somerset and Wiltshire. The Royalist forces were somewhat smaller with 1800 horse and 2000 foot soldiers defending Devizes, who later came to s upport the cavalry and rout Waller's fleeing foot soldiers. They had only 2 light guns. The Parliamentary dead were estimated at 600 killed, but this is possibly a Royalist exaggeration. 1200 parliamentary men were captured. The Royalist number of dead is unknown.

The Royalist victory at Lansdown Hill on July 5th 1643 was a marginal one, Lord Hertford's Royalist army was in low spirits owing to heavy casualties, the death of Sir Bevil Grenville and serious injuries to Sir Ralph Hopton (Royalist). Most of the Royalist cavalry had scattered during the battle and the army was short of supplies and ammunition. After regrouping at Marshfield, the Royalists marched towards Oxford, halting for two days at Chippenham in Wiltshire. Meanwhile, Sir William Waller (Parliament) summoned reinforcements from Bristol and set off in pursuit of the battered Royalist army with an overwhelming force of nearly 5,000 men.

The Siege of Devizes, 9-13 July 1643

Sir Ralph Hopton was wounded at the Battle of Lansdowne and was carried on a chair from Bath, to Chippenham and on to Devizes. His forces were harassed by Sir William Waller's advance guard and Hopton lost 40 men killed as they fought a desperate rear guard action at the ford near Rowde just 2 miles from Devizes. They made it to the relative safety of Devizes on July 9th.

During the early part of the Civil War, Devizes castle was a Royalist fortress the Castle was pressed into service, barricaded and defended. The Castle provided a base for Lord Hopton's force during the siege of Devizes and during the Battle of Roundway. They set up their artillery in the remains of the castle and barricaded the streets with tree trunks and carts, and lined the hedgerows around Devizes with infantry.

The Parliamentarians camped to the north in Roundway and had a force in Potterne too. Waller made sure that Roundway Hill, a down rising to a height of 795 feet two miles to the north of Devizes, was securely held by his cavalry. Waller allowed the Royalists a brief respite. On 10 July, however, he offered Hopton the opportunity for a general engagement, drawing his whole army up on Roundway Hill while the Royalist cavalry deployed on Coatefield Hill to the east of the town. Desperately short of powder and ammunition, outnumbered in cavalry, and with their commander still temporarily blinded and paralysed, the Royalists stayed with in Devizes.

On 11 July troopers from Waller's own regiment of cavalry intercepted the Earl of Crawford who was approaching Devizes from the north-east with 600 Royalist cavalry and a re-supply of ammunition for Hopton. In a confused night skirmish Crawford's force was scattered and the ammunition captured. Although this clash had boosted Waller's immediate prospects of success he was concerned at the apparent ease with which the Royalists could leave Oxford to bring relief to Devizes. Waller urged the Earl of Essex, whose army was watching Oxford, to prevent any further intervention from the Royalist capital.

On the 11 and 12th of July the castle and town were bombarded by parliamentary guns and there was hand to hand fighting a s far into town as Morris Lane. St. John's Church was store for gunpowder and this became a target during the siege. The action probably took place from Morris Lane. . There was a rectory in the church yard fronting on Long Street where the community hall now stands this was a rectory in the church yard fronting on Long Street where the community hall now stands this was destroyed in the action and a new one eventually built at 39 Long Street. There are some 22 holes made by grapeshot - about 1.5 inches in diameter- fired from a cannon in a cloth or leather bag. I suspect that this pattern was made by two grapeshot hits - above right

During the Civil War cannon balls also hit St.

James Church. The holes can still be seen on the tower - left. The cannon ball holes are on the east side of the tower, bottom left and top right. These cannon balls are in the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes, but are not on display. They are made of iron and weigh 1.011 and 1.147 kg respectively (two and half pounds in old money).

The Parliamentary army's guns, Falcon field guns, were situated in Coatefield somewhere near the old Jump Farm. They were firing at Devizes including St. James which presumably was part of theTown defences. This was on Wednesday 12th July 1643, the day before the Battle of Roundway.

A convoy of gunpowder and ammunition had been sent from Oxford to re-supply Hopton at Devizes under the command of the Earl of Crawford. But troopers of Waller's own regiment of horse under Major Dowett ambushed the convoy on the night of 11 July. The Royalist cavalry escort was scattered, 200 captured and the convoy captured. The remainder of Crawford's men rendezvoused with and joined the Oxford relief horse in Marlborough and came back to Roundway Down on the 13th of July.

While no infantry could be spared from Oxford, a relief force of 1,500 horse was detached under the command of Lord Wilmot, supported by Sir John Byron and the Earl of Crawford. Prince Maurice, Lord Carnarvon and the 300 horse that had ridden from Devizes also joined the column. Two brass field guns and a supply of gunpowder and ammunition were requisitioned. The relief force rendezvoused at Marlborough on 12 July and approached Devizes on the afternoon of the following day. Meanwhile at Devizes, Waller had deployed his forces on the eastern side of the town and set up a battery on Coatefield Hill. Sir Ralph Hopton initiated treaty negotiations on 11 July, which gained a day's respite, but Waller suspected that he was playing for time and proceeded with preparations for an assault. Although short of gunpowder and ammunition, the Royalists set up their artillery in the remains of Devizes Castle, barricaded the streets with tree trunks and carts, and lined the hedgerows and embankments around the town with musketeers. The Parliamentarians attacked on the morning of 12 July, supported by artillery fire from Coatefield Hill. The castle and town were bombarded by parliamentary guns and there was hand to hand fighting as far into town as Morris Lane. The Royalists resisted fiercely although some of the outworks were overrun, the main Parliamentarian attack was repulsed.

The Battle of Roundway Down, 13 July 1643.

At a council of war on 10 July, in the Castle, Sir Ralph Hopton agreed to defend Devizes with the infantry and artillery while Prince Maurice rode to Oxford for reinforcements with Lord Hertford and Lord Carnarvon. Maurice broke out at midnight with 300 cavalry, riding south-east to evade Waller's patrols before turning north for Oxford. Prince Maurice and his companions rode the forty-five miles from Devizes to Oxford in a single night. When they arrived, they found that most of the Oxford army was in the Midlands with Prince Rupert.

Sir William Waller (Parliament) was planning further attacks on Devizes for the evening of July 13th when his scouts (dragoons) reported the approach of Wilmot's relief force of about 1800 horse (cavalry) from Oxford during the morning of 13 July. Waller without trumpets ofr drums removed his men form the siege of Devizes and deployed them ion Roundway Down

Above the battlefield from Roundway Hill - the hill immediately behind the village of Roundway. This is just near the end of the tarred road leading to Oliver's castle. Morgan's Hill is on the central skyline and far right, just behind the wood, is the high point of Roundway Down 242 m. The whole Down at that time was also known as Bagdon Hill. This was corrupted by Captain Harley, Parliamentary Horse, in his account as Bagnall Hill.

Some believe that Waller would have deployed across the Bath Marlborough old coach road, but this sems unlikely. There were two roads that led to Devizes from Shepherd's Shore, the gap in the Wansdyke on the Marlborough Bath road. One led over the Down and down the hill into Roundway village and the other further north along the route next to the Old Stone pits.

The Parliamentary army consisted of around 2,500 foot and between 2,500 and 3,000 horse and dragoons, supported by eight field guns. Waller deployed his troops conventionally, with five regiments of foot in the centre guarded by cavalry on each flank and artillery covering the gaps between. The Parliamentarian army was double the size of the Royalist relief force.

Lords Wilmot and Hertford rode from Oxford with about 1500 men. They spent the night of July 12th in Marlborough where they re-grouped cavalry of the Earl of Crawford. They had been driven off the night before by Waller's men trying to get ammunition to Devizes. So the Royalist relief force mounted to between 1800 and 2000 men with no infantry. However it must be remembered that there were 3000 Cornish infantry in Devizes Castle these provided a considerable threat to Waller's rear. Lord Wilmot, the Royalist commander, hoped that Hopton would send out the Cornish foot (infantry) stationed in Devizes to support his horse(cavalry), but Hopton was persuaded to delay by his officers, who suspected that Waller's withdrawal was a stratagem to tempt them to leave the town.

If this was the site of the initial deployment of Waller's army then it was a very small site for 5000 men and 8 cannon. But it does have an advantage in controlling the approach to Devizes and forcing Lord Wilmot's group to march uphill. It gave a view of any approach of the Royalist Cornish troops from Devizes and again would have forced them to approach uphill too. But there is no archaeological evidence yet discovered that supports this site.

Above is a summary map showing known civil war grave sites and cannon ball finds. This is discussed in detail in appendix 1. But what this shows is that there was considerable activity in the vicinity of the modern Oliver's castle car park. Option 2 developed by Alan Carter seeks to explain this as the site of the intense bombardment of the parliamentary infantry leading to their surrender and may deaths.

Below is an other option for the initial deployment of the battle. It is argued that this site explains the archaeological finds on the above map and discussed in appendix 1 It is also consistent with the contemporary accounts detailed in Appendix 2. The yellow road on the map below is the London Bath coach road.

The Parliamentary foot or infantry, which played no early role in the battle, might have been anchored as shown from about 200 m from the Oliver's castle car park, or more likely further north east than this some 800 m from the Oliver's castle car park. Their final destruction and surrender possibly took place around there. The evidence for this is discussed in detail in appendix 1. Briefly 12 lead cannon balls were found between the square and what is now the Covert woods and on the square site itself a concentratin of musket and pistol shot in a constrained area were found by Keith Genever metal detector in 1975.

Wilmot deployed the Royalist cavalry in three brigades. He personally led the brigade on the left while Sir John Byron commanded on the right. The Earl of Crawford kept a third brigade in reserve this was because they had been badly beaten 2 days earlier by Waller's troopers in a night battle when a relief ammunition column from Oxford was captured.

The battle began at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon of 13 July 1643. As the Royalists moved forward, a Parliamentarian forlorn hope advanced to harass them. Major Paul Smith of Wilmot's regiment led a Royalist forlorn hope to counter-attack, and the Parliamentarians were thrown back. Sir Arthur Heselrige on the Parliamentarian right wing advanced his formidable cuirassier regiment to support the fleeing troopers. Heselrige's troops were arrayed six deep in close order his charge was met by Wilmot's brigade which advanced at a trot three deep in extended order. When the opposing ranks met, Wilmot's line overlapped Heselrige's and the Parliamentarians gave ground. Heselrige rallied his men for a second charge but seeing the second Royalist brigade ready to support Wilmot, the cuirassiers broke away and fled. This small action was instrumental in losing the battle for Parliament. Haselrige had passed in front of his own guns neutralising their effect as they could not then fire at the enemy.

With Haselrige's Lobsters routed, Sir William Waller advanced on the left with the right wing of horse flanking his infantry. Byron's brigade charged Waller's horse, steadfastly ignoring the covering fire from the Parliamentarian foot and artillery. Byron ordered his troopers not to fire their pistols until they were among the Parliamentarian horse. Supported by Lord Crawford's reserve, Byron swept the Parliamentarian left wing from the field. It was at this stage that the last 4 of the Parliament's cannons were captured. The triumphant Royalists pursued the fleeing Parliamentarian cavalry, a number of whom were driven over the edge of precipitous slopes on the edge of Roundway Down into the Bloody ditch at the bottom of the hill.

Battle of Lansdown Hill

Place of the Battle of Lansdown Hill: Lansdown Hill to the north of Bath.

Combatants at the Battle of Lansdown Hill: The forces of King Charles I against the forces of Parliament.

Generals at the Battle of Lansdown Hill: It is not entirely clear who commanded the Royalist Army, but it was probably nominally Prince Maurice with Sir Ralph Hopton having the day to day command, while Prince Maurice led the cavalry.

Sir William Waller commanded the Parliamentary force.

Sir Bevil Grenville, commander of a Cornish regiment of foot, mortally wounded at the Battle of Lansdown Hill on 5th July 1643 in The English Civil War

Size of the armies at the Battle of Lansdown Hill:

The Royalist army comprised 1,500 horse in Prince Maurice’s Regiment, the Earl of Carnarvon’s Regiment and Sir James Hamilton’s Regiment, 1,000 foot and 11 cannon in the force brought from Oxford by Prince Maurice and the Marquis of Hertford with Sir Ralph Hopton’s 3,000 Cornish foot, 500 horse, 300 dragoons and 5 cannon from the West Country.

The size of Sir William Waller’s Parliamentary army is uncertain but was probably around the same size as the Royalist army but with a greater force of cavalry, which included Sir Arthur Hesilrige’s Cuirassiers (known as Hesilrige’s London Lobsters due to their armour) and fewer foot soldiers. Waller received re-inforcements from the Bristol garrison before the battle. Waller probably commanded a similar number of guns, around 15.

Winner of the Battle of Lansdown Hill: The Royalists stormed the Parliamentary position on the top of Lansdown Hill but at great loss and nearly exhausting their ammunition so that they were forced to withdraw.

Uniforms, arms and equipment at the Battle of Lansdown Hill:

Sir William Waller, the Parliamentary Commander at the Battle of Lansdown Hill on 5th July 1643: picture by Cornelius Johnson in the English Civil War

Background to the Battle of Lansdown Hill:

The origins of the English Civil War are dealt with under this section in the Battle of Edgehill.

In 1643 the Royalist Commander Sir Ralph Hopton marched from Dorset to Chard in Somerset arriving on 4 th June 1643 to join the force sent from the Royal Headquarters in Oxford commanded by the Marquis of Hertford and Prince Maurice. The combined army would then seek to complete the conquest of the West Country for King Charles I.

With Bristol and Gloucester in Parliamentary hands Sir William Waller concentrated the Parliamentary field army at Bath.

Before moving on to confront Sir William Waller at Bath the combined Royalist army received the surrender of Taunton, Bridgwater and Dunster Castle without having to attack them, the garrison from the first fleeing to the second and so on.

On 2 nd July 1643 the Royalist Army marched into Bradford-on-Avon to the south-east of Bath.

Waller’s army lay on the far side of the River Avon. Hopton resolved to march his army around Waller’s flank in a move to the north of Bath via Monkton Farleigh.

Conforming with the Royalist march Waller moved his army to Claverton Down, still on the Bath side of the River Avon, while advancing a detachment across the river to occupy Monkton Farleigh Hill and set up an ambush on the road from Bradford along the river bank.

Cuirassier’s armour of the English Civil War period

Hopton began his march on 3 rd July and his Cornish foot pushed the Parliamentary force out of Monkton Farleigh towards Batheaston.

On the Bradford Road Prince Maurice launched an attack on the bridge across the Avon and compelled Waller to fall back on Bath.

Hopton continued his pursuit of the Parliamentary force through Batheaston and on to Lansdown before withdrawing to Batheaston to await Prince Maurice.

On 4 th July the combined Royalist army marched out of Batheaston to advance down the road through Lansdown to Bath, thereby evading the defensive line created by the River Avon to the east of the city. As the Royalists marched towards Lansdown Hill they realized that Waller’s army was occupying the high ground in front of them.

The senior Royalist army commanders formed a council of war, the standard procedure at any point of crisis and resolved to withdraw to the town of Marshfield to the north-east.

Hopton covered the retreat by positioning musketeers along the hedges lining the road and forming a cavalry rearguard. Waller dispatched a mounted force to pursue Hopton’s cavalry as they withdrew in the rear of the main body. This Parliamentary force was duly ambushed by the waiting musketeers and forced to retreat leaving the Royalist army to continue to Marshfield unhindered.

Map of the Battle of Lansdown Hill on 5th July 1643 in the English Civil War: map by John Fawkes

Account of the Battle of Lansdown Hill:

In the early hours of 5 th July 1643 Waller’s Parliamentary troops erected field works at the northern end of Lansdown Hill to impede any resumed advance on Bath by the Royalist army by that route. A wall near the northern lip of Lansdown Hill was adopted as a second line of defence.

Wall occupied by the Parliamentary army as its second line at the Battle of Lansdown Hill on 5th July 1643 in the English Civil War

While this work was under way a force of Parliamentary cavalry advanced towards to Marshfield to drive in the Royalist patrols and pickets.

The Royalist army set out from Marshfield and advanced down Freezinghill Lane towards Bath via the road over Lansdown Hill. The route crossed Tog Hill and Freezing Hill, during which each side’s dragoons and advanced parties of musketeers skirmished from hedgerow to hedgerow.

Top of Lansdown Hill, from behind the Parliamentary position at the Battle of Lansdown Hill on 5th July 1643 during the English Civil War: drawing by C.R.B. Barrett

The consequent consumption of scarce ammunition caused Hopton and his officers to decide to abandon the advance and withdraw to Marshfield.

Seeing the Royalist troops beginning to retreat Waller sent Colonel Robert Burrell with 1,000 of Hesilrige’s Cuirassiers and accompanying dragoons in pursuit.

A brisk and confused action took place in the lanes and surrounding hillsides. The Royalist horse broke up and left the Cornish foot to fight alone, although they were quickly supported by the Marquis of Hertford’s Lifeguards and the Earl of Caernarvon’s Regiment of Horse.

These Royalist cavalry regiments forced the Parliamentary horse back to the base of Lansdown Hill while Sir Nicholas Slanning with 250 Royalist musketeers winkled the Parliamentary dragoons from the hedgerows and forced them to withdraw.

Infantry in battle of the period of the English Civil War: Battle of Lansdown Hill on 5th July 1643

Waller dispatched two more regiments of horse to attack the Royalist foot advancing up the lane from Freezing Hill, but they were driven back by Hopton’s resolute Cornish foot soldiers.

The Parliamentary horse and dragoons fell back to the hill pursued by Hopton’s indomitable Cornish foot.

By 2pm the Royalist army was at the foot of Lansdown Hill ready to assault the Parliamentary troops, positioned behind their hastily prepared field works along the hill top with their guns grouped at the head of the road.

While the road was lined with trees the hillside was largely bare, with areas of woodland away on each flank.

Pikeman of the English Civil War period Battle of Lansdown Hill on 5th July 1643

The Cornish pikemen and the Royalist Horse pushed on up the road leading to the top of Lansdown Hill, the Cornish foot crying ‘Let us fetch those cannon’.

As the advance went in Hopton dispatched parties of musketeers into the woods off to the left and right to work their way around the flanks of the Parliamentary positions at the top of the hill.

As the Royalist attack went up the road to the top of Lansdown Hill the horse began to falter under the heavy fire and were soon breaking away and galloping back down the hill, many then leaving the battlefield.

Death of Sir Bevil Grenville at the Battle of Lansdown Hill on 5th July 1643 in the English Civil War

On Freezing Hill to the rear Sir Bevil Grenville saw that the battle had reached a crisis and putting his musketeers and horse in the fields Grenville led his Cornish pikemen in a rapid advance up the road against the tide of retreating Royalist horse. At the top of the road Grenville’s pikemen were subjected to three charges by Waller’s horse in desperate attempts to break the Royalist advance.

Captain Richard Atkyns described finding Grenville’s pikemen standing on a steep section of the hill, ‘as if on a roof’, utterly unmovable. At this point Grenville was mortally wounded to the despair of his men and of the whole Royalist Army. But his pikemen and the flanking bands of Royalist musketeers had passed the line of Parliamentary redoubts and Waller’s men were forced back on the second line formed by the wall.

Top of Lansdown Hill from the Royalist overnight position at the Battle of Lansdown Hill on 5th July 1643 during the English Civil War: drawing by C.R.B. Barrett

The Royalist musketeers on the right occupied some pits situated between the two lines and sniped at the Parliamentary troops behind the wall.

Waller’s troops worked hard to improve the line of the wall, breaking gaps for the passage of the horse, as night fell.

The Royalist hold on the edge of the summit of Lansdown Hill was precarious and they were desperately short of ammunition. A determined attack would drive them back off the hill.

Firing continued during the night and sounds of movement could be heard from the Parliamentary line, but no attack came. At around one a volley was fired at the Royalists.

Musketeer of the English Civil War period: Battle of Lansdown Hill on 5th July 1643 during the English Civil War

After that a Royalist soldier was detailed to creep forward and see what was going on behind the wall. As the Royalist commanders suspected the Parliamentarian troops had withdrawn, leaving matches burning on the wall and pikes leaning against the stones to give an impression of the presence of troops.

At dawn patrols confirmed that Waller’s army was back in Bath.

But the Royalist army was in a bad way. Most of the horse had deserted during the battle, many riding back to Oxford, declaring on arrival that the battle had been lost. Ammunition was so low that the Royalist commanders could not risk a further battle. At 8am the Royalist army began to withdraw to Marshfield.

It was at this point that a cart loaded with barrels of black powder exploded, severely wounding Sir Ralph Hopton and killing or wounding a number of officers and prisoners. Along with the important temporary loss of Hopton the Royalist supply of ammunition was reduced still further.

Casualties at the Battle of Lansdown Hill:

Casualties at Lansdown Hill are largely unknown. On the Royalist side a major part of the horse fled the battlefield and returned to Oxford. The remaining foot suffered heavily. Several senior officers were lost: Sir Bevil Grenville was killed, Lord Arundel, Colonel Sir George Vaughan and the Earl of Caernarvon were all wounded but recovered.

Tog Hill: the Battle of Lansdown Hill on 5th July 1643 during the English Civil War: drawing by C.R.B. Barrett

By contrast the Parliamentary army of Sir William Waller was largely intact enabling him to follow the Royalist retreat to Devizes and meet them at the Battle of Roundway Down.

Follow-up to the Battle of Lansdown Hill:

Waller, on hearing of the explosion that consumed so much of the remaining ammunition of the Royalist army and the incapacitation of Sir Ralph Hopton,

drew re-inforcements from the Bristol garrison and pursued the Royalist army, catching them at Devizes and giving battle at Roundway Down.

Battle of Lansdown Hill on 5th July 1643 during the English Civil War

Grenville Memorial: Battle of Lansdown Hill on 5th July 1643 during the English Civil War: drawing by C.R.B. Barrett

Anecdotes and traditions from the Battle of Lansdown Hill:

    Clarendon describes the Marquis of Hertford’s army on its arrival at Chard as ‘how small soever the marquis’s party was in numbers, it was supplied with all the general officers of a royal army-a General, Lieutenant-General, General of the Horse, General of the Ordnance, a Major-General of Horse and another of Foot… so that the chief officers of the Cornish army, by joining with a much less party than themselves, were at best in the condition of private colonels…’ It says much for the good sense of Sir Ralph Hopton’s officers that the amalgamation of the two forces worked at all.

Sir Ralph Hopton and Sir Bevil Grenville: Battle of Lansdown Hill on 5th July 1643 in The English Civil War: post-war engraving by George Vertue

Memorial to Sir Bevil Grenville erected at the spot where he received a mortal wound during the attack he led on the Parliamentary position at the top of Lansdown Hill: Battle of Lansdown Hill 5th July 1643 in the English Civil War

References for the Battle of Lansdown Hill:

The English Civil War by Peter Young and Richard Holmes

History of the Great Rebellion by Clarendon

Cromwell’s Army by CH Firth

English Heritage Battlefield Report: Roundway Down 1643

British Battles by Grant Volume I

The previous battle in the English Civil War the Battle of Adwalton Moor

The next battle in the English Civil War is the Battle of Roundway Down


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Wiltshire Community History

It is difficult to know how to write about the parish of Roundway, which was only created in 1894. There is a small Roundway village that was once in Bishops Cannings' parish and a very strangely shaped area of land that surrounds the town of Devizes to the north, east and south of it. Only a narrow isthmus of land connects the northern and southern parts of the parish and both these areas contain domestic and commercial buildings that really belong to the town of Devizes. It is likely that most people living in the parish, other than those actually in Roundway village consider that they live in the town of Devizes. The parish looks as though it was created by a bureaucrat who was having a very bad day.

The village is about one mile to the north east of Devizes and is remarkable in having had no church or chapel of ease, no school and having lost its manor house. There are however a complex of roads that led to Bromham, Heddington, Rowde, Devizes and Potterne and it is this complex that suggests the village was once larger than it is today. In the parish itself the highest ground is in the north-east, Roundway Hill at 242 metres and the lowest in the south, at about 116 metres. Roundway Park lies between the village and Devizes, which are connected by Quaker's Walk passing through the grounds. Mother Anthony's Well lies at the foot of Roundway Hill, close to Roman settlement in Bromham parish while Drew's Pond and its nature reserve is in the south in the narrow strip of Roundway parish that encompasses the southern boundary of the town of Devizes. A small area of Wick was lost by Roundway to Devizes in the late 20th century.

Earliest indications of inhabitants are the Neolithic round barrows associated with the Beaker People on Roundway Down. There are also bowl barrows and the Iron Age hill fort of Oliver's Camp that is just in Bromham parish. At first a promontory fort it was later changed to a rectangular univallate one. A recently discovered Iron Age farmstead near Brickley Lane became a Roman settlement, possibly with a temple and likely to have been associated with a villa at Wick Green or Pans Lane. In the Domesday Book Roundway is included in the large estate of Bishops Cannings and it is impossible to know what, if any, settlement there was in the modern parish.

From the late 13th century an estate at Roundway was held by the senior branch of the Wiltshire Nicholas family. William Nicholas was alive at the end of the 13th century and the family held the estate until the 18th century. They built a house, Nicholas Place, which from earthworks shown on an 18th century map was probably at the north eastern end of Quakers Walk. The family's land was in small strips in the open field system, which, in 1597, comprised East, North and South fields containing many strips of half an acre or less. In 1634 a survey undertaken by the steward of the Bishop of Salisbury found that among the tenants there were five freeholders, two leaseholders and six copyholders. There were also three freeholders at New Park.

The reason why Roundway has a place in national history occurred during the Civil War when William Waller's Parliamentary forces were defeated on the downs by the Royalists under Lord Wilmot. Waller and Hopton had fought an inconclusive battle at Lansdown Hill, near Bath, on 5 July 1643 after which Hopton found himself trapped by Waller in Devizes when he was trying to reach the King's headquarters at Oxford. With insufficient cavalry to continue their journey some horsemen succeeded in breaking out of Devizes to summon help from Oxford. On 11 July a relief force of 1800 cavalry under Prince Maurice and Lord Wilmot rode for Devizes. When informed of their approach Waller withdrew his army (1800 - 2500 infantry, 2000 cavalry and 500 dragoons and put them in battle order near the eastern end of Roundway Down. The Royalists engaged the Parliamentary cavalry before their army could bring their guns and infantry into the battle and put them to flight. Many were killed in the deep ditch below the misnamed Oliver's Castle. The Parliamentary infantry were demoralised by the flight of their cavalry and threw down their weapons when Hopton's infantry marched out of Devizes through Roundway village. As a result of this battle the port of Bristol fell to the Royalists a few days later. Quite what the villagers thought of this is unknown but is to be hoped that they kept themselves well out of the way probably cursing both sided impartially for ruining crops and scattering livestock.

In the first part of the 18th century the Nicolas family vacated their old manor and moved to New Park, building a house that was to become the kitchen block of the later New Park. They sold their estate after 1770 to Edward Richmond, whose family were succeeded there by the Willeys, Suttons and Escourts. In 1780 James Sutton began to rebuild Nicholas House with the architect James Wyatt. There was a fire in 1792 that seems to have left no permanent damage and when John Britton wrote about it in 1801 it was a fine house with landscaped grounds that had been designed by Humphrey Repton. In 1840 New Park estate was bought by E. F. Colston and it then became known as Roundway Park. He started to enclose land and caused local resentment by enclosing Sheep Wash Dell in 1842. A deer park was created, which in 1892 consisted of 120 acres enclosed by iron fencing containing about 200 fallow deer.

Most of the parish had been enclosed by an Act of 1794, which was put into practice in 1812. Thomas Griniston Estcourt of New Place had received 704 acres, leased of the Bishop of Salisbury. One slight puzzle is that part of the eastern end of Roundway Hill was still known as Windmill Knowl in 1811 (there had also been windmills in Devizes) but on Andrews' and Dury's map of Wiltshire (1773) there is a Roundway Mill shown on a small stream to the north of New Place. One cannot feel that the water mill could have been very effective but it may have succeeded the earlier windmill.

In 1845 apprentice shoemakers from Devizes cut a white horse on Roundway Down, to the south of Oliver's Camp it was known as Snob's Horse as snob was the local name for a shoemaker. It later became overgrown and attempts to restore it in the 20th century failed. A more permanent feature was established in 1851 when the Wilts County Lunatic Asylum (later Roundway Hospital) opened. Building had started in the summer of 1849 with stone from Murhill quarries, near Winsley and slates from Wales both materials being transported on the Kennet and Avon Canal which had opened through the parish in 1810. The building was designed by T. H. Wyatt in the Italian style, cost £19,594, with a further £1,069 for ironwork, and the first patients were admitted on 19 September 1851. The well respected and liberally advanced Dr. Thurnam had been appointed as Medical Superintendent in March 1849 and he oversaw construction. Owing to a disinclination on the part of the county authorities to spend too much money the asylum was too small from the time it was built, and there were extensions and new buildings in just about every decade except the 1940s. There were 350 patients by 1860, 449 by 1870 and 976 in 1910. John Thurman, who was also a noted local archaeologist, died in 1873 but he had set the pattern for compassionate care and also recognised that many people sent by parish authorities were not insane but had other problems.

By 1878 the Le Marchant Barracks were completed alongside the main Devizes to Beckhampton road. They were named after Sir John Gaspard Le Marchant, who commanded the 99th Regiment of Foot in 1839 with the 62nd Foot this regiment formed the Wiltshire Regiment in 1881. The Barracks was the regimental headquarters until 1959 and then became a regimental museum until this moved to The Close in Salisbury. In 1890 the North Wiltshire Golf Club laid out its first course on Roundway Hill using a railway coach as their first club house. The civil parish of Roundway was created in 1894 and comprised part of Bishops Cannings parish and part of the chapelry of St. James, Southbroom.

The Colstons remained at Roundway Park until 1948 and in 1916 C. E. H. A. Colston was created the 1st Lord Roundway. A Reading Room of timber and corrugated iron on a brick foundation was erected by Edward Coward. From 1937 church services were held here, possibly the first to be held in the village in its known history. In 1938 the entire village contained only 30 households plus Roundway Park although the population of the parish was over 2,600. The population increased further after 1939 with the building of the Prince Maurice Barracks, mainly wooden huts to the north of Le Marchant Barracks.

After the war and substantial military activity in the parish, the 2nd Lord Roundway sold Roundway Park. The house, pleasure gardens, kitchen garden and a paddock were bought by Wiltshire County Council, who used part of the house for Civil Defence purposes. The land, 1,584 acres, was sold to the Bristol Merchant Ventures as the trustees of H. H. Wills chantry for Chronic and Incurable Sufferers. Roundway House was demolished in 1955. After the war a flax factory was operating on the Devizes road and this was a forerunner of the business to come in the Hopton Industrial estate and Garden Industrial estate as the old barracks were cleared in the 1970s and 1980s. Although the parish boundaries were redrawn in the late 20th century, taking Southbroom and Wick from Roundway and placing them in Devizes, new houses were built in other parts of the parish close to Devizes.

A decision to close Roundway Hospital was taken in 1989 and in 1990 a modern Green Lane Hospital was built in the grounds. The hospital was finally closed in 1995 and remaining patients accommodated in Green Lane. The Devizes Millennium project was the cutting of a white horse on Roundway Hill. Land was made available by farmer Chris Combe and owners the Crown Commissioners and the work carried out by commercial and voluntary bodies. The horse measuring about 45 x 45 metres was completed 29 September 1999.

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Haunted Wiltshire

Site of the first engagement at Roundway down

View from Roundway Down into the gruesome and aptly named 'Bloody Ditch'

Following the stand-off at Lansdowne Hill near the town of Chippenham a few days earlier, Sir William Waller, commander of the Parliamentarian army was eager to engage the Royalists at the soonest opportunity. He deciding to lay siege to the town of Devizes, where he had learned the Royalist, Lord Ralph Hopton (who had been injured during the Landsdowne encounter) had taken refuge. Waller, seizing the opportunity to have another pop at Hopton, gave the order to advanced on Devizes, unfortunately for Waller, Hopton had already sent word detailing his predicament. When Waller reached Devizes, he was horrified to find the superior forces of the Royalists cavalry and foot soldiers, commanded by Sir John Byron and Lord Wilmot waiting for him. A fierce battle ensued at Roundway Down, one mile north of Devizes, on the 13th July 1643.

As the battle raged, Waller could only watch in horror and disbelief as his men where cut down. Finally, in a desperate bid to escape the carnage, the Roundheads fled to nearby Roundway Hill where they found themselves cornered by the Royalists' Cavalry. A deep and dramatic escarpment fell away to their rear (the foot of which is now aptly named ’Bloody Ditch’) which would claim many lives that day and not just those of the Parliamentarians' but also those of the Royalist Cavalry, who, having been given the order to charge, inadvertently followed the fleeing Parliamentarians' over the abyss to their deaths, men and horses breaking their necks in the steep fall.

Well over 4000 men engaged in battle on that day and in excess of 600 or so of those perished at Bloody Ditch. Some were buried nearby at Rowde and Devizes on the 14th July. Some have been discovered in shallow graves on Roundway Down. These individuals had been stripped, their skeletal remains showing evidence of sabre and bullet wounds. The whereabouts of the remaining soldiers is a bit of a mystery but many scholars speculate, because of the logistics in moving so many men and horses, that a decision would most likely have been made to bury some of the dead where they fell at Bloody Ditch.

What had begun as a favourable strong hold for Sir William Waller’s Parliamentarians' ended in a crushing defeat, a defeat that would go down in history as one of the most decisive Royalist victories of the English Civil War.

The bodies of the fallen Parliamentarians' were stripped and pillaged by the Royalists, some personal items however are still being recovered to this day. Artillery artefacts, often unearthed by local farmers, have included canon balls and discharged carbine shot.

Standing atop Roundway hill, and looking down into Bloody Ditch still sends icy crystals down my spine. It can be a desolate and windswept place at the best of times, often shrouded in mist. So it is not surprising to learn that it has a very haunted history. Reports still abound of ghostly musket and canon fire echoing across the down. Sounds of horses in distress and the terrified screams and shouts of long dead soldiers are still common to this day. Though spectral horses have been seen plunging to their deaths over the escarpment there have been few sightings of actual soldiers. The Down is well known for its eerie mists that drift along the valley floor and the top of the escarpment. It is from these mists that the majority of ghostly encounters are often witnessed.

Roundway down and Bloody Ditch are now a nature reserves where many species of wild flowers and insects are plentiful. If you’re lucky you may just spot deer or two which roam freely on the Down.

How to get there:

From Devizes on the A361, turn into Folly Road by the Travelodge Hotel. Follow the road out of Devizes into Roundway village, from there follow the road up hill till you reach a fork, take the right fork where you will see a chalk white horse carved into the hillside on your right. Follow this road till it forks again, take the left fork. At the top of the hill follow the gravel track for about a ¼ mile till you reach a car park, you are now on Roundway Down. Access to Bloody Ditch and Roundway Hill, are through the gate just off the car park to the left, marked ‘Nature Reserve‘.

Haunted Wiltshire

Site of the first engagement at Roundway down

View from Roundway Down into the gruesome and aptly named 'Bloody Ditch'

Following the stand-off at Lansdowne Hill near the town of Chippenham a few days earlier, Sir William Waller, commander of the Parliamentarian army was eager to engage the Royalists at the soonest opportunity. He deciding to lay siege to the town of Devizes, where he had learned the Royalist, Lord Ralph Hopton (who had been injured during the Landsdowne encounter) had taken refuge. Waller, seizing the opportunity to have another pop at Hopton, gave the order to advanced on Devizes, unfortunately for Waller, Hopton had already sent word detailing his predicament. When Waller reached Devizes, he was horrified to find the superior forces of the Royalists cavalry and foot soldiers, commanded by Sir John Byron and Lord Wilmot waiting for him. A fierce battle ensued at Roundway Down, one mile north of Devizes, on the 13th July 1643.

As the battle raged, Waller could only watch in horror and disbelief as his men where cut down. Finally, in a desperate bid to escape the carnage, the Roundheads fled to nearby Roundway Hill where they found themselves cornered by the Royalists' Cavalry. A deep and dramatic escarpment fell away to their rear (the foot of which is now aptly named ’Bloody Ditch’) which would claim many lives that day and not just those of the Parliamentarians' but also those of the Royalist Cavalry, who, having been given the order to charge, inadvertently followed the fleeing Parliamentarians' over the abyss to their deaths, men and horses breaking their necks in the steep fall.

Well over 4000 men engaged in battle on that day and in excess of 600 or so of those perished at Bloody Ditch. Some were buried nearby at Rowde and Devizes on the 14th July. Some have been discovered in shallow graves on Roundway Down. These individuals had been stripped, their skeletal remains showing evidence of sabre and bullet wounds. The whereabouts of the remaining soldiers is a bit of a mystery but many scholars speculate, because of the logistics in moving so many men and horses, that a decision would most likely have been made to bury some of the dead where they fell at Bloody Ditch.

What had begun as a favourable strong hold for Sir William Waller’s Parliamentarians' ended in a crushing defeat, a defeat that would go down in history as one of the most decisive Royalist victories of the English Civil War.

The bodies of the fallen Parliamentarians' were stripped and pillaged by the Royalists, some personal items however are still being recovered to this day. Artillery artefacts, often unearthed by local farmers, have included canon balls and discharged carbine shot.

Standing atop Roundway hill, and looking down into Bloody Ditch still sends icy crystals down my spine. It can be a desolate and windswept place at the best of times, often shrouded in mist. So it is not surprising to learn that it has a very haunted history. Reports still abound of ghostly musket and canon fire echoing across the down. Sounds of horses in distress and the terrified screams and shouts of long dead soldiers are still common to this day. Though spectral horses have been seen plunging to their deaths over the escarpment there have been few sightings of actual soldiers. The Down is well known for its eerie mists that drift along the valley floor and the top of the escarpment. It is from these mists that the majority of ghostly encounters are often witnessed.

Roundway down and Bloody Ditch are now a nature reserves where many species of wild flowers and insects are plentiful. If you’re lucky you may just spot deer or two which roam freely on the Down.

How to get there:

From Devizes on the A361, turn into Folly Road by the Travelodge Hotel. Follow the road out of Devizes into Roundway village, from there follow the road up hill till you reach a fork, take the right fork where you will see a chalk white horse carved into the hillside on your right. Follow this road till it forks again, take the left fork. At the top of the hill follow the gravel track for about a ¼ mile till you reach a car park, you are now on Roundway Down. Access to Bloody Ditch and Roundway Hill, are through the gate just off the car park to the left, marked ‘Nature Reserve‘.


For most of its history Bishop's Cannings was a large parish which included the detached tithing of Chittoe and the chapelry of St. James, sometimes called Southbroom. Bishop's Cannings proper contained the tithings of Cannings, Bourton and Easton, Coate, and Horton. The chapelry included the tithings of Roundway, Wick, Nursteed, and Bedborough. (fn. 1) Chittoe was augmented by parts of Bromham and Poulshot in 1883 and constituted a civil parish: (fn. 2) in 1934 it was merged with Bromham, of which parish it forms the north-west corner. (fn. 3) It consisted of 1,309 acres. (fn. 4) Roundway became a civil parish in 1894 being formed partly from Bishop's Cannings and partly from the chapelry of St. James. A further portion of the chapelry was at the same time transferred to the borough of Devizes. (fn. 5) In 1934 the boundaries of the borough were expanded and Wick (now represented by Wick Green) and the whole of St. James's are now within the Municipal Borough of Devizes. Nursteed and Bedborough (now only traced by Bedborough Lane) (fn. 6) are in the parish of Roundway. (fn. 7) Bishop's Cannings is now the second largest parish in the county, comprising 8,871 acres. Roundway is 2,056 acres. (fn. 8)

The modern parish of Bishop's Cannings runs roughly from north to south being at its broadest in the north where it is dominated by the south-western slopes of the Marlborough Downs. The village of Bishop's Cannings lies in the south near the Kennet and Avon Canal: the road from Swindon and Banbury to Devizes (A 361) passes ½ mile to the west of the village. Haif a mile north-east is the hamlet of Bourton and south of this Easton Farm marking the site of the hamlet of Easton. Horton lies on the other side of the canal, south of Bishop's Cannings, to which it is linked by road. A minor road, branching off the Swindon road passes through Horton and goes to Allington and Pewsey crossing the canal by two stone bridges, the first of which is known as Horton Bridge. From Horton Bridge a minor road branches off to Little Horton and Coate which are separately connected with Devizes by a minor road passing over the canal by a stone bridge. (fn. 9) Bishop's Cannings and Horton were at one time linked directly by a track crossing a swing bridge over the canal the bridge remains but the track has now (1951) almost disappeared. Two other bridges over the canal lie within the parish but have fallen out of use. A minor road from Calne to Bishop's Cannings passes through the parish crossing the Swindon road a ¼ mile north-west of the village. A few yards short of the intersection the road divides: the northern arm, now a grass-grown track, passes north of the village to the downs and is known as Harepath Way. The name is said to derive from the O.E. herepæeth indicating the track followed by a Saxon army. (fn. 10) The southern arm of the road leads directly to the village. Wansdyke runs north-west through the centre of the parish, to the north of Bishop's Cannings village. A breach in the wall occurs at Shepherds' Shore where the Swindon road passes through. A ¼ mile north of this point the embankment is pierced by the old Bath and London coach road, the breach being known as Old Shepherds' Shore. (fn. 11) The word Shore derives from a characteristic Wiltshire word 'sceard' meaning a notch or a gap. (fn. 12) On the extreme north of the parish is the course of a former Roman road. The height of the land in the parish is about 500 ft. in the north, rises to 670 ft. on Bishop's Cannings Down, and falls to 400 ft. near Horton. On Morgan's Hill in the north-west it is 940 ft.

The village of Roundway is 1 mile north-east of Devizes. The parish has common borders with Bromham and Heddington on the north, Rowde on the west, and Devizes and Potterne on the south. Roundway is joined by road to all these places. The ground is highest in the north: Roundway Hill is 795 ft. In the south the land falls to about 430 ft. Between the village and Devizes is Roundway Park (fn. 13) through which passes a bridle road leading in a straight line to the village from Devizes and known as Quakers' Walk. The name is traditionally supposed to be a corruption of Keepers' Walk. (fn. 14) A few yards from the end of this walk, on the foot-path to the west of the village, is the traditional site of Roundway manor house. (fn. 15) Roundway Hill Covert, a wooded plantation covering the steep slope of the south-western extremity of the hill, was felled in 1949. (fn. 16) At the foot of the hill is a spring known as Mother Anthony's Well.

The village of Chittoe is ½ mile north-west of Bromham. Much of this former parish is woodland, including Spye Park through which runs the course of the Roman road and Wansdyke. It is possible that the woodland mentioned in the Domesday survey lay in this detached portion of Bishop's Cannings parish. The height of the ground in the neighbourhood is about 500 ft. (fn. 17)

The Wiltshire Avon has its source in streams that flow through Coate, Horton, and Bishop's Cannings, passing under the canal by three brick ducts. (fn. 18) It is in the one time marshy area of their source that Caningan mærsc, the farthest point of Danish penetration after the burning of Northampton in 1010, is said to be. (fn. 19) In the extreme north-west corner of the parish the North Wiltshire Golf Club has a nine-hole course. The club was founded in 1890 and first laid out its course on Roundway Hill, using a railway coach as a club-house. A new course was laid out on Morgan's Hill in 1898 and a pavilion built in 1920. In 1937 a club-house was erected. (fn. 20)

In the north-east corner of the parish are training gallops for the racing-stables at Beckhampton. Drew's Pond, a small stretch of water in the southern outskirts of Devizes in Roundway parish, now much overgrown, was once a popular resort for the people of Devizes. It is presumably named after the Drew family who held land in the parish and in Devizes from the 16th century. (fn. 21) Roundway Hospital, lying on the south-eastern boundary of Devizes in the parish of Roundway was opened in 1851 when it was known as the Wiltshire County Lunatic Asylum. It was built of Bath stone in the Italian style from designs by T. H. Wyatt and has been considerably enlarged since 1851. (fn. 22) The first medical superintendent was a Dr. Thurnam. (fn. 23) Devizes Waterworks, lying north of Shepherds' Shore on the Swindon Road, was erected in 1879 at a cost of £11,700. (fn. 24) There are five wells varying from 138 to 188 ft. in depth with a minimum reliable yield of 350,000 gals, a day. To meet increased demands a new bore hole was sunk in 1944 at Bourton. (fn. 25)

In July 1643 Roundway Down was the scene of a defeat of the Parliamentary forces under Waller by the Royalist army under Hopton. The precise site of the battle remains uncertain but it has recently been claimed that it took place between Roughridge Hill and Roundway Down. (fn. 26) Waller had recovered quickly after the battle of Lansdown on 5 July and chased the Royal army into Devizes. The Royalist cavalry escaped during the night of 10–11 July and on the 12th Waller attacked the besieged foot. It was, however, a relieving force of cavalry under Lord Wilmot and Sir John Byron that finally joined battle with the Parliamentary forces on 13 July. The besieged Royalist foot only ventured out when Waller's forces were in retreat and when Byron, according to his own account, 'fell in amongst them and killed 600 of them and hurt many more, and took 800 prisoners and all their colours'. (fn. 27)

Le Marchant Barracks was completed in 1878 at a cost of £46,000 and lies on the Devizes—Avebury road about a mile from the centre of the town and now in Roundway parish. It was named after Sir John Gaspard Le Marchant who commanded the 99th Foot in 1839. The Wiltshire Regiment (which was formed from the 99th and 62nd Foot) has its depot in the barracks (fn. 28) and the Regimental museum is housed in the building. (fn. 29) Prince Maurice Barracks, of timber and various types of hutting, which lies ½ mile farther north along the Avebury road was built in 1939 on land owned by the War Department. It is occupied by the Royal Army Pay Corps as a Regimental Pay Office for the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. (fn. 30)

Devizes Wireless Telegraph Station on Morgan's Hill was originally intended to form part of an Imperial chain of wireless stations. Some time before 1914 the Marconi Company erected eight tubular steel masts on the site. The outbreak of the war prevented the completion of the work and the scheme was abandoned about 1922.

During 1915, a section of the Royal Engineers Signals (Wireless) erected a station on the site which was used for interception and for training members of the Corps. In 1920 the site was taken over by the General Post Office and the equipment used for communicating with vessels at sea. After some years a second transmitter was installed by the Engineering Section of the Post Office. In 1935 the receivers were removed to a new site at Burnham-on-Sea (Som.) and the transmitters at Devizes remotely controlled from the receiving station. On completion of the Portishead Station, the Devizes Station was closed down the huts and masts were dismantled in 1929. (fn. 31)

The shooting range in the north-east corner of the parish under Morgan's Hill was presented to the Wilts Yeomanry Cavalry by G. T. S. Estcourt in 1884. (fn. 32)

There is no domestic architecture of especial note in Bishop's Cannings. In Horton there is a pair of 17th-century timber-framed cottages with thatched roof and central brick chimney, and another cottage of similar design close by. Many of the agricultural workers' cottages were built in the 19th century by the Crown as landlords.

There is a number of earthworks in the parish which do not appear to be prehistoric in origin. The following are the principal ones. (fn. 33) (i) Twenty-two scattered mounds just north of Old Shepherds' Shore: it has been suggested that these were military encampments in the Civil War. (fn. 34) (O.S. Nat. Grid. 41/040667) (ii) on the north-eastern boundary of the parish where it leaves the Roman road and runs south of Beckhampton, there is a series of embankments. Nothing is known of their origin (O.S. Nat. grid. 41/080675) (iii) rectangular earthwork O.S. Nat. grid. 41/056661, (iv) rectangular earthwork O.S. Nat. grid. 41/040670, excavated by Mrs. M. E. Cunnington 1909 (fn. 35) (v) rectangular inclosure O.S. Nat. grid. 41/026648 (not marked on 6 in. map): located from air photographs (vi) rectangular enclosure O.S. Nat. grid. 41/077660, the sides are 270 ft., 445 ft., 310 ft., and 410 ft. (fn. 36) (vii) rectangular earthwork abutting on the Wansdyke: O.S. Nat. grid. 41/073656 (viii) semi-rectangular earthwork O.S. Nat. grid. 41/024657. It has been suggested that the earthworks (iii) to (viii) are pastoral in origin and were inclosures both for sheep and their shepherds. (fn. 37)

Bishop's Cannings is connected with two astronomers. James Pound (1669–1724) was the son of John Pound of this parish, where he was born. He was the teacher of his nephew James Bradley (1693–1762), later Astronomer Royal. (fn. 38) William Bayly (1737– 1810) was the son of a small farmer in this parish. In 1772 and 1776 he sailed with Captain Cook and in 1785 became headmaster of the Royal (Naval) Academy, Portsmouth. (fn. 39) In 1805 Bayly gave £1,000 to the churchwardens of Bishop's Cannings for the purchase of an organ (see below—Churches).

Mrs. Ida Gandy (née Hony), the daughter of a former Vicar of Bishop's Cannings, has published the reminiscences of her childhood there. (fn. 40) This book gives numerous interesting glimpses of the parish as it was fifty years ago, and mentions localities and streets that have now disappeared. The author judges Bishop's Cannings to have been at that time still very parochial in its outlook. The custom of 'Skimmington Riding' existed in the parish under the name of 'Rough Music' as a public expression of disapproval for marital offences. (fn. 41)

Many stories of bucolic stupidity are told of Bishop's Cannings: the well-known tale about the smugglers from the village who were found attempting to recover contraband rum from the marsh and who assured the Excise men that they were raking for the moon shows them using such tales to their advantage. (fn. 42)


The manor of BISHOP'S CANNINGS was held by the Bishop of Salisbury at least as early as 1086. (fn. 43) The manor remained in the hands of successive bishops until the time of Roger (1102–39) who forfeited the episcopal estates in the reign of Stephen. Before his deprivation the bishop had built Devizes castle and the administrative area he formed around this was taken partly from the manor of Bishop's Cannings. Fees in Coate (2), 'Cannings and Horton' (1), and Horton (1) had, before 1255, formed part of the defensive system of knights for the castle. (fn. 44) The episcopal manors were restored in 1157 and remained in the hands of the bishop until the 17th century. Between 1647 and 1661 the manor was sold by the State to Samuel Wightwick for £6,065. 15s. 7d. but it was restored to the bishop in 1660. In the 19th century it passed into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (fn. 45) and it was sold in 1858 to the Crown. (fn. 46) The quinquennial accounts for 1866 to 1870 show the Crown making considerable capital improvements. (fn. 47)

No lessee of the manor is recorded before the 16th century. It is possible that earlier than this the bishop had an episcopal residence in the manor since in 1337 and 1377 he was granted licence to crenellate his houses in Potterne and Cannings. (fn. 48) In 1860 traces of a rampart and ditch were said to be still perceptible. (fn. 49)

The first recorded lessee is Thomas Lord Seymour of Sudeley who was granted the manor in 1547, on a ninety-nine year lease. On his attainder the lease was granted by the Crown to William Herbert, K.G., Master of the Horse, later Earl of Pembroke. (fn. 50) In 1616 Robert Drew of Southbroom was a lessee in 1637 Thomas Shuter and in 1639 Robert Henley, of Henley (Som.). (fn. 51) Sir Robert Henley in 1657 obtained the conveyance of half the manor from Samuel Wightwick. (fn. 52) Presumably this conveyance was rendered void by the restoration of the bishop's property in 1660. In 1661 Sir Robert sold his interest in his lease of the manor to Sir William Turner, merchant tailor and alderman of London. (fn. 53) The next lessee was Paul Methuen, who died in 1667. In 1720 Methuen's son sold the lease to Benjamin Haskins Styles. On his death it descended to Sir Francis Haskins Eyles Styles 'who sold it in chancery'. George Willy purchased the lease and at his death in 1762 it descended to his nephew, son of his sister who was the wife of Prince Sutton. Sutton's daughter married Thomas Grimston Estcourt and the lease finally passed to their son Thomas Henry Sutton Sotheron Estcourt who in 1858 sold it to the Crown. (fn. 54) The Crown and George Giddings Ruddle were the principal landowners in 1939. (fn. 55)

The rectory and manor (fn. 56) of CANNINGS CANONICORUM probably originated in the priest's holding of 2 hides mentioned in Domesday. (fn. 57) In 1091 Bishop Osmund gave the church of Cannings with the tithes and other things pertaining to it, to the cathedral then newly established at Salisbury, (fn. 58) and from that time the Rectory manor remained Dean and Chapter property. In c. 1155 Bishop Jocelin confirmed that Bishop's Cannings should not be appropriated to any one canon but should be ad communam. At that time Robert of Beaufoe held it as a prebend for a life interest only, but thereafter Bishop's Cannings was never a prebend. (fn. 59)

No lessee of the dean and chapter is recorded before 1402 when a Thomas Southam is named as the farmer of Cannings in circumstances that indicate that this manor was meant rather than the bishop's. (fn. 60) In 1548 the 'manor lordship and rectory of Cannings' had been leased to Thomas, Lord Seymour of Sudeley: on his attainder in 1550 it was granted by the Crown to William Herbert, K.G., Master of the Horse, for the remaining term, rent free. (fn. 61) In 1649 a parliamentary survey showed that Richard, Samuel and John Doughty had been lessees of the dean and chapter: Samuel and John had died and Richard was presumed to be dead and a Richard Aldworth held the manor as Richard's supposed assignee. The Committee of Obstructions would not accept Richard Doughty's death but in 1650 allowed Aldworth to hold for one life only. (fn. 62) In 1660 the lease passed to Sir Edward Nicholas, Principal Secretary of State to both Charles I and II. (fn. 63) The Nicholas family retained the lease at least until 1742: William Nicholas died in 1749 (fn. 64) but there is no record of the lessees that followed him until the beginning of the 19th century when the dean and chapter sold the manor to Sir Anthony Abdy by whom it was conveyed to T. Sutton. It descended, like Bishop's Cannings manor, to T. H. S. Sotheron Estcourt and was sold in 1858, along with the lease of that manor, to the Crown. (fn. 65)

The manor of BOURTON was also held of that of Bishop's Cannings. In 1370 Robert de Stokes granted to Sir Philip Fitzwaryn the reversion of the manor then held by John Gaston of Stanton St. Quintin and Maud his wife, for the life of Maud. (fn. 66) Sir Philip granted it four years later to Walter de Frompton. (fn. 67) The manor is not recorded again until the 16th century when it passed into the possession of the Erneley or Ernle family. John Ernle was living at Bourton in 1539. (fn. 68) His son or grandson of the same name held the manor of Bourton in 1572. (fn. 69) He was succeeded by his son Michael, who died in 1594. (fn. 70) Michael's son John sold the manor in 1630 to Henry Blackborow. (fn. 71) It was held in 1634 by 'the Lady Susan Reynolds', (fn. 72) probably as a tenant of Blackborow since in 1658 a Peter Blackborow conveyed it to Robert Henley (the lessee of Bishop's Cannings). (fn. 73) Robert's grandson Sir Robert Henley, bt., sold Bourton in 1670 to Henry Woolnough, from whom it descended to his son Joshua Woolnough. (fn. 74) Rollstone Woolnough, son of Joshua, left it in his will, dated 1757, to his three sisters for their lives, with reversion to his niece Elizabeth, wife of J. H. Smyth, son of Sir Jarrit Smyth, bt. Lady Smyth (who was still alive in 1809) left her estate to the Revd. Israel Lewis, whose trustees sold it after his death to George Skeate Ruddle. (fn. 75) In 1939 George G. Ruddle held this property. (fn. 76) A Court roll for 1595 described as being of 'John Ernle's manor of Bishop's Cannings', presumably refers to Bourton. In 1907 it was in the possession of Major Money Kyrle of Much Marcle (Heref.). (fn. 77)

The manor of COATE or COTES may have originated in the two knight's fees held there by William of Coate to support the defence of Devizes castle. (fn. 78) It was held late in the 12th century by Walter Mautravers, who forfeited it to the Crown in 1194 for supporting Prince John. (fn. 79) By 1200 Walter and his father were dead and the property passed to John, Walter's brother. The descent is direct throughout the 13th century, passing, in 1296–7 to John Mautravers 'the elder', who, in the political troubles of the reign of Edward II took the king's side, while his more famous son John 'the younger' was an adherent of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. In 1339 John 'the elder' settled the manor of Cotes, among other property, on his grandson John, notwithstanding the forfeiture of John 'the younger'. John 'the elder' died in 1341. In 1351–2 John 'the younger', who (while exiled in Germany) had given valuable service to the Crown, was fully restored to power. His son John died very probably in 1348–9 and his grandson Henry in infanthood in the same year. At the death of John 'the younger' in 1364 the barony fell into abeyance and finally passed to his younger granddaughter Eleanor, (fn. 80) who married first John fitz Alan, son of Richard fitz Alan, 3rd Earl of Arundel, and secondly, in 1380, Reynold de Cobham, Lord Cobham. (fn. 81) Cobham died in 1403, and Eleanor was left in possession of his manor of Cotes. (fn. 82) She died in 1405 and the manor passed to her grandson John fitz Alan, 6th Earl of Arundel. When the 6th Earl died in 1421 his relict Eleanor, daughter of Sir John Berkeley, was granted seisin of Cotes. (fn. 83) Eleanor survived until 1455. (fn. 84) The subsequent descent of the manor is not clear. (fn. 85)

Thomas Southe, who died in 1606, had held the manor of Cotes of the Bishop of Salisbury as of his manor of Bishop's Cannings in free socage and by fealty. His heir was his son Edward. (fn. 86) Edward held the manor in 1634. (fn. 87) In 1650 he sold it to Walter Ernle, grandson of the Michael Ernle (d. 1594) who had held Bourton manor. (fn. 88) Sir Edward Ernle, bt., great-grandson of the above Walter Ernle, married Frances, only daughter and heir of General Thomas Ernle of Charborough (Dors.). Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Edward and Frances, married Henry Drax of Ellerton Abbey (Yorks.). Cotes descended through Elizabeth to her son Thomas Erle Drax. Thomas died childless in 1790, and was succeeded by his brother Edward Drax. Edward's daughter and heiress Sarah-Frances married Richard Grosvenor her daughter JaneFrances married J. Wanley Sawbridge, who assumed the name and arms of Erle-Drax. Sarah Charlotte Erle-Drax, daughter of Jane-Frances, married F. A. P. Burton and secondly J. L. Egginton. In 1887 Mrs. Egginton assumed, with her husband, the name and arms of Ernle-Erle-Drax. Mrs. Ernle-Erle-Drax died in 1905 and was succeeded by her only daughter (by the first marriage) Elizabeth, Baroness Dunsany. (fn. 89)

Another estate of the tithing of COATE was held by the Hastings family. In 1324 William son of Nicholas de Warwick conveyed a messuage, 4 virgates of arable, 10 acres of meadow, and 10 acres of pasture in Cotes to John de Hastings. (fn. 90) This was probably the 2nd Lord Hastings of Abergavenny, for in 1364 a certain Richard atte Felde died in possession of the property, which reverted to Agnes, relict of Laurence de Hastings, Earl of Pembroke, son of the 2nd Lord Hastings. (fn. 91) John de Hastings, Earl of Pembroke, son of Laurence, died in 1375, holding 'land in Cotes called Coldecote', from the Bishop of Salisbury. (fn. 92) His relict held it after his death and died seised of it in 1384. (fn. 93) Their son died in 1389, while still under age. (fn. 94)

This property was possibly that now known as Calcote Farm. (fn. 95)

The manor of HORTON or HORTON QUARLES may have originated in the 2 knights fees in the district held like those in Coate to support the defence of Devizes castle, (fn. 96) though it is not possible to trace any descent from the holders mentioned in the Hundred Rolls. Half a knight's fee in Horton was held in 1191 by Peter son of Walter. (fn. 97) This property was probably that referred to in 1236 as having belonged to Brian de L'Isle. (fn. 98) Brian had died in 1234 leaving as his heirs Thomas Brito and Alice his wife, William of Glamorgan, and Ralph of Stopham. (fn. 99) Agatha of St. George, the demandant of 1236, demanded ⅓ of ½ knight's fee in Horton from Roger la Zouche, guardian of Ralph de Stopham, and claimed that this land was not held in chief of the king. In the same year Thomas Brito and Alice his wife granted to William of Glamorgan ⅓ of ½ a knight's fee in Horton, a third part of which was held in dower by Grace, relict of Brian de L'Isle. (fn. 100) In 1289 Mabel de L'Isle was granted a messuage and a carucate of land in Horton by Walter de Lumeney and Joan his wife. (fn. 101) In 1331 Joan, relict of Thomas de Gournaye, and previously of Thomas Try vet, received ⅓of the manor of Horton with the corn sown there, which she held in dower from Thomas Tryvet, and which had been forfeited to the king by the rebellion of Thomas de Gournaye. (fn. 102)

In 1378–9 the reversion of the manor of Horton was granted by Philippa, daughter of Richard Hyweye to Sir John de Roches. At that time it was held by Sir Nicholas de Berkeley and Cecily his wife for the life of the latter. (fn. 103) At the inquest of the lands of Cecily in 1393 she was stated to have held 'lands and tenements' in Horton. The manor passed early in the 15 th century from the Roches family to that of Baynton. (fn. 104) John Baynton Kt. who died in 1465 had held the manor jure uxoris. (fn. 105) His son Robert succeeded but in 1471 forfeited his lands on attainder. (fn. 106) Horton was granted in 1475 to John Cheyne, or Cheyney, one of the king's Esquires of the Body. (fn. 107) In 1503 Margaret Stourton, relict of John Cheyney, described as 'knight', died seised of a moiety of the manor (or perhaps the whole manor) worth £8 and held of the earldom of Salisbury by service of a 1 /5 of a knight's fee. (fn. 108)

In July 1485 the remainder of the manor was granted to George Neville, but after Bosworth it was restored to the Bayntons, and Sir Edward Baynton died in possession of it in 1545. (fn. 109)

In 1577 Nicholas Swell died in possession of Horton Quarles. He had settled it in the previous year on his son and heir John. (fn. 110) John Swell conveyed it in 1583 to Simon Sloper and Thomas Weston. (fn. 111) Robert Forman held the farm of Horton in 1622, together with land called Quarles. (fn. 112) He was succeded in that year by his son Robert. In 1634 Richard Forman was a tenant of the Bishop of Salisbury in Horton, holding by knight service, but the largest proprietor in the tithing was 'the heir of Simon Unwin'. By this time the 'manor' of Horton Quarles was no more than a number of small holdings. (fn. 113) Richard Forman died in 1640, when it was stated that Horton Farm was held of the king 'in socage in chief by fealty only', and that in 1633 it had been settled on Richard's wife Alice, with reversion to their daughter Alice. (fn. 114)

About 1665 the landowners in Horton were Sir Edward Nicholas, Sir William Turner, Benjamin Gifford of Bosham (Hants), Thomas Weston, and John Unwin who was the largest proprietor. (fn. 115)

In the tithing of Chittoe, an estate which later became known as the manor of CHITTOE passed like Horton from the Roches family to the Bayntons. In 1411 the escheator for Wiltshire was ordered to assign to Elizabeth, wife of Walter Beauchamp and daughter and coheir of Sir John Roches rent of 13s. 4d. issuing from lands in Chittoe whereof Geoffrey Driffelde was tenant for life. Nicholas Baynton, husband of Joan, the other Roches heiress, gave assent to this. (fn. 116) In 1593 Edward Baynton was stated to have recently obtained Spye Park in Chittoe from Stephen Duckett. Edward had died in 1597. Thereafter the 'manor' of Chittoe followed the same descent as that of Bromham Battle (q.v.).

In the tithing of ROUNDWAY no manor has been traced but there was at least one major estate held under the Bishop of Salisbury. From the 14th century until the 18th, the senior branch of the Wiltshire family of Nicholas held land in the tithing, their tenancy being illustrated by a remarkable series of private deeds lodged in the British Museum and the Wiltshire Record Office. (fn. 117)

The earliest member of the family that can be traced is a William Nicholas who was probably alive at the end of the 13th century. William was succeeded by Thomas, and Thomas by John. John's son and heir of the same name died in 1434. (fn. 118) During his lifetime the family had owned land in Roundway computed at 2 /5 of a knight's fee. (fn. 119) He was succeeded by a third John (d. 1461) who married Anne daughter of Thomas Ennock. This John's eldest son, William, was 'slain without the gatehouse of Roundway' and the estate passed to his second son, another John who married Agnes daughter of John Goore of 'Hinton' and died in 1502. (fn. 120) During the 16th century the descent is obscure and it is possible that several branches of the family were holding land in Roundway. Towards the end of the century Edward and Robert did homage for their lands in Roundway at Bishop's Cannings court. (fn. 121) This may have been the Edward of Manningford who founded that branch of the family, (fn. 122) and the lands possibly passed through his son Robert (fn. 123) to Griffin Nicholas who on his death in 1635 left his lands in Roundway to his 'Cousin' Thomas. (fn. 124) The deeds show, however, that Griffin secured a good deal of his land by purchase from other members of the family. From Thomas the estate possibly passed to Robert, one time Baron of the Exchequer and great-grandson of Edward of Manningford, (fn. 125) who died in 1667 owning Roundway. (fn. 126) The estate passed out of the family for two generations at Robert's death and was bought in 1705 by another Robert, a descendant of a younger brother. (fn. 127) From this Robert the land passed to Edward the eldest son (of his second wife Jane Child), who married into the Richmond family. Their son Edward Richmond Nicholas, M.B., died 1770: (fn. 128) a survey made before his death, possibly in 1753, shows his holdings scattered about the tithing in the open fields, in the village and in what is now Roundway Park. The property bordering on the Nicholas estate is shown as belonging to a William Willey. (fn. 129) A person of this name was M.P. for Devizes and died in 1765 (fn. 130) his brother George, described as being of New Park, was Mayor of Devizes in 1758. (fn. 131) It was to this family the Nicholas holdings passed by sale sometime after 1770 when Edward Richmond had been succeeded in the Roundway estate by his son Robert, M.P. for Cricklade in 1784. (fn. 132)

At this time the Roundway estate becomes associated with that of NEW PARK. Although at least a small portion of the Devizes parks had been alienated from the Crown by 1634 and appears at that date in a survey of Bishop's Cannings manor as 'New Park' (fn. 133) the major portion seems to have remained within Devizes at least until 1664. (fn. 134) From the Willey family the estate followed the descent of Bishop's Cannings (see above) through the Suttons to the Estcourts. T. H. S. Estcourt lived at New Park until 1837 or 1839 (fn. 135) and in 1840 the estate was bought by E. F. Colston of Filkins Hall (Oxon.). (fn. 136) It is probably about this time that the estate became known as ROUNDWAY PARK. In 1842 the new tenant caused some popular resentment by inclosing 'Sheep Wash Dell'. (fn. 137) In 1892 the deer park was said to consist of 120 acres inclosed by continuous iron fencing and to contain about 200 fallow deer. (fn. 138) From E. F. Colston the estate passed to his son Edward who was succeeded by his second son C. E. H. A. Colston. In 1916 C. E. H. A. Colston was created the first Lord Roundway: he died in 1925 and was succeeded by his son (fn. 139) who sold the estate in 1948. The house, the pleasure grounds, the kitchen garden, and a paddock called the 'Home Ground' were sold to the Wiltshire County Council who use a part of the house for Civil Defence purposes. (fn. 140) The remainder of the estate, comprising 1,584 acres was sold to the Merchant Venturers of Bristol as Trustees of the Charity of H. H. Wills for Chronic and Incurable Sufferers. The land is leased to farmers. (fn. 141)

At least three houses are connected with the Roundway estate. For most of their tenancy the Nicholas family are reputed to have lived at Nicholas Place. (fn. 142) The site of this house was very probably in the meadow that now (1951) lies at the end of Quakers' Walk on the foot-path crossing to the west of the village. That this was in fact the site is strongly emphasized by the earthworks to be found there and by the marking of a house at this point on an 18th-century map of the Nicholas property. (fn. 143) Both Nicholas Farm and Roundway Farm are mentioned as Nicholas property in 16th-century deeds (fn. 144) but it is not clear whether these may be identified with Nicholas Place, with the present Roundway Farm or with the Home Farm in Roundway Park. From Nicholas Place the family appear to have moved into 'New Park' in the 18th century. (fn. 145) What seems to have been their house now forms the kitchen block of the present Roundway House. In 1780 James Sutton began to rebuild the house of the Nicholases (fn. 146) from designs by James Wyatt. (fn. 147)

The house, which faces north-east, consists of a hollow square inclosing a courtyard, which is pierced on the north-east and south by archways, that on the south leading into the garden. The main reception rooms are on the south-west, the kitchens on the north-west. There are stables on the other two sides. Between the main gateway and a portico porch in the centre of the south-east block there is an elliptical wall with an open balustrade. The oldest part of the building, of 18th-century construction, is the kitchen block, of two stories with basement. It is of brick with stone dressings but the brickwork on the south-east has been faced with stucco. The plaster ceiling in the kitchen, panelling in Lower and Upper Oak Rooms, and marble fireplaces seem to confirm the tradition that this block was the original New Park house. The rest of the buildings are of three stories and built of ashlar. With the exception of the billiard-room they are of Greek classical design, with several marble chimney pieces and a painted ceiling in the dining-room. The panelling in the drawing-room is said to have come from Whitton Park (Middx.), the home of the first Lady Roundway. The billiard-room at the south-east end of the south-west block was built in 1892 on the site of a conservatory. There was a fire at the house in 1792 but it seems to have done no permanent damage. (fn. 148)

Three other holdings in Roundway are of some interest. In his charter of 1149 returning the sequestered lands to the Bishop of Salisbury, Henry, Duke of Normandy (later Henry II), excepted, among other things, 2 hides held by Gregory. (fn. 149) There is no further record of this property as Crown land: it may have been merged with the Devizes holdings, forming perhaps part of New Park or it may have been returned to the bishop. Within Roundway was a property of De Vaux College. (fn. 150) This holding is very probably the messuage and virgate acquired by Bishop Giles from Robert de Littlecote in 1262. (fn. 151) In 1543 the college properties were granted by the Crown to Michael Lyster, kt. (fn. 152) and passed into the Nicholas family in 1548. (fn. 153) The tenant at that time was Robert Sompnour: the Valor records his rent as 10s. per annum. (fn. 154) Bradenstoke priory had a small holding of land in Roundway known as Holdcroft under Cotte-grove. (fn. 155)


The advowson of Bishop's Cannings church was considered as parcel of the foundation gift to Salisbury Cathedral of the Rectory manor of Cannings Canonicorum (see above). Thus since 1091 the dean and chapter have been the patrons of the living. (fn. 156) The patrons have from time to time waived their right of presentation or sold it to lessees. The earliest institution of which there is record names a Walter Hervy as patron in 1313 (fn. 157) from 1316 to 1390 the dean and chapter exercised their right but in 1402 the institution was said to be by them at the nomination of Thomas Southam, the lessee of the rectory manor. The canons exercised their right from 1410 to 1543 but in 1593 Michael Ernely, kt., of Whetham, is named as patron and in 1623 John Ferebe, Rector of Poole Keynes (Glos.). (fn. 158) From 1650 the dean and chapter held the patronage to themselves although on two occasions, 1683 and 1815, it was the bishop who actually presented. (fn. 159)

With the gift by St. Osmund of the church of Bishop's Cannings went the episcopal jurisdiction so that the parish remained a peculiar of the dean and achapter until these jurisdictions were abolished in the nineteenth century. (fn. 160)

The value of the rectory and manor of Cannings Canonicorum together with the tithes was always considerable. In 1291 the church was valued at £53. 6s. 8d. and the vicarage at £10. (fn. 161) In 1535 the farm of the rectory and manor was reckoned at £101. 7s. 9d. and the vicar's income at £18. 5s. 8d. (fn. 162) and in 1548 the lessee paid a rent of £102. 1s. 1½d. for the farm of the rectory. (fn. 163) In 1649 the vicarage was worth £60. (fn. 164) The actual value of the rectory and manor was, of course, considerably greater than this: when the lease passed to the Nicholas family in 1660 the leasehold and copyhold rents totalled £738. 7s. 9d. The rent due to the dean and chapter was then £103. 7s. 9d. with £40 due in rent and grain to the vicar. The difference was offset in the usual way by fine upon entry into the lease and in 1742 William Nicholas recorded that his family had 'had the lease 82 years and paid £3,700 for fine beside what was paid by Sir Edward Nicholas in 1660'. (fn. 165)

The value of the tithes was considerable: in 1649 those of the tithings of Cannings, Bourton and Easton, Horton, and Chittoe for corn, grain, wool, lambs, and hay amounted to £421, besides what was due to the vicar those in Chittoe, Wick, and Nursteed were valued at £90 Roundway and Bedborough £78. (fn. 166) In 1660 the tithes of corn in Bishop's Cannings were valued at £95, in Bourton and Easton £95, in Horton £85, in Coate £90, in Wick and Nursteed £90. Tithes of wool and lamb for the whole parish were worth £85, tithes of hay for Coate and another district £40. At that time the vicar received the tithe of corn, hay, wool and lambs arising from the farm and glebe lands and the tenths of the tithes of the wool and lambs of the whole parish. (fn. 167)

Portions of the tithes were from time to time subleased either by the dean and chapter or their lessees. (fn. 168) In the 19th century the great tithes and part of the small tithes passed with the rectory manor to Sir Anthony Abdy. When the manor later passed into the hands of T. H. S. Sotheron Estcourt he merged the greater part of tithes in land by agreement with the Bishop of Salisbury and surrendered the rest for the augmentation of the churches of Southbroom, Chittoe, and Bishop's Cannings. By the Tithe Rent Charge Acts all tithes due to the vicar were converted to a rentcharge of £360 a year. (fn. 169) In 1940 £435 was due to the incumbent from tithe redemption, £42 from 24 acres of glebe land, and £204 from Queen Anne's Bounty. (fn. 170)

The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN was built in the second half of the 12th century and probably consisted then of chancel, nave, north and south transepts, and a two-story sacristy. In the 13th century a central tower was added or possibly rebuilt and the porch was either added or rebuilt in the following century. During alterations in the 15th century a spire was added to the tower: at the same time the north and south walls of the aisles were rebuilt and raised, the nave walls raised and the original clerestory windows blocked, and traceried windows fitted in their place.

The church is built mainly of ashlar and the roofs are covered with stone slates.

The 14th-century porch has a vaulted ceiling and there are three bays of stone vaulting in the chancel. The nave roof of the collar-beam type is dated in the 17th century and the aisles, transepts, and the chapel were reroofed in the 19th century.

Before the Reformation there was a chantry chapel in the church of Bishop's Cannings called 'Our Lady of the Bower'. In 1563 this chapel, since it had been 'for the celebration of papistical masses. constructed and built, and such masses, repugnant and contrary to divine law, by the laws and statutes of this famous Kingdom of England are lawfully abolished and prohibited', and because the cost of its upkeep was heavy, was transferred by the churchwardens of the parish to John Ernle, for his use and that of his family and heirs. Recessed into the north wall is a large stone tomb which is a memorial to John Ernle who died in 1571. On the south wall there is a memorial to Edward Ernle who died in 1656 and who was the son of Michael Ernle of Bourton, and of Edward, his grandchild, who died in 1675. (fn. 171) In the 16th century land belonging to the chapel was purchased by Sir John Perrott, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, (fn. 172) but there is no other record of the Chantry endowments.

There are traces of stoups in the porch and by the 15th-century door to the north aisle. There are two piscinae in the south wall of the chancel and one in the south chapel. The sacristy on the north side of the chancel is now a vestry. There are three scratch dials in the church, one in the porch and two close together on the south wall east of the porch. There is also a post-Reformation dial on the south-east quoin of the chancel. (fn. 173) The church was restored 1883–4 at the cost of about £3,600. (fn. 174) The organ was bought for £400 with money given for that purpose by William Bayley in 1809. The remaining £600 of his gift of £1,000 was invested in 1821 in £631 worth of Consols, the money for the additional stock being subscribed by Thomas Grimston Estcourt into whose hands the money had been entrusted by Bayley at his death in 1810. The interest on this money was, in 1939, applied to the tuning and repair of the organ and towards the stipend of the organist. (fn. 175) The instrument was first erected in a gallery at the west end but it was twice moved and is now in the north transept.

The church contains an unusual piece of furniture similar in construction to a single box pew with a small door. Painted on the inner side of one panel in such a position that it would be on the left of anyone seated at the small desk fitted opposite the seat, is a 'hand of meditation'. On the fingers of the hand and on a scroll below it are inscribed brief admonitory sentences in Latin. It has been suggested that the seat is a monastic 'carrell' but the origin, purpose, and date of the seat is much disputed. (fn. 176)

George Ferebe (Vicar of Bishop's Cannings 1593 to 1623) distinguished himself in 1613 by composing a pastoral which was sung by him and his parishioners before Queen Anne of Denmark as she passed through the parish. The queen showed her gratitude by securing him appointment as a chaplain to the king. (fn. 177) This event has been dramatized by Ida W. Gandy under the title When the Queen Passed By (Village Drama Society Plays). Ferebe is also said to have entertained James I with 'bucolics' of his own making at 'the Bush in Cotefield'. (fn. 178) During his time it was said that Bishop's Cannings 'would have challenged all England for musique, football and ringing'. (fn. 179)

Canon H. H. Mogg, vicar from 1907 to 1927, made his mark in the Church Schools movement and gave much of his time to the furtherance of education in the district. (fn. 180)

The parish registers begin in 1591 and are complete except for the years 1702 to 1812. (fn. 181) Edward VI's commissioners left the church 27 oz. silver but took 127 oz. for the king. (fn. 182) The church plate now comprises a chalice with hall-mark 1660 a paten hall-marked 1712 and a tankard-shaped flagon hall-marked 1827 both bought by the parish in 1846 an alms-dish hallmarked 1824 and presented by the Revd. William Macdonald in 1825. (fn. 183) There are eight bells: (i) 1607 (ii) 1602 (iii) 1602 (iv) thomas mears founder LONDON 1840 (v) GEORGE FEREBE VICAR 1602 (vi) 1602 (vii) as (iv) (viii) 1626 recast 1897. The bells were originally cast by John Wallis of Salisbury during the incumbency of George Ferebe. (fn. 184)

Besides the Bayley charity the church is endowed with a charity known as 'The Church Lands'. The origin of this charity is uncertain but the deed appointing new trustees in 1760 states that the income is to be used for the repair of the fabric and for the use of the church. In 1901 this property comprised 5 tenements in Bishop's Cannings including a house called the Church House and a malt-house with a building adjoining it 2 tenements in Bedborough tithing behind St. James's Church, and 2 more in Southbroom a close of meadow in Bishop's Cannings called Brick-kiln ground, another close in 'Coate field' and yet another in Bourton and Easton tithing. On all the tenements were cottages in tenantable repair. In 1900 the gross income from rents was £99. 5s. 6d. (fn. 185) In 1939 the net yearly income was said to be £130. (fn. 186)

In Chittoe, the detached portion of Bishop's Cannings, there seems to have been at one time a chapel. In 1535 the Vicar of Bishop's Cannings paid the Rector of Bromham the annual sum of 6s. 8d. for the chapel of Chittoe. (fn. 187) No trace of the chapel now remains. Until the 19th century the people of Chittoe were accustomed to celebrate marriages and bury their dead in Bishop's Cannings and an old track across the downs acquired thereby the name of 'The Burying Road'. (fn. 188) For some years before 1845 the inhabitants of Chittoe were accustomed to be married at Bishop's Cannings but to attend Bromham Church for baptism and burial. (fn. 189) In that year the church of ST. MARY was built at Chittoe, through the efforts of Archdeacon Macdonald, Vicar of Bishop's Cannings, Mrs. Charlotte Starky, and Bishop Denison of Salisbury. The church consists of nave and chancel and is constructed of ashlar with free stone dressings, in imitation of the Decorated style. (fn. 190) The new living was in the gift of the bishop, who had endowed it with £25 out of his estate. Further endowments were added by the vicar, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and Mr. Sotheron Estcourt. The patronage was subsequently acquired by the Spicer family of Bromham, and the present patron is Captain F. F. F. Spicer. (fn. 191)

The chapel of St. James, Southbroom, was formerly under the jurisdiction of the Vicar of Bishop's Cannings. The chapelry was formed into a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1831. The patron is the Vicar of Bishop's Cannings. (fn. 192)

In Roundway a reading-room for social, parish, and religious work was erected by Edward Coward (d. 1945). It is constructed of timber and corrugated iron on a brick foundation. In 1937 the Parochial Church Council of Southbroom accepted responsibility for the building a lease for thirty years at a rent of 2s. 6d. per annum was granted by the Crown as landlords. Fortnightly services are held in the room from October to April. (fn. 193)


In 1829 there were no dissenting places of worship in Bishop's Cannings but there was a considerable number of dissenters of several persuasions who attended chapels in Devizes. The Society of Wesleyan Methodists met in one labourer's cottage and a Society of Independents in another. (fn. 194) In 1835 one of the two Sunday schools in the parish was for the children of dissenters: 95 children were taught gratis. (fn. 195)

There were two Methodist societies in other parts of the parish, one at Coate and the other at Horton. In 1829 the Coate Society was assessed at 12s. for the quarter (fn. 196) and was included in the recently created Devizes Circuit. (fn. 197) In 1832, 1837, and 1842 this society had five members but it is omitted from the Devizes Quarterly Schedules of 1850 and makes no appearance thereafter. (fn. 198)

The Horton Society was assessed in 1829 for 14s. (fn. 199) In 1831 a piece of land, 27 ft. square, was bought from Thomas Giddings of Horton for £5 for the purpose of building a chapel in Horton. The property was acquired by the Wiltshire Mission in trust in 1836. (fn. 200) In 1873 there was said to be accommodation in the chapel for 100 persons. (fn. 201) In 1832 the membership of the society was 7: ten years later this number had doubled and it remained so until 1886 when it fell to 12. (fn. 202) In 1951 there were 9 members. (fn. 203) The chapel benefits under the will of Amelia Holloway who in 1841 bequeathed £40 in trust for the repair of the chapel and as an endowment for the minister of the Wesleyan Connexion stationed at Devizes. In 1901 the charity was being administered in accordance with the trust. (fn. 204)

At Chittoe Heath there is a Methodist chapel now attached to the Calne Circuit. Before 1932 this had been a Primitive Methodist chapel the main building was erected in 1882 and additional accommodation was provided in 1914. (fn. 205)

Coate 'school' was built in 1848 by E. B. Anstie, tobacco manufacture of Devizes, who, while on a visit to Jamaica, had been converted to the uses of The Brethren and started Gospel services in a cottage in Coate in 1841. The building continued to be used both as a chapel and a school: (fn. 206) in 1859 it was reported that 20 to 30 'children of dissenters' were taught there by a master. (fn. 207) The erection of the Anglican school (c. 1870) left the chapel with few pupils but it has continued actively until the present day to serve as a chapel. (fn. 208)


Bishop's Cannings appears in Domesday (fn. 209) as a large and rich manor: it was assessed at 70 hides and there was estimated to be land for 45 plough teams, with 10 hides, 5 plough teams, and 6 serfs in demesne. A house in Calne belonged to the manor and paid 20d. per annum but no later record of this property has been found. The bishop's demesne was valued at £60 and the holdings of the other tenants at £35.

The manor was valued at £129 in 1291—more than £30 above Potterne, where in 1086 the bishop's demesne had been the same value as that of Bishop's Cannings. (fn. 210) The net value of the manor in 1535 was £164. 10s. 1¾d., (fn. 211) again about £30 more than that of Potterne.

Michael Tidcombe, steward of the Bishop of Salisbury, surveyed the manor in 1634. (fn. 212) The tithing of Cannings contained the manor of Cannings Canonicorum which consisted of 9 yardlands and 9 tenements making up 140 acres of arable, 32 acres of meadow, and pasture for 730 sheep. The remainder of the tithing was made up of the tenements of Sir John Danvers, and 3 other freeholders and 9 leaseholders there were 5 copyholders. The tithing of Bourton and Easton contained the manor of Bourton which consisted of 6 yardlands in demesne made up of 120 acres of arable, 12 acres meadow called 'Eastmead', a 5—acre meadow, called 'the Shiphouse mead', 'the Storkes mead' of 4 acres, 'Long mead' and 'Knights Green' of 4 acres, 'the Milham', 'the Moor', and 'the Ashehayes' containing 2 acres and several down for 600 sheep and common for 12 cattle on 'Canning Cowdowne' there were 10 freehold tenants and 12 copyholders. In Horton tithing there were 3 freeholders and 5 copyholders and the manor consisted of 80 acres of arable, 35 acres of meadow, and pasture for 200 sheep. In Roundway there were 5 freeholders, 2 leaseholders, and 6 copyholders in Wick, Nursteed, and Bedborough there were 10 freeholders, 13 leaseholders, and 20 copyholders. In the three lesser tithings, together with Roundway there were an additional 2 freeholders. At New Park there were 3 freeholders. At Chittoe, there was a freeholder (Sir Edward Baynton), a leaseholder, and 12 copyholders. Coate contained the manor of that name, 3 freeholders, a leaseholder, and 4 copyholders, and consisted of 400 acres.

The parish of Bishop's Cannings lies partly within the belt of Upper Greensand which runs from the neighbourhood of Devizes to Burbage. There are also areas of Chalk Marl. Corn and sheep-farming are thus both carried on extensively. (fn. 213) At the end of the 16th century the parish still followed the open field system of farming in typical medieval fashion. In 1597 Robert Nicholas conveyed to John his son a property described as Roundway Farm. The terrier attached to this deed shows that the 160 acres involved were split up into small strips, many of ½ acre or less, distributed among three fields—the East, North, and South Fields. There were, altogether, more than 160 such strips. (fn. 214)

In 1634, in spite of the fact that inclosure had not taken place, sheep farming was carried on on a large scale. The dean and chapter had in their manor 'several down for 730 sheep'. Sir Edward Baynton kept 1,000 sheep on his tenement in the tithing of Cannings. (fn. 215) In Horton the heir of Simon Unwin had 'several down for 800 sheep'. The Lady Susan Reynolds had the same in Bourton for 600 sheep, and the smaller landowners mostly made returns of the sheepbearing capacity of their land. (fn. 216) In 1859 there were in the parish 11,310 sheep, 164 horses, 262 cattle, and 313 pigs. Three years before the crops of corn had been wheat (1,208 acres), barley (226 acres), beans (168 acres), peas (102 acres), and oats (145 acres). At that time the white crop was mostly threshed by steamengine while the beans were got out by the flail. (fn. 217)

There are now six farms around Bishop's Cannings village so divided that each has an area of downland, arable, and lower pasture. (fn. 218)

The inclosure of the parish took place between 1780 and 1815. In 1778 the Act for inclosing the manor and tithing of Coate was passed: (fn. 219) the award was made in 1780. The Act for Roundway, Chittoe, Bedborough, and Bishop's Cannings was passed in 1794 and the award made in 1812. The chief allottees were Thomas Grimston Estcourt as lessee of Bishop's Cannings manor and the rectory manor and Sir Edward Baynton Rolt whose interests were in Chittoe. (fn. 220) The Act for Bourton and Easton, Horton, Nursteed, and Wick was passed in 1815 and the final award was made in the following year Estcourt was again the principal allottee. (fn. 221)

Approximately half the adult male population of the village work on the land in and around Bishop's Cannings, the others finding employment outside, some in the nearby flax factory on the Devizes road in Roundway parish. Piped water and electricity are laid to the larger houses and farms. (fn. 222)


Domesday Book records 6 mills valued at 7s. 6d.: one of these may be the water-mill in Horton left as part of her property by Cecily de Berkeley at her death in 1393. (fn. 223) In 1429 this or another mill in Horton was mentioned in a conveyance: (fn. 224) a mill in Nursteed changed hands in 1424 (fn. 225) and two 'water grain-mills' called 'Rangborne' Mills are mentioned as being in Bishop's Cannings in 1615. (fn. 226) A water-mill was included in Bourton manor in a conveyance of 1652, and presumably passed with the manor after that date. (fn. 227) There was said to be a water-mill in the parish as late as the end of the 19th century. (fn. 228) The portion of Roundway Hill now lying in Bishop's Cannings parish, east of Roundway Hill Farm, was known as Windmill Knowl as late as 1811. (fn. 229)


In 1819 there were two classes in Bishop's Cannings, providing for 60 children. The parish clerk taught one class and a woman the other. It was reported that 'the poor are without sufficient means of education, though desirous of. them'. (fn. 230) A National school was opened in 1830 (fn. 231) but no trust deed has survived in connexion with it. (fn. 232) The building could accommodate 90 children and a teacher's house was attached to it. (fn. 233) In 1833 it was stated that there were two National schools in the parish, partly supported by subscription. (fn. 234) Probably this means that there were boys' and girls' departments, separately organized. There were also three 'schools' for infants, whose parents paid the whole cost of schooling. In 1859 there were 30–40 children in the National school, taught by a uncertificated mistress. (fn. 235) The boys' schoolroom was only used on Sundays. Religious instruction was given according to the principles of the Church of England. It was further stated that the Guardian newspaper had published a report of the fact that Mr. Sotheron Estcourt had endowed the school with £20 for ever. In 1893 there was said to be accommodation for 113 although attendance was only 71. (fn. 236) Accommodation was subsequently reckoned in two departments: the figures from 1910 to 1950 were: mixed department, 64, infants 30. The school is now known as a full range Church of England primary school. The average attendance in July 1950 was 90. There are three teachers. (fn. 237) In 1907 the school was moved from the thatched building standing at the cross-roads to a new building erected for the purpose. The old building is now used as a village hall and as an occasional annexe to the school. Whether the thatched cottage is the school of 1830 or not is uncerain. (fn. 238)

The first record of a school in Coate is in 1859 when it was reported that '20 to 30 children are taught under the Rector's eye by a motherly woman of limited attainments in the flagged kitchen of a cottage'. (fn. 239) A school was built in 1876 with contributions by the Diocesan Church Building Association on the understanding that the premises were also to be used for worship: the church was screened from the school. (fn. 240) The school comprised mixed and infants classes the average attendance between 1900 and 1915 was 32 and this figure fell to 29 between 1916 and 1928. In 1922 the Local Authority ruled that all children of over 11 years should attend other schools: there was considerable local opposition to this scheme and the case was before the Board of Education for more than a year and was finally approved in 1923. In 1929, again in the face of local opposition, the school was closed. (fn. 241) The building is now used as a village hall.

In 1835 children in Chittoe attended schools in Bromham (fn. 242) but in 1859 it was said that '21 boys and 7 girls, mixed, are taught by a certificated mistress in a small rather damp room with flag floor and vis-a-vis desks. The furniture, books, instruction and discipline are only pretty fair. The children attend irregularly and are removed at a very early age.' (fn. 243) A new school in the village, together with a house for the teacher, was subsequently built—by Capt. J. E. P. Spicer according to village tradition. In 1888 this school was given a Parliamentary grant. (fn. 244) Between 1893 and 1903 the average attendance was 51. (fn. 245) The school was closed in June 1906 (fn. 246) and children living in the district now attend schools in Bromham. The school is now (1951) used for village meetings and the schoolhouse is occupied by an old pupil of the school.

There was a school in Horton in 1859 when it was said that '20 children are taught by a dame in a cottage'. (fn. 247) In 1872 the infants school there was said to have accommodation for 50. (fn. 248) There is now no school in the hamlet.


The Poor's Lands. This land in 1901 (fn. 249) was divided into two lots and occupied rent free by the two oldest men in the tithing who satisfied various conditions. It is traditionally known as Naish's charity though nothing is known of its origin. In 1939 it was said that the rent from the land was given only to one man. (fn. 250)

The Poor's Money. In 1901 interest had ceased to be paid on the sum of £30 given by Thomas Stevens of Bristol and Paul Weston of Bishop's Cannings. (fn. 251) Previously bread had been distributed on St. Paul's Day but the Poor Law Commissioners had refused to allow the amount to stand on the parish accounts. '£30 lies in abeyance and the poor lose their loaves', comments the contemporary incumbent. (fn. 252) It was thought unlikely in 1900 that the charity could be revived as the capital had by that time been dispersed. (fn. 253)

William Brown's charity. By his will of 1867 William Brown of Devizes left £200 of which the income was to be devoted to buying coal and clothing for the poor of Horton. The trust was executed in this way in 1900 (fn. 254) in 1939 the money rendered a yearly income of £5. (fn. 255)

The Chittoe Heath charity. By a deed of 1875 a piece of land of the Spye Park estate was put in trust for the purposes of a recreation ground. In 1900 it was said not to be used by the parishioners for any particular purpose. (fn. 256)

White's charity. By his will of 1909, William White of Brighton left a sum of money directing that it should be distributed to the poor after payment of 2s. to the sexton for the upkeep of his father's grave. The money was invested in Consols and other stock and included the proceeds of two houses in Brighton it is administered under a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 1910. (fn. 257)

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