History of Barford St. Martin


In 1999, I was invited by John Cook of East End Farm to assist with the production of a Domesday Book for the Millennium. I was interested in attempting to contribute by writing a history of the village. This has not been made easy by my unexpected move to Germany. Consequently, this monograph is a much truncated version of what I had hoped to achieve; and may yet accomplish.

Despite its brevity, I have received much help and assistance from many that know and love the village. I am very grateful for all the interest shown and information received. Not all is reproduced here. This is a social history covering well over 2,000 years and many helpful reminiscences have been curtailed to give balance to earlier years. I have been greatly assisted by Molly Mabey, Yvonne Woolley, Joe Caunt and Peter Batt. My thanks are also due to Annabel Brown for the loan of the Barford St. Martin’s Women’s Institute Village Scrapbook. Hard facts about the village are few and opportunity for detailed study at the Wiltshire Local Studies Library and Wiltshire Record Office has not been possible from NordRheinWestphalia. I have, as a result, relied heavily upon the bibliography below; but especial mention must be made of Barry Cuncliffe’s Wessex to A.D. 1000 and J H Bettey’s Wessex from A.D. 1000 in Longman’s excellent Regional History of England.

Colonel Simon Reed

Bad Lippspringe – August 2000



Books and maps consulted have included:

Bettey, JH: Wessex from A.D. 1000 – Longman 1986

Bettey, JH: Compton Chamberlain: A Chalkland Manor during the Reign of Queen Elizabeth – Hatcher review

Borthwick, Alison: Prehistoric Salisbury- Hatcher review

Cuncliffe, Barry: Wessex to A.D. 1000 – Longman 1993

Gough, Pamela: The Woodlands of the Royal Forest of Grovely – Hatcher review

MacLachlan, Tony: The Civil War in Wiltshire – Rowan Books 1997

Morris, John: The Age of Arthur Phoenix 1973

Nadder Valley Women’s Institute Diary and Scrapbook 1951

Oliver, Edith: Wiltshire – Robert Hale 1951

Ordnance Survey: Historical Map and Guide – Ancient Britain

Ordnance Survey: Historical Map and Guide – Roman Britain

Ordnance Survey: Pathfinder 1241 – Salisbury (North)

Rackham, Oliver: The Illustrated History of the Countryside – Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1994

Sawyer, Rex: A Witshire Valley – Tales of the Nadder – Alan Sutton

Stroud, Daphne: Edith of Wilton (c.961-984): The Millenary of a Saint- Hatcher review

Swanton, Michael (translator and editor): The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle – J M Dent 1996

Town and Country Planning Act 1971 (Section 54) Thirty First List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest

Thorn, Caroline and Frank: Domesday Book – Wiltshire – Phillimore 1979

Watkin, Bruce: A History of Wiltshire – Phillimore 1989

Watts, Ken: Exploring Historic Wiltshire Volume 2: South – Ex Libris Press 1998

Yorke, Barbara: Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England – Routledge 1990

Yorke, Barbara: Wessex in the Early Middle Ages – Leicester University Press 1995

How old is Barford St. Martin? How long ago did it provide a place to live? There are signs of human presence well before the last ice age, but permanent habitation was apparent until after the last glacial ice age that ended some 8,000 years before the birth of Christ. The area was then part of a vast expanse of lakes, marshes and flood plains. As the climate improved, bands of hunter-gatherers moved in to live off the wild life. However, as the temperature rose, so did the sea levels and by about 7,000 years BC, the North Sea and the English Channel had joined together cutting Britain off from the Continent. Hunters based in small territorial groupings, cleared woodland which provided habitats for deer, wild cattle and pig, attracting wildlife, which made hunting easier. Gradually Neolithic man began to adapt from hunting and gathering in a largely forested landscape to a more stable food-producing economy in an increasingly organised and open countryside. They developed techniques that permitted them to grow their own food. Principle crops were wheat, corn and barley; and domesticated animals now included cattle, pigs, sheep and goats.

Ancient ridgeways provided easy cross-country communications, and junctions and river crossings formed the sites of future towns like Wilton and Old Sarum. This was a time of expanding settlement that was to lead to a permanent opening up of the landscape. They built impressive monuments: long barrow burial chambers; causeway camps at Robin Hood’s Ball and Whitesheet Hill. And most famously of all, stone circles or henges. The period of monumental building started around 3,000 to 2,800 BC at Stonehenge although construction was to continue in distinct phases over some 800-odd years. The later Neolithic people in the area of Barford were linked to the people at Stonehenge and Durrington Walls; the Salisbury Way Drove Road on the ridgeway south of the Nadder most likely formed this group’s southern boundary. Some time around 2,000 BC, these people started to work with metal. Stonehenge, with its concentration of round barrows indicates their wealth and prestige. Other remains of settlements and farms are less substantial. Only the circular foundations of some houses of timber, stone and thatch occasionally remain on the chalk uplands.

The Iron Age saw the emergence of more stable settlements, dominated by hilltop enclosures occupying high ground and defended by ditches. They are most likely to have been used on a seasonal basis perhaps, rounding up and corralling animals over winter. There are local examples at Chiselbury Camp above Compton Chamberlain, and at Folly Clump on the chalk uplands overlooking Burcombe and Barford St. Martin, both linked by the Salisbury Way Drove. Characteristic agricultural crops were barley and wheat; indeed, Barford’s name is thought to come from barley-field river crossing, or Barleyford. Animal husbandry featured sheep above cattle; sheep produced wool and the production of woollen fabrics grew significantly during the Iron Age. Pigs were valuable, especially on the edge of woodlands like Grovely. The nearest farming settlement of this period with its typical round shaped, ditched enclosure can be found at Hamshill Ditches and may well have been the earliest development of what was to become Barford itself. Typically preferring the higher ground, the village at Hamshill Ditches continued well into Roman times, sustained by the wildlife of Grovely Wood and trading from the old Road that ran along Grovely Ridge, from the lead and silver mines in the west to the camp at Sarum and beyond.

The little of what we know of the people at this time comes from Roman historians who referred to the local tribesmen as the Atrebates, who occupied the territory from the Nadder to the Thames. Julius Caesar’s invasion in BC 55 (and again, the following year) was a political exercise aimed at consolidating his profile in Rome rather than a full-scale extension of the Roman Empire. It was not until AD 43 that four legions (about 40,000 troops) of the Roman Army landed in Kent to undertake an effective invasion. The west of Britain was assigned to the Second Legion. Amongst other resistance, early battles took place at Hod Hill (north of Blandford Forum), at Maiden Castle and South Cadbury in Dorset. Over the next few years, the Second Legion consolidated itself in forts along its western frontier on the Fosse Way, running from Exeter to Gloucester and beyond. By early AD 80, a Roman system of provincial government had replaced the patchwork of tribal authorities previously in place.

The old road above Barford and Hamshill Ditches, was developed by the Romans and ran east west along the ridge in Grovely Wood from Winchester. Passing through Sarum, it extended behind the village, west to Roman lead mines at Charterhouse in the Mendip Hills.

The Roman interlude lasted over 350 years until 410 AD, when the citizens of Britain were instructed by Rome to look to their own safety; the armies left and the period of direct Roman governance ended. The withdrawal of Roman influence saw the collapse of the Anglo-Roman market economy and within twenty years the use of coins came to an end. There was a general retreat from a town-based Roman government to a more rural livelihood. Pressure for land on the Continent meant Britain was increasingly vulnerable to Irish raids in the west and Frankish and Saxon raids from along the south coast. The Thames and Avon rivers were used to raid deep into southern England. Slowly, there emerged a number of local British leaders such as Arthur and Vortigern.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that the founder of the kingdom of the West Saxons (Wessex) was Cerdic, who with his son Cynric, landed early in the sixth century in southern Hampshire. A battle is reported to have taken place in 552 at Sarum “where the Britons were put to flight”. But their first significant power centre seems to have been established at Dorchester on Thames. And so, about 140 years after severing the link with Rome, Barford found itself under West Saxon rule in the kingdom of Wessex. Although Christianity had been firmly established in Roman times during the fourth century, the Saxons were pagan and remained so until the middle of the seventh century. Birinus was sent from Italy to undertake the conversion of Wessex; the first of the West Saxon rulers was baptised in 635 and the first Wessex bishopric established at Dorchester.

The main struggles that the kingdom of Wessex faced, were caused by the growing power of Mercia in the midlands. Battles between Mercia and Wessex were concentrated in northern Wiltshire and Somerset and to improve its security, the Wessex see was moved to Winchester in 661. Each of the Wessex shires was named after the settlement containing the shire royal villa; Wilton became the administrative centre for Wiltunscir (Wiltshire). In 705, a second episcopal see was established at Sherborne, for the country west of the forest of Selwood.

As time passed, the kingdom of Wessex became increasingly important and powerful. For a period, during the reign of King Egbert (802-839), the Wessex king was recognised as the King of England. Egbert founded a small Benedictine priory at the royal borough of Wilton. His four grandsons went on to succeed Egbert’s son Æthelwulf, as Kings of Wessex: in turn, Æthelbald, Æthelbert, Æthelred and Alfred the Great.

The first significant Viking raids on Wessex did not begin until AD 836. By the time that the Great Heathen Army arrived in 865, the people of Wessex had been fighting major campaigns against the Scandinavians for 14 years. In 871, nine battles were fought; King Æthelred died, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded that “… his brother Alfred succeeded to the kingdom of Wessex. And one month later King Alfred with a small troop fought at Wilton against the whole raiding-army, and for long time in the day put them to flight…“. However, the battle did not go Alfred’s way and these would have been terrible times for Barford St. Martin; the fighting at Wilton having severe impact. Alfred was nearly captured in a surprise raid and was forced to retreat to Athelney in the Somerset marshes. Here he was to rally his troops and returned to win a decisive victory over the Vikings.

King Alfred established some 30 fortified places as a defence against Viking raids; Wilton was one of these, designed to protect the community against attack. Alfred the Great founded a nunnery at Shaftesbury; and also converted his grandfather’s priory at Wilton into an Abbey. Edward the Elder succeeded Alfred in 899; he found that Wessex was now too big for its 2 bishoprics and established 2 new sees; for the future, Berkshire and Wiltshire were to be governed from Ramsbury, and Somerset from Wells.

King Edgar (959-975), grandson of Alfred the Great, educated his infant daughter Edith at the nunnery in Wilton, where her mother Wulfryth, once mistress of the King became Abbess. Edith was later canonised and became Wilton’s patron saint; her feast day 16th September, was celebrated until the Reformation.

Three miles from Wilton, there is no doubt that Barford St. Martin would have benefited from the wealth a royal burgh and nunnery created. However, such wealth created strategic interest and drew unwelcome attention as a power base. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 1003 records “… a great English Army was gathered from Wiltshire, and they were going very resolutely towards the enemy. The Ealdorman Ælfric was to lead the army, but he was up to his old tricks. As soon as they were so close that each army looked on the other, he feigned him sick, and began retching to vomit, and said that he was taken ill, and thus betrayed the people whom he should have led. As the saying goes: ‘When the commander weakens, the whole army is hindered.’ When Swein saw they were irresolute, and that they all dispersed, he lead his army into Wilton, and they ravaged and burnt the borough, and he betook him then to Salisbury, and from there went back to the sea…“.

Previously governed by bishoprics at Dorchester then Winchester and Ramsbury, in 1058 the 2 episcopal sees of Ramsbury and Sherborne were united and for a few years Barford St. Martin looked west to Sherborne for its diocesan leadership.

The victory of the Normans at Hastings, led to one of the most dramatic changes: the building of castles. These castles symbolised the changes, which substituted new Norman masters for the Saxon lords. A castle was built at Sarum within the ramparts of the Iron-Age fort and, emphasising its importance, a new cathedral was also built inside the defences. From 1070, the joint see of Ramsbury and Sherborne was disestablished; and a new see was located with Sarum cathedral.

Much information comes from the Domesday Survey ordered by King William I, the Conqueror in 1085. This was a record of land tenure and tax liabilities. Wessex was shown to be an area of large estates and great landowners, a state of affairs still recognisable today. Also recorded was the creation of large areas of royal forest; the forest of Grovely between the Rivers Wylie and Nadder was one such. The remains of a former royal hunting palace can be seen at Grovely Lodge, just north west of Barford St. Martin.

* Listed under the land of the King’s servants at Barford St. Martin, the Domesday Book records that John the doorkeeper1 held half a hide2 in Barford St. Martin. In the time of Edward the Confessor, this property had previously belonged to Ælfric3. The land rated a plough with a bordar and a slave and 8 acres of meadow; all valued at 10 shillings.

* Wado also held one hide at Barford St. Martin, which he had had since before the Conquest; there was sufficient land for a plough, one bordar and 6 acres of meadow worth 15 shillings.

* Berengar Giffard was a wealthy man4 who held one hide in Barford St. Martin, previously belonging to Earl Harold5. There was land for a plough, 6 bordars and 6 acres of meadow valued at 20 shillings (although it had been worth 3 times as much in King Edward’s day6).

* Waleran the Huntsman held a considerable amount of property7 which included half a hide at Barford St. Martin that was let to Engenold; and previously in Edward the Confessor’s time, held by Bolla. There was land for half a plough, 2 bordars and 3 acres of meadow all valued at 7 shillings.

* The King’s foresters held 1.5 hides in the forest of Grovely worth 30 shillings.

1 A man of some wealth who also held 4 ploughs at Alton (in Figheldean) worth 100 shillings.

2 Essentially the amount needed under plough to provide for a family; size therefore depended on the quality of the land.

3 Who before 1066, also owned property (2 ploughs) at nearby Great Wishford, 2.5 hides at Burbage, 1.5 hides at Harding.

4 Who also held Fonthill Gifford from the King. This was a large property worth 5 hides with 7 ploughs and a mill; in total valued at £6.

5 Earl Harold was King Harold who was defeated and killed by William the Conqueror at Hastings in 1066. William regarded Harold as a pretender to the throne. William claimed succession after the death of Edward the Confessor; as a result Harold is referred to as Earl rather than King.

6 It is not recorded why there was a loss in value. Perhaps the land had deteriorated; or perhaps more likely, Berengar holding his land directly from the King, had had sufficient influence to see the value adjusted in his favour. It is also possible that resistance to the Normans resulted in some laying waste.

7 Including land at Codford St. Mary, Ansty, Buttermere, Standlynch, East Kennet, Stanley, Steeple Langford, Hanging Langford, Great Wishford, Grimstead, Whaddon in Alderbury, West Dean and Hurdcott in Winterbourne Earls.

By 1100, Wiltshire was dependent on Wilton, then the most important town in the shire with its wealthy Benedictine nunnery founded by King Alfred. Wilton Abbey prospered under its royal patronage and added large estates to its charge, including land south of Grovely, along the Nadder valley. Supporting the religious sees, with their great monasteries were many minsters (as in Sturminster and Warminster). The minsters’ territories or parochiae tended to be linked to a royal estate providing the focus for administration and religious life; but many villages often found themselves at a considerable distance from the mother church. Priests travelled to outdoor preaching crosses to minister to the rural communities. This explains the importance of the early medieval cross limestone in the centre of the village of Barford St. Martin on the south side of West Street. Listed as a Grade I monument, it is described as “a cylindrical shaft with beaded top to cross, with ball finial“.

Gradually, many of these locations were provided with formal church buildings. Early churches would have been built of timber, although by the middle of the eleventh century, stone construction was more common. This was certainly true of Barford’s church, which was dedicated to St. Martin. Surrounded by water meadows and otherwise liable to flooding, the Grade I listed church and its churchyard is built on a man-made earth bank, retained by a 5 feet high stone wall. In common with others in the Nadder Valley, the site for the church was likely to have been significant, by being built over a spring – evidence of which was found by a water-dowser in 1981. The church, like Salisbury Cathedral, is constructed of Chilmark stone, a greensand sedimentary rock, locally quarried just 6 miles to the west of the village.

The oldest remaining part of the Parish Church is the ‘Early English’ chancel. Built in about 1216, it predates Salisbury Cathedral. The 3-light east window is typical of this period and the feet of the piers of the crossing also date from this time. However, the upper part of the piers and the tierceron star vault were constructed at a later point when the tower was built. The font also dates from this, or possibly an even earlier, period. The nave, south transept, the upper part of the crossing and the embattled tower are ‘Perpendicular’ in style. The south transept contains a hagioscope, or opening, allowing worshippers in the transept to see the altar. The timbers forming the roof of the nave were originally supported on carved ornamental corbels; two ‘angel’ corbels remain on display in the south transept. The north transept now dates from its rebuild in 1841.

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries represented a period of rising prices when landowners tried to produce maximum profits from their estates. They increased productivity and centralised estate management and control. To produce good corn crops on thin chalkland, the fertility provided by the sheepfold was essential and very large flocks were kept, as much for their dung as for their wool. The sheep provided lambs, mutton, wool, milk and, above all, dung for corn land. The population increased and more land was brought under cultivation, both for arable crops and pasture.

Towns expanded rapidly with new markets and trades. Bridges were built and new routes, ports and harbours were established. Southampton prospered and Bristol also grew rapidly, both as a port, and marketing and manufacturing centre. New towns were founded at Downton in 1208 and Hindon in 1220. Most successful of all, was the transplantation under the direction of Richard Poore, Bishop of Salisbury, of Sarum (by now, too constricted within its hilltop Iron Age ramparts) to Salisbury in 1219. The city, based on the confluence of 5 rivers including the Nadder, attracted industry such as cloth working, tanning and malting and becoming the market town for the area. The city’s success, based on its most important industry, the manufacture of woollen cloth, benefited from its good communications and abundant supply of water. Mills had been constructed at Stratford-sub-Castle by 1277, at Steeple Langford by 1294 and at West Harnham by 1299. Harnham Bridge built in 1244, with its direct route from Salisbury to the south, rendered the old town of Wilton increasingly redundant in the face of Salisbury’s rapid rise.

An important influence on farming practice, sheep management and wool production, was the establishment of Cistercian monasteries. They emphasised poverty, simplicity and hard work. The vitality of the Church and the wealth created can be seen in the cathedral churches of Salisbury and Wells. However, due to the growth of the population in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, there was great pressure on land. Most men were landless and prone to poor harvests, famine and disease.

The Black Death entered England through a ship arriving at Melcombe Regis in Dorset, in the summer of 1348. Bubonic plague, carried by fleas on rats and other animals proved devastating. Eighteen out of 41 tenants at Durrington died. No rents were collected at Tidworth, as the tenants were all dead; 13 out of 14 monks at Ivychurch died. One estimate reckons that nearly half the clergy in the diocese of Bath and Wells perished, with similar figures recorded for Winchester. Many villages became deserted; arable-farming profits declined and there was increased pressure for larger sheep flocks. As a result, the woollen cloth industry continued to expand. Although the importance of many older towns, which had traditionally dominated the cloth trade, declined in the face of the rapid rise of the rural industry based on the fulling mills, Salisbury retained a substantial share of the trade.

There were two mills powered by the Nadder in Barford St. Martin. The upper mill is in West Street and the lower mill located at the end of Factory Lane. Records dating to 1578, refer to the upper mill as a tucking mill. A tucking or fulling mill used water power to turn a water-wheel by which a series of cogs alternatively raised and dropped heavy wooden hammers to pound and full the cloth. Later, in 1704, a new mill at Compton Chamberlayne seriously impeded the water flow at Barford and was a cause of dispute. By 1758, the tucking mill was owned by the Powell family of Hurdcott, however it was destroyed by fire in 1764. It was repaired as a corn and grist mill, but again destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1819.

The lower mill was originally owned by the Earl of Pembroke and is recorded as being tenanted by Anthony Hayter in 1614. In 1808, Thomas Nicholson built a water-powered cloth factory next to the mill, when the mill road became known as Factory Lane. Charles Nicholson became the owner of both the Barford mills in the 1820s, and in 1827 he converted the cloth factory to manufacture silk goods. However, his investment was to be badly damaged in the ‘Swing Riots’ three year’s later. He sold both mills to Alex Powell at Hurdcott in 1833. The lower mill fell into disuse but the upper mill only ceased milling in 1930, when in due course it was converted into a private dwelling. The Nicholsons lived at Mount Lane in Barford Lodge and established a trust for the needy of Barford St. Martin, which is still administered by the village authorities; its early investments are detailed on wooden boards in the church.

The most important crops gown locally between 1500 and 1600 were wheat and barley, but the fertility of the soil could only be maintained by the intensive use of sheep dung. Sheep were pastured on the downlands by day but moved at night to the arable lands on the lower slopes, close folded to ensure their dung was put to the best use. However, the number of sheep that could be kept, was limited by the amount of winter and early spring fodder available. A significant advance was made with the introduction of artificially watered meadows. These comprised a carefully constructed network of channels and drains to cover the surface of the meadows during the winter with a shallow sheet of water. Fast flowing chalkland streams like the Nadder were ideal for watering meadows; they protected the grass from frost and stimulated the early growth of new grass, so providing early feed for lambs during the early spring. The remains of the water drainage system can still clearly be seen locally, both in the fields to the west of the church at Barford St. Martin, and in the Nadder valley meadows at Burcombe. The use of such water meadows lasted until the nineteenth century when new grasses and artificial fertilisers were introduced, but they did mean that larger numbers of sheep could be maintained, thus increasing the yield from the arable land.

Some of the most significant events of the sixteenth century arose from the Reformation, with the formation of the Church of England. Nowhere in the region was more than a few miles from a major monastery or nunnery. The church estates and their influence extended everywhere and the splendour of the architecture of the parish churches bore witness to the wealth and piety of the people of Wessex. But the coming of the Reformation saw the dissolution of the monasteries and nunneries resulting in a really major redistribution of land from the church to new landowners; royal servants, courtiers and gentry obtained the church estates from the King. On 25 Mar 1539, Cecily Bodenham the last Abbess of Wilton, surrendered the nunnery to King Henry VIII’s commissioners and Sir William Herbert (created Earl of Pembroke in 1551) obtained the site and the lands of the nunnery at Wilton, where he built a great house.

The elevation of the monarchy to the Supreme Head of the Anglican Church and the dissolution of the monasteries, did not perhaps have much direct effect upon Barford St. Martin and its parishioners. The first major change in 1538 was the requirement to set up an English bible in each church and that registers of baptism, marriages and burials should be kept; although Barford St Martin’s register only dates from 1555.

Tudor reforms in local government and the increased importance of Justices of the Peace meant it was principally the gentry families who governed and administered each county. However, growing discontent in the early 1600s over inflation, unemployment and vagrancy, enclosures and disafforestation, and over royal policy on religious matters, taxation, foreign policy and Parliament led to divisions among the ruling gentry. The Earl of Pembroke, like the King, a great patron and collector of the arts and closely associated with the court (even entertaining the King and Queen at Wilton), withdrew his support to the Crown on the eve of the Civil War.

The Civil War had a exhausting effect on parts of Wessex – apart from major battles, damage caused by the constant passage of the armies of both sides was devastating. Wessex had important and well-fortified towns, ports and castles providing a link between the strongly royalist south west of England and King Charles I’s headquarters at Oxford – and the channel ports – crucial for both sides. The cathedral cities of Wells, Salisbury and Winchester supported the King. Southampton and Portsmouth strongly supported Parliament. However, the majority of military action in Wiltshire centred on Marlborough, Devises and Malmesbury to the north. In the local area Wardour Castle on the Nadder, home of the ardent catholic royalist Lord Thomas Arundell, was besieged twice – by opposing sides. In May 1643, a tiny garrison of 25 led by the elderly Lady Arundell (her husband was in Oxford with the King), withstood a siege of 1,300 Parliamentarians for 5 nights. However, constant bombardment made surrender inevitable. The castle was besieged a second time in December 1643, this time by the Royalists. This was a more serious affair, lasting until Mar 1643; the resultant destruction left the castle uninhabitable and so it remains.

There were skirmishes between roundhead and cavalier troops in Salisbury in December 1644 and January 1645, during which Henry Penruddocke (younger brother of Sir John Penruddocke of Compton Chamberlayne) was murdered in front of his family at his home in West Lavington. The Civil War ended in 1646 and Charles I was condemned to death and beheaded in 1649. In 1654 however, increasing royalist Sealed Knot intrigues, resulted in the launch of an ill-prepared rebellion by Colonel John Penruddocke. Penruddocke marched on Salisbury and seized the Assize Judges and Sheriff. However the rebellion collapsed before it began, Penruddocke surrendered at South Molton in Devon and was subsequently beheaded at Exeter Castle in May 1655; the remaining Salisbury rebels were transported to the West Indies. The Interregnum under Cromwell lasted until 1660, when Charles II was restored to the throne.

During the 1600s, Salisbury saw both silk weaving and lace-making becoming increasingly important. Roads improved immensely through the introduction of turnpike trusts. The road from Barford St. Martin to Shaftesbury, still marked by its milestones, was turnpiked in 1787 to 1788. It ran over Gaul Bridge, which had been built earlier in 1750 and was subsequently destroyed by floods on Boxing Day night, 1979; this road is now the A30. Growing trade can be seen in numerous market houses, town halls, guildhalls and corn exchanges. Market places with crosses, like the Poultry Cross at Salisbury were established all over southern England.

The land enjoyed continual advances throughout the seventeenth century in terms of agricultural and farming techniques, including enclosures, water meadows, and fertilisers. At the same time, new crops such as turnips, clover, rye grass, carrots, crops new rotation, flax, teasel and hemp were introduced. The cultivation of potatoes quickly became a vital element in food of farm labourers. New breeds of heavier horses and sheep were established; and new agricultural machinery (drills, harrows and threshing machines) were developed, and cheap clay pipes meant land drainage became much easier. As a result, the fertility of the soil improved and with it the population increased as these estimated figures for Wiltshire show:

Many almshouses and schools were endowed by the gentry, for example the College of Matrons in Salisbury, which was founded by Bishop Set Ward in 1682. However, conditions for the poor were in great contrast. On the wasteland at the edge of Warminster Common, in 1781 over a thousand people were living there in shacks. Water came from a polluted stream and disease was endemic. Increasingly, the poorhouse system was used to deal with poverty. The first poorhouse was established in Bristol in 1698. By 1750, few large villages were without their own poorhouse. The hardship of agricultural labourers was increasingly exacerbated by the increasing enclose of land.

Like their forebears, the majority of people living in Barford St. Martin would have earned their living from the land. However, as illustrated, the life of the agricultural labourer in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth had deteriorated significantly and labourers in Wiltshire, as with other counties in southern England, were generally paid less than in the Midlands and the North. The summer months were generally busy, but winter bought unemployment and many were reduced to a hand-to-mouth existence. Traditionally in previous centuries, women had supplemented incomes by spinning and weaving but advances in mechanical textile machinery with the coming of the industrial revolution, had all put-paid to this form of income.

The ending of Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and a recession in agriculture led to a sharp reduction in the wages of farm labourers and appalling poverty and misery of their families leading them to rely on poor relief. By 1820, as many as 10% of the population was receiving poor or parish relief. In years of poor harvests in the later 1820s, the conviction rate for poaching amongst the rural population reached one in seven. William Cobbett riding from Salisbury to Warminster in 1826, in his book ‘Rural Rides’ contrasted the wealth of farmers and the well kept homes, with the lot of labourers. He noted that it was ‘not very easy … to discover a labouring people more miserable’.

The harvest for 1828 was bad; and the following year, with frosts and deep snow lying from mid-December to February, was again poor. 1830 saw the introduction of horse-powered and water-powered threshing machines and this resulted in even greater reductions in the availability of winter work – as hand threshing of corn with flails ceased. To the rural worker, the new machinery threatened employment and even presaged starvation. The combination of low wages, appalling conditions and wide scale unemployment, led to ‘Captain Swing’ riots in 1830.

Rioting first occurred at the end of August 1830 and rapidly from Canterbury in Kent, all across the southern counties of England, with over a thousand separate instances being reported; in Wiltshire alone some 339 violent cases were brought to court. These outbreaks became known as the ‘Swing Riots’ after Captain Swing, after the eponymous but fictitious dissenter, whose pseudonym was used in many threatening letters to intimidate landowners. By 22 November 1830, the Swing Riots reached Salisbury and local justices offered reward of £500 to bring the perpetrators to justice. Three days later a mob of some 400 farmhands and textile workers attacked the Quidhampton textile mill and the iron foundry in Salisbury, where threshing machines were made; an isolated group then went on to attack the threshing machines and Charles Nicholson’s silk mill in Factory Lane at Barford St. Martin.

On 29 November 1832, there occurred a major confrontation when several hundred rioters, having smashed machinery at Hindon, made for Pythouse 3 miles west of Tisbury where John Benett, the wealthy but unpopular MP for Wilton, lived. The local Yeomanry (which included members of the local squirearchy such as William Wyndham’s eldest son from Dinton House (now Philipps House)), were called out to quell the riots at Pythouse. Many young men were committed to Fisherton Gaol. Three hundred and thirty-nine prisoners were tried; two were sentenced to death although later commuted to transportation to the colonies, a fate shared by a total of some 150 local men. They were taken to ‘The York’, a hulk at Gosport, and then transported to the colonies for life.

In a book called the ‘Sum of Ancient Customs’ held by the Wilton Estates and written down shortly after they came into the possession of the Earls of Pembroke in 1541, it is recorded “The old custom is, and time out of mind hath been, that the People and Inhabitants of Wishford Magna and Barford St. Martin may lawfully gather and bring away all kind of dead and snapping wood boughs and sticks that be in the woods of Grovely at their Pleasure and without Controulement“. These rights have, at various times, been challenged by the Wilton Estates and a new attempt to curtail them was made in 1825. Only 19 at the time, Grace Reed from Barford St. Martin, and 3 other women from Wishford went to gather wood as usual and were arrested and imprisoned. Grace hired a lawyer to contest the action against them. The courts found against the Wilton Estate, which upheld the right for the inhabitants of Barford and Wishford to collect wood at will. Grace Reed lived until the age of 88, at Primrose Cottage in Mount Lane, where she died in 1894. Ironically, this right to ‘Estovers’ was lost to Barford in 1970, when the Parish Council having been given a document by the Wilton Estate, did not understand its significance and failed to register its ancient rights.

The new Poor Law of 1834 failed to eliminate poverty and the old problem of seasonal unemployment remained unchanged. Efforts were made to deter paupers from applying for relief by making conditions in the workhouse even more unattractive. Labourers attempted to help themselves by establishing trade unions and friendly societies and by founding the temperance movement. By 1855, there were 271 Friendly Societies in Wiltshire.

Wiltshire remained dominated by great estates. The Earl of Pembroke owned some 42,244 acres (or some 5% of the county). The Herbert family estate encouraged the adoption of new methods. Help was given towards the cost of enclosure, drainage, creation of water meadows, planting of windbreaks; new farmhouses and buildings were provided and the Estate prided itself on the excellence of its labourers’ cottages. Following on from the 1870 Education Act, a village school was established in West Street in 1876 to provide free elementary education for all children in Barford St. Martin, although there had earlier been a Dame School run from the outbuildings of Hillcroft, by the Fulford sisters.

However, the 1870s brought a further depression to the land. Cold, wet summers and poor grain yields coincided with a fall in the price of both corn and cheese, as imports flooded into England. Imported foodstuffs, especially wheat from Canada played an important part in the great agricultural depression from 1875 onwards. Chalkland farmers were hit by a sharp fall in the price of wool and by disease that ravaged the sheep flocks. The sheep population declined by more than 20% in Wiltshire; and between 1880 and 1950 the number of sheep dropped by 90%. The folding of flocks was abandoned and water meadows feel out of use. It is interesting that the great landlords were no unaffected; the rent-rolls of the Earl of Pembroke’s estates record the following declining income:

By 1895, the value of land had declined significantly. The War Office was able to purchase a large area of Salisbury Plain for training and manoeuvres. In 1903, the building of Tidworth Barracks started; Larkhill and Bulford were developed during World War I. The Great War accelerated the move away from the large-scale employment of farm labour with increasing mechanisation provided by cars, lorries and tractors. Salisbury began to have tarred roads in 1912; and by 1925, the City could list 21 firms of motor engineers.

The advent of higher taxes and death duties and the continuing decline in profits from farming meant that many of the great estates were broken up. Between the period 1917 and 1918, the outlying parts of the Wilton estate were sold off. Tenant farmers benefited from being able to buy their farms. In Barford, Joseph Lewis the tenant publican of the Green Dragon Inn, was able to buy not only the pub and its stables, but also the 400-year old cottage Shaston Way and paddock from the Wilton estate. In 1914, less than 10% of farms were owner-occupied; by 1941, 37% of farms were farmed by owner-occupiers.

Memories of the 1940s stress the lack of noise in Barford St. Martin and emphasise the biggest change to the village in the last 60 years: private transport – simultaneously resuscitating and choking the village with its traffic.

Barford’s farms in the 1960s, were still run by families: the Whatleys at Primrose Farm; the Hibberts at Church Farm; and the Coombes, with Jack at North End Farm and Geoffrey at Manor Farm. Chickens and ducks wandered about at leisure and donkeys and foals would be walked, untethered, from their paddock in Mount Lane to the meadows off the Shaftesbury Road. The village still retained its complement of shops and Reeves made fresh bread on site. Milk was delivered locally direct from the farm. The church, with its newly built Rectory, remained a strong and important influence; it had a choir of 14 boys, a Sunday School and bell ringers for all occasions.

Increasing use of the car, has today resulted in facilities and services being centralised in Wilton and Salisbury. By the end of the second millennium, Barford can still call upon the church, the school and the Barford Inn (formerly the Green Dragon – a name connected with the Earl of Pembroke armorial crest). A shop and petrol station on the Wilton Road beyond East End Farm, is a very successful adjunct to the village, but does serve to illustrate today’s dependence on the automobile.

Barford St. Martin’s strength lies in its links with the past. Its chalk stream, its meadows and fields under Grovely Wood, still recognisable to the village’s first inhabitants in their Iron Age settlement at Hamshill Ditches, in the lee of the old road to the west. For well over a thousand years, only two owners have been responsible for the land around the village. Firstly, the royal abbey at Wilton, founded by Alfred the Great’s grandfather; its great estates then passed to the Herbert family, Earls of Pembroke, in 1541. And largely unchanged over the last 460-odd years, they so remain. This history, this continuity, situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, provides Barford with a timeless serenity that will ensure its survival at least until the next millennium.

 1874 1890 1896
Net Income: £11,138 £4,907 £3,785


1701 1831 1851 1901
150,307 242,831 254,000 271,000