Calne with Derry Hill

Extract from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831.
Transcribed by Mel Lockie, © Copyright 2010
Lewis Topographical Dictionaries

CALNE, a borough, market-town, and parish, in the hundred of CALNE, county of WILTS, 30 miles (N.N.W.) from Salisbury, and 87 (W. by S.) from London, on the road to Bath and Bristol, containing, with the liberty of Bowood, 46l2 inhabitants. This place is of very remote antiquity and is supposed to have risen from the ruins of a Roman station on the opposite side of the river, near the town of Studley, where numerous Roman antiquities have been discovered. Tradition states it to have been the residence of the West Saxon monarchs; but there are no vestiges of their palace, or castle, and the remembrance of it is preserved only in the name of a field thought to have been the site, and in that of a street which probably led to it.

A synod, memorable from the circumstances attending it, was assembled here in 977, for adjusting the differences existing at that time between the monks and the secular clergy, at which Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, presided. During the controversy the floor of the chamber gave way, and several of the secular priests were killed; but Dunstan, and the monks whose cause he advocated, having escaped unhurt, their preservation was regarded as a miraculous interposition of Heaven, and they were allowed to take immediate possession of the religious houses throughout the kingdom, to the exclusion of the secular clergy. The town consists principally of one long street, partially lighted, but not paved: the houses are in general well built of stone, and amply supplied with water from springs, and from a rivulet which, after passing through the town, falls into the Avon.

Calne has been much improved under the auspices of the Marquis of Lansdowne, whose mansion is in the adjoining liberty of Bowood: it is an extensive and stately pile in the Grecian style of architecture, with a noble portico of ten columns of the Doric order, supporting an entablature and a pediment, in which are the family arms: the environs abound with pleasing scenery. The woollen manufacture, formerly carried onto a great extent, is now conducted on a very limited scale; the articles made are principally broad cloth, kerseymere, and serge. A branch of the Wilts and Berks canal passes through the town, which, uniting with the Kennet and Avon canal, and with the Thames at Abingdon, affords a facility of communication with London, Bristol, and the intermediate places.

The market is on Tuesday: fairs are held on May 6th and September 29th, for cattle and sheep. The town, though a borough by prescription, is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates: the corporation consists of two guild stewards and an indefinite number of burgesses; the former are chosen annually from among the burgesses, who add to their own number as occasion may require. A court of requests, the jurisdiction of which extends over the hundreds of Calne, Chippenham, and North Damerham, and the lordship or liberty of Corsham, is held under an act passed in the 35th of George III. for the recovery of debts under 40s.

The town-hall is a neat and commodious building, erected by the lord of the manor, lately repaired and an upper story added by the Marquis of Lansdowne; the lower part is used as the market-place. The borough first sent members to parliament in the 23rd of Edward I., from which time it made irregular returns until the reign of Richard II., since which it has uninterruptedly returned two members: the right of election is vested in the members of the corporation, at present twenty-three in number; the guild stewards are the returning officers. The Marquis of Lansdowne possesses the preponderating, influence.

The living is a vicarage, with the perpetual curacies of Cherhill and Barwick-Bassett, rated in the king's books at £8. 5., within the peculiar jurisdiction of the Prebendal Court of Calne, and in the patronage of the Treasurer in the Cathedral Church of Salisbury. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is a venerable structure in the early style of English architecture, with a square embattled tower. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Methodists, and Unitarians.

The free school was founded in 1660, by John Bentley, Esq., who endowed it with property near Lincoln's Inn, London, afterwards sold by act of parliament, and the produce vested in the purchase of an annuity of £52, payable on lands in this county, for the instruction of thirty boys in English and arithmetic; but Sir Francis Bridgman, Knt., having, in 1730, founded six scholarships, of the value of £50 per annum each, in Queen's College, Oxford, of which two were for natives of this town, five of the scholars receive a classical education. The master, in addition to his salary, has a house and an acre of land rent-free. A charity school, for the instruction of children of all religious denominations, was established partly by some trifling benefactions, and is supported by subscription; a handsome school-house has lately been erected by contributions among the principal inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood. An hospital, dedicated to St. John, existed here in the reign of Henry III., the revenue of which, at the dissolution, was £2. 2. 8. At the distance of three miles to the east of the town is the figure of a horse, cut in the chalk hill, one hundred and fifty-seven feet long.

BOWOOD, a liberty in the parish of CALNE, and hundred of CALNE, county of WILTS, 3 miles (S.E. by E.) from Chippenham, containing 63 inhabitants.

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