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

CRICKLADE, a borough and market-town, in the hundred of HIGHWORTH-CRICKLADE-and-STAPLE, county of WILTS, 44 miles (N. by W.) from Salisbury, and 83 (W. by N.) from London, containing, with the township of Whidhill, 1506 inhabitants. This place, which is of great antiquity, is by some antiquaries supposed to have derived its name from the British Cerigwldd, signifying a country abounding with stones; and by others from the Saxon Crcecca, a brook, and Lædian, to empty; the small rivers Churn and Rey here discharging themselves into the river Isis. It is thought by Dr. Stukeley to have been a Roman station, from its situation on the Roman road which connected Corinium, now Cirencester, with Spince, now Spene.

About the year 905, Ethelwald, opposing the election of Edward the Elder to the throne, collected a large body of troops, consisting principally of East Anglians, and advanced to this place on a predatory excursion, from which he retreated with his plunder before Edward, who was marching to attack him, had reached the town. In 1016, the town was plundered by Canute the Dane. Since the Conquest, Cricklade has not been distinguished by any event of historical importance. The town is situated in a level tract of country, on the south bank of the Isis, which has its source in the vicinity, and consists principally of one long street: a fund of £160 per annum, arising from an early bequest, which has been for a long time misapplied, is about to be appropriated to the paving of it; it is but indifferently supplied with spring water.

An attempt to introduce the manufacture of pins has recently been made, but without, success. The Thames and Severn canal passes to the north of the town. The market is on Saturday, but has greatly declined, owing to the proximity of Cirencester: the fairs have been discontinued, except a small pleasure fair, which is still held on the 29th of September, The county magistrates hold a meeting here on the first Saturday in every month: a bailiff and other officers are appointed by a jury at the court leet of the lord of the manor, who holds a court every third week, for the recovery of debts under 40s.

Cricklade is a borough by prescription, and exercised the elective franchise from the reign of Edward I., but with various intermissions till that of Henry VI., since which time it has uninterruptedly continued to return two members to parliament: in consequence of notorious bribery, the elective franchise was, in 1782, extended to the five adjoining divisions, viz. Highworth, Cricklade, Staple, Kingsbridge, and Malmesbury. The right of election is vested in the freeholders, copyholders, and leaseholders for not less than three years, within the borough, and in the freeholders of the five divisions: the number of voters is about one thousand two hundred; the bailiff is the returning officer.

Cricklade comprises the parishes of St. Sampson and St. Mary, both in the archdeaconry of Wilts, and diocese of Salisbury. The living of St. Sampson's is a vicarage, rated in the king's books at £18. 11. 10., and in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Winchester: the church is a spacious and ancient cruciform structure, with a handsome square tower rising from the intersection, crowned with a pierced parapet and pinnacles, and highly ornamented with niches and pedestals: the south porch was formerly a chapel built by one of the Hungerford family; and towards the east is another porch, with large battlements, having in the centre the figure of a lion couchant: the interior is of corresponding character. The piers and arches which support the tower, are lofty and of graceful elevation; and the interior of the tower, which is open to a considerable height, is decorated with numerous escutcheons, among which are the cognizances of the earls of Warwick, one of whom contributed largely to the building of the church: a stone cross, which formerly stood in the principal street, was removed into the churchyard, when the old town-hall was taken down.

The living of St. Mary's is a discharged rectory, rated in the king's books at £4. 14. 0., endowed with £200 private benefaction, and £1900 royal bounty, and in the alternate patronage of the King and the Bishop of Salisbury: the church is a very ancient structure; the chancel is separated from the nave by a circular Norman arch, and the interior contains many vestiges of its original character: in the churchyard is a handsome stone cross of one shaft on a flight of steps; the head is richly ornamented with small sculptured figures in canopied niches. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyan Methodists.

There was formerly a free school, founded and endowed by Robert Jenner, Esq., citizen and goldsmith of London; but the endowment has been lost, and the building converted into tenements for paupers: in each of the parishes is a National school for girls; and there are Sunday schools for both sexes, supported by subscription. Among the several bequests for charitable uses is one of a hundred acres of land in the neighbourhood, now producing £125 per annum, of which £15 is appropriated to the apprenticing of poor children, and the remainder distributed among the poor. In the parish of St. Mary are the remains of the priory of St. John the Baptist, founded in the reign of Henry III., now converted into a residence for the poor: there was also an hospital, dedicated to the same patron, the revenue of which, at the dissolution, was £4. 10. 7.; some land belonging to it, in the parish of St. Sampson, is still called the Spital.

WHIDHILL, a township in the parish of ST-SAMPSON, borough of CRICKLADE, hundred of HIGHWORTH-CRICKLADE-and-STAPLE, county of WILTS, 2 miles (S.E.) from Cricklade, containing 21 inhabitants.

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