Downton

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

DOWNTON, a borough town and parish, in the hundred of DOWNTON, county of WILTS, 6 miles (S.S.E.) from Salisbury, and 88 (S.W.) from London, containing 3114 inhabitants. The town consists principally of one long irregular street, neither lighted nor paved, extending from east to west, in the course of which there are three bridges over the Upper Avon, which is here divided into three channels. It appears to have been anciently a place of importance, having given name to the hundred in which it is situated. Here was a castle, the intrenchments of which may still be traced at the south-east extremity of the town; and in the centre of them is a large conical mount, upon which the keep is supposed to have been erected. King John is said to have had a palace at this place; and in taking down part of an old building, called the Court House, or King John's Stables, were found two wooden busts, imagined to be representatives of that prince and his consort.

Downton is a borough by prescription; it first sent members to parliament in the 23rd of Edward I., and continued to exercise that privilege till the 38th of Edward III., after which there was only one return (in the 1st of Henry V.) until the 20th of Henry VI., since which they have been regularly continued. The right of election is vested in persons having a freehold interest in burgage tenements holden by a certain rent, fealty and suit of court to the Bishop of Winchester, who is lord of the borough, and paying reliefs on descent and fines on alienation. The number of voters is about twenty; the twenty established burgage tenements, which are all numbered, were sometimes divided at contested elections, so as to make the number of voters amount to one hundred or more; but after repeated contests, the late Lord Radnor obtained, by purchase, the entire patronage of the borough; and the deputy steward of the lessee of the hundred, who is chosen at the court leet, and commonly styled mayor, is the returning officer. On the Avon are several paper and gristmills; and there is a large tan-yard; malting is carried on to some extent, and several persons are engaged in a branch of the silk manufacture, and in making straw-plat.

A market was formerly held on Friday, which has been discontinued. There is a fair on April 23d, for cattle, and another on October 2nd, for sheep and horses. The living is a vicarage, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Salisbury, rated in the king's books at £20, and in the patronage of the Warden and Fellows of Winchester College. The church, dedicated to St. Lawrence, is a spacious edifice, consisting of a nave, aisles, transept, and chancel, with a central tower, which in 1791 was raised thirty feet higher, at the expense of the late Earl of Radnor, who also largely contributed to the cost of some subsequent repairs in the body of the church; and, more recently, a neat organ and gallery have been erected by subscription. There is a chapel of ease at Nunton, in this parish. There are places of worship for General and Particular Baptists, and Wesleyan Methodists.

A free school was founded in 1679, by Joseph Ashe, for the instruction of twelve poor boys, the sons of free burgage holders, or in default of such, the children of other inhabitants of the borough, and endowed with a school-house, the rent of the ground on which the fairs are held, and the interest of £130 in the funds. In 1784, Mrs. Emma Noyes left by will £200 to the vicar and churchwardens, to be placed in the funds, and the interest to be applied in payment of a schoolmistress, for teaching six or eight children to read and work, and for the support of a similar school at East Downton. A parochial school is supported by voluntary contributions, for which a school-room has been erected through the exertions of the present incumbent of the parish, the Rev. Liscombe Clarke, Archdeacon of Salisbury. In 1627, William Stockman gave Chadwell farm in Whiteparish, now producing between £40 and £50. per annum, for the benefit of poor persons of Downton, "surcharged with children". Here is an ancient cross, called the borough cross, as being the place for elections, except when a poll is demanded: in 1797, it was repaired at the expense of the burgesses. About two miles from Downton is Standlinch, or Trafalgar House, bestowed by the nation, as a token of gratitude for distinguished services, on Admiral Lord Nelson.

BODENHAM, a tything in the parish of DOWNTON, and hundred of DOWNTON, county of WILTS, 3 miles (S.S.E.) from Salisbury, containing, with the chapelry of Nunton, 286 inhabitants.

NUNTON, a chapelry in the parish of DOWNTON, and hundred of DOWNTON, county of WILTS, 3 miles (S.S.E.) from Salisbury. The population is returned with Bodenham.

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