Highworth with Broad Blunsdon

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

HIGHWORTH, a parish in the hundred of HIGHWORTH-CRICKLADE-and-STAPLE, county of WILTS, comprising the market-town of Highworth, the chapelries of Broad Blunsdon, South Marston, and Sevenhampton, and the tythings of Fresdon, and Eastrop with Westrop, and containing 3005 inhabitants, of which number, 1888 are in the tything of Eastrop with Westrop, and the town of Highworth, 48 miles (N. by E.) from Salisbury, and 77 (W. by N.) from London. The name is expressive of the elevated situation of the town, and the extensive prospects which it commands. At the time of the Norman survey this was part of the royal demesne, but the only historical event connected with the town transpired during the parliamentary war, on the 27th of June, 1645, when Major Hen, the governor of a royal garrison here, who had fortified the church, was summoned to surrender by the parliamentary forces, who, on their way to Taunton, had drawn up before it; after a short resistance, he yielded, and the besiegers took seventy prisoners, with arms and a considerable booty. In the following month a skirmish took place here, in which great slaughter appears to have ensued on both sides; for, on sinking a fence in a field to the west of the church, about six years since, a vast number of skeletons in high preservation was discovered, imbedded in the sand, at the depth of five feet.

The town is situated between the Thames and Severn canal, which passes about four miles to the north, and the Wilts and Berks canal, about the same distance toward the south: the houses in general are built of stone; the streets are neither lighted nor paved, but the inhabitants are well supplied with water from springs. There is a small subscription library. Quarries of excellent limestone exist in the neighbourhood, where fossil remains are frequently discovered. The market is on Wednesday: fairs are held on the 13th of August (old Lammas day), for horses, cattle, and sheep, and the 11th of October, a statute fair, for hiring servants. The old market-house was removed about twenty years since; a fixed pillory is still preserved in the market-place. The precise period when this town was incorporated is unknown: at present there is no corporate body, nor has there been from time immemorial; it is under the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who meet weekly at Swindon.

A bailiff is appointed annually at the court held by the steward for the "manor of the borough of Highworth"; but his office is only to collect quit-rents: at this court also constables are appointed for the town, and the day following a court for the hundred is usually held by the steward for the manor, when the constables and tything-men for the different parishes and places in the hundred are appointed. He also holds, once in three weeks, a court of pleas, or court baron, for the manor, or borough, and ancient hundred of Highworth, supposed to have been established by charter of Edward I., in which debts under 40s. are recoverable. This town probably sent members to parliament at a very early period, as a writ was addressed to the bailiffs in the 26th of Edward I., to which no return was made, nor does it appear that the elective franchise was ever afterwards exercised, though writs continued to be sent to the bailiffs until the 24th of Edward IV.

The living is a vicarage, rated in the king's books at £44. 8. 4., in the peculiar jurisdiction and patronage of the Prebendary of Highworth in the Cathedral Church of Sarum, the Dean of Sarum possessing ordinary jurisdiction. The church, dedicated to St. Michael, is an ancient building, erected in the reign of Henry VI., with a tower at the west end, which, as well as the other parts of the church, is surmounted by an open parapet on the south side is a chantry, or monumental chapel, hung round with pieces of ancient armour. There is a place of worship for Independents. A school for about seventy children is held in the vestry-room of the church: the master has a stipend of £27. 6. per annum, the produce of various benefactions. There are several charitable donations for apprenticing boys and other purposes; the principal is Batson's charity, producing about £50 per annum, which is expended in clothing the poor, and assisting them with small sums of money.

BLUNSDON (BROAD), a chapelry in the parish of HIGHWORTH, hundred of HIGHWORTH-CRICKLADE-and-STAPLE, county of WILTS, 3 miles (W. by S.) from Highworth, containing 552 inhabitants.

FRESDON, a tything in the parish of HIGHWORTH, hundred of HIGHWORTH-CRICKLADE-and-STAPLE, county of WILTS, containing 24 inhabitants.

MARSTON (SOUTH), a chapelry in the parish of HIGHWORTH, hundred of HIGHWORTH-CRICKLADE-and-STAPLE, county of WILTS, 2 miles (S. by W.) from Highworth, containing 299 inhabitants. It is in the peculiar jurisdiction of the Prebendary of Highworth in the Cathedral Church of Salisbury.

SEVENHAMPTON, a chapelry in the parish of HIGHWORTH, hundred of HIGHWORTH-CRICKLADE-and-STAPLE, county of WILTS, 1 mile (S.E. by S.) from Highworth, containing 242 inhabitants. The chapel is dedicated to St. Andrew: the chapelry is within the peculiar jurisdiction of the Prebendary of Highworth in the Cathedral Church of Salisbury.

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