Steeple Ashton

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

ASHTON (STEEPLE), a parish (formerly a market town) in the hundred of WHORWELSDOWN, county of WILTS, 3 miles (E. by S.) from Trowbridge, containing, with the chapelries of Littleton and Semington, and the tythings of West Ashton and Great Hinton, 1632 inhabitants. The living is a vicarage, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Salisbury, rated in the king's books at £17. 2. 6., and in the patronage of the Master and Fellows of Magdalene College, Cambridge. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is a very lofty and elegant structure in the later English style, with extensive north and south porches, two small chapels, and, at the west end, a large and handsome embattled and pinnacled tower, having also a fine western window with five richly ornamented niches over it: ten clustered columns separate the aisles from the nave, and the whole interior is rich in architectural decoration's: the north aisle was erected at the expense of Robert Long, a clothier, and Edith his wife, and the south chiefly at that of the parishioners.

This place derives the prefix to its name from a very elevated spire, ninety-three feet high, which originally surmounted the tower of the church, but it was seriously damaged by lightning in July 1670, and again in October following, when the spire and a portion of the tower were struck down, two workmen employed in its reparation killed, and a great part of the nave and aisles damaged; the body of the church was repaired in 1675, partly from voluntary subscriptions, and partly at the expense of the parishioners. A market was granted to be held here in the reign of Edward III., and was confirmed in that of Richard II., who also added an annual fair. In the time of Henry VIII. there was a considerable clothing trade, which no longer exists; the market has been long discontinued, and the fair, now inconsiderable, is on September 18th. John Hicks gave a piece of land, producing £5 per annum, for the education of poor children.

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