Westbury

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

WESTBURY, a parish, forming the hundred of WESTBURY, county of WILTS, and comprising the borough of Westbury, the chapelries of Bratton and Dilton, and the townships of Hawkeridge, Haywood, and Leigh, and containing 6846 inhabitants, of which number, 21l7 are in the town of Westbury, 24 miles (N.W. by W.) from Salisbury, and 98 (W. by S.) from London. This place is of very great antiquity, and is generally supposed to have been a British settlement, and to occupy the site of the Roman station Ferlucio. The name is of Saxon origin, being intended to designate the importance, or relative position, of the town; here, according to tradition, was a palace, belonging to the West Saxon kings.

The town is situated under Salisbury Plain, and consists of three principal streets, irregularly built, branching off towards Frome, Bradford, and East Lavington; the inhabitants are supplied with water from springs, and a small stream which falls into the Avon. The clothing trade formerly flourished here, one house alone employing a thousand persons; the principal manufactures are broad cloth and kerseymere, there being in and near the town eight manufactories, and several others within the parish: a considerable quantity of malt is made. The market, now merely nominal, is on Tuesday, for pigs only; and fairs are held on the first Friday in Lent and Whit-Monday, for pedlary, and on Easter-Monday and September 24th, for cattle, horses, and cheese. The charter of incorporation was granted by Henry IV.: the municipal body consists of a mayor, recorder, twelve aldermen, and burgesses, with subordinate officers, none of them possessing magisterial authority. Courts leet are held by the mayor in November, and by the steward of the lord of the manor in May.

There is also a court of requests, for the recovery of debts under £5, the jurisdiction of which is co-extensive with the hundreds of Westbury, Warminster, and Heytesbury; it is held here and at Warminster alternately, every fortnight, on Tuesday. Two high constables are appointed at the manorial court. This borough has constantly returned two members to parliament from the 27th of Henry VI.: the right of election is in the occupiers of burgage tenements, in fee or for lives, or ninety-nine years determinate oh lives, or by copy of court roll, paying a burgage rent of fourpence, or twopence, yearly, being resident within the borough, and not receiving alms; the number of voters is sixty-one; the mayor is the returning officer, and the influence of Sir Manasseh Masseh Lopes is predominant, at whose sole expense a handsome town hall, in the centre of the town, was erected in 1815.

The living is a discharged vicarage, in the peculiar jurisdiction and patronage of the Precentor of the Cathedral Church of Salisbury, rated in the king's books at £44. 16. 0½, endowed with £200 private benefaction, and £200 royal bounty. The church, which is dedicated to All Saints, is a spacious and handsome structure, with a central tower, supposed to have been built about nine hundred years ago; in the interior are several handsome monuments; it has recently received an addition of three hundred and thirty free sittings, for which the Incorporated Society for the enlargement of churches contributed £300. There are two places of worship for Independents, three for Baptists, and one for Wesleyan Methodists in the town, besides some others in the parish.

A National school, in which about forty boys are instructed, was endowed with £1000 by the late John Matravers, an opulent clothier of this place, and a member of the Society of Friends, who also bequeathed £1000 for clothing twenty poor women at Christmas; and there are some other trifling bequests for the same purpose. Roman coins have been found here in great abundance. William de Westbury, one of the puisne judges of the Court of Common Pleas, and James Ley, Earl of Marlborough, are interred within the church. Bryan Edwards, historian of the British colonies in the West Indies; and Dr. Philip Withers, a writer of some eminence about the close of the last century, were natives of this town.

DILTON, a chapelry in the parish and hundred of WESTBURY, county of WILTS, 2 miles (S.S.W.) from Westbury, containing 2006 inhabitants. The chapel is dedicated to St. Mary. There is a fair for cattle, horses, and cheese, on the 24th of September.

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