Worton History

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In 1086 at the time of the Domesday survey, Worton was considered as part of the manor of Potterne, which belonged to the Bishop of Salisbury, and we therefore have no details of the settlement at that time. In 1377 it is thought there were between 120 and 150 people living at Worton.

By the 17th century there were many more houses in the parish and around 200 people were residents.

In the 19th and mid 20th centuries the population stayed at between 300 and 400 people. It was the building of new housing estates to the south of the parish that soon raised the population levels; there were 600 people in 1991. The bishopric of Salisbury sold much of the land at Worton to the Gaisford family in the middle of the 18th century.

The first recorded mention of Worton was in a document of 1173, spelled as Wrton. The name is thought to mean a farmstead with a herb or kitchen garden, perhaps indicating its role within the manor of Potterne. The name had changed to Wurton in 1195 and had moved to Worton by 1220.

The ecclesiastical parish of Worton was formed in 1852 when the tithings of Worton and Marston were combined together. Worton and Marston had previously been tithings of Potterne and part of that parish. Residents had travelled to Potterne to attend church along a raised causeway. After 1852 they were effectively run as separate civil parishes. In 1883 a small portion of Potterne was transferred to Worton. It was in 1894, after the Local Government Act, that Worton officially became a civil parish and operated under the auspices of a parish council. Worton grew once again in 1934 when a small part of Potterne was transferred to Worton.

Worton and Marston are closely linked; they share a school and church and look at each other across the Bulkington Brook.

Farming has always been the main occupation here but the textile industry was also important to this part of Wiltshire and Worton was home to clothiers in the 16th and 17th centuries. These included John Flower who in the middle of the 16th century had 800 sheep and four looms; the Flower family has for a long time been connected with Worton. Enclosure in the parish had finished by the 19th century. By 1841 the majority of land – 85 per cent – was used as pasture. At a vestry meeting at Worton in December 1829, the decision was made that some common land in the tithing should be enclosed in order to benefit the poor. This was duly done and managed by a committee of five residents. In 1855 there were a large number of trades being plied in Worton. This included two grocers and bakers, a shoemaker, a blacksmith and a corn factor. An interesting business in the 20th century was Bodmans Coaches, which was founded in 1922 with the garage based on the High Street.

In the 1930s there were two pubs in Worton; the Rose and Crown and the Royal Oak. The Royal Oak is now a private home known as The Oakhouse but the Rose and Crown still operates as a pub. It is a Grade II listed building, dating from the 17th century. There is an element of deliberate planning of the erection of buildings at Worton; houses at the south of the village have a back lane running behind them and are built in a regulated and controlled fashion. This means that the original houses were probably all built all at once and it is thought this occurred during the medieval period. To the east of the village of Worton there are some 17th century cottages which share a thatched roof. Once operating as separate residences, they are now one house.

Many of the buildings within the parish are red brick, certainly ones built after the 18th century. Worton Grange was built in the early 17th century. The first occupiers were the Mereweathers and the house was initially known as the Gregories. It is rumoured that Prince Rupert, nephew of Charles I, stayed there during the Civil War. Parts of Eastfield House are thought to date from the 15th century, with a significant extension in the 16th century.There was a working mill in Worton until 1970. Worton Mill had been built in 1855 and used as a corn mill on the site of an earlier mill. It is a four storey red brick building which has now been converted into a house. It is a Grade II listed. A number of houses in the parish are listed buildings. Marsh Farmhouse on the Seend Road, for example, is Grade II listed and dates from the 17th century, with alterations in the 19th century. Mill House, Prince Hill, The Grange, Ashton House, Cambria House and Manor Farmhouse are all Grade II listed buildings. Some parts of Manor Farmhouse are from the 16th century. Evidence of a building which was possibly a brewery was found in the village in the 1980s; foundations were found near to Worton House in the village.

The village hall was built in 1911 and was funded partly through donations from people living in the parish. It was originally known as the Library Hall, for the remainder of the money was donated by Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American who publicly promoted the importance of England’s public libraries.

A famous folk figure in Worton was Frederick Kempster, who was born in 1889 and died in 1918. Estimations of his height vary from an amazing 8ft 4 ½ in and 7ft 9 ½ in tall and he weighed 27 stone. He is said to have been born into a French circus family who performed locally. He was known as the English or Worton Giant and is said to have been forced to enter his house Grange Lodge on his hands and knees and was able to shake hands with people in upstairs windows. He lit cigarettes from the paraffin lamps lighting the streets of Worton. His father was chauffeur to the Lovatts at the Grange. Frederick was so tall that he had to commission the local carpenter to join two beds together for him to sleep properly. He later moved to Seend and was only 29 when he died.

Local author John Chandler concludes his investigation into Worton by saying: ‘Although not the most picturesque village on the clay lands, Worton has a very strong and friendly community spirit, with an annual newcomer’s party, a vibrant local pub (Rose and Crown) and a modern primary school. Its inhabitants boast a wide range of attainments and interesting occupations, working for the most part away from the village.

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