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"CHIPPENHAM, a parish, market town, municipal and parliamentary borough, in the hundred of Chippenham, in the county of Wilts, 10 miles S. of Malmesbury, and 13 N.E. of Bath. It is a station on the Great Western line, and is situated on a bend of the river Avon. This was anciently a seat of the kings of Wessex, and is styled by most ancient writers, Villa Regis. It was here that Ethelwulf, in 853, celebrated the marriage of his daughter Athelswitha with Buthred, King of Mercia; and some years later the town was held by the Danes against King Alfred, who was obliged to seek shelter in Selwood Forest. After the battle of Ethandune, in which the Danes were defeated, Alfred concluded a treaty with their Prince, Guthrun, at Chippenham, by which they agreed to be baptised, and retire to Cirencester.


On the death of Alfred, that monarch bequeathed the lordship and town of Chippenham, with its palace, to his daughter Elfleda. In the Domesday Survey, the manor of Chepeham, or Chippenham, is entered as belonging to Edward the Confessor, and after the Conquest it continued in the possession of the crown. In the reign of Richard II. it had passed to the Hungerfords, who rebuilt the church; and in that of Charles I. it was taxed £30 as ship-money. It had been a market town from the earliest times, as its name implies, being derived from the Anglo-Saxon word Cyppenham, a market-place, but it received its first charter from Queen Mary. It was subsequently incorporated under the Municipal Corporations Act, when the government was vested in a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors, with the style of the "bailiff and burgesses of the borough of Chippenham. "The principal employment of the inhabitants is agricultural, but many of the townspeople are engaged in the manufacture of broadcloth and silks. Chippenham is the centre of the North Wilts Agricultural Association, and there is an annual show of cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry.


The town is situated on a declivity on the S. side of the Avon, which is very wide at this place, and has a beautiful stone bridge of 20 arches, with an ornamented balustrade. It is well built, and extends for about half a mile in length, containing a townhall, market-house, two banks, savings bank, and literary institution. In 1834 it was improved under the provisions of an Act for lighting, cleansing, and paving it. There are a few grist-mills and tanneries, and the town is connected by a short branch with the Wilts and Berks canal. It first returned two members to parliament in the reign of Edward I. The limits of the present parliamentary borough are much more extensive than the municipal, the former containing, according to the census of 1861, 1,345 inhabited houses, with a population of 7,075, while the latter comprises 300 houses, inhabited by a population of 1,603. It is also remarkable that while the municipal borough has declined 104 in the decennial period since 1851, the parliamentary has increased 792. The population of the parish of Chippenham is 4,753.


The living is a vicarage* annexed to which is the rectory of Tytherton Lucas, in the diocese of Gloucester and Bristol, in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford. The parish church, dedicated to St. Andrew, is an ancient edifice in the Gothic style, partly built by the Hungerfords in the 12th century, and has a beautiful spire and peal of eight bells. It contains several brasses and tombs of the Bayntons, Prynnes, &c. The district church, situated near the railway station, stands in the parish of Langley Burrell, and is dedicated to St. Paul. It is an elegant building in the early English style, and was erected in 1555. There are five Dissenting places of worship, two of which are Baptist, the others Independent, Methodist, and Wesleyan. The Roman Catholics also have a chapel.


Here is an endowed school for the sons of freemen, as also National and British schools. The charities produce about £200 per annum. Bowood, the seat of the Marquis of Lansdowne, is not far from the town. In the vicinity were two chalybeate springs, formerly celebrated, but now neglected except by the poorer classes. One has recently been filled up. A paved causeway was constructed by Maud Heath in 1474, from Chippenham Cliff, through the town, to Wick Hill, a distance of 4 miles, at various points of which causeway stones have been erected, each bearing an inscription commemorative of its erection. Friday is market day. Twice in the month the markets are for the sale of cattle and sheep, and once for cheese, of which several thousand tons are sometimes sold. There is also a corn market. Fairs are held for the sale of horses, cattle, and sheep, on the 17th May, 22nd June, 29th October, and 11th December."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) - Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]


Archives and Libraries

Church Records

  • Common to all parishes is a Key to Abbreviations and a description of Church Records and Indexes for Wiltshire, including a complete Marriage Index for the county.

  • Indexes and registers of the parish church of Chippenham, St Andrew:

    • WSRO registers: Chr 1578-1983, Mar 1578-1975, Bur 1578-1912
    • IGI Chr 1570-1687 Batch C059142, Chr 1688-1875 Batch C059141, Mar 1578-1611 and 1653-1687 Batch M059142, Mar 1688-1755 and 1759-1884 M059141
    • VRI Chr 1876-1902
  • Indexes and registers of the church of Causeway, Chippenham, Primitive Methodist:

    • IGI Chr 1835-1837 Batch C077671
  • Indexes and registers of the church of Chippenham, Particular Baptist:

    • IGI Bir 1789 and 1801-1837 Batch C093121
  • Indexes and registers of the church of Chippenham, Tabernacle Emery Lane Independent:

Description and Travel

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Historical Geography

You can see the administrative areas in which Chippenham has been placed at times in the past. Select one to see a link to a map of that particular area.


You can see maps centred on OS grid reference ST921733 (Lat/Lon: 51.458570, -2.115116), Chippenham which are provided by:

Poor Houses, Poor Law etc.

  • Alan Longbottom has transcribed from the 1st Annual Report of the Local Government Board 1871-72, pages 103 to 224, detailed information regarding Reports upon the administration of Out-door Relief in 70 Unions in the South of England. Here are the details for the Chippenham Union.

    From 1st Report of the Local Government Board 1871-1872.

    pp. 208-209 Report on Administration of the Chippenham Union.

    Chippenham- Part I

    I - There is a general revision of the relief lists every six months.

    II - The longest period for which relief is given is six months.

    III - Sick cases are given relief for periods varying according to the report of the medical officer, generally for a fortnight, sometimes for as much as a month.

    IV - The personal attendance of the applicants is required unless there is some good reason for their absence.

    V - If the relieving officer when visiting finds children of school age kept at home he reports the case to the Guardians.

    VII - The Guardians personally question the applicants, and in the majority of cases their circumstances are personally known to some member of the Board.

    VIIa - The chairman enters the relief in the Application and Report Book, and the clerk in the Relief Order Book.

    IX - About one-seventh of the total relief is given in kind.

    X - The workhouse is offered to all able-bodied applicants, to persons of drunken or incorrigibly idle habits, and to those who make a dishonest or suspicious statement to the Guardians or their officers. When offered as a test, not one in ten accept it.

    XI - Out-relief is given to deserted wives unless collusion is suspected between them and their husbands. The husband is prosecuted, and a reward of from £2 to £5 is offered for his apprehension.

    XII - Pensions and money from benefit clubs are taken into account in determining the amount of relief, but are looked upon more favourably than other sources of income.

    XIII - Relief is given in aid of earnings, but not to any who are in regular and constant employment.

    XIV - Relations, legally liable, are compelled to contribute, and legal proceedings are frequently taken for the purpose.

    XV - The provisions of the Prohibitory Order are strictly observed.

    XVI - The medical officers does not attend the meetings of the Guardians.

    XVII - The Guardians have no system of communication with persons administering charitable relief.

    Scale of Relief - A widow with 4 children has about 7s a week, of which from 4s to 5s is in money and from 2s to 3s in kind.

    Old man or woman from 2s-6d to 3s : Aged couple about 5s-6d.

    Part II.

    1 - There are 3 relief districts and 3 relieving officers.

    2 - There are no assistant relieving officers.

    3 - There is no pay clerk.

    4 - The relieving officers do all the visiting : they do not keep a diary.

    5 - Sick cases are visited never less than once a week, frequently oftener.

    Widows with children are as a rule visited once a month : never less than once in 2 months.

    Old and Infirm cases are visited at about the same intervals as widows.

    6 - There are not many cases in which the relieving officers give orders for the workhouse to any but houseless persons. If a person with a home in his district applies for an order, the relieving officer does not visit the house except in cases not previously known to him.

    7 - When the relieving officer gives temporary provisional relief he visits the home first, except in urgent cases, when he visits afterwards, and always within a week. Such relief is always in kind, and is reported to the Guardians at their next meeting.

    8 - The Guardians frequently direct the relieving officer to relieve at discretion They require a report from him at each ensuing meeting.

    9 - The relieving officers visit at uncertain times and unexpectedly.

    10-16 Mode of payment:-

    In No 1 District the poor are paid in all the parishes at the house of one of the paupers.

    In No 2 District the poor are paid in the vestry of a church in one parish. About 30 or 40 come there, but the vestry is quite large enough to hold them. Four cottages, for which the Guardians pay 6d a week, are used as relief stations, and in other parishes the poor are paid at the home of one of the paupers.

    In No 3 District the poor are paid in one place at a market-house, for which the Guardians pay 6d a week; in another place in the vestry room of the parish, and in another a room hired by the Guardians at 13d a week.

    In the majority of cases persons come themselves for their relief; if they do not it is sent by a neighbour or child, the relieving officer making inquiries from time to time to ascertain that it has been properly received. He would not intrust the relief to any person not previously known to him.

    The relieving officer believes that in many cases the neighbour receives 1d of a half-penny for taking int. There are no cases in which the pauper is unable either to come or send, and therefore none in which he takes the relief to the home of the pauper.

    No person has to come more than 2 miles to receive relief.

    Bread (not baked by the Guardians) is taken round in the contractor's cart. The relieving officer is present when it is given out. In one district weights and scales are taken round with the cart, but not in the two others.

    All relief in kind, except bread, is given by tickets on tradesmen.

    17 - There is no dispensary for the out-door poor.

    18 - The relieving officers are at home till 10 a.m. and have fixed hours at the relief stations.

    Chippenham Union – Out Relief

    Maximum/Minimum Cases

    Persons Relieved

    No 1 District

    17,987 acres

    Population of 9,387





    No 2 District

    23,580 acres

    Population of 5,786





    No 3 District

    14,887 acres

    Population of 6,856






    56,545 acres

    Population of 22,029





    Report signed by Jacob Phillips - Clerk to the Guardians

    Transcribed by Alan Longbottom


  • Population was 4,333 in 1831, 11,851 in 1951.



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