Corsham

"CORSHAM, (or Corsham Regis), a parish and market town in the hundred of Chippenham, in the county of Wilts, 3 miles S.W. of Chippenham, its post town, and 4 N. W. of Melksham. It is a station on the Great Western line. The parish comprises the town of Corsham, and the townships of Pickwick and Easton. It is mentioned in the Saxon Chronicle as the residence of King Ethelred, and in Domesday Book is called Cosseham, the property of Earl Tosti of Northumberland, by whom it was forfeited to the crown. It was afterwards held by Richard Earl of Cornwall, who procured for it many privileges, and granted the royalties of the manor to the tenants, as farmers in fee, for an annual rent of 110 marks.

The town, which stands in a flat, dry, and healthy situation, principally consists of one long street containing many neat houses, most of them built of freestone. The woollen manufactures; for which it was formerly noted, have entirely disappeared, and the inhabitants are now engaged in agriculture, or are employed in the numerous stone quarries in the neighbourhood. The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Gloucester and Bristol, value £300, in the patronage of Lord Methuen. The church, dedicated to Bartholomew, is an ancient edifice partly in the English and partly in the Norman style. It has a tower in the centre, but the spire which surmounted it was taken down in 1812. According to Tanner, it was given by William I. to the abbey of St. Stephen, at Caen, in Normandy, but was afterwards transferred to King's College, Cambridge, by Henry VI.

There are two Independent and two Baptist chapels. Lady Hungerford's school has an income from endowment of £50, and the mastership was once held by Edward Hasted, F.R.S., the county historian of Kent, who died here in 1812; there are also British schools for boys, and a free school for girls. An almshouse was endowed by Lady Hungerford and the late Mr. Alexander. Kirby's charity consists of £45 annually distributed to eight persons of worthy character. There are besides lands of which the feoffees are the trustees, producing annually about £150, applied to the support of the poor of the ,parish, repairing the church and the parish bridges. Lord Methuen is lord of the royal manor, and the sheriff and coroner are lords of the rectory manor. A courtleet is held here annually.

Corsham Court, the residence of Lord Methuen, is a noble pile in the Elizabethan style of architecture. The greater part of it is modern, though occupying the site of the original mansion, built in 1582 by William Halliday, the wealthy Lord Mayor of London who drained Moorfields. After it was purchased by Paul Methuen, Esq., at the commencement of the last century, it underwent an entire renovation by Launcelot Browne and Nash, and has been subsequently added to under the direction of Charles Bellamy, the architect, who has made the N. front one of the most magnificent in Great Britain. In the breakfast-room is a very singular cornice, consisting, of 160 heads in basso relievo, all different. The principal attraction of the mansion, however, is the gallery, containing a fine collection of paintings of the Flemish and other schools, chiefly made by Sir Paul Methuen while ambassador from Queen Anne and George I. to the courts of Vienna, Morocco, Lisbon, Madrid, and Sardinia.

The collection includes Tintoretto's "Last Supper", Titian's "Cortez", Claude's "Morning and Evening", Rembrandt's "Study of a Turk", Poussin's "Eudamidas;" besides several paintings and portraits by Rubens, Vandyck, Elzheimer, and other masters. The other residences are Hartham Park, Jaggards House, Monks Park, and Neston Park. Sir Richard Blackmore, an eminent physician and poet of the 17th century, best known by his poem called "The Creation", was a native of this place. The market is on Wednesday. Cattle fairs are held here on the 7th March and 4th September."

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

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