"DOWNTON, a parish and town in the hundred of Downton, in the county of Wilts, 7 miles S.E. of Salisbury, and 89 S.W. of London. It is situated in a valley on the river Avon, and contains the tythings of Charlton, Church, East Downton, Hamptworth, Wick, and Walton, besides Witherington and Langley Wood, extra-parochial places. The town, which contains between 3,000 and 4,000 inhabitants, consists principally of one long street, extending from E. to W. It was formerly a market town of some importance, and returned two members to parliament before the passing of the Reform Bill. It is ancient, and presents somewhat the appearance of decay, its trade having declined.
The inhabitants are chiefly employed in making straw-plait, malting, tanning, and brick-making, and in lime-burning. On the river Avon, which is here divided into three channels, each crossed by a bridge, are several grist and paper mills. The living is a vicarage with the curacy* of Nunton annexed, in the diocese of Salisbury, value £571, in the patronage of Winchester College. There are also the two district churches of Charlton and Redlynch, both perpetual curacies in the gift of the vicar. The parish church, dedicated to St. Lawrence, is an ancient structure, recently restored. The tower has been raised 30 feet above its former elevation. It contains monuments to Lord Feversham, of Downton, and other members of the Duncombe family.
The churches of All Saints and St. Mary are modern edifices, built in the ancient style, with stone belfry and spire. The Baptists, Wesleyans, and other Dissenting bodies have places of worship. The charities amount to about £50 per annum. There is a free grammar school, founded by Sir Joseph Ashe in 1679, and endowed with about £40 per annum; also National and British schools. There are a few remains of an ancient castle and an entrenched place, called Clerbury Camp, where King John's palace is believed to have stood. About 2 miles from Downton is Standlynch, or Trafalgar House, presented by the English nation to Nelson. Fairs are held on the 23rd April and 2nd October for horses, sheep, &c."
[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) - Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]