"MELKSHAM, a parish, post and market town, in the hundred of Melksham, county Wilts, 5 miles S.E. of Corsham, 6 N.E. of Bradford, and 28 N.W. of Salisbury. It is a station on the Wilts, Somerset, and Weymouth railway. It is situated on the river Avon, which is crossed by a bridge of four arches, and on the E. is the Wilts and Berks canal, which is in confluence with the Kennet and Avon canal, about 1½ mile S. The parish, which is of large extent, contains the tythings of Melksham Town, Shaw, Beanacre, Blackmore, Cannonhold, Seend, and Woodrow.
Melksham was formerly held by King Harold, and was a place of some importance in the reign of King John, but has since decayed. The land is chiefly-pasture and meadow, with a small proportion of arable and waste. The soil is clay, alternated with gravel. Two mineral springs, one saline, and the other chalybeate, were discovered in the last century; and in 1816 a new saline spa was obtained at a depth of 351½ feet. Subsequently a bath and pump room was erected, with a crescent and promenade, at considerable expense, with the expectation of great advantages to Melksham; but in consequence of the lack of patronage, it proved a failure.
The town, which chiefly consists of one long street, well paved and lighted with gas, contains many good houses, but of irregular formation. It is a petty sessions and polling town for North Wilts. The sessions are held by the justices of peace for Melksham division, at the townhall, on the last Tuesday in every month, and every fourth week a county court, for the recovery of small debts. The townhall and the cheese market were erected by a company in 1847, at an outlay of £3,350. They are of white freestones and improve the appearance of the town. There are an extensive corn-mill, manufactories of broad cloth, hair cloth; sacking, &c. The appropriate tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £1,278, and the vicarial for £1,214.
The living is a vicarage* with the curacies of Seend and Earl Stoke annexed, in the diocese of Sarum, value £1,216, in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury. The church, dedicated to St. Michael, is a large cruciform structure with an embattled tower crowned with pinnacles. The church has two side chapels, and tombs of the Awdreys, Seends, &c. It was thoroughly restored and enlarged in 1846, at an expense of £2,000. There is also a district church at Shaw and Whitley, the living of which is a perpetual curacy, value £100. The parochial charities produce about £28 per annum. There are National, British, and infant schools.
The Baptists, Independents, Wesleyan Methodists, and Society of Friends, have each a place of worship. The union of Melksham comprises six parishes, and the poorhouse, a stone building, is situated at Semmington, about 2 miles distant from the town. Walter Long, Esq., M.P., is lord of the manor. Market day is Monday, for butter, &c., the first Monday in the month for cheese, and every other Monday for cattle, horses, &c. An annual cattle fair is held in the market-place on the 27th July."
"BEANACRE, a tything in the parish and hundred of Melksham, in the county of Wilts, close to Melksham."
"BLACKMORE, a tything in the parish and hundred of Melksham, in the county of Wilts, 2 miles from Melksham."
"CANNONHOLD, a tything in the parish and hundred of Melksham, in the county of Wilts."
"SANDRIDGE, a demesne of Lord Audley, in the parish and hundred of Melksham, county Wilts, 2 miles N.E. of Melksham, and 27 N.W. of Forest Salisbury. It is situated on the river Avon, near Chippenham."
"SHAWHILL, a village in the parish of Melksham, county Wilts, 1 mile N.W. of Melksham. It is situated in the vale of the Avon, near the borders of Chippenham Forest. The living is a perpetual curacy in the diocese of Salisbury, value with Whitley, £100, in the patronage of the Vicar of Melksham."
"WHITLEY, a hamlet in the parish and hundred of Melksham, county Wilts, 2 miles N.W. of Melksham, in the vale of the Avon."
"WOODROW, a tything in the parish of Melksham, county Wilts, 2 miles N.E. of Melksham."
[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) - Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]