Westbury

"WESTBURY, a parish, market town, municipal and parliamentary borough, forming the hundred of Westbury, county Wilts, 25 miles N.W. of Salisbury, and 98 S.W. from London by road, or 109¾ by the Wilts and Somerset railway, being the junction station of the Salisbury and Weymouth branches. It is supposed to have been a British settlement, and to occupy the site of the Roman station Verlucio, now called Bratton Castle. It was the scene of an engagement between Alfred the Great and the Danes in 890, to commemorate which, according to tradition, there is a figure of a horse cut in the chalk slope of Bratton Hill, which, being annually scoured by the parishioners, can be distinctly seen for many miles.

The parish, which is situated under Salisbury Plain, comprises the chapelry of Dilton, the ecclesiastical districts of Dilton Marsh, Bratton, St. James, and Heywood, with the hamlets of Chalford Hawkeridge, Westbury Leigh, and Brumbridge. The surface is hilly, rising to the height of 775 feet above the sea at Westbury Down. The manor, formerly held by the Mauduits, Seymours, Mountjoys, and Berties, now belongs to Sir Massey Lopez, Bart., of Westbury House, and M.P. for the borough. Iron ore has recently been discovered at Ham near the railway station, and iron works have been erected.

The town consists of one long street, irregularly built, branching off towards Frome, Warminster, Trowbridge, and East Lavington. It is lighted with gas, and well supplied with water from springs which rise in various parts of the parish. The principal public buildings are the town-hall and market-house, erected in 1815 at the expense of the late Sir M. Lopes, Bart., Union poorhouse, savings-bank, branch of North Wilts Bank, Athenæum, post-office, and railway station. Its trade is chiefly in fancy cloths, and has recently much increased; and a large business is done in malting; there are two brick and tile works.

The population of the parish in 1861 was 6,495, but of the township 5,751. It was incorporated by charter of Edward I., confirmed by Henry IV., the municipal corporation consisting of a mayor, recorder, 12 aldermen and burgesses, but the mayor exercises no magisterial authority. It had also a court of requests alternately with Warminster and Trowbridge, now merged in the county court. The parliamentary borough, which is co-extensive with the parish, returned two members to parliament from the reign of Henry VI. till the passing of the Reform Act of 1832, since which time it has returned one only. The Poor-law Union of Westbury and Whorwelsdown contains 10 parishes or places.

The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Salisbury, value £390, with the chapelry of Dilton annexed, in the patronage of the bishop. The mother church of All Saints was built in the later Perpendicular style, and is now undergoing restoration. The interior contains several monuments and tombs of William de Westbury, one of the puisne judges of the Common Pleas, Governor Phipps, and James Ley, Earl of Marlborough. There are, besides several district churches, chapels for Independents, Baptists, and Wesleyans.

An extramural cemetery has recently been formed on the Bratton road, with chapels for Churchmen and Dissenters. There are National, infant, and free schools. The parochial charities produce about £190 per annum. Many Roman coins have been found. The market, now merely nominal, is on Tuesday for pigs only. Fairs are held on the first Friday in Lent, and Whit-Monday for pedlery, and on Easter-Monday and 24th September for horses, cattle, and cheese, but the principal fair is held on Westbury-Hill Down on the first Monday in September, chiefly for sheep."

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

Westbury is a borough on the Western edge of the county 4 miles North of Warminster, 8 miles South of Bath (Somerset). Grid Ref ST864502. Postcode BA13 3SA. Population 7,324 in 1831, 5,260 in 1951. It included Heywood.

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