"WILTON, a parish, market town, municipal and parliamentary borough in the hundred of Branch and Dole, county Wilts, 3 miles N.W. of Salisbury, and 85 from London. It has stations on the London and South-Western and Salisbury branch of the Great Western railways. This place is supposed by Baxter to have been the Caer Guile of the Britons, but was changed to Wilton by the Saxons from the river Willey, or Will, on which it is situated at its confluence with the Nadder. Under the West Saxons it became a place of such note as to give name to the shire, and early in the 10th century was chosen as the seat of the diocese of Wells, and so continued during the lives of 11 bishops, till 1050.


It was the scene of the defeat of the Mercian by Egbert in 823, and of the Danes by Alfred in 871; but was burnt by Sweyn the Dane in 1003, and again by the army of the Empress Matilda in 1143, who took it from Stephen. It was afterwards rebuilt, and in the 23rd of Edward I. was summoned as a borough to return two members to parliament. Queen Elizabeth visited it in 1579, and Prince Henry in 1603, when for a short space it became the residence of the court. With the rise of New Sarum, or Salisbury, it began gradually to decline, notwithstanding the introduction of the manufacture of carpets by Duffosy, a Frenchman, who first brought over into England this branch of industry, under the Herberts, in the reign of Elizabeth. By the Reform Act of 1832 the bounds of the borough were greatly extended, and the number of members reduced to one instead of two, as from the reign of Edward I.


The chief influence is with the Earl of Pembroke, of Wilton Castle - rebuilt by Wyatt, and altered from designs of Holbein and Inigo Jones by Sir W. Herbert, afterwards Earl of Pembroke, on the site of the ancient abbey, originally founded by Wulstan, Earl of Wiltshire, in 773. In this mansion is a collection of paintings and old marble sculpture; also the library where Sir Philip Sidney is said to have written the "Arcadia". Wilton is a borough by prescription, having been first chartered by Henry I., and is now governed by a corporation consisting of a high steward, mayor, who is also returning officer, recorder, five aldermen, and a number of burgesses, of whom the mayor and recorder are magistrates.


The town hall is the principal public edifice in the town, which consists of one long street. The population of the parish in 1861 was 1,930, and of the borough 8,657, inhabiting 1,814 houses. It has long been celebrated for the manufacture of carpets, but the only factory at present in operation is that of Messrs. Blackmore and Lapworth, which employs about 500 hands, and made the Axminster carpet exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851, from Gruner's designs. Wilton gives name to a deanery in the archdeaconry and diocese of Sarum. The living is a rectory,* value with Bulbridge, Ditchampton, and Netherhampton annexed, £400, besides 22 acres, 2 roods, 29 poles of glebe.


The church of SS. Mary and Nicholas, recently erected in lieu of the old one by Wyatt and Brandon, at the cost of £25,000, defrayed by the late Right Hon. Sir Sidney Herbert, is 156 feet in length, with a campanile tower 120 feet high, connected with the body of the structure by a corridor. It is in the Lombard style of architecture, with a western doorway, stained windows, stone pulpit supported by 16 black marble pillars, carved stone screen, chancel paved with Italian agates and marble, and inlaid mosaic work brought from the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore.


The charities produce about £350 per annum, including the bequests of R. Sumption, Esq., whose will hangs up in the townhall. The Dissenters have chapels, and there are a free school, Sunday-school, and St. John's Hospital - the last founded in 1190, by Archbishop Hubert, for a prior or clergyman, and five aged persons. It is the head of a Poor-law Union of 22 parishes, the workhouse for which is situated in the parish of Newton, and of a superintendent registry, but belongs to the Salisbury New County Court district. Market days, now nearly obsolete, are Wednesday and Saturday, but the sheep fairs, held on the 4th May and 12th September, are some of the largest in England.

"BULBRIDGE, a tything in the parish of Wilton, hundred of Cawden, in the county of Wilts, not far from Wilton. The living is a rectory united with that of Wilton, in the diocese of Salisbury. There is no church.

"DITCHAMPTON, a hamlet in the parishes of Burcombe and Wilton, in the county of Wilts, near Wilton. It is situated on the river Wiley. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Salisbury. The church, which was dedicated to St. Andrew, has been pulled down."

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

Wilton is a borough 3 miles NW of Salisbury. Grid Ref SU096313. Postcode SP2 0HD. Population 1,997 in 1831, 2,858 in 1951. Notable for carpet manufacture.


Church Records


Description & Travel

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    You can see maps centred on OS grid reference SU096313 (Lat/Lon: 51.080942, -1.864331), Wilton which are provided by:


    Poor Houses, Poor Law

    • 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 Wilton Union.

      Local Government Board - 1st Annual Report 1871-2

      Appendix pages 213-214

      Heads of Inquiry upon which information was given upon the Administration of Out-door Relief in the Wilton Union of Wiltshire.


      Part I

      I - There is occasionally a general revision of the lists, but they are not revised at any fixed periods.

      II - The longest period for which relief is given is 6 months.

      III - Sick cases are in some cases ordered relief during sickness in others for fixed periods not exceeding a month.

      Widows with children are not given relief for more than six months at a time, but in practice the relief is ordered temporarily and the effect is that it goes on till the end of the half-year, unless the relieving officer specially reports the case to the Board.

      Old and infirm chronic cases are given relief for periods not exceeding six months - 4s-6d and 7 loaves.

      IV - The personal attendance of the applicant, unless prevented by illness, is required on original applications, and also on renewed applications, except in permanent cases. A fresh report is in all cases required from the relieving officer.

      V - No steps are taken with regard to the attendance at school of out-door pauper children.

      VII - The Guardians personally question the applicants, and in many cases, but not in the majority, their circumstances are personally known to some member of the Board.

      VIIa - The relief is entered by the relieving officer in the Application and Report Book. The entries are copied by the clerk on the same day into the Relief Order Book.

      IX - About one half of the total relief (including the relief recommended by the medical officer) is in kind.

      X - The workhouse is offered to able-bodied applicants, to persons of drunken or incorrigibly idle habits, and to those who make a dishonest or suspicious statement to their officers. When offered as a test it is refused in the large majority of cases.

      XI - Deserted wives are given out-relief unless collusion is suspected.The husband is prosecuted, but as a rule no reward is offered for his apprehension.

      XII - Money derived from benefit clubs is taken into account at half its value in determining the amount of relief. Pensions are estimated at their full value.

      XIII - Relief is granted in aid of earnings, but not to persons who are able to do a full day's work, and are in constant employment.

      XIV - Relations, legally liable, are professedly compelled to contribute, but very rarely by actual legal proceedings.

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

      XVI - The medical officers do not attend the meetings of the Guardians except for special reasons.

      XVII - The Guardians have no system of communication with persons administering charitable relief, but many of them are trustees of charitable endowments in Wilton, and know the persons who receive relief from that source.


      Scale of Relief:-

      Widows with children receive from 1s and a loaf to 1s-6d and a loaf for each child; nothing for themselves if able to work, but if unable to work they receive from 1s-6d and a loaf to 2s and a loaf for themselves.

      An old man or woman receives from 2s to 2s-6d and a loaf.

      An old couple receive from 4s to 5s and 2 loaves.


      Part II

      1 - There are two relief districts and two 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 generally visited once a week, never less than once a fortnight.

      Widows with children are visited never less than once a month.

      Old and infirm chronic cases are visited never less than once a month.

      6 - The relieving officer does not as a rule visit the home of the applicant before giving an order for the workhouse.

      7 - When the relieving officer gives temporary provisional relief, he visits first, except in urgent cases, when he visits afterwards, and never at a longer interval than 4 days. Such relief is always in kind, and is reported to the Guardians at their next meeting.

      8 - The Guardians occasionally, but rarely, direct the officer to relieve at discretion. They require a report from him at their next meeting.

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

      10,11 etc. (Mode of payment) The poor are paid in most cases at their own homes, or at the home of some person in receipt of relief. In Wilton they are paid in the Town Hall, and at one other place in a room in a private house, for which the Guardians pay £1 a year.

      If the head of the family, or wife, if married, is unable to come in person for the relief, it is sent by a neighbour, but not by any person nor previously known to the relieving officer. When relief in any case is frequently sent in this way the relieving officer makes inquiries from time to time to ascertain whether it has been properly received. The relieving officer believes that in a few cases the neighbour receives a penny or half=penny for taking it.

      Bread baked by the Guardians is taken round by the relieving officer in a van.


      Weights and scales are taken round with the van.

      All other relief in kind is given by tickets on tradesmen.

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

      18 - The relieving officers have fixed hours at each of the relief stations.


      Wilton District

      Area in acres 23,845 - Population in 1861 5,770.

      Maximum number of cases in receipt of relief in any one week 301 - persons 500.

      Minimum number of cases 282 - persons 464.

      Signed - David Thos. Dyke - Relieving Officer


      Bishopston District

      Area in acres 31,459 - Population in 1861 4,904.

      Maximum number of cases in receipt of relief in any one week 268 - persons 489.

      Minimum number of cases 241 - persons 389.

      Signed - Thomas Webb - Relieving Officer

      December 1870




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