Malmesbury, Wiltshire Family History Guide

Malmesbury is an Ancient Parish and a market town in the county of Wiltshire.

Alternative names: Abbey, St Paul Malmesbury, Malmsbury, Malmesbury St Paul, Malmesbury the Abbey

Other places in the parish include: Milbourne, Milbourn, Corston, Cole Park, Burton Hill, West Park, Rodbourne, Rodbourn, Rodborne, and Mitbourn.

Status: Ancient Parish

Parish church:

Parish registers begin:

  • Parish registers: 1591
  • Bishop’s Transcripts: 1607

Nonconformists include: Baptist, Independent/Congregational, Moravian/United Brethren, Particular Baptist, and Presbyterian.

Parishes adjacent to Malmesbury

Historical Descriptions

Malmesbury

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

MALMSBURY, a town, a parish, two sub-districts, a district, and a hundred, in Wilts. The town stands on a fine eminence, peninsulated by two headstreams of the river Avon, 2¾ miles ESE of Akeman-street and of the boundary with Gloucestershire, 6 SW by W of Minety r. station, and 10 N by E of Chippenham. It was anciently called Meadelmesbyrig or Maildulfsbury, and it is supposed to have got that name from a Scottish hermit, called Maildulf, who had a cell on its site before 675. Roman coins and triangular bricks have been found in its vicinity; and a road near it has been known, from time immemorial, as King Athelstan's way. The charters of Athelstan and Eadwid make mention of it; and the Danes are recorded to have burnt it in 878. A castle was built at it, in the time of Henry I., by Bishop Roger; walls were built around it about the same period, or later; and the town, in virtue of these fortifications, of the steep descent from them to the streams, and of the relative course of the streams' channels, possessed great military strength, and seems to have been regarded as almost inaccessible. The forces of King Stephen and those of the Empress Maud took post in battle array against each other, on the opposite banks of the united stream about a mile S, to dispute possession of the town; but those of Stephen eventually withdrew, without striking a blow. Prince Henry, afterwards Henry II., stormed the castle in 1152. Henry VIII. was entertained by Stumpe, a rich clothier, in a building which had been a hospice of St. John of Jerusalem, and which is now the corporation alms house; and Charles I. was feasted by the corporation in the same building. The royalists held the town at the commencement of the civil wars of Charles I.; they were driven from it in March 1643, by Sir W. Waller; they recovered possession of it, and held it till 1645; and they were finally expelled by Col. Massie. An ancient abbey long gave much more importance to the town than accrued to it from the castle. The abbey was founded in 675, by Elentherins, bishop of Winchester; had, for its first abbot, Aldhelm, the learned Saxon and Latin author, afterwards bishop of Sherborne; was enlarged by King Athelstan, and made his burial-place; was rebuilt in 974, by King Edgar; had, at Domesday, the privilege of coining; was mainly restored or rebuilt in 1107-42, by Roger, bishop of Salisbury, who had a palace in the town; was raised to the status of a mitred abbey by Edward III.; occupied a site of 45 acres; had an income, at the dissolution, estimated at £804; was given then to Stumpe, the rich clothier, who erected his looms within its walls; and passed, with the manor, to the Whartons and the Rusharts. The White Lion inn, destroyed only a few years ago, was a hospitium's of the abbey; and retained to the end some pieces of ancient stone and wood-work. Two nunnery or friary chapels were at Bernville and Burton; and the former still stands, and is Norman. Remains of another ancient ecclesiastical edifice, dedicated to St Helen, are at a house in Milk-street. Aldhelm, the first abbot of Malmsbury; William of Malmsbury, the historian; Oliver of Malmsbury, who made the first attempt to be an aeronaut; Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher; Mrs Chandler, the poetess; and Samuel Chandler, the theologian, were natives. The family of Harris takes from the town the titles of Baron and Earl.

The town consists chiefly of three streets; two of them, High-street and Silver-street, running parallel to each other from N to S; the third, Oxford-street, crossing these at their northern extremities. Many of the houses are old. Several bridges cross the streams. Considerable remains of the ancient walls exist on the E; and the latest standing one of the gates, that on the N, was taken down in 1778. The corporation alms house, the building in which Henry VIII. and Charles I. were entertained, stands in the SE, and includes a walled-up pointed arch. A fine market-cross stands in the market-place; was built in the time of Henry VII.; underwent repair in 1800, at the expense of the Earl of Suffolk; and is an octagonal structure, with central column and eight open arches, surmounted by a pinnacle bearing sculptures. The town hall occupies the site of an hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, originally a preceptory of the Knights Templars; and retains some portions of the ancient building. The parish church is part of the church of the ancient abbey. The original edifice comprised a nave 140 feet long, 68 wide, and 66 high; a transept, 70 feet long; a choir, 87 feet long; a Lady chapel, 60 feet long, and 23 feet wide; a central tower and a W tower; and a cloister 105 feet each way. The W tower and the cloister were destroyed in the civil wars; the central tower was shaken, and a lofty spire which surmounted it fell down, at the close of the 15th century; and other portions went into decay and ruin at other periods; but the great S porch, part of the nave and its aisles, a wall of the S transept, and two arches of the central tower still stand; and they shoe characters of transition from Norman to early English. The N tower arch is now excluded from the building, and has been injurionsly altered to suit the adjacent masonry; and the two arches of the central tower now stand detached. The S porch is very fine Norman work, of eight concentric arches, with knots, foliage, and medallion bas-reliefs in the mouldings; the W front also is very fine Norman work, but mutilated; and the space to the S of the altar contains a tomb with crowned effigies, said to be that of Athelstan, but manifestly of much later date than his age. The abbey was Benedictine, and the church was dedicated to St. Mary. St. Paul's church stands on the S side, is dilapidated, and has a tower and lofty spire. A Tudor house stands on the NE, and rests on a lofty decorated crypt. An Independent chapel, in modified Lombardic style, was built in 1868. There are chapels for Baptists, Moravians, Calvinistic Methodists, and Wesleyans; national schools; three endowed schools, with £119 a year; and alms houses and other charities, 96.

The town has a head post office, two banking offices, and two chief inns; and is a seat of petty sessions and a polling-place. A weekly market is held on Saturday; a cattle market is held on the last Tuesday of every month, except March, April, and May; and fairs for horses, cattle, and sheep, are held on 28 March, 28 April, 5 June, and 15 Dec. A clothing trade was formerly extensive, but has dwindled almost to extinction. A ribbon manufactory was recently established; pillow lace is made by some women and children; and brewing and tanning are carried on. The town was chartered by Athelstan; sent two members to parliament occasionally from the time of Edward I., and always from that of Mary till the act of 1832; sends now only one member; is not regulated by the municipal act; and, under a charter of William III., is nominally governed by an alderman, a deputy alderman, and eleven capital burgesses. The old borough comprised only 130 acres; but the new borough, for parliamentary representation under the act of 1832, comprises the entire parishes of Malmsbury, Westport-St Mary, Lea, Little Somerford, Great Somerford, Garsdon, Foxley, Charlton, Brokenborough, and Bremilham, and the extra-parochial place of Malmsbury-Abbey. Acres, 22,606. Amount of property and income tax charged in 1863, £694. Electors in 1833,291; in 1868,370. Pop. in 1851,6,998; in 1861,6,881. Houses, 1,406.

The parish contains the tythings of Milbourn, Burton-Hill, Cole-Park, Corston, Rodbourn, and West Park. Acres, inclusive of Malmsbury-Abbey extra-parochial place, 5,332. Real property, inc. of M. Ab., £5,303; of which £80 are in gas-works. Pop., exc., of M. Ab., in 1851, 2,443; in 1861, 2,400. Houses, 497. The living is a vicarage, united with the chapelries of Rodbourn and Corston, in the diocese of Gloucester and Bristol. Value, £265. Patron, S. B. Brooke, Esq. Chapels of ease are in Rodbourn and Corston. The sub-district of Malmsbury-Eastern contains the parishes of Minety, Oaksey, Garsdon, Brinkworth, Danntsey, Great Somerford, Little Somerford, and Lea, and parts of the parishes of Malmsbury, Charlton, Hankerton, and Crudwell. Pop., 7,475. Houses, 1,590. The sub-district of Malmsbury-Western contains the parishes of Westport-St. Mary, Brokenborough, Easton-Grey, Foxley, Bremilham, Hullavington, Norton-Coleparle, Sherston-Parva, Sherston-Magna, Sopworth, Luckington, and Alderton, the extra-parochial place of Malmsbury-Abbey, and parts of the parishes of Malmsbury, Charlton, Hankerton, and Crudwell. Pop., 7,081. Houses, 1,460. The line of division through the parishes which are partly in the E. sub-d. and partly in the W. sub-d., runs along the turnpike-road from Chippenham to Malmsbury, goes up High-street to the Cross, and runs thence along Upper and Lower Oxford-streets, and along the turnpike road toward Cirencester. The district consists of the two sub-districts. Acres, 57,508. Poor rates in 1863, £8,435. Pop. in 1851, 14,899; in 1861, 14,556. Houses, 3,050. Marriages in 1863, 106; births, 494, of which 45 were illegitimate; deaths, 265, of which 105 were at ages under 5 years, and 9 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 973; births, 4,675; deaths, 2,742. The places of worship, in 1851, were 28 of the Church of England, with 5,769 sittings; 10 of Independents, with 2,004 s.; 7 of Baptists, with 1,068 s.; 1 of Moravians, with 280 s.; 1 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 50 s.; 8 of Primitive Methodists, with 434 s.; and 1 undefined, with 130 s. The schools were 17 public day schools, with 742 scholars; 36 private day schools, with 590 s.; and 32 Sunday schools, with 2,042 s. The workhouse is in Brokenborough parish; and, at the census of 1861, had 168 inmates. The hundred contains twenty five parishes, parts of two other parishes, and an extraparochial place. Acres, 60,027. Pop. in 1851,14,471; in 1861,14,145. Houses, 2,939.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

Leonard’s Gazetteer of England and Wales 1850

Malmesbury, 96 miles W. London. P. 2367

Source: Leonard’s Gazetteer of England and Wales; Second Edition; C. W. Leonard, London; 1850

Abbey

The National Gazetteer 1868

Abbey in Malmesbury, a par. in the hund. of Malmesbury, in Wiltshire, not far from the town of Malmesbury. An abbey of the Benedictine order was established here in the 7th century by Maidulf. It appears to have been one of considerable importance, second, in the west of England, only to Glastonbury. Part of the old church still remains.

Source: The National Gazetteer: a Topographical Dictionary of the British Islands compiled from the latest and best sources and illustrated with a complete county atlas and numerous maps. Vol. 1. Virtue & Co. London. 1868.

A Topographical Dictionary of the United Kingdom 1808

Abbey, a hamlet to the parish of Malmsbury, Wilts, 96 miles from London; contains 14 houses and 80 inhabitants. It derived its name from an abbey built by Maildulphus, an Hebridian Scot, in the time of the Anglo-Saxons; from whose name is derived that of Malmsbury.

Source: A Topographical Dictionary of the United Kingdom. Benjamin Pitts Capper. 1808.

Bankrupts

Below is a list of people that were declared bankrupt between 1820 and 1843 extracted from The Bankrupt Directory; George Elwick; London; Simpkin, Marshall and Co.; 1843.

Вown Wm. Tytherleigh, Malmsbury, Wilts, corn factor & baker, Mar. 30, 1824.

Tennant Joseph, Malmsbury, Wiltshire, grocer, Dec. 8, 1826.

Marriages Out of Parish

Below is a list of people who were from Malmesbury but who were married in another parish.

John Ravenscroft, esq., of the parish of Malmesbury, Wilts, in the diocese of Sarum [no further entry] at North & Middle Littleton, Worcestershire.

Directories

Kelly's Directory of Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorsetshire and the Isle of Wight 1889

Administration

County: Wiltshire
Civil Registration District: Malmesbury
Probate Court: Court of the Archdeaconry of Wiltshire
Diocese: Gloucester and Bristol
Rural Deanery: Malmesbury
Poor Law Union: Malmesbury
Hundred: Malmesbury
Province: Canterbury