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A Melksham Timeline - Domesday to present day

Some events and dates from our local history. Not all sources agree on some of the years quoted, and you may find a little duplication too ...

1086: At the time of the Domesday Book (1086) the capital, or chief, manor of Melksham was held by the crown. It was a large and valuable estate, which eventually passed through many families, including the Brounckers and Danvers.

1219: In 1219 Melksham was considered important enough to be granted a Charter to hold a market every Friday and a fair on Michaelmas Day.

1250: In 1250 a Tuesday Market and a three day Michaelmas Fair were granted. Medieval settlement is likely to have been concentrated in Church Street, Church Walk, High Street and Market Place.

1415: The bridge is first mentioned in records in 1415 when William Honeston bequeathed a sum towards its maintenance.

1491: In 1491 the Prioress of Amesbury, then holder of the manor, obtained a 2 day fair for the 15th and 16th July, thus providing more commercial opportunities.

1491: in 1491 the Prioress of Amesbury obtained a Charter for a two day fair in July.

1614: A poor-house is mentioned as early as 1614 when a payment was made by the churchwardens for having it cleaned.

1614: The parish constable of Melksham is first mentioned in 1614

1669: Melksham has been an important centre for the activities of the Society of Friends from the 17th century until the present day. The first recorded Meeting is in 1669 when 80 Quakers were said to have attended service at the house of Robert Marchmant or Marshman

1695: A Quaker school was established in Melksham in 1695: children were to be boarded at the school for [c2]ã7 a year and the master's salary was to be [c2]ã30. In 1696 John Jeffry of Hampton (Glouc.) was appointed as the first master: he was succeeded in 1705 by John Padley 'from the north'.

1697: The Revd. Bohun Fox (1697 •[93]1750), vicar of Melksham, established a charity school in the town.

1726: In 1726 the piece rate paid for the cloth was so low that it was impossible for the weavers to earn a living.

1734: The Friends Meeting House in King Street was built in 1734:

1738: In 1738 a leading clothier, Henry Coulthurst, had his house and mills wrecked by weavers during a dispute over wages and eventually troops were sent in, some of the rioters were tried and three were executed.

1747: There were further riots in 1747 and 1750 and dragoons were sent to the town to help keep order.

1750: The King •[99]s Arms Hotel in the centre of Melksham was built in 1750 when the toll road route from London was altered, resulting in stagecoaches from London passing through Melksham on their way to Bath, Bristol, Exeter and Devonport.

1750: Until the early years of the 19th century Methodism had not taken a strong hold in Melksham itself, although Wesley preached there on 23 October 1750

1753: The old Bath road had passed to the north-east of Melksham, descending Bowden Hill into Lacock but after the turnpiking of the Melksham roads in 1753 the route moved south thus avoiding the steep hill.

1791: In 1791 daily coach services to Bath and London, using this road, are mentioned.

1792: An announcement was made in the Bath Chronicle in June 1792 of the establishment of the Melksham Bank by the firm of Awdry, Long & Bruges.

1795: The canal was authorized by an Act of 1795 and during the 19th century carried considerable traffic.

179x: The Ark factory was built in the 1790s but closed in 1850 and was pulled down before 1865.

1801: Henry Moule (1801 •[93]1880), pioneer of the earth closet

1803: In 1803 Charles Maggs bought a former cloth mill adjoining Spa Road and used it for making rope, matting and tarpaulins.

1803: In 1803 Charles Maggs moved from Radstock and, with his experience of that coalmining area, set up a rope factory on what is now Spa Road.

1809: The 'Great Bridge' was out of repair in April 1637, and the inhabitants asked that other places should contribute; the Justices ordered them, under a penalty of [c2]ã40, to repair it themselves by Michaelmas. It was swept away by a flood in 1809, and the present stone bridge of four arches took its place.

1810: By 1810 both canals were fully open bringing raw materials including coal and slate into the town and taking away finished products

1813: In 1813 mineral waters were first noticed at Bowerhill and chalybeate and saline springs were used to promote Melksham as a spa.

1813: In 1813 several local gentry who had prospered from the woollen industry, the Awdrys, the Longs, the Methuens and the Phillips formed the Melksham Spa Company with a capital of 7,000 guineas to exploit the chalybeate spring

1813: In November 1813 the misquoting of part of an advertisement in two London newspapers caused panic amongst the bank customers, many of whom quickly withdrew their money, reportedly causing "some bustle" among the partners of the bank.

1815: Enclosure of the open fields had begun in the 16th century and by 1815 when an inclosure award was made it was only concerned with the remaining 520 acres of over 7,000 in the old parish.

1815: In 1815 the Melksham Spa Company was formed by a group of 'respectable gentlemen', with names such as Methuen, Long and others, all of whom had done very well from the now declining textile industry

1817: Freemasonry first came to Melksham in 1817[citation needed], when a former Lodge of Westbury was transferred, and the first meeting was held in Melksham at The King's Arms on 9 September that year.

1819: The Wilts and Berks canal linking the Kennet and Avon canal with the Thames opened in 1819

1822: The [Spa] enterprise prospered until 1822 and in 1815 a reading room and circulatory library at Mr. Ward •[99]s printing offices was opened, primarily for visitors to the spa.

1824: There was trouble in 1824, when the bank was listed on a Parliamentary Paper of the House of Commons under the title "Country Banks Becoming Bankrupt"

1826: John Fowler (1826 •[93]1864), agricultural engineer

1828: An 'Establishment' called the 'Melksham General School for the Education of Poor Children' was formed before 1828.

1828: In 1828 the Melksham General School for the Education of Poor Children was formed with a committee of 8 Anglicans and 7 non-conformists who built a school at Lowbourne and ran it on the principals of the British and Foreign Schools Society (non-conformist) but with a Church of England Sunday School.

1830: By 1830 there were six coaches each day carrying passengers to London.

1832: In 1832 there was a private gas company in the town; this became a public company in 1855 and in 1936 was bought by the Bath Gas Company

1832: The private gas company formed in 1832 became a public company in 1885, and its undertaking was acquired by the Bath Gas Company in 1936. Gas is no longer made in Melksham and the holder on the east bank of the Avon is now used for storage

1839: Radical political activity came to the town in 1839 when a Chartist meeting was held. A Chartist group was in the town between June 1841 and January 1843.

1840: In 1840 the National School was founded on a site by the churchyard.

1847: Also in 1847, in the Market Place, a lock up was built which doubtless housed over-enthusiastic revellers from the market as well as people awaiting trial.

1847: In 1847 a private company had built a Market Hall (later to become the Town Hall) in the Market Place

1848: Railway opens - the land was acquired, lines were laid and stations were built, all for [c2]ã1 million, and it opened to the public in September 1848.

1850: In 1850 Benjamin Sawtell founded a business in Challymead, on the Bradford on Avon road, filling palliasses with straw for the army.

1852: The first reading room having closed after the spa succumbed to the nearby presence of Bath, another was opened in 1852 to provide the middle classes with reading matter.

1858: In 1858 the Fowler Almshouses were founded and endowed by Rachel Fowler, a charitable Quaker who lived at 1 Bank Street, now Gompels, the Chemist.

1858: The branch line of the G.W.R. from Devizes to Holt passes through Seend parish and Berryfields. The station at Seend was opened in 1858.

1859: A Volunteer force was raised in 1859 and was known in 1875 as the Melksham Rifle Corps (12th Wilts.)

1859: in 1859 a cheese market opened here, probably necessitated by the abundance of dairy farms and cheese making in the immediate area.

1864: In 1864 Place House and its orchards were bought by a syndicate of local people who demolished the house and split the land into lots which were sold at auction.

1868: A more traditional development came at the end of the 19th century when an estate was built on the west side of King Street, the present West End. A cottage hospital had been founded in Lowbourne in 1868, was rebuilt in Bank Street in 1895, and rebuilt again in Spa Road in 1938.

1870: In 1870 the Post Office Telegraph Service was introduced and in 1898 the National Telephone Co. brought a telephone service to Melksham.

1877: In 1877 Rachel Fowler gave the New Hall in the market-place to trustees as a readingroom and accommodation for religious and philanthropic meetings.

1878: A small engineering business began on the corner of Bank Street and Union Street and was joined by C.J. Spencer, in 1878, and later by the brilliant engineer, W. Littlejohn Philip.

1880: By around 1880 the first public water supply was provided by the Trowbridge Water Company.

1890: In 1890 it took over the last cloth mill in Melksham, the Matravers Mill alongside the river Avon and changed its name to the Avon India Rubber Company.

1892: In 1892 Benjamin Sawtell began purifying feathers for pillows and eiderdowns.

1894: 1894 brought into being Municipal Boroughs (Calne, Malmesbury etc) Urban Districts (Melksham, Bradford on Avon, Trowbridge etc) and Rural Districts (Bradford & Melksham, Pewsey, Devizes etc) and these administered Local Government until 1 April 1974.

1897: The lodge was consecrated on 27 February 1897, with the first meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. March 19, held at the town hall. By November 1897 a new masonic lodge was built in Melksham at Church St.

1898: In 1870 the Post Office Telegraph Service was introduced and in 1898 the National Telephone Co. brought a telephone service to Melksham.

1903: Spencers moved to the Beanacre Road in 1903 and became experts in mechanical handling

1905: A halt at Beanacre was brought into use in 1905

1914: The canal was abandoned in 1914

1916: Also in 1916, in the village of Atworth, was founded the Atworth and District Agricultural Society. They moved to Melksham and became the Wiltshire Agricultural Co-operative Society and, in 1942, became Wiltshire Farmers. After expansion and several changes of name they are now part of Countrywide Farmers.

1916: The population of the town continued to expand and in 1916 an estate of 48 houses was built at Roundponds.

1920: In 1920 the Co-operative Wholesale Society established a large creamery opposite the railway station.

1924: In 1924 electric light and power were provided by the Western Electricity Distributing Corporation, making electricity available to all.

1926: up to 1926 visitors the King •[99]s Arms had its own bus to collect visitors from Melksham station.

1927: Ken Gill (1927 •[93]2009), trade union leader; caricaturist

1939: The church of ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA is in West Street, off King Street. It was built in 1939, of stock brick.

1940: RAF Melksham opened - No.12 School of Technical Training.

1942: The large silos which used to stand adjoining the roundabout on the Bradford on Avon road were built in 1942 for storing grain and the original milling machinery was made by messrs. Spencer.

1953: George Ward School opened (as Shurnold Secondary School)

1964: In 1964 the first purpose-built library of Wiltshire County Council was erected in the town.

1964: Melksham Labour Club: "We are a friendly club that has been established since 1964."

1965: RAF Melksham closed

1966: Melksham station was closed in 1966.

1974: The Local Government Act of 1972, effective from 1 April 1974, created District Councils (Kennet, West Wiltshire, North Wiltshire etc) and various powers became vested in those Districts but more particularly powers enjoyed by the former Urban and Rural Districts became vested in the new Districts, in the case of Melksham, The West Wiltshire District.

1980: The Melksham & District French Twinning Association was officially launched in May 1980. It is twinned with the town of Avon, 45 kilometres from Paris, with Fontainebleau being its neighbouring town.

1985: On May 11 1985 the station reopened.

1989: Little known fact - the world's primary underground psychedelic rock music mag, purveying acid-tinged weirdness since 1989 and still going strong - the Ptolemaic Terrascope is published in Melksham. The geezers behind it are also behind the five (so far) international "Terrastock" rock festivals (which predated All Tomorrows Parties by some 2 years) and regularly play host to such luminaries as Sonic Youth and REM....

1992: Leekes opens its department store on the outskirts of Melksham

2000: In an extraordinary turn of events, a local businessman and entrepreneur, William Spiers, purchased the title [lordship of Melksham] at auction, on May 30th 2000.

2009: Wiltshire Council is the unitary authority for most of the county of Wiltshire, in the West of England, the successor authority to Wiltshire County Council (1889 •[93]2009) and to four districts •[94]Kennet, North Wiltshire, Salisbury, and West Wiltshire •[94]all of which had been created in 1973 and were abolished in 2009.

2010: Duncan Hames elected MP

2010: Melksham Oak school replaces George Ward

It's interesting to look through this list, to see how Melksham has changed (and how it hasn't!) over the years, and to look and see what anniveraries are coming up!

Melksham Historical Society meets regularly - next meeting at the Assembley Hall, this Thursday Evening (20th October 2011) at 19:30.




Sources:

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=115464

http://www.melkshamtown.co.uk/melksham_about_the_town/melksham_twinning.shtml

http://www.melkshamtown.co.uk/melksham_tourism/melksham_history.shtml

http://www.knowhere.co.uk/Melksham/Wiltshire/South-West-England/info/celebs

http://www.visit-melksham.com/history.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melksham

http://www.wiltshiretouristguide.com/Articles/Article_46.asp

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/domesday/dblock/GB-388000-162000/page/5

http://www.spiers.net/melksham.htm
(written 2011-10-17, updated 2011-10-18)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
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  [2236] Alumni - revisiting and supporting the old University - (2009-06-13)
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  [2026] Melksham Climate Friendly Group - (2009-02-05)
  [2015] Service Excellence Awards - (2009-01-30)
  [2012] The Wiltshire Police - (2009-01-29)
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Z600 - History
  [4739] A year of changes for Lisa and Graham Ellis, and Well House - (2017-05-27)
  [4730] San Juan Capistrano - (2016-11-23)
  [4729] The oldest part of Los Angeles - (2016-11-23)
  [4285] Pictures of Melksham Heritage Discovery Fair - (2014-07-11)
  [3731] Now Open - A Museum for Melksham. Come in and see us. - (2012-05-13)
  [3726] Press Release - Museum to explore the story of Melksham - (2012-05-11)
  [3510] The skull above the door in Melksham Town Hall - (2011-11-06)
  [2037] The Interview and The Lift - (2009-02-12)
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