Somerset Sources for Wiltshire Studies, Duncan Chalmers


Local history is rarely matched by local sources. Most local historians are familiar with the apparent dispersal of sources for their own county or parish arising from the effects of genealogical descent, property succession and agglomeration, testamentary bequests, institutional endowments and economic activity. My own research into the history of the Somerset parish of Kingstone, near Ilminster, led me examine the records of the Arundells of Wardour, now in the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. Not that the story ends there: for there are further records of other branches of the Arundell family and of related families in record offices in Cornwall, Dorset and Hampshire, not to mention the records of their manorial successors, the Pouletts of Hinton St. George, Somerset, in the Somerset Record Office in Taunton and those of the patrons of the benefice of Kingstone, the Vicars-Choral of Wells, preserved in the Cathedral archives at Wells.

A further example of the ‘dispersal’ of records is afforded by the Hobhouse Cartulary, one of four cartularies of the Hungerford family. This came into the hands of the Hobhouse family and ultimately into the collections of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. It is now held in the Somerset Record Office (DD\SAS/H348/1); and an edition of the text by the late John Kirby, prepared for the press by Christopher Elrington, forms the latest volume (60) of the Wiltshire Record Society, complementing the earlier edition (published as Volume 49 in the same series) of the Hungerford Cartulary belonging to the Earl of Radnor deposited in the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. Another 14th-century lay cartulary with Wiltshire interest exists at Taunton for the De Moleyn family of Stoke Poges Buckinghamshire, which held lands in several counties, including Somerset and Wiltshire (DD\SAS/C795/SX/132). Such considerations led me to consider what sources for Wiltshire studies might be found in neighbouring counties. The records in the Somerset Record Office at Taunton scarcely match the wealth of records for the Wiltshire estates of the Bishopric of Winchester held in the Hampshire Record Office at Winchester, but several Somerset families amassed records of lands or interests in Wiltshire.

The most substantial are those of the Wyndhams of Orchard Wyndham in Somerset and the Pophams of Littlecote in Wiltshire and Hunstrete in Somerset. Wyndhams were leading citizens of Salisbury and later held manors and lands (some former Sydenham, Gilbert and Gawen lands) in West Knoyle, Upton manor, the Langfords, Alvediston, Norrington, Dinton, Manningford Bohun, Sutton Mandeville, Teffont and Tisbury, and at Allington and Slaughterford near Chippenham in the north of the county. Some documents for Knoyle date from the 15th century, but most of the records are from the 17th to 19th centuries and include deeds, estate accounts, rentals, surveys, tithe and case papers (DD\WY).

Further records of the Wiltshire interests of the Wyndham family survive in a collection of miscellaneous deeds of various families (DD\BR). There are deeds and other documents relating to Devizes Castle and the New and Old Parks, and to Bishop’s Cannings, 1681; an abstract of title of Wadham Wyndham’s lands, 1712-1786; papers relating to an 18th-century Chancery case over the manor of Heytesbury; deeds of Bezells Farm, Melksham, 1624-1810; deeds for a house called Bunnes, Bounts or Bunts Court, Salisbury, 1553-1768 and Hungerford’s Chantry in the Close, 1630-1721; and leases of another house in the Close, 1802-1881.

The same collection (DD\BR) contains deeds of other families for the manor, a mill and enclosure agreements (1735-6) in Winterbourne Dauntsey, 1604-1736; a capital messuage called Harpendens Place in Winterbourne Earls, 1570-1650; lands in Laverstock, 1752, Ogbourne Maizey, 1664-68 and the manor house at Ogbourne St. George, 1714; a court roll of Shalbourne, 1619 and manor court presentments for North Standen, 1556-1653; and a report by Thomas Telford on a proposed, but abortive, turnpike road from Bath to Melksham, and a plan of the road in Great Chalfield, 1826.

The Popham (later Leyborne-Popham) family records include some for their estate of Littlecote in north-east Wiltshire and property in Hungerford (Charnham Street, Bear Inn and Hopgrass tithings lying in Wiltshire), Ramsbury (Manor House, Knighton Farm and Rudge manor), Froxfield, Chilton Foliat, Avebury, Berwick Bassett, Beckhampton and Winterbourne Monkton dating from the 17th to the 19th century, and including some maps (DD\PO and DD\POT).

The Gibbs family of Bristol and Tyntesfield in Wraxall, Somerset acquired records of the Gore family of Barrow Court in Somerset, some relating to their former property in Salisbury and at Ashley, Berwick Bassett, Bishop’s Cannings, Box Agard, Ditteridge and Haselbury, Elston, Potterne and Tilshead, for which records survive from the 16th to the 18th centuries (DD\GB). The Halliday (later Mynors) family papers include material on probates, public appointments, legal cases, and properties in Warminster, Tilshead, Sutton Veny, Farleigh Wiltshire Park, and around Bradford-on-Avon, mainly from the 18th century (DD\MY). The Husseys of Crewkerne came from Salisbury and their records contain papers relating to property in Salisbury, Berwick St. James, Fisherton Anger, Winterbourne Ford, Winterbourne Gunner, Winterslow, Stratford and Laverstock, and include account books, probate papers, public appointments, and some correspondence dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries (DD\HSY).

For western Wiltshire there are records of the Poole family of Rode and North Bradley, which include deeds from 1617 to 1935, a pedigree of the Langford (later Batten-Pooll) family, 1490-1953, and transcripts of the Hungerford Rent Roll for the 16th and 17th centuries (DD\PL). Another prominent family with estates straddling the two counties were the Hoares of Stourhead. Records of their land agents, Bennett & Company of Bruton in the Somerset Record Office include particulars and valuations, maps and plans, rentals and account books, and correspondence relating to these estates (DD\BT).

There are records relating to the manor of Furnax in Warminster, 1601-1860, including a plan of the manor, 1788, among the records of the Bruton Free School, now the King’s School, Bruton (DD\BRU). Records of the Herbert family of Pixton Park, Dulverton, Somerset contain papers relating to a proposed watering place at Christian Malford, Wiltshire, including an analysis of mineral water, 1858-62, a valuation of the estate there, 1866, and its sale in 1873 (DD\DRU). Papers of the Weston and Helyar families of Coker Court, Somerset include 17th and 18th century deeds for former Glastonbury Abbey lands at Bishop’s Cannings, Boyton and Mere and manorial, estate and property documents for Sedgehill from the 16th to the 19th centuries (DD\WHh); while those of the Walker-Heneage and Button families, also from Coker Court, contain documents relating mainly to Alton Priors, Lyneham and Preston, including court books, rentals and surveys, and grants, 1319-1730, an inventory of the goods of Sir William Button made for the Wiltshire Committee for Compounding following the Civil War, and a Wiltshire poll, 1772 (DDD\WHb).

The Somerset Record Office catalogues are largely available on their Internet website: which includes a good search facility, as well as more selectively on the national A2A site ( These sources provide more detailed information than this note, which it is hoped may serve as a brief introduction to what is available for Wiltshire studies at Taunton.