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Colerne Church - - 86592.jpg
St. John the Baptist parish church
Colerne is located in Wiltshire
 Colerne shown within Wiltshire
Population 2,972 (2011 census)
OS grid reference ST8271
Civil parish Colerne
Unitary authority Wiltshire
Ceremonial county Wiltshire
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district SN14
Dialling code 01225
Police Wiltshire
Fire Wiltshire
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
List of places

Coordinates: 51°26′20″N 2°15′43″W / 51.439°N 2.262°W / 51.439; -2.262

Colerne is a village and civil parish in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, midway between Bath and Chippenham in Wiltshire, England. It has an elevated and exposed position 545 feet (166 m) above sea level and overlooks the Box Valley to the south (where Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Box Tunnel is). It is bounded by a stretch of the Fosse Way Roman road to the west and by Bybrook to the south-east.

The 2001 census recorded a parish population of 2,807 in 2001,[1] increasing to 2,972 at the 2011 census.[2] Colerne is frequently described as "The Village on the Hill" in books about the Village but, in reality, not by residents.

Earliest History[edit]

Around 100BC a Late Iron Age camp was set up to the North of Colerne [[3]].

More About Colerne[edit]

Colerne's historic core sits on top of a high ridge, though some of its stone built houses are located down the valley side to the south. Modern estates were built to the north of the ancient, narrow streets, and there is some modern infill. It is a lovely little village: apart from the ancient core, there is Southwood, Northwood and Pinewood; Thickwood is a separate development of mainly late twentieth century houses to the east, within the parish. It is the stereotypical quaint village, with a medieval church of St. John the Baptist at its heart (the church contains fragments of medieval glass and sculpture, but was much rebuilt in the nineteenth century, although fragments of medieval window tracery survive in the churchyard), one still functioning Independent Chapel (although others, including a former Primitive Methodist chapel at the west end of the village, also survive, converted to private houses), two pubs, a Liberal club, a Constitutional club, a Post Office, a food shop, a newsagents and a florist, to name a few.

The impressive Lucknam Park Hotel, originally a Georgian country house but much expanded in the Victorian era, is located around 1 mile (1.6 km) north of the village. Surrounded by woodland, its parkland is much loved by villagers, and those on its weekend get-aways.

Colerne Park and Monk's Wood is a Site of Special Scientific Interest south and east of the village.


As the "The Village on the Hill" Colerne is in an exposed position and local people are well aware that the weather will often be the opposite of that in nearby, but low lying, Bath. Colerne tends to be very windy and rainy in winter and prone to get cut off from the outside world when it snows. It can often be foggy when the lower lying towns and villages around aren't.

The Airfield[edit]

In 1940, RAF Colerne was set up top the North of the village and the airfield remains to this day.[4] However, the Village of Colerne and RAF Colerne always retained separate identities. The site contains a now disused chapel whose spire is clearly visible from the road.


The name Colerne appears in the Domesday Book (1086). Other early spellings include Culerna, Culerne, Cullerne, Collern.[5] Various interpretations of the name have been proposed.

Gover, Mawer and Stenton, in The Place Names of Wiltshire (1939), cite a form aern meaning 'house', and say "col-aern might well denote a house where charcoal was made, used or stored." The altitude of the village suggests that the first syllable is from the Welsh or Cornish word col, 'peak' (John C. Langstaff, Notes on Wiltshire Names, 1911). This would mean the 'dwelling on the peak'. Alternatively it could mean 'cold dwelling' from the Anglo-Saxon cald.

Yet another likely derivation is from (Goidelic)= Old Irish, 'Cuillean', (Brythonnic)= Welsh, Celyn or Celynnen, and (Old English) Holegn(the 'h' is pronounced gutturally). Each of these words translate to 'holly' tree or holly branches which were significant in Celtic history and folk-lore. Colerne was in existence and farmed many years B.C., pre-dating the Normans and Anglo-Saxons. There is the remains of an Iron-Age Hillfort at Colerne (Bury Camp).

Local government[edit]

Colerne civil parish is administered by a parish council and by the Wiltshire Council unitary authority.


  • The clock on the church tower has only one hand. There is a similar one-handed clock on Westminster Abbey.
  • Bristol Rovers training facilities are based in Colerne.
  • The former RAF Colerne, located nearby, was one of very few airfields suitable for the rare Westland Whirlwind during World War II, operated by No. 263 Squadron RAF.
  • The former RAF Colerne, hosted 616 squadron, the first Allied squadron with jets, relocating with Gloster Meteor I's from Culmhead and then re-equipping with Meteor III's.
  • Geof Willis the author of 'The Epehy Affair' which depicts Colerne village was born in Martin's Croft. The sequel to this novel will be published in the new year called 'The Oosterbeek Affair'. His other novels are 'The Primrose Ring' about Colerne during the Roman invasion of Britain, and 'The Ladies of the Stream'.

Notable residents[edit]

The Colerne Donkey[edit]

According to village legend, a Colerne parson in former years owned a donkey to which he was much attached. While the clergyman was away, the unfortunate ass died, and the sexton felt it proper to have the beast buried in consecrated ground. But the undertaker, inexperienced in interring specimens of E. asinus, neglected to dig the grave wide and deep enough, so the donkey was buried feet-up with its hooves sticking out. The parson had the animal reburied when he returned, but the story was already out, and well into the 20th century young men from the nearby villages of Box or Marshfield who were at a loose end needed only visit Colerne and mention the word Donkey sufficiently loudly in order to be rewarded with a violent altercation on a moment's notice. It was also the habit for visiting footballers unacquainted with Colerne history to be dispatched to the home dressing room with a piece of sandpaper and instructions to ask to polish the donkey's hooves. This usually resulted in the erstwhile innocent becoming sadder and wiser in short order.

Churchyard Mysteries[edit]

Two mysterious stones were visible the wall opposite the church entrance as late as the 1970s. These were just part of the wall and without closer inspection no different from their neighbours. One, at ground level, had a faint inscription "A Black Man Died Here". A nearby stone had a visible hand print in it as clear as if someone has pressed their hand in clay - though this was limestone. Local children connected the two into a story of a man falling from the church tower centuries earlier. Sadly neither the inscription or the hand are visble now, presumably due to weathering.

Shire Stones[edit]

Colerne Shire Stones

Between Colerne and Bath, on the Fosse Way, lie the Shire Stones which were erected in 1859 to mark the place where Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire met. These stones were erected on top of older stones and have notches carved enable the visitor to climb to the top and rest awhile on the capstone. Nearby, in a dry stone wall, a few carved words tell the story of someone murdered on the old Fosse Way.

Colerne Water Tower[edit]

Present water tower

The Colerne Water Tower is a large concrete structure in the shape of an inverted cone. It is approximately 30 meters (100 ft) high, and replaced an older water tower that was part of a 1930's scheme to bring mains water to the town.

The original tower was located on the eastern edge of the village near the housing estate Martins Croft (built in the late 1940s-early '50s). The Colerne History Group’s book, The Village on the Hill, Vol. 1, tells the story of this project and page 153 shows the design of the original tower and a photo of the replacement tower. In 2005, housing was built on the site of the original tower and some lock-up garages. That development is called Tower Close.

The location of the present tower (Colerne Water Tower), on the southern edge of Colerne Airfield, is clearly shown as "Wr Twr" on the current OS maps (1:25,000 and 1:50,000 maps).[6]


External links[edit]