Downton, Wiltshire

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For the former parliamentary constituency, see Downton (UK Parliament constituency).
Flag of Downton.svg
The Borough, Downton - - 373684.jpg
Downton is located in Wiltshire
 Downton shown within Wiltshire
Population 3,073 (in 2011)[1]
OS grid reference SU180215
Civil parish Downton
Unitary authority Wiltshire
Ceremonial county Wiltshire
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Salisbury
Postcode district SP5
Dialling code 01725
Police Wiltshire
Fire Wiltshire
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament Salisbury
List of places

Coordinates: 50°59′35″N 1°44′35″W / 50.993°N 1.743°W / 50.993; -1.743

Downton is a village and civil parish on the River Avon in Wiltshire, England. It is about 6 miles (9.7 km) south of Salisbury and close to the New Forest. The parish includes the hamlet of Charlton-All-Saints and the small ancient settlements of Witherington and Standlynch.


Downton can trace its ancient inhabitants to the Iron Age, Roman and Saxon times. In 1953 the site of a Roman villa was discovered at Downton.[2] Excavations in advance of housing development revealed a villa with tessellated floors, at least two featuring mosaics, a hypocaust and bath house.[2] The villa is no longer visible, but the finds, including one of the mosaics, are displayed in Salisbury Museum.[2] There are also remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle. It now is the location of the Moot Garden, an 18th-century ornamental garden overlooking the river. It contains an ancient monument known as the Moot, which commemorates the meeting place of Wiltshire Saxons. It is one of the oldest of English moots or local parliaments, a legacy of the period when the Bishop of Winchester owned lands of Downton.

Sarum Morris perform at the 2006 Cuckoo Fair in Downton

Manor House in Downton is probably the longest-inhabited house in the South of England, used as a religious house from its construction around 850 until the Reformation. King John is said to have had a palace in Downton on one of the islands by the Moot. When the palace was taken down, it was believed the stone was used in the structure called New Court House.

From 1295 to 1832, Downton was a parliamentary borough, giving eligible residents the right to elect two MPs to Parliament. Notable MPs include Blessed John Story, an English Roman Catholic martyr, later beatified by Pope Leo XIII; Sir Carew Raleigh, elder brother of Sir Walter Raleigh; Robert 'Bonnie Bobby Shafto', the subject of a popular folk song; and the poet Robert Southey, who was elected without his knowledge and declined to take his seat.

Trafalgar Park at Standlynch was named in honour of Horatio Nelson in 1814.

In 1836, a time of continued agricultural hardship, the parish sponsored an emigration of more than 200 of its poor people to Upper Canada for opportunities there. They sailed in April 1836 on the ship King William. [3]

For about a decade from around 1961, Downton had an important part to play in British motorsport. Its Downton Engineering Works produced some of the motors used by racing cars.[4]

In 1999 a community project, The Downton Millennial Book Fund, published an illustrated history of the village from its ancient days.[5]


The River Avon flows through Downton, and is the source of occasional flooding in the village. Major flood defence work was done in 2002. The watermeadows, fields through which irrigation channels were made using weirs and channelling, use the water from this river.


Downton has a fifteen-member parish council with responsibility for local issues, including setting an annual precept (local rate) to cover the council’s operating costs and producing annual accounts for public scrutiny. The parish council evaluates local planning applications and works with the local police, Wiltshire Council officers, and neighbourhood watch groups on matters of crime, security, and traffic. The council's role also includes initiating projects for the maintenance and repair of parish facilities, as well as consulting with Wiltshire Council on the maintenance, repair, and improvement of highways, drainage, footpaths, public transport, and street cleaning. Conservation matters (including trees and listed buildings) and environmental issues are also the responsibility of the council.

The parish council is divided into two wards: Downton, which elects fourteen councillors, and Charlton-All-Saints, which elects one councillor.[6]

Along with the neighbouring parishes of Odstock, Britford and Coombe Bissett, Downton parish also forms the ward of Downton & Ebble Valley in the unitary authority of Wiltshire,[7] which has the wider responsibility for providing services such as education, refuse collection, and tourism. The ward is currently represented by Councillor Julian Johnson, a member of the Conservative Party.[8] It is also part of the Salisbury parliamentary constituency, represented by John Glen, also a Conservative, and is part of the South West England constituency of the European Parliament.


Downton has four churches: the Church of England parish church of St. Laurence, an ancient Grade I listed building;[9][10] the Roman Catholic Church of the Good Shepherd, Downton Baptist Church and Downton Methodist Church.

The hamlet of Charlton-All-Saints has an Anglican church dedicated to All Saints.


The village is served by several shops including a supermarket, three local pubs; "The Wooden Spoon", "The White Horse" and "The Bull", one social club (Brian Whitehead Sports and Social Club), and a number of local businesses.

Until the last century, the primary economic activity of the village had been agriculture and related crafts. For instance, in the early 1900s, craftsmen still maintained reed beds in the river for their materials to make baskets and furniture.[11] Tanning was an important industry, with a tannery recorded as existing in the village in the 14th century. That tannery did not survive. A new one was built in the early 19th century, making leather for harnesses and saddles until it finally closed in 1998.[12] The building has been converted into housing and retirement homes.

Development around the village has created an expansion of the industrial estate with a business centre. The Downton Business Centre is home to a variety of businesses including Hop Back Brewery, Revive Vending, and Help for Heroes Trading.

Hop Back, one of England's award-winning small breweries, makers of "Summer Lightning", "Crop Circle", "GFB" and other beers,[13] was founded by John and Julie Gilbert. It first brewed its beer in 1986 at the Wyndham Arms in Salisbury. Six years later, it moved to larger premises in Downton. As of 2010, Hop Back own eleven public houses around the south of England.[14]

Downton is also home to the smaller Downton Brewery which has been brewing exclusively in Downton since April 2003.[15]

Help for Heroes, a charity that raises money to supplement existing government provision for injured members of the British armed forces, is based in Downton.[16]


The busy A338 Bournemouth to Oxfordshire road runs through the western side of the village. The village's main street, forming The Borough, High Street and Lode Hill, has been designated as the B3080 road to the New Forest.

The Wilts & Dorset bus company runs its X3 route along the A338 on the western side of the village, with a half hourly service north to Salisbury and south to Bournemouth. It also runs the more local routes 40 and 44 through the main part of village.

Downton used to have a railway station on the Salisbury and Dorset Junction Railway. The line and the station closed in 1964.

Sport and leisure[edit]

Downton has a Non-League football club Downton F.C., which plays at The Brian Whitehead Sports Ground,.

Downton Cuckoo Fair[edit]

Downton holds an annual village fête called the Cuckoo Fair on the Saturday nearest May Day. Originally a Country Fair where livestock would be traded and agricultural workers would seek employment, the fair was abandoned after the First World War, but revived in its modern form in 1980 By Peter Waddington M.B.E.[17] The origin of the name is unknown.[18]


Downton has two schools: Downton Primary School, which has a building that dates back to 1894, and The Trafalgar School at Downton, a co-ed 'Extended School' for just over 400 pupils aged 11–16.


  1. ^ "Wiltshire Community History - Census". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Monument No. 217913 Pastscape
  3. ^ "Downton Emigration". Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  4. ^ "Downton Engineering Works". Retrieved 2011-08-11. 
  5. ^ Waymouth 1999, p. 186
  6. ^ "Main Council". Downton Parish Council. Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  7. ^ Map Referred to in the County of Wiltshire (Electoral Changes) Order 2009 Sheet 1 of 9 (PDF) (Map). 1:8000. The County of Wiltshire (Electoral Changes) Order 2009. Cartography by Ordnance Survey. Local Government Boundary Commission for England. 2009. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  8. ^ "Councillor details - Cllr Julian Johnson". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  9. ^ "Wiltshire Community History - Church of St. Laurence, Downton". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  10. ^ "List entry - Church of St Laurence". English Heritage. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  11. ^ Waymouth, David (1999). Downton: 7000 Years of an English Village, Downton: Downton Millennial Book Fund
  12. ^ Waymouth 1999, p. 121
  13. ^ "Hop Back Summer Lightning « Beer Culture with Des de Moor". Retrieved 2010-06-05. 
  14. ^ "Hop Back Brewery: history". Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  15. ^ "History". Downton Brewery. Downton Brewery. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  16. ^ "Contact Us". Help for Heroes. 
  17. ^ Waymouth 1999, p. 179
  18. ^ "Cuckoo Fair History". Downton Cuckoo Fair. Retrieved August 8, 2012. 


Waymouth, David (1999). Downton: 7000 Years of an English Village. Downton: Downton Millennial Book Fund. ISBN 0-9536109-0-X. 

External links[edit]