The village, as seen from across a field
Steeple Ashton shown within Wiltshire
|Population||939 (in 2001)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
Steeple Ashton today is a busy village. It has an award-winning local shop run by a small army of volunteers, a thriving pub, a football team, an active Trust supporting the Church which organises events, a day nursery, a 'screen in the sticks' cinema and a village magazine published monthly, not to mention a number of special interest groups. The school closed about five years ago and children are now educated at nearby Keevil school.
The village abuts Keevil Airfield, an active military aerodrome which served throughout World War Two as home to squadrons of Bomber Command, and also as a launch site for gliders taking part in Operation Market Garden, made famous in A Bridge Too Far. These days there is a well-attended Gliding club (Bannerdown Gliding Club) at the airfield, and the army and air force regularly train there, too.
The parish had 931 inhabitants in 2001. It had twice as many in 1981. This is due to the parish boundary of Trowbridge being moved to include some new housing estates which had been built at the edge of the town but within the parish of Steeple Ashton.
Name and history
The first element of the village's name may represent the steeple of the church, which is claimed to have been struck by lightning in the 17th century and the steeple rebuilt, only to be struck by lightning a second time. It was not rebuilt again, and the present day church has only a square tower. Some locals have it that a third spire was abandoned on the basis that the first two lightning strikes intimated divine disapproval of the steeple.
However, the prefix ' Staple -' or 'Steeple- sometimes indicates the privilege of holding a market, with a stapol or pole being set up to advertise its location to all passing through. Steeple Ashton was indeed once a market town, holding a weekly market, the market cross for which still stands on the village green.
A great fire destroyed the textile mills within the small town, and when it came to rebuilding they moved to the nearby town of Trowbridge, where the River Biss provided better power. The business of the market then moved to neighbouring towns, such as Market Lavington.
Steeple Ashton is home to a defunct small green village pump manufactured by Lee Howl, a 1679 market cross in the form of a tuscan column, a village lock-up a war memorial in the form of a cross, and three disused 1930s gas petrol pumps remaining from a George Moore petrol station. A further, more skeletal gas pump is located in a gated area behind the former petrol station.
- Steeple Ashton Census Information at wiltshire.gov.uk
- English Nature citation sheet for Steeple Ashton site, accessed 6 January 2010
- John C. Longstaff, Notes on Wiltshire Names, pp. 115-116
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