Alton, Wiltshire

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Alton Barnes
The Church of St Mary, Alton Barnes - - 1428665.jpg
St Mary the Virgin parish church, Alton Barnes
Alton Barnes is located in Wiltshire
Alton Barnes
Alton Barnes
 Alton Barnes shown within Wiltshire
Population 249 (in 2011)[1]
OS grid reference SU1062
Civil parish Alton
Unitary authority Wiltshire
Ceremonial county Wiltshire
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Marlborough
Postcode district SN8
Dialling code 01672
Police Wiltshire
Fire Wiltshire
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament Devizes
Website Alton Barnes, Alton Priors and Honeystreet
List of places

Coordinates: 51°21′32″N 1°50′46″W / 51.359°N 1.846°W / 51.359; -1.846

Alton is a civil parish in Wiltshire, England. The parish includes the adjacent villages of Alton Barnes and Alton Priors, and the nearby hamlet of Honeystreet on the Kennet and Avon Canal. It lies in the Vale of Pewsey about 6 miles (10 km) east of Devizes.

The north of the parish is on the Marlborough Downs and includes part of Milk Hill, which is the highest point in Wiltshire at 295 metres (968 ft).


The area has prehistoric sites including the Knap Hill earthwork and Adam's Grave, a Neolithic long barrow. A hoard of Roman coins was discovered at Alton Barnes.[2]

The boundaries of Alton Barnes parish were established in the early 10th century. Alton Priors was a chapelry of Overton parish, now West Overton; in 1934 Alton Barnes and Alton Priors were merged to form the parish of Alton.[3]

In 1086 the Domesday Book records Edward of Salisbury as holder of the manor of Alton Barnes.[3]

The Ridgeway, an ancient trackway, passes through Alton Barnes[4] (although this section is not part of the Ridgeway National Trail, which begins further north). The Wansdyke, an early medieval earthwork, crosses the north of the parish on the Marlborough Downs.

Alton Barnes Manor Farmhouse (18th century)[5] and the Manor House at Alton Priors (c. 1830)[6] are Grade II listed.

Local government[edit]

Alton is a civil parish with an elected parish council. It is in the area of the Wiltshire Council unitary authority, which is responsible for all significant local government functions, and is represented in the council by Paul Oatway, who succeeded Brigadier Robert Hall in 2013.

Parish churches[edit]

The redundant All Saints' parish church, Alton Priors

Each of the two villages has a Church of England parish church. The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin in Alton Barnes is partly Saxon,[7] built in the 10th and 11th centuries.[8] The nave has characteristic Anglo-Saxon features: typically tall, narrow proportions and (visible at the west end) long-and-short quoins.[7] The south door was added in the 14th century.[8] The original chancel was as wide as the nave, but it demolished and replaced with a brick one in 1748.[7] There was a Saxon chancel arch but this was removed in 1832.[7] There was a Victorian restoration in 1875 and a further restoration in 1904 directed by the local architect Charles Ponting.[7] What survives is a Grade I listed building.[8]

All Saints at Alton Priors was built in the 12th century and retains its original Norman chancel arch.[9][10] The nave has two 14th-century ogee-headed windows and the west window is 15th-century.[9] As at Alton Priors, the original chancel has been demolished and replaced with one built of brick.[10] There is also an unusual brass plaque to local landowner William Button, with a complex inscription. It has been speculated that the message on the plaque, and Sarsen stones may be connected with the nearby Milk Hill.[11] All Saints is a redundant church in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust[9][12] and is a Grade II* listed building.[9]


The Kennet and Avon Canal, opened in 1810, crosses the parish. A wharf at Honeystreet served the local area and a rural industrial area developed around it, including a firm of barge builders - Robbins, Lane, and Pinniger - who continued until the 1950s.[13][14]

The Barge Inn was built at Honeystreet in 1858, replacing an earlier building, to serve those living and working on the canal. It was designated as Grade II listed in 1987.[15] In 2010, following the closure of the pub, local volunteers successfully applied for funding to aid its reopening from the Village SOS lottery fund. In 2011 the project was the subject of episode 2 of Village SOS on BBC One.[16]

Notable people[edit]

William Button (by 1503-1547, politician) is buried in Alton Priors church.

Distinguished rectors of Alton Barnes include Richard Steward (c. 1593-1651, royalist churchman), rector from 1630; William Crowe (1745-1829, poet) from 1787; and Augustus William Hare (1792-1834, writer) from 1831.

In popular culture[edit]

The Barge Inn at Honeystreet was a filming location for a 1998 episode of Inspector Morse, an adaptation of The Wench Is Dead. In 2013 the white horse, Adam's Grave and the Barge Inn featured in an episode of Walking Through History, presented by Tony Robinson on Channel 4.[17]


The Barge Inn at Honeystreet is the sole pub in the parish. Alton Barnes has a village hall.

The nearest primary school is at Woodborough. A Parochial school was opened at Alton Barnes in 1837 and closed in 1976 owing to falling pupil numbers.[18]

Alton Barnes white horse[edit]

Alton Barnes white horse from the southwest
Aerial photo of the Alton Barnes white horse

There is a chalk hill figure of a horse dating from 1812, a little more than 1000 m north of Alton. It is based on another white horse hill figure in Wiltshire, the Cherhill White Horse.

The figure is the third largest white horse in Wiltshire. The Pewsey White Horse can be seen from Milk Hill (the location of the horse). The figure is featured in Staying Out for the Summer, a music video for a song of the same name by Dodgy.

Crop circles[edit]

Since the late 1970s Wiltshire has become known for crop circles (patterns created by flattening a crop, usually of cereal). In 1990 a pattern at Alton was used on the cover of the Box Set compilation by rock band Led Zeppelin.[19]


  1. ^ "Wiltshire Community History - Census". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  2. ^ "Roman coin hoard goes on display". Wiltshire Museum. 22 July 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Victoria County History - Wiltshire - Vol 10 pp8-13 - Parishes: Alton Barnes". British History Online. University of London. Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  4. ^ "The Altons - Village Design Statement" (PDF). Wiltshire Council. 2008. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  5. ^ Historic England. "Alton Barnes Manor Farmhouse (1364708)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  6. ^ Historic England. "The Manor House, Alton Priors (1192555)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Pevsner & Cherry 1975, p. 87
  8. ^ a b c Historic England. "Church of St Mary, Alton Barnes (1364707)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d Historic England. "Church of All Saints, Alton Priors (1364710)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Pevsner & Cherry 1975, p. 88
  11. ^ "The mystery plaque of Alton priors". Crop circle wisdom. Archived from the original on 6 October 2010. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  12. ^ "All Saints, Alton Priors". Churches Conservation Trust. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  13. ^ "Honey Street". Pastscape National Monument Record. English Heritage. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  14. ^ "Victoria County History - Wiltshire - Vol 19 pp214-224 - Parishes: Woodborough". British History Online. University of London. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  15. ^ Historic England. "Barge Inn, Alton (1365969)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  16. ^ "Village SOS: Honeystreet" at BBC Programmes
  17. ^ "Walking Through History: Stonehenge". Channel 4. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  18. ^ "Parochial School, Alton Barnes". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  19. ^ "Alton". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 

Sources and further reading[edit]

External links[edit]