Bowden Hill is a village in Wiltshire, England, about 3 1⁄2 miles (6 km) south of Chippenham and 1 1⁄2 miles (2.4 km) to the east of Lacock. The village consists of about 50 houses, a pub, and a small industrial estate.
Origins of the name
Bowden Hill was historically called 'Bowdon Hill' according to early maps. There are a number of theories around why the village got its name. One reason is that the name comes from the old English words 'bow', meaning bow shaped, and 'dun' meaning hill. However, alternative theories suggest the name comes from a corruption of 'bdl' (meaning dwelling) into 'bow' meaning 'hill slope on which are dwellings'. Another theory from 'Wiltshire Collections' by Aubrey and Jackson suggests that the name means 'the winding hill'.
Bowden Hill sits on the side of a hill and rises up from the River Avon, at an elevation of 50m, to its peak at 172m above sea level. The village has views to the south and south-west of the river's flood plain and is surrounded by a mixture of woodlands and agricultural land. Bowden Hill borrows many of its facilities from the nearby village of Lacock and doesn't provide amenities such as a school or post office. The village encompasses the small hamlet of Bewley Common and enjoys a relatively sparse population density due to its designation as a conservation area.
In 1856, John Gladstone, owner of Bowden Park, had the Church of England parish church of Saint Anne built to celebrate the birth of a son in the Gladstone family. The architect was S.B. Gabriel of Bristol who designed the nave and chancel in the Early English Gothic style but gave the northeast tower Norman details and a German Romanesque roof. The parish of Lacock was split and the new parish of Bowden Hill served around 300-400 people, but the two parishes were reunited in 1958. Today services are held at St. Anne's on the first Sunday of each month.
Sitting in the common land in the village is a small building which was used as a supply of water for the nearby Lacock Abbey. Built in the 16th century, this small 3.7m square building still supplies water to the abbey albeit through a modern water pipe. The original conduit house was built in around 1280 when Willian Bluet of Bewley Court granted Beatrice, Abbess of Lacock, the right to operate a watercourse on his land to serve the nunnery. This original building was replaced by the owner of the abbey, William Sharington, after its dissolution. The new building is built of limestone and has a steep roof, reaching 4.64m high, constructed of interlocking stone slabs.
One of largest landmarks in Bowden Hill is the Bowden Park estate with its country house of 1796, designed by James Wyatt for Barnard Dickinson. The Dickinson family had owned plantations in Jamaica since 1655, and were among Wiltshire's biggest users of slave labour. The property had a previous building, built for George Johnson who lived there in the 1600s. The estate was sold in 1751 to Ezekiel Dickinson who modified the house; it was later owned by the Dickinson Harmer family.
The house was bought in 1849 and extended by Captain John Gladstone, older brother of Prime Minister William Gladstone. In the 20th century it was the seat of the former chairman of the General Electric Company, Arnold Weinstock. The house was remodelled in the mid 1950s, and the extensions were made smaller by owner K. Peacock who sold Bowden Park in 1967 to Lord Weinstock. A 2020 report summarizes the building as: "Built on two storeys of ashlar under a slate roof, the grand 15,900sq ft house is Classically symmetrical in style, with a central bow front, where the original front door was placed, and finely detailed wings to either side".
Spye Park lies on the edge of Bowden Hill to the southeast of the village. Although most of Spye Park is in Bromham parish, the gatelodge at its northwest entrance (originally a 16th-century building) stands on the edge of Bowden Hill village.
- Wiltshire Community History - maps of Lacock and surrounding area
- Notes on Wiltshire names
- Bowden Hill conservation area[permanent dead link]
- Pevsner, Nikolaus (1975). Cherry, Bridget (ed.). The Buildings of England: Wiltshire. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 119. ISBN 0140710264.
- Wiltshire Community History page about St Anne's Church
- Wiltshire and Swindon Sites and Monument Record Information Archived 3 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- "Wiltshire's Slave Owners in Jamaica". Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. 20 August 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
- Churchill, Penny (17 October 2020). "Bowden Park, one of England's great estates, has come to the market at £35 million". Country Life. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
- Historic England. "Bowden Park (1022132)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
- Historic England. "Spye Arch Lodge (1033912)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
- Media related to Bowden Hill at Wikimedia Commons