Box from Quarry Hill
Box shown within Wiltshire
|Population||3,525 (2011 census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Dorset and Wiltshire|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
|UK Parliament||North Wiltshire|
Box is a large village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England, about 3 miles (5 km) west of Corsham and 5 miles (8 km) northeast of Bath. Besides the village of Box, the parish includes the villages of Ashley and Box Hill; Hazelbury manor; and the hamlets of Alcombe, Blue Vein, Chapel Plaister, Ditteridge, Henley, Kingsdown, Middlehill and Wadswick. To the east the parish includes much of Rudloe, formerly a hamlet but now a housing estate, and the defence establishments and related businesses on the site of RAF Rudloe Manor.
Occupation here dates back at least to Roman times. The area is known for its fine stone and for centuries Box quarries were famous for their product. Today Box is perhaps better known for its Brunel-designed Box railway tunnel.
Limestone rock is found in much of the parish. Box Ground, a hard-wearing variety of Bath stone, was extracted at quarries such as Box Mine which are now closed. As of 2015 the remaining source of Box Ground is Hartham Park quarry at Corsham.
The southern boundary of the parish follows the Roman road from Silchester to Bath. The road through Box village, descending to Bathford and Bath, was turnpiked in 1761 to provide a route from Chippenham and Corsham to Bath; this became the present A4.
Prehistoric settlements in the area were hilltop forts such as Bury Camp, 4 miles (6 km) north of present-day Box village.
The Romans built the Fosse Way about 2 miles (3.2 km) to the west. Near the present-day Box church is the site of a Roman country house which was excavated during the 19th century, again in 1902-3 by Harold Brakspear, and again in 1967-8. There was a major rebuilding in the late 3rd or early 4th century which changed it into the largest villa in the Bath area. The villa had one of the richest collections of mosaic floors of any building in Roman Britain, with remains found to date in 20 rooms, there being 42 rooms positively identified in the main villa and 15 more under investigation. Room 26 appears to be a major presence chamber in the manner of that at Trier. A villa such as this would have been the centre of a large estate and the focus of interest for at least six possible subsidiary villas or farmsteads at Ditteridge, Hazelbury and Shockerwick (near Bathford) and those further afield at Colerne, Atworth, and Bradford on Avon. In 1086 the Domesday Book recorded 25 households at Hazelbury and six at Ditteridge.
The earliest record of Box is from 1144 when Humphrey II de Bohun was a landowner. The village is shown on a 1630 map and by this time cloth weaving was an important home-based industry, supplying clothiers in nearby towns such as Bradford on Avon.
The Great Western Main Line railway (from London to Bristol and the South West) crosses the parish, and the Box Tunnel, 1.83 miles (2.95 km) long, was built under Box Hill. Construction took place between 1838 and 1841 with up to 4,000 men were employed. At first Box station was built close to Ashley, where the A4 crosses the line; Box Mill Lane station was built a mile closer to Box village in 1930. Both stations closed in 1965 when local services were withdrawn.
Transport of stone was improved in 1727 when the Avon was made navigable between Bath and Bristol, and again in 1810 when the Kennet and Avon Canal provided a route from Bradford to London. The railway made transport much cheaper, and the excavation of the tunnel revealed vast beds of stone on both sides of the line. Underground quarries were carved out between Box and Corsham, with stone carried by narrow-gauge railways to yards at Box and Corsham stations.
The peak period for quarrying was between 1880 and 1909 when millions of tons of stone was cut. The quarries continued working until 1969. As of 2015, quarrying continues on a smaller scale at Corsham.
RAF Rudloe Manor, a headquarters site handling intelligence and directing operations, was established in the far east of the parish in 1940. Until 1945, critical functions were housed underground in a worked-out quarry, Brown's Quarry, to the north of Tunnel Quarry.
Underground in the same area, Spring Quarry was requisitioned in 1940 in order to create a shadow factory for aircraft engine manufacture, following the bombing of the Bristol Aeroplane Company at Filton. Construction took longer than expected and little production was achieved before the site closed in 1945. Artist Olga Lehmann was invited to paint murals in the workers' eating areas; in 2013 these were designated as Grade II* listed.
Between the late 1950s and 2004, Spring Quarry served as the Central Government War Headquarters, a self-sufficient government headquarters for use in the event of a nuclear conflict.
Box Mine became a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1991.
There were Saxon churches at Ditteridge and Hazelbury, and possibly at Box. The present Church of England parish church at Box has 12th-century origins and is dedicated to St Thomas a Becket. Alterations were made in the 14th century and a spire was added to the tower in the 15th. Further restoration began in 1713 and in 1831 the church was extended with a south aisle; the interior was restored in 1896-7 by H.W. Brakspear. In 1960 the building was designated as Grade I listed.
Box Methodist church was built in 1897, replacing a smaller Ebenezer Chapel built on the same site in 1834. An adjacent hall and Sunday school, opened in 1907, were sold for residential use in 2001. Methodist chapels were also established at Box Hill (1867) and Kingsdown (1869, rebuilt 1926). Both closed in 1967 and the congregations joined with Box church.
Box is home to Box Church of England Primary School. The earliest school was established near the church in 1708; the present building on the High Street is from 1875. Pevsner describes it as "Gothic, with a terrible, spindly tower".
The Selwyn Hall (built 1969) is used for community functions and houses the village library.
The village has sporting facilities including a lawn bowling green, two tennis courts, a cricket pitch, a football pitch and even a small basketball area. These are all located in or around the Recreation Ground (a piece of land with an area of about 4.4 hectares).
Box Rock Circus
Also on the recreation ground is the unique 'Box Rock Circus', a 7m diameter circle which is an earth-science educational facility. It was constructed during 2012 by local craftsmen with stone donated by numerous companies and funded principally by landfill funds. The facility was formally opened on 14 May 2013 by Professor of Geosciences Communication, and television personality, Iain Stewart (geologist).
- Rev. W.V. Awdry (1911–1997), the creator of Thomas the Tank Engine, lived there as a boy at Lorne House on London Road, now a bed and breakfast.
- Arthur Bradfield (1892–1978), cricketer.
- Ernest Butler (1919-2002), professional footballer for Portsmouth.
- Hugh Cornwell (born 1949), rock musician, singer and songwriter.
- Peter Gabriel (born 1950), rock musician, singer, songwriter and proprietor of Real World Studios.
- David Hempleman-Adams (born 1956), adventurer.
- Nigel Kennedy (28 December 1956), classical violinist and violist.
- Clive Mantle (born 1957), actor.
- Midge Ure (born 1953), rock musician, singer, songwriter and one of the Band Aid/Live Aid organisers.
- "Wiltshire Community History - Box parish population". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
- "Box Ground". Hanson plc. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
- "Box". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
- Historic England. "Box Roman Villa (207955)". PastScape. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
- Corney, Mark (2012). The Roman Villa at Box. Hobnob Press. ISBN 0946418934.
- Historic England. "Roman Villa near Hazelbury House (207977)". PastScape. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
- Hazelbury in the Domesday Book
- Ditteridge in the Domesday Book
- Oakley, Mike (2004). Wiltshire Railway Stations. Wimborne: The Dovecote Press. pp. 40, 45. ISBN 1904349331.
- "Hartham Park". Hanson plc. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
- "RAF Rudloe Manor". Secret Underground Cities. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
- Historic England. "Personnel Lift 2, Spring Quarry (1576642)". PastScape. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
- Historic England. "MoD CORSHAM: Quarry Operations Centre Murals (1409132)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
- "Box and Colerne ward, 2011". www.ukcensusdata.com. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
- "Church of St. Thomas a Becket, Box". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- Historic England. "Church of St Thomas a Becket, Box (1180500)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- Historic England. "Church of St Christopher, Ditteridge (1285201)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- "Hazelbury Church, Box". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- Historic England. "Chapel Plaister, Bradford Road, Box (1250523)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- "Methodist Church, Box". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- "Free Methodist Chapel, Box". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- "Methodist Chapel, Kingsdown, Box". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- "The history of The Methodist Church in Box". www.boxmethodist.org. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- "Box Church of England Primary School". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
- Pevsner, Nikolaus; Cherry, Bridget (revision) (1975) . Wiltshire. The Buildings of England (2nd ed.). Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 124. ISBN 0-14-0710-26-4.
- "Rock Circus". Elizabeth Devon. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
- "Pompey mourn Butler". BBC Online. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
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