Box, Wiltshire

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Box
Box from Quarry Hill - geograph.org.uk - 812805.jpg
Box from Quarry Hill
Box is located in Wiltshire
Box
Box
Box shown within Wiltshire
Population 3,525 (2011 census)[1]
OS grid reference ST826685
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town CORSHAM
Postcode district SN13
Dialling code 01225
Police Wiltshire
Fire Dorset and Wiltshire
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
Website Parish Council
List of places
UK
England
Wiltshire
51°24′54″N 2°15′07″W / 51.415°N 2.252°W / 51.415; -2.252Coordinates: 51°24′54″N 2°15′07″W / 51.415°N 2.252°W / 51.415; -2.252

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.

Geography[edit]

The settlements are on higher ground above the steep-sided valley of the Bybrook river, a tributary of the Bristol Avon.

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.[2]

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.[3]

History[edit]

Prehistoric settlements in the area were hilltop forts such as Bury Camp, 4 miles (6 km) north of present-day Box village. There is evidence in the form of numerous re-used standing stones that there may have been a stone circle on Kingsdown.[4]

View from Box Hill with Colerne Water Tower visible on the horizon

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[5] 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.[6] 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[7] 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[8] and six at Ditteridge.[9]

The earliest record of Box is from 1144 when Humphrey II de Bohun was a landowner.[3] 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.[3]

Box railway station in 1963

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.

Origin of the place-name[edit]

Local lore that the name is derived from the Box bush Buxus sempervirens is improbable. There is no supporting evidence at all, and buxus is not native to the area. There is, however, a connection with beech.

Early documented forms of the name include (Latin) Bocza, and (English) Bocks, Boekes and even Books. "The origin is very obscure" (Kidston).[10]

Box (Wilts), Box (Glos), Box Hill (Surrey) and places such as Boscombe (Wilts) and Le Bosc (France) all feature extensive beech woods growing on various limestones. Bosc... and by metathesis Box... derive ultimately from Greek boskein, to feed animals, principally with the seeds or mast of beech trees (Latin Fagus sylvatica, itself from Greek phagein to eat).[11]

Alternatively, or additionally, the interesting form Boekes is closely related to Anglo-Saxon boeces (beeches, A-S pronunciation BO-echez) while the modern "book" is related to the Germanic custom of inscribing stories on slabs of beech wood. German Buche (beech) and Buch (book) both derive rather tortuously from Greek phagein as above.[12]

Stone quarries[edit]

Stone found in the archaeological investigation of Box Roman Villa is of local origin and Roman masonry may be seen at the base of the wall between the church of St. Thomas a Becket and Box House.[13]

Legend has it that St Aldhelm, Abbot of Malmesbury (c. 639-709) threw his glove on Box Hill, saying, "dig here and you will find treasure". Box stone was used for the construction of Malmesbury Abbey in the late 7th century.

Stone quarried in the parish was used in the late 12th and early 13th centuries for the abbeys at Stanley and Lacock, and in the 15th and 16th for Great Chalfield Manor and Longleat House.[3]

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.[3] Underground quarries were carved out between Box and Corsham, with stone carried by narrow-gauge railways to yards at Box and Corsham stations.[14]

Box in July

The peak period for quarrying was between 1880 and 1909 when millions of tons of stone was cut. The quarries continued working until 1969.[3] As of 2015, quarrying continues on a smaller scale at Corsham,[15] where the Box Ground stratum has been re-encountered at a lower level in the Hartham quarry, from which the stone for the obelisk at the Box Rock Circus (below) was extracted.

Disused quarries[edit]

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.[16]

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.[17] Artist Olga Lehmann was invited to paint murals in the workers' eating areas; in 2013 these were designated as Grade II* listed.[18]

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.

Governance[edit]

The civil parish elects a parish council. It is in the area of Wiltshire Council unitary authority, which performs all significant local government functions.

The parish falls within the Box and Colerne electoral ward, which starts in the south at Box and stretches north to Colerne. The ward's population taken at the 2011 census was 5,200.[19]

Religious sites[edit]

There were Saxon churches at Ditteridge and Hazelbury, and possibly at Box.[20] The present Church of England parish church at Box has 12th-century origins and is dedicated to St Thomas a Becket. Although nothing is currently visible, it has been posited[21] that the chancel stands over the 5th century house-church of the Roman villa (above), in analogy to the villas at Lullingstone and Chedworth.

Alterations were made in the 14th century and a bell chamber and octagonal spire in the "decorated" style were added to the Norman 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.[22]

There are four bells. Two were recast by Taylors in 1936 and two are pre-reformation, notably the Sancta Katerina tenor bell which is thought to be a Bristol bell of about 1485.[23][24]

The church of St Christopher, Ditteridge stands over a former Saxon church. It was rebuilt by the Normans and re-dedicated in 1087. It consists of a single nave and chancel and is Grade I listed.[25]

A single bell hangs in an external bellcote. Although the bell has no inscription, the casting detail suggests a bell of the 14th century, probably cast locally.

The church of All Saints, Hazelbury fell into disuse before 1540. It was located on a knoll in an area north of Hazelbury Manor shown on the 17th century map as "Olde Church Feilde". Excavation by Kidston in the early 20th century indicated a single-cell church with a semi-circular apse at the east end. The stone sarcophagi now at St Thomas a Becket came from here. Kidston notes that carved masonry from the church was re-used in Hazelbury Manor.[26]

Chapel Plaister has a small roadside church, rebuilt in 1340 and linked to a hostel for travellers; it is also Grade I listed.[27]

The location of the Chapel of St David at Fogham mentioned in Kidston [28] has not been discovered.

Box Methodist church was built in 1897, replacing a smaller Ebenezer Chapel built on the same site in 1834.[29] 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)[30] and Kingsdown (1869, rebuilt 1926).[31] Both closed in 1967 and the congregations joined with Box church.[32]

Facilities[edit]

The Recreation Ground

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.[33] Pevsner describes it as "Gothic, with a terrible, spindly tower".[34]

The Selwyn Hall (built 1969) is used for community functions and houses the village library.[3]

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[edit]

Also on the recreation ground is the unique 'Box Rock Circus', a 7m diameter circle which is an earth-science educational facility.[35] It was constructed during 2012 by local craftsmen with stone donated by numerous companies and funded principally by landfill tax funds. The facility was formally opened on 14 May 2013 by Professor of Geosciences Communication, and television personality, Iain Stewart.

There is an EarthCache here.This is a form of virtual Geocaching sponsored by the Geological Society of America.

Notable residents[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Wiltshire Community History – Box parish population". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  2. ^ "Box Ground". Hanson plc. Retrieved 30 October 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Box". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 30 October 2015. 
  4. ^ Krikorian, A (2015) Box Archaelogical and Natural History Society
  5. ^ Historic England. "Box Roman Villa (207955)". PastScape. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  6. ^ Corney, Mark (2012). The Roman Villa at Box. Hobnob Press. ISBN 0946418934. 
  7. ^ Historic England. "Roman Villa near Hazelbury House (207977)". PastScape. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  8. ^ Hazelbury in the Domesday Book
  9. ^ Ditteridge in the Domesday Book
  10. ^ Kidston, GJ (1936) A History of the Manor of Hazelbury
  11. ^ Devon, M (2004) Box Parish Magazine
  12. ^ Devon, M (2014) Box Archaeological and Natural History Society
  13. ^ Corney, M (2012) The Roman Villa at Box
  14. ^ Oakley, Mike (2004). Wiltshire Railway Stations. Wimborne: The Dovecote Press. pp. 40, 45. ISBN 1904349331. 
  15. ^ "Hartham Park". Hanson plc. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  16. ^ "RAF Rudloe Manor". Secret Underground Cities. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  17. ^ Historic England. "Personnel Lift 2, Spring Quarry (1576642)". PastScape. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  18. ^ Historic England. "MoD CORSHAM: Quarry Operations Centre Murals (1409132)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  19. ^ "Box and Colerne ward, 2011". www.ukcensusdata.com. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  20. ^ "Church of St. Thomas a Becket, Box". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  21. ^ Devon, M (2015) Box Archaeological and Natural History Society
  22. ^ Historic England. "Church of St Thomas a Becket, Box (1180500)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  23. ^ Walters, HB (1929) The Church Bells of Wiltshire
  24. ^ Devon M and E (1983 et seq) St Thomas a Becket Guide Book
  25. ^ Historic England. "Church of St Christopher, Ditteridge (1285201)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  26. ^ "Hazelbury Church, Box". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  27. ^ Historic England. "Chapel Plaister, Bradford Road, Box (1250523)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  28. ^ Kidston, GJ (1936) A History of the Manor of Hazelbury
  29. ^ "Methodist Church, Box". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  30. ^ "Free Methodist Chapel, Box". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  31. ^ "Methodist Chapel, Kingsdown, Box". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  32. ^ "The history of The Methodist Church in Box". www.boxmethodist.org. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  33. ^ "Box Church of England Primary School". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  34. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus; Cherry, Bridget (revision) (1975) [1963]. Wiltshire. The Buildings of England (2nd ed.). Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 124. ISBN 0-14-0710-26-4. 
  35. ^ "Rock Circus". Elizabeth Devon. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  36. ^ "Pompey mourn Butler". BBC Online. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]