Castle Combe

Coordinates: 51°29′35″N 2°13′44″W / 51.493°N 2.229°W / 51.493; -2.229
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Castle Combe
The main street and Bybrook River
Castle Combe is located in Wiltshire
Castle Combe
Castle Combe
Location within Wiltshire
Population344 (in 2011)[1]
OS grid referenceST842771
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townChippenham
Postcode districtSN14
Dialling code01249
FireDorset and Wiltshire
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
WebsiteParish Council
List of places
51°29′35″N 2°13′44″W / 51.493°N 2.229°W / 51.493; -2.229

Castle Combe is a village and civil parish within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Wiltshire, England. The village is around 5 miles (8 km) north-west of Chippenham. A castle once stood in the area, but was demolished centuries ago.

The village is in two parts: one is in the narrow valley of By Brook, while Upper Castle Combe is on higher land to the east, on the B4039 road connecting Chippenham and Chipping Sodbury. No new houses have been built in the historic area since about 1600.[2] South of the upper village is the Castle Combe motor racing circuit.


A Roman villa once stood about three miles from the village, indicating Roman occupation of the area. The site has been excavated on at least three occasions, the first by Scrope in 1852 and the most recent in 2010. Some reports refer to the site as the North Wraxall or the Truckle Hill villa. Evidence of a bath house and corn drying ovens were found, the latter from the 4th century.[3] The villa itself apparently contained 16 rooms, and there were additional buildings and a cemetery.[4] Neolithic flint tools and Iron Age brooches were also discovered not far from the villa, in 1985.[5]

The settlement was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086, with 33 households; the Lord was Humphrey de l'Isle.[6]

The village takes its name from the 12th-century castle which stood about 13 mile (500 m) to the north. The site where the castle once stood now only contains the old earthworks and masonry, which are estimated to date from the 12th century. It is believed that the castle was constructed as the seat of the Barony of Combe under Reginald de Dunstanville either during the reign of Henry I or his son. Reginald was thought to support Empress Matilda during the Anarchy, and the castle was constructed during the wave of castle buildings of the Anarchy period.[7]

The 14th-century market cross, erected when the privilege to hold a weekly market in Castle Combe was granted, stands where the three principal streets of the lower village converge.[8] The Market Cross, a Scheduled Monument, reflects "the significance of the cloth industry in this area".[9] Next to the cross is one of Castle Combe's two village pumps.[10] Small stone steps near the cross were for horse riders to mount and dismount, and close by are the remains of the buttercross, built in the late 19th century from old masonry.[11] This structure, "also known as Weavers’ Steps and ‘the stone’", is another Scheduled Monument.[9]

During the 14th century, the seat of the Barony was transferred to the Manor House within Castle Combe village and a deer park was created next to the castle.[7] The market town prospered during the 15th century when it belonged to Millicent, the wife of Sir Stephen Le Scrope and then of Sir John Fastolf (1380–1459), a Norfolk knight who was the effective lord of the manor for fifty years. By 1340, the village had a fulling mill,[12] confirming the importance of wool by that time. Scrope promoted the woollen industry, supplying his own troops and others for Henry V's war in France. The parish was in the ancient hundred of Chippenham.[13][14]

By the 17th century, John Aubrey stated that a market was held on the site of the old castle.[7] At some time in the late 1700s, the level of the Bybrook River fell, so it could no longer be used to power mills. The cloth industry began leaving the area during that century; "industrial prosperity was over and the population decreased".[15] Notable houses include the Dower House, from the late 17th century is now Grade II listed.[16]

The village was owned by the Scrope family for over five centuries, until 1866 when it was sold to the Gorst family and Edward Chaddock Lowndes (who was previously also known as Gorst). The latter spent a great deal of money on improving the manor house and the estate.[15]

A National School was built in 1826, on a site between the upper and lower villages. The school was taken over by the county council in 1909, and educated children of all ages until 1956 when older pupils were transferred to secondary schools in Chippenham. It closed in 1998 on the opening of a new primary school at Yatton Keynell.[17]

During the Second World War, the RAF Castle Combe airfield was built east of the village, with runways, hangars and a control tower. Between 1946 and 1948 the airfield buildings were used as temporary housing for former military from Poland. The property was sold in 1948,[18] and was later modified for motor racing; the tower is still used during races at Castle Combe Circuit. Also during the war, the Manor was used as a hospital;[15] some time after the war, the manor was converted to a hotel and continues in this use.[19][20]

For decades the village had a number of gristmills and sawmills but all went out of business; Nettleton Mill closed before 1916 and Gatcombe Mill closed circa 1925; both are Grade II listed. The Long Dean Mill shut down in 1956; the Lower mill is now Grade II listed; Colham Mill was demolished in 1962. The last remaining stone tower of the castle stood for centuries, but it too was demolished, in 1950.[15][21]

Listed buildings[edit]

Castle Combe parish has 107 listed buildings; nearly all are in the Grade II category.[22]

Religious sites[edit]

Parish church[edit]

The Church of England parish church of St Andrew is a Grade I listed building.[23] Part of the chancel is 13th-century; in 1850–51 nearly all of the building, except the 15th-century tower, was taken down and reconstructed to the same plan.[24]

Congregational Church[edit]

The first chapel was built in 1757 and extended with a schoolroom in 1846.[25] The current church, opened in 1914, is in the upper part of the village on what is now the B4039 road. The building is a former malt house and is attached to an 18th-century house which became the manse.[26] The church continues in use.[27]


The motor racing venue, Castle Combe Circuit, is located on the site of the former RAF Castle Combe airfield near the village.[28]

The village has twice held the Combe Sunday event, a music festival which attracted 4,000 visitors to the village in 2006.[citation needed]

Castle Combe is represented in Parliament by James Gray, and in Wiltshire Council by Jane Scott, both Conservatives.

In popular culture[edit]

The village was a location for the 1967 film musical Doctor Dolittle.[29] Its frequently rainy summer climate frustrated production, as did attempted sabotage – including by British Army officer (and future explorer) Sir Ranulph Fiennes - because of residents' irritation at the producers' modifications of the area for shooting.[30][31] Other productions include "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd", an episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot, and the films Stardust[32] and The Wolfman. Throughout September 2010, the village was a filming location for Steven Spielberg's production of War Horse.[citation needed]

Raymond Austin set the action of his book Find me a Spy, Catch me a Traitor in the village and at the Manor. The house of Alice Cartalet in the manga and anime series Kiniro Mosaic was based on Fosse Farmhouse, a guesthouse near Castle Combe.[33]

The village was a filming location for the fantasy adventure movie Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box in 2012, and later for a series of Downton Abbey.[34]

Tourist services[edit]

Castle Combe has a car park at the top of the hill, and toilet facilities over the bridge at the bottom of the village. A small museum closed in 2012.[35]

The Manor House was built in the 17th century and rebuilt in the 19th.[36] It has 48 rooms and 365 acres (148 ha) of gardens. During World War II, the New Zealand Forestry Officers had the Manor House as their headquarters. In 1947, the owner of the Castle Combe estate sold the houses of the estate and the Manor House became a country club. After 18 months, the club left the premises, and the house was shortly thereafter sold to Bobbie Allen, an amateur hotelier, and her husband. Mrs Allen wrote a book of her experiences, From Claridge's to Castle Combe.[37] The manor house and estate were sold in 1947.[15] The property was owned by the Allen family for some time,[when?] and they sold the Manor House to Mr and Mrs Oliver Clegg[38] who (some time after 1976) sold it to the corporation which now owns the property. By the time it was listed as a Grade II property in 1960, it was already operating as a hotel.[36]

The 5-star Manor House Hotel is in the west end of the village and features 21 rooms, including a suite and 29 cottages. In addition to the golf course (which opened in 1992), the grounds include "a glorious Italianate garden" and the River Bybrook.[39]


  1. ^ "Wiltshire Community History – Census". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 24 September 2014.
  2. ^ "The beautiful village just a couple of hours from London that's regularly named the prettiest place in Britain". 29 August 2020. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  3. ^ "Truckle Hill Roman Villa". Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  4. ^ "Historic England MONUMENT NO 208315". Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  5. ^ "North Wraxall". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  6. ^ Castle Combe in the Domesday Book
  7. ^ a b c "Castle Combe". 3 March 2016. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  8. ^ Historic England. "Medieval market cross immediately east of St Andrew's Church (1019387)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  9. ^ a b Root, Jane (March 2017). "The Market Cross, Castle Combe: History of Repairs" (PDF). Castle Combe Parish Council. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Wiltshire". Archived from the original on 5 January 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  11. ^ Historic England. "The Butter Cross (1283541)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  12. ^ Medieval England: Towns, Commerce and Crafts, 1086-1348. Routledge. 17 June 2014. p. 95. ISBN 9780582485495.
  13. ^ Vision of Britain: Chippenham Hundred, accessed February 2017
  14. ^ Vision of Britain: Castle Combe, accessed February 2017
  15. ^ a b c d e "Castle Combe". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  16. ^ Historic England. "The Dower House (1199036)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Castle Combe School". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  18. ^ Castle Combe Airfield, retrieved 23 March 2021
  19. ^ Manor House Hotel and Golf Club, retrieved 23 March 2021
  20. ^ Castle Combe, retrieved 23 March 2021
  21. ^ "The Castle". Castle Combe Historical Society. Archived from the original on 9 September 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  22. ^ "Listed Buildings in Castle Combe, Wiltshire". Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  23. ^ Historic England. "Church of St Andrew (1022864)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  24. ^ "Church of St. Andrew, Castle Combe". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  25. ^ "Congregational Chapel, Castle Combe". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  26. ^ Historic England. "The Manse and Congregational Chapel (1199215)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  27. ^ "Castle Combe Congregational Church". Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  28. ^ Castle Combe Circuit Information, retrieved 23 March 2021
  29. ^ "Castle Combe Tourist Information Guide". Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  30. ^ Petherick, Sam (24 July 2018). "How famous explorer avoided jail over movie set explosion". SomersetLive. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  31. ^ Harris, Mark. Pictures at A Revolution. Penguin Press, 2008, p. 199-202
  32. ^ "Filming Locations for Stardust (2007), in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Gloucestershire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Wiltshire, London, Scotland, Wales and Iceland". The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  33. ^ "On location at Fosse Farm – Alice Cartalet's house from Kinmoza". Otaku News. 7 July 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  34. ^ "The Downton Abbey effect: new TV drama Doctor Thorne is set to put Wiltshire's Castle Combe on the map". 17 March 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  35. ^ Winter, Alex (1 March 2012). "Castle Combe's mini museum shuts". Gazette & Herald. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  36. ^ a b Historic England. "The Manor House Hotel (1199055)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  37. ^ Allen, Bobbie (1968). From Claridge's to Castle Combe. Bath: The Mendip Press.
  38. ^ Fielding, Dodge (1976). Fielding's Selected Favorites: Hotels & Inns, Europe 1976. Fielding Publications. p. 90. ISBN 0688611834.
  39. ^ Turner, Sarah (30 November 2020). "History And Modern Comforts In England's Manor House Hotels". Forbes. Retrieved 22 March 2016.

External links[edit]