Purton is a large village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England, about 4 miles (6 km) northwest of the centre of Swindon. The parish includes the village of Purton Stoke and the hamlets of Bentham, Hayes Knoll, Purton Common, Restrop, the Fox and Widham. The River Key, a tributary of the Thames, crosses the parish near Purton Stoke.
The village is a linear settlement along the old road between the historic market towns of Cricklade 4 miles (6.4 km) to the north and Royal Wootton Bassett 3 miles (4.8 km) to the south. Purton is on a minor road 1 mile (1.6 km) from the B4553 and 3 miles (4.8 km) from junction 16 of the M4 motorway. The village is on the brow of a hill, with views across to Cricklade and the Thames floodplain. Nearby, Bradon Forest stretches out to Minety in the west.
Village amenities include several shops, a sub-post office, a library, public houses and restaurants, a GP's practice, dentist and veterinary surgery. The village has grown such that its retailers are not all concentrated in one centre. A few shops are on the main road at the junction with Pavenhill, and a few are around the bend in the road near the village hall.
The Church of England parish church of Saint Mary the Virgin is unusual in having a tower at each end, one of which has a spire. It is one of only three parish churches in England with both a spire and another tower. The other two are at nearby Wanborough, Wiltshire, and Ormskirk, Lancashire.
Ringsbury Camp has evidence of settlement during the Neolithic period but is considered to be an Iron Age hill fort dating from about 50 BC. There is a suggestion that the remains of a Roman villa lie under the soil at Pavenhill, on the Braydon side of Purton. At the Fox on the east side of the village, grave goods and bodies from a pagan Saxon cemetery have been excavated.
The earliest known written record of Purton dates from AD 796 when the Saxon King Ecgfrith of Mercia gave 35 hides from Purton to the Benedictine Malmesbury Abbey. The Abbot of Malmesbury continued to be the chief landlord of Purton throughout Saxon and Norman times, suggesting that an earlier church stood at Purton.
It is thought a battle took place during the English Civil War in the Restrop area.[by whom?] A cannonball was discovered in the area and several place names refer to a battle, including the alternative name of Restrop Road, Red Street (which may signify the road was covered in blood) and Battlewell. A mile away are Battle Lake in Braydon Wood, and Battlelake Farm.
The Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway through the parish was opened in 1841 and was absorbed by the Great Western Railway in 1843. Purton railway station opened in 1841 to the north of the village, in the hamlet of Widham. The station closed in 1963 but the line remains open.
Second World War
There are a number of concrete pillboxes in the parish, which were part of the defences of Southern England during the Second World War. They form part of the GHQ Line Red, along which an anti-tank trench also ran, between Ballards Ash near Royal Wootton Bassett and the River Ray near Blunsdon railway station.
RAF Blakehill Farm, north of Purton Stoke, was a RAF Transport Command station that operated from 1944 until 1946. United States troops were stationed in Braydon Wood, and attended dances at the Angel Hotel. Anti-tank devices (chains across the road, set in concrete blocks) were installed on the parish boundary across Tadpole Bridge that spans the River Ray. The Cenotaph on Purton High Street is a memorial to those who died in both world wars.
A study of the interconnections of people within the parish, based on the registers and other historical evidence, since the earliest recorded period, is being prepared (2006) under the working title, The Plenteous Pear Tree: Pedigrees and Progress of Purton's People Past and Present, a parish prosopography of Purton, Wiltshire, with ramifications elsewhere in North Wilts. and beyond, under the auspices of Richard Carruthers-Żurowski, a Canadian-based, Oxford-trained historian and genealogist.
Volume 18 of the Wiltshire Victoria County History, published in 2011, covers Purton.
The Church of England parish church of St Mary the Virgin appears at one time to have been dedicated to Saint Nicholas. The building is from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries and was restored by William Butterfield in 1872. In 1955 it was designated as Grade I listed.
There were two Methodist chapels in Purton village. The Primitive Methodist chapel was built at Upper Square in 1856 and enlarged in 1893; the Wesleyan Methodist chapel at Play Close was built in 1882, replacing a smaller chapel from the 1870s. By 1969, after declines in numbers, the two congregations united. The Play Close chapel was renovated and reopened in 1973 as Purton Methodist Church, then the Upper Square chapel was sold for residential use.
There was a Methodist church opposite Dairy Farm in 1832 at Purton Stoke. It was demolished in 1868 and rebuilt in Pond Lane. This building was sold in 2011 and converted for residential use.
There are two schools in Purton:
- St Mary's Church of England Primary School is housed in a modern building opened in 2012, funded by the government's Primary Capital Programme and built on the site of the former junior school. Previously the school was split between two sites, with infants taught in the original Victorian building which opened in 1861 while juniors were in nearby buildings which opened in the early 1970s, along with the school's swimming pool.
- Bradon Forest School is the secondary school. It was built in 1962 and caters for pupils from Purton parish, Lydiard Millicent, Cricklade, Ashton Keynes and West Swindon. The school has no sixth form, so students go on to either Royal Wootton Bassett Academy, Cirencester College, Swindon College or New College, Swindon.
Until 1978, Purton Stoke had its own primary school, on the Purton to Cricklade road. It opened in 1894 and at its peak had 100 pupils. However, numbers dropped continually from the 1930s when older pupils were educated in Purton, until there were only around 30 pupils left in the 1970s. The school closed in 1978. The building is now used for the Jubilee Gardens Project, a charity which provides education and training for adults with learning difficulties.
- Brockhurst Meadow is at the end of Brockhurst Lane, just below Ringsbury Camp. A rushy hay meadow with signs of ridge and furrow farming. Wildlife includes many wildflowers of wet meadows: ragged robin, sneezewort, meadowsweet, marsh thistle, common spotted orchid, heath spotted orchid, adder's-tongue fern, sedge species and the insects which feed on them such as the marbled white butterfly. grid reference .
- Blakehill Farm, partly in Purton parish, is the former RAF Blakehill Farm airfield from the Second World War. Its grasslands are habitat for mammals including roe deer and brown hare, birds including kestrel, skylark, wheatear, whinchat and stonechat and butterflies include small copper and brown hairstreak. The trust bought the site from the Ministry of Defence to form a large meadow of about 600 acres (240 ha), and opened it to the public in 2005. It rears a small quantity of organic grade beef, usually rare breeds such as longhorn cattle. These cattle ensure grasses and other common plants do not begin to dominate over the other rarer plants. grid reference .
- Stoke Common Meadows are at the end of Stoke Common Lane in Purton Stoke. A small wood and grasslands, with ancient hedgerows and ditches. The meadows are habitat for many wildflowers including pepper saxifrage, sweet vernal-grass, heath spotted orchid, adder's-tongue fern (Ophioglossum), bugle, ox-eye daisy and common knapweed. Some of the fields are a Site of Special Scientific Interest. grid reference .
- Red Lodge Pond is at the beginning of Red Drive in Braydon Wood, just off the B4042 road between Braydon Crossroads and Minety Crossroads. The reserve includes a large pond and a small meadow with a concrete platform in the middle: the remains of an old sawmill. Wildlife includes plants such as water horsetail, common spotted orchid; and woodland butterflies including Eurasian white admiral and silver-washed fritillary. grid reference .
Restrop Farm and Brockhurst Wood is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is at the end of Mud Lane, or at the end of Brockhurst Lane, but is mainly private land. Brockhurst Meadow is part of the farm.
There are three pubs in the parish:
- Angel Hotel in the High Street, thought to be the oldest pub in the village, dating from 1704.
- Royal George at Pavenhill, the west end of the village.
- The Bell at Purton Stoke.
There are two members' clubs: the Red House Club on Church Street, and the working men's club, now Purton Club, on Station Road.
Several former pubs in Purton have closed:
- Blue Pig was on Purton's boundary at the Brinkworth to Minety and Purton to Garsdon crossroads near to Ravensroost Wood. It closed in the late 20th century.
- Forester's Arms was next door to the Royal George in Pavenhill. It closed in 1904.
- Another pub called the Forester's Arms was situated on the parish boundary at Common Platt. It closed in 2010.
- Fox Inn served the Fox area.
- Railway Hotel was renamed the Ghost Train after British Railways closed Purton railway station in 1963. The pub closed in 2008.
- Hope Inn at the Collins Lane junction was closed in 1995 and is now the Elmgrove Saddlery.
- Live and Let Live in Upper Pavenhill had the best views of any pub in the parish, looking over the Braydon area. It closed in 1967.
- Mason's Arms was in a house in the Upper Square. It was a pub until 1945.
- New Greyhound in Pavenhill. It closed in early 2008.
- Queen's Arms was near the sub-post office in the High Street.
Sports and leisure
People connected with Purton include:
- The Rt. Hon. Sir Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury
- The Lady Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, first wife of James II of England
- Dave Gregory, long-time guitarist and keyboard player in the English rock band XTC, spent his childhood in the village
- The Right Honourable Sir Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon
- James Kibblewhite, pre-Olympic English running champion
- The Reverend Dr Nevil Maskelyne, D.D., 5th Astronomer Royal (from 1765 til his death in 1811), buried next to the parish church
- Dr Desmond Morris, zoologist
- The Reverend John Papworth, clergyman, writer and activist
- Billie Piper, singer and actress
In the Tudor period the Maskelyne family were significant landlords and landowners in Purton, having inherited rights granted by the last Abbot of Malmesbury Abbey to the Pulley or Pulleyne family, from whom they descended on the distaff side. The Reverend Dr Nevil Maskelyne (1732–1811) was appointed Astronomer Royal in 1765. The Maskelynes were involved in Purton life for more than four centuries from the 16th century. Nevil Maskelyne was born in London, lived at Down Farm and is buried in Purton churchyard. A Miss Maskelyne who lived in the village died in the 1960s aged over 100.
Hyde and Ashley-Cooper
The Royalist statesman and author Edward Hyde, who served as MP for the nearby Wootton Bassett constituency in the 1630s, lived at College Farm in the centre of Purton. It is likely that his daughter Anne Hyde, first wife of James II also lived here for a time. After serving Charles II during his years of exile under the Commonwealth and Republic, Hyde later became Lord Chancellor of England, was ennobled as Earl of Clarendon, and appointed Chancellor of the University of Oxford.
By the late 19th century and into the early part of the 20th century, other local families had risen to the gentry level after becoming significant landowners in the parish. Among these was James Henry Sadler, Esq., D.L., J.P., (1843–1929) who, though a Purton native, lived in nearby Lydiard House in the neighbouring parish of Lydiard Millicent until his death. A strict but generous benefactor, Sadler gave the cricket ground and Working Men's Institute to the village. Described as the last unofficial Squire of Purton, his father was Dr Samuel Champernowne Sadler, F.R.C.S., of Purton. In 1859 or 1860 Dr Sadler had the Pump House built at Salt's Hole, a natural mineral water spring near Purton Stoke, used for medicinal purposes since the Middle Ages and possibly earlier. Under Dr Sadler and subsequent owners, attempts were made to develop this natural attraction as Purton Spa, and to market the spring waters for their healing qualities.
- "Parish population 2011". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
- "Purton". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
- "Church of St. Mary, Purton". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- Historic England. "Church of St Mary, Purton (1283956)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- "Quakers, Purton Stoke". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- "Congregational Chapel, Purton". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- "Primitive Methodist Chapel, Purton". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- "Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Purton". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- "Purton Ward - 2011 Census". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
- Wiles, David (18 December 2011). "Two school departments reunite after years apart". Swindon Advertiser. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
- "St.Mary's C. of E. Primary School, Purton". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
- "Bradon Forest School, Purton". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
- "Jubilee Gardens Project". Retrieved 15 January 2016.
- "Nature Reserves". Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
- Historic England. "The Angel public house (1283866)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
- Purton Tennis Club
- Purton Cricket Club
- Critall, 1959, pages 386–388
Sources and further reading
- Crittall, Elizabeth, ed. (1959). Victoria County History: A History of the County of Wiltshire, Volume 4. pp. 386–388.
- Fox-Strangways, Charles Edward; Woodward, Horace Bolingbroke (2010) . The Jurassic Rocks of Britain. London: Geological Survey of Great Britain. p. 340. (on Salt's Hole)
- Kelly, Edward Robert, ed. (2009). Wiltshire. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars' Publishing. p. 263. ISBN 1-150-19690-4. (on Purton Spa)
- Kelly, Susan E (2005). Charters of Malmesbury Abbey. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 279–281. ISBN 0-19-726317-8. (on the ancient parish boundaries of Purton)
- Richardson, Ethel M (2009) . The Story of Purton; A Collection of Notes and Hearsay. Pranava Books. ISBN 1-152-48914-3.
- Robbins, A (1991). Purton's Past. Purton: Purton Historical Society. ISBN 0-9517142-0-1.
- Stratford, Joseph (2009) . Wiltshire and its worthies: notes topographical and biographical. Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing. p. 143. ISBN 1-104-53101-1.
- Walks in the Parish of Purton. 1. Purton: Purton Parish Council. 2003.
- Walks in the Parish of Purton. 2. Purton: Purton Parish Council. 2008.
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