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Urchfont St Michaels.JPG
St. Michael and All Angels parish church
Urchfont is located in Wiltshire
Location within Wiltshire
Population1,075 (in 2011)[1]
OS grid referenceSU0457
Civil parish
  • Urchfont
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townDevizes
Postcode districtSN10
Dialling code01380
FireDorset and Wiltshire
AmbulanceSouth Western
EU ParliamentSouth West England
UK Parliament
WebsiteParish Council
List of places
51°18′43″N 1°56′38″W / 51.312°N 01.944°W / 51.312; -01.944Coordinates: 51°18′43″N 1°56′38″W / 51.312°N 01.944°W / 51.312; -01.944

Urchfont is a rural village and civil parish in the Vale of Pewsey to the north of Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, about 7 miles (11 km) southeast of the market town of Devizes. The parish includes the hamlets of Wedhampton (grid reference SU060577) and Lydeway (SU052578).[2] The population of Urchfont taken at the 2011 Census was 1,075.[3]

History of the name[edit]

The village hall of 1930 carries the name Erchfont

The name of Urchfont is often thought to derive from the phrase "Church Fountain" and is possibly derived from Latin fons meaning 'spring, fountain, well' (cf. fount), or the first element may be a lost personal name such as Eohric. Over 100 variations of the spelling are recorded; e.g. Lerchesfonte (1086), Erchesfonte(e) (1175, 1605), Erkesfonte (1175), Archesfunte (font) (1179, 1376, 1426), Ur(i)chesfunte (1242, 1289), Orchesfunte (1259), Orcheffunte (1428), Archfounte al. Urshent (1564), Urchefount al. Urshent (1611), Urshent al. Erchfont (1695).[4]


The village is in the 'Urchfont and the Cannings' electoral ward. This ward starts in the south at Easterton, stretches through Urchfont to end in the north at Bishops Cannings. The population of this ward taken at the 2011 census was 4,350.[5]

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


The 13th-century Anglican Church of St Michael and All Angels is Grade I listed.[6][7]

There is a primary school, Urchfont C of E Primary School.[8] From 1947 to 2012 Urchfont Manor, a Grade II* listed building,[9] housed an adult education college, Urchfont Manor College. There is a family-run dental practice, Urchfont Dental Care, offering private and NHS services.[10]

There are also many local sports clubs and societies and the village has its own tennis courts, cricket pitch and skittle alley (within The Lamb Inn pub).

Notable people[edit]

  • Sergeant Thomas Gray VC was born in Urchfont in 1914. An Air Observer/Navigator in the Royal Air Force, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross after he was killed in action in 1940.
  • Singer Elvis Costello has a summer home in the village.
  • The cricket scorer Bill Frindall (nicknamed 'The Bearded Wonder') lived there until his death.
  • Major Charles Ingram who allegedly cheated on the ITV game show "Who Wants To Be A Millionnaire" lives nearby and is occasionally spotted enjoying a local ale in The Lamb Inn.

The Urchfont Scarecrow Festival[edit]

Urchfont Scarecrow Festival: Ali Baba

The Urchfont Scarecrow Festival (a registered charity)[11] was the first of its kind in Wiltshire. While other Wiltshire villages, including local rivals Lacock, have now established their own festivals on a similar model, the Urchfont festival predates them, having been established in 1997, and is amongst the best attended. The idea was first brought to the village by a resident who saw a similar festival in Derbyshire. Apart from being cancelled in 2001 because of the threat from Foot and Mouth disease, the 22 festivals to date have taken place on the weekend of the first bank holiday in May every year, and have grown to become a major local event attracting large numbers of local and national visitors while raising money for local charities and good causes.[12]

Approximately 50 themed scarecrows made by villagers are distributed around the village, and visitors can buy a trail map which provides clues as to the identity of each scarecrow. There is also a children’s trail and the village is a buzz with festivities.

Past festivals have included:

  • 1997-2000 Non-Themed Scarecrows
  • 2001 Cancelled (Foot & Mouth)
  • 2002 Characters for the Young at Heart
  • 2003 Professions
  • 2004 Book Titles
  • 2005 Songs & Music
  • 2006 The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
  • 2007 Film Titles
  • 2008 Scarecrow Pursuits
  • 2009 Musicals – Stage & Screen
  • 2010 Pairs
  • 2011 Advertisements
  • 2012 A, B, C
  • 2013 Singers
  • 2014 Myths & Legends
  • 2015 At the Oscars
  • 2016 A World of Firsts
  • 2017 From the Sublime to the Ridiculous
  • 2018 It's Showtime!
  • 2019 Back to the 80’s

Further reading[edit]

  • Crittall, Elizabeth (ed.); Baggs, A. P.; Crowley, D. A.; Pugh, Ralph B.; Stevenson, Janet H.; Tomlinson, Margaret (1975). Victoria County History: A History of the County of Wiltshire, Volume 10: Swanborough hundred; the borough of Devizes.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus (1975). Cherry, Bridget (ed.). The Buildings of England: Wiltshire. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. ISBN 0 14 0710-26 4.


  1. ^ "Wiltshire Community History - Census". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  2. ^ Parish Council
  3. ^ "Parish population 2011". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  4. ^ Wiltshire Council - Wiltshire Community History
  5. ^ "Urchfont and The Cannings ward 2011". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  6. ^ Historic England. "Church of St Michael and All Angels, Urchfont (1364609)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  7. ^ "Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Urchfont". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  8. ^ "Urchfont C of E Primary School". Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  9. ^ Historic England. "Urchfont Manor (1035857)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  10. ^ "Urchfont Dental Care". Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  11. ^ "Urchfont Scarecrow Festival Charity". Charity Commission. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  12. ^ "Scarecrow Festival". Urchfont Parish Council. Retrieved 14 April 2017.