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Urchfont St Michaels.JPG
St. Michael and All Angels parish church
Urchfont is located in Wiltshire
Urchfont shown within Wiltshire
Population 1,075 (in 2011)[1]
OS grid reference SU0457
Civil parish
  • Urchfont
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Devizes
Postcode district SN10
Dialling code 01380
Police Wiltshire
Fire Dorset and Wiltshire
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
Website Parish Council
List of places
WiltshireCoordinates: 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]

Urchfont village hall

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] Shown to the left is the present-day village hall, erected in 1929-1930 by local villagers, which bears the name "Erchfont". Locally, the colloquial pronunciation of Urchfont is Ushant and in the modern day, it is often known as "Urnt".[citation needed]


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 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 the disgraced cougher from 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 was the first of its kind in Wiltshire. While many other Wiltshire villages, including local rivals Lacock, have now established their own festivals on a similar model, the original Urchfont festival predates them all having been established in 1997 and is amongst the best attended by Scarecrow enthusiasts. The idea was first brought to the village by a resident who saw a similar festival in Derbyshire while on a walking holiday. Apart from being cancelled in 2001 because of the threat from Foot and Mouth disease, the festival has taken place on the first bank holiday in May every year since 1997 and has grown to become a major local event attracting large numbers of local and national visitors.

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. Extensive parking facilities and toilet facilities are provided. A barbecue, beer tent, tea tent and ice cream stand provide refreshments around the scenic pond in the centre of the village. In addition, the Lamb Inn, a traditional thatched pub, serves real ale and bar meals throughout the weekend.

2016 was the 19th festival and it is held annually over the three days of the first May Bank Holiday.[10] As of 2016 the festival has raised over £100,000 for local charities and good causes.

Past themes of The Urchfont Scarecrow Festival have included:

  • 1997-2000 Scarecrows
  • 2001 No Festival
  • 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

Further reading[edit]


  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. ^ Parish council