Village of Upavon History

(with great thanks to Verina Horsnell for writing the following history of Upavon)

Upavon has been variously known as Uphaven, Uphavene, Uphavon, Oppravene, Huphaven. The village lies on the Christchurch Avon between the Vale of Pewsey and the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. The parish has a boomerang shape with down land, pasture and arable land on either end with the river flowing across the middle, alongside which there used to be water meadows. On the west side are Old Nursery Ditch and Water Dean bottom with Widdington Farm and Casterley Camp. To the east are Chisman’s Cleeve and Rowden’s Cleeve. The Parish size is 3,352 acres.

Pre-historic. Neolithic and bronze age archaeological discoveries have been made and there is evidence of ploughing on the downs above Upavon. A Bronze Age pit lies near Jenner's Firs and Casterley Camp, an Iron Age fortified enclosure was occupied from about 50 BC through Roman times to about 450 AD. Brooches and other materials from the turn of the century excavations, including Roman Samian pottery are now in Devizes Museum. Legend has it that a gold chair was buried in the ramparts of Casterley Camp but this has yet to be found. Four human burials and 14 red deer antlers are also reported to have been found. In early times, the lower ground near the river was frequently waterlogged and the area around Upavon used to be crossed by upland roads, notably the Ridgeway which passed through Casterley Camp and an Avebury - Ludgershall road.

900 – 1200. The date of the earliest settlement is not known but King Edmund granted Upavon to Alfswith between 939 and 946. The Abbey of St Wandrille de Fontenelle was granted Upavon Church between 1078 and 1086 by William the Conqueror. It is likely that in 1086 the principal estate in Upavon was held by the King because it was not mentioned in the Domesday Book but in the Geld Rolls. The early Middle Ages saw a period of expansion and prosperity possible because of the extensive areas of arable and pasture land (mainly for sheep) from which to support a larger population making church and manor rich. The 1100s saw the development of a substantial church and a Norman Abbey established a priory between the church and the Avon. Towards the end of that century, Upavon was granted to the de Tancarville family.

1200 – 1300. Records show work on a manor house (site unknown) started in 1204 when the manor passed to one of King John’s Barons, Peter de Mauley, a Tuesday market was granted in 1220, and on 17 September 1220 the manor was granted to Peter de Malo Lacu (Peter de Mauley??) and Isabella his wife by Henry III?? The Manor then passed from Peter de Maulay to Gilbert Basset in 1234. From 1235 it appears that misdemeanours were punished by courts held by the Lord of Upavon Manor. The manor ownership changed hands about every 20 years with fairs and markets being granted. In 1298, the manor passed to Hugh le Despenser.

1300 – 1600. The existing Church of St Mary was dedicated in 1308. Two yearly fairs presumably led to the development of the market place in the centre of the village and in 1352 there are records of various traders at the fairs including brewers, tapsters, taverners, fishermen, pelterers, tailors and other merchants and in the 14th and 15th centuries there are references to stallage, street gavel, shops in the market and shambles all signs that Upavon was a minor commercial centre for the local area. Upavon was a convenient location for holding Royal inquests in the Middle Ages and was visited by King John and Edward 1. According to tax records, early 1300s taxation assessments were high. In 1377 there were 127 poll tax payers and in 1397, 75 farms and cottages and a few freeholds were recorded on the manor. From then the population stared to decline.

1600 – 1800. The Antelope Inn is first mentioned in 1609 and subsequently rebuilt in the early 1700s. There are records of the Alexander family in Upavon from 1622-1929. The markets and fairs fostered many trades particularly brewing. In 1648 the vicar complained about the three licensed houses and some 20-30 alehouses brewing and selling ale and a schoolmaster existed in Upavon in 1662. The Ship Inn was built in the early 1700s and by 1729 the market square had buildings all around. For non-conformists, a house in Upavon was licensed for worship by dissenters in 1710. Pre 1760, roads ran through or near the village although not originally through the market square. In the 1760s the Devizes/Andover turnpike was constructed which ran through the southern part of the market square where a tollgate was set and on across the river.
The most famous son of Upavon is possibly Henry (Orator) Hunt, the son of Thomas Hunt, a gentleman farmer, who was born 6 November 1773 in Upavon. He was to speak at a meeting on parliamentary reform in Manchester on 16th August 1819, an occasion that was to become known as the Peterloo Massacre. Hunt died of a stroke at his home in Whitchurch, Hampshire on 15th February 1835. The last names Oram and Jarvis (Jarvis Street) occur in registers from the 1700s and early 1800s.

1800 – 1900. In the 1801 census the population of Upavon was 430 and in 1802 there were 25 farmhouses and 60 smaller houses and cottages. The village was inclosed under Act of Parliament in 1804 and the market seems to have discontinued by the early 1800s. There were 2 day schools in 1808, a single day school for about 30 children in 1818 but two schools again in 1833 for a total of 37 children. A strict Baptist congregation was established by 1829 and a new chapel, the Cave of Adullam was built for the congregation in 1838. In 1841 the population had risen to 512, but had dropped back to 430 by 1911. The name of Townsend for the upper part of Jarvis Street was in use by 1838 and by 1840, Upavon was the point of intersection of two turnpike roads; the existing road network stems from this period. A new school was built by the north churchyard gate in 1854 attended by 40-50 children. Boys left at nine and girls at 12. The other two schools continued until 1894 when the new school was enlarged. The Fair was abolished in 1874 and also in this year 76 villagers petitioned for allotments as their gardens were too small to provide enough food for their families but this was not granted. The Alexander family (Alexander Fields) who owned the manor and lands (2500 acres) in Upavon from 1830 – 1898 sold Widdington Farm (600 acres) to the War Department in 1898. In total, some 800 acres south of Casterley Camp were acquired by the army for a firing range.

1900 – 2000. In 1911 the population of Upavon was recorded as 430 and in 1912 the War Department bought Upavon Down (425 acres) for an airfield and the purchased the rest of the manor lands in 1919. The Central Flying School (CFS) was founded in Upavon on 12 May 1912 to train professional pilots. The cemetery in the village records the death of many young fliers who failed to return safely. In 1918 the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service were amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force and as part of the reorganisation CFS became the Flying Instructors School. In 1926 CFS moved from Upavon to Wittering. The base continued to be used for various activities until in 1946 it became No 38 RAF Group Transport Command. In 1992, RAF Upavon, was transferred to the Army and became Trenchard Lines. The impact of a base in the parish of Upavon has been considerable, including leading to an increase in population as can been seen: 1911 - 430, 1921 – 767, 1931 – 742, 1941 – 916, 1961 – 1521, 1971 – 1455. The Council houses were built in Avon Square for service personnel around 1920, another 12 on the Andover Road by 1939, with another 12 after 1945. After 1945 75 houses were built in Watson Close. Upavon County Primary School was opened in 1957 built alongside the then RAF married quarters in Avon Square/Watson Close. In 1973 the school attendance was 193 children. 10 private houses were built in Devizes Road in the 1950s, 42 bungalows on Fairfield in the 1960s. By 1972, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) owned much of the parish. Further housing developments in the 1990s have taken place in Alexander Field and Farrier’s Field. The old Market Square is still well defined. Buildings that were standing in the square in the 1700s have been removed and replaced by a garage at the southern end. Change is imminent There are various 17 Century cottages and houses in the square. The two Inns, the Antelope and the Ship remain and the village contains a number of listed buildings and monuments. The Anglican Parish Church is Grade I Listed, and the Baptist Chapel in Chapel Lane a Grade II listing in need or repair. There are some 19 other buildings in Upavon village with a grade II listing including the Ship and the Antelope Inn. There are also Grade II listed buildings at Trenchard Lines. There are in addition several listed milestones and listed monuments in the Churchyard.

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