Tisbury is a large village and civil parish approximately 13 miles (21 km) west of Salisbury in the English county of Wiltshire. With a population at the 2011 census of 2,253 it is a centre for communities around the upper River Nadder and Vale of Wardour. The parish includes the hamlets of Upper Chicksgrove and Wardour.
The Square and High Street
|Population||2,253 (in 2011)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Dorset and Wiltshire|
Tisbury is the largest settlement within the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (larger nearby settlements such as Salisbury and Shaftesbury are just outside it).
The area has some paleoanthropological significance. Evidence of early human activity comes from the Middle Gravel at Swanscombe, Kent, a 400,000-year-old stratum, in which skull fragments of a young woman were found. Along with the remains were several fragments of Pseudodiplocoenia oblonga (also known as Isastraea oblonga), one of four Upper Jurassic species of coral unique to the Upper Portlandian of Tisbury. This indicates that the group to which the woman belonged travelled to the Tisbury area, or were part of a trade network linked to the locality. The coral-bearing chert found at Swanscombe has been interpreted as being intentionally carved to represent the profile of a hominid head, making Tisbury the source of materiel used in what is possibly one of the world's oldest pieces of art.
As in much of the Wiltshire Downs, there is also evidence of Bronze Age settlement. The Tisbury Hoard comprising 114 bronze items, discovered in 2011, is from the 9th to 8th century BC. To the southeast of the village lies a large hillfort, now known as Castle Ditches, which was referred to as Willburge in a charter of 984 A.D. Enclosed within ramparts of the fort is a long barrow measuring 60m long, 25m wide and 0.7m high.
A stone circle once stood in one of three adjacent fields, one which was known as Lost Stone Field, near the junction of the Chicksgrove and Chilmark roads. These fields have been joined to form the present Cemetery Field. The last three remaining standing stones, removed in the latter part of the 18th century, now form part of the grotto at Old Wardour.
There are known early references between 710 and 716 to Wintra, Abbot of Tisbury, and in 759 monks of Tisbury are mentioned in a grant of land to Abbot Ecgnold and his familia (community) at Tisbury Grange. The monastery may have been founded as early as 705 and may have been sited near an old cemetery discovered north of Church Street.
The Saxon settlement came into the possession of Shaftesbury Abbey, as recorded in Domesday Book of 1086, when there was a relatively large settlement of 90 households at Tisseberie. The abbey's administration centre was the monastic grange, where the 14th-century building, now a house at Place Farm is Grade I listed, as are the outer and inner gatehouses, built in limestone in the 15th century. The thatched tithe barn – one of its timbers dated by dendrochronology to 1279 – bears the largest thatched roof in England and is also Grade I listed; it is now used as a multi-purpose gallery and arts centre, managed by Messums Wiltshire.
The village's 13th-century prosperity came from the quarries that produced stone for the building of Salisbury Cathedral, and from the wool that supported a local cloth industry. The village suffered a serious setback with the Black Death in the mid-14th century but slowly recovered. Gaston Manor, close to the High Street, is a former 14th-century hall house which was rebuilt and then extended in the 16th and 17th centuries. To the southwest of the village centre are the remains of the village of Wyck, a deserted medieval village abandoned in the 14th century.
Some idea of the population of the area in the 14th century is given by the number assessed as being liable to the poll tax of 1377: every lay person over the age of 14 years who was not a beggar had to pay a groat (4d) to the Crown. The number of taxpayers in Hatch, East and West (in Tisbury) was 152, and in Tisbury there were 281. On John Speed's map of Wiltshire of 1611, the village's name is recorded as Tilburye: the cartographer or the engraver clearly having mistaken a long s for an l.
At Wardour, some 2 miles (3 km) southwest of Tisbury, the 14th-century Wardour Castle was badly damaged in the 1640s during the Civil War. It was superseded in the 1770s by New Wardour Castle, a country house in Palladian style, which was the seat of the Lords Arundell of Wardour until the 20th century. Both the ruins and the house are Grade I listed.
The Fonthill estate, formerly the site of country houses including Fonthill Splendens (18th century) and Fonthill Abbey (from 1796), lies beyond the northwestern boundary of Tisbury parish. Most of the ornamental Fonthill Lake is within the parish, as the stream which marked the parish boundary was submerged when the lake was expanded. The estate is currently the seat of Alastair Morrison, 3rd Baron Margadale, who owns land and property in Tisbury including the former abbey site at Place Farm.
Quarrying of stone increased from the mid-18th century, and by 1846 there were 40 quarries in the parish. The industry was most active later in that century and into the early 20th, although none of the quarries extended underground.
The Salisbury and Yeovil Railway opened Tisbury railway station with the first section of its line, from Salisbury to Gillingham, on 2 May 1859. At first only passengers were catered for, but goods traffic started on 1 September 1860. Services were operated by the London and South Western Railway.
From 1861 the room above a building near to St John the Baptist parish church, known as The Rank, was used as a glove factory. It employed 36 women and production continued until the early 1970s. In 1873 St. John's Infants' School was built midway up the High Street at the suggestion of Rev. F.E. Hutchinson. It was paid for by Lord Arundell, Sir Michael Shaw-Stewart and Alfred Morrison.
After the workhouse on Church Street closed in 1868, Archibald Beckett converted it to a brewery; it was later replaced by a steam brewery which in turn was rebuilt in 1885 after a fire. Beckett carried out other improvements including the construction of a new road through the village, the present-day High Street. From 1914 the brewery buildings housed a steam-powered flour mill, and later a mill for animal feed, which closed in 1964.
Pevsner describes the limestone parish church of St John the Baptist as "the largest church in its part of Wiltshire". The first record of the church is in the early 12th century and there are fragments of masonry from that time in the north and west walls of the nave. The base of the central tower is from the late 12th century and its first stage is from the 13th, as is the two-storey north porch. In 1299 the north transept became the Lady Chapel. The chancel was rebuilt in the late 13th or early 14th, and in 1450 the nave was rebuilt, wider and with a clerestory and wagon roof; the roofline of the earlier nave is visible on the west wall of the tower.
The pews, choir stalls and pulpit were installed in the 1660s, and the font – possibly 13th-century – was restored at the same time. The reredos of 1884 is by Ewan Christian. The four bells were recast in 1700 and two more added in 1720; all remain in place except one of the 1720 pair, which cracked and was recast in 1989. The tower carried a spire, which fell in 1762 and was replaced by adding a shorter storey to the tower. Restoration in the 19th century included the building of the south vestry, and in 1927 the tower was restored and the bells rehung. The church was recorded as Grade I listed in 1966.
The largest of the yew trees in the churchyard is over 1,000 years old. Several chest tombs are listed structures, including three from the 17th century. Also here are the graves of Rudyard Kipling's parents, John and Alice.
Besides Tisbury, the ecclesiastical parish encompassed part of Wardour and the area which is now West Tisbury civil parish. In 1976 a team benefice was created to include the churches of Tisbury, Swallowcliffe, Ansty and Chilmark; today the parish is part of the Nadder Valley Team Ministry, a group of 15 churches.
St Andrew's church at Newtown (now in West Tisbury) was built in 1811 using Chilmark stone salvaged from a former church in the grounds of Pythouse. It was a chapel-of-ease of Tisbury until it was declared redundant in 1975, and is now in residential use.
The Roman Catholic Church of The Sacred Heart was built on the lower High Street in 1898 with support from the Arundells of Wardour. The Arundells had a large private chapel at New Wardour Castle, built integral to the mansion in the 1770s and enlarged in 1789; now Grade I listed, it is owned by the Wardour Chapel Trust.
A National School was built on church land immediately west of the church in 1843, replacing earlier informal schools; F. E. Hutchinson, vicar from 1858 to 1913, was much involved. A separate infants' school was built in 1873, and in 1905 the school for older children could accommodate 290. Children of all ages were educated until 1961, when Dunworth Secondary Modern School was built at Weaveland Road for those over 11. The 19th-century school remained in use until the opening in 1973 of a new primary school, next to the secondary school, and the redundant building became the village hall.
From 1983 the three-tier system was introduced and Dunworth School became the Nadder Church of England Middle School; children over 13 travelled to Shaftesbury. In 2004 the system reverted to two tiers: the middle school closed and its site was later used to build the Nadder Centre. The 1973 school continues as St John's CofE (VC) Primary School.
Thomas Mayhew (1593–1682), who in 1642 established the first English settlement at Martha's Vineyard in North America, was born in Tisbury. Other people born in Tisbury include the Rev. William Jay (1769–1853, preacher); Christopher Hinton (1901–1983, nuclear engineer); and Gillian Lewis (stage and television actress). Etheldred Benett (1776–1845), the early geologist, was born at Tisbury and studied fossils in the area.
The parents of poet Rudyard Kipling lived at Tisbury in later life. According to one source, "After a long and distinguished artistic career in India, the Kiplings moved to a residence along Hindon Lane which they renamed 'The Gables'. Their famous son visited them here and, whilst working on his novel Kim, his father (his illustrator) used the drawings of one of the pupils from Tisbury Boys' School as the model for the main character." As of early 2013, The Gables, with five bedrooms and an adjoining cricket pitch, was for sale at a price of £950,000.
Ecclesiastical architect Edward Doran Webb (1864–1931) lived at Gaston Manor in Tisbury. Other Tisbury residents included Northern Irish colonial administrator and politician Henry Clark (1929–2012), army officer and campaigner for refugees Major Derek Cooper (1912–2007) and businessman John Meade, 7th Earl of Clanwilliam (1919–2009).
Sir Horace Rumbold (1869-1941), diplomat, lived at Tisbury in later life. Martin Fleischmann FRS (1927–2012), a chemist noted for his work in electrochemistry and (controversially) cold fusion, moved to Tisbury following his retirement as Professor of Electrochemistry at Southampton University.
In August 2016 Wiltshire Council opened the Nadder Centre, which provides leisure activities and is home to the local library. Since April 2017, after the closure of the local police station, the Nadder Centre provides basic facilities for police officers patrolling the area.
Next to the Nadder Centre is an open-air heated swimming pool, the only one of its type in Wiltshire. The village has an amateur dramatic society, the Tisbury Arts Group, which also hosts regular musical events. Tisbury holds an annual carnival, usually in September, which celebrated its centenary in 2019. In 2018 the village hosted the third Tisbury Brocante, "A Festival of Antiques and Vintage Finds". Tisbury Business Association promotes the locality as a trading and commercial centre.
There is a small fire station, run by Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, with one pumping appliance and a Land Rover which are manned by retained firefighters. In 2017, Tisbury was listed in the Sunday Times 'Best Places to Live' rundown.
Tisbury railway station is on the West of England Main Line, placing its residents within commuting distance of London. The village is 2.5 miles (4.0 km) from the A303 trunk road linking Andover with the West Country. Salisbury Reds operate three buses a day from Tisbury to Salisbury and two in the other direction, as of 2019[update]. Buses on the Shaftesbury to Salisbury service, also operated by Salisbury Reds, call at Tisbury. The village is also served by TISBUS, a community transport organisation which provides weekly shopping trips to Salisbury, Gillingham and Shaftesbury.
Some scenes in the 2009 film Morris: A Life with Bells On were filmed in Tisbury, including at the Tisbury Sports Centre. Other scenes were filmed at the Compasses Inn nearby at Lower Chicksgrove.
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