Warminster (//) is a town and civil parish in western Wiltshire, England, by-passed by the A36 (between Salisbury and Bath) and the partly concurrent A350 between Westbury and Blandford Forum. It has a population of about 17,000. The 11th-century Minster Church of St Denys stands near the River Were, which runs through the town and can be seen running through the town park. The name Warminster first occurs in the early 10th century.
Market Place, Warminster
|Population||17,490 (in 2011)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Dorset and Wiltshire|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
The main settlement at Warminster dates back to the Anglo-Saxon period, although there is evidence of pre-historic settlements in the area, especially at the nearby Iron Age hill forts: Battlesbury Camp, Scratchbury Camp and Cley Hill. Two Roman villas have been discovered in the area, as have caches of Roman coins.
By the 10th century, Warminster included a royal manor and an Anglo-Saxon Minster, with the residents largely associated with the estate. The royal manor was passed to new lords in the 12th century, during which time the township started to grow. During the 13th century, a market was set up at Warminster, and by 1377 the town had 304 poll-tax payers, the tenth largest in Wiltshire.
The town's name has evolved over time; it was known as Worgemynstre in approximately 912 and it was referred to in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Guerminstre. The name may be related to the River Were, a tributary of River Wylye which runs through the town, and from an Anglo-Saxon minster or monastery, which may have existed in the area of St Denys's Church, although the evidence for this is slight. The river's name, "Were" may be derived from the Old English "worian" to wander.
During the English Civil War, between 1642 and 1645, the town was the site of a few incidents. A major for the "Roundheads", Henry Wansey, was besieged in Warminster, while a force under Edmund Ludlow entered a skirmish on Warminster Common when trying to relieve him. By 1646, the town had suffered £500 (equivalent to £79,911 in 2018) worth of damages by supporting the Roundheads.
The market at Warminster was the focus of the town's prosperity, with significant wool, clothing and malting trades established by the 16th century and continuing to be the economic backbone of the town until the 19th century. The market also included a significant corn trade throughout the period and was regarded as the second largest corn market in the west of England in 1830. Unlike many markets of the time where farmers would take only samples to market, Warminster's corn market required a sack from each load of corn to be available to customers; each purchase was to be agreed between 11am and 1pm and paid for by the end of the day.
The town had a large amount of accommodation for visitors to the market, and in 1686 it was ranked fourth for number of places to stay in Wiltshire, with 116 beds. By 1710 there were approximately fifty inns and alehouses in the town. The town was an early adopter of the Turnpikes Act to improve the roads around the town. Unlike many roads improved at the time which would link to towns, Warminster chose to improve seven roads around the town, all under three miles long.
Despite the prosperity, one settlement of houses near Warminster Common had a poor reputation. William Daniell wrote in 1781 that people were living in unplastered hovels with earth floors, and that piles of filth poisoned the stream bringing typhus and smallpox. The people were considered rude and drunk criminals. Daniell and members of the clergy were keen to help the residents, and by 1833 the area was considered clean and respectable.
Victorian era and twentieth-centuryEdit
The town centre was redesigned after 1807 when George Wansey, who was from a family of clothiers in Warminster, left £1,000 (equivalent to £78,174 in 2018) to improve the town, provided his money could be matched by local fundraising. The funding was spent on demolishing houses to widen roads. In 1851, a railway line from Westbury was opened, and then in 1856 the line was continued to Salisbury. The new railway had a devastating effect on the town's market, which fell away almost to nothing, the shops and inns lost most of their business, and the local industries declined.
In 1907, a committee was put together to advertise the town, creating a town guide and advertising in national publications. Unfortunately the committee could not come to an agreement with Lord Bath over the location of a new hotel. Between 1937 and 1961, a significant military presence formed at Warminster, with the addition of camps, a permanent Barracks at Battlesbury, married quarters, a School of Infantry, and workshops for vehicle repairs.
Warminster falls under two levels of local government, Wiltshire Council and Warminster Town Council. The latter was established in April 1974, after the reorganisation which removed Warminster Urban District Council which had been established in 1894. The town is divided into four wards, called Warminster West, Warminster East, Broadway and Copheap. The first three elect four councillors each, whilst the last elects a single councillor, creating a total of thirteen councillors. Two of the councillors are elected to act as mayor and deputy mayor. Warminster falls in the parliamentary constituency of South West Wiltshire.
Warminster is located in south-west Wiltshire, near to the Somerset border. The town is surrounded by six hills, providing shelter and security for early settlers. The area is made up of chalk, which provides good drainage to the nearby River Wylye, providing plenty of arable and pasturable land near to the village. The Wylye is a tributary of the River Avon. Warminster is also close to Selwood Forest.
|Climate data for Bath (Nearest climate station to Warminster)|
|Average high °C (°F)||7.6
|Average low °C (°F)||1.9
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||82.5
|Source: Met Office|
The former hamlets of Bugley (west of the town on the Frome road) and Boreham (east towards Bishopstrow) are now part of Warminster's suburbs.
The Domesday survey of 1086 recorded 104 households, largely craftsmen for the royal demesne, but the population had grown by 1377 to 304 poll-tax payers, the tenth largest village in Wiltshire. In 1665, the population had increased to 354 households, approximately 1,800 people. The area contained by the turnpike gates included 2,605 people in 1781.
|Historical population of Warminster|
As Warminster is in an area of fertile land, much of its early economy was through farming, especially corn. William Daniell commented in 1879 that Warminster lay 'in the midst of a fine corn-country', and Warminster's market provided the backbone of the economy through the 16th to 19th centuries. Alongside corn, wool and clothing were traded and there were a number of maltings in the town.
Warminster's clothing trade suffered greatly in the early 19th century, as there was no suitable river to power machinery during a period of industrialisation. At the same time its malting trade declined but remained important. In 1855, William Morgan commissioned the Warminster Maltings, now the oldest working maltings in Britain.
The coming of the railway line from Westbury in 1851, continued to Salisbury in 1856, had a devastating effect on the town's market, which fell away almost to nothing, and the shops and inns lost most of their business. In 1860, Warminster was described as "a clean-swept, semi-aristocratic, decidedly poor place... in a lukewarm, stagnant, bankrupt state." However, by that year the town had begun to adopt new trades in brewing and iron-founding, which eventually grew enough to mitigate the loss of other business. One example was the Woodcock Ironworks, set up by John Wallis Titt in the town in the mid-1870s to make agricultural machines.
During the 20th century, Warminster's economy became more dependent on the British Army and its associated service industries, but other new businesses also came into the area, such as intensive poultry farming, banana ripening, and shoe manufacture. During the late 20th century and early 21st century, the leisure industry has grown in Warminster, with Longleat and Center Parcs Longleat Forest becoming significant employers.
Warminster has a library, museum, theatre, eleven halls and a number of pubs. There are many festivals and events held annually within the area including Warminster festival, a vintage bus run and heritage open days.
Near Warminster is Longleat, the country house of the Marquess of Bath, and its estate which has included Longleat Safari Park since 1966; the first drive-through safari park outside Africa, home to over 500 animals, including giraffes, monkeys, rhinos, lions, tigers and wolves.
The town has the Athenaeum, an 1858 Grade II listed building, originally a literary institution and now a theatre and arts centre. Facilities at the Lakeside Pleasure Grounds include tennis courts and a boating lake; they were opened by Thomas Thynne, 5th Marquess of Bath, in 1924.
The British Army's Waterloo Lines, formerly the Land Warfare Centre, is a barracks on Imber Road in Warminster that is home to a number of Army specialist training schools and a sizeable portion of the Headquarters Field Army, not to be confused with Army HQ in Andover. The site is also home to Headquarters Small Arms School Corps and Headquarters Infantry, which was formed in 1996 and is responsible for the recruiting, manning and training policy of the Infantry.
The east of the town is situated along the A36 road and the Warminster service station is on the route. Warminster railway station, opened in September 1851, is managed by Great Western Railway.
Warminster has several churches including the Church of St Denys, the Chapel of St Lawrence, Christ Church, the Church of St John the Evangelist and Warminster Baptist Church which are listed buildings. It also has St George's Roman Catholic Church.
Warminster has a long history of sporting activities, with many clubs established in the 19th century. Warminster Cricket Club was created in 1838. Its facilities at Sambourne Road have been shared with the local hockey team and the Warminster Table Tennis Club. The West Wilts Hockey Club has origins dating back to 1899 and as of 2016 has 13 adult teams. The architect John Henry Taylor designed the town's Elm Hill golf course in 1891.
Warminster Town Football Club began around 1878 and the site at Weymouth Street was renovated and expanded in the 1990s; they play in Division One of the Western League. The town has a competitive swimming club, which began as part of Wiltshire County Amateur Swimming Association in 1907 and was re-established as Warminster and District Amateur Swimming Club in 1973. The Marquess of Bath is the President of Warminster Rugby Club which began in 1977 and in 1997 established its base at the West Wilts District Council owned Folly Lane multi-sports site.
More recent additions have been the Warminster Sports Centre run by Wiltshire Council, the Warminster Running Club, the Warminster Adventure Sports Club, and the Wessex Blades Fencing Club.
Warminster has several primary schools, one middle school and two secondary schools. These include Warminster School, an independent public school which was founded in 1707, and Kingdown School which became an academy in 2011. Nearby Bishopstrow College prepares international students for boarding school.
Wessex Water supplies the town's water and sewage services, with water hardness in the town centre reported as 250 mg/l. The Distribution Network Operator for both electricity and gas is SSE plc.
The town is served by the Warminster Community Hospital, under the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (which does not have an Accident and Emergency department, the nearest being at the Royal United Hospital in Bath) while ambulances are provided the South Western Ambulance Service. The town comes under Wiltshire Police's jurisdiction, and its retained firefighters are provided by Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.
- William Aldridge (1737–1797), independent minister.
- Freddie Bartholomew (1924–1992), child actor.
- Rupert E. Billingham (1921–2002), biologist.
- Benjamin Buckler (1716–1780), antiquary.
- Henry Huntingford (1787–1867), classical scholar and Church of England clergyman.
- John Philipps, 1st Viscount St Davids (1860–1938), politician.
- Henry Wansey (1751–1827), woollen manufacturer and traveller.
Warminster was the location for a number of UFO sightings during the 1960s and 1970s. The first sighting was recorded by Arthur Shuttlewood on 25 December 1964 and he compiled a dossier of further sightings over the following year before giving it to the Daily Mirror to publish. The Daily Mirror's story gained the town some notoriety for UFO sightings, including a BBC documentary in 1966, several books published on the sightings, a 2009 conference on UFOs and a 2015 mural.
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Other places named Warminster: