Warminster (/ˈwɔːrmɪnstər/) 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, on the western edge of Salisbury Plain. 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.[2]

Warminster- some town-centre shops (geograph 2025490).jpg
Market Place, Warminster
Warminster is located in Wiltshire
Location within Wiltshire
Population17,490 (in 2011)[1]
OS grid referenceST875455
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townWarminster
Postcode districtBA12
Dialling code01985
FireDorset and Wiltshire
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
51°12′18″N 2°10′52″W / 51.205°N 2.181°W / 51.205; -2.181Coordinates: 51°12′18″N 2°10′52″W / 51.205°N 2.181°W / 51.205; -2.181


Early historyEdit

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.[3]

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.[3]


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.[4]

Civil warEdit

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 £81,954 in 2019) worth of damages by supporting the Roundheads.[3]

Post-medieval prosperityEdit

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.[3] 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.[5]

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.[3]

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.[3]

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 £80,173 in 2019) 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.[3]

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.[3]


Warminster falls within the parliamentary constituency of South West Wiltshire[6] and there are two levels of local government:

The town is divided into four wards: 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.[7]


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.[5]

Climate data for Bath (Nearest climate station to Warminster)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7.6
Average low °C (°F) 1.9
Average rainfall mm (inches) 82.5
Source: Met Office[8]

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.[9]


The Domesday survey of 1086 recorded 104 households,[10] 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.[3]

Historical population of Warminster
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Population 4,932 4,866 5,612 6,115 6,211 6,285 5,995 5,786 5,640 5,563 5,547
Year 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011
Population 5,492 5,387 5,176 7,660 9,860 13,554 15,089 16,267 17,377 17,490

Census: 1801–2011[1]


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.[3]

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.[11] At the same time its malting trade declined but remained important.[3] In 1855, William Morgan commissioned the Warminster Maltings, now the oldest working maltings in Britain.[12][13]

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.[3] One example was the Woodcock Ironworks, set up by John Wallis Titt in the town in the mid-1870s to make agricultural machines.[5]

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.[5]


Warminster has a library, museum, theatre, eleven halls and a number of pubs.[14] There are many festivals and events held annually within the area including Warminster festival, a vintage bus run and heritage open days.[14]

The town is twinned with Flers, France.[15]


Warminster Park

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.[16][17]

The town has the Athenaeum, an 1858 Grade II listed building, originally a literary institution and now a theatre and arts centre.[18] Facilities at the Lakeside Pleasure Grounds include tennis courts and a boating lake;[19] they were opened by Thomas Thynne, 5th Marquess of Bath, in 1924.[20]

Military presenceEdit

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[21] and Headquarters Infantry, which was formed in 1996 and is responsible for the recruiting, manning and training policy of the Infantry.[22]


Warminster is at the junction of two primary routes, the A36 and the A350, which both now bypass the town to the south and east. There is a service area where the two roads meet.[23] The A303 is about 7 miles (11 km) south of the town, and junction 17 of the M4 is 22 miles (35 km) to the north.

Warminster railway station, opened in 1851, is managed by Great Western Railway.[24][25] The station is on the Wessex Main Line and has regular services to Bristol, Cardiff, Southampton and Portsmouth; London Paddington can be reached via Westbury, and London Waterloo via Salisbury.

Religious sitesEdit

The Minster Church of St Denys

Warminster has several churches[26] including the Church of St Denys,[27] the Chapel of St Lawrence,[28] Christ Church,[29] the Church of St John the Evangelist[30] and Warminster Baptist Church[31] which are listed buildings. It also has St George's Roman Catholic Church.[32]


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[33] and the Warminster Table Tennis Club.[34] The West Wilts Hockey Club has origins dating back to 1899[35] and as of 2016 has 13 adult teams.[36] The architect John Henry Taylor designed the town's Elm Hill golf course in 1891.[37]

Warminster Town Football Club began around 1878 and the site at Weymouth Street was renovated and expanded in the 1990s;[38] 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.[39] 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.[40]

More recent additions have been the Warminster Sports Centre run by Wiltshire Council,[41] the Warminster Running Club,[42] the Warminster Adventure Sports Club,[43] and the Wessex Blades Fencing Club.[44]


Warminster has several primary schools, one middle school[45] and two secondary schools. These include Warminster School, an independent public school which was founded in 1707,[46] and Kingdown School which became an academy in 2011.[47] Nearby Bishopstrow College prepares international students for boarding school.[48]

Public servicesEdit

Wessex Water supplies the town's water and sewage services,[49] with water hardness in the town centre reported as 250 mg/l.[50] The Distribution Network Operator for both electricity and gas is SSE plc.[51]

The town is served by the Warminster Community Hospital, under the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust[52] (which does not have an Accident and Emergency department, the nearest being at the Royal United Hospital in Bath)[53] while ambulances are provided by the South Western Ambulance Service.[54]

The town comes under Wiltshire Police's jurisdiction,[55] with a police (and SWAS ambulance station) located prominently in the centre of the town, on Station Road. Warminster Community Policing Team (CPT) are responsible for the town[56] (and surrounding smaller towns and villages). However, as of August 2019, there are plans to move the police station to a former Wiltshire College campus at The Avenue (near the fire station) as the Police and Crime Commissioner described the Station Road building as "dilapidated and not fit for modern policing".[57] [58]

Warminster Police Station from Station Road

As of June 2020, the CPT consists of:

The Ministry of Defence Police and Royal Military Police are occasionally to be seen passing through the town, as Warminster Garrison and the Salisbury Plain training area are policed jointly by all three police organisations.

Warminster has a fire station (The Portway, Warminster, BA12 8QE) and its retained firefighters are provided by Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.[64] They respond to emergencies when alerted by their pagers.[65]

Warminster Community Fire Station and engine (2010)

Notable peopleEdit

Cultural referencesEdit

UFO historyEdit

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,[73][74] a 2009 conference on UFOs[75] and a 2015 mural.[73]

See alsoEdit

Other places named Warminster:


  1. ^ a b "Wiltshire Community History – Warminster Census". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  2. ^ Warminster Online, Accessed July 2007, online
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Warminster: Introduction". A History of the County of Wiltshire. London: Victoria County History. 8: 90–96. 1965. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  4. ^ Mills, A. D. (2011). A dictionary of British place names (Revised ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 484. ISBN 9780199609086.
  5. ^ a b c d "Wiltshire Community History". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Wiltshire South West". BBC News. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  7. ^ "Growing Town, Growing Services" (PDF). Warminster Town Council. 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  8. ^ "Warminster climate". Met Office. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  9. ^ "Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 maps of Great Britain, sheet ST84". National Library of Scotland. 1958. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  10. ^ Warminster in the Domesday Book
  11. ^ "Warminster". Warminster Museum. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  12. ^ Wiltshire Magazine, Oct/Nov 2011, pages 44–45
  13. ^ "History: The spiritual home of malting barley". Warminster Maltings Limited. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  14. ^ a b Holt, Shona. "Joint Strategic Assessment for Culture: Warminster Community Area" (pdf.). Warminster and Villages Community Partnership. p. 2. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  15. ^ "Westminster Town Website, Wiltshire, UK". Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  16. ^ "Longleat Safari Park". Tourist Information UK.
  17. ^ "Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire".
  18. ^ "Athenaeum (Warminster)". The Theatres Trust. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  19. ^ "Doomsday Reloaded: Lake Pleasure Park, Warminster". BBC. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  20. ^ Danny Howell, Warminster And District Archive No.4, May 1990
  21. ^ "Infantry & Small Arms School Corps Weapons Collection". Ministry of Defence. 26 July 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  22. ^ "Headquarters Infantry". Ministry of Defence. 26 July 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  23. ^ "Warminster Services". Motorway services online. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  24. ^ Oakley, Mike (2004). Wiltshire Railway Stations. Wimbourne: The Dovecote Press. pp. 138–140. ISBN 1-904349-33-1.
  25. ^ "Warminster (WMN)". National Rail Enquiries. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  26. ^ "Warminster: Church". A History of the County of Wiltshire. London: Victoria County History. 8: 117–124. 1965. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  27. ^ "Parish Church of St Denys (The Minster Church), Warminster". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  28. ^ "A brief history & notes of interest". The Chapel of St Lawrence, Warminster. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  29. ^ "Christ Church, Warminster". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  30. ^ "Church of St John the Evangelist, Warminster". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  31. ^ "Baptist Church, Warminster". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  32. ^ "Wiltshire Community History: Roman Catholic Church of St George, Warminster". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  33. ^ "About Warminster Cricket Club". Warminster Cricket Club. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  34. ^ "About the club: History of the Warminster table tennis club". Warminster Table Tennis Club uk. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  35. ^ "Club history". West Wilts Hockey Club. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  36. ^ "Team information: West Wilts Hockey Club". West Wilts Hockey Club. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  37. ^ "Welcome to West Wilts Golf Club". West Wilts Golf Club: Established 1891. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  38. ^ "Warminster Town Club History". Waminster Town FC. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  39. ^ "History". Warminster and District Amateur Swimming Club. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  40. ^ "Warminster Rugby Club: A Potted History and its future aims". Warminster RFC. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  41. ^ "Warminster Sports Centre". Places for people. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  42. ^ "Home". Warminster Running Club. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  43. ^ "EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE WASC". Warminster Adventure Sports Club. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  44. ^ "Wessex Blades | Home of the Warminster fencing club". www.wessexblades.co.uk. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  45. ^ "Schools in Warminster, Wiltshire". All the schools. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  46. ^ "A brief history of Warminster School". Warminster School. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  47. ^ "Our school". Kingdown School. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  48. ^ "The College". Bishopstrow College. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  49. ^ "About us". Wessex Water. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  50. ^ "Water quality". www.wessexwater.co.uk. 23 December 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  51. ^ "Power and gas suppliers in Warminster". Find Energy. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  52. ^ "Great Western Hospital". Care Quality Commission. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  53. ^ "Urgent care results for Warminster, Wiltshire". NHS Choices. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  54. ^ "Welcome to SWASFT". South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT). Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  55. ^ "Warminster". Police UK. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  56. ^ https://www.wiltshire.police.uk/article/5435/Warminster-Area-CPT
  57. ^ https://www.wiltshire-pcc.gov.uk/article/4877/PCC-submits-plan-for-new-police-station-in-Warminster
  58. ^ https://www.wiltshiretimes.co.uk/news/17847848.police-plot-move-new-station-former-wiltshire-college-campus-avenue-warminster/
  59. ^ https://www.wiltshire.police.uk/article/5436/Local-Officers-for-Warminster-Area-CPT
  60. ^ https://www.wiltshire.police.uk/article/5436/Local-Officers-for-Warminster-Area-CPT
  61. ^ https://www.wiltshire.police.uk/article/5436/Local-Officers-for-Warminster-Area-CPT
  62. ^ https://www.facebook.com/WarminsterPolicingTeam/photos/pcb.1598678923622582/1598678373622637/?type=3&theater
  63. ^ https://www.wiltshire.police.uk/article/5436/Local-Officers-for-Warminster-Area-CPT
  64. ^ "Warminster". Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  65. ^ https://www.dwfire.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Warminster-Station-Info-sheet-v0.1.pdf
  66. ^ Grosart, A. B. (2004). "Aldridge, William (1737–1797), Independent minister". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/316. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  67. ^ Parkinson, David (2004). "Bartholomew, Frederick Llewellyn [Freddie] (1924–1992), actor". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/57356. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  68. ^ Brent, Lesley (2006). "Billingham, Rupert Everett [Bill] (1921–2002), immunologist". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/77375. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  69. ^ Cowie, Leonard W. (2004). "Buckler, Benjamin (1716/17–1780), antiquary". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3862. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  70. ^ Goodwin, Gordon (2004). "Huntingford, Henry (1787–1867), classical scholar and Church of England clergyman". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/14240. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  71. ^ Moss, Michael (2004). "Philipps, John Wynford, first Viscount St Davids (1860–1938), financier and politician". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35507. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  72. ^ Jeremy, David (2004). "Wansey, Henry (1751–1827), woollen manufacturer and traveller". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28668. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  73. ^ a b Goodman, Kevin (20 May 2010). "The mystery of Warminster's 'UFO'". BBC Wiltshire. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  74. ^ Austin, Jon (2 September 2015). "UK town 'invaded by UFOs and eerie noises that killed flocks of birds and stopped cars'". Express. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  75. ^ Ashford, Victoria (1 September 2009). "Warminster UFO conference seeks the truth". Wiltshire Times. Retrieved 3 September 2016.

External linksEdit