Purton is a village and civil parish in Wiltshire. The civil parish includes the village of Purton Stoke and the hamlets of Bentham, Hayes Knoll, Restrop and Widham.
The village is a linear settlement along the old road between the historic market towns of Cricklade to the north and Royal Wootton Bassett to the south. Purton is on a minor road from the B4553 and from junction 16 of the M4 motorway. It is northwest of the centre of Swindon
Purton is on the brow of a hill, with views across to Cricklade and the Thames floodplain. Nearby, Bradon Forest stretches out to Minety in the west.
Village amenities include several shops, a sub-post office, a library, public houses and restaurants, a GP's practice, dentist, and veterinary surgery. The village has grown such that its retailers are not all concentrated in one centre. A few shops are on the main road at the junction with Pavenhill, and a few are around the bend in the road near the Village Hall.
The Church of England parish church of Saint Mary the Virgin is unusual in having a tower at each end, one of which has a spire. It is one of only three parish churches in England with both a spire and another tower. The other two are at Wanborough and Ormskirk.
There are currently two schools in Purton:
- St. Mary's Church of England Primary School is the local infant school. It is split between two sites. Infants are taught in the original Victorian building which opened in 1861; juniors in the buildings further up College Road which opened in the 1970s, along with the school's swimming pool.
Bradon Forest School is the secondary school. It was built in 1962 and caters for pupils from Purton parish, Lydiard Millicent, Cricklade, Ashton Keynes and West Swindon. The school has no sixth form, so students go on to either Wootton Bassett Sixth Form, Cirencester College, Swindon College or New College, Swindon.
Until 1978 Purton Stoke had its own primary school. It opened in 1894; and at its peak had 100 pupils. However, numbers dropped continually from the 1930s when older pupils were educated in Purton, until there were only around 30 pupils left in the 1970s. The school closed in 1978. The building is now used for the Jubilee Gardens Project and is situated on the Purton to Cricklade road.
There are four Wiltshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves in the parish:
Brockhurst Meadow is at the end of Brockhurst Lane, just below Ringsbury Camp. Brockhurst Meadow is a rushy hay meadow with signs of Ridge and furrow farming. Wildlife includes many wildflowers of wet meadows: ragged robin, sneezewort, meadowsweet, marsh thistle, common spotted orchid, heath spotted orchid, adder's-tongue fern, sedge species and the insects which feed on them such as the Marbled White butterfly. .
Blakehill Farm, partly in Purton parish, is the former RAF Blakehill Farm airfield from the Second World War. Its grasslands are habitat for mammals including roe deer and brown hare, birds including kestrel, skylark, wheatear, whinchat and stonechat and butterflies include Small Copper and Brown Hairstreak. The Trust bought the site from the Ministry of Defence to form a large meadow of about , and opened it to the public in 2005. It rears a small quantity of organic grade beef, usually rare breeds such as Longhorn cattle. These cattle ensure grasses and other common plants do not begin to dominate over the other rarer plants. .
Stoke Common Meadows are at the end of Stoke Common Lane in Purton Stoke. Stoke Common Meadows consist of a small wood and grasslands, with ancient hedgerows and ditches. The meadows are habitat for many wildflowers including pepper saxifrage, sweet vernal-grass, heath spotted orchid, adder s-tongue fern (Ophioglossum), bugle, ox-eye daisy and common knapweed. Some of the fields are a Site of Special Scientific Interest. .
Red Lodge Pond is at the beginning of Red Drive in Braydon Wood, just off the B4042 road between Braydon Crossroads and Minety Crossroads. The reserve includes a large pond and a small meadow with a concrete platform in the middle: the remains of an old sawmill. Wildlife includes plants such as water horsetail, common spotted orchid; and woodland butterflies including Eurasian White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary. .
Restrop Farm and Brockhurst Wood is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is at the end of Mud Lane, or at the end of Brockhurst Lane but is mainly private land. Brockhurst Meadow is part of the farm.
There are three pubs in the parish:
- The Angel Hotel in the High Street is thought to be the oldest public house in the village. It was built in 1702.
- The Bell is Purton Stoke's only pub.
- The Royal George is the oldest pub in Pavenhill.
There are two members' clubs: The Red House Club on Church Street, and The Working Men's Club, now Purton Club on Station Road.
Several former pubs in Purton have closed:
- The Blue Pig was on Purton's boundary at the Brinkworth to Minety and Purton to Garsdon crossroads near to Ravensroost Wood. It closed a couple of decades ago.
- The Forester's Arms was next door to the Royal George in Pavenhill. It closed in 1904.
- Another pub called The Forester's Arms was situated on the parish boundary at Common Platt. It closed in 2010.
- The Fox Inn served the Fox area.
- The Railway Hotel was renamed the Ghost Train after British Railways closed Purton railway station in 1963. The pub closed in early 2008.
- The Hope Inn at the Collins Lane junction was closed in 1995 and is now the Elmgrove Saddlery.
- The Live and Let Live in Upper Pavenhill had the best views of any pub in the parish, looking over the Braydon area. It closed in 1967.
- The Mason's Arms was in the recently demolished house in Thompson's Garage in the Upper Square. It was a pub until 1945.
- The New Greyhound in Pavenhill. It closed in early 2008.
- The Queen's Arms was near the sub-post office in the High Street.
Purton in a copper engraving of about 1830
The toponym Purton is derived from the Old English pirige for "pear" and tun for "enclosure" or "homestead".
Ringsbury Camp has evidence of settlement during the Neolithic period but is considered to be an Iron Age hill fort dating from about 50 B.C. There is suggestion that the remains of a Roman villa lie under the soil at Pavenhill, on the Braydon side of Purton. At The Fox on the east side of the village, grave goods and bodies from a pagan Saxon cemetery have been excavated.
The earliest known written record of Purton dates from AD 796 when the Saxon King Ecgfrith of Mercia gave 35 hides from Purton to the Benedictine Malmesbury Abbey. The Abbot of Malmesbury continued to be the chief landlord of Purton throughout Saxon and Norman times, suggesting that an earlier church stood at Purton.
The current Church of England parish church of St Mary the Virgin appears at one time to have dedicated to Saint Nicholas. The surviving parish registers date from 1558 for Marriages and Burials and 1564 for Baptisms. There are some gaps between 1641 and 1647 which coincide more or less with the disruptions of the English Civil War.
There was a Friends' Meeting House at Purton Stoke in the parish during the late 17th century and early 18th century. Later there were two Methodist chapels belonging to different Methodist denominations. There was a Congregational chapel where the Scout Hut is now in the High Street; it was demolished in 1969. There was a Methodist church built opposite Dairy Farm in 1832 in Purton Stoke. It was demolished in 1868 and rebuilt in Pond Lane. It has been sold in 2011 and is now being converted for residential use.
It is thought a battle took place during the English Civil War in the Restrop area. A cannon ball was discovered in the area and several place names refer to a battle; including the alternative name of Restrop Road, Red Street (which may signify the road was covered in blood) and Battlewell. A mile away there is Battle Lake in Braydon Wood, and Battlelake Farm.
The Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway through the parish was opened in 1841 and was absorbed by the Great Western Railway in 1843. Purton railway station opened in 1841 and was actually at Widham. British Railways closed the station in 1963 but the line remains open through Purton railway station.
Second World War
There are a number of concrete pillboxes in the parish, which were part of the defences of southern England during the Second World War. They form a rough line, along which a deep trench also ran, between Ballards Ash near Royal Wootton Bassett and the River Ray near Blunsdon railway station. RAF Blakehill Farm, north of Purton Stoke, was a RAF Transport Command station that operated from 1944 until 1946. United States troops were stationed in Braydon Wood, and attended dances at the local dances in the Angel Hotel. Anti-tank devices (chains across the road, set in concrete blocks) were installed on the parish boundary across Tadpole Bridge that spans the River Ray. The Cenotaph on Purton High Street is a memorial to those who died in both World Wars.
In the Tudor period the Maskelyne family were significant landlords and landowners in Purton, having inherited rights granted by the last Abbot of Malmesbury Abbey to the Pulley or Pulleyne family, from whom they descended on the distaff side. The Reverend Dr Nevil Maskelyne (1732 1811) was appointed Astronomer Royal in 1765. The Maskelynes were involved in Purton life for more than four centuries from the 16th century. Nevil Maskelyne was born in London, lived at Down Farm and is buried in Purton churchyard. A Miss Maskelyne who lived in the village died in the 1960s aged over 100.
Hyde and Ashley-Cooper
The Royalist statesman and author Edward Hyde, who served as MP for the nearby Wootton Bassett constituency in the 1630s, lived at College Farm in the centre of Pyrton. It is likely that his daughter Anne Hyde, first wife of James II also lived here for a time. After serving Charles II during his years of exile under the Commonwealth and Republic, Hyde later became Lord Chancellor of England, was ennobled as Earl of Clarendon, and appointed Chancellor of the University of Oxford.
Hyde's Whig arch-rival, Sir Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, also had property in Purton parish. The Ashley-Cooper family also held the advowson of St. Mary's parish church.
By the late 19th century and into the early part of the 20th century, other local families had risen to the gentry level after becoming significant landowners in the parish. Among these was James Henry Sadler, Esq., D.L., J.P., (1843 1929) who, though a Purton native, lived in nearby Lydiard House in the neighbouring parish of Lydiard Millicent until his death. A strict but generous benefactor, Sadler gave the cricket ground and Working Men's Institute to the village. Described as the last unofficial Squire of Purton, his father was Dr Samuel Champernowne Sadler, F.R.C.S., of Purton. In 1859 or 1860 Dr Sadler had the Pump House built at Salt's hole, a natural mineral water spring used for medicinal purposes since the Middle Ages and possibly earlier. Under Dr Sadler and subsequent owners, attempts were made to develop this natural attraction as Purton Spa, and to market the spring waters for their healing qualities.
Genealogy and prosopography
A study of the interconnections of people within the parish, based on the registers and other historical evidence, since the earliest recorded period, is being prepared (2006) under the working title, The Plenteous Pear Tree: Pedigrees and Progress of Purton's People Past and Present, a parish prosopography of Purton, Wiltshire, with ramifications elsewhere in North Wilts. and beyond, under the auspices of Richard Carruthers- urowski, a Canadian-based, Oxford-trained historian and genealogist.
Victoria County history
The Victoria County History volume covering the hundreds of Cricklade and Staple, including Purton, is planned to be published within the next few years.
Sports and leisure
Purton has a Non-League football team Purton F.C. who play at The Red House,.
Purton Youth Football Club has teams ranging from under sevens to under eighteens. The club has gained FA Charter Club Standard and is affiliated to Wiltshire Football Association.
Purton has a tennis club, based in the centre of the village.
Purton has a cricket club, the oldest in Wiltshire founded in 1820.
People connected with Purton include:
Other prominent or long-established families
Other locally prominent, or gentry, families include those of Bathe, Canning, Hill, Carter, Digges, Ernle, Francome, Kemm, Langton, Martlewright alias Morse, Nanfan, Phillips alias Major, Plummer, Prower, Richmond (Richman), Sheppard, Stephens, Wykeham-Martin.
Old village names include Bunce, Cook, Gleed, Hayward, Holliday, Iles, Jefferies, Kibblewhite, Large, Moulden, Newth, Ovens, Rawlings, Shurmer, Telling, Warman, and Paish.
Sources & further reading