Discoveries from the Deverills Part 1- Setting the Scene
When you drive through the Deverill Valley what do you see? Villages that are strung like beads on the common thread that is the Deverill stream. Last week I gave a talk about some of the wonderful buildings discovered during the Victoria County History investigation into the Deverill Valley, south of Warminster, part of the former West Wilts area. Hitherto-unrecorded historic fabric of good-quality timber-framed houses was found dating from c1500. Prosperity at that time would have translated into lasting assets such as the farmhouses and cottages that made up the villages, as well as the churches.
The villages themselves are made up of low stone and brick cottages, some thatched, some tiled, tucked away in their plots or set in rows along the edge of the road. All have been modified by time to the appearance you now see.
When a building is more than a hundred years old you can bet that it will have undergone a major change at least once a century. By that token can you judge a book by its cover? When buildings are listed the Heritage officer concerned will look at the outside to make a judgement. If they are lucky they might be invited in to see the interior before they do that. In the Deverills there were obviously a lot of people out that day, otherwise they might have changed their minds.
To set the scene: from a study of Wiltshire in the later Middle Ages by John Haremediev Salisbury was noted as one of the great late-medieval cities. In 1377 it was the 6th largest provincial town in the country, with a thriving economy based on wool and grain derived from its hinterlands. Some of the documented villages that supplied Salisbury included both Monkton and Longbridge Deverill.
In the 1390s Wiltshire was the second largest producer of wool in the country, with exports going out through Southampton. The 1377 Poll tax shows that Longbridge Deverill had an extensive rural industry at that time, with Warminster replacing Mere as a local centre for the cloth trade in the C14/C15 and in the C16. My next blog will concentrate on the individual houses that the clothiers built for themselves.
Principal Buildings Historian, Wiltshire Buildings Record