Articles tagged with: John Britton

The Beauties of John Britton

on Wednesday, 27 January 2021. Posted in Wiltshire People

John Britton antiquary and topographer was born on the 7th July 1771 in Kington St Michael near Chippenham. He is best known for the books ‘The Beauties of England and Wales’ (1801) and ‘The Beauties of Wiltshire’ (1825).

John Britton by John Wood (1801-1870) Wikicommons, National Portrait Gallery

He was the eldest of ten children brought up in a small cottage with one downstairs room, which was used as both parlour and kitchen. His father was the village baker and shopkeeper.

At sixteen he was apprenticed to a London wine merchant. He would visit when time permitted a Mr Essex, a literary dial painter who lent him books. He was also introduced to his future partner Mr Edward Brayley.

After ill health he left his apprenticeship and to get away from poverty he became a cellarman, clerk to a lawyer and recited and sang songs at a small theatre.

His literary career began when he became acquainted with a publisher producing work on the topography of Wiltshire and was commissioned to complete it with his friend Edward Brayley.

He died on January 1st 1857 and is buried in West Norwood Cemetery in London.

After his death, his library of topographical and antiquarian books was acquired, leading to the formation of the Wiltshire Archaeological and National History Society. Wiltshire Museum have a cabinet that he owned containing his books and papers.

The Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre also hold many of Britton’s works, including his autobiography published in 1850, ref. XBR.921.

Sue Tuersley, Library Assistant at Chippenham Library

Forget Bath Spa… Taking the waters at Melksham

on Monday, 08 June 2015. Posted in Wiltshire Places

Some of the country’s towns and cities are renowned for their waters; Bath Spa, Cheltenham Spa and Leamington Spa to name but a few, but you may be surprised to know that Wiltshire had its own fair share of mineral springs and wells. Thirty one places in the county had water which contained minerals thought to contain curative properties: Biddestone, Box, Braydon, Broughton Gifford, Chippenham, Christian Malford, Clyffe Pypard, Cricklade, Crudwell, Dauntsey, Draycot Cerne, Heywood, Highworth, Holt, Kington St. Michael, East Knoyle (Upton), Limpley Stoke, Luckington, Lydiard Tregoze, Melksham, Poulshot, Purton Stoke, Rodbourne Cheyney, Rowde, Seend, Sheldon, Somerford (probably Great Somerford), Swindon, Trowbridge, West Ashton and Wootton Basset – wow, what a list! The vast majority of these sites are found at the junction of two or more geological formations.

The craze for spas first appeared in the late 17th to mid 18th century, with a revival towards the end of the 18th to the middle of the 19th century. In Wiltshire only four sites could be considered fashionable enough to be called spas; Holt, Box, Melksham and Purton. I shall be taking a look at Melksham Spa which became established around 1813. The water was discovered to have medicinal properties after a bore had been sunk in c. 1770 by individuals looking to find coal. Its properties were examined by Dr Gibbes of Bath and were described as ‘chalybeate’. Melksham Spa had hot and cold private baths specially created for those who wished to take the water. Advertisements claimed the waters could cure many ailments with the top cures being for skin diseases, running sores, and scrofulous ailments. In 1815 another bore was dug to search for an additional saline source, a valued medicinal property of spa water. The contents were also found to contain lime and magnesia.

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