From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present


Coat Of Arms

Old Sarum Cathedral


Wiltshire is a county in the south west of England. Wiltshire is characterised by its high downland and wide valleys. Rich in prehistoric antiquities. The stone age is represented by a number of flint and stone implements. Stonehenge, with its circles of giant stones, and Avebury, with its avenues of monoliths leading to what was once a stone circle, surrounded by an earthwork, and enclosing two lesser circles, are the largest and most famous megalithic works in England and indeed Europe.

A valley near Avebury is filled with immense sarsen blocks, resembling a 'river of stone', and perhaps laid there by prehistoric architects. There are also menhirs, dolmens and cromlechs. Surrounded as they were by forests and marshy hollows, it is clear that the downs were densely peopled at a very early period. Circles, formed by a ditch within a bank, are common, as are grave-mounds or barrows. Bones, ash, tools, weapons and ornaments have been dug up from such mounds, many of which contain kistvaens or chambers of stone. The lynchets or terraces which score some of the hillsides are said to be the work of primitive early farmers and agriculturists. Ancient strongholds are scattered over the county.

There are many signs of the Roman rule. Wansdyke or Wodens Dyke, one of the largest extant entrenchments, runs west for about 60 miles from a point east of Savernake, nearly as far as the Bristol Channel, and is almost unaltered for several miles along the Marlborough Downs. Its date is uncertain; but the work has been proved, wherever excavated, to be Roman or Romano-British. It consists of a bank, with a trench on the north side, and was clearly meant for defence, not as a boundary. Forts strengthened it at intervals. Bokerley Dyke, which forms a part of the boundary between Wiltshire and Dorset, is the largest among several similar entrenchments, and has also a ditch north of the rampart.

In the Civil War of the 17th century Wiltshire actively supported the parliamentary cause, displaying a spirit of violent anti-Catholicism, and the efforts of the Marquess of Hertford and of Lord Seymour to raise a party for the king met with vigorous resistance from the inhabitants. The Royalists, however, made some progress in the early stage of the struggle, Marlborough being captured for the king in 1642, while in 1643 the forces of the Earl of Essex were routed by Charles I and Prince Rupert at Aldbourne. In the same year Sir William Waller, after failing to capture Devizes, was defeated in the Battle of Roundway Down nearby. In 1645, the Clubmen of Dorset and Wiltshire, whose sole object was peace, systematically punished any member of either party discovered in acts of plunder. Devizes, the last stronghold of the Royalists, was captured by Oliver Cromwell in 1645. In 1655 a rising organized on behalf of the king at Salisbury was dispersed in the same year.