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Church of St. Mary and St. Melor, Amesbury
Church of St. Mary and St. Melor, Amesbury Dating from the C12th, the church was much altered and extended over the years and in 1852-3 was restored by one William Butterfield, who intended to replace all features of the church later than C1400. This included the removal of nearly all of the furnishings. Some of these were returned when the church was structurally restored in 1907. Rod Allday / Church of St. Mary and St. Melor, Amesbury / CC BY-SA 2.0

Amesbury is an Ancient Parish and a market town in the county of Wiltshire.

Status: Ancient Parish

Other places in the parish include: West Amesbury and Little Amesbury.

Parish church:

Parish registers begin:

  • Parish registers: 1579
  • Bishop’s Transcripts: 1622

Nonconformists include: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Wesleyan Methodist.

Parishes adjacent to Amesbury

Historical Descriptions

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

AMESBURY, a small town, a parish, a subdistrict, a hundred, and a district, in Wilts. The town stands in the valley of the Avon, 4 miles NW of Porton r. station, and 7½ N of Salisbury. It was formerly called Ambrosbury, Ambresbury, and Amblesberie: and it probably derived its name from the ancient British chief Ambrosins Aurelins. It dates from a high antiquity; and was the meeting-place of a synod, in the time of king Edgar, for settling disputes between the regular and the secular clergy. A densely-wooded hill in its western vicinity bears the name of Vespasian’s camp, and is marked by military defences round an area of 39 acres, which are believed to have been first formed by the ancient Britons, and afterwards strengthened and held by the Romans. Stonehenge and the Cursus are only 1¼ mile beyond this hill; and several other ancient monuments are near. A monastery for 300 monks was founded at the town either by the British Ambrosins or by a contemporary churchman; and this was succeeded, about the year 980, by a Benedictine nunnery, founded by Queen Elfrida, on account of the murder of her son-in law, Edward, at Corfe Castle. The nunnery was converted by King Henry II. into a cell to the great convent of Font Everanlt in Anjou; became the retreat of several royal and noble ladies, particularly Mary, danghter of Edward I., and Eleanor, queen of Henry III.; and rose again to be an independent monastery, one of the richest non-mitred Abbeys in England. A noble mansion now occupies the site of the Abbey, and bears its name. This was the seat of the Duke of Queensberry, built by Webb, from designs by Inigo Jones, and subsequently improved by the Earl of Burlington; it was also the retreat of the poet Gay, where he wrote the Beggar’s Opera; and it passed, in 1824, to Sir Edmond Antrobus, Bart., and was afterwards in great measure rebuilt, and adorned with a Corinthian portico. The parish church belonged originally to the Abbey, was well restored in 1853, and contains rich features of the early pointed style. The town has fallen greatly into decay; but still possesses interest for sake of the attractions around it; and it has a post office under Salisbury, a hotel, a Methodist chapel, two free schools, and a workhouse. The two schools have an endowed income of £115; and other charities have £42. A weekly market was formerly held on Friday, but has been discontinued; and fairs are held on 17 May, 22 June, and 21 Dec. The immediate environs, along the Avon, are wooded and charming, while the country beyond is bleak and dreary, but celebrated for coursing. Prime pipe clay is sometimes found in diggings; and famous loaches are canght in the streams. The parish contains also the hamlet of Little or West Amesbury. Acres, 5,890. Real property, £7,490. Pop., 1,138. Houses, 229. The property belongs chiefly to the estate of Amesbury Abbey. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Salisbury. Value, £141. Patrons, the Dean and Chapter of Windsor. The sub district comprises eight parishes. Acres, 27,363. Pop., 3,756. Houses, 783. The hundred includes thirteen parishes, and parts of four other parishes. Acres, 35,832. Pop., 5,242. Houses, 1,104. The district comprehends the subdistrict of Amesbury, containing the parishes of Amesbury, Woodford, Durnford, Wilsford, Bulford, Durrington, Milston, and Figheldean; the subdistrict of Orcheston, containing the parishes of Orcheston-St. Mary, Orcheston-St. George, Tilshead, Shrewton, Maddington, Rolistone, and Winterbourne Stoke; and the subdistrict of Winterbourne, containing the parishes of Winterbourne-Gunner, Winterbourne-Dantsey, Winterbourne-Earls, West Cholderton, Newton-Toney, Allington, Boscombe, and Idmiston. Acres, 62,420. Poor-rates in 1866, £5,049. Pop. in 1841, 7,706; in 1861, 8,127. Houses, 1,723. Marriages in 1866, 41; births, 234, of which 18 were illegitimate; deaths, 129, of which 39 were at ages under 5 years, and 6 were at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 563; births, 2,536; deaths, 1,636. The places of Worship in 1851 were 24 of the Church of England, with 4,195 sittings; 2 of Independents, with 550 s.; 1 of Baptists, with 550 s.; 5 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 802 s.: and 2 of Primitive Methodists, with 130 s. The schools in 1851 were 21 public day schools, with 966 scholars; 9 private day schools, with 116 s.; and 24 Sunday schools, with 1,284 s.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales 1851

Amesbury, formerly Ambrosebury, or Ambresbury, and in Domesday-book, Amblesberie, a market-town and parish in the division and union of the same name, county of Wilts; 7½ miles north from Salisbury, and 78 west-south-west from London. It stands in a valley on the river Avon. Living, a perpetual curacy in the archd. of Wilts and dio. of Salisbury, in the patronage of the dean and chapter of Windsor; rated at £40; in the parliamentary returns at £80; gross income £141. The Wesleyan Methodists have a meeting house here. There is a National school supported by subscription; and three charity schools: one endowed by H. Spratt in 1708, for teaching an indefinite number of children to read; another for 20 boys, founded and endowed in 1677 by Mr John Rose; and a third established in 1819, out of funds left by the same John Rose, in 1677. The annual income of the first varies from £44 to £50; of the two latter, the yearly revenue is £54 5s. The only other charity connected with the parish is that of Richard Harrison, for apprenticing poor boys. Its annual income is £42. The town of Amesbury is of great antiquity. In the reign of King Edgar, a synod was convened here to settle disputes between the regular and secular clergy. According to Domesday-book, Amesbury was never assessed, nor divided into hides. There is little trade; even the market, which used to be held on Friday, has been discontinued. Fairs for horses, sheep, pigs, and horned cattle, are held on May 17th, June 22d, October 6th, and December 18th. The town is within the jurisdiction of the county-magistrates; constables, who are the only municipal officers, are appointed annually at the court-leet of the lord of the manor. The Amesbury poor-law union comprehends a district of 99 square miles, with a population returned, in 1831, at 7,084. The average expenditure on the poor of this district, during the three years preceding the union, was £4,445. Expenditure in 1838, £3,641. Pop., in 1801, 721 ; in 1831, 944. Houses 198. Acres 6,060. A. P. £5,710. Poor rates, in 1837, £621 It has been proposed to construct a new road from Amesbury to Kennet, which will form a connecting link between the Great Western and the Southampton and Salisbury railways. The best tobacco-pipe-clay in England is dug in the neighbourhood of the town; and the streamlets of the vicinity are famed for loaches. The surrounding country is fertile and well-cultivated. On the western side of the river there are traces of an ancient encampment, with a vallum and deep fosse, inclosing a space of 39 acres: this has been attributed to Vespasian, but is more generally supposed to be of British origin. “Here is said to have been an ancient British monastery for 300 monks, founded, as some say, by Ambrius an abbot; and others, by the famous Prince Ambrosius, who was therein buried, and destroyed by that cruel pagan, Gurmundus, (Gurthurm) who over-ran all this country in the 6th century. It has been thought that here was one of the two monasteries which were given to the learned Asserius by King Alfred. But it is more certain, that about the year 980, Alfrida or Ethelfrida, the queen-dowager of King Kdward, erected here a monastery for nuns, and commended it to the patronage of St Mary and St Melorius, a Cornish saint, whose relics were preserved here. It was of the Benedictine order; but, A.D. 1177, the abbess and about 30 nuns were expelled for their ill lives; and then King Henry II. placed here a prioress and 24 nuns, from Font Ebrald in Normandy, to which monastery this house was for some time subject, but at length was made denizen, and became again an abbey, endowed 26° Henry VIII. with £495 15s. 2d., Dugd.; £558 10s. 2d., Speed. This nunnery was surrendered, December, 1540, or 32° Henry VIII., by the abbess and 34 nuns, and granted in April following to Edward, earl of Hertford.” — Tanner’s Not. Mon. — Amesbury abbey was one of the richest and most celebrated of the non-mitred abbeys in England, and many distinguished females took the veil here at different times. A society of nuns, of the order of St Augustine, from Louvain in Flanders, took up their residence at a house which occupies a part of the side of the ancient nunnery, probably attracted by a notion ot the sanctity of the place; but they afterwards removed into Dorsetshire. Amesbury was the birth-place of Addison. Near the town is Amesbury-house, the once celebrated seat of the Dukes of Queensbury, built by Webb, from the designs of Inigo Jones, and subsequently improved by the Earl of Burlington. About 2 miles west from the town is the well-known Druidical structure, called Stonehenge: which see. There is a penny-post to Netheravon.

Source: The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales; A Fullarton & Co. Glasgow; 1851.

Leonard’s Gazetteer of England and Wales 1850

Amesbury, 78 miles S.W. London. Market, Fri. P. 1171

Source: Leonard’s Gazetteer of England and Wales; Second Edition; C. W. Leonard, London; 1850.

Illustrations

Directories

Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorsetshire and the Isle of Wight 1889

Administration

  • County: Wiltshire
  • Civil Registration District: Amesbury
  • Probate Court: Court of the Archdeaconry of Salisbury
  • Diocese: Salisbury
  • Rural Deanery: Amesbury
  • Poor Law Union: Amesbury
  • Hundred: Amesbury
  • Province: Canterbury