Cotley Hill

Parish of Heytesbury, Imber, Knook and Tytherington




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Heytesbury, Knook & Tytherington Villages

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Village Life


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The village of Heytesbury is a very ancient one.  It is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Hestrebe, but Sir Richard Colt Hoare of Stourhead, wrote in 1824 in his “History of Modern Wiltshire and the Hundred of Heytesbury” employed in the compiling of the Domesday Book softened the rough Saxon Hestredesbirig into Haseberie.  The late Lord Heytesbury wrote “John Britton” writing in 1814, gives Haresbury as a variation in use.  In the last century Heytesbury was often pronounced ‘Hettsbury’.

Houses of historical interest are Heytesbury House which stands on the medieval mansion of east court.  This was the house that Walter, Lord Hungerford was repairing and enlarging when arrested on a charge of treason, he was beheaded by King Henry VIII.  The house was seized by the King, and the commissioners reported that the mansion surrounded by a moat would have been suitable for the King to occupy if the alterations had been completed.  The house continued in semi-derelict condition until the 17th century when the Ashe family purchased it. [see]  The Ashe à Court family partly transformed the house in 1820 by the addition of a south facing facade.  The house remained in the Ashe à Court family until 1926.  It was then purchased by Siegfried Sassoon just after 1926, [see] Siegfried occupied Heytesbury House until 1967, Siegfried's son the late George Sassoon lived in it until 1994 when it was sold and divided into several apartments.

The Prebend House, known as Parsonage Farm at one time constituted a manor belonging to the Dean of Sarum in his capacity as Dean of Heytesbury.

The almshouses established in the 15th century better known as the Hospital of St. John were founded by Sir Walter Hungerford but he died before their completion, and this was accomplished by the widow of Sir Walter’s second son Robert, who married Margaret, the daughter and heiress of William, Lord Botreaux. This building was Margaret’s greatest memorial.  See

In the middle of the High Street there stands one of the curious little “blind houses”, an octagonal building with stone-tiled roof containing a dome, in which many years ago, offenders were locked up by the village constable.  This was restored in 2007.  Sarah Buttenshaw recorded the project in words and photographs, click on the link - click here to open

Wiltshire Family History Society  have produced a booklet [check out the website for prices] Heytesbury Parishioners 1771-1785; 1879-1883  fascinating.  Parish Registers up to 1837 available before the end of 2009

William Cunnington (1754-1810) buried in Heytesbury Churchyard - read about this "pioneer archaeologist" article reproduced with the kind permission of British Archaeology [September October 2009 - pages 41-43] [Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Paul Everill]

Knook is about a mile east of Heytesbury.

Many of the weavers and cloth workers of Heytesbury lived in Knook, the  population in 1831 - 282;  in 1951 - 544.  Today there are about 25 houses and cottages.  There used to be two farms, but today there is only one working farm, the other farm buildings were carefully converted to six houses and the land sold to an adjoining enterprise.  Knook Horse Hill and Knook Down are both in East Farm lands.

The Manor House, on the banks of the river Wylye, between the river and the church, is a Tudor building of stone with gabled ends, gabled porch and stone mullioned windows and, since its restoration, is a very attractive house. This was restored in 1924 by Mary Esther Crichton-Maitland and Margaret Crichton-Maitland.  The two sisters bought Knook Manor and lived there until 1961.

In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Knook like this:

KNOOK, a parish, with a village, in Warminster district, Wilts; on the river Wiley, the Old Ditch way, and the Somerset and Weymouth railway, 1 mile SE of Heytesbury r. station. Post town, Heytesbury, under Bath. Acres, 1, 440. Real property, £1, 342. Pop., 208. Houses, 46. The property belongs chiefly to Lord Heytesbury. Knook Castle is an ancient single ditched entrenchment, of about 2 acres; is supposed to have been originally a British village, and afterwards a Roman summer camp; and has yielded Roman coins.

Extracted from

Tytherington is a small village and former civil parish in Wiltshire, in the south west of England. It is situated near the A36, near Warminster, and by the River Wylye. Most of it is now part of the civil parish of Heytesbury, Imber and Knook, but a few houses are within the parish of Sutton Veny. Marked only on large-scale maps, it lies to the west of Sutton Veny and to the south of Heytesbury.

This little village, consisting of one short street has always been part of the parish of Heytesbury.  Over a century ago the population was about 180 working in Heytesbury in the weaving industry.

Kindly reproduced with permission from  'Wiltshire County Council Libraries and Heritage'.

Imber is the ghost village of the Salisbury Plain. Kelly’s directory for 1939 tells us it has an ancient church and a Baptist Chapel, that it has an area of 3,052 acres and in 1931 its population was 152. It also says that the soil is flinty, the subsoil chalk and that the chief crops are wheat, oats, barley and pasture. Ominously it also records that the principal landowner is the War Office.

Although there is evidence of prehistoric and Roman settlement in the area, the first documentary mention of Imber is in 967, when it was part of an endowment to the Abbess of Romsey. It is mentioned in Domesday as being held by Ralph of Mortimer, but this probably only referred to that part of the village not held by Romsey Abbey. It has been estimated that the population at that time was about 50. By 1377 the population had risen to 250, probably remaining at that level till the nineteenth century. By 1801 it had risen to 331, by 1851 it had reached a peak of 440. Then it commenced a decline, to 339 in 1881, 261 in 1901, till by 1931 there were just 152 inhabitants.

Imber was a community dependent upon agriculture. Those who were not directly employed on the land were in trades dependent upon it. The decline in population is also reflected in a decline in activity. The directory of 1867 lists 6 farmers, a tailor (and shopkeeper), a miller (and Innkeeper), a boot and shoemaker and a blacksmith (and shopkeeper). Whereas the 1939 directory lists 4 farmers, a smallholder, an innkeeper, a carpenter and a blacksmith.

The village was in quite an isolated position, sheltering in a fold in the downs some four miles from the nearest village. It was elongated in shape, its main street following the course of a stream known as “Imber Dock”. The only building still more or less intact is the church. This was described in the 1939 directory as “an ancient and beautiful stone building of various dates, mainly in the decorated and perpendicular styles. It has an embattled western tower with five pinnacles and containing five bells”. The description of the interior mentions the effigies of two knights (now to be seen in Edington church). The Baptist chapel, built in 1839, is also mentioned (this was demolished some time ago and only the graveyard remains). Besides a number of substantial farmhouses, the main building of note was Imber Court. This was the manor house, rebuilt in the eighteenth century, burnt down in 1920 and subsequently restored. Refreshment was supplied by the Bell Inn.

From the late nineteenth century military manoeuvres had been held on parts of the Salisbury Plain and in 1897 the War Office began purchasing land in the South East of the plain. The first world war and after saw and increase in the need for such land and between 1927 and 1932 the War Office purchased a substantial part of the north and west of the plain. This included most of the village of Imber and its inhabitants became tenants of the military. In the Second World War the need for training areas intensified, especially in the preparations for D-Day. On the 1st November 1943 the tenants were given just 47 days notice to quit. Many of them left believing that they had been promised a return after the war. This was not to happen, it has been a training area ever since. Much of the old village has since disappeared. In a final irony the army has built a mock village, for training purposes, on the edge of the old one.