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Calne in 1836

CALNE, a parish, borough, and market-town in Wiltshire, in the hundred of Calne, 87 miles W. from London, on the Bristol road. It derives its name from being situated on a river called the Calne or Marden, which, after passing through the town, falls into the Avon. The parish contains about 8,000 acres, and the population in 1831 amounted to 4,795. The new parliamentary borough includes the parish and also those portions of other parishes which are surrounded by the parish of Calne. It returns one member to parliament ; before the passing of the Reform Act it had returned two members from the 23rd of Edward I, with a few occasional interruptions. The municipal borough at present extends no farther than the old parliamentary borough did, not including the whole of the town.

This place is of remote antiquity ; many Roman remains have been found in the neighbourhood, particularly in the hamlet of Studley, which was a Roman station. The West Saxon kings had a palace at Calne, and an hospital of black canons existed here. In 977 a synod was held here for adjusting the differences between the monks and the secular clergy, at which the celebrated Dunstan presided : the floor of the room gave way, and the whole assembly fell with it except Dunstan, whose preservation was attributed to the miraculous interposition of Providence on the behalf of the cause which he advocated. Calne is described in Domesday Book as ‘Terra Regis,’ and is called ‘Cauna.’

The church is a large, lofty, and handsome edifice, well pewed, and lighted in a very superior manner with gas : it exhibits many different orders of architecture, having been built at various times. The tower, which stands at the N. side of the church, and contains a peal of eight deep-toned bells, is remarkable for the beauty of its proportions : it was built by Inigo Jones after 1628, in which year the tower and spire standing on the transept of the church fell. The living, which is a vicarage, with the chapelries of Cherhill and Berwick Bassett annexed, is in the presentation of the treasurer of the cathedral church of Sarum, and is in the peculiar jurisdiction of the dean of Sarum, it was one of the churches first given up by Bishop Oswald to the above cathedral on its foundation in the reign of William Rufus, and is rated in the king’s books at £8, 5 shillings. The present average net income, according to the Ecclesiastical Revenues’ Report, is £769. The Marquis of Lansdowne is the lay impropriator. There are places of worship for various denominations of dissenters.

The town has lately been much improved, particularly by the introduction of gas, with which the streets are well lighted : the houses are substantially built with stone, which is found here in abundance. The public buildings, besides the church, are the town-hall, which was repaired a few years since by the Marquis of Lansdowne, and given by him to the corporation : and the boys’ school, a commodious and ornamental Gothic building, erected by subscription in 1829. The public schools are the grammar-school, founded in 1660 by John Bentley, Esq., to which are attached two exhibitions in Queen’s College, Oxford, given by Sir Francis Bridgman, Knt., in 1730 ; the Boys’ British and the Girls’ National Schools, supported by subscription, and Sunday schools for adults and children. A savings bank was established in 1816, and on November 20th, 1835, the amount standing in the names of 498 depositors was £17,669. A court of requests for the recovery of small debts is held every six weeks. The manufactures are broad cloth and kerseymeres. A branch of the Wilts and Berks Canal comes up to the town. The market is held on Tuesday, and the fairs are on May 6 and September 29. The air is salubrious, and the views of the adjacent country are very fine. At Cherhill, about three miles E. of the town, is the figure of a white horse, 157 feet in length, remarkable for the symmetry of its proportions, cut in the chalk down about the year 1780 under the direction of C. Allsup, Esq., surgeon. Bowood, the delightful residence of the Marquis of Lansdowne, is about a mile W. of the town.