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Chippenham in 1836

CHIPPENHAM, a parish, parliamentary, and municipal borough, and market town, in the hundred of Chippenham, Wiltshire, on the Bristol Avon, 86 miles west from London. The parish contains about 6,900 acres, being upwards of six miles in length from east to west, and varying in breadth from one to two miles. The parliamentary borough, which returns two members, was extended under the Reform Act, and includes the parishes of Chippenham, Hardenhuish, and Langley Burrell, and an extra-parochial district which was formerly the forest of Chippenham. The population of the parish in 1821 was 3,506 ; in 1831, 4,333 : of the extended borough, in 1831, 5,270. The population of the town is estimated at about 1,700. Under the Corporations Reform Act, the municipal borough has four aldermen and twelve councillors, but is not divided into wards.

Chippenham is an ancient town, but it was not incorporated till the reign of Mary. Its name is derived from its market, for which it has been long famous. The Avon is not navigable for several miles below Chippenham ; but a branch of the Wilts and Berks canal is brought into the town from a distance of about two miles, by which a considerable trade, principally in coals, is carried on. A great traffic also arises from the town lying on the London and Bristol and Bath road. The great western railway will pass within a quarter of a mile of the market-place.

The market has recently been changed from Saturday to Friday, and a handsome building, called the Market-House, (over which is an extensive room, used for public meetings), has been erected by Joseph Neeld, Esq., at present (1836) one of the members for the borough. There is a monthly market for the sale of cattle and cheese : four annual fairs, for cattle and horses, are also held ; and during the present year (1836) wool fairs have been established.

The town has recently been lighted with gas and paved, under an Act obtained in 1834. With the exception of some very dilapidated buildings in the centre of the town, the houses are generally well built, either with freestone or brick.

There are two manufactories, one for woollens, and the other for silks, at present at work : the latter is of recent establishment, but the former has been for many years the staple fabric of the town : the number of manufactories in that branch was formerly considerable, but for several years their number declined, and has been now reduced to one.

A savings’ bank was established in 1822, which, on the 20th of November, 1835, held the sum of £22,521. A literary and scientific institution has recently been set on foot.

A court of requests, for the recovery of debts not exceeding 40 shillings, is held here every six weeks ; its jurisdiction extends over the hundreds of Chippenham, Damerham North, and Calne. The living of Chippenham is a vicarage, with the rectory of Tytherton Lucas annexed, in the gift of Christ Church, Oxford. In addition to the church, (a venerable Gothic edifice, almost in the centre of the town), Chippenham contains four chapels, not connected with the establishment.

A bridge over the Avon, and certain causeways in the, neighbourhood, are kept in repair by the corporation, who some years since widened the bridge at a considerable expense ; it is well paved and lighted.

A free school, for the education of twelve poor children, is (with other charities) under the management of the corporation ; the stipend allowed to the master by the foundation is £5, 15 shillings per annum, with a residence. There is a daily and Sunday school for poor children (which is well attended), in connexion with the National School Society, and there are also Sunday schools in connexion with the various dissenting chapels. A trifling endowment for a Sunday school for the instruction of girls in the principles of the church of England was left in the year 1724, by the Rev. Robert Cock, vicar of the parish, who, by his will, gave the whole of his property to trustees for that purpose. A monument is erected to his memory in the chancel of the church. There are several other charities.

Some mineral springs have been found in the vicinity of Chippenham.

The ancient abbeys of Stanley and Lacock are within three miles of Chippenham ; the former is converted into a farm-house, but the latter has fallen into the hands of the Talbot family, who have preserved, and made it their family seat.

The ancient forest of Chippenham and Pewsham is destroyed, although the latter place is still provincially called ‘the Forest,’ and the roads leading from it to the town retain the names of Wood Lane and Timber Street.

A union, under the Poor Law Amendment Act, has been formed of Chippenham and twenty-eight surrounding parishes, comprising a population, according to the census of 1831, of 19,265 persons, and an area of 56,371 acres.