Great Bedwin in 1843
Great Bedwin is in the hundred of Kinwardstone, 72 miles from the General Post-office, London, by the Great Western Railway to Reading, and thence by Newbury, Hungerford, and Cross Ford. Great Bedwin was a place of note in the Anglo-Saxon period, and has in its neighbourhood an earthwork called Chisbury Castle, said to have been formed or strengthened by Cissa, a Saxon chieftain in these parts, though some think that Cissa’s fortification was on ‘Castle Hill,’ south of the town, on which extensive foundations of walls have been discovered. A fierce battle between Wulfhere, king of Mercia, and Escuin, or Escwin, king of Wessex, was fought near Bedwin, A.D. 695. The borough, which is co-extensive with the parish, sent members to parliament in the time of Edward I, but was disfranchised by the Reform Act. The parish of Great Bedwin has an area of 10,420 acres, and contained, in 1831, 357 houses inhabited and 1 uninhabited, with a population of 486 families or 2,191 persons : three-fifths of the population were agricultural. The town consists principally of two streets, crossing each other at right angles. The church is built of flint in the form of a cross, with nave, chancel, and transept : the nave is apparently of Norman architecture, the chancel of Early English character. The church contains numerous monuments, some of them very ancient : among them is one of Sir John Seymour, father of Jane Seymour, queen of Henry VIII. There is an ancient market-house, but the market is discontinued. There are two yearly fairs. The borough is not noticed in the Municipal Reform Act. The living of Great Bedwin is a vicarage, of the clear yearly value of £212, locally in the rural deanery of Marlborough, in the archdeaconry of Wilts, in the diocese of Salisbury, but in the peculiar jurisdiction of the dean of Salisbury. The parish had, in 1833, thirteen day-schools of all kinds (one of them endowed), with 145 scholars, giving about one in fifteen of the population under instruction in the week ; and three Sunday-schools, with 120 children ; giving only one in eighteen of the population under instruction on Sunday.