Westbury

Westbury is in Wiltshire, one of the south-western counties of England, and is bounded by Gloucestershire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Dorset and Somerset.

The town of Westbury is a small town that lies not far from its famous White Horse hill-carving at the western extremity of Salisbury Plain.

The ancient parish of Westbury was one of the largest in Wiltshire. Its 10,000 acres ran from Heywood to Dilton and from Chapmanslade to Bratton. The town was located in the centre. The rising of several springs, notably Bitham and Wellhead, provides a good supply of water and influenced the location of the settlement here.

Its name derives from West Burgh, presumably the fortified place in the west of the county.

In 1086 the Domesday Book, the earliest documentary reference to Westbury, describes an estate of about 5,000 acres, previously held by Edith, wife of the Saxon King Edward the Confessor, but now William I. Its population was probably in the region of 600.

The medieval town developed in the areas now bounded by West End, Edward Street, Bratton Road and Alfred Street. A borough was established to create a trading centre based on a weekly market and annual fair granted in 1252 and added to in 1291.

Ecclesiastically Westbury was, until the mid 19th century, a ‘peculiar’ parish, unusual in that instead of being under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Salisbury it was managed first by the precentor or chantor of Salisbury Cathedral who was overseen by the Dean of the Cathedral.

Westbury was an important centre in the production of high-quality cloths for which the west of England was renowned throughout the world. The town prospered as a result until the mid 19th century when more cheaply produced lower grade cloths from northern England provided competition. Angel Mill and Bitham Mill, however, continued in operation until 1969.

The railway brought economic benefits to the town in its own right but why was the station placed so far from it? The main reason being the need for easy gradients and minimal earthworks. The direct line from London to Westbury and onto Taunton was not built until 1901.

The pattern of employment in Westbury has changed considerably in the last hundred years. The traditional industries of woollen manufacturing, gloving and iron ore production have been replaced by over 200 businesses ranging from single occupancy to larger organisations mostly based on the West Wilts Trading Estate . Most resident wage earners, however, work outside the town.