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  • Steve Dewey

From Warminster to Chilmark, the Old Way

By Steve Dewey

A recent post on the Warminster and District Memories Facebook page brought to my attention milestones in Sutton Veny and Tytherington that show the distances between Warminster and Chilmark. I was intrigued. It had never struck me before that a route to Chilmark would be so important that it warranted its own milestones, and certainly not more important than other local routes.

Photo by Maigheach-gheal on Geograph, reused under Creative Commons license

Milestones on the route might indicate the route was turnpiked, but I can find no evidence for it. The milestones were made sometime in the 1840s by the Warminster-based Carson and Miller foundry. That the milestones were made at that time implies that the route was important until at least the middle of the 19th Century.

To get to Chilmark from Warminster now would involve you in various peregrinations. One possible route is to head to Wylye, then over Wylye Down, down into Dinton and on to Chilmark. Another possibility would be to get on the A303 at Wylye, and head towards Mere until you reach the Chilmark turning on the left. There is, currently, no direct route – at least by motor vehicle. By foot, horse or pushbike, it's a different story, as we'll see below.

These milestones, then, presented me with two riddles. What was the route of the road? And why was the road with milestones to Chilmark and not, say, Teffont Magna?

A look at the current Definitive Rights of Way map for Wiltshire indicates a possible route. In fact, most of the "hidden" route is currently a (restricted) byway, which indicates it was once the established "road" to Chilmark, rather than a footpath.

The route heads of Warminster east through Boreham where it turns onto the road to Wylye and Wilton. It then heads through Bishopstrow, Sutton Veny and Tytherington (where the final milestone stands) and onto Corton. Just before it reaches Corton, however, the current road bends to the left and carries on to the village, while the route to Chilmark branches off to the right.

The byway heads over Barrow Hill, Corton Hill, and Boyton Down. At Sherrington Down the route meets the crossing of many old roads and tracks; on the Andrews and Dury Map of 1773, this junction is named the Upper Cross Ways.

The Upper Cross Ways, where roads from Sherrington, Codford, and Tytherington meet

(Note, the black spot in the middle of the Cross Ways is, I believe, a pond known as Sherrington Pond, which no longer exists on later maps.)

In the map below, the B-road from Tytherington to Corton and onto Wylye is shown in black. The route I believe to be the road to Chilmark is shown in yellow. Also marked is the location of the Upper Cross Ways.

The road to Chilmark (in yellow) and the B-road to Wylye (in black)

At the Upper Crossways, however, the route shown on the Andrews and Dury Map diverges from the route shown on the later Ordnance Survey and the Definitive Rights of Way maps.

The Upper Cross Ways, shown on the Andrews and Dury and the Definitive Rights of Way maps

The Definitive map shows the current route of the byway in red. Note that at some point after Andrews and Dury mapped it, the road that ultimately heads towards Teffont Magna has been rerouted to cut diagonally up the incline and provide a gentler slope, before it curves back to catch the old road. Only further on does this route jink south to head towards Chilmark. The diagonal way up Stockton Down is shown nicely in a LIDAR image. Note that the original straight way up the incline also remains on the later OS map, and can also be seen on the LIDAR image.

LIDAR image of roads at the Cross Ways and up the slope of the Down

On the Andrews and Dury map there is a more natural and direct route (marked in yellow) that heads for Chilmark. This older way "flows", as it were, and leads your eye more obviously to the village. This track is still shown on maps subsequent to the Andrews and Dury map; it just seems to have fallen out of favour. Perhaps the road cutting diagonally up the slope after Park Bottom made the road easier to use, whether you were going to Chilmark or Teffont Magna. Or perhaps the parish was only willing to maintain one way.

You can see the entire route from the Upper Cross Ways at the end of this page.

The question now is: why Chilmark? As I noted earlier, why not milestones to Teffont Magna? The chapter on Chilmark in the Victoria County History for Wiltshire has a section on the roads in the parish, but a road to Warminster is not included in it. The Victoria County History does, however, provide some hints as to why a route to Chilmark might be important.

Firstly, Chilmark stone was an important product of the area, and was used in building. It should be noted, however, that the trade in Chilmark stone was decreasing by the time the milestones went up.

Secondly, there was a fair held in July every year from at least the 17th Century, when sheep were traded there. In the 18th Century, clothes were traded, while in the 19th Century there were both horse and sheep fairs. The fair was abolished, however, in 1874.

Finally – and perhaps more importantly – Chilmark seems to have been a rich and productive agricultural area. Perhaps the road was used to drive animals to markets in Warminster and beyond.

Still, I will note that Teffont Magna also had access Chilmark stone and shared the rich agricultural land, so the question "why Chilmark?" still hangs in a thought bubble above my head.

Yet even though that question remains unanswered, this has been an intriguing journey on another "lost" road in hidden Wiltshire.

The old versus the new(er). Before the Upper Cross Ways and below Stockton Wood the route is the same. Between the Upper Cross Ways and the wood, however, the route has changed and parts of it lost from subsequent maps.


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