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History of Great Wishford, Salisbury UK

The village predates the Norman conquest in 1066, the written name changing over the years from Wicheford (Ford where wych-elms grow) or Witford to Willesford Magna in the mid-16th century and by the early 17th century it was known as Wishford Magna.

The single platform station at Great Wishford was opened on 30 June 1856, on the left side of trains travelling towards Salisbury. The line was doubled in 1901 and a second platform was then provided. The station was closed entirely on 19 September 1955.

Terry Waldron is researching the railway and more information can be found on his site

Wishford Magna and Oak Apple day pagan celebrations - its history in a nutshell

Roger Deakin, in his ‘Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees’ sketches the history of Great Wishford’s 1603 charter of rights to collect wood in the Royal Forest of Groveley, and the annual May celebration of Oak Apple Day. This requires the whole village ‘to go in a dance’ to Salisbury Cathedral.

The villagers legally protected their wood rights at court in 1292, 1318, 1332 and 1825 from landowners eager to use the wood for hunting. The Earl of Pembroke had the manor and wood enclosed in 1809, creating more restrictions that worsened the impact of the 1820s economic depression.

More disputes followed, leading in 1892 to the formation of the Oak Apple Club in the village, under the Labour banner ‘Unity is Strength’, to represent wood rights and customs and perpetuate the May celebrations. These involve pagan fertility and other rituals at the parish church and Salisbury Cathedral.

The acorn and oak tree motifs were part of the socialist and anarchist movements’ defence of liberties. Further disputes occurred in 1931 and 1933 and it wasn’t until 1987 that a new accord was reached allowing the villagers their full rights. The annual Oak Apple Day continues and is an apt reminder of legal victory.

The article below about the village is based on a book by Tim Garraway Jones on our village:

Most people associate the village with Oak Apple Day on May 29th, when villagers get up in the early hours to collect oak boughs from nearby woods. The occasion marks an ancient decree that allows residents to collect wood from Grovely Woods; the day includes a trip to Salisbury, dancing in the Cathedral Close, and brass band music back in the village.

But Oak Apple Day is only a part of the whole Great Wishford story.

Hunting knights

As Tim's book reveals, the village has a long and ancient history. He talks of knights passing through on their way to hunt in nearby forests and reveals the old hamlet of Grovely, complete with its own chapel.

A thousand years ago, Great Wishford was in the hands of the Abbess of Wilton. According to the Doomsday Book, the village then was no more than a hamlet called Wicheford. Tim's history of the village looks at how that ancient settlement eventually grew into a thriving community.

Photographs and maps

Photographs in the book show Great Wishford's Post Office and former bakery, the old village school and Sir Richard Grobham's Almshouses.

Old maps of the area reveal even more about Great Wishford's past - including the location of the infamous Powten Stone, with its supernatural connections. But what happened to the stone itself? Some villagers says they have distant recollections of its location but its never been found.

Tim Garraway Jones says he tried to do as much local research as possible. "Most of my work was done using books and maps from Salisbury Reference Library."

However, Tim spent a lot of his research time in the village, meeting local people and hearing their stories. "I spent a very pleasant morning rambling around the village talking to residents.

"Some of the work was done up on the downs, looking at earthworks and the woods at Grovely."

Great Wishford, The Making of a Wiltshire Village is part of Tim Garraway Jones' Buildings in the Landscape series. He recently published a similar booklet on the lost village of Imber up on Salisbury Plain.

This latest addition to the series is available from Waterlane Books, Fisherton Sreet, Salisbury and the village's Post Office and Stores. It is priced £5.99.

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