Brief History of Melksham Without
The parish of Melksham Without was created under the Local Government Act of 1894 which divided the ancient parish of Melksham into Melksham Within (the town or urban district council area) and the rural Melksham Without. Parts of Melksham Without, adjacent to the town, were subsequently transferred to Melksham Within in 1895, 1914 and 1934.
Melksham Without surrounds the town of Melksham on three sides – the northern, eastern and southern. The whole parish is mainly on Oxford clay where a mix of traditional small mixed and livestock farms, predominently dairy and pig farming have developed.
In the past, the three villages in the north; Beanacre, Shaw and Whitley were ancient centres of population. Whitley is mentioned in the Domesday book? The eastern part of the parish, bounded by the Avon to the west and the Semington Brook to the south, were part of the royal forest of Melksham whose bounds were first set in 1228. The borders of the forest changed over the centuries. For example, Rotteridge Wood was in the Forest in 1228 but just outside it in 1300. The forest supplied large numbers of fallow deer to provide the court with venison, timber and firewood were also supplied. Between Bowerhill and Seend there was an enclosed 'cowfold' for the King's cattle but other owners had to pay for pasturing their animals in the forest, although the poor did have common rights. From 1618 the area was cleared of forest and the land leased, often to people who were already occupying it illegally. From 17th
century onwards, scattered farmsteads developed.
In the south are two areas that were devoted to farming but were given over to military purposes in the 20th century. From 1940 until 1964 Royal Air Force Melksham was based at Bowerhill and houses were built at Berryfield. In 1970 Wiltshire Council purchased the land, and from 1974 onwards, Bowerhill developed into a large residential village with a thriving industrial estate. Berryfield too has become a separate village community.
The whole of the parish lies within the broad valley of the River Avon with the highest land being in the north at Shaw Hill (165 feet or 50.292 m) and to the north of Whitley (195 feet or 59.436 m). The south-west corner contains marshy land that was liable to flooding and which contains little settlement. The River Avon flows through the northern part of the parish, to the east of Beanacre, and a stream from Sandridge joins the river there. Another stream, the South Brook, flows from Shaw Hill into the Avon to the west of Melksham. The Semington Brook forms part of the southern boundary of the parish.
Click Here for a brief history of Beanacre
Click Here for a brief history of Berryfield
Click Here for a brief history of Bowerhill
Click Here for a brief history of Shaw
Click Here for a brief history of Whitley