Famous People Connected to Wiltshire
Image right - John Constable
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King Athelstan (c893/894-939) Also known as the Glorious, Athelstan was the first king of all England in 937 when the country became unified. He reigned from 924/925-939. He was the son of Edward the Elder and grandson of Alfred the Great and crowned on 17th July 925 in Kingston-Upon-Thames. He oversaw the translation of the bible into English and reformed the currency. He is buried in Malmesbury Abbey – a place he strongly supported. The exact burial place is not known.
- Lord Bath (1932) The flamboyant Lord Bath is also known as Alexander Thynn (born Thynne). He is resident at Longleat House and is an artist, author and politician. He is well known for his polyamorous lifestyle, calling his lovers ‘wifelets’. He is the 7th Marquis of Bath.
- Sir Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) Famous designer and fashion and portrait photographer Cecil Beaton lived in Ashcombe House on the Wiltshire/Dorset border from 1930 where he entertained guests such as Salvador Dali. In 1948 he designed the fabric Ashcombe Stripe, named after the house. The lease expired in 1945 and he left the house. He moved to Reddish House in Broad Chalke where he died at the age of 76.
- William Beckford (1750-1844) William inherited the Palladian mansion at Fonthill on the death of his father (then the richest merchant in England) in 1770. He wrote the eastern romance ‘Vathek’ in French (which was published in England in 1786). In 1796 he commissioned James Wyatt and started the Gothic abbey which was built using Chilmark stone. The work was never finished but was far enough along in 1800 for Nelson to be welcomed at the estate for a celebration of his victory at the battle of the Nile. The tower collapsed in 1825, two years after Beckford had sold up.
- Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry, VC (1979) Soldier Johnson Beharry was awarded a Victoria Cross in 2005, the highest military honour, for twice saving members of his unit from ambushes during the Iraq war. He sustained serious injuries. Beharry is the first living recipient to be awarded the VC since 1965. At the time of the award he was a private with 1st Battalion the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, based in Tidworth. He was born in Grenada.
- Christopher Biggins (1948) - actor and media personality. He is well known for his performances as a pantomime dame and for his spell on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. He has also had regular appearances playing the part of Lukewarm in Porridge and Adam Painting in Rentaghost and he has appeared on Some mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em with Michael Crawford, Poldark and I, Claudius. He moved to Salisbury from Oldham in Lancashire. He participated in local drama groups and landed a job at the Repertory Theatre. The family owned Middleton Motors. His father Bill was a well known face in Salisbury and ran an antique shop in Castle Street followed by a bric-a-brac business in Pennyfarthing Street (and later Winchester Street).
- James Blunt (1974) The musician James Blunt was born James Hillier Blount in an army hospital in Tidworth in February 1974. He joined the army after training at Sandhurst and left in 2002 to pursue his musical career. He was support to Elton John before the release of his debut single High. He achieved international success with the song You’re Beautiful which got to number 1 the UK singles charts. His debut album Back To Bedlam was very well received and he was named Best New Artist in 2005 at the Q Music Awards.
- John Bush OBE (1937) John Bush is the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, a title he has held since 2004. His background is in farming. He was awarded the OBE in 2004 for services to the community in Wiltshire.
- Will Carling OBE (1965) The English rugby union player was born in 1965 in Bradford-on-Avon. He captained England to three grand slam wins in 1991, 1992 and 1995 and was captain of England from 1988-1996.
- Sally Clark (1964-2007) Solicitor Sally Clark was the victim of a miscarriage of justice when she was convicted of killing her two sons in 1999. The conviction was overturned in January 2003 but Sally never recovered from the experience and died from alcohol poisoning in March 2007. She was born in Devizes and educated at South Wilts Grammar School in Salisbury. Her father Frank Lockyer was a senior police officer with Wiltshire Constabulary.
- Eddie Cochran (1938-1960) Born Ray Edward Cochran, American rock and roll star Eddie Cochran was famous for his rockabilly songs such as C’mon Everybody. Whilst on his British Tour, he had a road traffic accident on the A4 in Chippenham which led to his death.
- John Constable (1776-1837) The romantic painter is famous for his painting The Hay Wain (1821). His paintings of Wiltshire include View of Salisbury (c1820), Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishops’s Grounds (c1823), commissioned by the Bishop, Old Sarum (1829), Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (1831) and Stonehenge (1835).
- Michael Crawford (1942) born Michael Patrick Dumbell Smith in Salisbury. The comedy actor is famous for playing Frank Spencer in the television series Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em. He is also a singer and starred in musicals such as Billy and won an Olivier Award for his performance of the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. He received an OBE in 1988.
- Dave Dee (1941-2009) Dave Dee (born David John Harman) was a pop musician and vocalist from the 1960’s band Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch. He was born in Salisbury and went to Adcroft School, Trowbridge. After leaving school he became a police cadet with the Wiltshire Constabulary. In 1962 he became a professional musician. The band was formed with four friends from Wiltshire: Trevor Leonard Ward-Davies (Dozy), John Dymond (Beaky), Michael Wilson (Mick) and Ian Frederick Stephen Amey (Titch). They were originally called Dave Dee and the Bostons. Their most famous song is The Legend of Xanadu (released in 1968) which reached number one in the UK singles chart.
- Paul Di’Anno (1958) Born Paul Andrews, singer Paul Di’Anno he was the first vocalist to record with the heavy metal band Iron Maiden (1978-1981). He was fired from the band and formed Di’Anno (1983-1985) followed by Gogmagog (1985) and then Battlezone (formerly Strike). He lives in Salisbury.
- Diana Dors (1931-1984) born Diana Mary Fluck in Swindon. She was an actress and the English equivalent to the Hollywood blonde bombshell. Films include Yield to the Night (1956) and Deep End (1970). She died on 4th May, 1984.
- Ian Fleming (1908-1964) Author and creator of James Bond. He is buried in the parish church of St. James’s, Sevenhampton, near Swindon. He was buried on 15 August 1964 – just one month before the Sean Connery blockbuster ‘Goldfinger’ came out in the cinemas. His final resting place is near Warneford Place, the country house that bought with his wife Anna in 1959.
- Joseph Fiennes (1970) - Actor, the youngest of six siblings, born in Salisbury and went to Swan School for Boys (now Leehurst Swan School). At 11, he continued his studies at Bishop Wordsworth’s School. Film roles include William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love and Martin Luther in Luther.
- William Golding (1911-1993) William Golding is best known for his novel Lord of the Flies (1954). He won the Nobel Prize for Literature and in 1980 won the Booker Prize for literature for his novel Rites of Passage. He was also a poet and playwright. Golding grew up in Marlborough and his father was science master at Marlborough Grammar School. Golding himself taught at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury from 1940 (a post he resigned from in 1961). Golding lived in Salisbury but moved to Bowerchalke in 1958 where he is now buried in the village churchyard.
- Phil Harding (1950) archaeologist famous for his appearances on the popular channel 4 series Time Team. Phil still works with Wessex Archaeology. He was brought up in Wiltshire and attended Marlborough Royal Free Grammar School. He currently lives in Salisbury and is also a keen musician, frequently playing alongside other musicians in Wiltshire.
- Edward Heath (1916-2005) Edward Heath, commonly known as Ted, was Prime Minister from 1970-1974. A conservative politician, he was leader of the party from 1965-1975. Heath was defeated by Margaret Thatcher and returned to the backbenches. Heath was also a world class yachtsman. He lived at Arundell’s in the cathedral Close in Salisbury and died of pneumonia in 2005. His ashes are interred in Salisbury Cathedral.
- George Herbert (1593-1633) George Herbert was the rector of St Andrew’s church, Bemerton, and a metaphysical poet and scholar. He was related to the Herberts, the Earls of Pembroke of Wilton House and was a friend of Francis Bacon. He was known in Bemerton as Holy Mr Herbert. In 1933 a stained glass window was added to the church. It is the West Window and one of the characters depicted is George Herbert (the other is Nicholas Ferrar (executer of Herbert’s will and publisher of his poems). A cross on the north wall of the church also commemorates Herbert. For more about George Herbert, visit www.georgeherbert.org.uk/
- William Herbert, 18th Earl of Pembroke (1978) Lord Pembroke is the only son of the late 17th Earl of Pembroke. He studied industrial Design at Sheffield Hallam University and lives in Wilton House with his wife Victoria and daughter Alexandra. He is also president of the Stars Appeal ( a charity raising money for Salisbury District Hospital).
- Richard Hill (1973) A flanker for the England rugby team, Richard was part of the England squad for the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup. He started his rugby career at Salisbury Rugby club and attended Bishop Wordsworth’s Grammar School in Salisbury. Hill played his last game for Saracens with a 25-20 win over Bristol on 11th May 2008.
- Douglas Hurd (1930) Born in Marlborough, the conservative politician was secretary to Edward Heath. He has held the positions of Secretary of State, Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. He also writes political thrillers.
- Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon (1609-1674) Born in Salisbury, Edward was grandfather to Mary II and Queen Anne. He was chief advisor to the exiled Charles II. In 1660 he was made Baron hyde of Hindon and in 1661 he was made Earl of Clarendon. Edward eventually fell out of favour with the king and fled to France. He died in exile in Rouen but his body was returned to England where it was buried in Westminster Abbey.
- Robert Key (1945) Robert Key is a conservative party politician and was MP for Salisbury for 27 years and was a minister in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major. Each time he was re-elected, Key serenaded the people of his constituency from the balcony of the White Hart Hotel in Salisbury.
- Phil Lynot (1949-1986) Phil was lead singer of the Irish hard rock band Thin Lizzy (best known for their songs Jailbreak, Whiskey in the Jar, and The Boys Are Back in Town). On Christmas day he was admitted to Salisbury Hospital with a serious liver and kidney infection after a drink and drug binge at his Surrey home (he was admitted to Salisbury’s intensive care unit following a referral from a Wiltshire specialist drugs clinic). Phil subsequently died in hospital.
- Madonna (1958) Madonna, born Madonna Louise Ciccone is an international pop star. She moved to Ashcombe House on the Wiltshire-Dorset border with her then husband, film maker Guy Ritchie. Ashcombe is a Georgian Manor House on Cranborne Chase in the parish of Berwick St John. It is also the former home of photographer Cecil Beaton.
- Melinda Messenger (1971) Former model and glamour girl Melinda was born in Swindon in 1971. She moved from glamour girl to television presenter in 1997 where she appeared on Channel 4’s Eurotrash. Messenger has also appeared on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and Shooting Stars.
- David Michell (1974) Comedian and actor David Mitchell is one half of Mitchell and Webb (Robert Webb). The pair are famous for Peep Show and That Mitchell and Webb look. He was born in Salisbury to hoteliers Ian and Kathy.
- Thomas Moore (1779-1852) The national poet of Ireland moved to Sloperton Cottage near Bromham in 1817. He was great friends with the poet Byron and is remembered as the person who destroyed Byron’s memoirs to stop them being published. He is buried in the churchyard at Bromham.
- Desmond Morris (1928) Born in Purton in February 1928, Desmond was an ethologist, zoologist and anthropologist. He was educated at Dauntsey’s School in West Lavington. He was head of the film unit and curator of mammals at the Zoological Society of London. His most famous work is The Naked Ape (1967). The book looks at the animal like qualities of humans and our similarity with the great apes.
- The Very Reverend June Osborne (1953) June Osborne is the first woman to serve as Dean at any of England’s medieval cathedrals. She is currently Dean of Salisbury Cathedral. She was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Wiltshire in 2006.
Arthur Uther Pendragon (1954) Born John Timothy Rothwell the eco campaigner and neo-druid changed his name by deed poll to Arthur Uther Pendragon. He was crowned raised Druid King of England in 1998. He is known for his battles with English Heritage to allow legal entry to Stonehenge for the summer and winter solstice. In 2000, full public access was granted for these events. Arthur also stood for election in Salisbury in 2010 as an Independent candidate.
- Billie Piper (1982) Born in Swindon as Lianne Paul Piper, Billie started her career as a pop singer, later turning to acting. She was the youngest ever artist to debut at number one in the UK singles chart which she achieved with Because We want To. Her most famous acting role is as Rose Tyler in Doctor Who. She was married for 6 years to DJ Chris Evans.
- Sir Terry Pratchett (1948) Sir Terry Pratchett is best known for his Discworld series of comic fantasy novels. He was the best selling UK author of the 1990’s. In 1998, Pratchett was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) “for services to literature” and was knighted in the 2009 New Year Honours. He has lived in a village near Salisbury since 1993.
- Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) Dr Priestly was a chemist, clergyman and philosopher. He lived in Calne from 1772-1779 and he was the librarian at Bowood House and literary companion to the first Marquis of Landsdowne. The laboratory at Bowood is the actual place where, on 1st August 1775 he discovered oxygen by separating the element from mercury oxide by focusing the sun’s rays through a magnifying glass to heat the substance.
- Guy Ritchie (1968) Guy Ritchie is probably best known for directing Brit films such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and Revolver. He lived at Ashcombe house on Cranborne Chase with his then wife, Madonna.
- Shelley Rudman (1981) Skeleton star Shelley comes from Pewsey. She won silver in the 2006 Winter Olympics and was the only British medal winner at the games.
- Vikram Seth (1952) Vikram is an Indian novelist, travel writer, poet,biographer and memoirist. He lives near Salisbury in the former home of poet George Herbert and can often be seen at literary and cultural events. His travel writing includes “From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet” and it won him the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award.Novels include “The Golden Gate” (1986), “A Suitable Boy” (1993) and An Equal Music (1999).
- Jane Seymour
- Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall
- Rosemary Squires, MBE (1928) Singer Rosemary started out with TV jingles and sang the Fairy Liquid ‘Hands That Do Dishes’ which ran for 40 years. She made her first broadcast aged just 12. Rosemary was brought up in Salisbury and married Frank Lockyer, father of Sally Clark. She flourished as a Big Band singer and has topped the bill at the London Palladium. She was awarded the MBE in 2004 for services to music.
- Sting (1951) Born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, Sting was lead singer, principal writer and bassist for The Police. He has also enjoyed a solo career. Sting owns several houses including Lake House, and Elizabethan country manor near Salisbury. He was awarded the CBE and also has 16 Grammy Awards and an Oscar nomination for best song.
- Arthur George Street (1882-1966) Arthur Street was a farmer and writer. He wrote about the countryside and is best remembered for Farmer’s Glory (1932) and Strawberry Roan – a novel about a cow that was later made into a film. He was also a columnist for Farmer’s Weekly and a prolific radio broadcaster.
- William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) Fox Talbot lived in Lacock and was a pioneer of photography. His picture of the latticed window in Lacock Abbey (taken in 1835) is the earliest known paper negative in existence. He was an accomplished scientist and a member of the Royal Society. In 1831 he represented Chippenham as a Whig in the reformed parliament of 1832.
- Percy Toplis (1896-1920) Murderer Percy Toplis killed cabbie Sidney George Spicer on Thruxton Down. He was also an imposter and served time for attempted rape. He was part of the Royal Army Service Corps and was based in Bulford. After the murder, Toplis went to London, but as the net closed in he fled to Monmouth, Wales, (formerly England), and then to Scotland. He then travelled to Cumbria where he was finally shot dead. He is buried in an unmarked grave in Penrith.
- Hannah Twynnoy (c1670-1703) Hannah was a servant at the White Lion Inn, Malmesbury. She has the unfortunate claim to fame of reputedly being the first person in Britain to be killed by a tiger. A travelling circus arrived at the inn and Hannah unwisely taunted the captive tiger which managed to catch her and tear her to pieces. A memorial stone can be found in Hullavington Church.
- Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) Architect born in the old rectory at East Knoyle. He is most famous for designing buildings in London after the Great Fire of 1666 (including the beautiful St Paul’s cathedral) but he also recommended to his friend Bishop Seth Ward that the spire of Salisbury Cathedral be strengthened. The design Farley church in Wiltshire may have been influenced by Wren because he knew both the builder and the sponsor.