The Object of this project is to gather together information on historical or political people of Wiltshire and link them to profiles and trees on Geni. The exact format of the project is not written in stone and will evolve as research progresses.
Famous people with Wiltshire connections and individual Wiltshire families are listed on a sister project - People Connected to Wiltshire.
Wiltshire is notable for its pre-Roman archaeology. The Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age people that occupied southern Britain built settlements on the hills and downland that cover Wiltshire. Stonehenge and Avebury are perhaps the most famous Neolithic sites in the UK.
In the 6th and 7th centuries Wiltshire was at the western edge of Saxon Britain, as Cranborne Chase and the Somerset Levels prevented the advance to the west. The Battle of Bedwyn was fought in 675 between Escuin, a West Saxon nobleman who had seized the throne of Queen Saxburga, and King Wulfhere of Mercia. In 878 the Danes invaded the county. Following the Norman Conquest, large areas of the country came into the possession of the crown and the church.
At the time of the Domesday Survey the industry of Wiltshire was largely agricultural; 390 mills are mentioned, and vineyards at Tollard and Lacock. In the succeeding centuries sheep-farming was vigorously pursued, and the Cistercian monasteries of Kingswood and Stanley exported wool to the Florentine and Flemish markets in the 13th and 14th centuries. In the 17th century English Civil War Wiltshire was largely Parliamentarian. The Battle of Roundway Down, a decisive Royalist victory, was fought near Devizes.
Around 1800 the Kennet and Avon Canal was built through Wiltshire providing a route for transporting cargoes from Bristol to London until the development of the Great Western Railway.
With the redistribution of estates after the Norman Conquest more than two-fifths of the county fell into the hands of the church; the possessions of the crown covered one-fifth; while among the chief lay proprietors were
- Sheriff of Salisbury, Earl of Salisbury Edward d'Everaux
- 1st Earl, Sheriff of Wiltshire of Salisbury Walter FitzEdward d'Everaux
- William, Count of Eu,
- Ralf de Mortimer,
- Aubrey de Vere II,
- Robert Fitzgerald,
- Miles Crispin,
- Robert d'Oily
- Osbern Giffard.
The first Earl of Wiltshire after the Conquest was William le Scrope, who received the honor in 1397. The title subsequently passed to Sir James Butler in 1449, Sir John Stafford in 1470, Thomas Boleyn in 1529, and in 1550 to the Paulet family.
The Benedictine foundations at Wilton, Malmesbury and Amesbury existed before the Conquest; the Augustinian Bradenstoke Priory was founded by Walter d'Evreux in 1142; that at Lacock by Empress Matilda in 1154.
Of the forty Wiltshire hundreds mentioned in the Domesday Survey,
- Alderbury and
remain to the present day practically unaltered in name and extent;
Thorngrave, Dunelawe and Cepeham hundreds form the modern hundred of Chippenham;
Malmesbury hundred represents the Domesday hundreds of Cicemethorn and Sterchelee, which were held at farm by the Abbot of Malmesbury;
Highworth represents the Domesday hundreds of Crechelade, Scipe, Wurde and Staple;
Kingbridge the hundreds of Chingbridge, Blachegrave and Thornhylle;
Swanborough the hundreds of Rugeberge, Stodfnd and Swaneberg;
Branch the hundreds of Branchesberge and Dolesfeld;
Cawden the hundreds of Cawdon and Cadworth.
A noticeable feature in the 14th century is the aggregation of church manors into distinct hundreds, at the court of which their ecclesiastical owners required their tenants to do suit and service. Thus the bishop of Winchester had a separate hundred called Kurwel Bishop, afterwards absorbed in Downton hundred; the abbot of Damerham had that of Damerham; and the Prior of St. Swithins that of Elstub, under each of which were included manors situated in different parts of the county.
The inhabitants of Wiltshire have always been addicted to industrious rather than warlike pursuits, and the political history of the county is not remarkable, being affected only by events of national importance that affected most regions.
In 1086, after the completion of the Domesday Survey, Salisbury was the scene of a great council, in which all the landholders took oaths of allegiance to the king. and a council for the same purpose assembled at Salisbury in 1116. At Clarendon in 1166 was drawn up the assize which remodelled the provincial administration of justice. Parliaments were held at Marlborough in 1267 and at Salisbury in 1328 and 1384.
During the wars of Stephen's reign, Salisbury, Devizes and Malmesbury were garrisoned by Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, for the Empress, but in 1138 Stephen seized the bishop and captured Devizes Castle. In 1216 Marlborough Castle was surrendered to Louis by Hugh de Neville. Hubert de Burgh escaped in 1233 from Devizes Castle, where he had been imprisoned in the previous year.
In the Civil War of the 17th century Wiltshire actively supported the parliamentary cause, displaying a spirit of violent anti-Catholicism, and the efforts of the Marquess of Hertford and of Lord Seymour to raise a party for the king met with vigorous resistance from the inhabitants. The Royalists, however, made some progress in the early stage of the struggle, Marlborough being captured for the king in 1642, while in 1643 the forces of the Earl of Essex were routed by Charles I and Prince Rupert at Aldbourne. In the same year Sir William Waller, after failing to capture Devizes, was defeated in the Battle of Roundway Down nearby.
In 1645, the Clubmen of Dorset and Wiltshire, whose sole object was peace, systematically punished any member of either party discovered in acts of plunder. Devizes, the last stronghold of the Royalists, was captured by Oliver Cromwell in 1645. In 1655 a rising organized on behalf of the king at Salisbury was dispersed in the same year.
At the time of the Glorious Revolution, King James II gathered his main forces, altogether about 19,000 men, at Salisbury, James himself arriving there on 19 November 1688. His troops were not keen to fight William and Mary, and the loyalty of many was in doubt. The first blood was shed at Wincanton, in Somerset. In Salisbury, James heard that some of his officers, such as Edward Hyde, had deserted, and he broke out in a nose-bleed which he took as a bad omen. His commander in chief, the Earl of Feversham, advised retreat on 23 November, and the next day John Churchill deserted to William. On 26 November, James's daughter Princess Anne did the same, and James returned to London the same day, never again to be at the head of a serious military force in England.
Royalty and Landed Gentry
Sheriffs and High Sheriffs of Wiltshire
Please add those found on Geni here.
- Patrick of Salisbury, 1st Earl of Salisbury (c. 1122–1168) was an Anglo-Norman nobleman, and the uncle of the famous William Marshal.
Members of Parliament
In medieval times, the custom in Wiltshire as elsewhere was for Members called knights of the shire to be elected at the county court by the suitors to the court, which meant the small number of nobles and other landowners who were tenants in chief of the Crown. Such county elections were held on the same day as the election of the members for the boroughs. Thus we find it recorded that in the first year of the reign of Henry V, "at a full County Court held at Wilton, Twenty-Six persons chose the Knights for the County, and the same individuals elected Two Citizens respectively for New Sarum, Old Sarum, Wilton, Devizes, Malmesbury, Marlborough and Calne."
From 1430, the Forty Shilling Freeholder Act extended the right to vote to every man who possessed freehold property within the county valued at £2 or more per year for the purposes of land tax; it was not necessary for the freeholder to occupy his land, nor even in later years to be resident in the county at all.
Once the vote was no longer confined to the richest families in the county, voters quickly came to expect the candidates for whom they voted to meet their expenses in travelling to the poll and to entertain them when they got there. At the Wiltshire election of 1559, one of the candidates, George Penruddock, was Steward to William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke: at the close of polling, Penruddock invited all the voters, as well as his opponents and the Sheriff, to a dinner at Wilton House, Lord Pembroke's seat.
County elections were held at a single polling place. In the early period this would have been wherever in the county the Sheriff chose to hold the relevant county court, but eventually there was a fixed venue, at Wilton. Voters from the rest of the county had to travel there to exercise their franchise. A detailed account survives of how this worked in the mid-Tudor period, as there was litigation over a dispute at the election of 1559 in the Court of Star Chamber. At this election there were three candidates for the two seats, but it appears that the choice for one seat was unanimous. The other was contested between George Penruddock, the Steward to the Earl of Pembroke mentioned above and a member of the previous Parliament, and Sir John Thynne, who had previously represented boroughs in the county and who had just begun to build the great house at Longleat. The election proceeded by the Sheriff sitting in one place to take votes for Thynne, and his deputy sitting in another to take votes for Penruddock. There was no secret ballot at this period. Each side's agents watched the voting and had the opportunity to challenge the credentials of anyone they believed not to be a valid voter. Penruddock was the easy victor, but Thynne then challenged his election, claiming that many of his votes were invalid (which he had already had the chance to prove and had failed to do), and that Penruddock himself was ineligible, being neither resident in Wiltshire nor of sufficiently high social status to be a Knight of the Shire. These objections might have had more weight were he not already one of the sitting members. The Sheriff declared Penruddock elected, but afterwards Thynne's supporters quietly persuaded him to change his mind and gave him a bond for £300 to indemnify him against the consequences; he therefore sent in the return of election naming Thynne rather than Penruddock as duly elected. The size of the bond seems to have been finely judged, since when the Attorney General prosecuted the Sheriff in the Star Chamber he was fined £200 and Penruddock was awarded a further £100 in damages; but the Sheriff was also sentenced to a year's imprisonment.
18th and 19th century elections
As time went on, the treating at elections became more elaborate and more openly corrupt, and at the same time the size of the electorate expanded considerably. In the 15th century, the forty-shilling freeholders must still have constituted a very small number of voters, but social changes and rising land values both acted eventually to broaden the franchise. Those qualified to vote were still a fraction of total population: at the time of the Great Reform Act in 1832, Wiltshire had a total population of approximately 240,000, yet just 6,403 votes were cast in the county constituency at the 1818 election, the last general election at which there was a contested election in Wiltshire. This was nevertheless enough to put a substantial burden on the candidates' purses, making the cost of a contested election very high – a by-election in 1772 was said to have cost £20,000. Contested elections were therefore rare, potential candidates preferring to canvass support beforehand and usually not insisting on a vote being taken unless they were confident of winning; the county was contested at four of the six general elections between 1701 and 1713, but in all but one of the remaining twenty-three general elections until 1832, Wiltshire's two Members were elected unopposed. Wiltshire was a predominantly rural county, though the freeholders from the biggest towns (Salisbury, Trowbridge, Bradford-on-Avon, Westbury and Warminster) made up almost a fifth of the vote in 1818. It succeeded in remaining independent of any domination by the local nobility and generally chose members of the county's landed gentry as its members. Wiltshire was unusual in that by the 18th century it has formalised the process of picking its candidates to some degree, the decision being made by a body called the Deptford Club (named after the inn where it met). The club consisted of leading local members of both gentry and nobility and was said to have been in existence since 1729. Once the club had met in private and made its decision, the choice was ratified at a public meeting, and only on a small number of occasions did a disappointed candidate take the matter to a formal vote at the ensuing election. However, in the last half century before Reform, two rival clubs (the Devizes Club and the Beckhampton Club) took over the nominating function, and in 1812 an independent candidate, Paul Methuen, stood against one of the nominees of the clubs and defeated him.
Members of Parliament
- John de Vivonia - 1313
- Thomas Hungerford; MP: Wilts 1357, 1360, 1362, Jan 1376/7, 1380, 1383, 1386 and Jan 1392/3, Somerset 1378, 1382, 1388 and 1390, Wilts and Someset 1384 and Jan 1389/90
- Sir John Delamare 1376
- Sir Robert Corbet 1385, 1397
- Sir Ralph Cheyne 1378, 1386, 1388
- Sir John Dauntsey 1378, 1379,1381, 1382, 1388
- John Bettesthorne 1388
- Richard Horne 1388
- Sir William Sturmy 1390,1393, 1399, 1401, 1413, 1414, 1417, 1422.
- Sir John Roches 1381, 1382,1383, 1384,1390, 1394, 1397, 1399
- John Wroth 1382, 1384,1390
- Sir Bernard Brocas 1391
- Robert Dingley 1391
- John Gawen 1394, 1395
- Sir John Lilborne 1395
- Sir Henry Green 1397
- Sir Thomas Blount 1397
- Sir Walter Hungerford 1401, 1404, 1407, 1411, 1413, 1414
- Sir John Berkeley 1402
- Thomas Calston 1402, 1406
- Richard Mawarden 1404
- Peter Stantor 1404
- William Worfton 1404
- Thomas Bonham 1406, 1414, 1415
- William Stourton 1407
- Henry Thorpe 1411
- Sir William Moleyns 1414
- William Alexander 1415
- Sir Walter Beauchamp 1416
- Robert Andrew 1416
- John Westbury 1417, 1419
- Robert Ashley 1419
- John Persons 1420
- John Rous 1420
- Robert Long 1421
- Richard Milbourne 1421
- John Stourton 1421, 1425, 1432
- Robert Long 1421, 1442
- Robert Andrew 1422, 1426, 1433
- Robert Long 1423–1424, 1429, 1433
- John Seymour 1435, 1439, 1445
- Henry Green 1442
- Henry Long 1449, 1453-1454, 1472–1475
- Sir John Bayntun 1449
- John Cheney 1471-1481
- Walter Hungerford 1477
- Sir Richard Beauchamp 1491
- Richard Elyot 1497
- Sir Edward Darrell, 1529 died
- and replaced by Henry Long 1532
- Edward Bayntun 1532, 1539
- Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley 1545
- Sir William Herbert 1545, 1547 ennobled
- and replaced Jan 1552 by Sir William Sharington
- Sir William Wroughton 1554
- Sir James Stumpe 1553
- Sir Edward Waldegrave 1553
- Henry Long 1553
- Sir John Marvyn 1554
- Sir Walter Hungerford 1554
- Christopher Willoughby 1554
- Henry Bodenham 1555
- William Basely 1555
- George Penruddock 1558, 1572
- Nicholas Snell 1558
- Sir John Thynne 1559, 1571
- John Erneley 1559
- Edward Bayntun 1562-1563
- Sir John Eyre 1562-1563, 1597
- John Danvers 1571
- James Marvyn 1572
- Carew Raleigh 1584, 1586
- Anthony Mildmay 1584
- William Brouncker 1586, 1588,1593
- John Thynne 1588, 1604
- Sir Walter Long 1593
- Henry Baynton II 1597
- Edmund Carey 1601
- Sir Edward Hungerford 1601, 1624
- Sir Francis Popham 1604
- Sir Thomas Howard 1614
- Sir Henry Poole 1614, 1626
- Sir Francis Seymour 1621,1625, 1628
- Sir Edward Bayntun 1621
- Sir John St John 1624
- Sir Henry Ley 1625
- Walter Long 1626
- Sir William Button 1628
- Sir Francis Seymour 1640
- Philip Lord Herbert 1640
- Sir James Thynne 1640
- Sir Henry Ludlow 1642
- Sir James Hubert 1646
- Edmund Ludlow 1646
- Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper 1653, 1654, 1656, 1659, 1660
- Nicholas Green 1653
- Thomas Eyre 1653
- Thomas Grove, 1654, 1656
- Alexander Thistlethwaite 1654, 1656
- Alexander Popham 1654, 1656
- Francis Holles 1654
- John Ernle 1654, 1660
- William Yorke 1654
- John Norden 1654
- James Ash1654
- Gabriel Martin 1654, 1656
- Richard Grobham Howe 1656, 1675, 1701, 1702, 1722
- Sir Walter St. John 1656, 1659, 1679, 1690
- John Bulkeley 1656
- William Ludlow 1656, 1659
- Henry Hungerford 1656
- Charles Seymour 1661
- Sir James Thynne 1664
- Henry Hyde 1664
- Thomas Thynne 1670, 1675, 1679
- Viscount Cornbury 1685, 1689, 1690
- Viscount Bruce 1685
- Sir Thomas Mompesson 1689
- Sir George Hungerford 1695, 1698, 1701
- Henry St John 1695
- Sir Edward Ernle 1698
- Maurice Ashley 1701
- William Ashe 1701
- Robert Hyde 1702,
- Richard Goddard 1722
- Sir James Long 1727
- John Howe 1729,
- John Ivory-Talbot 1727, 1729
- Sir Robert Long 1741
- Edward Popham 1741, 1767, 1770
- Thomas Goddard 1767
- Charles Penruddocke 1770, 1772
- Ambrose Goddard 1772, 1788, 1795
- Sir James Tylney-Long 1788
- Henry Penruddocke Wyndham 1795, 1806
- Richard Godolphin Long 1806, 1812
- Paul Methuen 1812, 1818
- William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley 1818, 1819
- John Bennett 1819, 1820
- Sir John Dugdale Astley 1820
- The visitation of Wiltshire 1565
- The visitation of Wiltshire 1623
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