Calne & Villages- A Little Bit of History

Calne Houses and BuildingsAs you walk round the town there is a lot to take in of the past history of this fine town.

First as you take a breath, look at the River Marden. Here Dr J B Priestley did experiments and discovered Oxygen. Not a bad legacy for Calne to leave the World. If you take a walk down Mill Street you will see the ‘Doctors Pond’ on the left hand side where he experimented.

Originally the wealth of the town was built on weaving. If you take a walk up New Road and turn left you will see the very impressive Green. Here from the reign of Edward III for five centuries it was the Heart of the cloth making industry. In the early 1300’s there was an influx of Flemish weavers who settled here. The Green was also the traditional place where celebrations took place such as May Pole dancing.

If you walk back down from the Green towards the centre you will come across St Mary’s Church. This church dates back to Norman times and by the 12th Century it had become so large it was called the Cathedral of North Wiltshire. Dr Ingen Housz is buried here who invented Vaccination. In the 1700’s, Inverto Boswell, King of the Gypsies was also buried here which goes to show that Calne always welcomes Travellers.

Back in the centre of Town is where the day time festivities of the Bike Meet take part. The back drop of the meet is the Lansdowne Strand Hotel. Both here and at the White Hart coach travellers would rest as Calne was on the main coach route to London. Its worth noting that the White Hart has just been refurbished and is a lovely place to stay, with its many en-suite rooms .

Opposite the Lansdowne on the Strand was once a weekly market held on both sides of the river. It had a large cattle market on one side and a wooden bridge that connected to the other side. People who did misdeeds got tied to the back of a cart and were flogged. This practice does not go on anymore thankfully.

To the side of the Town Hall is Castle Street. At the top of this hill was once allegedly a Castle. Back in 978 AD it was thought to be the residence of King Edward. At that time St Dunstan was arguing that Priests should be celibate. At a meeting here the Priests who opposed at the meeting were engulfed in a collapsing floor. An omen from God claimed St Dunstan and the rest is history.

After the collapse of the cloth industry the Harris family had the foresight to start a pork curing business in the town. Records show that at one time around 120,000 pigs were slaughtered in the town. The factory was smack bang in the middle and sited where the New Library sits. If you get a chance you can get a more information at the Heritage Centre just a short walk down New Road.