River Marden, Calne town centre
|Population||19,074 (2021 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Dorset and Wiltshire|
Calne ( // ) is a town and civil parish in Wiltshire, southwestern England, at the northwestern extremity of the North Wessex Downs hill range, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Calne is on a small river, the Marden, that rises 2 miles (3 kilometres) away in the Wessex Downs, and is the only town on that river. It is on the A4 road national route 19 mi (31 km) east of Bath, 6 mi (10 km) east of Chippenham, 13 mi (21 km) west of Marlborough and 16 mi (26 km) southwest of Swindon. Wiltshire's county town of Trowbridge is 15 mi (24 km) to the southwest, with London 82 mi (132 km) due east as the crow flies. At the 2011 Census, Calne had 17,274 inhabitants.
In 978, Anglo-Saxon Calne was the site of a large two-storey building with a hall on the first floor. It was here that St Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury met the Witenagemotto justify his controversial organisation of the national church, which involved the secular priests being replaced by Benedictine monks and the influence of landowners over churches on their lands being taken away. According to an account written about 1000, at one point in this meeting Dunstan called upon God to support his cause, at which point the floor collapsed killing most of his opponents, whilst Dunstan and his supporters were in the part that remained standing. This was claimed as a miracle by Dunstan's supporters.
In 1086 Calne may already have been, as it was later, a market town on the main London–Bristol road, with 114 households and a church.74 or more households were held almost outright by burghal tenure (as citizens of a borough), and the lordship of its large outlying land was divided between the king (of whom 45 burgesses were tenants) and the church.
In the Middle Ages the king's successor as the lord of Calne manor and, as owner of the church's revenues, the treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral, each had the right to hold a market and a fair in the town, with two triangular market places or fair grounds. A modest hospital was provided on a modest endowment from 1248 until it provided no accommodation in 1546 and was sold two years later by the Crown.
Reflecting the large area of the king's estate, until the late 19th century Calne had tithings at Eastmead Street, Quemerford, Whetham, Whitley, and part of Beversbrook, all now within Calne parish; and furthermore Blackland, Calstone, Stock, Stockley and Studley, all now in Calne Without parish.
Calne had a significant woollen broadcloth industry in the 18th century, and evidence of this can be seen set around the triangular green by the parish church, where 24 listed buildings remain, five at Grade II* including the Tounson almshouses for the neediest poorand Georgian era clothiers' houses. Nearby are some of the 20 original cloth mills along the Marden. St Mary's church was extended by the generous donations of rich clothiers and wool merchants in the 15th century.
Houses of the 17th and 18th centuries have external walls of stone and timber-framed walls inside. Most of the stone is limestone rubble, laid with ashlar dressings in houses of higher quality; the walls of many houses were rendered smooth. Until the 19th century, quarries beside the London road northwest and southeast of the town were sources of stone for building.
A relic of 19th century lime extraction, a kiln, exists in the grounds of St Mary's School. This solid marine deposition is chiefly one chemical, calcium carbonate, and is dug in nearby pits for its main use in cement and as fertiliser on acid ground.
The Wilts & Berks Canal linked the Kennet and Avon Canal at Semington, near Melksham, to the River Thames at Abingdon. Much of the traffic on the canal was coal from the Somerset Coalfield. As the canal passed through open country near Stanley, east of Chippenham, a short branch led through three locks to a wharf in Calne. The canal was completed in 1810 and abandoned in 1914.
Calne railway station opened in 1863, the terminus of its own branch line of the Great Western Railway running east from Chippenham, with one intermediate stop: Stanley Bridge Halt. The opening of Black Dog Halt in the early 20th century provided insufficient demand to slow a progressive decline. The branch closed as a result of the Beeching Axe in September 1965, having made the biggest loss per mile of any line in the country.[ citation needed ]
Subsequently, Calne's main industry other than being a small market town was the imposing Harris pork processing factory. The factory provided employment directly and indirectly to many of the residents until the early 1980s; at its closure in 1983 it employed over 2,000 people out of a town population of 10,000. It is said that the pork-curing industry developed because pigs reared in Ireland were landed at Bristol and then herded across England on drovers' roads to Smithfield, London, passing through Calne. The factory started in the second half of the 18th century when brothers John and Henry Harris started businesses which merged in 1888 as C. & T. Harris & Co. The factory has now been fully demolished and its site redeveloped as shops, housing and a library. As a result of the closure, unemployment in the town increased considerably and during much of the 1980s Calne suffered many of the economic restructuring problems more usually associated with large cities.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Calne saw rapid expansion compared to most other towns in the South West region, with a population which the district council projected to peak at around 19,000 by 2015 but which has since been surpassed. The Lansdowne Park housing development (completed in early 2007) has substantially increased the size of the town, creating a new northwestern suburb, including a new primary school, a medical centre and a small shopping area. This area has attracted professional workers from traditionally more expensive areas such as Bath, Bristol, Marlborough and as far afield as the 'silicon valley' towns of central Berkshire. The development's name reflects its proximity to the seat of the Marquess of Lansdowne, whose family have owned the nearby Bowood House country estate since 1784.
The Porte Marsh Industrial Estate on the north side of the town provides the bulk of the town's internal employment, and is home to around 100 companies in predominantly light industries and information technology. The Belgian company Deceuninck has invested considerably in this area and operates two large facilities for production and distribution. Another significant employer is the Exception Group, an electronics manufacturer which, as of 2013, was the town's largest employer with some 220 employees. In 2006, plans to build a cement production plant on the Porte Marsh site were vigorously opposed by local residents and planning permission was refused by the council.
Aside from the completion of Lansdowne Park, smaller pockets of new housing were built. A £900,000 Football Foundation outdoor facility at Beversbrook, on Calne's northern edge, opened in April 2009.
Calne has Sainsbury's, Tesco and Iceland supermarkets, and an intermediate-sized Tesco store on the northern edge of the town. As part of the New Heart of Calne initiative, a section of the Phelps Parade was redeveloped in 2009, using part Cotswold stone and part red brick, a new glass roof section and roof lining.
Tourism is described in nearby places of interest below, with details of the surrounding historic and landscape attractions. Within the town the annual Calne Music & Arts Festival was established in 1975.
In 2014 the town entered the South West in Bloom area of the Britain in Bloom competition and won a Gold Award for the first time. The award is judged on both the town council's floral displays and those of the community projects whose groups have entered in the 'It's Your Neighbourhood' category of the awards.
Notable buildings in the town include St Mary's Church, an array of houses on The Green and Calne Town Hall. An inn in the centre of the town – now the Lansdowne Hotel – is a Grade II* listed building, dating in part from the 17th century and re-fronted in the 18th.
Of particular note is Calne Library which has won awards for its innovative design and was opened by the Queen in 2001.
Since the demolition of the Harris pork factory and the completion of the first phase of redevelopment/regeneration in 2001, Calne has seen Cotswold stone, similar to local limestone, being used together with smart red brickwork, formerly reserved for fine historical buildings.
The town centre suffers traffic congestion, with the A4 through the town close to gridlock during rush hour, due to single-file traffic between Curzon Street and Wood Street, with eastbound traffic having priority. A northern bypass road (a re-routing of the A3102) was completed in 2000.
Calne is equidistant (12 mi or 19 km) from the M4 motorway at Junction 16 (Wootton Bassett/Swindon West) to the northeast of Calne, and the westbound M4 junction 17 just north of Chippenham to the northwest. The nearest main passenger airport is Bristol, 38 mi (61 km) to the southwest. The nearest railway stations are Chippenham, Melksham and Pewsey. Bus operators Stagecoach West, Faresaver and Swindon's Buses provide services to towns and cities such as Chippenham, Devizes, Marlborough, Swindon and Bath.
Bentley's School opened in 1664 using an endowment left by John Bentley in 1662. In 1901 this was amalgamated with Calne Technical School as a school of science for boys aged 9–17. This became known as Calne County School and later Calne County Secondary School. Girls were admitted from 1903 and in 1908–09 new buildings were added to the nucleus of buildings dating from 1842. The school was later called the Bentley Grammar School. In 1957 it moved to a new building in the angle of the London and Melksham roads. In 1974 the grammar school merged with Fynemore School in Silver Street to form the John Bentley Comprehensive School, later the John Bentley School, and finally renamed the Kingsbury Green Academy in 2019. Until 1998 both sites were used. After the buildings in Silver Street were given up, new buildings were erected on the site of Bentley Grammar, and existing ones improved.
Calne had other small schools, some based in houses, such as one in Curzon Street in which girls were trained for domestic service. Another example was a small boarding school for boys open in 1842 on the site of a former factory in Silver Street, called William Jacob's School. This was attended by Reg Birkett, the international sportsman, who played football and rugby for England in the 1870s,and by Charlie Absolom who played cricket for the England cricket team in a Test match in 1879.
The nearest university is the University of Bath campus at Claverton Down in Bath, 19 mi (31 km) to the west. Bath Spa University lies 23 mi (37 km) away, between Bath and Bristol.
The closest further education institution is the Wiltshire College & University Centre site in Chippenham, 6+1⁄2 miles (10 km) away.
Secondary schools are Kingsbury Green Academy, the successor to John Bentley School, on the southern periphery of the town; and St Mary's School, Curzon Street, an independent school for girls.
The town has five primary schools and one independent preparatory school.
St Mary's church has a central position in the town and dates from the 12th century. The building was greatly expanded in the 14th and 15th centuries, and its tower rebuilt in the 17th. It is a Grade I listed building.
Holy Trinity church at Quemerford, on the London Road southwest of the town, was built in 1852–3. Its churchyard became the parish graveyard, as St Mary's was full.
St Edmund's Catholic Church, Oxford Road, was built in 1962. The font has tiles from Stanley Abbey (which was visited by Saint Edmund Rich)and the church received stained glass from the demolished St Joseph's Church at RAF Lyneham.
Calne has a long history of Nonconformism.
A Presbyterian chapel was built in Back Road c. 1695. The congregation became Unitarian after 1770, being influenced by Joseph Priestley who lived in the town from 1773 to 1780 and preached at the chapel. The chapel had been closed by the late 1830s and was re-used by the Primitive Methodists and later by the Salvation Army. It was demolished in the 1960s.
The Baptist church in Castle Street was built in the late 17th century, rebuilt in 1704 and again in 1817. The church continues in use.Particular Baptists built Zion chapel in 1836 on the street now called The Pippin; this too remains open, and is a feature of Calne's pedestrian precinct.
Wesleyan Methodists built a chapel in Back Road in 1811, and opened a larger church at Silver Street in 1867, which continues in use.Primitive Methodists used the former Unitarian chapel from the late 1830s, and moved to the former Wesleyan chapel in Back Road in 1887. In 1965 both congregations came together in the Silver Street building and the chapel in Back Road was later demolished.
The Free Church in Church Street was built in 1868 by a group who broke away from the parish church. The congregation is affiliated to the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches.
There is an Evangelical church in Oxford Road.First built in the early 1930s, and rebuilt at a later date, this was an Open Brethren Gospel Hall until at least the late 1990s.
Statistics for Calne parish are shown below. Figures from 1911 to 1961 are for the successor Metropolitan Borough which covered a slightly smaller area. In 2011 the population reached 17,274 living in 7,113 homes.
In local radio, BBC Wiltshire and Heart West are supplemented by two Internet-only stations: Eartunes Radio (the town's long-established community station),and White Horse Radio (music, advertiser-supported).
Local television news coverage is through BBC Points West and ITV News West Country, both Bristol-based.
Calne is in the North Wiltshire parliamentary constituency, held by Conservative James Gray since the 2010 General Election. It is the constituency's largest town and lies at its southern edge.
The town was previously in the Devizes constituency, with former Conservative Party Chairman and Northern Ireland Minister Michael Ancram serving as the local Member of Parliament until May 2010.
Civic and local governance is through Calne Town Council and Wiltshire Council, which is a unitary authority. The town council spends approximately half of its income on parks, open spaces and the Beversbrook sports facility, and in 2013 levied an annual precept of £1.1M from households and businesses, with reserves of almost £1M.
The first inhabitant of note was Edmund Rich (1175–1240), who became Archbishop of Canterbury. He was canonised and many educational establishments are named after him, notably St Edmund Hall, Oxford and St Edmund's College, Cambridge.
John Pym (1584–1643) lived in Calne. He was a leader of the Long Parliament and a prominent critic of Kings James I and then Charles I. He was one of the Five Members whose attempted arrest in 1642 sparked the Civil War.
Isaac Nichols, a transported convict who became the first postmaster of Sydney, New South Wales was born here in 1770.
The country estate of Bowood House, which dates from 1725, lies approximately 3 mi (5 km) southwest of the town. It is the family seat of the Marquess of Lansdowne; the current Marquess is Charles Petty-Fitzmaurice. It was at Bowood that Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen in 1774; there is a plaque in the town centre commemorating this. Jan Ingenhousz repeated Joseph Priestley's experiments and found it was sunlight which acted upon the plants to create oxygen (photosynthesis). There is a pavement display outside the Millennium Library in Calne in his honour.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge stayed from 1814 to 1816 as part of the Morgan household whilst writing his Biographia Literaria. A plaque on the house commemorates this visit.
Walter Goodall George (1858–1943) was an athlete who set numerous world records as an amateur and then as a professional. In one of his races, he set a mile record which was not surpassed for almost 30 years. George held more than 13 world records for running at the time and still holds a world record simply for holding the mile record longer than anyone else. There are two plaques in Calne to commemorate his life, one in front of the town hall and one at ground level just inside the recreation grounds.
Frederic Hicks Beaven (11 April 1855 – 22 January 1941) was Bishop of Mashonaland from 1911 – 1915 when his title was changed to Bishop of Southern Rhodesia, until his retirement in 1925.
Sarah Grand (1854–1942), a feminist activist and writer, settled in Calne in 1942 after her house in London was damaged by a German bomb. She died a year later on 12 May 1943, a month before her 89th birthday. She coined the phrase 'The New Woman' and advocated new rights for women, notably in marriage.
The composer Sir Michael Tippett lived in an isolated house on Derry Hill above Calne.
The singer-songwriter-author Julian Cope resided in nearby Yatesbury until 2006, and lived in Calne itself for some years before he moved with his family to the village.
The actor David Hemmings lived in the Old Mill in Calne for many years until his death in December 2003.
Clive Farahar, the books and manuscripts expert on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow , lives in the town and has a business here.
In common with the surrounding villages, hotels cater to the following attractions:
Blackland Lakes is a large camping site on the southern edge of Calne which is popular with anglers and tourists alike. The 'lakes' themselves are in fact large angling pools.
Founded in 1886, Calne Town F.C. play in the Western Football League First Division at the tenth highest tier of the English league system. Their Bremhill View ground is located on the north side of the town close to the A3102 bypass.
According to their website, the rugby club was formed in the late 1920s, in part due to the influx of Welsh to the area during the depression. The Junior Imperial League , forerunners of the Young Conservatives formed the club under the presidency of either Mr Drewett or Mr L. Taylor.
The team's first match was probably in Drewett ’s field where now stands Braemor Road. Their inaugural game against a Bath XV team was played on the Recreation Ground to which Calne returned in the late 1970s as a permanent home, which despite ground disputes and uncertainty – remains their home to date. It appears that a lack of local interest forced the club to fold in the late 1930s. In 1960 the club was re-formed as Old Bentlians; though it was not exclusively an "old boys" club it did use the pitches at Bentley Grammar School.
The club currently fields a 1st and 2nd XV, alternating home games on Saturdays, and also a junior team who play on Sundays.
Calne SMaRTT Running and Triathlon Team was formed in 2007. They organise an annual 10 km multi-terrain running race called the SMaRTT Smasher, on an out-and-back route along the cycle path towards Chippenham.
Formed in 1992 by Mike Tawn and Dave Balkwill, Calne Running Club has members of all abilities. They also organise the Compton Bassett 5-miler and Heddington 5k races yearly.
As of 2011, due to the work of local sports enthusiast Shaun Preen, Calne is represented in the West of England Basketball Association (WEBBA), although home games are played at the Olympiad Leisure Centre, Chippenham, home of the 'Olympiad Flames' with which Calne basketball is officially affiliated. The club provides the local community the opportunity to participate in competitive basketball.
Calne's suburbs and housing developments include Quemerford, Calne Marsh, Lansdowne Park, Curzon Park, Castlefields, Lickhill, Sand Pit Estate, Sands Farm Estate and Regent Park Estate.
Ordnance Survey maps published in 1959–61 show Quemerford village along the A4 east of the town, a few houses at Calne Marsh along the Swindon road on the northeastern outskirts, and Lickhill Farm standing in farmland to the northwest.
Calne is twinned with the towns of:
Bowood is a Grade I listed Georgian country house in Wiltshire, England, that has been owned for more than 250 years by the Fitzmaurice family. The house, with interiors by Robert Adam, stands in extensive grounds which include a garden designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown. It is adjacent to the village of Derry Hill, halfway between Calne and Chippenham. The greater part of the house was demolished in 1956.
Melksham is a town on the River Avon in Wiltshire, England, about 4.5 miles (7 km) northeast of Trowbridge and 6 miles (10 km) south of Chippenham. At the 2011 census, the Melksham built-up area had a population of 19,357, making it Wiltshire's fifth-largest settlement after Swindon, Salisbury, Chippenham and Trowbridge.
Cherhill is a village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England. The village is about 2+1⁄2 miles (4 km) east of the town of Calne, on the A4 road towards Marlborough. The parish includes the village of Yatesbury.
Yatesbury is a village in Wiltshire, England. It is next to Cherhill, 1 mile (1.6 km) north of the A4 road between Calne and Marlborough.
Compton Bassett is a village and rural civil parish in Wiltshire, England, with a population of approximately 250. The village lies about 1 mile (1.6 km) north of Cherhill and 2+1⁄2 miles (4.0 km) east of the town of Calne.
Charles Maurice Petty-Fitzmaurice, 9th Marquess of Lansdowne,, styled Earl of Shelburne between 1944 and 1999, is a British peer, landowner and army officer. He was a member of various local councils in Wiltshire from 1964 to 1985, and chairman of North Wiltshire District Council 1973–1976. He was Vice-Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire from 2012 to 2016.
The River Marden is a small tributary of the River Avon in England. It flows from the hills surrounding Calne and meets the Avon about a mile upstream of Chippenham. The river has a mean flow of 43 cubic feet per second (1.2 m3/s).
Derry Hill is a village in the English county of Wiltshire, in the civil parish of Calne Without. It has an elevated position at the northern edge of the Bowood House estate, about 3 miles (5 km) south-east of the centre of the town of Chippenham.
Bremhill is a village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England. The village is about 1.6 miles (2.6 km) northwest of Calne and 4 miles (6.4 km) east of Chippenham. The name originates from 'Bramble hill'.
Sandy Lane is a small village in Wiltshire, England, about 4.5 miles (7 km) south-east of Chippenham and 3 miles (5 km) south-west of Calne. It lies on the A342 Chippenham-Devizes road, just north of its junction with the A3102 to Calne.
Studley is a small village in the county of Wiltshire, England, belonging to the civil parish of Calne Without.
Quemerford is a southeastern suburb of the town of Calne in the county of Wiltshire, England. It is within both the Calne and Calne Without civil parishes, and lies on the A4 road towards Marlborough, which is some 11 miles (18 km) to the east.
Black Dog Halt is a former railway station on the Chippenham and Calne line in Wiltshire, England. Originally created in 1863 as a private stop for Lord Lansdowne of Bowood House, it became a public request stop after the formation of British Rail. The halt was closed and demolished in 1965, and today it is part of National Cycle Route 403.
Calstone Wellington is a small village and former parish in Wiltshire, England, about 2.5 miles (4 km) south-east of Calne and now part of the civil parish of Calne Without. The village has a 15th-century church.
Calne Without is a civil parish in Wiltshire, England. It is a rural parish surrounding the town of Calne, extending west to the Avon and south to the Roman road from London to Bath. Settlements in the parish are the village of Derry Hill; the small villages of Calstone Wellington, Sandy Lane, Stockley and Studley; the dispersed settlement of Stock; the hamlets of Blackland, Broad's Green, Buck Hill, Mile Elm, Pewsham and Theobald's Green; and part of the hamlet of Ratford. The parish also encompasses the former tithing of Calstone, and the country house estates of Bowood and Whetham.
Blackland is a hamlet and former civil parish in Calne Without parish, just south-east of the town of Calne in Wiltshire, England. There is a 13th-century church and an 18th-century country house, Blackland House.
St Mary's Church is the main Anglican church in the town of Calne, Wiltshire, England. The church is large and cruciform, with a tall north tower; it stands in a triangular churchyard at the heart of the town. Begun in the 12th century, it is described by Pevsner as "the proud church of a prosperous clothiers' town". The church is a Grade I listed building.
Stock is a small settlement and former ecclesiastical parish, now part of Calne Without civil parish, in the ceremonial county of Wiltshire, England. It lies about 1 mile (1.6 km) south of the town of Calne.