Great Bedwyn

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Great Bedwyn
View from Great Bedwyn bridge.JPG
View eastwards from Great Bedwyn showing river, canal and railway
Wiltshire UK location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Great Bedwyn
Location within Wiltshire
Population1,353 (2011 census) [1]
OS grid reference SU278645
Civil parish
  • Great Bedwyn
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Marlborough
Postcode district SN8
Dialling code 01672
Police Wiltshire
Fire Dorset and Wiltshire
Ambulance South Western
UK Parliament
Website Parish Council
List of places
51°22′44″N1°36′07″W / 51.379°N 1.602°W / 51.379; -1.602 Coordinates: 51°22′44″N1°36′07″W / 51.379°N 1.602°W / 51.379; -1.602

Great Bedwyn is a village and civil parish in east Wiltshire, England. The village is on the River Dun about 4.5 miles (7.2 km) southwest of Hungerford, 14 miles (23 km) southeast of Swindon and 6 miles (9.7 km) southeast of Marlborough.


The Kennet and Avon Canal and the Reading to Taunton line both follow the Dun and pass through the village. Bedwyn railway station is at Great Bedwyn and is the terminus of the rail commuter service via Reading and London Paddington.

The parish lies within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It includes the hamlets of Crofton and St Katharines, together with Tottenham House and part of its estate, Tottenham Park.



A Roman road between Cirencester and Winchester crosses the parish, with Crofton on its route. [2] Castle Copse, south of Great Bedwyn village, is the site of a Roman villa. [3]

'Bedanheafeford', the Battle of Bedwyn

The battle of 'Bedanheafeford' between Aescwine of Wessex and King Wulfhere of Mercia in 675 is alleged to have been fought near Great Bedwyn. [4] The battle was originally recorded in the 675 AD entry of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle . [5]

A.H. Burne interpreted 'Biedanheafde' as an early version of Bedwyn, the derivation of the name being "the head of the Bieda" or "Beda", a stream running through the Bedwyns. [6] However placename interpretation is tenuous evidence for the battlefield location; the site of the battle has also been claimed for Beedon in Berkshire, and elsewhere.

The discovery of a number of skeletons at Crofton in 1892 by J.W. Brooke was later used to substantiate a local battlefield location. An account of the battle of Bedwyn was published by local historian Maurice Adams in 1903. [7] However, only excavation of these graves will confirm if they contain battlefield victims.

Brooke recorded that "I cannot assign any period to them, but the field over them is paved with flint weapons. On one visit I observed children building miniature castles with human femur and tibiae." In a letter to Maurice Adams, B.H. Cunningham described the graves, five to seven in number, "radiating from a common centre like the spokes of a wheel". Unfortunately he had made no notes of his finds and was writing from memory. Mrs M.E. Cunnington's study of Saxon grave sites in Wiltshire noted that there was no evidence to support the belief that the Crofton site contained Saxon graves. [8] Nearby finds consisted only of a La Tène earthenware pot.[ citation needed ] As the graves are within the site of a causewayed camp this is not surprising. Maurice Adams would not have known about the Crofton camp as it was undiscovered until an aerial survey in 1976.

Given the lack of evidence, Maurice Adam's confidence in a Bedwyn battlefield site cannot be shared. Until more substantial evidence about the Crofton graves can be gathered, there is no reason to suggest that the Bedwyn location, for an obscure 7th century battle, is anything more than a myth.

Reference in the will of King Alfred the Great

Will of Alfred the Great, AD 873-888, mentions Bedewindan (11th-century copy, British Library Stowe MS 944, ff. 29v-33r) Will of Alfred the Great (New Minster Liber Vitae) - BL Stowe MS 944, f 30v.jpg
Will of Alfred the Great, AD 873–888, mentions Bedewindan (11th-century copy, British Library Stowe MS 944, ff. 29v–33r)

The last will and testament of King Alfred the Great contains reference to Bedwyn. Describing his elder son Edward's inheritance he writes "And I grant him the land at Cannington and at Bedwyn and at Pewsey ..." [10] The Bedwyn of King Alfred was a large estate, whose territory included the modern parishes of Great and Little Bedwyn, Grafton, and Burbage. Bedwyn continues to enjoy an enduring royal pedigree. It belonged to the crown in 788, when part of the estate was granted to a crown servant called Bica. King Alfred's descendants held the estate until it was granted to Abingdon Abbey by King Edgar in 968. However the estate was recovered by King Athelred a few years later, and was recorded as a crown estate in the Domesday survey of 1086. [11] Although most of the estate had passed into private hands by the end of the mediaeval period, the execution of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, in 1552 resulted in the temporary return of much of Bedwyn to the crown. The disastrous finances of his descendants resulted in the great sale of 1929, and much of the former Bedwyn estate was purchased by the Crown Estate. They remain one of the largest landowners in modern Bedwyn.

Religious sites

Church of St. Mary

St Mary's Church St Marys Church Great Bedwin.jpg
St Mary's Church

The Church of England parish church of Saint Mary the Virgin has 12th-century origins. [12] Beneath the church are substantial remains of a Saxon church begun in AD 905. In the chancel is a memorial to Sir John Seymour, father of King Henry VIII's wife Jane Seymour. The church is designated as a Grade I listed building, [13] and a 14th-century limestone cross in the churchyard is Grade II*. [14]

Thomas Willis (1621–1675), the great Oxford physician and natural philosopher, was born at Great Bedwyn on 27 January 1621 and was baptized on 14 February at the church. [15]

Church of St. Katharine

Built by T.H. Wyatt in 1861 as the estate church for Tottenham House. Grade II* listed. [16]

Methodist chapel

A Methodist chapel was opened c. 1810 in Church Street, Great Bedwyn. [2] It was replaced by a chapel built in 1875 in Brown's Lane; this chapel closed in 1967. [17]

Canal and railway

The Kennet and Avon Canal was opened from Hungerford to Great Bedwyn in 1799, and from Great Bedwyn to Devizes in 1809. [2] There are four locks in the parish: Burnt Mill Lock and Bedwyn Church Lock near the village, and two of the Crofton flight to the southwest.

In 1862 the Great Western Railway built the Berks and Hants Extension Railway from Hungerford to Pewsey and Devizes, closely following the north bank of the canal, with a station named Bedwyn at Great Bedwyn. There are regular services to Reading and London Paddington, and the station is a railhead for Marlborough which is served by buses that connect with the trains.


A National School was built in Church Street, Great Bedwyn in 1835 [18] and extended in 1856, becoming a Church of England primary school in 1963. The school moved to a new building on the outskirts of the village in 1994. [19]

In the northwest of the parish, a church school was opened at St Katharine's in 1865 and continues in use. [20]

The National School at East Grafton, opened in 1846, was used by children from Crofton; this school closed in 2011. [21]

Local government

The civil parish elects a parish council. It is in the area of Wiltshire Council unitary authority, which performs all significant local government functions.

In 1895 the southern portion of Great Bedwyn parish (south of the railway, including Wolfhall and East Grafton) became a new parish called Grafton. [2] Wolfhall was transferred to Burbage parish in 1988. [22]

Parliamentary representation

Great Bedwyn was a parliamentary borough which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons from 1295 [2] until 1832, when the borough was abolished by the Great Reform Act. The parish now falls within the Devizes constituency.

Notable people

A branch of the Hungerford family of Farleigh Hungerford owned land in the area. Members include Sir Anthony Hungerford (1567–1627), a religious controversialist, who sat in Parliament for Marlborough and later Great Bedwyn. [23] He bought an estate at Marten (now in Grafton parish). [2]

Thomas Willis (1621–1675), influential physician and anatomist, Oxford professor and one of the founders of the Royal Society, was born at Great Bedwyn.

Related Research Articles

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marlborough, Wiltshire</span> Town and civil parish in Wiltshire, England

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hungerford</span> Town in England

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Vale of Pewsey Vale in Wiltshire, England

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pewsey</span> Village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England

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Wilton Windmill

The Wilton Windmill is a five-floor brick tower mill, standing on a chalk ridge between the villages of Wilton and Great Bedwyn in the southern English county of Wiltshire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Crofton Pumping Station</span> Grade I listed pumping station in Great Bedwyn, United Kingdom

Crofton Pumping Station, near the village of Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire, England, supplies the summit pound of the Kennet and Avon Canal with water.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Burbage, Wiltshire</span> Human settlement in England

Burbage is a village and civil parish in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire, England. It is about 6 miles (9.7 km) south of Marlborough and 20 miles (32 km) west of Newbury.

Froxfield Human settlement in England

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Grafton, Wiltshire Human settlement in England

Grafton is a civil parish in Wiltshire, England, in the Vale of Pewsey about 7 miles (11 km) southeast of Marlborough. Its main settlement is the village of East Grafton, on the A338 Burbage - Hungerford road; the parish includes the village of Wilton and the hamlets of West Grafton, Marten and Wexcombe.

Bedwyn railway station Railway station in the village of Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, England

Bedwyn railway station serves the village of Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire, England. It is 66 miles 33 chains from the zero point at London Paddington. Along with Pewsey station, it serves the market town of Marlborough which is 6 miles (10 km) away. A bus from the town connects with most trains on Mondays to Saturdays.

River Dun (River Kennet) River in Wiltshire and Berkshire, England

The River Dun is a tributary of the River Kennet, flowing through Wiltshire and Berkshire in England. Its main source is in the parish of Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire and it flows 16 kilometres (10 mi) in a northeasterly direction into Berkshire. It discharges into the Kennet at Hungerford, which has a smaller average flow and width upstream of that point.

Crofton Locks

Crofton Locks are a flight of locks on the Kennet and Avon Canal, near the village of Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, England.

Wilton Water Body of water

Wilton Water is a small reservoir, southwest of the village of Great Bedwyn in the English county of Wiltshire, which supplies the summit pound of the Kennet and Avon Canal with water. The reservoir lies in the parish of Grafton and collects rainfall from the eastern end of the Vale of Pewsey and the surrounding hills.

Wulfhall or Wolfhall is an early 17th-century manor house in Burbage parish, Wiltshire, England. It is north-east of Burbage village, and about 5 miles (8 km) south-east of Marlborough. A previous manor house on the same site, at that time in the parish of Great Bedwyn, was the seat of the Seymour family, a member of which, Jane Seymour, was queen to King Henry VIII.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Little Bedwyn</span> Human settlement in England

Little Bedwyn is a village and civil parish on the River Dun in Wiltshire, England, about 3 miles (4.8 km) south-west of the market town of Hungerford in neighbouring Berkshire. The parish includes the hamlet of Chisbury.

Savernake, Wiltshire Human settlement in England

Savernake is a civil parish immediately south and southeast of Marlborough in Wiltshire, England. The settlements in the parish are the hamlets of Cadley,Clench Common and Forest Hill. Savernake Forest covers the eastern half of the parish.

John Blackwell was an English civil engineer, known for his work as superintending engineer of the Kennet and Avon Canal under John Rennie and later as the canal company's resident engineer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Mary's Church, Great Bedwyn</span> Church in Great Bedwyn, England

The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin is the parish church of Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, England, and a Grade I listed building. The church was built in the Norman style in the 12th century, but beneath the existing building are Saxon remains dating back to the 10th century. The church boasts a handsome memorial to Sir John Seymour, father of King Henry VIII's wife Jane Seymour, and grandfather of King Edward VI of England.


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  11. Wolf Hall in the Domesday Book
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  14. Historic England. "Churchyard Cross, Great Bedwyn (1034045)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  15. Robert L. Martensen, ‘Willis, Thomas (1621–1675)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2007
  16. Historic England. "Church of St Katherine, Great Bedwyn (1183857)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  17. "Brown Street Methodist Chapel, Great Bedwyn". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  18. Historic England. "School, Great Bedwyn (1300349)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  19. "Great Bedwyn C. of E. Primary School". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  20. "St. Katherine's Church School, Savernake". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  21. "Grafton Primary School". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  22. "Where exactly was Wolfhall?". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. July 2007. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  23. Lancaster, Henry. "HUNGERFORD, Anthony (1567-1627), of Stock, nr. Great Bedwyn, Wilts. and Down Ampney, Glos.; later of Black Bourton, Oxon". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 8 September 2022.

Further reading