Broughton Gifford

In the Hundred of Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


St Mary's Church, Broughton Gifford ..

St Mary’s Church, Broughton Gifford


Broughton Gifford is the easternmost parish of the Bradford Hundred, bordering on Melksham. It was not a part of the Manor of Bradford that was given to Shaftesbury Abbey in 1001, although the name was mentioned at that time. It was still in the King’s hands at the time of Domesday Book in 1086. However, it was a part of the Bradford Hundred under the Abbess of Shaftesbury, who also held Broughton Church. It went on to be part of the Bradford & Melksham Rural District.

At the time of the Bradford grant in 1001, two men -Ælfric and Ælfwine- were named as holding land in Broughton. Domesday Book says that it was in the hands of three thanes in the time of Edward the Confessor (ie before 1066), but by then William the Conqueror had granted it to Humphrey de l’Isle. The ownership of the manor became divided into many small portions until it was reunited by the Hortons of Bradford and Westwood in 1627 . It was purchased by Sir Benjamin Hobhouse in 1812 and his son, Sir John Cam Hobhouse, took his title from it as Lord Broughton. A separate manor, sometimes known as Broughton Parva or Little Broughton existed next to the River Avon and was owned by the Priory of Monkton Farleigh in the Middle Ages and itself became known as Monkton.

Etymology Broughton, broc-tun, might derive from broc, a badger, or more likely just from the brook that flows near the church. The Gifford or Giffard family held medieval estates all over the country, many of which had their name attached (eg. Ashton Gifford in Codford, Wiltshire and Stoke Gifford in Gloucestershire). The place name Norrington looks like an old one and might refer to a settlement lying to the north of the village; another Norrington, a manor in the parish of Alvediston in southwest Wiltshire, has that meaning. Challeymead is a cold meadow and nearby Frying Pan probably referred to the shape of a piece of land.

The land The parish is mainly situated on clays of Middle to Upper Jurassic date, with a terrace of Ice Age gravel along the River Avon in the south between Monkton and Challymead. Bordering the river are meadows that are liable to flood, including some meadowland of 27 acres on the opposite side that are shared between Broughton and the parish of Melksham Without.

Settlement The present village consists of a small, perhaps shrunken, original nucleus around the church and a long winding strip development, The Street, along the road to the north. Two former areas of ‘waste’ land, once considered too wet and unhealthy- Broughton Gifford Common and Norrington Common- are now partly surrounded by houses that possibly grew from squatter settlements. Next to the River Avon there are small settlements at Challymead and at Monkton, although the latter became deserted, except for the big house and its farm. 20th and 21st century housing development has been Newleaze Park and Curtis Orchard (2014, by architects BBA).

Buildings There are 25 listed buildings, the outstanding ones being the parish church (Grade I), Monkton House (II*), Gifford Hall (II*), Broughton Manor House (II*), Egerton House and Hollybrook House.

Economy The 2001 Census recorded a population of 822 inhabitants in the parish, rising to 851 in 2011. Due to the nature of the underlying clay, farming is mainly sheep and cattle rearing, as part of the “cheese” area of Wiltshire’s “chalk and cheese”, although the widespread survival of  medieval ridge-and-furrow in Broughton’s fields testifies to a much greater area of arable farming in the past; recent ploughing out of these features shows a return to arable, if only to provided feed for livestock.  There was once plenty of woodland, but very little now. At one time the village was known for its cheese and especially for its geese, leading to the residents being nicknamed “Broughton Ganders”. Large areas in the north and east of the parish are covered by photovoltaic solar ‘farms’. There was formerly the sawmill and timber yard of H.J. Harding & Sons and E.A. Gore’s mattress factory, but a small industrial estate situated in The Street replaced the sawmill in 1979. Mortimer’s freight transport, founded in 1866 and now called Broughton Transport Solutions, is based in the village. There is a primary school, are two public houses –The Bell on the Common and The Fox & Hounds (it closed late in 2017 under the name Rusty Stag, re-opened 2022 under its old name)- also a large village hall, but no longer a shop, café or post office. Church Farm had a large meat-supply business until recently, but has diversified into holiday accommodation. Broughton was formerly served by a halt on the Wilts, Somerset & Weymouth (Great Western) Railway from 1905 to 1955. The village is now largely a dormitory for workers in Melksham, Chippenham and elsewhere. The proximity of Melksham means that Broughton now tends to look towards that town, rather than to its ancient links with Bradford.

Bradford on Avon Museum holds very few objects from Broughton Gifford. We are looking for old photographs and postcards as well as 3-dimensional items; can you help? Some Roman coins and various social history items are held by the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes. .