Limpley Stoke

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire



St Mary's Church, Limpley Stoke

St Mary’s Church, Limpley Stoke


Limpley Stoke’s position is anomalous in that it lies entirely on the western side of the River Avon, forming a sharp triangle of Wiltshire that juts into Somerset, cutting Freshford off from the rest of the Hundred of Bath in Somerset.

It was perhaps a piece of land that was left over after various Kings of Wessex and of Anglo-Saxon England had given other parcels of land on that side of the river to the Abbey of Bath, or it had been detached from Bath or another Somerset estate at some time before 1001. It may have been included in Bradford in order to secure both sides of the weir in the same ownership.

It was historically a part of the Ancient Parish and Manor of Bradford within the Hundred of Bradford, only becoming a separate ecclesiastic parish in 1846 (although frequently linked to Winsley) and a civil parish in 1884. St Mary’s parish church, formerly a chapelry of the mother church in Bradford and once dedicated to St Edith of Wilton, is situated right on the boundary with Freshford, Somerset. It may have been built for the Abbess of Shaftesbury and still includes some Saxon features.

Even today, Limpley Stoke is poorly understood, with road signs and the postal address not helping. Coming from Bath on the A36 a sign post announces Limpley Stoke, but it is actually in the parish of Monkton Combe and not even in the same county and part-way down Winsley Hill is another that is in Winsley. The postal address of Limpley Stoke is Bath, Somerset, although it is in Wiltshire and the western side of Winsley has the address “Limpley Stoke, Bath [Somerset]”, but is not in any of those.


The name Stoke is very common, with North and South Stokes in the nearby Hundred of Bath. The word stoc seems to signify a stockaded outlying settlement of a larger place, presumably with reference to Bradford, or even perhaps to Bath. It was often referred to as Hanging Stoke, because of its situation on a steep hillside overhanging the river. The “Limpley” part was only added from the 16th century, but it looks like a much older name.

The site

The village lies on a high north-facing river cliff made up mostly of Middle Jurassic limestone. It has boundaries with Winsley in Wiltshire, separated by the River Avon, and with the Somerset parishes of Monkton Combe and Southstoke on the north-west and Hinton Charterhouse and Freshford on the south. Curiously, the boundaries of Limpley Stoke, Combe Down, Southstoke, Freshford, Wellow and Hinton Charterhouse all meet at Midford, at the far western point of Limpley Stoke.


The 2001 census recorded a population of 637 inhabitants, but only 541 in 2011, although these must include people staying at the hotels. There was formerly a water-driven, then steam-driven woollen cloth factory which has at times been a corn mill, saw-mill, rubber works and has now been converted to offices. Quarrying Bath Stone has been carried on in many places around the parish and the Bath Stone Group continues to extract stone from underground tunnels that go into Somerset. A new Warminster Road (now A36) from Bath was built through the village by the Black Dog Turnpike Trust in the 1830s. There were two pubs: the Rose & Crown, just off the main A36 road, but now closed and the Hop Pole Inn in Lower Stoke, which has been designated an Asset of Community Value while its future is in doubt. There was once a brewery near the station. The Limpley Stoke Hotel was previously the West of England Hydropathic Establishment (or just ‘The Hydro’), founded in 1862. The Cliffe Hotel operated between 1961 and the end of 2011 and Waterhouse has been a hotel since 2009. The station closed in 1966, although one of the buildings remains; buses connect with Bath and Bradford on Avon. There was a shop (Wilkins’) in Middle Stoke and Post Office-grocer in Lower Stoke, both of which have closed. Only a garage by the station continues of the old businesses. Today Stoke is very much tied up with the adjoining parish of Freshford in Somerset, with which it shares an award-winning community shop. The ecclesiastical parish was at times a benefice shared with Winsley, but at present with Freshford and Hinton Charterhouse, Somerset. Despite figuring in many descriptions of Limpley Stoke, neither the Kennet & Avon Canal, including Dundas Aqueduct, nor Somersetshire Coal Canal are in the bounds of the parish.

Did you know?

Limpley Stoke was mentioned in Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey.

What is there in the Museum collection?

The Museum has some old photographs and is keen to collect other objects from Limpley Stoke. Please see if you have any old photographs that you could give to the Museum, or just let us copy.

Limpley Stoke Wiltshire history