Rowley and Wittenham

Wingfield, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

now partially in Farleigh Hungerford, Somerset


earthworks on the site of Rowley village

Earthworks on the site of the lost village of Rowley

The Bradford Hundred manors of Rowley and Wittenham ceased to exist some time ago; Wittenham especially seems to be completely lost.

Wittenham was mentioned as being on the border of the Bradford land that was given to Shaftesbury Abbey in 1001. It appears in Domesday Book as Withenham, where it was rated for 5 hides of land and a mill. It was named in 1315 as a vill of the Bradford Hundred.

In 1332 twenty men were listed as paying 50 shillings in tax for Rowley (Roghele) in the Hundred of Bradford. They didn’t necessarily live there, but held parcels of land there.

Rowley was noted in 1320, like Wingfield, Wittenham, Trowle and Westwood, as a vill within the Forest of Selwood. It was often referred to as Rowley alias Wittenham and gradually became the more important of the two. It was a parish in its own right, with a church dedicated to St Nicholas.

After Rowley had come into the ownership of the Hungerford family, an Act of Annexation was passed in Parliament in 1428 to amalgamate the ecclesiastical parish of Rowley with that of Farleigh Hungerford, across the river Frome in Somerset. Although the ecclesiastical parishes were joined, the people of Rowley, who were very few in number, were to continue to look after their own church and were excused from contributing to the church of Farleigh.

Landowners in Rowley paid tax within the Hundred of Bradford in 1545 and again, as Rowelye and coupled with Trowle, in 1576 when the biggest payer was Sir Walter Hungerford. Much of the land became part of the Hungerfords’ hunting park, which straddled the Wiltshire-Somerset border. The place-name Wiltshire Park Farm on the Rowley side remained, but is now called Rowley House. The present farm and house called Rowley Manor is a fairly new build on a green field site and was not the site of a manor.

Although the parish had become part of Farleigh Hungerford, the land of Rowley itself remained within the Hundred of Bradford in Wiltshire, with the manor attached to Iford and often linked with Trowle Tithing, or it was found in the combination of Wingfield & Rowley.  As it remained within Wiltshire, the ecclesiastical parish of Farleigh Hungerford was in the strange position of lying in both Somerset and Wiltshire. Finally, under the provisions of the Divided Parishes Act of 1882, Rowley was allocated to the civil parish of Farleigh Hungerford and so only then left Wiltshire and became part of the County of  Somerset.

The village of Rowley became completely depopulated and all that remains today are earthworks in fields either side of the lane from Westwood to Farleigh Hungerford. So far, the site of the church has not been located, but it is likely to have been near the crossroads at the centre of the village.

Various small parcels of land that had belonged to Rowley-Wittenham were scattered throughout the neighbouring parishes, especially it seems around Midway in Wingfield.