Ansty is a tiny picturesque parish secreted amongst the downs and woods of south west Wiltshire. Narrow roads in the village disappear from the main street only to reappear a hundred yards or so further along creating a rabbit warren of lanes. Stone cottages with thatched roofs and an ancient pond with willow trees along its banks form a mesmerising backdrop to this historic village.
In 1211, Ansty was granted to the Order of Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem by Sir Walter de Turbeville. The Order settled in the village and founded a preceptory or commandery (manorial estate); they built St. James' Church, the village pond and a hospice with a guest house where they ministered to pilgrims and injured knights returning from Crusades in the Holy Land.
The Parish Church
Dating from 1230, the church of St James is cruciform in the Early English style with chancel and nave, two transepts and a small western belfry with one bell. In July 2011 the church celebrated the 800th anniversary of the granting of the title deeds of Ansty Manor to the Order of Knights Hospitaller.
The History of Modern Wiltshire published in 1829 records that in the year 1775 there were fifteen burials of which twelve died of smallpox and "ill as this (church) Register has been kept, it is much superior to the latter, than which nothing can be more disgraceful to the Curates of this Parish.”
St John the Evangelist (R C)
From 1594 until 1946 the Manor of Ansty was in the possession of the Roman Catholic Lords Arundell of Wardour. It is not surprising therefore to find that throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the majority of the inhabitants of Ansty were Catholic and it is unlikely that this changed much through to the mid 20th century. In 1905, the 12th Lord Arundell of Wardour provided a Mass Centre - St. John the Evangelist - but by the early 1960's services were being held there just once a month. The Chapel closed in 1962 and is now a private house. Catholic Ancestors 1791 & 1844
A house in the village was certified for Independents in 1816 which was not welcomed by all. The meetings were often disrupted by crowds ringing cow bells and generally causing a disturbance; in 1818 Revd William Easton, a Chaplain of Ansty, along with James Jerrard and seven others, were found guilty of riot at Salisbury Assizes. Conspiracy & Riot 1818
WW1 and WW2
At the time of the First World War, the population of Ansty was about 200 and events far away probably had little effect on the practicalities of the day to day lives of the parishioners. Apart from the absence of their menfolk in the village, there would have been no obvious signs to the people of Ansty that the country was at war. But it was not only sons, husbands and fathers who had gone, most of their horses had gone too - from lightweight hunters to heavy cart horses, all required for the war effort leaving the farms bereft of their best working animals.
The men of Ansty who lost their lives are commemorated on a plaque in St James Church. Three were born in the village, others were living and working there, including brothers Bertram and George Baker; one man (T Jenkins) remains unidentified.
Newspapers are a treasure trove of information for family history researchers and social historians. You may find your ancestors mentioned in the court columns either as the perpetrator or the victim of crime - alcohol related offences, poaching and theft were the most common misdemeanours at the Petty Sessions in the 19th century and are reported with endless monotony. Primarily, articles shown are those that contain names of parishioners to assist family history researchers.&nb