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The Railway Station

Initially only a passenger line, the station opened on 2nd May 1859; it gave the rural community the first real opportunity to leave their roots for better paid employment in towns and cities.  The station operated for just over 100 years, closing in March 1966.  The station building, signal box and goods shed, although dilapidated, still stand.

The Dairy & Milk Factory

In 1871, Thomas Kirby set up a milk distribution depot at the Railway Station bringing much needed employment to the village and enabling Semley and the surrounding area to supply fresh milk on a daily basis to the London markets for the first time.  For local people, the depot brought much needed employment to Semley for nearly a hundred years.  In 1965 the last road tank of milk left Semley for London.



Slate Clubs

With their heydays from about the mid 1880's through to the mid-late 1940's, Slate Clubs were a 'social service' of their day, established to assist working men who fell on hard times through sickness, unemployment, etc.  The headquarters of the Slate Club was usually in a public house and those who joined paid a copper or two each week into a fund.  Most Slate Clubs held an annual fete, always an eagerly anticipated event, which helped to supplement the club's funds.   At Christmas, monies not paid out or loaned were divided equally among the members.  Although Slate Clubs no longer exist, they left a lasting legacy with phrases like "put on the slate" (a debt owed) and "the slate wiped clean" (a debt paid).  Semley had Slate Clubs at the Bennet Arms and at the Railway Hotel.  Fighting & Uproar on Feast Days 1852

Friendly Societies

Friendly societies played an important part in our ancestors' lives.  A news article in 1838 (see below) shows that the Semley branch of the Wiltshire Friendly Society began the same year the Society was formed.  Members paid a regular fee and attended meetings; if they became sick, emotional support would be given along with an allowance to help them meet their financial obligations.  The Society often had a doctor who could be freely consulted and when a member died, funeral expenses were paid - sometimes there would be some money left over for the widow.  As with the Slate Clubs, an annual fete was held to boost funds - parishioners turned out in large numbers to watch members parade the village accompanied by a local band.

Horse and Pony Races

It is hard to believe that, 135 years ago, the scattered village of Semley with a population of only 700 staged race meetings; there were often main prizes equivalent today to more than £1,250 for each race. The event in 1878 attracted a crowd of 3000.

Newspaper Articles

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 victim of crime.  Alcohol related offences, poaching and theft were the most common misdemeanours dealt with by the petty sessions in the 19th century and are reported with monotonous regularity.


For a small rural parish, Semley certainly gets its fair share of coverage; reports of the many social activities in the village give us a look back in time at  how our  ancestors spent their high days and holidays.  Primarily, articles shown are those that contain names of parishioners to assist family history researchers but these articles should not be presumed to be the only ones that appear in the newspapers in the given years, or that there are no articles in any of the years omitted.        


Contributing to Photo Galleries etc

The images and information on this page are of great interest to researchers in the UK and worldwide who are tracing their family history.  If you would like to share photographs of your ancestors who were born or married in Semley, old picture postcards, or any other information relating to the village, please email us.  Your contribution really will be appreciated.    Thank you



Coroners' inquests were held within 48 hours of a sudden, unnatural or unexplained death.  In rural locations they were conducted at the alehouse, parish workhouse or in the building where the death occurred.  The jury could consist of between 12 and 24 people, but this reduced to between 7 and 12 after 1926.  Many historical Coroners’ Reports were destroyed under 1958 Public Records Act; newspaper articles are often the only source of an inquest having been carried out.



Almost 250 historical wills for Semley are held at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, some can be downloaded from their website for a small fee.


Semley's Neighbours

Donhead St. Andrew, Donhead St. Mary, Sedgehill, East Knoyle, West Tisbury and Wardour are all within 3 miles of Semley.  The nearest towns are Shaftesbury (4 miles) and Gillingham (6 miles), both in Dorset.


Old and New Wardour Castles

The ancestral homes of the Lords Arundell from 1547 for 400 years, Old and New Wardour Castles are on the parish border. The Arundell's were major landowners and employers in Semley.  Local Roman Catholics were baptised and married in New Wardour Castle chapel until the new RC church was built in Tisbury.  For more on Wardour and the Arundell's, go to the Tisbury page. 

Catholic Ancestors 1791 & 1844


Pyt House

This large palladian style mansion house sits on a hill just a mile from Semley village centre looking down towards St Leonard's church but it is in fact in the neighbouring village of Tisbury.  Pyt House was the home of the influential Benett family who once owned more than a third of Semley village and kept a good majority of the parishioners in employment right through to the mid 1900's.  For more on Pyt House and the Benett's, go to the Tisbury parish page.


Population Figures

1941 - a census was not taken due to WW2

1981 - the last year that a separate count for Semley took place 

1986 - the parish merged with Sedgehill to form the civil parish of Sedgehill and Semley


1801 - 493    1811 - 546    1821 - 675    1831 - 700    1841 - 736    1851 - 699    1861 - 699    1871 - 728    1881 - 686    1891 - 643    1901 - 620  

1911 - 628    1921 - 556    1931 - 465    1941 - n/k     1951 - 500    1961 - 477    1971 - 471    1981 - 443    1991 - 584    2001 - 601    2011 - 584

Missing or Lost?

"The 1831 Census describes the first Semley Parish Register as being of parchment containing Baptisms covering the years 1665-1708, Marriages 1665-1768 and Burials 1698-1708.  In 1981 it was noted that a volume covering the years 1665-1708 is known to have existed till quite recently but is now missing.  Clearly, an earlier register did, or perhaps does exist, but is apparently lost" - Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre.  If anyone has any information that might help clarify or solve the mystery of the missing register, please get in touch.  Thank you.


Civil Registration District

July 1837 - March 1936 Tisbury Registration District;  April 1936 - January 1978 Mere RD; thereafter Salisbury


Parish Registers held at WSHC

Baptisms        1709-1916

Marriages       1709-1995

Burials            1708-1889


Sale of Land and Properties

"By Messrs. Lawrence & Squarey of Salisbury, in June 1924, fifty-seven Lots of Freehold, Residential and Agricultural properties belonging to W.R. Shaw-Stewart Esq in the beautiful Semley Vale, well known as a residential, hunting and dairy farming centre, situated in the parishes of Semley, Sedgehill, Donhead St Mary and West Tisbury, adjoining or near to Semley Station."  The sale particulars show who was renting the various areas of land and/or cottages etc. in 1924.




Baptisms                      1709-1749     1750-1799    1800-1849    1850-1899    1900-1904    1916-1933

Marriages                    1626-1679     1709-1799    1800-1836    1837-1903  

Burials                          1708-1749     1750-1799    1800-1849    1850-1899    1900-1904    1923-1924 


Census                         1841     1851     1861     1871     1881     1891     1901     1911 


Rate Book                    1890     1893    1895 


Voters Lists                  1872     1874     1878     1883     1900     1915       

Electoral Registers      1918     1919     1920     1925     1934    1939     1952     1954     1967      

Service Register          1946


Kelly's Directories      1848      1855     1867      1875     1880     1889     1895     1903     1911     1915     1923      1931     1939

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In 1928 and 1936, outlying portions of the Fonthill Abbey Estate were auctioned, cottages, farms and land, the majority of which were in Semley.    

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Semley People

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Misc Information 
Semley Page 2
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This page is for Bernard Pike, a Semley man, friend and mentor

Funeral Cards

These funeral cards were found in a tin box in the loft of a building in Semley.  If you are a direct descendant of someone named on one of the cards, please contact us and we will be happy to post the card to you.

All material on the Wiltshire Footprints website is subject to copyright law

Information is for personal research only; no part of this website should be copied or published elsewhere

without written permission from Wiltshire Footprints.

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