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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Service Register 1946
In 1928 and 1936, outlying portions of the Fonthill Abbey Estate were auctioned, cottages, farms and land, the majority of which were in Semley.
Semley Page 2
This page is for Bernard Pike, a Semley man, friend and mentor
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.
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