Although predominantly an agricultural area, wool supported a cloth industry long ago; weaving continued for several hundred years. Stone quarrying was the most important local industry from early times until just after the turn of the 20th century. Chilmark stone, an outcrop of Portland stone (from the villages of Chilmark, Tisbury and Teffont Evias) was used in the construction of many historic buildings in Wiltshire including Salisbury Cathedral, Fonthill Abbey, Wardour Castle and Wilton Abbey.
Many diverse industries operated in the village throughout the 1900's; glove making, printing and publishing, watch and clock making, ale brewing, carpet making and agricultural machinery production.
The parish comprises three distinct areas, East Tisbury, West Tisbury and Wardour and also includes the satellite hamlet of Chicksgrove. With a population of around 2,000 Tisbury is known as the centre of the Nadder Valley boasting a Railway Station, Post Office, schools, banks, shops, cafes and historic inns.
The Parish Church
Sitting on the northern bank of the River Nadder, St John the Baptist dates from the late C12th. Of the original building, 4 piers, parts of the transepts and the tower arches remain. The stone alter is C13th, the wagon roof in the nave is C15th; Jacobean pews and a pulpit were added in the mid 1600's. The church spire was struck by lightning in 1742 and again in 1762 when the spire fell destroying the north transept roof and part of the north aisle. In the rebuilding, a second storey was added to the tower in place of the spire, thus reducing its height.
In 1858 the Revd F. Hutchinson built a grand new vicarage and improved the church - the musician's gallery was removed and the roof of the Beggar's Porch, housing ancient stones where the poor sat to receive charity, was lowered. 1927 saw major rebuilding of the tower, the bells were overhauled and a three dial clock installed. A recent addition to St. John's churchyard is the Garden of Remembrance; a not-so-recent addition is a Yew Tree of gigantic size, estimated by Kew Gardens to be over 4,000 years old. The graves of Rudyard Kipling's parents can be seen here; John Lockwood Kipling, a skilled sculptor, created some of the illustrations for his son's books.
Church of the Sacred Heart
Anne Lucy Lady Arundell provided the site for a Roman Catholic church at the lower end of Tisbury High Street; the 12th Lord Arundell, provided the stone for the building. Opened in 1898, the Sacred Heart was built as a chapel of ease in Gothic style. After consecration in 1934, it became the Catholic parish church for the districts of Tisbury and Wardour.
With no major roads leading directly to Tisbury, you will have to wend your way along narrow lanes and through tiny villages to reach this hidden gem in the Wiltshire countryside. The parish lies amid rolling chalk downland overlooking the Nadder Valley.
Tisbury has existed since at least 759AD when it was known as Tysse's Burgh by the Anglo Saxons. Later it was dominated by nearby Shaftesbury Abbey in Dorset and formed part of the Abbey's estate. Place Farm, once the C13th medieval administration centre of the Abbesses of Shaftesbury, still stands to the east of the village with the Abbess' house, gatehouses and a magnificent 200' long tithe barn bearing one of the largest expanses of thatch in England.
Wesleyan Methodist Chapel
The first chapel, built by James Jukes at The Quarry, opened for worship in 1846 and closed in 1902 when the New Methodist Chapel opened in the High Street. This chapel then closed in the latter part of the 1900's when the Methodists and Zion Hill Congregationalists joined together and worshipped from the United Reformed and Methodist Church. The Chapel 1845-1914
Primitive Methodists - Hatch and Tuckingmill
A return made to the Clerk of the Peace of Wiltshire in 1829 put the number of Primitive Methodists in the parish at 99. This number grew rapidly and two new places of worship were built in the latter part of 1800. At Hatch, a new chapel for 100 people was built on land belonging to Vere Fane Benett of Pythouse in 1872. At Tucking Mill, a new chapel was built in 1877 also seating 100 people. Both chapels have long since closed. More on the Primitive Methodists
World War 1
At the time of the First World War, the population of Tisbury was about 2500; 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 few obvious signs to the people of Tisbury 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 were required for the war effort leaving the farms bereft of their best working animals.
Inns and Hotels
During the 19th century, beer was the main drink in rural parishes; it was consumed in large quantities by the working classes, especially at harvest time. Considering their harsh everyday lives and the backbreaking work and monotony of their diet, it is not surprising that men escaped to the alehouses. The commonest entries in the records of the Quarter Sessions from 1800-1900 were alcohol related offences - excessive drinking, fighting, stealing and gaming - a huge problem in rural communities across the country.
Alongside the daily provision of ale, inns traditionally hosted inquests, auctions, Slate and Friendly Society anniversaries and fetes, religious, political and sports club meetings. Between 1860 and 1885, three 'modern-day' hotels sprang up in Tisbury, all built by the same man - Archibald Beckett. He had the foresight to cater for an increasingly mobile population brought about by the railway, and no doubt had an eye on hosting some of the lucrative club dinners and festivals that were so well patronised by locals and their guests that had, until then, been hosted by the old village inns.
The Slate Clubs
With their heydays from about the mid 1870's through to the 1940's and with aims similar to the friendly societies, Slate Clubs were established to assist working men who fell on hard times through sickness, unemployment, bereavement, etc. The headquarters of a Slate Club was usually in a public house and those who joined paid a copper or two each week into a fund. As with the friendly societies, most Slate Clubs held an annual fete that helped to supplement the club 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). Tisbury had clubs in several inns, the most enduring of which appears to have been the one held at The Crown, initially known as the Wardour Slate Club.
The original workhouse, in operation from the mid 1700's, stood very close to the church. This building closed in 1868 as the new one opened on Monmouth Hill - itself demolished in the late 1960's. The inmates of the workhouse are shown on the Wardour census in 1841, 1851 and 1861, and then on the West Tisbury census.
In Days Gone By
The Village Today
Beneath the rugged elm and yew tree shade
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap
Each in their narrow cell forever laid
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep
A Roll of Honour, framed in oak as a 'War Shrine', was erected in The Square in 1918, the expense being borne by public subscription. The War Shrine was unveiled by Lady Mary Morrison at Easter of that year. Mr Hugh Morrison, M.P., gave a copy of the Roll of Honour, framed in oak, to each of the churches and chapels in the parish.
The War Memorial that stands in The Square today was erected and dedicated in 1954, taking the place of the War Shrine. Five plaques made of Chilmark stone make up the memorial. 45 men who lost their lives in The Great War are commemorated; 38 of those are also named on the Memorial Tablet in St John the Baptist Church, the inscription on which reads
To the Glory of God
and in proud and affectionate remembrance
of the men from the parish of Tisbury
who gave their lives for their KIng and Country
in the Great War 1914-1918
A special service was held in St John the Baptist church on 21 March 1920 when the Memorial Tablet was unveiled by Field Marshall Lord Methuen, G.C.B., K.C.V.A., C.M.G. and dedicated by the Ven Archdeacon of Sarum.
The 45 men commemorated on the War Memorial:
World War 2
The Memorial bears the names of 30 men who lost their lives in WW2 and a dedication to 55th Armored Infantry Battalion of the Third United States Army who were stationed at nearby Fonthill Gifford.
Zion Hill Congregational Chapel
Opened for worship in 1842, the chapel was built on a hill overlooking the Nadder Valley. Membership grew during the 19th and 20th centuries and the chapel thrived with a large and vibrant congregation. Serious damage to the building during a storm, coupled with a gradual decline in membership, contributed to the closure of the chapel in the latter part of the 1900's. The chapel, a Grade 11 Listed Building, is now a private house.
“Three memorial windows of embossed Cathedral glass, the cost of which included the fixing amounted to £125, have been placed in the north east wall of the church by the members of the congregation and friends, in memory of the eight men (who died in WW1) who were worshippers in this church”. (Extract from "Tisbury Past & Present" written in 1920 by Mrs E Miles)
St John the Baptist School
Built in 1843 beside the church, boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 10 were taught in separate classes under a master and a mistress. By 1905 children often stayed at school until they were 13. When the school finally closed in 1973, Lord Hinton, son of a former headmaster, bought the building and presented it to the village for use as a community centre.
The Infants’ School
Built in the High Street in 1873 for 95 children, the infants attending St John the Baptist school (above) moved here. The school finally closed in 1973, 100 years after it had opened.
Church of England School Chicksgrove
Built in 1872 for 40 pupils. An ornate apse was added later for church services and remained in use for some time after the school closed in 1926. The building is now a private house.
Newtown Endowed School West Tisbury
Built in 1846 by John Benett of Pythouse to serve the poor of West Tisbury and its neighbours. An additional classroom was added in 1877, at which time about 45 pupils on average were attending. The school closed in 1931; it was used as a village hall in the 1950's and converted in the 1990's to a private house.
Opened initially in 1861 as a private boarding and day school for boys and girls by James Bristol Snr. The school was continued after his death for day scholars only by his daughters Caroline and Mary Bristol and finally closed in 1926.
The Reading Room
Built of local stone, a reading room and library opened in the corner of the playground of the Infants' school in the High Street in 1911. Originally it had a large room for games and a smaller room for reading and writing. The building now houses the local branch library.
Much more detailed information on the above schools can be found on the Wiltshire Community History website.
A further 15 casualties have been identified whose names do not appear on the War Memorial or the WW1 Plaque in St John the Baptist church. All had close ties with Tisbury.