Highworth Town Trail
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Welcome to the Highworth Town Trail which traces some of the town's rich historical heritage. Follow the numbered route on the plan which starts at the bottom of the High Street.
1. The Manor House is, in the main, 16th century with a 15th century wing at the back. In 1361 the manor was conveyed to the Bonhommes at Edington who, although never establishing a house there, held it for the next 178 years. It is this association which led to the property sometimes being referred to as the monastery and to the many stories told of ghostly monks and secret passages leading to the church.
2. To the right of the Manor House is the Saracen's Head Inn, once a fine coaching inn. The indentations either side of the main doorway were to allow passage for the wheel axles of the coaches which once passed through here to the rear of the building. The proposed blocking of the archway was opposed by John Betjeman in the 1950's. In 1784 the Florist's Carnation Feast, which had previously taken place at the Sun Inn, was held here.
3. The Trail continues across to the Market Square where you will find the Emporium. Once known as the Holy Lamb Inn in the early 17th century it was later renamed the King's Head. It became a grocer's shop run by the Curtis family and later the Boultons. On the side of the building is a datestone showing the date of AD1566 and a trade mark. Up until 1769 a pond, pool or weir is known to have been on the north side of the building in Sheep Street. Can you see the blue plaque giving details of Highworth's market and fairs charter?
4. The heart of the town was the market place where a market house on pillars once stood opposite the entrance to Gilbert's Alley. This was built in the late 17th century by Thomas Freke of Hannington. By this time the market had become more specialised dealing in cattle and had become the greatest market for fat cattle in Wiltshire. The Podium marks the site of the old Rifleman's Arms Inn.
5. Near the bottom of Sheep Street is a lovely house, now Highworth Hair and Beauty and County Dry Cleaners. An old coaching inn, it was called first the White Hart and later the Swan Inn. An outline of a heart can be traced in the cobbles in front of the entrance arch. It closed as an inn in 1860 and became home to a firm of builders initially owned by a Mr Thomas and then by the Chick family.
6. Continuing up Sheep Street you will come to a solicitor's office. Previously the Golden Ball, it later became the Red Lion until it closed in 1970. Beneath the windows can be seen the iron hoops to which the sheep pens would be fastened on market days.
7. As you come to the churchyard gates stop and glance to your right at what is now the Brewer's House in Vicarage Lane. Built in 1778 by Jo Reynolds, by 1851 it had become Highworth's Post Office and is shown on the 1871 census as the Globe Brewery where Richard Ricketts, Master Brewer was living.
8. A place of worship has stood on the site of the parish church of St Michael's for over 900 years. Originally this was a cruciform minster church which was later enlarged to the pleasant perpendicular style building dating from the 15th century which you see today. To the left of the south door are the remains of two scratch dials. Note the large parish chest once used for storing vestments, parish records and church plate. It is thought to date from the late 13th century. Over the south door can be seen the Anglo Norman tympanum dating to circa 1140. A jewel of St Michael's church, it depicts Samson fighting a lion. In the chancel are three misericorde seats dating to the 15th century. The seat carvings show a mermaid holding a mirror, the head of an angel and a man's head. To the right of the Altar is the Warneford chapel. Once the family's chantry chapel dedicated to St Katherine it later became their mortuary chapel. Of particular note is the memorial to Sub. Lieunant Warneford R.N. Another chantry dedicated to St Nicholas is known to have been established in the church possibly located in what is now the Cullerne Room.
9. Outside to the left of the West door on the wall is a depression made by a Parliamentarian cannon ball during the brief siege of the Royalist garrison held by Major Henry Henne on 27th June 1645.
10. A short step through the archway, known as the Winding Hatch, brings you back into the High Street. The building to your left was once the Cross Keys Inn, closing in 1891 it later becoming a Post Office.
11. Turning right move along to No 29. This was once the Bull Inn until 1881 where the skull of a giant was on display as far back as the late 17th century.
12. The Highworth hotel and restaurant, formerly known as Prospect House, was once the home of S. B Burton Esq, famous for church repairs and architecture. To the right is the White House built in the early 18th century for George Farr, Maltster and Plummer. Note the Sun Fire Office insurance badge located about a foot below the eaves. Insurance then was 2/6 per £100.
13. Turning into Cricklade Road you will see on your right Westrop House built in 1818 by William Crowdy, solicitor, and Lord of the Manor. William Cobbett stopped here for a week in 1827.
14. Further along the Cricklade Road stands Westhill House built in the 1790s as the Highworth Workhouse. Sold in 1847 it was at one time the Vicarage and later the home of Sir Noel Arkell.
15. The Elms was once known as Puzzle Court because of the maze of narrow lanes and passages there. Simon Iles the Highworth Dwarf lived here.
16. Stroll back into the High Street where you will find on your right the United Reformed Church which dates from about 1825. Congregationalism first came to Highworth in 1777. During the early years the church suffered much abuse and services were constantly interrupted.
17. No 24 High Street - Inigo House - has a Queen Anne brick frontage with a typical Tudor Cotswold style building at the back. It has a superb doorcase of fluted Corinthian pilasters, stone quoins and enriched cornice and parapet. There is a Phoenix Fire Insurance medallion dating from approximately 1820.
18. No's 22 and 23 were once one building believed to have been the site of the Greyhound Inn in the 18th century. It is more famous for its role in the Wartime British Resistance when members reported there on their way to training at Coleshill House.
19. Finally we arrive at The King and Queen Inn, parts of which may date from the 15th century. At the rear of the building is a datestone WL 1677. A room at the rear of the building served as the courthouse. By the mid 19th century it was the property of the Sun Brewery passing to Ushers and thence to the present owners. The pub is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a man.
We hope you enjoy using this Town Trail. Please click here to download a pdf copy of this Town Trail
Young Time Travellers Trail
Please click here to download a pdf copy of this Young Time Travellers Trail
Young Time Travellers
Welcome to the Highworth Young Time Travellers Trail which traces some of the town's rich history. Follow the numbered route on the plan which starts at the bottom of the High Street by the Manor House.
1. Manor House
The part of the building that you can see from the High Street was built about 500 years ago.
Can you work out what date that would be?
Yes, this part of the manor house was built about 1510 when Henry VIII was King.
The datestones are much newer than the house and have the dates of 1656 and 1652.
Can you see these datestones?
One shows a tiler's hammer. It might tell us the trade of the owner of the house.
Turn and look at the datestone on the side of the building opposite. It is very worn.
What is the date on it?
Yes, it shows a date of 1560 or 1566 when Elizabeth I was Queen. It is probably the real date that the house was built.
2. Saracen's Head
This was once an old coaching inn.
Stop and close your eyes for a moment and imagine the big horse drawn coaches coming and going. Tired travellers getting off and going in for food and rest. The teams of horses being changed over.
The hollows either side of the main doorway were to allow passage for the wheel axles of the coaches as they drove through to the stables which were once at the back of the building.
Go and touch the curved hollows.
3. The King and Queen
This was also an old coaching inn. At the back of the King and Queen Inn there is a sundial set high up on the wall.
Look for the sundial. Can you see the hour lines and numbers?
A sundial shows the time by a shadow cast by the sun. It is at its highest in the sky in the middle of the day. Shadows point west in the morning and east in the afternoon. This information is used in making a sundial. A sundial set in a wall is a VERTICAL DIAL. A dial on a wall can only show the hours when the sun is shining on the wall. Sundials have a pointer called a gnomon or style and it's the shadow of the gnomon which shows the time.
4. 5. 6. Fire Insurance Badges
In the past there were no properly organised fire brigades for fighting fires. Fire insurance companies had their own firemen who would put out fires which happened on property insured by their company. Their metal plaques or badges were fixed on the front of a building.
Three houses in Highworth still have these badges. Nos 17 and 24 the High Street and No 5 Lechlade Road.
Look for the badges. Can you make out a Building, a Phoenix and a Sun?
Do you know what happened in London in 1666? Do you think the same could have happened in Highworth?
7. Westrop Cottage - Ice House and Blind House
Ice houses were underground brick lined rooms. They were used to cool and keep food in all year round. Ice was collected during the winter from nearby freshwater lakes. It was moved very quickly in horse-drawn carts so that it didn't melt. Once in the icehouse the ice would stay frozen for many months.
Can you imagine living in a house without a fridge?
The way in to this ice house is through a long brick lined tunnel. There are niches in the walls where old fashioned beehives, called skeps, would have been stored throughout the winter.
The Blind House was built as a simple village lock-up or gaol. They were used to hold drunks and thieves. They would have been cold damp places with the only light coming from a small grill above head height. They would have had heavy nail-studded wooden doors with a strong metal lock.
Look for the grill. What do you think it must have been like to have been locked up in a blind house?
Do you think we should have a blind house in Highworth now?
8. St Michael's Church
During the Civil War of 1642 - 1649, the Royalists had turned Highworth Church into a garrison, or central place where lots of soldiers were based.
Do you think the people liked having soldiers in their town?
On the 27th June 1645, the Parliamentarians marched through Highworth. One cannon was fired in the direction of the west door. Luckily it missed the door but hit the wall only a few inches away.
Can you see the hole in the wall where the cannonball hit?
Four soldiers were killed on this day and seventy prisoners taken.
9. St Michael's Church Porch
The porch of St Michael's church has two of the oldest sorts of sundials to be found. These are called 'SCRATCH DIALS' or 'MASS DIALS' . They were very simple and just showed the times of the services so that the bell could be rung.
Can you see the two scratch dials? Touch the hole and the lines.
Can you see how a stick pushed into the hole throws a shadow?
10. Sheep Street, No. 6
Go to Sheep Street and stop in front of No 6. This was once an Inn called the Golden Ball and later the Red Lion until it closed in 1970.
Why do you think it was called Sheep Street? How would it smell on market day? Look under the windows.
Can you see some small iron hoops jutting out? These were used to fasten the sheep pens to on market days.
11. Sheep Street, No's. 2 & 3
Near the bottom of Sheep Street is a lovely house now No's 2 & 3. This too was once an old coaching inn and was called at first the White Hart and later the Swan Inn. The outline of a heart can be traced in the cobbles in front of the entrance arch.
Can you see this heart?
If you were travelling, which Inn would you have preferred to stay in?
12. Market Place
This was the heart of the town. Highworth was first known to have been granted permission to hold markets and fairs 800 years ago and it is probably about this time that the town began to grow.
Can you see the plaque which commemorates this event?
Please click here to download a pdf copy of this Young Time Travellers Trail
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