May 11 • 7M

The Heritage Quarter - Calne

A remarkable look back in time

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Roland Millward
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Several well-placed information boards guide you on your walk

A walk around the Heritage Quarter in Calne is a most interesting way to spend some time in this Wiltshire town.

Modern-day Calne comprises many new housing developments to cope with the rising population of England and those moving from cities to more rural areas.

We start our tour of the area by entering Patford Street from Castlefields Park, where you can find the remnants of The Wilts & Berks Canal. Click here to see my video tour.

Patford Street contains many old houses, some date back to the 17th century. As you can see in the video, the street is beautifully preserved, with some more recent additions that have not detracted too much from the appearance.

Leading off uphill is Castle Street, a narrow road, also with a fine collection of old properties that leads round to Market Hill. The old coaching inn, The Lansdowne Strand, dates back to the 16th century. Running alongside the A4, this was once the home to a medieval brewery, but worry ye not. The beer is fresh! In those days gone by, the horses would be washed down using the water from the River Marden. The weary travellers enjoyed a beer and good food or a bed for the night.

The Heritage Quarter is divided by this road, and I wonder how many of those passing through know how much history lies on either side of them. If only all these buildings could talk!

The River Marden goes under the road and in front of the library alongside the start of Church Street. Harris’s meat factory stood in much of this area until it closed and was finally demolished in 1984. At its height, it had 2000 employees and was the primary employer for many years, having started as a butchers shop in 1770.

St Mary’s Church, Calne

We walk now along Church Street, and of course, we come to St Mary’s Church. There has been a church recorded in Calne’s history since 1066, and most certainly, it stood on this site. Work began on the current building in the 12th century, and it was opened in 1160. St Mary’s is the Church of England and the town’s main church. Over the years, additions and alterations have been made; the 15th-century roof can be viewed in the nave.

Next, we turn left as we pass the church onto Kingsbury Street, and amongst the old houses, we find Dr Johnson’s Almshouses built in the year 1650 for the benefit of the poor. They are still a charity today and for single person use. There are four one-bedroom dwellings.

The Green, Calne

Kingsbury Street opens out onto The Green. Originally The Green was owned by the church and hosted a regular fair. Some outstanding properties of differing eras surround it. In 1662 John Bentley opened a school here, the first of five around this grassy area. Until 2019 Calne had a John Bentley school that has now been renamed Kingsbury Green Academy, after this very green where it all started.

At the top of The Green, we turn left onto Horsebrook and go past where Maundrell’s Foundry stood, which opened in the 1850s and closed in 1957. It carried on hosting an engineering company until the late 1990s. One building gives an insight into its past, but the area has new housing built on the land.

Many of the old houses on this road have gone until you reach the bottom of the hill where once again we cross the River Marden. Swaddons Mill, one of the many mills in Calne, used the water from the river to power its machinery.

We now conclude our walk after visiting The Wharf, close to our starting point. Here is where the barges from The Wilts & Berks Canal would be loaded and unloaded. The area has been built on, but we can imagine the hustle and bustle of those long-gone days.

To find out more here is the link to The Calne Heritage Centre to find out about opening times.

Thank you for joining me, and I hope you enjoyed the video tour. Please do subscribe to my YouTube Channel and this newsletter. It will be good to have you along for the journey as we explore new places together.

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