The Village of Bromham
including the story of the Steeple Flyer!
Bromham, a Quiet Wiltshire Village
There are some places that I consider visiting, and I wonder whether I will find anything of interest to my readers. On the surface, the quiet and small village of Bromham might give the appearance of a lack of things to write about. However, as is often the case, some gems are always found with a little digging. In fact, there is much more to tell if we delve into archives than I have written about here.
On another lovely October morning, I made my way to Bromham, which lies four miles northwest of Devizes. This Wiltshire village contains some beautiful buildings. The autumn sunshine and bright blue sky enhanced their appearance. A few villagers were out for a morning walk, and it was nice to exchange a smile and say hello.
There is a free car park in the centre of the village, and it’s here that I parked my car and commenced my walk. Bromham also includes five other settlements within the parish: Hawkstreet, St Edith’s Marsh, Netherstreet, Westbrook, and Chittoe. The most likely reason why the houses are so scattered is the agricultural and horticultural development. Homes were built on the fertile land being cultivated.
The car park was opened in 1963. At the same time, almshouses built in1612 (the year after the King James Bible was published) were demolished, something unlikely to happen these days. A row of new homes replaced them. On one side of the car park, we can see the Greyhound Inn. According to an article in The Sun Newspaper in 2017, it was reported that the inn was one of the top 10 in England and Wales. The article referred to a TripAdvisor analysis of recommendations. As I step off the car park and onto the High Street, I can see on the opposite corner to The Greyhound Inn the lovely old cottages you can see in the photo below. These must be 600 years old and have stood the test of time. Just further along the High Street is a small row of shops, the only remaining ones in the village.
St Nicholas Church Bromham
Opposite, there is St. Nicholas Church. Along the high wall of the church, there is the village lock-up. The plaque informs me that it was opened in 1809. It’s good that this has survived, as so many have been demolished. The building of St Nicholas Church began somewhere between 1086-1094, the time of King William I (William the Conqueror). Over the years, it has been added to and altered. Considerable parts of the church are Norman and medieval, along with 17th, 18th and 19th-century construction and alterations.
Bromham and the Steeple Flyer
There is an interesting story regarding the church. In 1735, village entertainment was arranged, including the visit of a ‘steeple flyer’. I have never heard of these flyers before, have you? A rope was attached to the steeple, and the steeple flyer using a piece of wood in effect, ‘zip-wired’ down the rope to the ground below. The spire did not bear the weight on this occasion and fell apart. The flyer must have been close enough to the ground as he did survive this mishap, unlike the spire.
The church clock you see was installed in 1887 as part of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations and is keeping time for all to see.
Going back to the 11th century, the Domesday Book of 1086 tells that the King held the land. There was enough land for ten plough teams, two mills, meadowland, pasture and a small wood. Historians using this record would estimate a population of 220 to 260; today, it is around 2000. In 1087, Bromham was given to Battle Abbey (East Sussex), founded by William I. It was retained until 1538, the time of the Dissolution. Bromham was then purchased by the great Wiltshire landowner Sir Edward Bayntun. You will see his name on a street sign in the village and other places in Wiltshire. You may see his name also spelt, Baynton.
Having walked through the churchyard, I descended the steps onto Church Hill. This gave me a view of Porch House, a late 17th-century grade II listed property. Between 1751-1825 it was The Red Lion Public House. Further along The Chantry, we see more properties from around 1600, the far one until recently the village stores. (see opening photo) Going down the hill on the left-hand side is the Methodist Chapel of 1799, built into the hillside. There is no land or community hall with the chapel, as it has only 2 feet of land around it.
More Facts about Bromham
Here are a few other facts about Bromham for you.
Industry-wise it was a weaving area, and weaving was the dominant industry until the coloured broadcloth trade took over from the undyed broadcloth trade. In 1622 it was reported that 33 looms were idle and 800 persons unemployed. A significant blow for the families involved. In those days, the whole family, including able children, would be working at home producing cloth. The land is very fertile and did open up the chance for some of them to work in agriculture and horticulture, a trade that is still now very much in evidence around Bromham.
A brush factory was established in the late 19th century at the bottom of Church Hill. It made long-handled brooms and employed 12 men, closing in 1937. In 1893 telegraph arrived at Bromham Post Office. It took a while longer for modern conveniences to arrive. It wasn’t until 1955 that piped water was installed, followed in 1961 by mains sewerage.
If you wish to trace ancestors back to Bromham, the church Parish registers date back to 1566 for christenings and 1560 for marriages and burials. The records are held at the Records Office, Chippenham. Current records are kept in St Nicholas Church.
Sadly for Bromham, the village social club burned down on June 14th 2021. Bromham FC, who play on the adjoining football pitch, are carrying on, and a temporary building has been erected. The football club was founded in 1897 and has had many successful seasons. I hope the village will get a new social club building in the course of time; fundraising is underway.
Country Walks around Bromham
Although spread out, the village has a beautiful central part emanating from the car park. This is the area I have explored. I hope to visit other parts of the parish in the future, and when I do, I will write about them here at Roland’s Travels. You can enjoy many walks, and here is a link to some produced by the Bromham Footpath Group.
Watch my walk in this video
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