In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Downton like this:
DOWNTON, a small town, a parish, a sub-district, and a hundred in Wilts. The town stands on the river Avon and the Salisbury and Dorset railway, 6½ miles SSE of Salisbury; and has a post office‡ under Salisbury, and a railway station. It carries on lace-making, tick-weaving, malting, tanning, and paper-making; has fairs on 23 April and 2 Oct.; and was formerly a market-town. It is a borough by prescription; and it sent two members to parliament, till disfranchised by the Reform act. ...
It possessed importance in the Saxon times, and contains a grand antiquity of them called the Moot; it belonged, after the Conquest, to the Bishops of Winchester, and was for many years their residence; it has an ancient stone cross, called the Borough cross; has also three bridges, a fine old church, seven dissenting chapels, and a free school. The Moot belongs to George S mp-son, Esq.; includes extensive earthworks, of singular structure, in which either Saxon parliaments or Saxon courts of justice were held, and a central, large, conical mound, which seems to be the vestige of a Saxon castle; and is maintained in good preservation, and surrounded by an old-fashioned garden. The seat of the bishops stood at a place now called Old Court; and is supposed to have been thrice visited by King John. The church is cruciform; has a fine central tower; dates partly from the time of Henry I.; underwent restoration in 1860; and contains a very ancient font, and interesting monuments of the Duncombes, the Fevershams, and others. The old parsonage, a structure of the time of Elizabeth or of James I., now a farm-house, was long the residence of the Raleighs, and was the birth-place of Dean Raleigh, the grandson of Sir Walter, and that also of Admiral Sir Roger Curtis, the hero of Gibraltar. The parish includes also the tythings of Charlton, Church, East Downton, Hamptworth, Wick, and Walton. Acres, together with the extra-parochial tract of Witherington and Langley-Wood, and the parish of Nunton-with-Bodenham, 13, 221. Rated property, £15, 750. Pop., 3, 566. Houses, 799. The property is much sub-divided. Downton House was the seat of the Shuckburghs. Barford, now a farm-house, was the residence of the Lords Feversham, and passed by purchase to the late Earl Nelson. Trafalgar House, Earl Nelson's seat, is adjacent to Barford. The living is a vicarage, united with the vicarage of Nunton, in the diocese of Salisbury. Value, £571.* Patron, Winchester College. The vicarages of Charlton and Redlynch are separate benefices. -The sub-district contains seven parishes; and is in the district of Alderbury. Acres, 19, 844. Pop., 4, 790. Houses, 1, 068. The hundred also contains seven parishes; but some of them differ from those of the sub-district. Acres, 26, 492. Pop., 6, 612. Houses, 1, 476.
A Vision of Britain through Time includes a large library of local statistics for administrative units. For the best overall sense of how the area containing Downton has changed, please see our redistricted information for the modern district of Salisbury. More detailed statistical data are available under Units and statistics, which includes both administrative units covering Downton and units named after it.
GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Downton, in Salisbury and Wiltshire | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Date accessed: 30th August 2015
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