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Episode 35: Wiltshire

Where is Wiltshire?

In our thirty-fifth episode we talked about lots of interesting places and things in Wiltshire, so here are some pictures and links if you're interested in finding out more!


A World Heritage Site, Stonehenge and its surrounding prehistoric monuments remain powerful witnesses to the people of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages who created them.

Stonehenge has inspired people to study and interpret it for centuries, yet many questions remain to be answered – about who built it, when, and why.

Old Sarum

Old Sarum is one of the most enthralling and historically important sites in southern England. Uniquely, it combines a medieval royal castle and cathedral within an Iron Age fortification, and for 150 years was a major centre of both secular and ecclesiastical government.

Neither castle nor cathedral was occupied for long – in 1226 the cathedral was moved to nearby Salisbury, although the castle remained an administrative centre into the 14th century. Old Sarum lived on, however, as a notorious ‘rotten borough’ which continued to elect members of Parliament until 1832.

Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill is the largest artificial prehistoric mound in Europe. Probably built over a short period between about 2470 and 2350 BC, it is one of the most intriguing monuments in the prehistoric landscape of the Avebury World Heritage Site.

We do not know its purpose, or its meaning for the late Neolithic people who built it, but its enduring presence in the landscape has inspired myths and legends as people have sought to explain its purpose.


At Avebury, the world's largest prehistoric stone circle partially encompasses a pretty village. Archaeologist Alexander Keiller excavated here in the 1930s, and there is a museum bearing his name.

The Alexander Keiller Museum displays archaeological treasures from across the World Heritage Site.

Avebury Manor was transformed in a partnership between the National Trust and the BBC, creating a hands-on experience that celebrates and reflects the lives of the people who once lived here, from the Tudor times through to the 1930's when Alexander Keiller lived here.

Crammer Pond

Perhaps the most famous local legend is that of the Moonrakers, which is reputed to have taken place at the Crammer (the town’s pond).

The story goes that a group of Wiltshire smugglers heard the Excise Men approaching the town, therefore they had to quickly conceal the contraband brandy they were carrying by rolling the barrels into the Crammer. Once the Excise Men had passed, the smugglers needed to recover the barrels using a rake. The Excise Man were suspicious and therefore came back to take a second look. Catching the men with rakes they demanded to know what they were doing.

Not being stupid, one pointed to the reflection of the moon in the water and said that they were trying to rake out the cheese from the water. The Excise Men left, laughing at how stupid Devizes people can be. However it was the smugglers who had the loudest laugh as their quick thinking had stopped them being caught. 

To this day, Wiltshire people are known as ‘Moonrakers’.

Wardour Castle

Wardour Castle or Old Wardour Castle is a ruined 14th-century castle at Wardour, on the boundaries of the civil parishes of Tisbury and Donhead St Andrew in the English county of Wiltshire, about 15 miles (24 km) west of Salisbury.

The castle was built in the 1390s, came into the ownership of the Arundells in the 16th century, and was rendered uninhabitable in 1643 and 1644 during the Civil War. A Grade I listed building, it is managed by English Heritage and open to the public.

Wilton House

Wilton House is an English country house at Wilton near Salisbury in Wiltshire, which has been the country seat of the Earls of Pembroke for over 400 years.

It was built on the site of the medieval Wilton Abbey. Following the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII presented Wilton Abbey and its attached estates to William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke. The house is linked by some with the premiere of Shakespeare's As You Like It, and an important literary saloon culture under its occupation by Mary Sidney, wife of the first Earl.

The present Grade I listed house is the result of rebuilding after a 1647 fire, although a small section of the house built for William Herbert survives; alterations were made in the early 19th and early 20th centuries. The house stands in gardens and a park which are also Grade I listed. While still a family home, the house and grounds are open to visitors during the summer months.

Longford Castle

Longford Castle was originally built in the late 16th century during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I by the Gorges family to an unusual triangular plan. The caste was built with the proceeds of the contents of one of the Duke of Medina-Sidonia’s galleons which sank in the wake of the Spanish Armada.

In the 18th century the 2nd Earl of Radnor, employed the architect James Wyatt to transform it into a hexagonal palace; a project which was abandoned. It was left to the 4th Earl of Radnor and Victorian architect Anthony Salvin to complete Longford.

Castle Combe

Surrounded by Cotswolds National Landscape, Castle Combe offers plenty of picturesque walks and quaint villages streets waiting to be explored!Castle Combe has featured regularly as a film location, most recently in The Wolf Man, Stardust and Stephen Spielberg’s War Horse. It was also used in the original Dr Doolittle film.

The village has a rich history and the houses are made up of the honey coloured Cotswold stone, typical for a village of this area.Within Castle Combe you’ll find a Market Cross and St Andrew’s Church which dates from the 13th century. The church houses a faceless clock which is reputed to be one of the oldest working clocks in the country. You’ll also find a couple of pubs and a luxury hotel with a golf course within the village.

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral, formally the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is an Anglican cathedral in Salisbury, England. The cathedral is the mother church of the Diocese of Salisbury and is the seat of the Bishop of Salisbury. The building is regarded as one of the leading examples of Early English Gothic architecture. Its main body was completed in 38 years, from 1220 to 1258.

The spire was built in 1320. It was heightened to 404 feet (123 m) and has been the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom since 1561. Visitors can take the "Tower Tour", in which the interior of the hollow spire, with its ancient wooden scaffolding, can be viewed.

The cathedral has the largest cloister and the largest cathedral close in Britain at 80 acres (32 ha). It contains a clock which is among the oldest working examples in the world, and has one of the four surviving original copies of Magna Carta.

In 2008, the cathedral celebrated the 750th anniversary of its consecration.

Edington Priory Church

The Priory Church of Saint Mary, Saint Katharine and All Saints is a grade 1 listed, architecturally-outstanding building, built in the Decorated style and consecrated in 1361.

It is a large building for such a small village, but it is very well-maintained and is increasingly sought after as a concert venue.

Malmesbury Abbey

Malmesbury Abbey was built in the 12th century for the glory and worship of God. It is a place of beauty, prayer and the very warmest welcome. Admission is free (though not without cost).

Over the centuries the Abbey has been a centre of education and creativity, a community of prayer and healing, and a place of battle and burial. Its worship has been shaped by Celtic pilgrims and Benedictine monks, and since the Reformation nearly 500 years ago, Malmesbury Abbey has been part of the Church of England, serving the local community as its parish church.

Since the re-emergence of Christianity to this region in the 6th century, Malmesbury has long been a place at the forefront of history. Thought to be the first capital of England, it was home to the first saint of Wessex (St Aldhelm), the first king of England (King Athelstan the Glorious), the first man to fly (Brother Eilmer), the father of modern English history (William of Malmesbury) and the father of English philosophy (Thomas Hobbes).

Hannah Twnnoy's grave

Slumped in the corner of an expansive British churchyard is the grave of Hannah Twynnoy, an 18th century barmaid who is said to have been the first person in Britain’s history to be killed by a tiger.

An eloquent poem is engraved on the aging stone that references the “Tyger” that led to Hannah’s demise. The poem reads:

In bloom of Life

She’s snatchd from hence,

She had not roomTo make defence;

For Tyger fierce

Took Life away.

And here she liesIn a bed of Clay,

Until the Resurrection Day.

Uffington White Horse

The internationally-renowned Bronze-Age Uffington White Horse can be seen for miles away leaping across the head of a dramatic dry valley in the Ridgeway escarpment. The horse is only part of the unique complex of ancient remains that are found at White Horse Hill and beyond, spreading out across the high chalk downland.

The Manger, a dramatic dry valley has steep rippled sides left from the retreating permafrost during the last Ice Age. These ripples are known as the Giant's Steps. To the east of the Manger lies Dragon Hill, a small roundish hill with a flattened top. It is said to be the site where St. George, England's patron saint, slew the dragon. The blood poisoned the ground and left a white chalk scar for all to see.

Crowning White Horse Hill is an Iron Age hillfort known as Uffington Castle. A simple design of one rampart and ditch, the castle at 860 feet (262m) above sea level forms the highest point in Oxfordshire, with views for miles around over six counties.

Across the property Burial Mounds can be spotted. These date from the Neolithic period and have been reused up to the Saxon age. The largest contained 47 skeletons and this can be seen as you walk up to the Horse from the car park, if you look carefully.

Cley Hill

Once part of the Longleat estate, the hill was entrusted to us by the 6th Marquess of Bath. Ascend the hill to enjoy extensive views of West Wiltshire and Somerset, or to experience uninterrupted views of the sky from this locally famous UFO hotspot.

Explore the botanically rich chalk downland and discover an abundance of wild flowers teeming with insect life. The site is also significant for its geology and archaeology. It was formed by ancient seas and it's been shaped by man since its prehistoric role of guarding territorial boundaries, through to more recent farming and quarrying.


Pythouse, sometimes spelled Pyt House and pronounced pit-house, is a country house in southwest Wiltshire, in the west of England. It is about 2+1⁄2 miles (4.0 km) west of the village of Tisbury. Described as a "fine classical house", Pythouse is set in parkland with a ha-ha separating the formal house lawn from surrounding parkland on which livestock may graze.

It has an Ionic portico, and the front elevation may have inspired the design of Philipps House at nearby Dinton, which was begun in 1813 and designed by Sir Jeffry Wyatville.

Leigh Court in Somerset was later built to the plans used for Pythouse.

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