Beneath the Town Hall’s stairway is a curious cobbled area; the site of the
town’s Blind House where drunks and other undesirables were locked up
in the days before police cells. The town’s stocks and “Cucking stool”,
used for ducking garrulous women in the town’s pond, are upstairs in the
museum, which also houses the town’s regalia.
The town had, at various times, a brickworks, breweries, the St. Ivel Dairy
factory and various other industries. It was also a “Rotten Borough”,
returning two MPs to parliament with much bribery and corruption
until the 1832 Reform Act put a stop to all that!
Royal Wootton Bassett is both historical and vibrant. On the High
Street alone, over 40 buildings are listed by Historic England for their
architectural importance, including the beautiful St. Bartholomew
and All Saints Medieval Parish Church. Originally built in the mid-13th
century, it was almost entirely rebuilt in 1470 and restored in 1879 to
be once more in keeping with its medieval period.
A modern war memorial was installed in 2004 to augment the more private
memorial garden at the town’s cemetery. Before long, it became the focus
for the nation’s respect as fallen soldiers were repatriated through the town
from 2007 – 2011. The Town was then granted royal patronage in March 2011,
by Elizabeth II in recognition of its tributes to the fallen. Wootton Bassett
was presented with the Letters Patent, by the Princess Royal on 16 October
2011. These events then inspired sculptor, Mark Humphrey, to gift the town
with a white marble stone poppy, called “Forever”, which was dedicated in
the presence of HRH The Princess Royal in 2016. Lights installed at the base
of the sculpture bathe the stone poppy in the traditional red after dark.
Geologically, the town sits atop a Corallian ridge of limestone, sloping
down to fossil-rich Kimmeridge clay. The Wilts and Berks Canal was cut
through this clay and operated for just 31 years before the railway arrived
in 1841. The restored canal is now a peaceful, nature-filled walk just a
short distance from the town centre.
Marble Sculpture “Forever”