HISTORY OF THE
Wiltshire is notable for its pre-Roman
archaeology. The Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age people that occupied southern Britain
built settlements on the hills and downland that cover Wiltshire. Stonehenge and Avebury are perhaps the most
famous Neolithic sites in the UK.
In the 6th and 7th centuries Wiltshire was at
the western edge of Saxon Britain,
as Cranborne Chase and the
Somerset Levels prevented the advance to
the west. The Battle of Bedwyn was
fought in 675 between Escuin, a
West Saxon nobleman who had seized the
throne of Queen Saxburga, and
King Wulfhere of Mercia. In 878
the Danes invaded the county.
Following the Norman Conquest, large areas of the country came into the possession of the crown and the
At the time of the Domesday Survey the industry of Wiltshire was
largely agricultural; 390
mills are mentioned, and
vineyards at Tollard and Lacock. In
the succeeding centuries sheep-farming was vigorously pursued, and the Cistercian monasteries of Kingswood
and Stanley exported wool to the Florentine and Flemish markets in the 13th and 14th centuries.
In the 17th century English Civil War Wiltshire was largely
Parliamentarian. The Battle of Roundway Down, a decisive Royalist victory, was
fought near Devizes.
Around 1800 the Kennet and Avon Canal was built through Wiltshire
providing a route for transporting cargoes from Bristol to London until the development of the Great Western
The local nickname for Wiltshire natives is moonrakers. This
originated from a story of smugglers who managed to foil the local Excise men by hiding their alcohol, possibly French brandy in barrels or kegs, in a village pond.
When confronted by the excise men they raked the surface in order to conceal the submerged
contraband with ripples, and claimed
that they were trying to rake in a large round cheese visible in the pond, really a reflection of the full
moon. The officials took them for simple yokels or mad and left them alone, allowing them to continue with
their illegal activities. Many villages claim the tale for their own village pond, but the story is most
commonly linked with The Crammer in Devizes.
Transcribed from: http://en.wikipedia.org