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Records of Wootton Bassett seem to start in 681 AD when the Saxon King Ethelred granted the Abbot of Malmesbury a charter, which consisted: '10 hides of land to a place called Wodeton' (possibly a clearing in what is now Braden Forest).

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This charter had been lost by 1086, when the Doomsday Book shows Wodeton to belong to Levenod, a manor with a Norman Lord, Milo Crispin. By 1200 AD the manor had descended to Alan Bassett, whose signature can be seen as part of the Preface to the Magna Carta.

The town hall built in 1700 houses Wootton Bassett's museum of local history

 A weekly market was granted to Alan Bassett in 1219 by Henry III, which is still held on Wednesdays to the present day.

John Aubry in his collections of North Wiltshire says of Wootton Bassett as, "a very ancient Mayor Towne". Possibly a mayor was first elected by a committee formed to run the market.

John Wallmonger was the first known mayor in 1408, his name suggests that there may have been a good trade in wool at that time. After the post of mayor was established, it came to include civic head, coroner and chief magistrate among others.

There was a small priory in the town, probably in Wood Street. This was run by a priest (the prior) and lay brothers (presbyters) to feed thirteen old men of the parish. This was originally called the hospital of St John, set up in 1254 by Philip, a son of Alan Bassett.

A second manor house was built, named Vastern. The two manor houses were run by one lord. The priory of St John was transferred to Bradenstoke Priory in 1405 and continued for another fifty years or so.

The High Street

Land ownership of Wootton Bassett went through various changes over the years. In 1446 just prior to the War of the Roses, two MP's were sent to parliament.

Henry VIII it is said, had a mistress at Vastern Manor. The manor and lands did belong to his widow Katherine Parr until her death in 1548. The Hyde family, in the 17th century renewed the charter for Wootton Bassett, probably to enhance their political careers, and Lawrence Hyde, first Earl of Rochester, gave the town its Town Hall in 1700.

The Town Hall did not always look as it does now. Originally the plan was a council chamber standing on 15 Tuscan columns in equal rows. Under-which was a storeroom at ground level for market wares. As it was also the place of law and order, a 'Blind House' (lock-up) was also included for holding drunks overnight. During considerable restoration in 1889 by Sir Henry Meux, the 'Blind House' was removed.

Today the Town Hall houses the local museum which is open from 10am - 12noon on both Wednesday and Saturdays reached by an open oak staircase.

Thoughts of Wootton Bassett

51°31'58.8"N 1°54'00.0"W

Royal Wootton Bassett, Coordinates