Horton, Wiltshire

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Cottage near Horton Chain Bridge, Wiltshire - geograph-3361157.jpg
A canal-side cottage at Horton
Grid reference: SU049633
Location: 51°22’10"N, 1°55’50"W
Postcode: SN10
Local Government
Council: Wiltshire

Horton is a small village in Wiltshire, on the edge the Vale of Pewsey, an area of outstanding beauty. The village sits a loop in the Kennet and Avon Canal within the parish of Bishops Cannings, which latter village is just to the northwest, beyond the canal. Little Horton is a lesser hamlet to the south.

This was once a prosperous hamlet, thriving on the wool trade, and the coming of the canal in 1810 brought a new conduit for trade. Horton today has just two farms and the remaining houses are occupied by commuters, the retired or those working from home.

Horton has no one focus and is principally a linear village.


The signs of ancient generations are riven into the landscape. It has many tumuli and ancient earthworks, chief of then a Neolithic long barrow on Horton Down dated to around 3000 BC. The Wansdyke crosses the Horton Down; a massive linear rampart and north-facing ditch running for miles across the county and beyond and which is believed to be a defensive structure built by the Britons against incoming Saxons. Running west to east to lower ground is a trackway, now a bridlepath, called Harepath; the name may be from the Old English herepaþ, an attested word meaning 'military way'.

North of the Harepath, near Tan Hill, just below its hill fort, a fine series of early agricultural terraces or lynchets is still visible. There are many more example of antiquities on the downlands. There are some eight round barrows, one further long barrow, extensive field systems, enclosures and Romano-British buildings. In Horton there is evidence of large ring ditches around Townsend Farm and field systems either side of the track leading to the Downs from the eastern end of the village. A mediæval settlement is buried under the farmland between Horton Mill Farm and Bachelor’s Mead.

The Manor of Horton, or 'Horton Quarles' is recorded in 1191 when records make reference to two ‘Knights Fees’ levied on Horton to support the defence of Devizes Castle.

By the 1700s, Horton was a prosperous hamlet based on the wool trade, at a period when the Tan Hill Sheep Fair was at its height, and sheep were driven up the Harepath. Some of the village's buildings survive from this period, including Horton Mill. A carpenter of Horton invented a plough especially designed for chalk soil which is mentioned in historical farming literature.

In 1810 the Kennet and Avon Canal opened and became an important trading route.

About the village

Several of the older houses have thatched roofs, such as The Old Post Office, which has a quarter-hipped roof, and Tudor House with magnificent gables. The rear of the roof of Lovelock Cottage reaches almost to the ground.

Outside links