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Historical Calne - - 301421.jpg
Grid reference: ST998707
Location: 51°26’7"N, 2°0’15"W
Population: 13,606  (2001)
Post town: Calne
Postcode: SN11
Dialling code: 01249
Local Government
Council: Wiltshire

Calne is a small town in Wiltshire, at the north-western extremity of the Marlborough Downs.

The town lies on the River Marden, the Wilts & Berks Canal and the A4 road 19 miles east of Bath and 6 miles east of Chippenham. According to the 2001, Calne's population numbered 13,606 inhabitants.

This is one of the very few places whose name had an identical form in Old English; it appears as Calne in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 978.


In AD 978 according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a fatal accident befell the elders of the kingdom at Calne - according to later histories, Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury met the Witenagemot here in order to present his controversial Church reforms, which involved the secular priests being replaced by Benedictine monks and remove the influence of landowners over churches on their lands. The Chronicle tells that they fell from the upper floor (as the floor collapsed) killing or injuring many of those in attendance, while Dunstan remained safe, supported by a beam. (This is the earliest documented reference to a two-storey building with a hall on the first floor in Anglo-Saxon England.) Later legend embroiders the tale that in the meeting Dunstan called upon the Almighty for support for his changes, whereupon his opponents fell through the floor and his supporters remained standing, but the Chronicle has no such detail.[1] This event was claimed as a miracle by Dunstan's supporters.

Calne had a significant woollen broadcloth industry in the 18th century, and evidence of this can be seen on The Green, where many buildings remain, such as Georgian era clothiers' houses and some of the 20 original cloth mills along the River Marden. St Mary's parish church was built by the generous donations of rich clothiers and wool merchants in the 15th century.

Bronze sculpture in Calne celebrating the town's pigs

Subsequently, Calne's best known industry was the Harris pork processing factory that dominated the town architecturally and provided employment directly and indirectly to many of the residents until the early 1980s - at its closure in 1983 for example it employed over 2,000 people out of a town population of 10,000. It is said that the pork curing industry developed because pigs reared in Ireland were landed at Bristol and then herded across he land on drovers' roads to Smithfield in London, passing through Calne. The factory started in the second half of the 18th century when brothers John and Henry Harris started businesses which merged in 1888 as C & T Harris & Co. The factory has now been fully demolished and its site redeveloped as shops, housing and a library. As a result of the closure, unemployment in the town increased considerably and during much of the 1980s Calne suffered many of the economic restructuring problems more usually associated with large cities.

Modern Calne

Calne's town flag

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Calne was considered one of the fastest-expanding towns in the West Country, with a population projected to peak at around 16,000 by 2012. The Lansdowne Park housing development (completed in late 2008) has substantially increased the physical scale of the town, creating an entirely new north-western suburb, including a new primary school, a medical centre and a small shopping area. This area in particular has attracted professional workers from traditionally more expensive areas such as Bath, Bristol, Marlborough and as far afield as the 'silicon valley' towns of central Berkshire. Lansdowne Park's name reflects the development's proximity to the seat of the Marquess of Lansdowne, whose family have resided at the nearby Bowood House country estate since 1784.

The Porte Marsh Industrial Estate on the north side of the town now provides the bulk of the town's internal employment. It is home to around 100 companies in predominantly light industries and information technology. The Belgian company Deceuninck has invested considerably in this area and operates two large facilities at Porte Marsh, notably a modern production and distribution centre which now dominates the industrial area. Another significant employer is the Exception Group, a large electronics company. In 2006 plans to build a sizeable cement production plant on the Porte Marsh site were vigorously opposed by local residents and planning permission was refused by the council.[2]

The River Marden in Calne

Aside from the final completion of Lansdowne Park, there are pockets of new housing, but on a far smaller scale. In October 2007, the go-ahead was given for the creation of a major new £1m Football Foundation outdoor facility at Beversbrook on Calne's northern edge, which was officially opened in April 2009.

Calne has three supermarkets. The town has witnessed a number of transient enterprises in recent years and several units on the dated Phelps Parade remain empty.

As part of the 'New Heart of Calne' initiative, a section of the outdated Phelps Parade was redeveloped in 2009 and new mixed-use building constructed in its place, part Cotswold stone and part red brick. This was originally intended as a Woolworths outlet before the latter chain collapsed.

Sights around and about the town

Calne Town Hall

Notable buildings in the town include St Mary's Church, an array of houses on The Green and the Town Hall. Of particular note is the new Library which has won awards for its innovative design and was opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 2001.[3]

Since the demolition of the Harris pork factory and the completion of the first phase of redevelopment/regeneration in 2001, Calne has, in general, been successfully transformed into an attractive setting compared to its run-down image of the 1980s and 1990s. A substantial amount of scaffolding materialised across Calne town centre throughout 2007-2008 with a view to the renovation of several prominent buildings.

The family seat of the 9th Marquess of Lansdowne, Bowood House is approximately 3 miles southwest of the town.


Patford Street
  • Radio


Local places of interest

Cherhill White Horse from Cherhill village
  • Cherhill White Horse – 3½ miles east of central Calne, carved into the south face of Cherhill Down in 1780, situated south of Cherhill village
  • Cherhill Down (860 feet)
  • Lansdowne Monument - situated close to the summit of Cherhill Down, a 125 ft stone needle with views of Calne and the surrounding landscape.
  • Bowood House (and Bowood Lake, over half a mile long) - an English Heritage site, 3 miles west of Calne
  • Avebury Stone Circle & Avenue (UNESCO World Heritage Site) – the largest Neolithic stone circle site in the British Isles, 7½ miles east of Calne
  • Silbury Hill, the largest Neolithic structure
  • The Marlborough Downs (part of the North Wessex Downs 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'. The highest summit is Milk Hill, which is Wiltshire's county top.
  • Salisbury Plain

Blackland Lakes is a large camping site on the southern edge of Calne which is popular with anglers and tourists alike. The 'lakes' themselves are in fact large angling pools.

Sports clubs

  • Football: Calne Town FC, founded in 1886
  • Rugby: Calne RFC
  • Athletics: Calne SMaRTT (St Mary's Running and Triathlon Team)
  • Diving: Calne Divers, formed in 2008, remarkably for a place so far inland.

In 2007 divers from Calne found the lost village of Mannings Hill at the bottom of the lake at Bowood.[4]

Cobbled lane in Calne

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Calne)


  1. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle  Laud Chronicle (978) Her on þissum geare ealle þa yldestan Angelcynnes witan gefeollan æt Calne of anre upfloran. butan se halga Dunstan arcebiscop ana ætstod uppon anum beame. 7 sume þær swiðe gebrocode wæron. 7 sume hit ne gedygdan mid þam life.
  2. "This Is Wiltshire". 2007-02-08. Retrieved 2007-04-23. 
  3. "Wiltshire Gazette & Herald". 2001-12-13. Retrieved 2007-04-23. 
  4. "Wiltshire's Own Lost City of Atlantis". The Independent. 20 July 2007. Retrieved 2008-12-29.