A Brief History
It is understood that the name “Lyneham” was derived from the Anglo-Saxon name for flax flower, ‘Lyne’ and “hamm” meaning field. Flax was grown in the parish for linen production.
Lyneham is first mentioned in 1224 and was thought to be included in the Domesday holding of “Stoche”. (Bradenstoke)
A church in Lyneham was first recorded in 1182 belonging to Bradenstoke Priory. St Michael’s and All Angels Church dates from the 14th century with restoration to the chancel and nave roof in 1862 - 1865. The roads in the parish have changed little since the 18th century. The main junction at Lyneham Green is more or less as it was then.
The Methodist Church at Lyneham Green was built in 1934.
A National school was built opposite St Michael’s Church in 1861. A new primary school was built in 1953 and an infants’ school was built nearby in 1965. A recent extension has been added to the primary school.
In 1938, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) secured a large area of farmland and Royal Air Force Lyneham was opened. It was a major employer of people in the parish and supported the various churches and chapels. In 1990 a stained-glass window was installed in the south aisle of St. Michael’s church to commemorate the 50th anniversary of RAF Lyneham. In 2012 the RAF withdrew and relocated to Royal Air Force Brize Norton and in 2015 the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) at MOD Lyneham were set up.
St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Lyneham was built in 1967 next to the Army, Navy and Air Force’s Institute (NAAFI) shop. It was served by the Priest from St Edmund’s, Calne or by the Chaplain from RAF Base and was demolished in 2011. The stained-glass windows were relocated to Calne Church.
Bradenstoke was mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) along with Christian Malford, Kington Langley, The Somerfords, Purton, Cricklade, Ashton Keynes, Lacock, Royal Wootton Bassett, Tockenham and Clyffe Pypard.
Bradenstoke, in 1086 was known as “Stoche” from Anglo Saxon ‘Stoc’ (secondary settlement) and probably had a connection with Braydon Forest. In the 12th century “Clack” referred to a large mound near Bradenstoke Abbey and the settlement surrounding it.
Bradenstoke village has changed its name several times. “Clack” was used at one time, hence Bradenstoke -cum-Clack. In 1628 Clack was described as a market town with four alehouses. There were regular and annual fairs held possibly in the Horsefair Lane area. The market cross, to the north of St Mary’s Church, is dated around 1345 and was designated as the War Memorial in 1928.
Bradenstoke Priory was founded in 1142 by Walter D’Evreux, Earl of Salisbury, as a priory of Augustinian canons and it would be the ‘daughter’ house of St Mary’s, Cirencester. It became one of a cluster of four monasteries in the area, the other three being Malmesbury, Stanley and Lacock. Over the next four centuries, the Priory became one of the wealthiest religious houses in England, with its chief spiritual and temporal properties being held in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Dorset. Building works on the Priory would continue until Dissolution in 1539 when the Priory Church was demolished.
The Priory and its estate also included Bradenstoke Farm and Cranley Farm in Lyneham and for many generations was owned by the Methuen family. It was sold in 1863 to Gabriel Goldney who later became MP for Chippenham and a Baronet. Goldney was a benefactor and gave land for St Mary’s Church to be built in Bradenstoke.
There are several medieval houses in Bradenstoke, some believed to be guest houses for the Abbey.
In the 1920’s William Randolph Hearst bought the Priory and destroyed the buildings, transporting stones etc. to St Donat’s and shipped the Tithe Barn to America where it remains crated.
The Baptist chapel (Providence Chapel) was built in 1777 and the Primitive Methodist Chapel was built in Clack in 1825 (converted to a residence in 2016).
In 1860 a National school was built in Bradenstoke with money from the Broome Charity with contributions from Gabriel Goldney. The school closed in 1966 and the building is now the Village Hall held in trust.
There were two public houses, The Jolly Trooper built-in 1640 (now closed) and The Cross Keys Inn (still open to the public) built around 1760.
There are several listed buildings and part of the main street is now a designated conservation area.
Preston, Thickthorn and Woodside Cottages
Preston is a hamlet 1 mile south-east of Lyneham and in 1968 was recorded as having 2 farms (dated to 17th and 18th century), cottages and a Methodist Chapel.
Thickthorn is a hamlet with a small number of cottages and Thickthorn Farm which is Grade 2 listed.
The Woodside Cottages are on the south-east side of the MoD Lyneham site and accessed via the hamlet of New Zealand which is in the adjoining parish of Hilmarton.
Dunning, R., Rogers, K., Spalding, P., Shrimpton, C., Stevenson, J. and Tomlinson, M. (1970). Parishes: Lyneham. In: E. Crittall, ed., A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 9, 1st ed. London: Victoria County History, pp.90-104.