ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

English Towns: 5 Facts About Melksham

Updated on October 7, 2015
Melksham town centre
Melksham town centre | Source
Source

Throughout England there are hundreds of small towns that may not be hubs of tourism or centres of business but instead have an interesting history that adds depth and character to the local area. In Wiltshire, a county in the South West of England, one of these towns is Melksham. Melksham has a population of around 25,000 which is growing steadily and is the fifth largest town in Wiltshire. There are several towns and cities in the local area and neighbouring counties that may be better known, like Bath, Devizes and Bradford-on-Avon, but Melksham has a history of its own that even people who live there may not know about. Here are five interesting facts about the history of Melksham.

1. It is said that the name ‘Melksham’ comes from the old English word for ‘milk’

There is currently no concrete evidence but it is believed that the prefix ‘melk’ comes from the old English word ‘meolc’ meaning ‘milk’ while the suffix ‘ham’ is the old English word for ‘village’. This etymological history of Melksham may suggest that the town has its roots in dairy farming. Melksham appears in the Domesday Book and is mentioned to have almost two hundred landowners and thirty-five serfs. Slightly later on in history the Prioress of Amesbury had possession of a number of estates in the Melksham area but during the dissolution of the monasteries the land was given over to the King in 1539. The estates were then passed on to Sir Thomas Seymour in 1541. Throughout the centuries land in the Melksham area was sold and resold and passed down through different families.

Mid-eighteenth century weaving workshop known as Lowbourne Factory with an associated octagonal drying stove that is now accommodation.
Mid-eighteenth century weaving workshop known as Lowbourne Factory with an associated octagonal drying stove that is now accommodation. | Source

2. Melksham has troublesome ties with the cloth making industry

Though the name of the town suggests ties with dairy farming and milk production, Melksham has also had strong ties with both weaving and cloth making throughout history. Prior to the English Civil War the Melksham’s main product was ‘white broad cloth’ however soon after the end of the Civil War the production of colour cloth was started. The 18th century saw an unsettled period for the cloth making industry in Melksham. In the 1720s the piece rate for the cloth being produced had been marked down so much that most workers were finding it extremely difficult to make a living. To try to resolve this problem many workers appealed to the town magistrates for relief - when they were refused riots broke out. The trouble continued for over ten years and escalated to the point where the house of a local clothier, Henry Coulthurst, was ransacked and large quantities of wool and yarn were thrown into the river. A number of mills and cottages were also destroyed during the unrest - those who were found to be involved were tried and hanged.

'The Spa' in Melksham
'The Spa' in Melksham | Source

3. Melksham - a spa town?

When asked to think of a spa town in the South of England, most people will instantly think of Bath. The city is well known as a spa town and throughout the years thousands of people have come to ‘take the waters’ for their health. What many people do not know is that they could have visited Melksham to do the same - if the plans had been followed through. When a search for coal in the late 18th century instead found chalybeate and saline springs in the Melksham area, a plan was developed by prominent town residents to turn Melksham into a spa town. These residents formed a group called the Melksham Spa Company and wanted to transform Melksham into a spa to rival Bath. The plans were put into motion with the construction of hot & cold baths, a well, a pump room and a crescent of lodging houses. Unfortunately the small country town of Melksham could not compete with Bath and the plan was unsuccessful. Three of the houses that were built still stand today in a part of Melksham known as ‘The Spa’.

Source

4. Freemasonry found a (temporary) home in Melksham

Given how mysterious the Freemason organisation is, it is not surprising that many people may not know that the Freemasons once set up a base in Melksham. When the Lodge of Westbury was relocated, Melksham was chosen as the new destination. The Freemasons arrived in 1817 and had their first official meeting in September of that year in The King’s Arms. Not everyone in Melksham, however, was open to the presence of Freemasons especially after the creation of the Unlawful Societies Act in 1799. The opposition to the Freemasons in Melksham forced the lodge to relocate again this time to a nearby village. The organisation did return to Melksham but only after seventy years. The Chaloner Lodge was consecrated in 1897 under the leadership of the Worshipful Master Richard Godolphin Walmesley Chaloner.

Factories in Melksham
Factories in Melksham | Source

5. A variety of industries have flourished in Melksham

The early years saw dairy farming and cloth making, but as industry began to advance Melksham also began to change and develop and new industries began to take root. Mills began to produce rope and tarpaulin as well as cloth. Of particular note is the mill set up by Charles Maggs who was particularly successful and later set up a subsidiary factory in India. Though the business fell into decline in the late 20th century it was commemorated with the naming of the ‘Rope Walk’ housing estate. In 1850 a company was set up by Benjamin Sawtell that dealt with the filling of paillasses with straw. The company later expanded and moved on to the purification of feathers that would be used to stuff cushions, pillows and eiderdowns. Over a century later in the 1960s the company had become one of the largest feather firms in England. In more recent years Melksham has been particularly well-known for rubber and tyre production industries.

Comments & Questions

Submit a Comment

  • JamaGenee profile image

    Joanna McKenna 

    4 years ago from Central Oklahoma

    How interesting! Melksham is another South of England town I'd never heard of. A pity the plan to turn it into a spa town wasn't more actively pursued, as I personally think Bath - albeit quite beautiful as a tourist destination - is overrated as a "take the waters" city.

  • bearnmom profile image

    Laura L Scotty 

    5 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    Interesting article and useful for anyone who would be traveling to England.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)