Wylye, Wiltshire, England
Wylye is a small village about ten miles northwest of Salisbury, Wiltshire, in southern England. The river that flows through the village is the River Wylye, a Celtic name that is the origin of “Wil” in Wilton, the town a few miles downstream from which the county of Wiltshire took its name.
Evidence that this area has been inhabited and cultivated from ancient times was confirmed in 2012 by the discovery, close to the village, of the Wylye Hoard, consisting of 41 copper-based objects that date from the Bronze Age. The hoard can be seen in the Salisbury Museum.
During Roman times the Wylye Valley was an important food source for the legions. Extensive grain pits have been excavated at Bilbury Farm, a mile from the village. Edible snails can still be found in the Wyle Valley; these are the descendants of snails originally imported by the Romans.
A Brave Post-Boy
The village is a bridging point of the River Wylye, although in earlier times there was a ford here. When a stagecoach, back in the 18th century, tried to cross the ford when the river was running high, it overturned and a post-boy, whose task was to blow a horn to announce the arrival of the coach at its various stopping points, rescued several passengers but was himself drowned. A lead statue of the post-boy, blowing his horn, was erected in the river close to the village mill, to commemorate his bravery and sacrifice.
Many of the older cottages in the village are typical of this area in having been built from Chilmark stone and flint, and with mullioned windows – i.e. divided into separate panes by stone uprights. However, few of the houses in the main street have thatched roofs, which might have been expected. This is because of a fire in 1924 which started at a farm in the village and was fanned by a strong wind so that all the thatched roofs were lost. The replacement roofs were made from fire-resistant tiles or slates, although some more recent owners have reverted to traditional thatch.
The oldest cottage, which dates from the 14th century, is Wylands Cottage which was originally two adjoining cottages, one of stone and the other of timber. It has a massive gable and steep red-tiled roof.
The Church of St Mary the Virgin was largely rebuilt in 1846 on the site of a 13th century building. The tower, which is 15th century, survived the Victorian restoration. The richly carved oak pulpit dates from 1628.
In the churchyard is a large tomb surrounded by wrought-iron railings, which visitors might think contains the remains of a local dignitary. However, this is not the case, according to tradition. The story that is usually told is that a man named Popjay commissioned the tomb for his mother and sister. Before it was finished, Popjay left the village without having paid for the work. The rector decided to fund the work himself and it was his own remains that eventually occupied it.
Next to the church is the Bell Inn. Hanging above the fireplace can be seen the 19th century bell clappers from the church.