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The proper way of spelling this name is Braden, not Bradon. And the explanation of the reason will give in a few words its history.
The whole of the country, North West of Swindon, presented in ancient times as strong a contrast as possible to the district South of Swindon. Any ancient British or Saxon gentleman standing upon the brow of the chalk downs at Wroughton, or Cliff Pipard, and looking towards the South, would see before him a vast open platform, almost without a tree, probably without a ploughed field, a range for many miles of green turf, dotted with barrows, crossed by grass dykes, studded here and there with earthworks, camps, structures of huge stones in avenues and circles, and all the other relics of his predecessors. But if the same British or Saxon gentleman turned upon his heel, right about face, and looked to the North, he would see something very different; commencing almost at his feet immediately under the cliff, a broad tract of wood for many miles. In ancient times Braden came a great deal farther South, as well as in other directions, than the small tract now called by that name. There are in existence several documents called Perambulations of the Forest; and in one of them the town of Wootton IBasset, is described as lying within its precincts. The name of Wootton means Wood-town. Basset is, of course, only the family Iname.
The Anglo-Saxons brought their words over with them, and applied those words according to the character of the places where they settled. Their way was this. A number of men settled on one spot. Each had a portion of arable land, on which he lived; this was for his own exclusive use. But their feeding ground, their pasture, was in common. So also, in common, were the woods and forest ground through which their animals ranged. Such names of places as end in ton, tun, (meaning enclosure) ham, worth, stead, and the like, all imply the settled habitation where the houses were. But such names as end in, den, holt, wood, hurst, and others, invariably denote forests, and roving pastures in forests. The word den, in particular, says the late Mr. Kemble, is a Saxon noun
neuter, which always denotes woodland feeding. In the counties of Kent and Sussex, along the edge of the Weald (the Great Forest), there are many such names as Surrenden, Tenterden, Ashenden, and the like. There are so many of them, that within the last two centuries, there was actually a peculiar jurisdiction, called the Court of Dens, for settling claims belonging to the woodland feedings. There is another word, dene, which means a valley; but that is ancient British, not Saxon, and is very rarely found in composition. The Saxon Den is woodland pasture. Brad is, of course, Saxon for broad; and Bra-den, means the broad woodland pasture. That is the reason why it ought to be spelled with an e, not with an o. If it is spelled don, as in Swindon, that would mean hill.
It can only have been in very remote times that the whole of this tract was forest, because in William the Conqueror's great survey we find the same parishes named as are now within that district, showing that those different portions of it had been cleared and enclosed by that time. For example:—Purton. This had been granted by Saxon Kings of Wessex 300 years before the Conquest to Bishop Aldhelm, as the charter expressly states,“ for the foundation of his Abbey at Malmesbury.” Purton ought to be spelled P-i-r, as it is a pure Saxon name, Piriton, meaning the Pear-tree enclosure, and it is always so spelled in ancient deeds.
In the, sometimes weary, work of tracing obscure histories, it is a relief to find that a manor was given to a Monastery; because, as the Monasteries took better care of their property than any body else, its history is settled for many centuries. So it was with Purton. It belonged to Malmesbury Abbey till the Dissolution. This gives us a leap of 800 years.
Soon after the Dissolution in Henry VIII., a part of Purton was bought by Mr. Hyde, the father of the Lord Chancellor, Earl of Clarendon. The Chancellor was not born there, but at Dinton (now Mr. Wyndham's, in South Wilts), which Mr. Hyde held on lease. Preferring to live on his own freehold to living on leasehold,
Mr. Hyde came to Purton. This is told in Lord Clarendon's life of himself, where he mentions a little incident, which may help to garnish our notices of Purton. Among other juvenile recollections of himself and this place, Lord Clarendon says that in 1625, being then only Edward Hyde, 17 years of age, studying law in the Middle Temple, he was seized with an illness, and that his friends, fearing consumption, sent him down to Purton. One evening he was busy reading to his father a chapter in “Camden’s Annals.” The particular chapter was one which mentioned that many years before, a copy of an excommunication by the Pope had been nailed up against the Bishop of London's Palace-gate by a person whose name was John Felton." Whilst young Hyde was reading this passage a neighbour knocked at the door, and being called in told them that an express messenger had just gone through the village on his way to Charlton House, Lord Berkshire's, bringing the news that George Williers, Duke of Buckingham, had been stabbed at Portsmouth, and that the culprit's name, in this case also, happened to be the same as the one he was reading about, John Felton. The coincidence of names made an impression upon young Hyde, and, in after life, when Chancellor, he used often to tell the anecdote.
Lord Clarendon's first wife was a Wiltshire lady, and a neighbour to Purton. She was a daughter of Sir George Ayliffe, of Grittenham House in Brinkworth. She was very fair and beautiful, but died at the age of 20, and in the first year of marriage. There is, or was, a gravestone to her at Purley, in Berkshire, with a short and touching Latin inscription, which no doubt was written by her young husband himself, and shows that the great historian knew how to write in other languages besides his own—“Wale, anima candidissima ; Vale, mariti tui, quem dolore et luctu conficis, aeternum desiderium : Wale, faeminarum decus, et saeculi ornamen” [Adieu, fairest of spirits: for ever to be regretted by thy sorrowing husband: honour to thy sex, and ornament of thy age, adieu !]
"Joannes Feltonus affixed a Pope's Bull against Queen Elizabeth upon the Bishop of London's palace 1570. Camd. Ann., p. 182. Ed. 1615.
The house in which he lived at Purton is still standing. On one of the chimney-pieces is a curious coat of arms—a Tyger regardant or looking backwards, in a mirror. It is the arms of the Chancellor's grandmother, who was of the Sibell family. It is also in the church of Tisbury, not far from Dinton.
Purton church has two towers, on one of which is a spire. A good many years ago there was some fine glass in the windows; among the rest, two coats of arms of Keynes and Paynell. These were leaseholders under the Abbey of Malmesbury. Keynes was a family once widely spread in North Wilts; and the name is still preserved in Ashton Keynes, Pool Keynes, and Somerford Keynes. They were hereditary keepers of Braden forest. Keynes-place is, I believe, still the name of a house at Purton. Paynell's (if it exists) was corrupted into Neel’s-place.
Our tour ends with two parishes, with difficult names—Lydiard Milicent and Lydiard Tregoz. For a long time they had but one name in common—Lydiard, and under that one they are mentioned separately in Domesday Book. In other old records the name occurs spelled in a very great variety of ways. The spelling nearest to the right one would be Led-yard, as it appears to be a pure Anglo-Saxon compound word—leod, people, and yeard, enclosure; the people's enclosure or dwelling—a natural name for a large clearing in the ancient forest. They lie in two different hundreds, and belonged at the Conquest to two different lords; North Lydiard or Milicent to the Crown, which held it in its own hands; the other to Alured of Marlborough.
The custom of giving second names to parishes was first introduced by the great Norman families, and was greatly in fashion in the reigns of Henry III., and the Edwards. In this county the instances are very numerous. The second name so given is, in the majority of cases, that of the family to whom it belonged about that period. It is a very convenient and pretty mode of distinguishing parishes that had originally one common Saxon name, as in the case of Stanton St. Quintin, Stanton Fitzwarren, Stanton
Bernard; Draycot Foliot, Draycote Cerne, Compton Basset, Comp-