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By Frederick Hastings Goldney - 1889.

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Of Stanley Abbey nothing is left but the green site, which lies just within the eastern edge of the parish of Chippenham. It was a house of Cistercian Monks, placed originally at Lockswell, near the top of Derry Hill, but removed two or three years after to the lower ground on the bank of the rivulet of Mardon. What the monks may have lost in fine air, they gained in good land. The house was founded by the Empress Maud, and her son King Henry IT., and further endowed by Edward I. with a large portion of the land in that quarter of the royal manor, extending southward from the Marden, under Derry Hill, to Nethermore. For a history of this monastic establishment there is plenty of material, but of the appearance and extent of the building itself, I am not aware that any view is preserved. The monks were the improvers of a large tract of waste land on the outskirts of the Forest; and in Nethermore where the various landowners of Chippenham had rights of feeding, they, by degrees, procured the transfer of those rights to themselves. At the dissolution, the principal part of the Stanley Abbey estate was purchased by Sir Edward Baynton of Bromham, to whose representative, the owner of Spy Park, it still belongs. The Abbot's house stood for some time afterwards, and was occupied by a family of Ansty, one of whom married the daughter and heiress of Andrew Baynton, Esq., who is buried in Chippenham church.W


Chippenham is now ruled by a Mayor, Aldermen, and Councillors. As a municipal power these officers are very young, not much above twenty years old, having been created under the Municipal Reform Act. Before that time the town was governed by a Bailiff and twelve Burgesses, who traced their title as a Corporation to a Charter granted by Queen Mary in the first year of her reign, dated 2nd May, 1554, just 300 years ago. It was confirmed by Letters Patent of Elizabeth, dated 29th January, 1560; and was afterwards surrendered, and a new one granted by King James II. five weeks after he came to the throne, and dated 13 March, 1685 nothing appears from the borough records, as they only begin in 1554, and throw no light upon more remote times. But from other sources the state of things seems to have been as follows :-

Whether he had, or had not, a council of discreet and honest Burgesses to assist him, I cannot say, but Chippenham was certainly under the authority of a chief officer called the Bailiff, for many hundred years before the charter of Mary. There are (as will be shown) notices of such an officer in the reign of King Edward I., 300 years before Queen Mary; but I believe the fact to be that the town always had a Bailiff, ever since it was a royal demesne, which as you have already heard, was a very long time ago. Every private estate of the Crown was under the charge of some resident official. He was not always called Bailiff, but sometimes Steward, as was the case of Calne ; or Portreeve, as at Great Bedwyn; but Bailiff was the title of Bromham, Corsham, and Melksham, all which places like Chippenham, were royal demesnes. The duty of this officer was to protect the king's property, and to keep things right, if he could; and that the Bailiff of Chippenham was originally armed with formidable powers so to do, and was a person not to be trifled with, is clear from the fact that he had not only a pillory and a prison at his command, but also a gallows. In short, in the manor he was second only to the King himself. All this may have worked very well so long as the whole manor was in the king's own hands, and there were no rival proprietors to quarrel with the agent of the crown. But when the king's demesne had been granted out in parcels to noblemen and others (as has been described), and the royal authority began to be less abso­lute, the Bailiff had sometimes a hard matter to hold his own. The " market village" growing by degrees into a town, and various new rights arising, the old ones would suffer encroachment. This statement is founded upon evidence. In the year 1275 (3 Edw. I.), when the inquiry (alluded to before) was made into the state of this manor, it was reported to the crown amongst other grievances, that several matters touching the king's authority at Chippenham required to be looked to, that his Bailiff was thwarted either by the Sheriff of the county, or by some of the principal landowners under the crown within the parish. Two or three distinct cases are mentioned in the record. A certain fellow imprisoned in the castle of Old Sarurn on a charge of felony, had turned king's evidence, and had implicated in the charge one " Solomon the Jew of Chippenham." The Sheriff of Wilts issued his warrant to Robert Stoket the Bailiff of Chippenham, to arrest the said Solomon. But before he had time to do so, Godfrey Gascelyn then lord of the manor of Sheldon and Chippenham, interfered by forbidding the Bailiff to meddle in the matter until he, Gascelyn, had conferred with the Sheriff upon the subject. The consequence was that the Bailiff's perplexity was the Jew's opportunity. Solomon improved it; took to his heels, and when at length he was wanted, was " nowhere to be found."

Another case was thus: - During the civil troubles in the preceding reign of Henry III.... '

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