Historic character of settlement

Locally distinctive houses in the Chalk Valleys Nearly all the main villages and hamlets in the AONB are at least pre 1800 date and many have Medieval or even Saxon roots. The historic elements of these villages remain highly visible and central to the character of these settlements, which often have highly distinctive and localised vernacular architectural styles. Several of these settlements are undergoing great change and expansion, a process that has been escalating since the start of the 20th century.

Settlements are widely distributed across the AONB in scattered groupings. There are four major voids in the distribution of settlement, on the West Wiltshire Downs, in the area between the Ebble Valley and the A30, south of the Ebble Valley, and to the North of Mere. Clear linear distributions can be seen in some areas especially along the river valleys and along the greensand terrace between Warminster and Mere. The Vale of Wardour is associated with larger nucleated settlements while through the wooded chase downland settlement in more scattered.

Map of Settlememt in the AONB

The map shows settlement in today's landscape in the AONB by major type.

Click map for large PDF version(496Kb)

The settlements identified as pre 1800 in date are in some instances linear in form especially along the river valleys. More commonly they are nucleated having grown up around central foci such as churches, manor houses or more rarely greens and open spaces. The pre 1800 farms are often associated with areas of parkland or in relation to old manor houses.

Over half of the examples of 18th and 19th century settlement are comprised of clusters of new farms which can be linked to the acceleration of the process of enclosure in this period and the intensification of farming. A few examples extend the footprint of existing villages but the majority of the settlement is located in new areas removed from existing settlement.

It is in the 20th century that the main expansion of existing settlements has occurred and marks the increase of populations in villages across the AONB over the last 100 years. The most dramatic impact has been in the Vale of Wardour where settlements such as Tisbury have nearly doubled in size. Similarly in the river valleys the existing settlements have been extended and enlarged, with the exception of the Ebble valleys where there has been infilling between existing settlements. In the southern half of the AONB there has been an increase in the number of farms partially linked to the enclosure of formerly open downland.

For more detailed information on the AONB Historic Landscape Characterisation click here.