church was mentioned in the Domesday survey of
1086 and in 1206 King John granted Highworth the
right to hold a weekly Wednesday market and an
annual fair on the feast of St Michael.
By the middle of the 17th century Highworth's
cattle market was the largest in Wiltshire and
at the time of the first census in 1801, Highworth
was the most important township in north-east
Wiltshire with a population of over 2,000 - larger
than either Swindon, Wootton Bassett or Cricklade.
eventual decline in Highworth’s population
can be partly attributed to the expansion of Swindon
from the 1840s onwards, with the arrival of the
Great Western Railway works. One outcome was that
few buildings were constructed in Victorian times
resulting in the town centre retaining much of
its pre-1840 Queen Anne and Georgian appearance.
This helps to give Highworth its unique quality.
are numerous stories, events and people that contribute
to Highworth’s unique and special character.
They include being a Cavalier stronghold during
the Civil War, having a post mistress with a pivotal
role in the British Resistance Movement during
World War II, running the official Abba fan club
from a house in Sheep Street, the mystery of the
secret tunnels under the market place and not
forgetting the many sightings of a ghostly monk!
John Betjeman, a former poet laureate wrote 'Highworth
is extraordinary because it has more beautiful
buildings than ugly ones', and 'I have never seen
Highworth given due praise in guide books for
what it is one of the most charming and unassuming
country towns in the west of England', a description
which we cannot better today.