Highworth's History

Highworth is a hilltop market town in North Wiltshire, seven miles from Swindon. It has a rich heritage with continuous settlement for over 4000 years; archaeological remains dating back to the Bronze Age, and evidence of the Roman Period being discovered in the area.



A 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.

The 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.

There 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.

Useful Links
HHS Find out more at the Highworth Historical Society. Click Here  
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