A History of Minety
A recently published book delves deep into the history of the Wiltshire village of Minety, and its unique place in the county.
Minety railway station, c. 1845
The publication of A History of Minety is the latest published output of the Wiltshire Victoria County History (Wiltshire VCH)
The book is based on research undertaken by James Lee, (University of the West of England), and the idea for its publication came after Dr Lee delivered a public lecture on the history of the parish.
Minety residents were so enthused by their history that they decided to publish Dr Lee’s work with assistance from Wiltshire County Council.
Although typical of small, rural communities in many respects, the research done on Minety unraveled a number of interesting finds.
Until the mid-18th century, the parish was unique in Wiltshire for its unusual jurisdictional anomaly. Most of the parish lay in Gloucestershire, but a small area of land, centred on St. Leonard’s church, was based in Wiltshire. Only in 1844 was Minety, as we know it today, deemed part of Wiltshire.
In the older part of the parish, at Upper Minety, there were possible Iron Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon finds, providing evidence of a thriving local pottery industry making bricks and tiles.
Ad from the 1908 edition of the Minety magazine
For much of the medieval period Minety was largely forest land, being part of Braydon forest, and it formed part of the royal estate.
Clearings in the forest would have been used by small numbers of local farmers working pastoral and, to a lesser extent, arable crops.
Throughout this period the population was very small. By the end of Henry VIII’s reign, for example, there were just 18 taxpayers.
From the 17th to the early 20th centuries the parish was dominated by a small number of large, privately-owned, estates, and most people in Minety still worked the land. Increasingly, however, Minety distinguished itself by its large number of private farmsteads.
It was not until the advent of Brunel’s G.W.R. railway in the 1840s that Minety’s population really began to boom and the parish’s economy began to diversify.
At this time, traditional cheese production declined in favour of the more profitable liquid milk export market to more populous towns and cities.
The coming of the railway also prompted other entrepreneurial activities at Minety. At one point even the local minister became involved in a failed attempt to begin a distilling business.
After the closure of Minety Station in the 1960s local parish shops and services were quickly lost; the last shop in the parish closed in 2008. In 2001 there were some 1,398 residents, many, perhaps, commuting outside the parish for work.
Despite these changes Minety’s population continues to grow, and its sense of community, as testified by photographic contributions from local residents to this volume, continues to thrive.
Minety 'Moonrakers', supporters of Swindon Town FC
The Wiltshire Victoria County History series was founded in 1947 and has so far published 17 volumes on Wiltshire history.
Early volumes focus on the general history of the county, while later volumes look at individual areas of Wiltshire. As a whole, the Wiltshire VCH forms an encyclopaedic history of the county from pre-history to the present day.
A History of Minety is the fruit of around 18 months' work, much of it spent in Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, at the National Archives in London, and Bristol and Gloucestershire Record Offices.
Each individual parish history involves examining large numbers of historical documents.
Dr Virginia Bainbridge, Editor of the Wiltshire VCH series, said: "Wiltshire VCH volumes are bought and consulted by people all over the world, and they appear in most major libraries.
"The Minety book has allowed people with associations in the area to revisit and reconsider their history."
Dr James Lee is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History, University of the West of England (UWE), and Assistant Director of the Regional History Centre, UWE.
last updated: 19/01/2009 at 10:36
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