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 1219 : Hindon

Keywords: Hindon planted towns bishops mesne boroughs burgage tenure marketplace expenditures revenues market licences commerce industry

Hindon was a foundation of Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, planted in fields north-east of East Knoyle, a manor, on the Shaftesbury-Warminster road, which had been purchased by the see ca. 1180, although secure possession was only finalized after 1204, around the time des Roches became bishop. Hindon took its name from a hill over which ran a minor road connecting to New Salisbury – which had only just obtained a market licence two months earlier, as the planned relocation of the cathedral there got underway – and to Wincanton, a Somerset village that would not acquire a market licence until 1235. Potential closer rivals were Mere and Tisbury, but the former, although longer-existing, was slower to escape its village status, while the latter, included in the Extensive Urban Survey of Wiltshire, although researched during the course of the present study, has been rejected for inclusion here, since it had no advantageous position in the roads network, never obtained a market licence – an unlicensed market allegedly instituted in mid-thirteenth century was target for a complaint from Shaftesbury (whose abbey had once held Tisbury) during the hundredal enquiries of the 1270s, and was probably suppressed as a result – and shows no clear evidence of urban characteristics during the Middle Ages.

By contrast, we can be fairly sure of when a borough came into existence at Hindon, because in the episcopal account roll for 1219/20 the accountant claimed allowance for a small deduction in income from fields there that had been taken 'into burgage', although the accounts for 1218/19 had given no intimation of such an initiative. The lands in question had formerly been rented by two individuals with the surname 'de Hinedon'.

As with Bishop des Roches' foundation at Downton, the new town at Hindon was established along a single wide main street, at a distance from its mother-village, was of a very compact size, and was not given its own church – residents were required to rely on the church at Knoyle for the sacraments (although a chapel was constructed at Hindon for the convenience of the residents and, from the fifteenth century, allowed to perform burials and baptisms). Beresford ["The Six New Towns of the Bishops of Winchester, 1200-55", Medieval Archaeology, vol.3 (1959), 200] considered these as potentially diagnostic characteristics of some new town foundations. The market was held along that part of the axial street (High Street) from the eastern edge of the planned area as far as the chapel, a short distance from the western edge of town; the burgage plots stretching back from either side of the street are still well-preserved in the topography. A particular focus for the market may have existed in the part of the street approaching the chapel, for there it was joined by roads from north and south, which would have helped feed traffic into the marketplace.

From 1221 the account rolls of Winchester cathedral incorporated a new section, Burgus Hineton to keep track of the rents, which were 12d. per plot annually, paid in two instalments; the total from 1220/21 suggests that around 50 plots had already found tenants, and by mid-century this had risen to over 150. To gain this income in burgage rents, the founding bishop had given up (for the town site) cultivated land which had rented for just under 7s. a year; so the borough meant a tidy profit, though he had also invested a one-time expense of 22s. in digging a well in the marketplace and outfitting it with bucket and rope – we have too little evidence to know if this kind of investment was common at episcopal, or other, new town foundations. By 1244/45 rental income had risen to 124s.9d., though this by now included rents from stalls in the marketplace. However, Hindon does not seem to have grown much thereafter – this was not uncommon with the smaller Wiltshire foundations, but particularly pronounced at Hindon. Taxation assessments suggest that its population and prosperity, though respectable, were not so much greater than those of a number of villages in that part of Wiltshire, though above the average; its 1334 assessment was 36‰ higher than that of Downton, yet the latter had almost three times as many taxpayers in the poll tax of 1377 (although the cathedral had been receiving almost the same income in rents from both towns for the previous century).

Bishop des Roches acquired in March 1219 licence for a market and fair; it appears that laying out the town had already commenced, for a cross to signify the marketplace had been erected and, as already mentioned, a year or so later market users, and the community in general, were provided with a well there. Otherwise, on the whole, the townspeople were left to thrive or fail on their own merits, while the cathedral collected its customary revenues. The acquisition in 1332 of licences for two additional, or perhaps replacement, fairs could be seen as an effort to attract more trade, or to fine-tune the trading already going on, or simply to provide opportunity for enhanced profits from the amount of commercial activity that local traders had already built up.

The limited data published by Beresford suggests that the market grew slowly but steadily in value; in 1375/76 it yielded £8 in gross income to the cathedral. No particular industry is evidenced as having been dominant there in the Late Middle Ages; weavers are heard of, but more often the kinds of activities we would expect in a rural region, associated with the processing and redistribution of agricultural products: butchers, bakers, brewers, taverners, and innkeepers. The bishop had made fields around the town available for the residents to rent, to help support themselves. Judging from evidence from the Early Modern period, Hindon's populace probably covered a fairly wide range of crafts, but without large numbers concentrating in any of them. As indicated above, in its early years Hindon's market could establish a niche with relatively little competitive challenge – the authors of the VCH Wiltshire [Vol. 11, p.100] suggest that its site, so distant from East Knoyle, may have been selected partly with that in mind – and it was able to maintain operation over the centuries that followed and build up a positive reputation that attracted traders.

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Created: December 31, 2018.
© Stephen Alsford, 2018