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River Marden01.jpg
River Marden, Calne town centre
Church Street, Calne - - 810871.jpg
Church Street in the central conservation area
Calne is located in Wiltshire
Population 17,274 
OS grid reference ST997710
Unitary authority
  • Wiltshire
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town CALNE
Postcode district SN11
Dialling code 01249
Police Wiltshire
Fire Wiltshire
Ambulance Great Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
  • North Wiltshire
Website Town Council
List of places
WiltshireCoordinates: 51°26′17″N 2°00′18″W / 51.438°N 2.005°W / 51.438; -2.005

Calne is a town and civil parish in Wiltshire, southwestern England, at the northwestern extremity of the North Wessex Downs hill range, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Calne is on a small river, the Marden, that rises 2 miles (3 kilometres) away in the Wessex Downs, and is the only town on that river. It is on the A4 road national route 19 mi (31 km) east of Bath, 6 mi (10 km) east of Chippenham, 13 mi (21 km) west of Marlborough and 16 mi (26 km) southwest of Swindon. Wiltshire's county town of Trowbridge is 15 mi (24 km) to the southwest, with London 82 mi (132 km) due east as the crow flies. At the 2011 Census, Calne had 17,274 inhabitants.


In AD 978, Anglo-Saxon Calne was the site of a large two-storey building with a hall on the first floor. It was here that St Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury met the Witenagemot to justify his controversial organisation of the national church, which involved the secular priests being replaced by Benedictine monks and the influence of landowners over churches on their lands being taken away. According to an account written about 1000, at one point in this meeting Dunstan called upon God to support his cause, at which point the floor collapsed killing most of his opponents, whilst Dunstan and his supporters were in the part that remained standing. This was claimed as a miracle by Dunstan's supporters.

Bronze sculpture in Calne celebrating a longstanding industry of the town - Wiltshire-cured ham
Early market town

In 1086 Calne may already have been, as it was later, a market town on the main London-Bristol road. The church in it was well endowed. 74 or more households were held almost outright by burghal tenure (as citizens of a borough), and the lordship of its large outlying land was divided between the king (of whom 45 burgesses were tenants) and the church. In the Middle Ages the king's successor as the lord of Calne manor and, as owner of the church's revenues, the treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral, each had the right to hold a market and a fair in the town, with two triangular market places or fair grounds. A modest hospital was provided on a modest endowment from 1248 until it provided no accommodation in 1546 and was sold two years later by the Crown.


Calne had a significant woollen broadcloth industry in the 18th century, and evidence of this can be seen set around the triangular green by the parish church, where 24 listed buildings remain, five at Grade II* including the Tounson almshouses for the neediest poor and Georgian era clothiers' houses. Nearby are some of the 20 original cloth mills along the Marden. St Mary's church was extended by the generous donations of rich clothiers and wool merchants in the 15th century.

Houses of the 17th and 18th centuries have external walls of stone and timber-framed walls inside. Most of the stone is limestone rubble, laid with ashlar dressings in houses of higher quality; the walls of many houses were rendered smooth. Until the 19th century, quarries beside the London road northwest and southeast of the town were sources of stone for building.

A relic of 19th century lime extraction, a kiln, exists in the grounds of St Mary's School. This solid marine deposition is chiefly one chemical, calcium carbonate, and is dug in nearby pits for its main use in cement and as fertiliser on acid ground.

Former canal

The Wilts & Berks Canal linked the Kennet and Avon Canal at Semington, near Melksham, to the River Thames at Abingdon. Much of the traffic on the canal was coal from the Somerset Coalfield. As the canal passed through open country near Stanley, east of Chippenham, a short branch led through three locks to a wharf in Calne. The canal was completed in 1810 and abandoned in 1914.

Former railway

Calne's former railway station opened in 1863, the terminus of its own branch line of the Great Western Railway running east from Chippenham, with one intermediate stop: Stanley Bridge Halt. The opening of Black Dog Halt in the early 20th century provided insufficient demand to slow a progressive decline. The branch closed as a result of the Beeching Axe in September 1965, having suffered the ignominy of making the biggest loss per mile of any line in the country.

Wiltshire pork and ham

Subsequently, Calne's main industry other than being a small market town was the imposing Harris pork processing factory. The factory provided employment directly and indirectly to many of the residents until the early 1980s; at its closure in 1983 it employed over 2,000 people out of a town population of 10,000. It is said that the pork-curing industry developed because pigs reared in Ireland were landed at Bristol and then herded across England on drovers' roads to Smithfield, London, passing through Calne. The factory started in the second half of the 18th century when brothers John and Henry Harris started businesses which merged in 1888 as C. & T. Harris & Co. The factory has now been fully demolished and its site redeveloped as shops, housing and a library. As a result of the closure, unemployment in the town increased considerably and during much of the 1980s Calne suffered many of the economic restructuring problems more usually associated with large cities.

Arts and tourism

'The Head', Calne - - 810874
The Head, modernist sculpture in a paved square by the Lansdowne Strand

Tourism is described in nearby places of interest below, with details of the surrounding historic and landscape attractions. Within the town the annual Calne Music & Arts Festival was established in 1975.

In 2014 the town entered the South West in Bloom area of the Britain in Bloom competition and won a Gold Award for the first time. The award is judged on both the town council's floral displays and those of the community projects whose groups have entered in the 'It's Your Neighbourhood' category of the awards.


Calne town hall - - 301437
Calne Town Hall

Notable buildings in the town include St Mary's Church, an array of houses on The Green and the town hall. Of particular note is Calne Library which has won awards for its innovative design and was opened by the Queen in 2001.

Since the demolition of the Harris pork factory and the completion of the first phase of redevelopment/regeneration in 2001, Calne has seen Cotswold stone, similar to local limestone, being used together with smart red brickwork, formerly reserved for fine historical buildings.

Transport and infrastructure

The town centre suffers traffic congestion, with the A4 through the town close to gridlock during rush hour, due to single-file traffic between Curzon Street and Wood Street, with eastbound traffic having priority. A northern bypass road (part of the A3102 road) was completed in 2001.

Calne is equidistant (12 mi or 19 km) from the M4 motorway at Junction 16 (Wootton Bassett/Swindon West) to the northeast of Calne, and the westbound M4 junction 17 just north of Chippenham to the northwest. The nearest main passenger airport is Bristol, 38 mi (61 km) to the south west. Calne has no railway or bus station, though in March 2007 it was designated as a National Express coach stop on route 403 from Bath to London via Heathrow Airport. The service runs once a day and has wheelchair-accessible coaches. Stagecoach West, Faresaver and Thamesdown Transport provide bus services to other nearby towns and cities such as Chippenham, Devizes, Marlborough, Swindon and Bath.

Religious sites


QUEMERFORD, Calne, Wiltshire - - 65310
Holy Trinity, Quemerford

St Mary's church has a central position in the town and dates from the 12th century. The building was greatly expanded in the 14th and 15th centuries, and its tower rebuilt in the 17th. It is a Grade I listed building.

Holy Trinity church at Quemerford, on the London Road southwest of the town, was built in 1852-3. Its churchard became the parish graveyard, as St Mary's was full.


St Edmund's Catholic Church, Oxford Road, was built in 1962. The font has tiles from Stanley Abbey (which was visited by Saint Edmund Rich) and the church received stained glass from the demolished St Joseph's Church at RAF Lyneham.


Calne has a long history of Nonconformism.

A Presbyterian chapel was built in Back Road c. 1695. The congregation became Unitarian after 1770, being influenced by Joseph Priestley who lived in the town from 1773-80 and preached at the chapel. The chapel had been closed by the late 1830s and was re-used by the Primitive Methodists and later by the Salvation Army. It was demolished in the 1960s.

The Baptist church in Castle Street was built in the late 17th century, rebuilt in 1704 and again in 1817. The church continues in use. Particular Baptists built Zion chapel in 1836 on the street now called The Pippin; this too remains open, and is a feature of Calne's pedestrian precinct.

Wesleyan Methodists built a chapel in Back Road in 1811, and opened a larger church at Silver Street in 1867, which continues in use. Primitive Methodists used the former Unitarian chapel from the late 1830s, and moved to the former Wesleyan chapel in Back Road in 1887. In 1965 both congregations came together in the Silver Street building and the chapel in Back Road was later demolished.

The Free Church in Church Street was built in 1868 by a group who broke away from the parish church. The congregation is affiliated to the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches.

There is an Evangelical church in Oxford Road. First built in the early 1930s, and rebuilt at a later date, this was an Open Brethren Gospel Hall until at least the late 1990s.


In analysis of this subject, the town is currently two civil parishes, one wholly urban and suburban and the other wholly rural and very sparsely inhabited, forming part of the substantial green buffer to the town. These parishes are Calne and Calne Without. Until the late 19th century no such division was made: the land of Calne was determined by residents in or associated with the vestry beating the parish bounds, usually annually, see ecclesiastical parish. Calne Without is not considered here as it is covered by other hamlet settlements. Statistics from 1911-1961 are for the successor Metropolitan Borough which covered a slightly smaller area.

In 2011 the population reached 17,274 living in 7,113 homes.

Population of Calne
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1881 1891
Population 3,767 3,547 4,549 4,795 5,128 5,117 5,194
Year 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 2001 2011
Population 3,538 3,640 3,463 5,756 5,553 6,574 13,606 17,274

Media and communications

Notably in local radio, BBC Wiltshire and Heart Wiltshire are supplemented by community station - Eartunes. The town was served by Brunel FM, which went into liquidation. The frequency has since been taken over by Total Star.

Calne's geographic lines are grouped under the 01249 STD prefix, which includes Chippenham and Corsham, and is listed under the Bath & West Wiltshire BT Phonebook.

Local television news coverage is through BBC Points West and ITV News West Country (both Bristol-based).

Nearby places of interest

Cherhill White Horse seen from Cherhill village, 3 mi (5 km) east of Calne

In common with the surrounding villages, hotels cater to the following attractions:

  • Cherhill White Horse – 3.4 mi (5.5 km) east of central Calne, carved into the south face of Cherhill Down in 1780, situated south of Cherhill village and clearly visible from the A4 Calne - Marlborough Road. Cherhill Down rises to 860 feet (260 metres).
  • Lansdowne Monument – situated close to the summit of Cherhill Down, the 125 ft (38 m) stone needle provides views of Calne and the surrounding landscape. The mountains of South Wales and Cleeve Hill in the western Cotswolds can be seen on exceptionally clear days, as well as the cities of Bath and Bristol.
  • Bowood House (including the 23 mi (1.1 km) Bowood Lake) – an English Heritage site, is 3.1 mi (5.0 km) to the west of Calne, accessible via the village of Derry Hill.
  • Avebury stone circle & Avenue (UNESCO World Heritage Site) – Europe's largest neolithic stone circle site is 7 12 mi (12.1 km) east of Calne on the A4361 route towards Wroughton.
  • Silbury Hill, the largest neolithic structure in Europe, is situated 7 mi (11 km) east of the town on the A4 route 12 mi (800 m) east of Beckhampton.
  • West Kennett Long Barrow – the 5,500-year-old neolithic long barrow/tomb is situated 7 14 mi (11.7 km) east of Calne, south of the A4 route east between Beckhampton and West Kennett.
  • North Wessex Downs AONB – the range's highest summit is the Tan Hill-Milk Hill ridge near Allington, at 968 ft (295 m) above sea level, 9 mi (14 km) southeast of Calne. This area is popular with hill walkers, and several hills over 820 ft (250 m) high are situated adjacent to Calne.
  • Salisbury Plain – the northernmost point of the plain is 12 mi (19 km) to the southeast of Calne, slightly to the southeast of Devizes.
  • Stonehenge is 24 mi (39 km) south of the town.

Blackland Lakes is a large camping site on the southern edge of Calne which is popular with anglers and tourists alike. The 'lakes' themselves are in fact large angling pools.


Calne's suburbs and housing developments include Quemerford, Calne Marsh, Lansdowne Park, Curzon Park, Castlefields, and Lickhill.

Ordnance Survey maps published in 1959-61 show Quemerford village along the A4 east of the town, a few houses at Calne Marsh along the Swindon road on the northeastern outskirts, and Lickhill Farm standing in farmland to the northwest.

Twin towns

Calne is twinned with the towns of :

  • Charlieu in France
  • Eningen in Germany
  • Caln Township in Pennsylvania, USA, was so named because it was established by people from Calne in the early 18th century.
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