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Town Hall and Post Office at the High street
Corsham is located in Wiltshire
Population 13,000 (in 2011)
OS grid reference ST873706
Civil parish
  • Corsham
Unitary authority
  • Wiltshire
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Corsham
Postcode district SN13
Dialling code 01249
Police Wiltshire
Fire Wiltshire
Ambulance Great Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
  • Chippenham (most of parish
    North Wiltshire (western part)
List of places
51°26′02″N 2°11′06″W / 51.434°N 2.185°W / 51.434; -2.185

Corsham is a historic market town and civil parish in west Wiltshire, England. It is at the south-eastern edge of the Cotswolds, just off the A4 national route, 28 miles (45 km) southwest of Swindon, 20 miles (32 km) southeast of Bristol, 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Bath and 4 miles (6 km) southwest of Chippenham.

Historically, Corsham was a centre for agriculture and later, the wool industry, and remains a focus for quarrying Bath Stone. It has several notable historic buildings; among them the stately home of Corsham Court. During the Second World War and the Cold War it became a major administrative and manufacturing centre for the Ministry of Defence, with numerous establishments both above ground and in disused quarry tunnels.

The parish includes the villages of Gastard and Neston, which is at the gates of the Neston Park estate.


Corsham appears to derive its name from Cosa's hām, "ham" being Old English for homestead, or village. The town is referred in the Domesday book as Cosseham; the letter 'R' appears to have entered the name later under Norman influence (possibly caused by the recording of local pronunciation), when the town is reported to have been in the possession of the Earl of Cornwall. Corsham is recorded as Coseham in 1001, as Cosseha in 1086, and at Cosham as late as 1611 (on John Speed's map of Wiltshire). The Corsham area belonged to the King in Saxon times, the area at the time also had a large forest which was cleared to make way for further expansion.

There is evidence that the town had been known as "Corsham Regis" due to its reputed association with anglo-saxon Ethelred of Wessex, and this name remains as that of a primary school.

One of the towns that prospered greatly from Wiltshire's wool trade in medieval times, it maintained its prosperity after the decline of that trade through the quarrying of Bath stone, with underground mining works extending to the south and west of Corsham.

Numbers 94 to 112 of the High Street are Grade II* listed buildings known as the "Flemish Weavers Houses", however there is little cogent evidence to support this name and it appears more likely to derive from a handful of Dutch workers who arrived in the 17th century.

Corsham also contains the historic Georgian house, The Grove, opposite the high street, a typical example of classic Georgian architecture.


A peacock makes its way along Church Street

Corsham's small town centre includes the Martingate Centre, a late 20th century retail development, which also houses offices and a small teaching facility for Wiltshire College, a further education institution.

The stately home of Corsham Court can also be found in the town centre. Standing on a former Saxon Royal Manor, it is based on an Elizabethan manor home from 1582. Since 1745, it has been part of the Methuen estate. The house has an extensive collection of Old Masters, rooms furnished by Robert Adam and Thomas Chippendale, and parks landscaped by Capability Brown and Humphry Repton. The house is open to the public all year round excluding December and is famed locally for its peacocks, which freely wander about the streets. The owner of Corsham Court in the mid-seventeenth century was the commander of the Parliamentarian New Model Army in Wiltshire; his wife built what came to be known as the Hungerford Almshouses in the centre of town.

Corsham is the site of the disused entrance to Tunnel Quarry, which used to be visible off Pockeridge Drive.


The Pound is an arts venue and community hub for north Wiltshire, run by the Pound Arts Trust and supported by Arts Council England, Wiltshire Council, South Gloucestershire Council and Corsham Town Council. Two rural touring schemes take performances to villages in Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire.

Pound Arts also organises two annual festivals: the Blue Sky Festival in June, for various art forms including music and comedy; and the Magic and Mayhem Festival in November, featuring magic, burlesque, music hall and other decadent arts.

Wiltshire Police have a base at the Springfield Community Campus.



The village of Gastard was a settlement by the 12th century. It has a 20th-century church.


Neston village was established around Neston Park, a country estate whose house was built c.1790. Neston Park is home of the Fuller family, who give their name to the Fuller, Smith and Turner brewery in London, known for Fuller's London Pride cask ale.


Pickwick was once a separate settlement and now forms the north-western part of the town. The name derives from Anglo-Saxon pic (meaning a peak or pointed hill) and wic (village). The Wiltshire Hundred Roll of 1273 refers to a "William de Pikewicke".

Corsham was the inspiration for Charles Dickens' novel The Pickwick Papers; it is thought that he borrowed the name from Moses Pickwick, a coachman who was born in Pickwick, lived in the "Hare and Hounds" inn, and ran coaches between Bath and London.

Other settlements

In the northeast, Corsham civil parish includes a small part of the town of Chippenham, south of the A4 road. North of the A4, besides Pickwick, are the hamlets of Middlewick, Upper Pickwick and Cross Keys.

Settlements now within Corsham's built-up area are Hudswell, Leafield, Westwells and part of Rudloe, with Moor Green and Neston further south. In the east of the parish are Easton, Thingley and Westrop, and in the southeast Chapel Knapp, Gastard, Monk's Park, The Linleys and The Ridge.

Notable people

  • Decca Aitkenhead (b. 1971), journalist, columnist for The Guardian
  • Felix Aylmer (1889–1979), actor, President of Equity 1950–1969
  • Edwin Bezar (1838–1936), soldier, one of the last surviving veterans of the Crimean War and the New Zealand Wars
  • Jennifer Biddall (b. 1980), actress, best known as Jessica Harris in Hollyoaks
  • Camilla Parker Bowles (b. 1947), and her first husband Andrew Parker Bowles
  • Harold Brakspear (1870–1934), restoration architect and archaeologist, lived at Pickwick Manor and Parkside in High Street
  • Revd Richard Enraght (1837–1898), religious controversialist, curate of St Bartholomew's Church, Corsham, 1861–1864
  • Sir Gabriel Goldney, 1st Baronet of Beechfield (1813–1900), MP for Chippenham, and the Goldney baronets
  • Edward Hasted (1732–1812), historian, master of Corsham Almshouse
  • Elizabeth Hurley (b. 1965), actress, attended St Patrick's Primary School, 1973–74
  • Kris Marshall (b. 1973), actor, best known for playing Nick Harper in My Family and lead detective DI Humphrey Goodman in Death In Paradise
  • Nick Mason (b. 1944), musician, Pink Floyd
  • Baron Methuen, family seat is Corsham Court
  • Gavin Schmidt, climatologist, GISS
  • Jim Smith (1906–1979), England Test cricketer, brother of the below
  • William Smith (1900–1990), cricketer, brother of the above
  • Rini Templeton (1935–1986), artist, studied at Bath Academy in Corsham c. 1956
  • Michael Tippett (1905–1998), composer, lived at Parkside in High Street, 1960–70

Population and demography

Changes in Corsham's population 1801–2001

The first official census of 1801 showed Corsham having 2,402 inhabitants, while that of 2011 recorded exactly 13,000. The increase shown for 1840 is due to the influx of stone workers and the arrival of the Great Western Railway. No census was taken in 1941 due to the Second World War, but the jump in population (from 3,754 in 1931 to 9,268 in 1951, an increase of 147%) is attributable to the influx of military personnel.

The 2001 census demographics of the SN13 postcode area, of which Corsham comprises the major part, did not differ markedly from national figures; the unemployment rate was 2.0 per cent compared to a national 3.2 per cent, and there was a marginally higher rate of retirees (at 23.3 per cent as against 22 per cent). 23 per cent of adults are educated to degree level, against a national average of 20 per cent.


Corsham station engine house spring 2007 Ben Croft
There is a local campaign to reopen the railway station near Station Road

Corsham is connected to Bradford on Avon by the B3109 road, to Melksham by the B3353, and to Chippenham and Bath by the A4 Bath Road, a former turnpike from London to Bristol. Junction 17 of the M4 motorway is about 8 miles (12 km) from Corsham. Bus company Faresaver operate local services, as well as buses to nearby towns.

The Great Western Main Line railway from London to Bristol, Exeter and Penzance passes through the town, though Corsham station closed in 1965. Proposals to reopen the station have been put forward since at least 2009, and in 2021 a feasibility study was approved by the Department for Transport.

Nearby stations, and most passenger trains, are operated by Great Western Railway. Some local services call at the nearest station at Melksham (4.5 miles, 7.2 km) while Chippenham station (4.7 miles, 7.5 km) offers frequent express services and connections.

The eastern portal of Box Tunnel, the longest railway tunnel of its time, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the Great Western Railway, is at Hudswell on the western edge of the town. Corsham Railway Cutting carries the main line westward through Corsham to Box Tunnel; in 1971 6.6 hectares (16 acres) of land in the cutting were designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for notable geology.

Town twinning

Corsham has had a twinning relationship with the town of Jargeau, France since 1981, and has an active twinning association. Corsham holds an annual twinning event in which musical and charity events occur, accompanied by French food and wines. There is also a boules competition for the Peter Henderson trophy which is named in memory of a local doctor and former chairman of the twinning association. As part of the 2008 event, a mock Storming of the Bastille was staged to celebrate Bastille Day, Corsham Town Hall standing in for the Parisian prison.

Sport and leisure

Corsham has a non-League football club Corsham Town F.C., founded in 1884, who play at Southbank. They finished first in the Western Football League Premier Division in 2007.




The Ministry of Defence has operated a number of locations in the vicinity of Corsham since the First World War and employs approximately 2,000 people. Several defence sites in the Corsham area are located underground and were formed from historic Bath Stone quarries. The largest of the above-ground sites are centred around the Hawthorn area of Corsham.

Basil Hill site

The Basil Hill site is in Westwells Road and comprises the former Basil Hill Barracks; the site is now designated MOD Corsham and accommodates approximately 2,100 people. It is home to UK Strategic Command's Defence Digital organisation and also houses the Ministry of Defence's Global Operations Security Control Centre, amongst other units.

Rudloe site

The manor house of RAF Rudloe Manor

The Rudloe site, bordering Westwells Road and Bradford Road, was one of three sites that comprised RAF Rudloe Manor. Rudloe Manor was established during the Second World War as a non-flying station for administrative and command & control purposes. It was home to HQ Number 10 Fighter Group, RAF Regional Command, Headquarters RAF Police & Security Services, No 1 Signals Unit, Controller Defence Communications Network and 1001 Signals Unit. The main site also served as the primary entrance for the Central Government War Headquarters, variously known as "Turnstile", "Stockwell", "Subterfuge" and "Burlington".

By 1998 it had become mostly administrative, housing the RAF Provost and Security Services, which dealt with security and criminal investigation. The sites were taken over by the Defence Communication Services Agency in about 2000, while the detachment of 1001 Signals Unit of the RAF remained at the Hawthorn site until its privatisation. RAF Rudloe Manor was then absorbed into Joint Support Unit Corsham.

Hawthorn site

Hawthorn site, on Skynet Drive, previously accommodated the RAF 1001 Signal Unit detachment of RAF Rudloe Manor. The site supports the Skynet military communications satellite constellations, which is now managed by Astrium Services under a PFI arrangement.

Copenacre site

The Copenacre site, off the A4 Bath Road about 1 mile (1.6 km) west of Corsham, was originally an underground stone quarry below land formerly part of the Hartham estate; this was taken over by the Ministry of Defence in 1937 and became the Royal Naval Stores Depot, Copenacre. The underground stores closed on 30 September 1995. The site closed completely in January 2011 and was sold. In 2016 demolition started to redevelop the brownfield site into housing. Two original mine structures remain incorporated into the development, one being a shaft entrance.

Other units

The Joint Support Unit provides administrative support and facilities management for all three locations. In 2006 a Private Finance Initiative contract was let to Inteq for the renewal and expansion of the Basil Hill and Rudloe Site facilities, valued at around £800m.

Corsham Computer Centre is a Royal Navy data processing facility.

The Services Cotswold Centre in Neston is a welfare centre offering temporary accommodation for services families who require it. The centre has 63 family units, a medical centre and other amenities.

HMS Royal Arthur was a training establishment between 1947 and 1993.

A number of defence-related contractors are co-located or in the vicinity of the MoD sites, such as Chemring Energetics UK Limited and Serco Defence, Science and Technology.


Underground extraction of Bath Stone continues in Corsham on a smaller scale than previously. Hanson plc operates Hartham Park Quarry in the Hudswell district, south-west of Pickwick, and Monk's Park Quarry near Gastard.

Disused quarries have been redeployed for other purposes; apart from defence usage, there is a wine storage facility at Eastlays, near Gastard run by Octavian Vaults, and storage of magnetic media for off-site data protection at Neston.

Film and television

Another use for the quarries is the film industry. Underground scenes from the first episode of Blake's 7 were filmed at Eastlays, and disused tunnels form part of the studio complex of Corsham Media Park, a specialist business park that opened in 2001 adjacent to RAF Rudloe Manor.

Period drama location filming occurs in Corsham, as in neighbouring Lacock and Atworth parishes. Neston Park hosted major outdoor film sets for the 2008 BBC television adaption of Lark Rise to Candleford, and the BBC also filmed scenes for a 2008 version of Tess of the D'Urbervilles in Church Street and Corsham Court grounds.

Corsham Court has also been used as a period location in productions such as Barry Lyndon (1975), The Remains of the Day (1993), A Respectable Trade (1997) and Wives and Daughters (1999).

In 2014, scenes for the new adaptation of Poldark (2015) were filmed in the town's High Street, meaning Corsham then featured in every series until the drama ended in 2019.


Corsham has four primary schools, an independent preparatory school and a large secondary school. The primary schools, catering for students up to age 11, are:

  • Corsham Primary School, split between Pound Pill and Broadwood Avenue, was formed from Lady Methuen's School for Girls (founded 1816), the National School for Girls (c.1840s) and Corsham British School for Boys (c.1840). These schools came under the aegis of the Corsham School Board in 1893 and were finally merged in 1923. It now provides for about 600 students.
  • Corsham Regis Primary Academy, Kings Avenue, opened in 1943 for the children of incoming military workers. It became a junior school in 1955 when older children transferred to the Corsham Secondary Modern School, and now has about 180 students.
  • Neston Primary School, Church Rise, Neston, was founded in 1861 as Corshamside School. It now provides for about 170 students.
  • St Patrick's Catholic Primary School, Lacock Road, opened in 1966 and is a Voluntary aided school with about 200 pupils.
  • Lypiatt Primary School, within a Ministry of Defence site near Neston, to the south of Corsham, was opened in 1951 to cater for children of MoD employees. It closed in 2019.

Two schools outside the parish take pupils from Corsham: Box CE (VC) Primary School and Shaw CE Primary School.

The Corsham School, The Tynings, is Corsham's only secondary school; it was opened in 1972 as a comprehensive school and is now a large academy with a sixth form. In 2015 the school had 1,300 pupils.

Heywood Prep School, Priory Street, is an independent school providing education from ages 2 to 11, and has about 180 pupils. It achieved a favourable assessment when last inspected in May 2014, being described as "a welcoming, friendly and open community. As a result of feeling safe and well looked after, pupils thrive and challenge themselves to reach their full potential.". It is located on two acres of property in the centre of Corsham, near Corsham Court, on a site first mentioned in the Domesday Book as a priory donated to an order of monks. The Grade II Georgian building in Bath stone is from 1776; later additions include a barn, used as a dining room and later a science block, and a multi-functional performance hall. The school is part of the Wishford Schools group. The school was rated 17th in The Sunday Times Top 100 Prep Schools in November 2014.

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