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Cricklade, High Street - - 268609.jpg
Jubilee Clock and part of the High Street
Snake's head fritillary, North Meadow NNR, Cricklade - - 418738.jpg
Snake's head fritillaries in the National Nature Reserve, with the Anglican church behind
Cricklade is located in Wiltshire
Population 4,227 (in 2011)
OS grid reference SU101936
Civil parish
  • Cricklade
Unitary authority
  • Wiltshire
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Swindon
Postcode district SN6
Dialling code 01793
Police Wiltshire
Fire Wiltshire
Ambulance Great Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
  • North Wiltshire
Website Town Council
List of places
51°38′28″N 1°51′22″W / 51.641°N 1.856°W / 51.641; -1.856

Cricklade is a town and civil parish on the River Thames in north Wiltshire, England, midway between Swindon and Cirencester. It is the first downstream town on the Thames. The parish population at the 2011 census was 4,227.


Cricklade was founded in the 9th century by the Anglo-Saxons, at the point where the Roman road Ermin Way crossed the River Thames. It was the home of a royal mint from 979 to 1100; there are some Cricklade coins in the town museum. The Domesday book records Cricklade as the meeting place of Cricklade hundred in 1086.

It is one of thirty burhs (fortresses or fortified towns) recorded in the Burghal Hidage document, which describes a system of fortresses and fortified towns built around Wessex by King Alfred. Recent research has suggested that these burhs were built in the short period 878–79 both to defend Wessex against the Vikings under Guthrum, and to act as an offensive to the Viking presence in Mercia. It is argued that the completion of this system, of which Cricklade – situated only a little way down Ermin Street from Cirencester, the Viking base for a year – was a key element, precipitated the retreat of the Vikings from Mercia and London to East Anglia, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in late 879.

The square defences of the fortification were laid out on a regular module. They have been excavated in several places on all four of its sides by a number of archaeologists since the 1940s, making this is possibly the most extensively sampled fortification of the period. In the initial phase, a walkway of laid stones marked the rear of a bank of stacked turfs and clay, which had been derived from the three external ditches.

In the second phase, the front of the bank, which after probably only a short period of time had become somewhat degraded, was replaced by a stone wall. This encircled the defences on all four of its sides. The manpower needed to build this was probably roughly the same as was needed to build the original turf and clay defences. This wall, which would have considerably strengthened the defensive capabilities of the burh, has recently been suggested as having been inserted in the 890s. That other burhs of the Burghal Hidage were also strengthened with stone walls suggests that this was part of a systematic upgrade of the original defensive provision for Wessex which was ordered at this time by the king.

The third phase is marked by the systematic razing of the stone wall, which was pulled down over the inner berm (the space between the wall and the inner ditch). Stones from the wall were used to fill the inner two ditches, which demonstrates that this process was deliberate. A similar phase can be observed in the archaeological record at Christchurch, Dorset, another burh of the Burghal Hidage. Similar observations at other burhs suggests that this phase of destruction of the defences was implemented over the whole of Wessex, and must therefore have been the result of a concerted policy, again by inference on the part of the king. The most reasonable historical context for this seems to be accession of King Cnut in the early 11th century, to prevent the burhs being seized and used against him by his rivals.

The fourth phase is marked by the reuse of the original Anglo Saxon defences by the insertion of a timber palisade along the line of the original wall. This probably marks a phase of the re-defence of the town during the civil war of 1144 under King Stephen.

There is little archaeological evidence for the community who were protected by these defences in the Saxon period. There is some indication that streets were laid out in a regular fashion behind the main north–south High Street. This led through a gate in the northern line of the defences to a causeway over the floodplain of the Thames to a bridge over the river, which was probably of a defensive nature.

On John Speed's map of Wiltshire (1611), the town's name is recorded as Crekelade.

Cricklade Museum houses several publications recounting further historical details of the town and its people.


Sport and events

Cricklade Rugby Club

The club was founded in 1992 by ex-school players from many schools at the bar of the Vale Hotel, Cricklade, then owned by ex-President and life members the Ross family. Initially players were committed to other clubs, so Sunday fixtures were played, the first one against Aldbourne on 6 September. In its second season the fixtures moved to Saturdays. The club joined the Dorset & Wilts leagues in 1994 but withdrew as the travelling involved was too burdensome. They were able to rejoin in 2001 when the leagues were re-structured into North and South.

The club originally used pitches from Prior Park School and the Duke of Gloucester Barracks. Since 2001 it plays on a prepared pitch in the town leased by the Town Council. The first game to be played there was between Cricklade and the President's select XV squad from all rival clubs – about a dozen clubs formed the squad, who played in Gloucester jerseys donated for the day by Gloucester RFC.

Over the years Cricklade Rugby Club have had some of the most wide-reaching tours of the clubs in the area, all over England, West and South Wales and Ireland, with teams spanning a broad range of levels of skill and age category.

Cricklade Show

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Dancer at the Cricklade Show

The Cricklade Show is held each summer, typically featuring music, dancing and a cricket match.

Cricklade Festival

The town holds an annual festival, usually taking place on Father's Day in June.

Cricklade Fun Run

Run annually in the first Sunday of October, the Cricklade Fun Run hosts a half marathon, 10 km and Fun Run event for around 750 runners. This raises funds for a number of local charities.

Cricklade Triathlon

The Cricklade Triathlon runs in the summer for both adults and juniors.

Cricklade Leisure Centre

Towards the end of 2006, North Wiltshire District Council tried to close the leisure centre. After a campaign, the local residents took over the running of the centre and were successful in turning its declining fortunes around. It has a swimming pool, squash courts, sports hall with a range of markings, tennis/five a side football courts, bar and lounge area with balcony and barbecue, skate park and children's play areas. In 2009 money was raised for a climbing wall.

Cricklade Cricket Club

Cricklade Cricket Club was established in 1877 and has been located since 1947 on the north side of Cricklade, where its ground (Southam) is next to the River Thames. For the 2016 season the club is running two senior Saturday teams, a friendly Sunday team, a midweek team and three youth teams (U15, U13 and U11s), all in the local Cotswold District Cricket Association leagues.

Cricklade Town F.C.

Cricklade Town F.C. is a non-League football team which plays at the Cricklade Leisure Centre.

Cricklade Youth Football Club

Cricklade Youth Football Club provides and promotes the playing of association football for the youth of Cricklade from U7s to U16s. The club was the first in Wiltshire to gain the Wiltshire FA Charter Standard, an award for clubs across the country that meet the high standards required by the Football Association.


North Meadow

Today, the town's main claim to fame is the large nature reserve, North Meadow, which preserves some 80% of Britain's wild Snake's Head Fritillaries in its 150 acres (61 ha), which flower in late April to early May. The meadow is situated between two rivers, the Thames and the Churn, and the unique habitat for the fritillary was created by winter flooding. Such meadows were once common in Britain, but with the advent of modern farming many were drained and ploughed for arable crops from the 1730s onwards. In the case of North Meadow, it escaped such a fate by virtue of the preservation of the Court Leet, the Saxon system of town governance which made sure the land was held in common. The land is managed by Natural England and is run with the support of the Court Leet


In 2000, a disused airfield, formerly RAF Blakehill Farm, was bought from the Ministry of Defence by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to form a second larger meadow of around 600 acres (240 ha), which was opened to the public in 2005. It rears a small quantity of organic grade beef, usually using rare breeds such as Longhorns.

Cotswold Water Park

Cricklade lies between the east and west sections of the Cotswold Water Park, an extensive nature reserve formed from disused gravel pits.


St Sampson's C of E Primary School

There was a state primary school called St Sampson's Church of England School, which was linked with the major local landmark, the Anglican St Sampson's parish church. It was separated in 1979 into two schools, on the same Bath Road site: St Sampson's Infants' School, for children aged 4-7, and St Sampson's C of E Junior School, for children aged 7-11. In 2014, the schools merged to form St. Sampson's C of E (VC) Primary School.

Prior Park Preparatory School

There is an independent school called Prior Park Preparatory School. The school is non-selective and has around 200 pupils aged from 3 to 13 years. It provides both day and boarding places and is home to a number of children from overseas and forces' families. Children are prepared for Common Entrance and leave at 13 for a variety of independent schools including the school's own senior school, Prior Park College in Bath. Prior Park is a Roman Catholic school but has children from several faiths among its pupils.

Meadowpark School

Meadowpark is a small independent school, established in 1996, for children between 4 and 11. It is housed in the former St Mary's school, built in 1860 just south of the Town Bridge.


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St Sampson's Church


St Sampson's is the Church of England parish church. Dating back to the 12th century, it is dedicated to the 5th-century Welsh saint, Samson of Dol. The present church was built on the remains of another, Saxo, church of AD 890. The main part of the church was built between 1240 and 1280, although on closer inspection the earlier work can still be found. The large tower with four corner pinnacles, the dominant landmark of the town, was built much later in 1551–53 by John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, father-in-law to Lady Jane Grey. The church is a Grade I listed building.

Roman Catholic

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St Mary's Church

Since 1984, St Mary's Church has been leased by the Catholic congregation, after it was declared redundant by the Church of England in 1981. The building is Grade II* listed.

The building, just inside the Saxon town wall, dates from the 12th century and has a low tower completed c. 1400. St Mary's had its own small parish, the northern part of the town and its environs, until 1952 when the parish was united with St Sampson's.

In the churchyard, south of the church, is a complete 14th-century limestone cross, a Grade I listed structure.

United Church

Cricklade United Church, Calcutt Street, was built by Congregationalists in 1878, in front of their smaller meeting house of 1799 which is now the church hall. The congregation joined the United Reformed Church at its formation in 1972, and later joined with the Methodists to create Cricklade United Reformed & Methodist Church.

Former Methodist chapels

Primitive Methodists built a hall in Calcutt Street, near the High Street, in 1855, and the Wesleyans built theirs just north of the town bridge, near the Priory, in 1870.

In 1938 the two churches united and used the Calcutt Street hall. The Priory building was at first a Sunday school, then after the Second World War was taken over by Wiltshire County Council Education Department, and is now a community hall called Thames Hall. The Calcutt Street building became a doctors' surgery after the move to the United Church.

Town twinning

Cricklade has been twinned with the French town of Sucé-sur-Erdre since 1990. In June 2010 the 20th anniversary was celebrated in Cricklade. Sucé is located just north of Nantes in the Loire Valley, 30 miles (48 km) from the Atlantic coast. Visits are exchanged in alternate years. Cricklade Twinning Association also hold social events throughout the year to raise funds towards hosting the visits by Sucé to Cricklade.


The Thames Path runs through Cricklade then continues downstream on the south bank to Eysey Footbridge, where it crosses to the other bank.

The North Wilts Canal, opened in 1819, passed to the west of the town, linking the Thames and Severn Canal with the Wilts and Berks Canal. Abandoned in the early 20th century, parts are now being restored. The Town Bridge, built in 1812, marks the limits of navigation rights on the River Thames.

Cricklade railway station on the Midland and South Western Junction Railway linked Swindon with Cirencester, but was closed in 1961 and no trace of the station remains. Part of the railway route forms a cycle path (National Cycle Route 45). South of the town, the Swindon and Cricklade Railway is restoring the line as a leisure facility. Since 2007 passenger trains have been run between Blunsdon and Hayes Knoll, and in 2014 the line was extended to Taw Valley Halt on the edge of Swindon. It is also being extended towards Cricklade. The nearest station to Cricklade at present is Hayes Knoll. The nearest mainline railway station is Swindon on the Great Western Main Line.

The A419 Swindon to Cirencester road bypasses the town to the north-east.

Business and economy

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Large Georgian homes in central Cricklade

Cricklade Business Association represents the local business community and has close links with other non-profit organisations, such as the Rotarians, the Waylands Trust, and the charity that runs the leisure centre.

Cricklade's many public houses include the Vale, the Old Bear, the White Hart, and the Red Lion. Drinks are also sold at the White Horse Members' Club and the leisure centre. An above-average proportion of the ward population ward was retired at the time of the 2011 census.

There is a local museum in Calcutt Street run by the Cricklade Historical Society, housed in a former Baptist chapel. T. R. Thomson of Costorphine was a long-time resident of Cricklade and a moving spirit behind the establishment of the society. His book Materials for a History of Cricklade and various articles have enhanced the study of local history in the town.

Notable people

In birth date order:

  • Robert of Cricklade (c. 1100 – c. 1174–1179) was a teacher and later prominent writer based in Cirencester Abbey and the Priory of St Frideswide, Oxford.
  • John Hungerford (c. 1566–1635) was a politician whose interest in Cricklade led him to build the market house in the High Street and a flying buttress for the Lady Chapel of St Sampson's Church.
  • Robert Jenner (1584–1651), merchant and politician, founded a school in Cricklade and was buried here.
  • Nevil Maskelyne (1611–1679), was a landowner and MP for Cricklade. He gained the town a weekly market and four fairs a year from 1662.
  • George R. Poulton (born 1828), the American composer of the song "Aura", was born here.
  • Reginald Arkell (1882–1959), scriptwriter, novelist and humorist, died here.
  • Ellis Peters (1913–1995), set her medieval mystery novel Brother Cadfael's Penance in Cricklade.
  • Francis Maddison (1927–2006), historian and Arabist, directed archaeological excavations in Cricklade.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Cricklade para niños

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