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Warminster facts for kids

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Warminster- some town-centre shops (geograph 2025490).jpg
Market Place, Warminster
Warminster is located in Wiltshire
Population 17,490 (in 2011)
OS grid reference ST875455
Unitary authority
  • Wiltshire
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Warminster
Postcode district BA12
Dialling code 01985
Police Wiltshire
Fire Wiltshire
Ambulance Great Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
  • South West Wiltshire
List of places
51°12′18″N 2°10′52″W / 51.205°N 2.181°W / 51.205; -2.181

Warminster is a garrison town and civil parish in western Wiltshire, England, by-passed by the A36 (between Salisbury and Bath) and the partly concurrent A350 between Westbury and Blandford Forum, on the western edge of Salisbury Plain. It has a population of about 17,000. The 11th-century Minster Church of St Denys stands near the Were, which runs through the town and can be seen running through the town park. The name Warminster first occurs in the early 10th century.


Early history

The main settlement at Warminster dates back to the Anglo-Saxon period, although there is evidence of pre-historic settlements at in the Warminster area, especially at the nearby Iron Age hill forts, Battlesbury Camp, Scratchbury Camp and Cley Hill. Two Roman Villas have also been discovered in the area, as have caches of Roman coins.

By the 10th century, Warminster included a royal manor and an Anglo-Saxon Minster, with the residents largely associated with the estate. The royal manor was passed to new lords in the 12th century, during which time the township started to grow. During the 13th century, a market was set up at Warminster, and by 1377 the town had 304 poll-tax payers, the tenth largest in Wiltshire.


The town's name has evolved over time, known as Worgemynstre in approximately 912 and it was referred to in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Guerminstre. The town name of Warminster is thought to derive from the River Were, a tributary of River Wylye which runs through the town, and from an Anglo-Saxon minster or monastery, which existed in the area of St Denys's Church. The river's name, "Were" may derive from the Old English "worian" to wander.

Civil war

During the English Civil War, between 1642 and 1645, the town was the site of a few incidents. A major for the "Roundheads", Henry Wansey was besieged in Warminster, while a force under Edmund Ludlow entered a skirmish on Warminster Common whilst trying to relieve him. By 1646, the town had suffered £500 (equivalent to £64,842 in 2021) worth of damages by supporting the Roundheads.

Post-medieval prosperity

The market at Warminster was the focus of the town's prosperity, with significant wool, clothing and malting trades established by the 16th century and continuing to be the economic backbone of the town until the 19th century. The market also included a significant corn trade throughout the period and was regarded as the second largest corn market in the west of England in 1830. Unlike many markets of the time where farmers would take sample to market, Warminster's corn market required a sack from each load of corn to be available to customers, that each purchase must be agreed between 11am and 1pm and paid for by the end of the day.

The town had a large amount of accommodation for visitors to the market, and in 1686 it was ranked fourth for number of places to stay in Wiltshire, with 116 beds. By 1710 there were approximately fifty inns and alehouses in the town. The town was an early adopter of the Turnpikes Act to improve the roads around the town. Unlike many roads improved at the time which would link to towns, Warminster chose to improve seven roads around the town, all under three miles long.

Despite the prosperity, one settlement of houses near Warminster Common had a poor reputation. William Daniell wrote in 1781 that people were living in unplastered hovels with earth floors and that piles of filth poisoned the stream bringing typhus and smallpox. The people were considered rude and drunk criminals. Daniell and members of the clergy were keen to help the residents, and by 1833 the area was considered clean and respectable.

Victorian era and twentieth-century

The town was significantly redesigned in after 1807 when George Wansey, who was from a family of clothiers in Warminster, left £1,000 (equivalent to £63,090 in 2021) to improve the town, provided it could be matched by fundraising. The money was spent on demolishing houses to widen roads, allowing for new houses to be built. In 1851, a railway line from West

In 1907, a committee was put together to advertise the town, creating a town guide and advertising in national publications. Unfortunately the committee could not come to an agreement with Lord Bath over the location of a new hotel. Between 1937 and 1961, a military presences formed at Warminster, with the addition of camps, a permanent Barracks at Battlesbury, married quarters and workshops for vehicle repairs.


Warminster is located in south-west Wiltshire, near to the Somerset border. The town is surrounded by six hills, providing shelter and security for early settlers. The area is made up of chalk, which provides good drainage to the nearby River Wylye, providing plenty of arable and pasturable land near to the village. The Wylye is a tributary of the River Avon. Warminster is also close to Selwood Forest.

Climate data for Bath (Nearest climate station to Warminster)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 45.7
Average low °F (°C) 35.4
Rainfall inches (mm) 3.248
Source: Met Office


The Domesday survey of 1086 revealed 30 residents, largely craftsmen for the royal demesne, but the population had grown by 1377 to 304 poll-tax payers, the tenth largest village in Wiltshire. In 1665, the population had increased to 354 households, approximately 1,800 people. The area contained by the turnpike gates included 2,605 people in 1781.

Historical population of Warminster
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Population 4,932 4,866 5,612 6,115 6,211 6,285 5,995 5,786 5,640 5,563 5,547
Year 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011
Population 5,492 5,387 5,176 - 7,660 9,860 13,554 15,089 16,267 17,377 17,490

Census: 1801–2011


Warminster has a number of local venues which facilitate cultural events for the community. This includes a library, museum, five theatres and cinemas, eleven halls and a number of pubs. There are many festivals and events held annually within the area including Warminster festival, Vintage bus run and heritage open days.

Warminster is twinned with Flers in France.


2008 10210046
Warminster Park

Close by to Warminster is stately home Longleat, which has included Longleat Safari Park since 1966; the first drive-through safari park outside Africa, home to over 500 animals, including giraffe, monkeys, rhino, lion, tigers and wolves. The town includes a theatre, the Warminster Athenaeum, an 1858 Grade II listed building. The Warminster Lake Pleasure Grounds were laid out in 1924 and facilities include tennis courts, play area and boating lake. They were officially opened by the Marquess of Bath on Saturday 26 July 1924.


Warminster is at the junction of two primary routes, the A36 and the A350, which both now bypass the town to the south and east. There is a service area where the two roads meet. The A303 is about 7 miles (11 km) south of the town, and junctions 17 and 18 of the M4 are 22 miles (35 km) to the north.

Warminster railway station, opened in 1851, is managed by Great Western Railway. The station is on the Wessex Main Line and has regular services to Bristol, Cardiff, Southampton and Portsmouth; London Paddington can be reached via Westbury, and London Waterloo via Salisbury.

Berrys Coaches provide a service to/from London.

Religious sites

Warminster includes several churches, including Christ Church, Church of St. Denys, Warminster Baptist Church and Church of St John the Evangelist which are listed buildings. It also includes St George Catholic Church and Chapel of St. Lawrence


As Warminster is in an area of fertile land, much of its early economy was through farming, especially cereals. William Daniell commented in 1879 that Warminster lay 'in the midst of a fine corn-country', and Warminster's market provided the backbone of the economy through the 16th to 19th centuries. Alongside cereals, wool and clothing were traded and there were a number of maltings in the town.

Warminster's clothing trade suffered greatly in the early 19th century, as there was no suitable river to power machinery during a period of industrialisation. At the same time its malting trade declined but remained important. In 1855, William Morgan commissioned the Pound Street Maltings, which Pevsner found to be derelict in 1974; today, malt is again produced there under new management.

The coming of the railway line from Westbury in 1851, continued to Salisbury in 1856, had a devastating effect on the town's market, which fell away almost to nothing, and the shops and inns lost most of their business. In 1860, Warminster was described as "a clean-swept, semi-aristocratic, decidedly poor place... in a lukewarm, stagnant, bankrupt state." However, by that year the town had begun to adopt new trades in brewing and iron-founding, which eventually grew enough to mitigate the loss of other business. One example was the Woodcock Ironworks, set up by John Wallis Titt in the town in the mid-1870s to make agricultural machines.

During the 20th century, Warminster's economy became more dependent on the British Army and its associated service industries, but other new businesses also came into the area, such as intensive poultry farming, banana ripening, and shoe manufacture. During the late 20th century and early 21st century, the leisure industry has grown in the area, with Longleat and Center Parcs Longleat Forest becoming significant employers.


Warminster has a long history of sporting activities, with many clubs established in the 19th century. Warminster Cricket Club was created in 1838. Its facilities at Sambourne Road have been shared with the local hockey team and the Warminster Table Tennis Club. The West Wilts Hockey Club has origins dating back to 1899 and as of 2016 has 13 adult teams. The architect John Henry Taylor designed the town's Elm Hill golf course in 1891.

Warminster Town Football Club began around 1878 and the site at Weymouth Street was renovated and expanded in the 1990s; they play in Division One of the Western League. The town has a competitive swimming club, which began as part of Wiltshire County Amateur Swimming Association in 1907 and was re-established as Warminster and District Amateur Swimming Club in 1973. The Marquess of Bath is the President of Warminster Rugby Club which began in 1977 and in 1997 established its base at the West Wilts District Council owned Folly Lane multi-sports site.

More recent additions have been the Warminster Sports Centre run by Wiltshire Council, the Warminster Running Club, the Warminster Adventure Sports Club, and the Wessex Blades Fencing Club.


Warminster has several primary schools and two secondary schools: Warminster School, an independent public school which was founded in 1707, and Kingdown School which became an academy in 2011. Nearby Bishopstrow College prepares international students for boarding school.

Notable buildings and structures

Warminster - Portway House - - 1774114
Portway House

Warminster has one Grade I listed building: Portway House, to the north of the town centre, built for a wealthy clothier in 1722. The Bath stone house has a seven-bay front flanked by later extensions, and is set back from the road behind ornamental ironwork dated 1760.

Other Bath stone houses include 38-40 Market Place, late 18th century or early 19th, now shops at street level; and The Chantry, 34 High Street. Both are Grade II* listed.

Further Grade II* listed buildings include the churches of St Denys and St John; Byne House, Church Street, 1755; and Warminster School, 1708, endowed by Lord Weymouth, two storeys with attic, seven-bay front. Wren House, Vicarage Street, of 1720 or 1730, is described by Historic England as "a fine example of an early Georgian 5-bay house". The Pound Street maltings, at what was the western edge of the town, are a rebuilding of 1879 in rubble stone with some ashlar.

At the triangular junction of Vicarage Street and Silver Street stands a tall stone obelisk, crowned with a reeded urn and pineapple, which was erected in 1873 on the site of an earlier high cross to commemorate the inclosure of the parish.

Warminster - Former Town Hall - - 1300102
Warminster Town Hall

Warminster Town Hall, at the junction of the High Street and Weymouth Street, was designed c. 1837 by Edward Blore at the expense of the 5th Marquess of Bath; the two-storey front elevation is a replica of Longleat, with the addition of a central bellcote, clock and coat of arms. The building was sold by the district council in 1979.

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See also

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