Wiltshire facts for kids
Quick facts for kidsWiltshire
Wiltshire in England
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Lord Lieutenant||Sarah Rose Troughton|
|High Sheriff||David Hempleman-Adams (2016-17)|
|Area||3,485 km2 (1,346 sq mi)|
|• Ranked||14th of 48|
|Population (2005 est.)||630,700|
|• Ranked||34th of 48|
|Density||181/km2 (470/sq mi)|
1.2% Mixed Race
|Area||3,255 km2 (1,257 sq mi)|
|• Ranked||3rd of 326|
|• Ranked||of 326|
|Density||[convert: needs a number]|
Districts of Wiltshire
|Members of Parliament||List of MPs|
|Time zone||GMT (UTC)|
|• Summer (DST)||BST (UTC+1)|
Wiltshire is a county in South West England with an area of 3,485 km2 (1,346 square miles). It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The county town was originally Wilton, after which the county is named, but Wiltshire Council is now based in the new county town of Trowbridge.
Wiltshire is characterised by its high downland and wide valleys. Salisbury Plain is noted for being the location of the Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles and other ancient landmarks, and as a training area for the British Army. The city of Salisbury is notable for its mediaeval cathedral. Important country houses open to the public include Longleat, near Warminster, and the National Trust's Stourhead, near Mere.
The county, in the 9th century written as Wiltunscir, later Wiltonshire, is named after the former county town of Wilton.
Wiltshire is notable for its pre-Roman archaeology. The Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age people that occupied southern Britain built settlements on the hills and downland that cover Wiltshire. Stonehenge and Avebury are perhaps the most famous Neolithic sites in the UK.
In the 6th and 7th centuries Wiltshire was at the western edge of Saxon Britain, as Cranborne Chase and the Somerset Levels prevented the advance to the west. The Battle of Bedwyn was fought in 675 between Escuin, a West Saxon nobleman who had seized the throne of Queen Saxburga, and King Wulfhere of Mercia. In 878 the Danes invaded the county. Following the Norman Conquest, large areas of the country came into the possession of the crown and the church.
At the time of the Domesday Survey the industry of Wiltshire was largely agricultural; 390 mills are mentioned, and vineyards at Tollard and Lacock. In the succeeding centuries sheep-farming was vigorously pursued, and the Cistercian monasteries of Kingswood and Stanley exported wool to the Florentine and Flemish markets in the 13th and 14th centuries.
In 1794 it was decided at a meeting at the Bear Inn in Devizes to raise a body of ten independent troops of Yeomanry for the county of Wiltshire, which formed the basis for what would become the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, who served with distinction both at home and abroad, during the Boer War, World War I and World War II. The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry currently lives on as Y (RWY) Squadron, based in Swindon, and B (RWY) Squadron, based in Salisbury, of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry.
Information on the 261 civil parishes of Wiltshire is available on the Wiltshire Community History website, run by the Libraries and Heritage services of Wiltshire County Council. This site includes maps, demographic data, historic and modern pictures and short histories.
The local nickname for Wiltshire natives is "moonrakers." This originated from a story of smugglers who managed to foil the local Excise men by hiding their alcohol, possibly French brandy in barrels or kegs, in a village pond. When confronted by the excise men they raked the surface to conceal the submerged contraband with ripples, and claimed that they were trying to rake in a large round cheese visible in the pond, really a reflection of the full moon. The officials took them for simple yokels or mad and left them alone, allowing them to continue with their illegal activities. Many villages claim the tale for their own village pond, but the story is most commonly linked with The Crammer in Devizes.
Geology, landscape and ecology
Two-thirds of Wiltshire, a mostly rural county, lies on chalk, a kind of soft, white, porous limestone that is resistant to erosion, giving it a high chalk downland landscape. This chalk is part of a system of chalk downlands throughout eastern and southern England formed by the rocks of the Chalk Group and stretching from the Dorset Downs in the west to Dover in the east. The largest area of chalk in Wiltshire is Salisbury Plain, which is used mainly for arable agriculture and by the British Army as training ranges. The highest point in the county is the Tan Hill–Milk Hill ridge in the Pewsey Vale, just to the north of Salisbury Plain, at 295 m (968 ft) above sea level.
The chalk uplands run northeast into West Berkshire in the Marlborough Downs ridge, and southwest into Dorset as Cranborne Chase. Cranborne Chase, which straddles the border, has, like Salisbury Plain, yielded much Stone Age and Bronze Age archaeology. The Marlborough Downs are part of the North Wessex Downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), a 1,730 km2 (670-square-mile) conservation area.
In the northwest of the county, on the border with South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset, the underlying rock is the resistant oolite limestone of the Cotswolds. Part of the Cotswolds AONB is also in Wiltshire, in the county's northwestern corner.
Between the areas of chalk and limestone downland are clay valleys and vales. The largest of these vales is the Avon Vale. The Avon cuts diagonally through the north of the county, flowing through Bradford on Avon and into Bath and Bristol. The Vale of Pewsey has been cut through the chalk into Greensand and Oxford Clay in the centre of the county. In the south west of the county is the Vale of Wardour. The southeast of the county lies on the sandy soils of the northernmost area of the New Forest.
Chalk is a porous rock, so the chalk hills have little surface water. The main settlements in the county are therefore situated at wet points. Notably, Salisbury is situated between the chalk of Salisbury Plain and marshy flood plains.
- See also: List of hills of Wiltshire
Along with the rest of South West England, Wiltshire has a temperate climate which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of the country. The annual mean temperature is approximately 10 °C (50.0 °F). Seasonal temperature variation is less extreme than most of the United Kingdom because of the adjacent sea temperatures. The summer months of July and August are the warmest with mean daily maxima of approximately 21 °C (69.8 °F). In winter mean minimum temperatures of 1 °C (33.8 °F) or 2 °C (35.6 °F) are common. In the summer the Azores high pressure affects the south-west of England, however convective cloud sometimes forms inland, reducing the number of hours of sunshine. Annual sunshine rates are slightly less than the regional average of 1,600 hours. In December 1998 there were 20 days without sun recorded at Yeovilton. Most the rainfall in the south-west is caused by Atlantic depressions or by convection. Most of the rainfall in autumn and winter is caused by the Atlantic depressions, which is when they are most active. In summer, a large proportion of the rainfall is caused by sun heating the ground leading to convection and to showers and thunderstorms. Average rainfall is around 700 mm (28 in). About 8–15 days of snowfall is typical. November to March have the highest mean wind speeds, and June to August have the lightest winds. The predominant wind direction is from the south-west.
The county registered a population of 680,137 in the 2011 Census. Wiltshire (outside Swindon) has a low population density of 1.4 persons per hectare, when compared against 4.1 for England as a whole.
|Usual Resident Population||470,981||209,156||680,137|
|Age 65 or over||18.1%||13.7%||16.8%|
|Density (persons per hectare)||1.4||9.1||2.0|
Historical population of Wiltshire county:
- See also: List of settlements in Wiltshire by population
- Bradford on Avon
- Highworth (Borough of Swindon)
- Royal Wootton Bassett
- Salisbury (city)
- Swindon (Borough of Swindon)
- Wroughton (Borough of Swindon)
A list of settlements is at List of places in Wiltshire.
Places of interest
|Owned by the National Trust|
|Owned by English Heritage|
|Owned by the Forestry Commission|
|A Country Park|
|An Accessible open space|
|Museum (charges entry fee)|
- Places of interest in Wiltshire include
- Arc Theatre, part of Wiltshire College, Trowbridge Campus
- Ashcombe House
- Arch by Ismbard Kingdom Brunel GWML – Chippenham
- Avebury, Neolithic stone circle
- Avebury Manor & Garden
- Avon Valley Path
- Barbury Castle
- Beckhampton Avenue
- Bentley Wood
- Bowood House
- Butter cross – Chippenham
- Burlington, city-sized nuclear bunker with accommodation for 4000 people
- Caen Hill Locks, Devizes
- Castle Combe
- Castle Hill, Mere
- Cherhill White Horse
- Chisbury Chapel
- Coate Water, East Swindon
- Corsham Court
- Cotswold Water Park
- Courts Garden
- Crofton Pumping Station
- Edington Priory
- Fonthill Abbey
- Great Chalfield Manor
- Iford Manor and gardens
- Kennet & Avon Canal Museum, Devizes
- King Alfred's Tower
- Lacock Abbey
- Littlecote House
- Longleat Safari Park
- Ludgershall Castle, Ludgershall
- Lydiard Park & House, West Swindon.
- Malmesbury Abbey
- Maud Heath's Causeway
- Mompesson House
- Old Sarum, the former cathedral
- Philipps House & Dinton Park
- Richard Jefferies Birthplace and Museum (The Old House at Coate)
- River Thames
- Salisbury Cathedral
- Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum
- The Science Museum at Wroughton
- Shearwater Lake
- Silbury Hill
- Swindon and Cricklade Railway
- Swindon Steam Railway Museum
- Trafalgar House
- Wardour Castle
- West Kennet Long Barrow
- Westbury White Horse
- Westwood Manor
- Wilton House
- Wilton Windmill
- Wilts and Berks Canal
- Wiltshire Museum
- Win Green Down
- Areas of countryside in Wiltshire include
Roads running through Wiltshire include The Ridgeway, an ancient route, and Roman roads the Fosse Way, London to Bath road and Ermin Way. National Cycle Route 4 and the Thames Path, a modern long distance footpath, run through the county.
Routes through Wiltshire include:
- A4 road
- M4 motorway / M4 Corridor
- A303 trunk road
- A350 road
- A417 road
Canals subject to restoration
Three main railway routes, all of which carry passenger traffic, cross Wiltshire.
- Great Western Main Line (Swindon & Chippenham)
- Wessex Main Line (Bradford on Avon, Melksham, Trowbridge, Westbury, Warminster, Salisbury & Connects to Chippenham)
- West of England Main Line (Salisbury)
Other routes include:
- Reading to Taunton Line
- Heart of Wessex Line
- Golden Valley Line
- South Wales Main Line (Swindon & connects to Chippenham)
Airfields in Wiltshire include Old Sarum Airfield, Clench Common Airfield and Redlands Airfield. RAF Lyneham was an air transport hub for British forces until its closure in 2012. Airports for scheduled airlines near Wiltshire include Bristol Airport, Bristol Filton Airport, Gloucestershire Airport, London Oxford Airport, London Heathrow Airport and Southampton Airport.
Images for kids
The County Ground, Swindon is the home of Swindon Town, the only Football League club in Wiltshire.
Wiltshire Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.