Melksham in 1843
Melksham is in the hundred of Melksham, about 104 miles from the General Post-Office, London, by the Great Western Railway to Chippenham, and from thence through Laycock. At the time of the Domesday survey the manor belonged to the crown, and the town appears to have been a place of some consequence ; but it afterwards declined, and continued in obscurity until it was revived by the introduction of the cloth manufacture : but that branch of industry has of late years somewhat declined. Some years since mineral waters were discovered in the neighbourhood of the town ; and hot and cold baths have been established, and houses built for visitors to ‘the Spa.’ The parish an area of 8,020 acres, without including the chapelry of Seend, which is a dependency of it : it had, in 1831, 995 houses ; namely, 942 inhabited, 48 uninhabited, and 5 building, with a population of 973 families or 4,722 persons, about two-sevenths agricultural.
The town consists principally of one long winding irregular street, chiefly along the road from Bath to Devizes, but partly on the road to Westbury : the principal part of the town is divided by the river Avon, over which is a balustraded stone bridge of four arches, from a suburb called ‘the city,’ a designation which has led to the conjecture that it was the site of a Roman station ; but there is no reason from history or tradition to think it was. The houses, which are of stone, are of neat appearance ; and the main street is paved and lighted with gas. The church, which lies back from the street, on the west side of the town, is a cross church, with some Norman portions, and a handsome tower rising from the intersection of the nave and transept, and two chantry chapels on the south side. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, and Quakers. The principal manufacture is that of broad-cloth and kerseymere, which employed in the parish, in 1831, about 170 men. The market is held once a fortnight ; for cattle, pigs, &c. on Monday ; and there is one yearly fair. There are petty sessions once a fortnight, and a court for the recovery of small debts is held once in three weeks.
The living is a vicarage, united with the chapelries of Seend, Earl-Stoke, and Shaw, of the joint clear yearly value of £916, with a glebe-house, in the rural deanery of Pottern, in the archdeaconry of Wiltshire, in the diocese of Salisbury. There were in the parish, without including the chapelry of Seend, in 1833, five day-schools of all kinds, with 320 scholars ; namely, 180 boys, 90 girls, and 50 children of sex not stated in the return ; and four Sunday-schools, with 675 scholars, of sex not stated in the return ; giving one in fifteen of the population under instruction daily, and one in seven under instruction in the week. One of the day-schools was an infant-school, with 50 children ; and two others were Lancasterian schools, with 130 boys and 90 girls, all three partly supported by subscription, and the Lancasterian schools having also a small endowment.