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Maiden Bradley

Coordinates: 51°08′46″N 2°17′15″W / 51.1461°N 2.2874°W / 51.1461; -2.2874

Maiden Bradley with Yarnfield
Population 335 [1]
OS grid reference ST804387
Unitary authority Wiltshire
Ceremonial county Wiltshire
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Warminster
Postcode district BA12 7HL
Dialling code +44 (0)1985
Police Wiltshire
Fire Wiltshire
Ambulance Great Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament Westbury
List of places

Maiden Bradley with Yarnfield is a small south Wiltshire civil parish near the Somerset border and the home of the Duke of Somerset. The B3092 road that joins Frome to Mere runs through the middle of the village of Maiden Bradley. It is in the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the ancient Forest of Selwood.


Early History

The village takes its name from the leper hospital for maidens founded in the 12th century. Bradley means a wide clearing or wood; Brad = Broad (OE) & Ley = clearing (OE). 1½ miles SW of the village is the deserted medieval village of Yarnfield.[1] Formerly in the county of Somerset, Yarnfield was transferred to Wiltshire in 1895 as a hamlet of the parish of Maiden Bradley.

The earliest reference to the village is a Saxon land charter of 878, but the community’s origins can be traced back thousands of years. There are numerous tumuli including a Bronze Age barrow opened by Richard Colt Hoare in 1807. It contained a complete skeleton accompanied by numerous items, three of which are on display in the Wiltshire Heritage Museum at Devizes. Other finds include an Iron Age gold coin, Roman remains and a Saxon barrow.

Part of the parish of Maiden Bradley was within the Norton Ferris Hundred.[2]

The Priory & Early Medieval

By the mid 11th century Bradley had become a large manor. The lord of the manor was Tostig Godwinson, brother of King Harold. The Domesday Survey assessed it at 4,000 acres (16 km2) worth £10 a year. The population consisted of 6 villeins, 13 bordars & 4 slaves. In the early 12th century, the village came into the hands of one of England’s great feudal nobles, Baron Manser Bisset, who owned over 200 Manors. In 1154 he decided to found an asylum for girls suffering from leprosy, choosing a site where the present Priory ruins stand. A Proctor and his assistants ran the asylum. In 1189, the Bishop of Salisbury changed the asylum into an Augustinian Priory, dedicated to St. Mary and St. Lazarus. The Priory enjoyed Royal Protection, and prospered until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. At some time in the mid 15th century the building housing the present village Stores was built by the Lambert family, who were wool merchants.

The last Prior before the Dissolution was elected in 1505 Thereafter the land passed to Thomas Seymour, the brother of the 1st Duke of Somerset, and the property has remained in the family ever since.

In 1646 the village was struck by the plague and for 10 months no one was allowed to leave the village. As trading was impossible, the villagers had to live on relief provided by neighbouring villages. A story of self-sacrifice as noble and romantic as that of Eyam but sadly one less well recorded. In 1671 smallpox broke out, prompting the cancellation of the October fair and market.

Bradley House

Around 1688 Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Baronet deserted his family home at Berry Pomeroy Castle in Devon and used the money derived from stripping that castle to fund improvements to a new house at Bradley[3] that had been started by his father, the 3rd Baronet. The new Bradley House was completed c.1710. It was a huge building, replaced in 1820 by a house only an eighth of the original size.

Beating the Bounds

An important tradition began in the 18th century - beating the bounds. All male residents attended and walked the whole parish boundary. It was important that everyone knew where the boundaries were.

Early Modern

In 1780 there were 3 coaching inns in the village. Between 1750 and 1800, 3 turnpike roads ran through Bradley, to Frome, Wincanton and Bruton. In 1851 the population reached its peak at 619. The village school was built in 1847 and paid for by the Duke of Somerset. It was enlarged in 1888 to take 130 children. The average attendance at this time was 100. The village hall was built in 1912 and given to the village by Lord Ernest St Maur (Somerset family name) in memory of his brother Lord Percy. During the First World War it was used as a military hospital. (See below: External links - Village Hall Website, for up-to-date information.)

20th century

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries the village population fell to its lowest in at least 200 years; 328 in 1991 and 335 in 2001. Consequently, the school closed in 1969. The Duke of Somerset still lives at Bradley House. The family coat of arms is also displayed at the Somerset Arms Public House.

There is a local history society in the village.

Places of worship

There are 3 places of worship serving the village:[4]


The first Baptist meeting place in Maiden Bradley was licensed in 1834.

Church of England

The Church of All Saints, adjacent to Bradley House, was first mentioned in 1102 but of Saxon foundation. The oldest part of the church is from c.1175 but the majority of the building was completed in 1385. Today it is the principal burial place for the Seymour family and the Dukes of Somerset; church and family cemetery can be reached from the grounds of Bradley House via private access.[5]


The Congregational Chapel (now United Reform Church) serves a third group. A house was first licensed for Congregational worship in 1672 but later licensed for Independent worship. A chapel was built in 1820 and licensed for Independent worship in 1822. It became Congregational and remained so until 1972 when, in common with many other Congregational chapels it became a United Reform church. The chapel is rendered with a Welsh slate roof, and a plain stone Tuscan portico. A schoolroom was added to the eastern end and there is a 20th-century lean-to extension. Inside there is a late 19th-century gallery on wooden columns and an organ loft.

Public House

The village is served by The Somerset Arms. It is a traditional Public House[6]

Village shop

The village shop opened in 1889. It was a branch of Walton’s Department Store of Mere. It sold most things – groceries, clothes, shoes, drapery, even furniture. The village stores is now run by the Maiden Bradley Village Shop Association. The post office is housed in the same building. It is a successful venture and the subject of a Countryside Agency report.[7] It also attracted the interest of the BBC.[8] (See below: External links - Village Shop Website, for up-to-date information.)


The parish is represented in Parliament by the MP for Westbury, Andrew Murrison, and in Wiltshire Council by Fleur de Rhé-Philipe.

Famous residents or former residents


The source of the River Wylye is just south of the village.
The parish lies on fossiliferous chalk and upper greensand.



External links

  • Maiden Bradley Website
  • Village Shop Website
  • Village Shop Tribute Site
  • Memorial Hall Website
  • Parish Council Website
  • Warminster Area Blog
  • ONS Census Statistics
  • The Somerset Arms
  • All Saints Bell Tower
  • History of the Priory
  • Local history site

Bradley House

  • History - Wiltshire County Council

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