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A few large rocks arranged artfully on a Wiltshire plain have become so magnetic for tourists that President Obama once landed his helicopter there, eager to tick it off his ‘bucket list’.
One wonders if Trump would bother.
No matter, because Stonehenge couldn’t get more iconic if it tried. Its stones are forever etched on the hearts of millions of Pagans, who see it as one of their principle sites of worship. Indeed, one of their chiefs King Arthur Pendragon is local, and has thrown his hat in the ring to be the area’s MP for many years.
So if you live in Amesbury, which neighbours Stonehenge seven miles from Salisbury, you can expect a steady flow of visitors – those who travel miles to see the monument and those who, unexpectedly come across it while on the busy A303 and slow down to rubberneck at it.
Amesbury has grown and grown in recent decades and now has more than 11,000 residents. Lots of building has gone on here, with large housing estates forming much of the available stock of homes.
It’s curious to think this is the oldest continuously occupied settlement in Britain. There are industrial areas and business parks, new homes and lots of shops – it looks nothing like an ancient settlement in parts.
The parish includes the hamlets of Ratfyn and West Amesbury.
A military Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment was established at Boscombe Down in 1939, which is the point at which Amesbury began to expand. A recent housing estate has been called Archers Gate after the discovery of the Amesbury Archer.
The Fab Four stayed at The Antrobus Hotel in 1965, during filming for Help! on Salisbury Plain. The hotel was also used for the filming of a BBC Miss Marple mystery.
Amesbury Village History
Amesbury was bequeathed by King Alfred the Great to his youngest son Aethelweard.
The land around Amesbury has been a settlement since prehistoric times and there is evidence of huge prehistoric structures everywhere – Bluestonehenge at West Amesbury, a Neolithic village in Durrington and the Amesbury Archer and Boscombe Bowmen found at Boscombe Down.
The richest Bronze Age burial site yet found in Britain was made at Amesbury in 2002. The remains of two aristocrats were found, along with arrowheads, copper knives and the earliest worked gold ever discovered. One was dubbed the Amesbury Archer.
In the Iron Age Vespasian’s Camp was built – a large hill fort for up to 1,000 people looking over the River Avon.
In more recent times, the name Antrobus has been synonymous with Amesbury. The family owned the estate from 1824 until 1915 when Lord Antrobus sold the grounds, including Stonehenge after his only heir was killed in France. The Antrobus family retained the mansion until 1979. It is now a nursing home.
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For an ancient settlement, Amesbury has a pretty modern community. Amenities are plentiful, with parks and sports facilities, a great skatepark, play areas and much more. The area is rich in clubs and societies – catering for all ages and interests. Transport links are good, there are schools here including a good secondary, and there are plenty of eateries.
Houses in Amesbury sold for an average £262,471 over the last year.
Most were detached properties, selling for an average price of £311,182. Semi-detached homes sold for an average of £271,738, and terraced properties £235,218.
Check what’s for sale in Amesbury here.
Amesbury is six miles from the nearest railway station – Grateley on the London to Salisbury line. Amesbury railway station was closed in 1963 together with the rest of the Bulford Camp Railway.
Amesbury Bus Station closed several years ago, however Salisbury Reds services still stop in Amesbury. There are also Stagecoach services running to nearby towns and National Express coaches run to London.
Amesbury is next to the main A303 trunk road leading to the west country. It takes just over an hour and a half to get to London, or 2:40 on the train.
Check out the events on offer here.
Amesbury has four schools –
Amesbury Archer Primary School was judged to ‘require improvement’, however its newish headteacher is taking action to resolve this. (www.amesburyarcher.wilts.sch.uk)
Amesbury Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School also requires improvement, says Ofsted. (www.amesbury.wilts.sch.uk)
Christ The King Catholic Primary School was at the time of writing in special measures. (http://christtheking.wilts.sch.uk/)
The River Avon runs around the west of the parish, and meets the Nine Mile River nearby.
One of its most famous landmarks is The Bulford Kiwi – a large chalk carving of a kiwi on a hill.
Bulford Camp was established in 1897 and in 1906 the Amesbury and Military Camp Light Railway was extended there. Services continued until 1963.
The village also has an independent prep – Avondale School. Avondale has been on Bulford High Street since 1957.
There is also a primary at Bulford Camp – Kiwi Primary School. Ofsted say this is a Good school.
There’s a strong military presence in these hills, and Larkhill is a garrison town a mile and a half north of Stonehenge, ten miles from Salisbury.
The place is rapidly growing with the announcement of a ‘super garrison’ there, and the village has its own primary school, (which Ofsted thinks Requires Improvement), shops and sports facilities.
It is one of the main garrisons on Salisbury Plain, and plays host to The Royal School of Artillery and the Royal Artillery.
Larkhill is in the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge, which is littered with Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments.
The area appears to have gone quiet after that, until a tented camp was established there in 1899, called Larkhill range. The first huts were built there in 1914.
When war broke out large garrisons were built and the camp started to take shape. After the war a military hospital, married quarters, a NAAFI service and military churches were built.
The garrison was extended again during the Second World War.
Larkhill is set to become a ‘super-garrison’, with markedly more personnel there. The work is continuing on this project.
A one-room school was built there in 1846 and doubled its pupil numbers to 90 with the arrival of the Flying Training School. In the 1980s the school became a primary school, on a new site towards the southern end of the High Street. Ofsted says the school is ‘Good’.
Netheravon House was built in the 18th century and features grounds laid out by Thomas Wright.
The War Department bought the grand house in 1898 for the Cavalry School and from 1975 the house served as the officers’ mess for the Support Weapons Wing of the School of Infantry.
It was sold off in the 1990s and in 2004 it was converted into two homes, and the stables into seven homes. There is still a military camp there – Avon Camp.
All Saints’ Church has parts from the 11th century and was mentioned in the Domesday Book.
The peal of six bells in the tower includes one dated 1585 and another 1695. The church is Grade I listed.
For 500 years until 1846, the church was a prebend of Salisbury Cathedral.
Major General Robert Baden-Powell was the Inspector General of Cavalry and encouraged the use of cavalry for scouting.
Netheravon had an airfield, which was once used for the Royal Flying Corps and named RAF Netheravon. It became AAC Netheravon (Army Air Corps) from 1966 until 2012.
The village has suffered two of its most notable citizens turning up their toes on the banks of rivers.
Writer Frank Sawyer lived in Netheravon and worked as a river keeper. He died on the banks of the river near the church. He was noted for developing the Pheasant Tail Nymph for fly fishing and wrote Keeper of the Stream and Nymphs and the Trout.
Oliver Kite – an equally well known fly fisherman who died on the River Test from a heart attack – lived on the High Street. He presented the TV series Kite’s Country, and wrote Nymph Fishing in Practice.
Shrewton, between Stonehenge and Tilshead, is a village on Salisbury Plain six miles from Amesbury and 14 miles from Salisbury. It lies on the A360 near the source of the River Till, which flows south to Stapleford.
There are nearly 2,000 people here, and the village boasts a ‘Good’ primary school, a Co-op and a butcher, as well as a well-rated pub, The Plume of Feathers. There is also a specialist independent school for dyslexia here – Appleford School.
Like many villages on the Plain Shrewton has military connections – RAF Shrewton, a Second World War Royal Air Force airfield closed in 1946 and its site returned to farmland.
St Mary’s Church in the High Street, was built in the late 12th or early 13th century. Three of its six bells were cast in 1619.
There is another St Mary’s Church at neighbouring Maddington and another church – St Andrew’s – at Rollestone. All three buildings are Grade II listed.
Shrewton Manor, on the High Street, is a 17th-century house. The village has its own little jail in the form of a domed village lock-up called The Blind House, built around 1700. The sign on it reads
Another building of note is the 19th century Shrewton House.
The whole length of the River Till is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
There are sports facilities here – Non-League Shrewton United FC, play at the rec and the village also has a cricket club in the Hampshire League.
Great Durnford in the Woodford Valley, 2.5 miles from Amesbury, nestles beside the smaller villages of Netton, Salterton and Little Durnford.
Great Durnford has a pub, the Black Horse, a Londis and a garage. High Post Business Park provides accommodation for a range of businesses.
The area is great for walking and cycling, with the National Cycle Route 45 passing through Salterton and Netton. The Orange Way long-distance footpath passes through Great Durnford, while Monarch’s Way crosses the river from Lower Woodford to Salterton and goes over Salterton Down.
The village is noted for having been the home of Tory MP George Tyron, a prominent politician, and his son Charles, who became a member of the Royal Household. Charles was Assistant Keeper of the Privy Purse to King George VI, Keeper of the Privy Purse and Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth II and Permanent Lord-in-Waiting.
Finally Dale Tryon, Baroness Tryon became widely known as Kanga after becoming friends with Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales. Kanga was actually the name of her fashion label.
Little Durnford Manor was built in the late 17th century and is Grade I listed.
The Manor House at Great Durnford was built in the 18th century, then acquired by the Tryon family.
High Post Aerodrome welcomed the Wiltshire School of Flying in 1936. In 1940, it became RAF High Post, home to the Lysanders of 112 Squadron RCAF. It became an assembly and test site for Spitfires built in Salisbury. Then in 1944, High Post became Vickers’ flight development site, and prototypes of the Spiteful, (the intended successor of the Spitfire), and the Seafang, were built here.
Vickers moved to the former RAF Chilbolton and the School of Flying moved to Thruxton in 1947. Some of the land is not a business park.
The Norman church of St Andrew, at Great Durnford, was built in the 12th century and has an Angelus bell from the 14th century and four 17th-century bells. It is Grade I listed.
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