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Kilvert's Parsonage

Kilvert’s Parsonage was used as the residence for the rector of Langley Burrell for over a hundred years from 1852. Robert Kilvert (father of the diarist Francis Kilvert) moved into the house when he became rector of the parish in 1855. However, the building significantly predates the tenure of the Kilverts. The keystone above the door in the three wide bayed west front dates from 1739, although the structure may be on an older core.

In 1739, the house was the home of Adam and Martha Tuck. Adam was an attorney and land agent. The couple married in 1728. Martha was still a teenager. Tragedy beset their marriage. The couple lost six of their eight children in infancy, two in 1739, the year the house was completed. Martha died aged 31 in 1740. She and the children were all interred in the chancel of St Peter’s church, Langley Burrell. Adam died in 1742, while their daughters Martha and Grace were still children. He left his estate in trust for them until they came of age.

The house was after that known as Tuck’s or Tuck’s House. Grace died in 1795, but by 1777 Martha was living in the house alone. In that year, the lord of the manor, Robert Ashe, was granted a half share in the property after a legal case. Martha never married and she became one of the most propertied people in the parish. She died in 1812, leaving a marble table from the house to the church to be used as a communion table. Martha was buried with the rest of her family in the chancel of St Peter’s. After her death, the property was owned by Nicholas Pointing and Robert Ashe, who renovated and leased the house, then known as ‘Late Tuck’s’ to a succession of tenants. In 1819, the house comprised an entrance hall, dining parlour, drawing room, pantry, brewhouse, servant’s hall, kitchen, back hall, three bedrooms and coach house.

After Nicholas Pointing’s death, his widowed daughter Mary Lucy Maillard inherited half of Late Tuck’s. In 1835, Robert Ashe and Mary exchanged property. Robert thereby acquired the house in its entirety. In 1852, he arranged to swap the parsonage house, which stood by the church and some glebe (lands belonging to the rector) for Late Tuck’s and other lands to become a new parsonage. He suggested to the commissioners who looked into the issue the old parsonage needed to be moved to a more ‘central location.’ The exchange was agreed with the cognisance of the bishop.

Several years later, Robert Kilvert moved into the new parsonage when he became the rector of Langley Burrell. His son, Francis was then fifteen years old and away at school. In 1872, Francis became his father’s curate in the village resigning a curacy in Clyro, Wales, possibly due to a failed love affair. Back in Langley Burrell and living at the parsonage, he continued to write a diary.

His references to his Wiltshire home are evocative, but unfortunately sporadic. On 12 December 1874, while reflecting on the beauty in trees, he poetically wrote, ‘Opposite our South terrace windows towers a glorious ash, ivy-muffled to its throat, while its boughs sweeping gracefully fall in drooping showers all about it like a woman’s hair softly flowing, or the arched cascade of water falling from the jet of a fountain.’ The next month, locking up at the parsonage at night, he reflected, ‘All was still and the white pig lying in the moon light, at the door of his house, fast asleep, with the moon shining on his white face and round cheek’. Two days later, on 23 January 1875, Kilvert recorded possibly his most surprising entry on the house- that he had seen a ghost. ‘When I went to bed last night I fancied that something ran in at my bedroom door after me from the gallery. It seemed to be a skeleton. It ran with a dancing step, and I thought it aimed a blow at me from behind. This was shortly before midnight.’ He did not mention the episode again.

After he died in 1879, Francis Kilvert’s diaries were edited, and subsequently, selections were published 1938-40. Later his Langley Burrell home was sold by the diocese and renamed Kilvert’s Parsonage by its subsequent owner. The grade II* listed house, now in private hands is not open to the public.


Kilvert's Parsonage,
Langley Burrell


NGRef: ST 92996 74927
Historic England 1022357 

Nearby Points of Interest


Stone ellipse at Kilverts Parsonage

The Victorian rector of Langley Burrell, JJ Daniell, was a remarkable man. A historian and author of a number of books, including a history of Chippenham, he had an inquisitive nature. In January 1886, Daniell decided to investigate and remove a large stone that stood just above the turf and projected an inch or two into his carriage drive (2018lest2019 he observed 2018an accident might happen by a wheel striking upon [it].

The subsequent archaeological excavation led to the discovery that there were other stones connected to the first, set up in parallel vertical courses, which were carried in irregular curves north and south, rounding outwards and downwards to a depth of 2ft. The examination showed that the general form of the work was that of an imperfect ellipse, part of which was buried under Daniell's drive. On the east, the ellipse was broken, and the broad course of vertical layers curved to a point that passed off into a line of single stones for approximately 200 yards.

The investigation also suggested that there was originally a circular plateau of earth enclosing the stones. From the circumference of the plateau radiated five or six terraces of earth, about 6ft broad, 'like the spokes of a wheel', with dykes on either side. These ran in lines across the country. These terraces were called by 'the old people' of Daniell's time The Paths. They had formerly been bigger.

Daniell suggested they may have been “Sacrae Viae” that converged on a sacred site. There was no local tradition about the site during the Victorian period, which may have surprised the rector as he mused that all the upper ranges of stones would have been visible a century earlier.

Tantalisingly, some human remains had also been scattered here and there. Further excavation in the 1950s confirmed the presence of an oval stone enclosure with stone pitching. However, Daniell's find has unfortunately not been accurately dated, and while it could be early bronze age, it may date anytime from then to the medieval period. The site may have been a pagan shrine, but it may be a hut circle. Either way, it remains an intriguing mystery.


Kilvert's Parsonage,
Langley Burrell


Historic England 928749