Sunday, 19 July 2009

Wilton, Wiltshire

Wilton is a town in Wiltshire, (of which it was once the county town), England, with a rich heritage dating back to the Anglo-Saxons. Today it is dwarfed by its larger and more famous neighbour, Salisbury, but still has a range of notable shops and attractions, including Wilton House.
Wilton Church, St. Mary and St. Nicholas

The River Wylye meets the River Nadder at Wilton.

The history of Wilton dates back to the Anglo-Saxons in the 8th century, and by the late 9th century (if not before) it was the capital of 'Wiltunscire', a region within the ancient Kingdom of Wessex. It remained the administrative centre of Wiltshire until the 11th century, however. Wilton was of significant importance to the church, with the founding of Wilton Abbey in 771 and a number of other establishments. A decisive battle against the Danish armies was fought there by King Alfred in 871.
Despite further attacks, Wilton remained a prosperous town, as recorded in the Domesday book. The building of Salisbury Cathedral nearby, however, proved Wilton's downfall, as the new site of Salisbury, with a new bridge over the River Avon, provided a convenient bypass around Wilton on the trade routes.
Wilton Abbey was surrendered to Henry VIII in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and in 1541 much of the estate was granted to the Earl of Pembroke, upon which Wilton House was built.

Wilton House

By the 17th century, weaving had become a large trade, and the carpet industry began in 1741, when two French weavers were brought in by Lord Pembroke to teach the locals new techniques. Carpet weaving prospered until 1815, when peace following the Napoleonic wars introduced European competition. The Wilton Royal Carpet Factory was founded at the turn of the century, with the help of Lord Pembroke, to rescue the previous carpet factory that had fallen into financial difficulty. The carpet factory continued to operate until 1995, when it closed temporarily after a takeover. The factory re-opened, although it was unable to retain the Wilton Royal prefix.

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