ABC of Chippenham: Rowden

Rowden is one of the oldest parts of Chippenham and you've visited here before when we looked at Eddie Cochrane for the letter E.

The pictured map shows central Chippenham mainly to the right of the page and Rowden to the bottom left. You'll also see an area called Lowden to the centre and top left of the picture. Rowden and Lowden, together with Sheldon - which would be even further to the left if the map extended that far - are some of the areas of land which originally formed the royal manor of Chippenham.

In the 12th century this was divided into parcels of land and thus the manors of Lowden, Rowden and Sheldon were born. In addition, there was the town of Chippenham, which for some reason was attached to Sheldon Manor despite it being the most westerly of the three. Other parcels of land were granted to religious houses, such as the lands which eventually became Monkton Manor (top right) and Allington (not pictured).

During the middle ages Sheldon Manor was the most prosperous of the three until its village was decimated by the plague and became a 'deserted village'. The manor house itself still exists and is the longest continuously inhabited place in Wiltshire. Its gardens are open to visitors and I spent a glorious afternoon there once - well before I started this blog (note to self: must go there again).

Lowden Manor was the smallest of the three and its history isn't that well documented. Rowden Manor prospered until it was destroyed during the Civil War. A farm was built on the site which today bears the name Rowden Manor: in the property for sale pages at least.

These places still live on in the names given to schools (Sheldon), roads (Rowden and Lowden) and areas of the town (Lowden) as Chippenham has since grown to claim all but Sheldon's land back into its fold. They join with other areas such as Pewsham (once a royal hunting forest), Monkton Park (Monkton Manor) and the two Cepen Parks (north and south - modern housing estates called after an old name for Chippenham) to give Chippenham its 'burbs'.

Today Chippenham is facing further expansion with various areas earmarked to provide up to 5,000 houses, which would be a significant increase for the town's size (currently approx. 30,000 to 40,000 people depending on the source used). The proposed development and the areas involved are controversial, so who knows if and when these new suburbs will be built. What's clear is this - if previous form is anything to go by - the names of any of the new estates will continue to reflect Chippenham's geography and history.

This is for ABC Wednesday and is the 18th in my series of themed posts about Chippenham.


  1. so much to learn about UK geography

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  2. i love maps, even if i can't follow them very well ;) 30-40 thousand is quite a jump! won't infrastructure need to be built up first?

  3. They are doing large amounts of house-building round here, too, including a whole new town between the villages of Longstanton and Oakington (a lot of local people voted to call it Stonkington, but the council went for the rather boring North Stowe instead).

    I'd be interested to know where the proposed development around Chippenham's likely to be, in case we do end up moving to that area - we're looking for a quiet village location, so would hate to find ourselves in the middle of a new suburb.

  4. I am very poor in ma reading and so is my sense of direction lol.

    Roses are Red

  5. We went to Sheldon manor once. I liked the abandoned swimming pool - very 'Great Gatsby' I thought.

    I noticed Biddestone had its yellow book garden open day on Sunday too - loads of cars!

  6. ROG - geography anywhere really

    Petoskystone - it's 5,000 homes: the current population is 30,000 to 40,000. As usual I expect most of the objections will be about the lack of infrastructure!

    Juliet - the proposed site keeps on changing but it won't be swallowing up any of the quiet villages we have

    Chubskulit - map reading was dinned into us at school thank goodness :)

    Mark - I love that swimming pool. NAH's company treated everyone and their families to a multi activity day there once. It was great - cream teas in the garden right by the pool :)

    Missed Biddestone again - was in Malvern!

  7. Just want to say I've been really enjoying your ABC of Chippenham. I love English history, the way you can read the landscape and it's many pasts. Enjoying you bringing these many different histories of Chippenham to life.

  8. Gwenfar - thank you :) I'm also making a few discoveries myself along the way...


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