Welcome to Wroughton History Group

Welcome to the Wroughton History Group website

A regular programme of events and meeting is held throughout the year. Meetings are held in St Joseph’s Church Hall, Devizes Road, Wroughton from 7.30pm to 9pm. See programme page for details of all meetings. Our next lecture is on March 1st –  Avebury by John Farrow.  Our next open meeting is on March 15th.  Open evenings are for everyone to get together over tea/coffee and chat about events – members often bring items of interest, such as old photographs, for a group discussion.

If you would like to join us please turn up at one of our meetings. All are welcome to join meetings at any time –  your first visit will be FREE just to see if you like us and then non-members are charged £2 per visitor payable on the night. You will find us a very welcoming and happy crowd. We can’t be too bad – some of the original members (Hilary Dunscombe, Di and John Gibbs) are still with us after 40 years.

A few years ago the group compiled two DVDs entitled “From the Church to the Motorway” and “Beyond the High Street”.  Both created lots of interest and are now produced as a book that explores the village going back more than 100 years. It covers many aspects of village life during that time including tragedies, shops, trades, lost buildings, visits of royalty, and the many changes that have taken place over the years. The cost of the book is £10. Please order from Barbara Johnson email: bj13johnson@gmail.com. BUT we have sold out (lots bought as Christmas presents) and will not have any stocks until February. There is free delivery in Wroughton. Post and packing is extra if you are outside Wroughton. Details of all our books can be found on our books for sale page

2017 marked the 40th anniversary of the group and to celebrate we held an exhibition in the Ellundene Centre on 6th May. We are now in our 41st year and still going strong.

The May 6th exhibition in full swing
The May 6th exhibition in full swing

In these world war 1 centenary commemoration years it is appropriate that those that fought are remembered and honoured for the ultimate sacrifice. It is also fitting that we remember those who came back to their families and we have our own ‘hero’ from Wroughton (William Gosling) who did come back – and with the most honourable award – The Victoria Cross.

In April 2017 Wroughton had its own commemorations in the village as a carved paving stone was unveiled as a permanent memorial to William Gosling VC and the War Memorial was refurbished. As part of the Centenary commemorations of World War I the Government has set up a scheme where communities lay commemorative paving stones in the birth place of each Victoria Cross recipient, to honour their bravery and to provide a lasting legacy within the communities of their local heroes.  Further information on Wroughton’s military connections can be found on our web site Wroughton’s military connections

Various History Group members at the WW1 exhibition April 2017
Various History Group members at the WW1 exhibition April 2017

Part of the 2017 celebrations included a week long exhibition in the library, including some information part put together by the history group.

Over the years Wroughton History Group has been involved in many different activities, such as helping on archaeological digs and surveying lost village sites as well as publishing eleven books to date. The books can be bought from the history group see the books for sale page.

Our simple constitution can be viewed here

Today we continue our research into old local newspapers and have been transcribing the census returns, trade directories, and records of births, deaths and marriages for the village so that these details will be easily available for future research.

For many years we have successfully entered Wroughton Carnival. The theme of the 2017 float was 1977 (to mark our 40th anniversary). 

Although we are very serious about our research but we do have a lot of fun too. We never fail to have a laugh at our meetings and we very much enjoy our annual outing and trips to local villages and places of interest in the summer, not to mention our pleasure in taking members of other history groups round the older parts of Wroughton.

Wroughton is well known for the airfield and RAF hospital – details about this can be found in the Wroughton Military connections pages.

Wroughton Horse Racing Stables

Wroughton has a long and successful history of horse racing stables. Originally wealthy land owners in the area would hold impromptu cross country races to test their horses and risk their money in wagers. The combination of good livery stables, access to training on the Downs and helped by the good communications provided by the arrival of the GWR railway system in the 1850s encouraged the establishment of racing stables. In 1859 a flamboyant character called ‘Black Tom Olliver‘, who had won the Grand National as a jockey three times, became trainer to racehorse owner, Mr. Carwright, who had set up stables in the High Street at Fairwater House.Fairwater House

After training many successful horses, including Ely (after whom the public house was named), Black Tom died early in 1874 but later that year George Frederick, named for the future George V, won the Derby to great celebrations in the village.

In 1906 Aubrey Hastings, an ex jockey who had also won the Grand National, became trainer at Barcelona Stables and produced Wroughton’s first Grand National winner, Ally Sloper, in 1915. Four more Grand National winners followed from the Barcelona stables, the last being Royal Mail in 1937.

Probably Wroughton’s best loved horse was Brown Jack, who had been ill but restored to health at Barcelona stables with a diet which included plenty of whiskey and hot beer. By 1933 Brown Jack had won the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Ascot five years running and now being ten years old he was entered there for his last ever race. George V, George Frederick in his youth, was in the grandstand with his own horse in the field. It is alleged that George V had placed £5-00 each way on Brown Jack. To the delight of the crowd and, of course the whole of Wroughton, he won again, beating the King’s horse into second place. Brown Jack’s fame was such that there is a bronze statue of him at Ascot by Sir Alfred Munnings, a LNER (unfortunately not GWR ) locomotive was named after him, his skeleton is still preserved in the Natural History Museum and, of course, we have the Brown Jack pub in Wroughton.

Unfortunately the disruption caused by the Second World War and the construction of the air field, coupled with increased traffic on the roads led to a decline in the horse racing stables and the last one, Barcelona, closed and moved to Kingsclere in 1953, ending nearly 100 years of race horse training in Wroughton.