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 (and last before the summer break) is on June 27th and is the Making of the Kingdom of Wessex by David Dawson. On June 13th we have an open meeting.  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.

During our summer break we do have a number of activities including  involvement in the Wroughton carnival on July 6th (look out for our group of Romans and information on the recent Roman discoveries on the airfield and our stand selling our books),  a walking tour of Wroughton on July 11th and a visit to Chisleden museum on July 25th.

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 over 40 years.

Details of all our books can be found on our books for sale page.

2018 Carnival
2018 Carnival

On 7th July 2018 we joined in the Wroughton carnival with a procession themed around suffragettes, and 100 years since woman first gained the vote in the UK – we managed a third place so well done to everyone that joined in and helped with the preparations.

Members of the history group enjoy the reservoir
Members of the history group enjoy the reservoir

In June 2018 , we  managed to get a tour of the Wroughton reservoir that is usually closed to the public. The tour was followed by a group picnic – we enjoyed the lovely weather and the views of the reservoir.

Wroughton reservoir June 2018
Wroughton reservoir June 2018

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.

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 Airfield

With the threat of war in the 1930s the government set up a programme of airfield building including one on a high plateau to the south of Wroughton occupied then by Rectory Farm. The initial setting out took place in May 1939 by driving a timber fence post in to the ground at each end of the proposed mile long main runway. The airfield was opened less than a year later on April 1st 1940.  It was set up as an MU (Maintenance Unit ) and during the second world war some 7,000 aircraft were prepared for service at Wroughton.

Aerial view of the airfield in 1941
Aerial view of the airfield in 1941

An RAF hospital was built alongside the airfield and was opened in June 1941. This hospital acted as a clearing station for D day casualties. After the end of the war the airfield and surrounding land was used as a storage area for surplus planes, including many large bombers which were gradually broken up, although one of the Lancaster bombers survived to be restored at Wroughton between 1963 and 1964 and become part of the Battle of Britain flight.

Wroughton Hospital 1941
Wroughton Hospital 1941

The airfield continued as a RAF MU until 1972 when the Royal Navy took over as by then most of the work was on helicopters for which the RN was responsible.

In 1992 the airfield was closed as a military establishment and the site was passed on to the Natural Science Museum to be used as a museum and also as a storage facility for many of their larger items which could not be accommodated in London. A museum was set up containing many interesting exhibits including a Comet and a Constellation air liner. The airfield was used for air displays such as the War Birds during the 1980s and 1990s, although now, unfortunately, the museum is only open on special occasions and the runways are rarely used.  It is hoped that the new Science Museum storage facility being constructed will be open to the public.  A purpose built store has been constructed on the airfield site to hold the Science Museum’s amazing collection of old scientific books and documents, all of which can be viewed by the public on application.

The RAF hospital continued in use after the war and when possible took in local National Health Service patients, with whom it was very popular due to its high standards of treatment and nursing. The hospital was renamed the Princess Alexandra hospital in 1967 following a visit by the Princess. It was closed in December 1995 and the site was developed to include a housing estate called Alexandra Park and a hotel and leisure centre. There is now a vast array of solar panels installed on the airfield to provide renewable energy.

Alexandra Park housing on site of old hospital
Alexandra Park housing on site of old hospital