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Outline History

Christian Malford in the 19th and 20th Centuries

5,000 + Years of Settlement

Artefacts from the Mesolithic period (Middle Stone Age) have been discovered in Christian Malford; this indicates some form of settlement dating back to times earlier than 3000 BC. Mesolithic cultures represent a wide variety of hunting, fishing, and food gathering techniques. Characteristic of this period were hunting and fishing settlements along rivers and on lake shores, where fish and molluscs were abundant; other changes involved the gradual domestication of plants and animals and the formation of settled communities.

What is in a Name

The first question that strangers ask of villagers is why the name?
Christian Malford is evidently a corruption of the old name that was “Christmal Ford.” In Anglo Saxon, moel, or mal is a mark, or sign: and “Christ’s mal” is Christ’s mark, or sign, the cross. The name of this Parish therefore means “Cross Ford” and in the village there used to be the remains of a stone Cross. The name has its origins in Saxon times. The name is confirmed by Deeds from Glaston Abbey Cartulary relating to Christmalford Manor. In AD 940 King Edmund granted Christmalford to St. Dunstan Abbot of Glastonbury.
“Wherefore, I Edmund by Divine Favour King of the English and Ruler of many tribes have given to my faithful follower Saint Dunstan the Abbot, Twenty Manses , …. A place by Avon which the common people, by a laudable custom, and with a noble allusion, call Christemal-ford”.


The church and settlement of Christian Malford grew on high ground near a ford of the river Avon. This was due to annual flooding by the river. During the winter animals were probably moved to this higher ground. As recently as 1968 the village was badly affected by the severe flooding and remains prone to flooding today. However, improved drainage and the construction of level control gates on the river, has alleviated the situation considerably.

The Manor of Christianmalforde appears in the Domesday Book (1086), the original record or summary of William I the Conqueror’s survey of England:

‘The land of the Church of Glastonbury ……….. .. The same church holds CHRISTIAN MALFORD. TRE it paid geld for 20 hides. There is land for 10 ploughs. Of this land 14 hides are in demesne, and there are 3 ploughs, and 2 slaves. There are 11 villans and 12 bordars and 12 cotsets with 6 ploughs. There 2 mills render 40s, and [there are] 36 acres of meadow, [and] woodland 1 league long and half a league broad. Of the same Robert holds half a hide, and Edward 1 virgate. This land [being] thegnland could not not be separated from the church TRE. The whole manor is worth £10.10s.

The Abbot of Glastonbury leased 6 acres of meadow to Beorehtric TRE in Stanton [Stanton St Quintin and Lower Stanton St Quintin]. Osbern Giffard holds them now. In like manner he leased 4 acres of meadow in Littleton Drew to Alweard. Bishop Geoffrey holds them now. These 10 acres of meadow ought to belong to Christian Malford.

For a Glossary of Terms used in the Domesday Book; click here.

The church was built in the 13th century. The Parish Register does not go farther back than 1653: the earlier volumes having been burned when the Curate’s lodging was fired by lightning in 1693.

MapChristmal-ford belonged to Glastonbury Abbey for about 600 years. The Rectory was originally in the gift of the Abbot of Glaston but became severed from the Manor when Richard I was taken prisoner on his return from the Holy Land in 1192. At the instigation of Henry IV, Emperor of Germany, one of the conditions of his release, in 1194, was that Savaric, a relative of the Emperor’s, should be appointed Bishop of Bath and Wells with included the annexation of the Abbacy of Glastonbury. A partition of Estates took place, and Christmalford manor and advowson (inter alia) were assigned to the Bishoprick. Subsequently, in AD 1223, the manor was restored to Glastonbury, but the advowson remained with the See of Bath and Wells: and so continued until a late Order in Council transferred it for the future to the Diocesan, the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol.

MapSoon after the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1538, the principal landowner was Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. In 1575 Sir John Danvers of Dauntesey purchased the Manor.

There was a partition of it between his sons, but by the marriage of his great grand-daughter Ann, daughter and coheir of Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley, it ultimately came to Thomas, 5th Earl of Wharton. His son Philip Duke of Wharton is said to have lost Christian Malford at the gaming table. The next owner was Thomas Boucher Esq who sold it in 1733 to Mr. Herbert.

Henry Herbert Esq purchased a manor house in 1740. It was never finished, and remained so, until it was demolished in the 19th Century. It was sited north Mapof the church in a field that is now a mass of dips and
hummocks. In recent years some of the older Villagers can remember the remains of the boat-house being there.

Ownership eventually passed to the Earl of Caernarvon.

The building of the bridge in 1785 must have had a significant effect on the entire village as well as turning the Mermaid into a Coaching Inn.

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Christian Malford in the 19th and 20th Centuries


The population Christian Malford has fluctuated throughout the centuries for varying reasons. In the mid-19th Century the wool industry was at its height and the population peaked at 1179; in the 2001 Census it was 701. Upper Town was the site of ‘The City’, that once had many weaver’s cottages; the area is now pastureland.


Census Total


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Christian Malford was thriving in the 19th century. However, various setbacks such as the closure of a mill caused by a decline of the wool trade, the mechanisation of agriculture and the loss of numerous cottages, that housed the weavers and farm labourers, struck the village hard and led to a steady fall in the population. The population continued to fall because of the reduction of labour required to-service the large houses and the tendency for families to be much smaller.

Kelly’s Directory of 1939 listed ten private households, and thirty-two commercial residents, including farms. In 1981 there were 213 private households.


MapThe old look of the village has changed rapidly. Thatched roofs disappeared a number of years ago, new properties have in-filled the gaps between existing buildings, and many of the old cottages have either been completely rebuilt or undergone substantial renovation.

The council built houses in Orchard Leaze before the second World War and in Coronation Close in 1953.

The village began to reverse its population decline in the 1970’s with the development of a private housing estate, Lime Trees. This development coupled with the opening of the M4 in October 1971 attracted many professional people to the village because of its ideal location for commuting to Bath, Bristol, Swindon and London.

There were two further small housing developments near the Post Office, in the 1980s that brought new people into the village.

Housing prices in the village have risen sharply since the 1970’s (£3,000 to approx £300,000 today); this has meant that young people are being forced away.

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Agriculture was and still is the most common form of land use in Christian Malford.

Nothing has changed the landscape of the village so quickly as the death of the elm trees. In the 1970’s Dutch elm disease ravaged them and none survived. The area now looks flat and uninteresting; it will be a lifetime, if ever, before a return to that former splendour. The oak trees also suffered from the drought of 1976 when the River Avon dried up. Another tree that has disappeared quickly is the lime. There was avenue of lime trees that stretched from the Comedy to the Church; a few remain but many became unsafe and were felled with the elms. The loss of trees encouraged the removal of miles of hedges in order to make larger fields, which are more conducive to modern intensive farming.

Large quantities of gravel were removed in antiquity as well as just before and after the second World War. The gravel pits were used for a few years by a ready mixer concrete firm but they had to import the gravel. The gravel pits site may be a future site for development.

Sanitation and Services

Mains water and electricity were installed in the late 1930’s; but most people used wells with hand pumps and oil lamps for many years afterwards. Mains sewerage was installed around 1965 but many outlying houses and farms still use septic tanks.

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World War II

RAF Lyneham was built in 1937 on the site of a moated manor house. During the war a German warplane flew by the Church and dropped its bombs narrowly missing the houses in Station Road.


In 1960, the bridge was widened and the bump straightened to cater for the increase of traffic along the A420.

The railway came to Christian Malford with the opening of Christian Malford Halt on 18 October 1926. The fall of Dr Beeching’s axe on the railways in the 1960’s meant the closure of Malmesbury branch line and of Christian Malford Halt on 4 January 1965.

Public Houses / Inns

The Rising Sun. The Rising Sun public house was once the village smithy. It used to sell railway tickets over the bar.

The Mermaid lnn. The original Mermaid Inn was built as a farmhouse by the Meux estate incorporating part of a much older building (circa 1400 AD). The licence was transferred from the first thatched Inn around 1870 and was run by the Newman family for over forty years. The old Mermaid Inn was destroyed by fire in 1903. An extension was built to the public bar in 1954. In January 1980, fire destroyed the stables at the new Mermaid Inn. This resulted in the construction of an extension to the lounge bar. The Mermaid is currently closed and looks as though it will never re-open as a public house.

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Other Miscellaneous Facts

Christian Malford Cotham – Where Did He Get That Name?

The 1850 census for Decator County, Tennessee, lists a school teacher called Christian Malford Cotham. He moved to Texas sometime after the birth of their son James Clarke Cotham in 1851 (the 1880 census in Fannin County shows James Clarke’s birthplace to be Tennessee) as in the 1860 census he resides in Fannin County, Texas.

Christian Malford Cotham was a teacher in Tennessee before the Civil War; and after the war a Sheriff and Bailiff in Bonham, Texas. In 1861, he is listed as a member of the Bonham Mounted Dragoons.

In the 1860 census, for Fannin County, Christian Malford Cotham is aged 43 (born circa 1817) living with his wife Sarah (nee Pugh), same age, and both born in Tennessee.  They appear in 1870 census for Fannin County, aged 52 yrs old, but neither appear in the 1880 census. James Clarke and Narcissus with their daughter Margaret M (2 months old) are listed in 1880 census for Fannin County in the household of Dorcas Anderson Brown Cox.

There must have been some family association with Christian Malford as is too much of a coincidence that the village name should be used as the given name for four generations of this line of Cothams. This begs the question; was the name handed down from earlier generations of the family, before his parents Moses Paine (b. 1793 Franklin, Georgia) and Sarah Holigan (b. 1795 Tennessee) or his grandparents Thomas (b. 1754 Tennessee) and Elizabeth Griffin (b. 1753 Tennessee), who once lived there?

Where the Cothams, Holigans or Griffins originally from Christian Malford and the use of the name represents a certain lingering fondness or homesickness for the village?

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Fragments of Christian Malford History

I am most grateful to Mr Brian Coller for sending the following local history details; taken from the Wiltshire Times of 8 May 1938 on the history of Christian Malford written by E. N. Tuck M.A :

Of the pubs, he writes that the old “Mermaid Inn” was a well-known coaching house.  It was then occupied by a tailor.  Other old inns were the “Jolly Butcher” (now the Post Office) and “The Rising Sun”.  The tailor, Mr Morris, lived at the old “Mermaid” which was on the main road, next to “The Bakehouse”.

The post office in the 1940s was the stone house at the junction of the main road.  He remembers a counter on the opposite wall to the door and wooden benches along each side wall, which must have been from when it was “The Jolly Butcher”.

Of the chapel he writes that the congregational cause was started in 1767 when a cottage was bought as a manse and an adjacent Malt House was turned into a chapel.  This chapel was later turned into two cottages when the new chapel was built in 1836.  The schoolroom was added in 1909.  The old manse and the two cottages were burnt down 37 years ago (1901).

Finally, something a little macabre to think of when you next enter the Church.  In 1893, the walls of the south porch of the Church were found to be settling.  On under-pinning, a coffin made of a hollow oak tree was found under the foundation stones at a depth of four feet.  The coffin was crushed by the weight of the stones and broken up on digging new foundations.

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