(From Domesday Book to 1977)
As with every other place in England, the first mention of Tilshead occurs in the Domesday Book which states that the place named “Tidulfhide” consisted of the “lands of Odo and other Thanes who held military service under the King.”
Thus: “Alwardus holds one hide in Tidulfhide. Here is one plough-land, which is in demesne, and one furlong in pasture. It is worth twenty shillings.”
In those days, it seems, a “hide” of land was the amount of ground that could be ploughed by one man in one year.
And Aluric Parvus held “two yard-lands and a half in Tidulfhide. It is worth seven shillings and sixpence.”
Alestan held “half a hide of land in Tidulfhide. It is worth five shillings.”
While Almar held “two yard-lands and a half in Tidulfhide. It is worth five shillings.”
Over the centuries the spelling of the place changed from Tidulfhide to Tidulfshide, to Tidolveshed, thence to Tilshead.
But when Henry I gave us a temporary French connection yet another spelling cropped up. For students of ancient Latin, Henry’s grant to the Abbey of the Holy Trinity at Caen in Normandy began: “Henricus Rex Angliae, omnibus fidelibus suis totius Angliae et Normandie, salutem.” “Sciatus me dedisse et concessisse Abbatiae S. Trinatus de Cadomo (Caen) et sanctimonialibus ibidem Deo servientibus, manerim quod vocatur Theolvished in Wiltesire…”
However, in 1317 our Church (and therefore, our Parish) reverted to the Priory of Ederose (now Ivy Church near Salisbury) and in 1529 it came under the Crown.
But no village history should be without its seamy side and Tilshead and the neighbouring villages still contain citizens with the same surnames as the highwaymen of two centuries or so back who preyed upon those travelling across the (then) wild Salisbury Plain. And there is a hint of embezzlement with an entry in the Parish Register commencing in 1656 which reads: “That on the 8th day of January, in the year of our Lord 1687, Hugh Cox, of Tilshead, in the county of Wilts, by his last will and testament, gave the use and interest of £10 to the Vicar of Tilshead to preach a sermon in the said Parish Church on the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and to that end he gave £10 to be put to use by the Churchwardens of the said Parish and to remain for the use aforesaid for ever.” Generous of Mr Cox, but nobody knows what happened to the land which was to produce the £10, much less of the £10, and in 1820 Robert Coleman, Churchwarden commented darkly in the Parish Register: “It is a pity this was not seen farther intow!” (sic).
Our present vicar (and for the last 14½ years) the Reverend FG Chamberlain commented: “It was certainly lost centuries ago – but, I suppose, if we were to find it the Church Commissioners would probably dock it from my stipend.”
In 1825, Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Bart., in his Modern History of South Wiltshire, said: “Tilshead is situated in a vale, but has no permanent stream. A windmill and two public houses. The cottages and garden walls are generally built with mud for want of stone. No remarkable customs or traditions.”
The population is now around 300. In 1801 it was 327; in 1811 it was 397, and ten years later, 425.
In 1866, the Reverend Joseph Holden, vicar for 60 years, noted one great change during his incumbency – “There are no superstitious practices or customs observed. Forty years ago there was much intemperance. In this respect there is a very great improvement.” And he underlined the words “very great”.
This century the village boasted four racing stables, but these establishments departed when the then landlord of Tilshead Lodge, Mr RJ Farqharson sold the “gallops” to the Army in 1934.
And that is a very potted history of a thousand years of Tilshead – once a centre for the shepherds of the Plain and their flocks, then a place where travellers banded together for protection against the Plain’s highwaymen and now, much the same size as ever, but relying upon the Ministry of Defence for employment, with only a handful of farmers and a few of the younger men and women travelling into Devizes and Salisbury where employment for skilled labour can be found.
From Tidulfhide Times, June 1977
The honour of being the oldest Tilshead family definitely belongs to the Kytes. They first appear in the Church Register in 1662 when William Kyte’s son, Matthew, was baptised. Brian and Richard, sons of James and Sally, are the twelfth generation of their family to live in Tilshead. Their grandfather, David who sadly passed away in 2009, and his brother Bernard, have been lifelong supporters of the Baptist Chapel; and the family continue to farm land around the village as their ancestors did – though now as tenants of the Ministry of Defence. Many of their relatives have, of course, moved away over the years, quite a number – and it is rumoured not all voluntarily – to Australia where there is reported to be a very large tribe of Kytes. The family is also, not surprisingly, closely connected to other village families. For example, Adrian’s mother, Elsie Kyte, (widow of Sydney Kyte, another descendant of the original William), who sadly passed away in 2000, was before her marriage Elsie Potter.
Extract from The Tilshead Tatler, June 2000, Editor Bill Perry; with minor updates