Burton Hill House

Burton Hill is a Tithing of Malmesbury, and never had any Manorial Rights. It was part of the lands belonging to Malmesbury Abbey. William Stump entertained King Henry VIII at the Saracens Head in Malmesbury, which was afterwards called the Banqueting House, and is now known as Tower House. William Stump left this part of his property, which then included White Heath, Burnt Heath, Cole Park, Corston and Rodbourne, to his son, Sir James Stump, whose daughter Elizabeth married Sir Henry Kingscott of Wootton Bassett, this forming part of her dowry, since she was Sir James’ only child. After their marriage they resided at Charlton, and when Sir Henry started to build his new house at Charlton, Burtonhill and other property on that side of town was sold to Sir John Hungerford. Sir John Hungerford resided at Burtonhill, and left two sons, Anthony and John. In his will he left to his wife his Farm at Burtonhill, 21st. January 1615.

Soon afterwards this property passed into the Estcourt family, for Edmund Estcourt, of Long Newnton, left to his son George, amongst other property, premises at Burtonhill. Edmund Estcourt was born about 1645, and married Elizabeth Brimsdon at Malmesbury. She was buried 7th. October 1717. He resided at Burton Hill House, and died March 1717, being described as ‘Edmund Estcourt, Gent’.

In his Will his messuage of Burton Hill House was left to Edmund Estcourt, the son of Thos. Estcourt of Sarcombe, his first cousin. This Edmund Estcourt, together with his father Thomas, resided at Burtonhill for a time, his father dying there and being buried in the Abbey, 1st. April 1723, being described as ‘Thos. Estcourt, Gent, of Burtonhill’. Edmund then succeeded to the family estate at Long Newnton, and let Burtonhill to Germainous Shepherd, the owner of Bradenstoke Abbey. Edmund Estcourt died in 1785, leaving the family estates to a distant relative, but his messuage in Burtonhill and Rodbourne was left for the benefit of his wife and daughter, together with £10,000 for his widow for life with the remainder to his daughter.

The widow and her daughter resided at Burtonhill until the daughter married William Gale, the son of a Vicar, on 18th. December 1766. In the Marriage Settlement, dated 12th. December 1766, Wm. Gale puts in Whychurch Farm and Burnt Heath, and his wife Anna puts in Burton Hill House, Cowfold Grange, Brills Court, Lea, and a farm at Little Somerford. There were no children by this marriage.

Wm. Gale was M.P. for the Borough of Cricklade in 1774, but died on 25th. November of the same year. He left his property, apparently heavily encumbered, to his wife, who survived him by two years. By her Will she left all her property to William Agnobus Edwards, a Minor, who came into possession of the property when he became of age, in 1786.

Mr. Edwards found it necessary to part with some of his property at once, and on June 19th. 1787 sold Whychurch Farm to Richard Kinneir, Esq., of Cricklade, and the Little Somerford property to William Abraham Young of Clitchbury, Brinkworth. Burton Hill House and lands were sold to Dr. Timothy Dewell of Malmesbury, who resided in the Cross Hayes, for £2,650. Mr. Edwards’ Will was dated 25th. September 1786, and was proved in 1791 after his death on 3rd. December 1790. His Will read as follows : “I give all and every Manor, Manor Farms etc. in Counties Wilts. and Glost. whereby I am possessed to John Samuel Ody, Beer Brewer, Malmesbury. (He had the Abbey Brewery.) I also give him my personal estate and appoint him sole Executor.”

Dr. Dewell married Elizabeth Jenkins of Sherston in 1773, and had a large family. His father, Charles Dewell, died in Jamaica, and his mother, with two sisters, came to reside in Malmesbury with him. He did not reside long at Burton Hill House, for he died in 1792, apparently in considerable debt, since according to local tradition he was buried in the Abbey at night so as to escape the unpleasant action of his creditors, who might have attempted to seize his body. One of his creditors was Edmund Wilkins, the High Steward of the Borough, to whom he owed £500. Dr. Dewell had considerable property in the town, including the building connected with the Roman Catholic Chapel in the Cross Hayes, which was left to him by his Grandson, Capt. Dewell, and also some house property in Kingswall, consisting of four or five houses known as Dewell Court.

Burton Hill House was sold by Dr. Dewell’s Trustees to Francis Hill, of Bradford on Avon, in November 1792, for the sum of £3,610. Mr. Hill had previously bought the Mill and lands from Joseph Cullum, in 1790, and had erected in place of the Mill the factory now known as the Silk Mill Factory. The factory was built with the intention of carrying on the Cloth Trade, but Hill was unsuccessful, being unable to keep pace with the rapid changes in the trade. Mr. Hill died in 1828, and all his Real Estate in Malmesbury was sold to Simon and Isaac Salter of Kington Langley, who in 1842 sold Burton Hill House and lands to John Cockerell of London for £7050. One of the Mr. Salters tried to represent the Borough in Parliament, but the Howard influence was too strong for him. He built the row of Houses just below Burton Hill, on the left hand side going towards town, for £10 votes, and the houses were, and still are known as Parliament Row.

There have been several houses on the site during its history. A newly built Mansion burnt down in March 1846, and the present Mansion was built in its place. For that fire the old Malmesbury Fire Engine, which is now housed in the Town Museum, was used for the last time in an attempt to extinguish the fire. As well as rebuilding the Mansion Capt. Cockerell laid out the grounds, these being improved later by Colonel C. W. Miles, who purchased the property from Captain Cockerell. Colonel Miles belonged to the old Bristol family of Merchants and Bankers and he greatly improved Burton Hill House, making several alterations and additions. He also bought up all land adjoining the property, making a very compact estate. This land has since been disposed of, and the estate largely broken up.

At sometime in the 1920’s Burton Hill House was purchased by the Storey family, and their daughter, now Mrs. Margaret La Fontaine, still resides in East Lodge, opposite the entrance to the house.

During the war the House was used as a private school, and also as a school for evacuees. It was left empty for a while before being bought by the Shaftesbury Society in 1945, to be used as a Residential School for the Severely Physically Handicapped, and has continued to provide this service to the present day.