A potted history of Chilbolton.
Chilbolton is blessed in having its own historian resident in the village. Most villages have to make do with histories compiled by local museum curators but in Eleanor Lockyer, we have our own resident expert. Working with diligence and without using the internet or indeed the computer Eleanor has written several books about the village and the air field which was built here at the out-break of war in 1940. A new book is due to be published later this year. These notes have been compiled from her book “Chilbolton Fragments”
Chilbolton would be a natural place for prehistoric man to settle. It has water, gentle low-lying hills and flat plains. It is also near enough to the coast to benefit from a mild climate and trade goods but far enough to be protected from raiders. Lower Palaeolithic or Stone Age man who lived here 250,000-8,000 B.C. left many flint chips and axe heads. The chalky soil yields many flints, which are useful for making tools and for building walls.
Following on Neolithic or New Stone Age Man, 4,000-1,800 BC builds barrows, one was found near Middle Barn Farm and another discovered on the Chilbolton-Leckford boundary.
Later Bronze Age Man, 1,800-800 B.C. left twin barrows North-West of Chilbolton Downs and a bowl barrow on Middle Barn Farm. Arrowheads from this age have also been found.
In the Iron Age 800 B.C.-A.D. 43 there was a farmstead found just north of Middle Barn Farm. It was a circular enclosure 90 mts. across, so it was a large and important farm holding. Various other Iron Age finds have been discovered around Chilbolton Down Farm including corn grinding stones and numerous animal bones suggesting an established farm growing wheat and rearing animals, probably sheep and cattle. The famous Danebury Iron Age Fort at Stockbridge is a very large establishment, which would have taken several generations to create. It is very likely that settlements would have been built in the protective shelter of the fort. Peace reigned in the area as witnessed by the palisade fences which were used to enclose the farms at this time, remains of where have been found here. Palisade fencing offers poor defence against spear attacks.
And then the Romans came. The first invasion in 55.B.C was little more than an exploring expedition. The main invasion and actual conquest was by Claudius in A.D.43. It is likely that this area would have seen the first Romans shortly after this time. Large finds of Roman coins have been found around Chilbolton dated from around 300AD showing that by this time the area was well established with Roman farms and villas.
Chilbolton remained prosperous not only by virtue of the fine farmland but because it was on trade routes. Even before 3,000B.C, Neolithic man was trading goods over large distances. The main trade routes were the Ridgeway is which follow the chalk ridges. There were two ancient trade routes, which ran east to west. The Harroway north of Andover and the Hampshire Ridgeway, which runs through Winchester. These ways were joined by the Markway, which forms the boundary between Chilbolton and Leckford.
The main village of Chilbolton would have been settled near a spring, probably where the pumping station is adjoining the Abbots Mitre, on flattish land above the river flood levels. Many of the houses in the village street are on Saxon foundations and the roads we use today are the built on the tracks the Saxons would have used to go about their daily tasks.
The name Chilbolton was probably derived from the name of a Celtic chief but this is lost in the mists of time. The spelling has changed over time from;
Ceolbaldinctura in Saxon Charters
To Ceolboldington in A.D. 909
Then in the Domesday Book it was called Cilbodentune
In 1284c, this became Cilboldentune and finally in the reign of Richard 1st it became known as Chilbondinton, almost Chilbolton.