Silchester is a village and civil parish about 5 miles (8 km) north of Basingstoke in Hampshire. It is adjacent to the county boundary with Berkshire and about 9 miles (14 km) south-west of Reading.


The village sign in front of Silchester Village Hall
Location within Hampshire
Population918 (2001 census)[1]
921 (2011 Census including Little London)[2]
OS grid referenceSU6262
Civil parish
  • Silchester
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townReading
Postcode districtRG7
Dialling code0118
AmbulanceSouth Central
EU ParliamentSouth East England
UK Parliament
WebsiteSilchester Parish Council

Silchester is most notable for the archaeological site and Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum, an Iron Age and later Atrebates Celtic settlement first occupied by the Romans in about AD 45 and includes what is considered the best-preserved Roman wall in Great Britain.


The present village is centred on Silchester Common. It is about 1 mile (1.6 km) west of the Church of England parish church and former manor house (now Manor Farm), which are in the eastern part of the former Roman town.

Local government

Silchester is a civil parish with an elected parish council. Silchester parish is in the ward of Pamber and Silchester,[3] part of Basingstoke and Deane District Council and of Hampshire County Council and all three councils are responsible for different aspects of local government. The ward returns two councillors to the borough council.[4] The 2011 census recorded a parish population of 921.[1]


Silchester Common is served (as of October 2017) by bus route 14 between Basingstoke, Chineham Shopping Centre, Bramley, Little London, Silchester Common and Tadley, operated by Stagecoach on Monday to Saturday.


Silcester was recorded in the 11th century, when one Alestan held a manor here with King Edward the Confessor as his overlord and one Cheping held another manor with Earl Harold Godwinson as his overlord.[5] The Domesday Book of 1086 recorded that the Normans William De Ow and Ralph de Mortimer possessed Alestan's and Cheping's manors respectively.[5] The book assessed Alestan's manor at five hides and Mortimer's at three hides.[5] De Mortimer's tenant was another Norman, Ralph Bluet.[5] In 1204 he or a later Ralph Bluet gave a palfrey horse in exchange for a licence to enclose an area of land south-east of the former Roman town as a deer park.[5] Today parts of the earthwork park pale survive and parts of the former park remain wooded.[5]

Forms of the toponym included Ciltestere and Cilcestre in the 13th century, Scilchestre in the 14th century and Sylkchester in the 18th century before it reached its current spelling.[5]

The Irish peer Murrough Boyle, 1st Viscount Blesington (1685–1718) bought the manor in 1704 and it remained with his hereditary heirs until the death of William Stewart, 1st Earl of Blessington in 1769.[5] In 1778 it was inherited jointly by Thomas Vesey, 1st Viscount de Vesci and Edward Pakenham, 2nd Baron Longford.[5] In 1806 Baron Longford's daughter The Hon. Catherine Pakenham married Arthur Wellesley, who in 1814 was created Duke of Wellington. In 1821 Catherine's brother Thomas Pakenham, 2nd Earl of Longford was created Baron Silchester, but in 1828 he and John, 2nd Viscount de Vesci sold the manor of Silchester to the Duke.[5] In the first decade of the 20th century Arthur Wellesley, 4th Duke of Wellington still owned the manor of Silchester.[5]

Church and chapel

The Church of England parish church of St Mary the Virgin is just within the walls of the former Roman town, possibly on the site of a Roman temple.[6][7] The building may contain some re-used Roman materials.[8] The building dates from the late 12th[5] or early 13th century.[9] It has a north and south aisle, each of two bays.[5] There is no chancel arch, and the chancel is longer than the nave.[5] The wall of the south aisle was rebuilt in about 1325–50, incorporating an ogee-arched tomb recess containing the effigy of a lady wearing a wimple.[9] Two new windows were added to the church the 14th century and two more including the Perpendicular Gothic[9] east window of the chancel in the 15th century.[5]

The church has a Perpendicular Gothic[9] rood screen.[5] The pulpit was made early in the 18th century but its tester is dated 1639.[9] There is also a carved memorial cartouche to the Irish peer Viscount Ikerrin (died 1712).[9] The bell-turret has a ring of five bells. Four were cast by John Stares of Aldbourne,[10] Wiltshire in 1744.[11] The other was cast by William Taylor of Oxford[10] in 1848.[11]

There is a Primitive Methodist chapel on Silchester Common.[5]

Iron Age & Roman town

Calleva Atrebatum was an Iron Age oppidum and subsequently a town in the Roman province of Britannia and the civitas capital of the Atrebates tribe. Its ruins are beneath and to the west of the parish church, which is itself just within the town wall and about 1 mile (1.6 km) to the east of the modern village.

The site covers an area of over 107 acres (43 ha) within a polygonal earthwork. The earthworks and extensive ruined walls are still visible. The remains of the amphitheatre,[12] added about AD 70–80 and situated outside the city walls, can also be clearly seen. The area inside the walls is now largely farmland with no visible distinguishing features, other than the enclosing earthworks and walls, with the church and old manor house in one corner.

The bronze Silchester eagle was discovered in the Basilica at Calleva in 1866. It can now be seen in Reading Museum. During excavations carried out in 1893, the Silchester Ogham stone was located. Dated c. 500 AD, it is one of very few found in England. It is now held in storage at Reading Museum.

Calleva was finally abandoned in the 7th century, which is unusually late compared to other deserted Roman settlement[13].

Indeed Calleva was hit by the Plague of Justinian, that killed as many as 100 million people across the world: as a result, Europe's population fell by around 50% between 540 and 640 AD and that entered the Mediterranean world in the 6th century and first arrived in the British Isles in 544 or 545 AD (just before the Battle of Dyrham in 577 AD, that was the beginning of the final conquest of Subroman Britannia by the Anglosaxons: the important Romano-britons city of Calleva was started to be abandoned in those years, because hard hit by this terrible plague). Indeed scholars (like Lester K. Little et all in their "Plague and the End of Antiquity: The Pandemic of 541–750"), as evidence that the plague damage done on the Sub-Roman Britons was greater than the one suffered by the Anglo-Saxons, believe that the sudden disappearance -around 550 AD- of the important Roman town of Calleva was probably due to the Plague of Justinian, which later created a kind of curse on the city "damned" by the Anglo–Saxons [14].


Silchester's sole public house is the Calleva Arms,[15] named after the former Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum that lies within the village boundary. It was known as The Crown prior to being renamed.

The parish has regular events and village activities through the year including a beer festival, fun run, church fete, and music festival.[16] The village has an amateur dramatic society[17] and a village association.[18]

Silchester Cricket Club[19] compete in Regional Division Three North East in the Hampshire Cricket League.[20]


Silchester has a Church of England aided primary school.[21] Most Silchester children of secondary school age attend The Hurst Community College in Baughurst.


Silchester was voted "Hampshire Village of the Year" (2008) and "South England Village of the Year" (2009) in the Calor Village of the Year competition.[22]

Notable persons

See also

  • Ring of Silvianus, an ancient ring that possibly lead to The Lord of the Rings, found near the town in 1785.


  1. "Area selected: Basingstoke and Deane (Non-Metropolitan District)". Neighbourhood Statistics: Full Dataset View. Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  2. "Civil Parish population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  3. "HCC Ward Boundaries" (PDF). 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
  4. "Basingstoke and Deane Wards Information Councillors for Pamber & Silchester". Archived from the original on 11 May 2010. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
  5. Page, 1911, pages 51–56
  6. "The Parish Church: The Silchester Trail" (PDF). Hampshire County Council. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
  7. Johnson, Walter J. (1912). Byways in British Archeology. Cambridge : The University Press. p. 24.
  8. Aston & Bond, 1976, page 53
  9. Pevsner & Lloyd, 1967, page 505
  10. "Bell Founders". Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  11. "Silchester S Mary". Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  12. Silchester amphitheatre
  13. Roman colonies in Subroman Britain
  14. Calleva was cursed
  15. Calleva Arms
  16. Pete's Silchester Pages
  17. Silchester Players Archived 22 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  18. Silchester Association
  19. Silchester Cricket Club
  20. Hampshire Cricket League
  21. Silchester Church of England Primary School
  22. "Calor Village of the Year competition". 2009. Retrieved 16 March 2010.

Sources and further reading

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