Chilmark is a Wiltshire village and civil parish of some 150 houses straddling the B3089 road, 11 miles (18 km) west of Salisbury, England. The parish includes the hamlets of Mooray and Portash, both close to the south of Chilmark village; and the dispersed hamlet of Ridge, to the southwest.
The stream through the village, often dry in summer, flows some two miles (3 km) south to join the River Nadder. The Fonthill estate extends into the west of the parish as far as Ridge.
On the hill in the distance is Lower Holt Copse and 2 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) also lie with in the land.
General Pre-Victorian historyEdit
Roman artefacts have been found in the nearby quarries, and Purbeck limestone, possibly from Chilmark, was used in the construction of Roman mansions at the villages of West Grimstead and Rockbourne Villa.
There was probably a church at Chilmark in the 12th century. Chilmark Manor, a house near the church, is a 17th-century building with 18th-century alterations.
Dedicated to St. Margaret of Antioch, Chilmark's Anglican parish church dates from the 13th century, with additions in the 14th and 18th centuries. It was most recently restored in 1856 by T.H. Wyatt. The steepled tower, rebuilt in about 1770, retains 13th-century lancet windows. The font has an original 13th-century bowl on a 19th-century base. The church contains several stained-glass windows from the 19th century, and in 1966 was designated as Grade II* listed. The churchyard has Grade II listed chest tombs from the 17th and 18th centuries.
A small Baptist chapel was built at Ridge sometime between 1851 and 1864, later becoming known as the Union chapel. By 2003 the building was in private hands.
Two settlements in the United States bear the same name. Chilmark, Massachusetts, on the island of Martha's Vineyard, was named in 1694 in connection with Governor Thomas Mayhew, who emigrated from nearby Tisbury and founded a colony on the island. In 1925, V. Everit Macy, an industrialist, established a suburb of Briarcliff Manor, New York and named it Chilmark after the home village of his ancestor Thomas Macy, who emigrated in 1635.
The village has a primary school, Chilmark and Fonthill Bishop CofE (VA) Primary School. The building began as a National School, built in Chilmark stone in 1860. In 1971 Chilmark school merged with Fonthill Bishop school; the building at Fontwell Bishop was closed and the accommodation at Chilmark extended.
The Reading Room of 1910 is now the village hall. The village has a pub, the Black Dog Inn.
Victorian and inter-war quarriesEdit
Chilmark Quarries (grid reference ST974312) is a 9.65 hectare biological and geological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), in the ravine south of the village of Chilmark in Wiltshire, England.
The SSSI was first notified in 1977. Its importance as a home for bats led to the site being designated in 2005 (together with Fonthill Grottoes) as a European Special Area of Conservation.
The western section of the site is in Chilmark civil parish, while the eastern section (separated by a minor road) is in Teffont parish.
Chilmark stone, a form of limestone, was mined here since medieval times and used for buildings including Salisbury Cathedral. Some minor local quarrying occurred in Roman times and in the early 1870s. In 1936 the quarry and mines were bought by the Air Ministry and used as a storage area for RAF Chilmark, a munitions depot, until 1995. Stone extraction continued on a small scale until the quarry closed c. 2007. Similar stone is still mined at Chicksgrove Quarry, 1.3 miles (2.1 km) to the southwest.
Within the disused quarries on the western side of the valley, there is a system of caves in which up to 150 bats, of several species, roost in winter. The largest British wintering roost of Bechstein's Bat is here. Other species which utilise the site include Greater and Lesser Horseshoe Bats, Daubenton's Bat, Natterer's Bat and Brandt's Bat.
The quarry has exposures of Jurassic rocks, part of the Purbeckian beds. It is a fine building stone used for the main structure of Salisbury Cathedral and many other local buildings. Purbeckian limestones, possibly from Chilmark, were used for packing around at least one of the upright stones of Stonehenge, for houses on an Iron Age site at Fifield Bavant, and for Rockbourne Roman Villa and other Roman sites. Chilmark stone is easy to work, but long-lived in use. Fossils are uncommon in the beds recently being extracted, but include ammonites and other shells.
In 1936 the quarries, and land extending further down the ravine, were bought by the Air Ministry and the site became RAF Chilmark, which was the home of No 11 Maintenance Unit. Munitions were stored in the quarry caverns, and for a time the unit had extensive above-ground storage areas in woodland near Dinton and in Grovely Wood.
A spur left the London-Exeter railway west of Dinton station at Ham Cross, just east of the bridge over the Chicksgrove-Fovant road, and entered the foot of the ravine; this spur was omitted from Ordnance Survey maps. Goods were transhipped under cover of a large shed, to/from a 2 ft gauge narrow-gauge railway which ran into the ravine and some of the former quarry caverns.
By 1965, Chilmark was the RAF's only ammunition supply depot. RAF Chilmark closed in 1995, although clearance of explosives from the site continued until at least 1997. A 1939 diesel locomotive used at the site was bought in 1976 by the Bala Lake Railway, North Wales; several wagons are at the Old Kiln Light Railway, Surrey.
RAF Chilmark Narrow Gauge Railway want from a nearby British Rail depot to a former ammunition and bomb depot at RAF Chilmark. It opened in 1936 and closed in 1995. A gate and railway tracks embedded into concrete remained (as of 2007) on a abandoned level crossing of the bridleway that runs between the nearby Ham Cross, then to a Chilmark unclassified road and finally the village of Teffont Evias. The abandoned railhead's building still remained by 2007, but the tracks had been removed (lifted) long ago.
The 2ft narrow gage railway was used to carry manufactured bombs for storage in the underground limestone mines of Chilmark Quarries, or for transport by road to nearby surface storage dumps and depots. It ran 1 km south to the to Ham Cross a transfer station and a 4km standard gauge branch line that joined the Salisbury to Yeovil main line near Dinton. The Chilmark Quarries and its underground limestone mines which lie about 500m to the north, along with the surrounding land, were acquired by the Air Ministry in 1936 and it first opened in 1937, along side the supply RAF base.
Supplies were transferred to the NATO depot at Glen Douglas in 1994, during Scotland. 200 jobs were lost when it closed in 1995. Later the land was cleared of explosives, and much of the land towards Dinton has been sold off to other owners.
RAF ammunition storeEdit
There was an RAF ammunition store in the ravine and around the railhead between 1941 and when the bunker was bult in 1985. Bombs were also stored in the open and Middle Hills during WW2 at Grovely Woods about 7km by road to the north-east.
WW2 RAF roadsEdit
A gated concreted road goes from the B road east of the village of Chilmark to the ammunition and bomb dumps at the Middle Hills site at the eastern end of Grovely Wood (2009). A unclassified concrete road comes from the A303 trunk road and goes to Chilmark about 2km away (2009). A both one used to be near Ox Drove near Teffont Down.
Government atomic bunkerEdit
An underground bunker was built in the ravine in 1985, ready to act as the Regional Government Headquarters (RGHQ) for the southwest region in the event of a nuclear attack. It ceased to be operational in 1992, following the end of the Cold War; formally closed down in 1995 and was sold in 1997.
Counter-terrorism training areaEdit
A Planning Brief prepared by Salisbury District Council in 1999 concluded that options for re-use of the site, except for the former headquarters buildings, were limited owing to the presence of bat colonies and the possibility of contamination remaining from the storage of munitions.
Until 2015, the former RAF headquarters and some 55 acres (0.22 km2) of land in and near the ravine were used by a private company as a training area for counter-terrorism security and explosives handling.
Illicit 2017 dope farmEdit
During the night of 22 February 2017, officers from the Wiltshire Police Dedicated Crime Team raided the bunker following information received that it had been converted for use as a cannabis farm. There are approximately 20 rooms in the building, split over two floors, each 200 feet long and 70 feet wide. Almost every room had been converted for the wholesale production of cannabis plants, and there was a large amount of evidence of previous crops. The farm was estimated to be able to produce £2m worth of cannabis per year using £250,000 worth of stolen electricity, with a crop of 4,000 plants every six weeks. The lighting equipment alone was estimated to have cost about £140,000. Three men admitted conspiracy to produce class B drugs and abstracting electricity. Charges of conspiracy to hold persons in slavery or servitude were initially made, but dropped due to lack of evidence. It took ten days to search and clear the site, which was said to be the biggest cannabis factory found in the south-west region.