William Arnold was a man of stature in Corsham, his business as a Clothier brought him much wealth, he was a member of the Corsham Wool Merchants Guild, and he owned considerable tracts of land in Corsham and the surrounding district.
His family hailed from Lacock where they had run a clothing mill since before 1600. (Arnolds Mill).
Establishing dates for this period is difficult, but with the help of the Wiltshire Record Office at Chippenham, and sight of papers from the Arnold’s, Neale’s and the Methuen family, a story emerges of the their lives and interaction with each other.
In 1677 William Arnold, was to be married to one Jane Gibbons, daughter of a mercer of Corsham – William Gibbons. As a wedding present – his father also William Arnold, agreed to settle ‘a convenient piece of land in the Manor of Corsham by way of jointure on their marriage.’
It is known that William Jnr re-built a house in 1703, in the High St, and called it ‘Arnold House’ (pictured). So perhaps we can safely assume this was the ‘plot of land’ given to the newly married couple ?
Just as today – to own land indicated a certain status in society, and this family were no exception.
In 1688 Wllm Arnold Snr obtained ‘land and the Bell Inn of Lacock from one John Gibb’, and in 1892 there was ‘a grant of tithes and land held in trust for Wllm Arnold of Corsham, from Thos Colbourne of Seend’ These included – 3 acres at Moxhams Corner, 3 acres at New Tyning, 35 acres at Northleaze and 8 acres at New Close, Pickwick.
William Jnr, now enjoyed a further increase in his land holdings, with the addition of 17 parcels of land in 1720 (site unidentified), and a further addition to his portfolio was through ‘The surrender of tenements and land in which Thos Hulbert lately lived, and Sheppards Barn with 28 acres adjoining, and 9 acres at Pickwick Leaze’, in 1722. Land continued to change hands – in 1736 Wllm gave to his daughter Jane Deake ’37 luggs of ground at the North end of Home Close.
The Methuen papers also note ‘a Mortgage to William Arnold for Lower Stowell’ in 1737.
There were 8 children of the marriage and in 1704 William’s eldest daughter Sarah Arnold married Robert Neale (of the Neales of Berkely and Yate). He too was a man of substance and a Clothier. This family and their 5 children are buried at Corsham and their tombs may be seen in the old churchyard, near the west wall. Their eldest son, Robert, became MP for Wootten Bassett.
There was a settlement of ‘Neales Tenement land’ in 1708 upon Robert Neale and his wife Sarah, but this was eventually sold to Sir William Codrington of Doddington, Bart in 1729, this was to fund the building of the Mansion House in Corsham.
But William also gave Robert Neale and Sarah 2 acres of land called Broadmead adjoining the Kings highway from Lacock to Bath, on the south side of the Town Tything.
The Arnold’s owned most of the land in the centre of the town until 1891 when the greater part was surrendered to John Alexander Neale who also took possession of the Arnold family records.
The Mansion House was built on the aforementioned ‘2 acres’ in 1723/4.
William Arnold, died in 1746, a copy of his will dated 1738 is held at the WRO. There is a listed ‘Arnold’ Monument in St Bart’s churchyard, unfortunately the inscription is unreadable.
By 1748 son Charles Arnold was preparing his will – a little early perhaps, it is believed he died after 1791. In 1760, William Arnold Jnr’s children – Mary, William and Charles Arnold disposed of land described as being at Home Close called Woodlands. When Charles died he owned land at Long Close, Southerwicks, Moxhams Corner, and Sheppard Close.
In the 1779 Kelly’s Directory, Charles, (second son of Willaim and Sarah) is listed as being a tenant of Neales, and later in the Universal Directory 1783-1793 as a Gent living in Corsham – Was this at Arnold House?
As the eldest son of this family was always baptised as ‘William’ the third member in this dynasty was born 1722 and died 1802. Little is known of him, until the details of his will reveal that he was bequeathing Priors Cliffe, and Hardham, Pickwick Road, to his brother George, and Arnolds Mill Lacock, to his brother Charles.
Further generations must have continued this family ‘naming’ practise, as in 1809 another William Arnold , (of Shaw) is named together with Robert and William Hulbert of Pickwick on an Indenture for land at Woodlands, and in 1813 there was a further ‘grant of Tithes to William and John Julius Arnold, together with others.
However, this families era in Corsham seems to have come to an end after some 150 years.