If you come off the M4 motorway at Junction 17 and drive towards Chippenham you come across a tiny hamlet called Sheldon. Originally it was a medieval village of which the only remains are a Manor House, a farm and a Business Estate. The old Manor House is open (or at least the gardens are) on two days a week.
This beautiful house, one of the oldest inhabited manor houses in England has nothing to do with the Sheldon family history. This old village, of which virtually nothing now remains must have been called Sheldon before AD 800 when the earliest records exist.
The house itself is built on the site of an earlier dwelling called the Holloway, which was on the western side of the village of Sheldon. The earliest documentary evidence is a note from the Hundred Rolls in AD 803, taken by Canon Jackson, a noted Wiltshire antiquary, that “the manor of Chippenham and Sheldon belonged to Sir William Beauvylan, on whose death it came with the Hundred to the King on an Escheat, William Beauvylan being a Norman.” The King in question was Henry III who then granted the manor to Sir Walter de Godarville, this was done at Hereford on 26th July 1231.
In 1976 the County Archeologist confirmed the existence of the deserted medieval village of Sheldon, which aerial photography shows lies in the fields behind the house. Little else is known of the village, but it must have fallen into decay in the latter part of the first millennium. How it came to be founded and called Sheldon is unknown at this time.
Sheldon Manor has a web site at www.sheldonmanor.co.uk and it is possible to enjoy tea in the gardens on two days a week. Apart from the building there is little else to see apart from the Chapel and a store house built on staddle stones.
The Chapel (Figure 2) is separate from the house and quite small. It was used as a stable for many years.
The store house in the garden is built on staddle stones, designed to keep out the rats. (Figure 3). There is little else of note in the garden, the house itself is not open to visitors.