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Wiltshire county
County Flag of Wiltshire.svg

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About this picture

Country United Kingdom
Part of the country England
region South West England

status Ceremonial county
First mention 9th century (as Wiltunscire )

Ceremonial county
surface 3,485 km² (14th of 48 )
Residents 688.750
was standing 2012

! Districts /! Unitary Authorities
Wiltshire Unitary Authorities.png
  1. Swindon
  2. Wiltshire

Wiltshire [ ˈwɪlt.ʃər ], often also [ ˈwɪlt.ʃɪər ], is a ceremonial county in south-west England . It borders on the counties of Dorset , Somerset , Hampshire , Gloucestershire , Oxfordshire and Berkshire and has been divided into two unitary authorities since 2009 when the previous districts of Kennet , North Wiltshire , Salisbury and West Wiltshire merged to form the unitary authority Wiltshire . The Borough of Swindon had had the status of a Unitary Authority since 1997. Wiltshire had 688,750 inhabitants in 2012 and is 3,485 km² in size.

The high downland and wide valleys are characteristic of the county . The Salisbury Plain is famous for the stone circle of Stonehenge and other historic sights. The city of Salisbury is famous for its cathedral. Trowbridge is the historic administrative center of the county .

origin of the name

The Wylye at Norton Bavant

The county was formerly called "Wiltonshire" or "Wiltunscir" (9th century) and is named after the former capital Wilton . The name Wilton, in turn, comes from the Wylye River , one of the county's eight rivers.

The nickname of the inhabitants is "Moonraker", which means something like "Mondharker". The name is based on a legend about smugglers. The smugglers tried to hide brandy barrels from the local tax collector by dumping them in the village pond. When the tax collectors came into the village, the smugglers were standing by the pond and using rakes to move the surface of the pond so that no one could see the bottom of the pond. When asked about what they were doing, they explained to the tax collectors that they wanted to fish a large round cheese from the pond and pointed to the reflection of the full moon on the surface. The tax collectors thought they were dealing with lunatics or fools and left.



Wiltshire is known for its ancient archaeological sites. The Middle, Neolithic and Bronze Age inhabitants of southern England built settlements on the hills and in the downland of the Wiltshires. Stonehenge and Avebury are perhaps the best-known Neolithic sites in Britain.

In the 6th and 7th centuries, Wiltshire was the western border of the Anglo-Saxon Empire in Britain. The hills of the Cranborne Chase and Somerset Levels prevented further expansion to the west.

In the battle of Biedanheafde 675 King Æscwine of Wessex and King Wulfhere of Mercia faced each other.

The Danes invaded the country in 878, and with the Norman conquest of England , much of the country later became the property of the Crown or Church.

When the Imperial Land Register, the so-called Domesday Book , was drawn up, Wiltshire was mainly characterized by agriculture. 390 mills are mentioned, as well as wineries in Tollard and Lacock . In the following centuries sheep farming developed in the country and the Cistercian monasteries of Kingswood and Stanley exported wool to the Florentine and Flemish markets in the 13th and 14th centuries.

During the English Civil War in the 17th century, Wiltshire was largely on the side of Parliament. The Battle of Roundway Down , a decisive royalist victory, was fought at Devizes .

Around 1800 the Kennet and Avon Canal was built through Wiltshire to allow goods to be brought from Bristol to London . The canal lost its importance when the Great Western Railroad was built.

Geology, landscape and environmental protection

Wiltshire is an agricultural landscape. Two thirds of the ground contains chalk formations, which are thus formative for the appearance of the landscape. This southern English chalk formation sits under much of southern England from the Dorset Downs in the west to Dover in the east. The largest chalk formation in Wiltshire is Salisbury Plain, which is mainly used for agriculture and as a training area by the British Army.

The highest point in the county is 294 m on the Tan Hill / Milk Hill ridge in the Vale of Pewsey on the northern edge of Salisbury Plain.

The chalk formation extends northeast towards West Berkshire into the Marlborough Downs and southwest to Dorset as Cranborne Chase. There are also many Stone Age and Bronze Age sites in the Cranborne Chase on the county border. The Marlborough Downs are 1,730 km² as part of the North Wessex Downs as an Area of ​​Outstanding Natural Beauty .

In the northwest of the county, on the border with Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset , formations of the resilient limestone of the Cotswolds can be found . Part of the AONB's Cotswolds is also located in Wiltshire.

Between the areas with chalk and limestone there are valleys and hollows where marl and clay can be found. The largest of these valleys is the Avon Vale . The Avon flows across the northern part of Wiltshire through Bradford-on-Avon , Bath to Bristol . The Vale of Pewsey cuts through the chalk formation in the center of the county and is made up of greensand formations and Oxford clay. To the southwest is the Vale of Wardour, and to the southeast is the sandy bottom of the New Forest .

Since the chalk is very porous, there is little surface water. Therefore, the residents settled in wetlands early on. Salisbury, for example, was built on the edge of the chalky Salisbury Plains in a swampy plain.


Like the rest of South West England, Wiltshire has a temperate climate that is mostly more humid and milder than the rest of England. The average annual temperature is 10 ° C. January is the coldest month with average minimum temperatures of 1–2 ° C. July and August are the warmest months in the region with average temperatures of 21 ° C.

December is the month with the fewest hours of sunshine, July is the sunniest month. Convective cloud formations often cluster on the hills further inland and thus reduce the hours of sunshine. The average annual hours of sunshine are 1600 hours.

The south-west of England is positively influenced by the high pressure areas near the Azores , especially in summer .

Rain mostly falls when low pressure areas come up from the Atlantic Ocean. You mainly find these conditions in autumn and winter. In the summer, rain falls mainly when the surface of the earth in Wiltshire heats up, creating rain clouds, resulting in thunderstorms and showers. The average rainfall is 800–900 mm. Eight to fifteen snowfall days are common throughout the year. The highest wind speeds are found between November and March, the lowest between June and August. The wind comes mainly from the southwest.


The county's economy benefits greatly from the so-called “M4 Corridor Effect”, which makes the region along the motorway interesting for business companies as well as for tourism. The northern part of Wiltshire is richer than the southern part, especially since international companies such as Honda , Intel , Motorola , Alcatel-Lucent and Nationwide have settled in Swindon . The structure of the workforce clearly shows that Wiltshire has a higher than average number of employees in the manufacturing industry (particularly electrical appliances, food, spirits, furniture, rubber and plastic) than the rest of the country. Furthermore, the number of employees in the public service and the military administration are also above average because of the military facilities. The low unemployment rate is also striking.


Wiltshire has an extensive school system with two high schools and three junior high schools in the Salisbury borough. There are 29 state and 13 secondary schools in the county. Mention should be made of Marlborough College , Wiltshire College, Salisbury College and Swindon College. All secondary schools in West Wiltshire have a senior year and all but two are in North Wiltshire. In all other districts it is 50% of all schools.

Most students are in North Wiltshire and few in Kennet. The school years in West and North Wiltshire are 200–250, while all other counties have around 120.

There are no universities in Wiltshire, but the University of Bath's branch , Oakfield Campus, is 2 miles from Swindon.


The 2001 census counted 613,024 residents in the county. The population density is only 178 inhabitants per km². In the 1991 census there were 230,109 apartments, 1.7% of the population were foreigners and 17.9% of the population were over 65 years of age.

Wiltshire Population:

  • 1801: 185.107
  • 1851: 254.221
  • 1901: 271.394
  • 1951: 386.692
  • 2001: 613.024

Politics and administration

The administrative reform on April 1, 2009 abolished the four districts of Kennet , North Wiltshire, Salisbury and West Wiltshire and the administrative county of Wiltshire. The competences of the districts and the administrative county were combined in the Unitary Authority Wiltshire . In addition, the Unitary Authority Swindon continues.

In the May 2005 election, 28 Conservatives, 16 Liberal Democrats, 3 Labor MPs and two Independents entered the Wiltshire County Council. The Conservatives have their constituencies mainly in the rural areas, while the Liberal Democrats have done well in cities like Trowbridge, Chippenham and Bradford-on-Avon. The two independent MPs were elected in Westbury Ham with Dilton and Warminster West, while the Labor seats in Salisbury, Melksham and Devizes were won.

In the general election, Wiltshire is represented almost entirely by Conservative MPs, with the exception of Swindon, where the Labor Party provides MPs. Since 1992 Devizes has been represented by influential Conservative MP Michael Ancram.


The club Swindon Town is the höchstklassige football team of Wiltshire. He plays his home games on the County Ground near the city center. He was only first class in 1993/94 and has always played in the 3rd division or 4th division since 2004 .



Cities and villages


The 16 locks on the Kennet and Avon Canal

See also

Web links

Commons : Wiltshire  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Wiltshire  Travel Guide

Individual evidence

  1. Population of England and Wales on June 30, 2012 ( ZIP ; 832 kB)

Coordinates: 51 ° 19 ′  N , 2 ° 13 ′  W