The Caswells of Wiltshire

The name Caswell goes back a L O N G way. Could it be that Julius Caesar wrote about Cassivelaunus the British war lord in his diaries? Was Cassi a Caswell? I guess we’ll never really know.

Almost a thousand years later, William The Conqueror wrote The Domesday Book, an inventory of all his new possessions on the British Island. In it is mentioned Caswell Castle, and it was listed as ‘abandoned’ in 1088, so we know for sure this castle went back a long way before then, perhaps even as far back as Cassivelaunus? On thing is for sure, the moat surrounding the remains of the castle, now a large manorial farmhouse, is fed by a fresh water stream which spouts from a spring into a pond by the side of the house. Growing in the shallow pond – watercress. So is this where the name CASWELL (or Cresswell) comes from? I guess we’ll never really know!

Nearby, is the town of Witney, and in the 1300’s a William De Caswell, was the rector of the church. There was even a Caswell Chancel. There weren’t many William De Caswells around in the 1300s, but there just happened to be one living in Yatesbury, near Calne, situated of the Marlborough Downs, a high chalky area perfect for keeping large flocks of sheep.

Witney happened to be a ‘woolen’ weaving town, famous for it blankets back in those days. As an aside, many entries in the local burial records stated ‘wrapped in woolen’ as the person was required by law to be wrapped like this (probably a type of death tax).

So we have a rector, who would appoint a minion to run the church, while he was off making pots of money raising sheep to sell to the town. Our William De Carswell of Yatesbury was the man, and is recorded as Hugh de Carswell and Idonea his wife holding ‘1 messuage and 14 acres of land in Yatesbury’. They were married on 6 Dec 1296.

John De Carswell was mentioned as being in Burford, near Witney in the 1350.s, and a another entry of a William living in Yatesbury.

Our family tree becomes more traceable in 1593 when Robert Caswell marries Mary Chilfester. The line continues for a few genrations, marrying into the Flower family, the Pope family, living in Cherhill, and then splitting, one group spelling their name CASSWELL leaving the area and moving to Rowde, and Trowbridge, and the other moving to Avebury.

The Trowbridge family were following the trail of money in the prospering cloth towns, and the Avebury family were artisan blacksmiths, eventually spreading blacksmiths all over the villages around Avebury. One family stayed in Avebury but changed trades and became bakers, having bakeries in Calne, Yatesbury and Avebury.

The Trowbridge group, prospered, owned numerous properties in and around Trowbridge and one Richard Casswell was the church warden for St James Church. All the bells in the belfry have his name emblazoned on them. The family eventually sold all their properties and moved to Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, and became important cheese brokers, selling tons of Canadian cheese back to England.

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