In AD 978, Anglo-Saxon Calne was the site of a large two-storey building with a hall on the first floor. It was here that St Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury met the Witenagemot to justify his controversial organisation of the national church, which involved the secular priests being replaced by Benedictine monks and the influence of landowners over churches on their lands being taken away.
According to an account written about 1000, at one point in this meeting Dunstan called upon God to support his cause, at which point the floor collapsed killing most of his opponents, whilst Dunstan and his supporters were in the part that remained standing. This was claimed as a miracle by Dunstan’s supporters.
Early market town
In 1086 Calne may already have been, as it was later, a market town on the main London-Bristol road.
The church in it was well endowed. 74 or more households were held almost outright by burghal tenure (as citizens of a borough), and the lordship of its large outlying land was divided between the king (of whom 45 burgesses were tenants) and the church.
In the Middle Ages the king’s successor as the lord of Calne manor and, as owner of the church’s revenues, the treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral, each had the right to hold a market and a fair in the town, with two triangular market places or fair grounds. A modest hospital was provided on a modest endowment from 1248 until it provided no accommodation in 1546 and was sold two years later by the Crown.