The parish and village of Ansty
In the southern part of the parish is White Sheet Hill, on which there are Bronze Age barrows including a long barrow.
In the eastern part of the parish there is bowl barrow. The barrow may be older than the pagan Saxon burial from the 7th century AD that has been found in it. Grave goods excavated from the burial include a diadem, palm cups, enamelled ironwork and an incense burner.
In very early times Ansty ("Anestige" a Saxon word meaning "the way up") was part of the Royal Forest of Selwood and King Alfred is reputed to have hunted here in about AD 890.
Two Manors are mentioned in the Doomsday Book with the main estate being owned by Waleran the Hunter.
In 1066 William the Conqueror gave the Manor of Ansty to Payne de Turberville and that family held the title for the next 145 years. It is interesting to note that this is the same person as "D'urberville" in Hardy's "Tess of the D'urbervilles" and Ansty is indirectly mentioned early in the book: 'In the reign of King John, one of them was rich enough to give a manor to the Knights Hospitallers'.
In 1210/1211 Walter de Turberville granted the manor of Ansty to the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem, who founded a preceptory in the parish and whilst England was under an interdict between 1208 and 1214, Ansty would have been one of the few place where the sacraments were still celebrated, as the Knights Hospitaller were exempt because they were answerable directly to the Pope.
The Order of the Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem was one of the two major orders established to help capture and retain Jerusalem and the Holy Land during the Crusades. The orders became very wealthy and powerful as they had many estates given to them throughout Europe and they were exempt from paying taxes to the King.
These estates were known as "Commanderies" of the Order and generally consisted of a Manor House, Church and Hospice plus other buildings. The Church of Saint James was built by the Hospitallers in about 1230 together with a Hospice (possibly on the site of or near to the present building). Ansty pond is also thought to have been created about this time to provide fresh fish for the Order.
The Hospitallers held Ansty until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1541 at which time the Manor was sold to Sir John Zouch for 30.6.9d. Francis Zouch (buried in Ansty) inherited the Manor from his father in 1585. Shortly afterwards Ansty was purchased by Sir Matthew Arundell and in 1596-98 his son Thomas Arundell (later the first Lord Arundell) rebuilt the Manor House and also built the present "Hospice or Commandery". Ansty remained part of the Wardour Estate until it was sold privately in 1946.
The large stone building near to the church is locally called "The Hospice" or "Old Commandery". It was built in 1596-98 by Thomas Arundell (possibly on the site of the original Hospice of the Knights Hospitaller). It was most likely used as a banqueting hall
From 2nd to 11th May 1643, during the siege of Wardour Castle, the Cromwellian army is reputed to have been housed in the "Hospice".
The "Hospice" was badly damaged by fire in 1922 and shortly after the second world war the south east corner was damaged by an American tank which accidentally hit the building. The building was restored in 2001 and is now used for local private and village events such as the maypole celebrations, harvest supper and village weddings.
On 1st May each year (an approximation of the pre-Christian festival of Beltane) the villagers celebrate by crowning the May Queen and by dancing around the famous Ansty Maypole. It is also interesting to note that the local Ansty maypole was removed at this time by the Puritans but was replaced in 1680 following the restoration of the monarchy, and has been replaced about every twenty years. The 98 foot/30 metre pole, erected in 1982, was blown down in a gale on 9th December 1993. For safety reasons, the current pole is only 50 feet/15.25 metre high, and was erected on 16th April 1994.