Birth Place and Bolt Hole for the Famous
PUBLISHED: 11:20 17 March 2008 | UPDATED: 15:04 20 February 2013
Malcolm Twigg identifies a few famous personalities associated with the County from the past and from the present, from the world of entertainment to the world of pioneering photography and from fantasist to glamour girls.
Wiltshire has been home in the past to all manner of famous people. To list but a few, Trowbridge was home to Isaac Pitman, the inventor of the Pitman shorthand system, Henry Fielding, the 18th century novelist lived in The Close in Salisbury, as did Rex Whistler the 19th century artist and John Constable stayed at The Close on a number of occasions when painting his celebrated views of the Cathedral. Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII was born at East Knoyle (1509) as also was Sir Christopher Wren designer of St Paul's Cathedral. The pioneer of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot, lived at Lacock Abbey.
Getting more up-to-date, Dr. Who's attractive side-kick, ,Billie Piper was born in Swindon. Making her name now as a serious actress she was originally a pop singer. When her single 'Because We Want To' topped the charts in 1998 she was only 15 and the youngest artist to have a No.1 for 40 years. Before her pop career took off, Billie was a child actress, who had bit-parts in the movie Evita and EastEnders. Also from the world of theatre, actor Michael Kitchen (Foyle's War) is associated with the county, and the late, great, Diana Dors was born in Swindon. The newly famous and latest 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here' winner, Christopher Biggins has family in Salisbury and trained at the Salisbury Rep Playhouse.
On the small screen, bubbly Melinda Messenger, former glamour model and now TV presenter is also a Swindon, girl now living in Wanborough and Phil Harding of Time Team lives near Salisbury - living in such an archaeologically rich county must seem like Nirvana to him. Former newsreader turned MP, Martin Bell has connections with the county whilst fellow newsreader Andrew Harvey went to Bishop Wordsworth School. Another Bishop Wordsworth pupil is rugby player Richard Hill who played for Salisbury and, on the sporting field again, Will Carling was born in Bradford on Avon and ex-England footballer, Stuart Pierce has Wiltshire links.
Explorer, David Hempleman-Adams is another product of Swindon where he was born, although he later moved to Bath. His adventuring career began through experiences gained during the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme in the mountains of Wales as a child and he later went on to break several exploration records.
If you've been to any RHS shows over the past few years such as Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court Flower Show it's highly likely that Swindon born man Bob Sweet has put it together, because he is Director of Exhibitions for the RHS. He may not be in the public eye, but he's the man who makes it all happen.
Lesley Thomas used to live in Cathedral Close in Salisbury but now lives elsewhere in the city. From the world of Music, Wiltshire is a veritable honeypot. 'Crossover' Jazz musician (and largely self-taught) Jamie Cullum may be small in stature but he is big in music and a big Wiltshire fan. Born in Essex, he was raised in Wiltshire and his parents now live in Bath. He is an avid Swindon Football Club supporter. Sting of The Police and his partner Trudy Styler have an estate at Lake House in Wilsford-cum-Lake in the Woodford Valley just outside Salisbury, and Madonna and husband, Guy Ritchie live at Ashford House near Tollard Royal on the Wiltshire/Dorset border (the former home of Cecil Beaton, the fashion photographer). The controversial Pete Doherty, singer with the Babyshambles also has a home in Wiltshire, near Marlborough. Still on the music theme Toyah Wilcox and partner Robert Fripp live here. And last, but by no means least and certainly not exclusively because this is but a short list, the inimitable (although many have tried and are still trying) and possibly most famous Wiltshire resident of the lot to his legion of fans, the author Terry Pratchett lives in Broad Chalke ...when he's not travelling abroad in the Multiverse or consorting with Tiffany Aching and the Wee Free Men (the latter strand of Disc World which, I strongly suspect, was inspired by the Wiltshire countryside in which he lives). Another, equally famous, fantasist, J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, was born in Chipping Sodbury, although she is now more associated with Devon where she went to Exeter University, but Harry Potter himself in the shape of Daniel Radcliffe recently filmed at Lacock (as did the whole cast of the recent BBC series, 'Cranford'). If it's celebrities you're after, you're more than likely to bump into them in Wiltshire.