Status Ceremonial & (smaller) Non-metropolitan county
Region: South West England
- Total
- Admin. council
- Admin. area
Ranked 14th
3,485 km²
Ranked 13th
3,255 km²
Admin HQ: Trowbridge
ISO 3166-2: GB-WIL
ONS code: 46
- Total (2004 est.)
- Density
- Admin. council
- Admin. pop.
Ranked 34th
180 / km²
Ranked 30th
Ethnicity: 97.5% White

Arms of Wiltshire County Council

Wiltshire County Council
Executive Conservative
Members of Parliament
  1. Salisbury
  2. West Wiltshire
  3. Kennet
  4. North Wiltshire
  5. Swindon (Unitary)
Traditional County
- Total
- % Water
Ranked 14th
880,248 acres
? %
County town Wilton
Chapman code WIL

Wiltshire (abbreviated Wilts) is a large southern English county. Considered as a ceremonial county, it is landlocked and borders the counties of Hampshire, Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and contains the unitary authority of Swindon. The county town is Trowbridge, situated in the west of the county at 51°19′11″N, 2°12′32″W. The county covers 858,931 acres (3476 km²)

The county is characterised by its high downland and wide valleys. Salisbury Plain is famous as the location of Stonehenge and other ancient landmarks. The city of Salisbury is notable for its cathedral.

The county, formerly 'Wiltonshire' or 'Wiltunscir' (9th century), is named after the former county town of Wilton (itself named for the river Wylye, one of eight rivers that drain the county).


Wiltshire is particularly well-known for its pre-Roman archaeology. The mesolithic, neolithic and bronze age Celtic tribes that occupied southern Britain built settlements on the hills and downland that cover Wiltshire. Stonehenge and Avebury are perhaps the most famous neolithic sites in the UK.

In the 6th and 7th centuries Wiltshire was at the western edge of Saxon Britain, as Cranborne Chase and the Somerset Levels prevented the advance to the west. In 878 the Danes invaded the county, and, following the Norman Conquest, large areas of the country fell into the hands of the crown and the church. In the 17th century English Civil War Wiltshire was largely Parliamentarian.

Geology, landscape and ecology

Wiltshire is a mostly rural landscape and about two thirds of the county lies on chalk, giving it a high chalk downland landscape. This chalk is part of the Southern England Chalk Formation that underlies large areas of Southern England from the Dorset Downs in the west to Dover in the east. The largest area of chalk in Wiltshire is Salisbury Plain, a vast expanse of semi-wilderness used mainly for arable agriculture and by the British Army as training ranges. The highest point of the county is Milk Hill on Salisbury Plain, at 295 m/968 ft.

As well as Salisbury Plain the chalk runs north east into Berkshire in the Marlborough Downs ridge, and south-west into Dorset as Cranborne Chase. Cranborne Chase, which straddles the border, has, like Salisbury Plain, yielded much stone age and bronze age archaeology. The Marlborough Downs are part of the North Wessex Downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), a 1,730 sq km (668 square mile) conservation area.

In the north west of the county, on the border with Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset, the underlying rock is the resistant oolite limestone of the Cotswolds. Part of the Cotswolds AONB is also in Wiltshire.

Between the areas of chalk and limestone downland are clay valleys and vales. The largest of these vales is the Avon Vale. The Avon cuts diagonally through the north of the county, flowing through Bradford on Avon and into Bath and Bristol. The Vale of Pewsey has been cut through the chalk into Greensand and Oxford Clay in the centre of the county. In the south west of the county is the Vale of Wardour. The south east of the county lies on the sandy soils of the New Forest.

Chalk is a porous rock so the chalk hills have little surface water. The main settlements in the county are therefore situated at wet points. Notably, Salisbury is situated between the chalk of Salisbury Plain and marshy flood plains.


The county registered a population of 613,024 in the Census 2001. The population density is low at 178 people / km². In 1991 there were 230,109 dwellings in the county. In 1991 98.3% of the population was indigenous and 17.9% of the population were over 65. A local nickname for a Wiltshire native is moonraker.

Population of Wiltshire:


Following the elections in May 2005, 28 Conservatives, 16 Liberal Democrats, three Labour members and two Independents (Christopher Newbury and John Syme) are members of Wiltshire County Council. Conservatives hold most of the more rural areas while the Liberal Democrats hold several towns, including Trowbridge, Chippenham and Bradford-on-Avon. Westbury with Dilton Marsh and Warminster West elected the two Independents, while the Labour members hold their seats in the towns of Salisbury and Devizes.

At the parliamentary level Wiltshire is represented entirely by Conservative Members of Parliament, except for the predominantly urban area of Swindon which is represented by Labour. Since 1992 Devizes has been represented by the front bench Conservative Michael Ancram.

A bridge over the river Avon at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire
A bridge over the river Avon at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire


Notable towns and cities in Wiltshire are:

Places of interest

National Trust National Trust
English Heritage English Heritage
Forestry Commission Forestry Commission
Country Park Country Park
Accessible open space Accessible open space
Museum (free)
Museums (free/not free)
Heritage railway Heritage railway
Historic house Historic House

Notable places of interest in Wiltshire are:

Notable areas of countryside in Wiltshire are:

Notable routes through Wiltshire are:


This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Wiltshire at current basic prices published (pp.240-253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added4 Agriculture1 Industry2 Services3
1995 4,354 217 1,393 2,743
2000 5,362 148 1,566 3,647
2003 6,463 164 1,548 4,751

Note 1: includes hunting and forestry

Note 2: includes energy and construction

Note 3: includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured

Note 4: Components may not sum to totals due to rounding


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