Although the first census of England and Wales was taken in 1801, it was not until 1841 that the occupation of the individual was noted on the returns. While it is true that in the earliest returns the largest category was that of agricultural labourer, there was also a tremendous range of skilled tradesmen residing in the village.
A man with a trade had a valuable asset, for he could ‘shop around’ for the best return on his labours. As communications improved, men with a marketable trade arrived – maltster, miller, cordwainer and wheelwright. Some were journeymen, who would stay for a while and then move on elsewhere. Others, masters of their craft, remained to settle and bring up a family in the village. Many of these craftsmen took live-in apprentices, a practice that has a long history as this extract from the Registers shows:
Apprenticeship Registers 1710–60
ANTLY, William Hill, of Fovant; to Adam Hill, wool-stapler of Fovant. £20. 1744.
BUGDEN, Robert, son of Robert of Donhead; to Benjamin Drew, butcher of Fovant Stroud. £5. 1729.
DYER, John, son of Mary, widow of Fovant; to John Jarvis, blacksmith of Fovant Stroude. £10. 1717.
GARRARD, William, son of Thomas of Fovant; to George Bowles, cordwainer of Chilmark. £6. 1722.
HARRISON, John, son of Elizabeth of Fovant; to George Goodfellow, tailor of Fovant. £5. 1724.
LEAN, John; to John Phipps, baker of Fovant. £2. 1756.
LIVELONG, William, son of Thomas, of Compton Chamberlayne; to George Lush, the elder and the younger, cordwainers of Fovant Magna. £8. 1715
PHILPOTT, son of John, of Fovant; to John Pear, worsted-comber of Salisbury. £7. 1715.
STACEY, John; to John Jarvis, blacksmith of Fovant. £10. 1754.
WILLOUGHBY William, son of Charles, deceased; to Robert Still, attorney of Fovant. £30. 1724
From Notes on the History of Fovant – R.C.C. Clay
The range of trades practised in the village was quite extensive. In 1841, for instance, there were four shopkeepers, a tailor, three dressmakers, a glover, six carpenters, a maltster, several cordwainers and even a police constable. The additional inclusion in this census of such trades as an ostler, a post boy, a wheelwright, two carters, two carriers and four blacksmiths, underlines the important part that the horse played in the lives of the past residents of the village.
Apart from this variety of Fovant-based employment opportunities, the existence of village-based horse-drawn carts and carriers as a means of transportation enabled both goods and people to reach out beyond the village. Other forms of transport, namely the mail and passenger coaches, which passed through daily, and the opening in 1859 of the Salisbury and Yeovil Railway, only two miles distant, also widened the choice of employment for local people.
In August 1919, shortly before the demolition of the Military camps, the Earl of Pembroke held an auction sale of some of his land and property. This sale included most of the village of Fovant. Those residents who could afford to do so took the opportunity to become owners, not only of the houses they lived in, but also of plots of land in various parts of the village. Hard on the heels of the Pembroke sale, building material from the demolished camp was offered to local buyers at knockdown prices. The conjunction of the two events constituted a bonanza for village builders and associated trades – of which they took full advantage – resulting in a spate of village house building, thus enhancing village-based employment opportunities.